The Year of Content and Content Strategy
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 at 3:00pm -- Kat Liendgens
As a CMS provider, our top priority is to empower organizations to create and maintain their websites as easily and efficiently as possible. There is nothing more powerful and effective that you can do to generate more traffic to your site, to engage your target audience, and to increase your web marketing ROI than to provide fresh, relevant, and valuable content that is both shareable and share-worthy. Forbes.com recently labeled the year 2012 “The year of content”. We would like to take it a step further and hope that 2012 will also become the “Year of Content Strategy”.
You’ve already made an investment in your technical resources (CMS, social media platforms, analytics), as well as in your human resources (web team, content managers, content contributors). So you’re already investing in the framework to support your content. It only makes sense to also invest in the heart of your website - your actual content. Considering that your content is the main reason why people visit your website and interact with your brand online, it’s a worthwhile investment to develop a strategy to ensure that your content maximally supports your goals.
There’s no standard content strategy template. You can make your strategy as elaborate or as simple as you need to. What’s important is that you start working on it. Here are some steps to get started:
- Make a list of questions that you want your strategy to answer. This will not only give you an idea of how involved you want your content strategy to be, but also provide you with a starting framework. Some of the obvious questions to be included are, for example, “Who is responsible for which piece of content” or “Where are our content gaps?”. Other points that can really help you optimize your strategy and lead to improvements in your overall message and consistency are “What are the key messages to be delivered?”, “What strategic goals is the content meant to support?”, “What is the purpose for each piece of content?”, and “When and how will each new piece of content be promoted?”. Once you have compiled your list of questions, identify the most effective ways to capture the answers. It can be as simple as a shared Google doc to get started.
- Create an editorial calendar. One of the easiest ways to generate momentum for your content strategy is to establish an editorial calendar that captures content assignments, target review and publish dates, and optional additional information, such as keywords and promotion channels. Some of the many benefits of an editorial calendar are that you increase accountability, empower you and your team to be more strategic, and gradually make the creation of fresh content more of a habit. In addition, the by-product of an editorial calendar is a content inventory, which allows you to more easily identify opportunities for content re-purposing. Furthermore, you can look at your website traffic and correlate spikes to specific events on your editorial calendar, so that you can optimize your content based on those findings.
- Identify the low hanging fruit and address them first.“Content Strategy” is a term that seems to intimidate managers and content contributors alike, possibly because it sounds like a monolithic project. It doesn’t have to be. The trick is to get started. How about picking the low hanging fruit first? Here are some things that you can do to immediately improve your content:
- Tackle the pain points. If you have any pages on your site that just rub you the wrong way, maybe because the message isn’t clear or the tone is not consistent with the rest of your site? Why not start there? Clearly identify the purpose of the page, as well as the reasons why you don’t currently like its content and start your re-write. You may be surprised how liberating it can be to eliminate a pain point from your site, and how much momentum you can build to further improve your content.
- Revisit your page titles. You may find some opportunities where you can better optimize your page for search engines by either adding a strategic keyword (where it makes sense!), removing words that smell of “keyword stuffing”, or by changing the title to something that’s a little more engaging or catchy. In addition, by looking at your titles with fresh eyes, you are also more likely to spot potential content weaknesses. Are there any discrepancies between what the title promises and the post or page delivers? If so, you have now identified another chance to improve your content.
- Fine tune your most important pages. Which pages do you want your target audience to visit the most? Which pages seem to attract the most visitors? Which pages appear to be typical “entry” or “exit points”? Once you have answered these questions, revisit the content for those pages and identify how you can improve them.
- Ask the value question. Your content strategy not only identifies content to be created, but also tell you which content needs to be eliminated. Ask yourself, “Does this page or post provide value?” and make your content decisions accordingly. Keep in mind that value can take different forms: your content piece can be educational, it may provide answers to your visitors’ questions, it may showcase a special offer or event, or it may be entertaining. The bottom line is that your content has a purpose.
Within the next few days, we will offer a white paper on content strategy considerations for higher education, so stay tuned!
UPDATE: The white paper is out! Download Content Strategy Considerations for Higher Education.
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