Content strategy might seem like the domain of giant content sites and big-brand online publishers. But if you run a blog, you’re a content publisher. And a solid content strategy can help you to more clearly define your goals, and identify how you’ll achieve them.
For those for whom content is a business, a content strategy can help support, and achieve, the goals set out in your business strategy.
What is Content Strategy?
A content strategy is a plan that helps your users achieve their goals, and helps you to achieve your own goals, through your web site’s content.
Content strategy treats content as an asset that can be used, or combined with other informational or interactive tools, to help users achieve their aims on your site. Content strategy prevents you from seeing your content as mere tactical executions that — hopefully — support some distant business goal. Content strategy frames content as a tool.
Kristina Halvorsen, content strategy guru and founder of content strategy consultancy Brain Traffic, defines content strategy as including editorial strategy, web writing, metadata strategy, search engine optimization, content management strategy, and content channel distribution strategy.
Stepping Toward Strategy
I see the creation of a content strategy as involving these steps.
- Set content goals.
- Conduct content inventory and identify content gaps.
- Review and amend, where appropriate, site taxonomy or labeling, content tagging, and categorisation so that your current treatment of content reflects the goals you’ve set.
- Identify content-related tasks and responsibilities.
- Set a plan for:
- filling content gaps
- the direction of future content
- recycling or reusing evergreen content to achieve the greatest possible ROI
Let’s look at each step in turn.
1. Setting Content Goals
Every good blog meets a particular need for a given audience. Your content goals are the place where, on paper, your audience members’ needs can be aligned with your business needs.
For example, imagine I run a blog on chicken keeping, and my audience is backyard poultry keepers — families and others who aren’t exactly poultry enthusiasts or breeders, but want to have a few hens scratching in the backyard. And let’s say I want to generate an income of $1000 per month from my blog six months from now.
The only way I’m going to achieve my goal is through content: by providing my audience with the information they need. Whether I join affiliate programs, conduct paid product reviews, sell ad space or sell ebooks about chicken keeping, if I don’t publish the content, I won’t have an audience, and I won’t generate an income.
Content translates to pageviews, audience growth, engagement and loyalty — all the things that bloggers need to monetise their blogs. So my content goals might cover:
- publishing frequency
- per-post, per-month, or per-category traffic objectives
- topic emphasis, post type, or media used
- the quantity and quality of comments, discussions and feedback
Even if your blog isn’t a financial concern, content goals will help you stay focused on your blog’s unique advantage — its point of difference — and make the most of that with every post you publish.
2. Conducting a Content Inventory
A thorough content inventory involves listing each piece of content on your blog, and noting its publish date categorisation, tags, and any other metadata associated with it.
Through this process, you’ll find outdated posts, incorrectly categorised or tagged posts, broken links, spam comments, typos — all kinds of issues! Once you’re finished, you’ll also have a clear idea of the strengths of your existing content assets, as well as the weaknesses. And by considering your content inventory in light of your content goals, you’ll quickly be able to find content gaps: areas in which you lack the content that will be required to achieve your goals.
If one of my goals is for my chicken keeping site to be the recognised authority for backyard hobby poultry keepers, I’ll need the content to back that up. My content inventory will undoubtedly reveal some areas in which my content is lacking, incomplete, amateurish, or fails to represent best-practice approaches. They’re my content gaps for this goal.
3. Reviewing and Amending Content Treatment
The information you collected on your content’s metadata during the content inventory also needs to be analysed in light of your goals. This might reveal other gaps — perhaps you’ve overlooked some important tags, or the tags you’ve used don’t reflect the terms audience members usually search for. You’ll want to identify those issues and address them, creating additional tags, making sure your content is categorised as logically and intuitively as possible, and ensuring that the mechanics of your content are closely aligned with your content goals.
One of my chicken keeping blog goals was income, and I’ve decided I’ll use good organic search placement as one technique to build my readership. My content inventory shows that I’ve tagged all my content about poultry housing with the tag “hen houses”, but my research shows that searchers most commonly search for the term “coops”. I might add that tag to my site — and all related posts — to boost my position in those search results. I might also change the navigation label on my blog that leads to specliaised content about hen houses from “Housing” to “Coops” so that when the users I’ve attracted reach my blog, they see exactly the thing they’re looking for.
This step is really about looking at the ancillary information that allows users to find and contextualise the information you present, and making sure it’s optimised for your user and blog goals.
4. Identifying Content Tasks and Responsibilities
If you’re a solo blogger, the second part of this step will be easy: you’ll be responsible for everything! But just what is “everything”?
How often will you publish new content? What tools will you use to publish it? Where will you source it and what requirements will you place on every item published on your blog? Who will follow up on any copyright issues and check the factual accuracy of each post? Who will run the spell check? Who will schedule the posts and who will hit the “publish” button? How will you work out, or know, when you need to add a category or tag to the site? And how will you populate that new category with content?
If your blog is time-relevant, you might need a plan for retiring old content, but every blog contains some content that will become outdated in time. How will you manage that? Where will you redirect users who try to access retired content?
These are just some of the questions about tasks and responsibilities that you’ll want to answer through your content strategy. The guidelines you’ll want to set at this point will depend on the nature of your blog, and where you want to take it in future. For example, in developing my authoritative chicken keeping blog, I might decide to request guest posts from well-known breeders. This decision has implications for copyright, publishing schedules, consistency of style and voice, and so on. I’ll need to try to anticipate and answer those questions in my strategy.
5. Setting Your Plan
The work you’ve done so far forms the basis for your content strategy. You’ve defined a focus, audience and goals, and reshaped your blog (and its underlying process and management) so that it’s in the best possible position to achieve your goals as you move forward.
The final step involves setting out action plans to implement strategies and tactics that will help you achieve those goals over time.
That might involve tasks like:
- filling large-scale content gaps
- trying new content-sourcing tactics, post types, and media
- recycling, reusing or repackaging evergreen content to achieve the greatest possible return on your investment in it
When you work with content all the time, it can be difficult to step back and see your blog as a whole. That’s why comparatively few bloggers have developed content strategies for their blogs. But a good content strategy can help you to focus, and build your offering strategically using content assets that appreciate, rather than devalue, over time.
Do you have a content strategy for your blog, or are you winging it?
Continue reading this series of articles on questions surrounding blog content.
About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years’ experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.