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  • At this point you should have a general idea of who your audience is, what you are trying to get them to do, and what you already have in place to try and accomplish these goals.

    If it is applicable for your business, you should also know who the responsibility of the content process has been delegated to.

    The real art of the content strategy process comes with figuring out what kind of content you need to publish in terms of substance and format, and when and where to publish.

    It’s time to start moving forward…

    Create GuidelinesContent Strategy

    Before creating new content, you need to establish certain guidelines – especially if there will be more than one hand touching the content creation process.

    Your content should have a certain continuity and consistency in order for the parts to come together and work as one.

    This also helps deliver the message of your brand in a consistent way.

    Your guidelines should include details about how new content should be handled. This includes things like formatting, tags, categories, title structure, etc.

    It is also important to have linking guidelines. When is it ok to link internal content to other internal content? When it is ok to link to external content? What kinds of sites are acceptable to link to?

    The more detail you have the more likely you are to have consistency throughout all of your content. Of course, if you only have one person doing everything then this issue becomes easier to resolve.

    Create a Plan of Action

    Your plan of action should really start with what you already have. You need to clean up your existing content (if there is any cleaning up to be done) before adding to it.

    You may need to manage/edit or flat out delete old content that either doesn’t fit the mold of your new guidelines or doesn’t add to the strategy of attaining your now-defined goal.

    Now is the time to do this.

    But for new content, you need to have an idea of what will happen once the content is created and goes live.

    You need to decide what you will be creating, but also what you will be leaving out. Unnecessary content gets in the way.

    There is a bit of scientific approach involved in this. But predicting a certain outcome isn’t an exact science, there is definitely a good amount of assumption and guess work involved in this.

    Planning (Hypothesizing) an End Result

    You are beginning with the end in mind (what you want your visitor to ultimately do).

    Drawing out what I like to call a “sample visitor flow” can help you visualize how the process will take form.

    The following is a very simplistic, and very widely-used, content strategy on the internet. At first glance it is very straight forward….

    Example:

    Content Strategy Example

    I call this a “sample visitor flow” because the visitor flows through the red arrows in the example; box to box (if the strategy works out as planned :) ).

    Steps:

    1. Create a freebie to give away to visitors in exchange for their opt-in to your email list.

    2. Create a landing page for your freebie where visitors can opt in.

    3. Promote your landing page/freebie by posting on other blogs/sites

    4. Collect the visitor opt-in information

    5. Deliver the free gift to the visitor

    Beginner’s Note: Many marketers will tell you that the “money is in the list.”

    This is because an email list allows you to communicate with potential customers on a more personal level. It also gives you the ability to have multiple interactions with them because they have “opted in”, or allowed you to contact them. And as you may know, it can take several interactions with a person or company before you make the decision to purchase through them.

    A “landing page” is page that your visitor “lands on” when they arrive on your website. Technically, any page can be a landing page – but the name came from one-page websites that serve strictly as a sales letter.

    “Guest Posting” is an arrangement you create with the owner of another blog/site to publish your content on their site. This is a popular promotion technique because it allows you to expose yourself to a new, or larger, audience by publishing content on a more popular site. This also takes some work load off of the owner of the other site because you are publishing content that they can post.

    This seems like a simple and straightforward process. But nothing is ever as simple as it seems…

    Weighing the Options…

    There are decisions to be made from the very beginning.

    Even in this very simple strategy there are 3 pieces of content you have to create: the free give-away content, the landing page content and the guest post content.

    Freebie content variables:

    Guest Post Content Variables:

    Landing Page Variables:

    This was just a simple example of a possible strategy you can use. But one of the main decisions you will have to make every time you decide to create content is what distribution channel to put your content through.

    Selecting a Distribution Channel

    There are countless distribution channels available for you to publicize your content.

    Do you distribute content through YouTube? Facebook? Twitter? Company blog? File sharing sites? Specialized forums or communities?

    As you can see, there are many options. But which do you choose?

    This is a variable you have to consider on a case by case basis. And you may come up with more than one “appropriate” answer. But you should always go where your audience is.

    Just because some “guru” tells you that YouTube videos are all the rage right now, doesn’t mean it applies to you.

    Once again, go where your audience is!

    That means that if your target audience is someone like my grandmother, you have no business doing anything on Facebook.

    Actually…if your target audience is someone like my grandmother, you have no business getting into web content creation in the first place :) .

    Take a dentist for example…

    If I’m looking for a new dentist, personally, I’m not going to seek one out on Facebook. I don’t care what he has to say on Twitter either.

    I will, more likely than not, search “My Area Dentist” in my search engine of choice. Then, I will try and seek out feedback from existing customers.

    Look at your business, how will people try to find you?

    In this instance you need your page to rank well on Google (and other search engines), and you need to be active on review sites.

    Giving existing customers incentive to leave a positive review for you can be a much better use of resources than telling people what you are having for lunch on Twitter.

    However, social networks like Facebook can come in handy if you are trying to set up some localized ads with a promotion for your dentistry business.

    But that’s a story for another time.

    Just remember one thing:

    No two businesses are the same. And just because a “guru” in a far off land says you should do something one way, doesn’t mean it applies to you. You know your business better; do what’s right for you.

    SchedulingContent Strategy Schedule

    This seems like an appropriate time to mention that part of any proper plan of action is having a schedule.

    Take a football team for instance. You can draw up a great play and tell the quarter back exactly which receiver to throw to and where. But what if the quarterback throws the ball 2 seconds too early? No catch.

    Take it one step further, if the entire team has no timing you get a lot of flags thrown for false starts.

    Knowing when certain parts of your strategy have to be completed keeps you on track. Deadlines, even self-imposed deadlines, ensure that the process keeps moving along.

    Measuring Success

    As I’ve stated before, having a strategy gives you a baseline to measure the results of your processes.

    Defining how you will measure success or failure of your content strategy needs to be done before execution. That way, you can objectively look at what you’ve done after the fact and see if it worked.

    There is no golden rule for this either. Again, every business is different. And the purposes of creating content can differ in every situation.

    The key here is to relate your measurements to the goal you were trying to achieve.

    For example, you may have the goal of decreasing customer service inquiries by making valuable product or service information readily available on your website.

    In this case, you could measure something like customer service calls or emails. Did the number of inquiries decrease after the content was posted? It is also up to you to decide what a “significant” decrease is.

    Of course this means that you need to begin your measurements prior to implementing any content strategy. You need to know where you are presently can measure changes.

    Get more insights about content strategy by checking out the entire Content Strategy 101 series!

     



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