Here’s how to build strong content strategies that will stand the test of time and yield amazing results.
Table of Contents
Content Strategy Vacuum
When you publish your first post on a blog with no existing readership, no social media following, and no external ties, links, or support, you’re essentially publishing content in a vacuum.
The vast majority of online users don’t go out of their way to track down content strategy (let alone a content strategy consultant); instead, they rely on connections that are already established, such as news sources, friends, and social media sites.
Your content should represent your “best guess” at your consumer’s behavior.
Without any meaningful connections, there’s no way for users to discover your content, and even if that content is a masterpiece, it’s not going to bear any significant effects for your brand. You can think of this as a variation of the “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?” argument, and that analogy has been made in the past.
But personally, I think the more accurate analogy is the tagline to the movie Alien: “in space, no one can hear you scream.”
In effect, you can scream as loud as you want—creating content you want—but it’s not going to matter unless you can get that successful, kickass content strategy in front of the right people.
Onsite Content Strategy
Your content strategy should begin with the content that’s on your own website, where your focus should be on optimizing the user experience. User experience involves not just how cool, neat, simple, or beautiful your website looks. It describes how easily the user can find whatever they’re looking for on your website. This means you’ve got to put the “content” first: It should be prominent and accessible, while delivering the information that the user wants.
What might your typical user intend to do on your website? Would he or she click ads? If you think that, you’re doing it wrong.
User intent plays a vital role in how your onsite strategy works. To do it right, you have to think about what a user wants (or expects or needs) when he or she arrives on your website through search engines. For instance, it’s easy to discern that a user who searches for “domain discounts on godaddy” is looking for discount codes they can use on GoDaddy.
A unique style
Of course, you’ve probably got a ton of competitors (or at least a dozen), so the only way to stand out and make a good impression is to have a unique style of presentation.
Long-form vs. short content strategy
Throughout discussions and analytics of long-form content and readability, long-form has stood the test of time. Two things are clear: people do read and convert better with long-form content and Google loves it (if it’s really valuable, smart, and high quality).
Try to avoid naked selling with your content. That turns your work into a quality digital marketing strategy. Things have changed a lot on the web. Provide as much value as you can, and people will more naturally want to buy.
Offsite Content Strategy
Your website content strategy continues from on-site to off-site content. Search engine ranking weights consider both the content on your own site and the content referencing your site (typically through backlinks) as a reputable resource.
Identify your audience
There are many blogs, websites, and communities that cater to the same audience you’re targeting. It’s easier and more productive to identify your target audience and understand what’s on their mind through what they are really talking about rather than trying to make “educated guesses.”
This is one of the true values of guest posting, actually: instead of picking topics at random and pitching them to publishers, you are really getting into the field and researching something that will really help. And often enough, you’ll see direct responses from members of your potential target audience.
The same rules apply for offline strategies as with online; in fact, they apply even more strongly. Never try to take a piece of marketing copy and try to pass it off as a guest post or an offsite publication. It’ll probably backfire.
Don’t publish low-quality content
Most webmasters tend to think the best content should go on their own blog or website, and they save the mediocre stuff for offsite publishers. I disagree. A better way to build your authority, credibility, and brand recognition is simple: if you don’t consider a particular piece of content to be high-quality, don’t publish it anywhere.
Once you’ve distributed content (ie, via a guest posting campaign), make sure you follow up on it and check regularly to participate in whatever discussion follows. This signals to everyone that you’re “reachable”; it puts a real person behind the valuable information and makes people more inclined to trust you.
Build Strong Relationships: Building Natural Links & Authority
Your existing content should act as a quality hook to attract links. If not, you’ll need to update your old content.
Once primed, it’s time to network for promotion.
Identify key players
Link-building (in its proper form) has really become an Internet term for relationship building. You see people offer email templates to send to website owners. It’s a lot more powerful (and not that much more work) just to be natural.
Identify the key players in your field (they might even be your competitors) and build a really solid list of the people who’re trying to do (almost) the same thing you are trying to do; the folks who are, say, trying to build organic traffic, authority, brand, etc., within or near the same niche as you are.
Join hands with competitors
Once you build a huge list of such people, make friends with them. Not everyone is going to be helpful, but it’s interesting to note that on the Internet, some of the people who compete with you directly actually make great friends as well and are often more than ready to help you out.
Once you build such relationships with other key players, promoting your content becomes easier. For instance, publishing on other people’s websites, getting a link-back or a natural mention (which is worth way more than a paid listing), and so on.
Hang out with other content strategists
You also want to find out where your niche players are discussing things on the web.
Not just about SEO and websites, but about the core area of your target market.
This gives you an edge, for example, over other players who just stick to their independent sources (like, maybe… Google?).
And you get opportunities to meet more people you can build relationships with.
Give before you get
Keep the focus on one thing: helping others. You only get out whatever you put in; so, put in tons of value (in the form of helping others) and you’ll get it back exponentially in return.