How to create a content strategy – and measure its value

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How to create a content strategy – and measure its value

Got a website? You need a content strategy.

Too many websites are meticulously built and then filled with thrown-together content that doesn’t engage with the customer. Think about how you browse the Internet as a consumer. How often do you read a whole page of content to find out one piece of information? Do you instead scroll to the bottom of the page to find the product or conclusion? Do you search the page for the phrase you are looking for and read that sentence but nothing else? I admit to both of those techniques, and I bet you do, too. So why would we expect a visitor to our site to act any differently?

Your goal is to expand your business’ reach, drive sales and increase its profitability. Your website, social media presences, blog and directories are all forms of content. They have the potential to make or break your business’s reputation and profitability.

A content strategy will help you understand the content your customer is interested in so you can give it to them. Even better, the right content strategy will help you analyze the big picture, determine where you should invest your energy and budget, and help you generate the best possible ROI.

content-strategy

First, what’s a content strategy?

I am going to define a content strategy as a framework within which businesses can manage the content being published about their brand and products/services online in order to ensure that they are always seen as authority content publishers that deserve search engine and user respect.

This post focuses on digital content, but you can build a content strategy that accounts for all marketing activity in order to successfully manage an integrated marketing plan.

Here’s how to get started on creating and measuring yours.

Establish a goal

The first things to establish are what you want to achieve and how your business makes money. Any combination of objective and business model will require a unique strategy, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all strategy.

If your business sells services directly to customers and products through re-sellers, then you’ll need two different strategies even if they both have the same goal of increased revenue. Similarly if you want to achieve increased brand awareness and increased profit, you’ll again need two different strategy approaches. Therefore, it is advisable to select a single objective for your content strategy and then expand it later to encompass new elements if appropriate.

Study your customers

Next you need to understand who your current customers are and who your target customers are. What do they do online? Are they active on Twitter? Do they engage in LinkedIn Groups? Do they read industry blogs? Do they follow Google News? Do they spend a lot of time reading your website?

The answers to these questions will determine whether the focus of your content strategy is on your website or not. It will determine the types of content you’ll be creating (the kind that customers are likely to engage with). It will determine the level of investment required in order to engage with them. Bear in mind that you will probably have several distinct customer groups with different interests, presences and values to your business.

Inventory your online presence

How much money do you spend building up your business’s brand? All it takes is for a small group of customers to have a bad experience and write about it online for your brand to be irrecoverably tarnished. The next vital information to understand is how your brand is perceived online.

However new your business you will have some kind of presence online, even if it is a simple as being a registered employer to different team members. Google your brand name. Depending on the nature of your business at least the top three results should be owned and controlled by you.

Do people talk about you at all? Are comments positive or negative? How is your product/service perceived online? Are people having conversations about issues or positives that you don’t know about? Is this content you own and control or not? Whether positive or negative, you need to know what is being said about your brand and products/services in order to effectively respond.

Add value

Whatever your unique selling proposition, you can be sure that it will not convert people into customers on its own. It is a competitive market out there, and consumers are becoming increasingly demanding of businesses.

The right content strategy will ensure that you engage with target customers and differentiate from your competition without having to reduce your margins and win business on price. Once you understand your customer you can determine how to add value for them.

There’s plenty of content you can provide for your customer that doesn’t cost you much but has a potentially huge customer value. This will be content that you own and control. It could be available to download from your website, or by subscribing to your YouTube channel, or be emailed to customers once they sign up through Facebook.

Some potential value-adds include:

  • Discount code
  • Video tutorial
  • Free white paper
  • Infographic
  • Contest or giveaway

Measure

Once you’ve established your content strategy, it’s absolutely vital that you measure its success in order to determine the contribution it made to the achievement of your marketing objectives.

After you create the strategy – but before you begin to implement it – benchmark the key measurables of your campaigns. These will vary depending on the findings of the strategy.

Plan for regular reviews of the campaign in order to assess the success of different elements of the strategy and allow appropriate refinements to be carried out.

Bring in tools

There are many tools out there to measure the success of your content strategy. These include:

Google Analytics

  • Pages/visits, traffic volume, sources to site,time on site (measure overall onsite engagement)
  • Goals in Google Analytics (measure the success of downloadable content)
  • Referral traffic from offsite content (measure offsite engagement with content)

Social monitoring tools

  • Brand mentions and sentiment
  • Product/service mentions and sentiment

Social media platforms

  • Likes/followers/circles/members etc. your brand profile has
  • Level of engagement with your brand profile by customers
  • Leads/sales generated from these sources (using Google Analytics)

I am a big fan of Raven Tools as it pulls together all three of these tools and allows you to run a single report that includes all the elements you wish to report on and nothing more. This makes proving the value of the work you have delivered considerably easier than creating a report manually so that you can focus your time on the work to get the results.

Photo courtesy of nestor galina on Flickr

Alexandra Gaiger is a Digital Marketing Architect at ThoughtShift Ltd and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

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