This is a guest blog post by Sabrina Tillman
If you want to level up your content program, the smartest first step you can take is to think about why. It’s a common assumption that you should do more: publish more often, create and share more videos, and post more to a variety of social channels. And, sometimes you should.
But, resist the knee-jerk response to increase your posting cadence right away, and craft a data-driven content strategy first. This may seem a little intimidating if you haven’t thought about your content program in this way before, but evaluating your current program is a methodical practice that you can return to again and again when it comes time to answer: “Is this working?”
The following questions can kick off your brainstorm:
- Why do you want to make changes to your current content program?
- What do you hope to achieve after implementing these changes?
- What tasks or projects do you think are worthwhile to test to bring you closer to your goals?
- How will you fund, staff, manage, and evaluate your revised content program?
The answers to questions 1 and 2 should help you discover the answers to questions 3 and 4. It would be ideal to have a year or two worth of engagement metrics (unique visits, page views per visit, bounce rate, and average time spent on page) and, if you’re selling something, conversion metrics (leads, orders, conversion rate) to make informed decisions about how to grow.
Why You Should Use Data to Make Content Strategy Decisions
If you haven’t set up a way to analyze how your content program performs, it’s time. Data tells an incredibly important story about how people value the content you produce. When interpreted correctly (noting possible bias, issues that could skew results, etc.), metrics can give you insight into how popular a topic is to your audience, how promotion of a piece spikes your traffic, and how a piece did or didn’t drive conversions.
Unless you have multiple domains, are selling multiple products, or have super-high traffic on a regular basis, it should be relatively easy to set up a reporting dashboard. Generally, Google Analytics can provide what you need for free, with a few limitations — the main one being that it stores data for 25 months. If you want more history, you’ll have to pony up for premium (a $150K cost… annually). Even if your site is older than two years, you may not find it super relevant or time-effective to analyze that much data in order to uncover holes or trends.
If you can’t make the time to DIY a dashboard, you can always hire someone to do that (more on key hires in the next section). Just keep in mind that any time you want to make changes to your dashboard, you’ll either have to learn about the process then or knock on someone else’s door to do it for you.
4 Tips to Help You Draft a Content Strategy Plan
To craft a data-driven content strategy, it’s important to “listen” to the metrics, but it’s also valuable to consider what can make your site, brand, and business a stand-out. Metrics can lead you to hypotheses about what your target audience wants to consume or buy, but they can only reveal data about content you’ve published, pages you’ve created, or funnels you’ve tested. Here are some points to consider in addition to the numbers when crafting your content strategy:
#1 Be authentic.
Authenticity can and, in my opinion, should outrank a tactic like gamification of SEO when it comes to building authority, attracting an audience, and distinguishing your brand. If you stay true to your core values and the content you produce reflects that integrity, you’ll win in the long run. No matter how many times a week you post.
#2 Bake a promotion plan into your content strategy.
If you only rely on direct traffic and cross your fingers about ranking in search engines, you’re missing out on lots of potential eyeballs. No, you don’t need to post about every piece of content you publish on every social media channel. Start with the social media channel that has the most daily active users for your target audience, and focus your efforts on experimenting with the type of content, visuals, text, posting frequency, and what boosting/paid can do for engagement. As you expand and grow your presence on more channels, it’s ideal to have a channel-specific promotion strategy that evolves as algorithms and features change.
Incredibly, email remains an effective promotion tool after all of these years… if you’re clever enough to build a list of engaged readers. You’ll also need to find a way to stand out a bit amid all the noise out there. I mean, I still have a Yahoo email address not because I enjoy the interface, but because it’s where I send marketers when I register or buy things.
#3 Partner with other influencers and share the love.
Link sharing, social swaps, sharing videos or visuals, and writing about other people who are doing rad things in your field can not only help build your credibility and following, but can also be a pay-it-forward way to get influencers to tag, re-retweet, or share your endorsement with one of their own.
#4 Prioritize who you hire to ensure strategic growth.
Here’s a quick overview of key hires that can help you scale your content program:
- Content manager/editor: This content expert should know how to create and execute a content calendar, have backup plans if content needs to shift or is late, concept new ideas, deliver content that’s on brand and relevant, manage the content budget, hire writers/assign stories, top-edit pieces, source photos/assets, and publish content.
- Copy editor or proofreader: This word nerd should produce exceptionally clean copy (no grammatical, spelling, syntax, punctuation, or usage errors) while adhering to whatever style you want. If you can find a content manager/editor who has the time and ability to line edit, good on you!
- Designer: How your site looks really matters, particularly how it looks on mobile devices. The “look and feel” of your site — especially if you’re a lifestyle brand — should reflect your brand and attract your ideal reader/client. Concepts like color theory, logo design, and flow of an infographic aren’t things you likely know well unless you’re a trained designer, of course.
- Photographer and/or videographer: When executed well, original photography and video powerhouse storytelling mediums. Remember: Be authentic, tell a great story, and share, share, share. This will likely be the most spendy of all of your potential hires.
- Promotions manager: This person should be well-versed in ways to promote your content and brand. From email marketing to social media campaigns to reaching out to influencers, PR specialists, or media outlets, this person should help you strategize and execute ways to promote and distribute your content.
Pick and choose based on your needs and budget, keeping in mind that you can always start with part-time freelancers. Depending on how you want to grow, you may want to consider consulting with a search engine optimization expert, UX designer/developer, or user research/insights analyst to help you focus on your individual needs.
3 Tips for Moving from Strategy to Execution
#1 Get organized.
Once you cement your content strategy, including a few main goals and a high-level plan for how you’ll try to hit those goals, you’ll move into execution mode. If your budget allows, you may want to lean on the talented few you’ve hired to assume ownership during this phase. Whether you can hire or utilize contractors to help you with day-to-day execution, you might need or want to invest time in getting organized and establishing high-level processes. These are key projects to consider:
Define what key goals and metrics to hit, and how you (and your team) should go about achieving them.
- Establish how you’ll evaluate the success of your new content.
- Create workflow processes for how to: store and share documents and assets, brainstorm, get ideas approved, produce and publish content, create a publishing calendar, and outline style and content guidelines.
This can be a toughy when you’re accustomed to doing everything yourself. But, in order to grow without going insane, you’re going to have to relinquish some control of the details and trust the people you employ. Instead of executing every detail, you can focus instead on high-level strategy, business development, and mentoring.
#3 Focus on a few key content plays per quarter.
Nothing will burn you out faster than trying to be everything for everyone. If your content analysis reveals that publishing and promoting a specified amount of content to your site every week — or more often during certain times of year if seasonality impacts your field — proves beneficial to the key goals you’re trying to achieve, then by means, do what you can to stick to this cadence.
Even if you find that a specific publishing cadence is a test you want to invest in, try to plan for a few (maybe one per quarter, or twice a year if that suits your business and budget) bigger content plays that tell the story of your brand or business in a more detailed, visual, engaging way than your average post.
The topic and scope of these projects should depend on your goals, business, audience, or be timed around the launch of a new product (if applicable). The point is to learn how to create buzz. Push yourself and your team to collaborate on ideas that can hopefully propel you closer to meeting your goals. Pebbles can ripple off the water, but stones can create a more spectacular splash.
The opinions, representations, and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and not of Tierra Wilson, LLC as a whole. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. The company accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.
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