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The Beginner’s Guide To Understanding Digital Content Strategy

If you are a business owner or are trying to build your brand, having a firm grasp on the concept of content strategy is a must. The basics of content strategy are simple concepts, but when executed correctly can make all the difference in the success of your brand.

What is Content Strategy?

Content strategy is the way you as a business owner interact with your own content with the end result being that you improve the user experience of people who visit your site.

Content strategy encompasses the conception, planning, creation, execution, and finally the governance of your content. In online mediums, content includes both text and multimedia content that is used on your site. Since the result of a successful content strategy is an excellent user experience, you want to make sure your strategy includes creating meaningful content that is useful and useable, is well structured, and is easily found.

Your content strategy helps you identify what information is already out there, where there are gaps that need to be filled, and, most importantly, why your content needs to be created. Begin forming your business’s content strategy by answering these questions. This will give you a solid foundation that you can build upon with both evergreen content and content that is relevant specifically to the here and now.

At the core, your content strategy answers “Why?” Why you are creating content in the first place, who you’re helping, and how you can meet their needs in a unique way. – Bill Ross of Linchpin SEO, A Chicago SEO Agency

Content Strategy vs Content Marketing

Content strategy and content marketing: the same thing, right? No. While both are important and vital to your success, content strategy and content marketing are very different. However, when you know the differences between the two and how they can work together, you can take advantage both to benefit your business in tremendous ways that you couldn’t have if you only utilized one or the other.

Your content strategy is essentially like a set of blueprints that describes how your content will help you achieve your business goals. Like we said above, it answers all of the “Why” questions. Your content strategy will be extremely detailed and lay out exactly how you will get from A to Z with your business.

But content marketing is different. Content marketing is actually a type of sales approach that attracts customers and retains them through excellent content. It’s a bit like a combination of sales techniques and marketing.

Your content should be relevant and meaningful and appeal to your target audience. But content marketing is very strategic. Your goal is to make your audience believe they are being informed, not that they’re being sold to.

Content marketing is essentially an arm of your content strategy. It focuses on creating and publishing content for a specific audience. It addresses the overarching “Why” question of your content strategy.

Common Content Strategy Methodology

When creating content, there are a few guiding principles that apply to all content across all fields. You’ll see that the content you enjoy and seek out from different businesses or platforms employs these methodologies when forming their content strategy.

Value

Firstly, and most importantly, your content strategy should focus on providing value and meeting the needs of your users. If what you create isn’t valuable, you’ll have less interaction, less traffic, and less users.

Engaging

But value isn’t enough. Your content needs to be engaging. Users can find factual information all over the internet. What is appealing to people is the way you engage the content and offer unique perspectives and opinions that they can’t find on Wikipedia.

Goals

One of your goals is to sell the user. Now, that can look like a lot of different things depending on what you are presenting. That could mean selling a service or just an opinion or idea. But at the end of the interaction, your content strategy should result in the user believing in what you are putting forth to them.

There are a million ways to do content strategy, but these three methodologies are keys to a successful user interaction.

The Content Lifecycle

You will see—if you haven’t already—that the creative process is never stagnant, even if your content has already been published. Typically, content has a universal lifecycle. It’s generally agreed upon that content goes through 5 phases in its lifecycle: auditing and analysis, strategy, planning, creative, and maintenance.

Audit & Analysis

Your analysis of your content includes not only topical evaluation (answering the question of relevance to your users,) but also includes competitive analysis and evaluation of your site and related sites.

Strategy

The strategy phase evaluates your processes for workflow and production as well as voice and brand definitions.

Planning

The planning stage includes recommendations from staff, content management system customization, a communications plan, and a migration plan.

Creation

Finally the creation phase; the phase that creatives focus on! This is where you write and produce content, make sure you’re complying with the governance model, and focus on SEO.

Maintenance

But after creation, there’s still one more very important phase: maintenance. Here you plan for future auditing and evaluations to ensure continued relevance and appeal. You also sure up standards for your success and goals you are hoping to achieve with your content.

How to Create a Content Strategy in 7 Easy Steps.

Determining how to go about creating your content and getting it out there for your users can be a daunting task. It’s crucial that your team is organized when planning who will create the content, where it will be published, and when it will go live. The method outlined below will serves as a guide to executing your content strategy.

Define your goal.

The most important question that you will ask of your content strategy—from conception to post-publishing evaluation—is “Why?” In the early stages of development, you should determine why you want and need to create this strategy. Why do you want to develop content? What needs does it meet and what gaps does it fill?

Define your target audience.

Depending on the goal of your business and content, you could have either a wide target audience reaching a diverse group of people, or your focus could be on a smaller sub-culture of folks. Regardless of who you are writing for, you need to determine your audience early on. When the goal of content creation is relevance for your audience, knowing your audience is a key step that you cannot afford to skip.

Run a content audit.

When it comes to the type of content you put before your users, there are no limits. You are no longer relegated to disseminating information through blog posts (though this is still a relevant, helpful way to get content in the hands of your users!)

If you’ve been in business for a while, you have the benefit of reviewing your past marketing efforts to determine the success of different content. Evaluate which forms of content were most engaging and drove customers and users to your door. Figure out what works, what doesn’t, and set new goals.

Select a content management system.

With all of the content you’re producing, it’s crucial that you choose a system that keeps you organized and that you love using. You’ll see that some content management systems (CMS) offer all the bells and whistles, while more simple approaches offer an easy-to-use experience for you. You have a huge selection of CSMs at your disposal. Have fun picking out the one that works for you!

Gather the team and brainstorm new ideas.

Now that you have your “why,” your audience, and your CMS in line, now is the fun part. It’s time to think of new ideas for your next content projects. This is where having a team of creative thinkers surrounding you is a huge benefit. But if you’re creating content for yourself, don’t fear! There are a lot of ways to get the ball rolling and tools to help facilitate productive brainstorming.

Determine what kind of content you will create.

Many brand builders and business owners start out with blog posts. It’s a quick way to get information to your users. However, there are a ton of way to meet user needs while providing them with a great experience. You need to asses where your strengths are and begin there. Then if you have the resources, find other creators who can create meaningful, relevant content that adds to what you are doing. Some ideas for different genres and mediums are as follows: blog posts, Ebooks, case studies, templates, infographics, videos, podcasts, and social media. Utilizing different types of content over different mediums allows you to reach more of your target audience than by, say, only writing blog posts or only creating videos.

Share your content with your users.

The last item on our list is what you’ve been working toward. At last, it’s time to share your content. But that’s not where it stops, and it’s not as simple as just sharing. You need to keep in mind how you’ll organize your content, the timelines for publishing, and how you’ll manage content that isn’t evergreen. In this stage, it is especially helpful to have a professional to guide you through presenting the content you’ve worked so hard to create.

Enterprise Content Strategy Trends

When you are marketing your brand, you must stay on top of industry trends. Your audience is constantly being bombarded with new and shiny content. When it comes to your content strategy, you have to stay ahead of the curve if you want to keep users engaged and coming to you. Below are a few trends that you need to be mindful of if you want to take your content strategy to the next level.

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

Users and searchers (including yourself!) are being constantly evaluated by algorithms to determine what kind of content they are most likely to enjoy. As artificial intelligence advances and becomes even more mainstream, creators will have the ability to build more personalized and specific content that will appeal to their audiences. You will be able to form your content strategy based on users’ location, interests, shopping habits, and more.

A Legitimate Content Strategy

Many businesses and brands, while they may have a website and put out thoughtful content, don’t have a legitimate strategy for producing content and marketing themselves. To be successful in this day and age where your users are trusting Google’s algorithms to give them the content they want and need, you need a team who can help you set goals, organize content production, establish key performance indicators, and more.

Content that is Voice-Searchable

Voice search has become increasingly popular as we are multitasking today now more than ever. Your users are constantly looking for answers, whether they’re making dinner, chasing their kids around, or even driving. With the advent of devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, voice search will continue to rise in popularity. To ensure that you are reaching the most users possible, your content must be ready for voice search.

Include More Variety in Your Content Mediums

In the past, content was largely found in blog form. Today, users want to consume content using different devices and through different mediums. Your audience isn’t homogenous: different types of content will appeal to different members of your audience and will gain you more new users and increase the retention rate of your current users. Utilizing video, podcasting, and social media, among other platforms, is vital if you want to see success this year with your content distribution.

There are a lot of moving parts in a successful content strategy. But don’t let that scare you or prevent you from incorporating content strategy into your business or brand. By utilizing a few simple concepts and executing the methods we outlined, you can see serious growth and success in your business.