Are you a small business owner with a blog? Is the blog successful? If it’s not, I might have a hunch why…
…and it has everything to do with content strategy.
Content strategy is a focused look at the entire life cycle of content, from the creation to maintenance and even retirement of content. You look at things like developing, curating, information architecture, writing, editing and marketing.
Unfortunately, not very many people take the time to think strategically about their content. They just design a site and start writing.
I want to change that mindset right now and give you the steps and the tools you need to create killer content…day in and day out…so you can take your business to the next level.
Step #1: Define your blogging objectives with these six questions
The very first thing you have to do is decide what you want to achieve with your blog. Different small businesses will have different objectives. Here are some questions to help you define that objective:
- Do you want to drive foot traffic to your shop or office?
- Do you want to increase sales or generate leads?
- Do you want to attract prospects from outside of your local area? Do you want to attract clients from overseas?
- Do you want to educate prospects and customers on what you do?
- Do you want to update your customers on what’s going on with your business?
- Do you want to build a brand?
Keep in mind that you can have two or three objectives, but any more than that and your blog will be unfocused.
Your next step is to figure out who your audience is.
Step #2: Use Research.ly to get inside your blog reader’s head
It’s important for you to understand who your blog reader is and what he or she likes. To help you figure this out, use the Twitter metric tool Research.ly.
This tool will help you identify what your potential readers are interested in. Here’s a search on the keyword “coffee”:
You can see all the searches related to “coffee” in the US and globally. You can also view segments and sentiments for your keyword, which will allow you to determine how to approach your content creation.
In addition, you will see tweets categorized by gender, popularity and retweets. This data will open up your understanding about trends in specific industries and communities and help you create content that is reader-centric.
Step #3: Use Facebook Insights to get inside your reader’s head
Another great tool to use to get inside your reader’s head is Facebook’s Insights. How might this help you? If you have a branded business page, then log into Insights and view the page you want to analyze.
You get a big picture of how your content is doing: how many likes it recieved and how many visitors to your Facebook page you had, including the overall engagement with the page.
You’ll want to watch this information for trends among the stories and advertising you are promoting. You’ll want to discover what’s getting traction and what’s not.
You’ll also want to get a daily view to see the individual interaction of your visitors:
What’s really nice is you can export all of this data into a spreadsheet.
You can then analyze the daily breakdown to identify what is moving people:
To really get inside your readers’ heads, you have to dig deeper. Do this by clicking on the “Get Details” on each report:
You’ll see unique views vs. post views, likes, and comments and where those likes came from.
Go even further down, and you can get data on gender, age and country:
Drill even deeper, and you can get reports on referrer sources, virality and community activity. All this information can help you understand who your readers are, what they like to read and how you should give it to them.
Step #4: Create a content calendar
Now that you’ve developed a profile of your ideal reader, your next step is to create an editorial calendar.
The best way to do this is to make a list of all the variables that are related to your business and blog. More than likely, there will be hundreds of these variables. That’s okay because you’ll eventually prioritize that list into a top 50 or less, eliminating everything else.
What does this look like? Here are ten common variables to think about:
- Content element
- Reader profiles
- Reader events
- Hot trends in your industry
- Content creators
- Content workflow step
No two calendars are alike, and your calendar will more than likely change from year to year…even month to month. That’s okay.
It also might be tempting to skip this step because it is administration-heavy…but please, don’t skip it! I believe a content calendar is one of the single most influential tools to keep you on track with your blog. And the longer your blog is up, the more successful it will become.
Step #5: Manage your blog content with EditFlow
If you have several employees at your small business, you may want to recruit them to write for your blog. This will get you a wide range of content from different angles of your business. But it may not be easy to implement unless you use a tool like EditFlow.
This plugin gives you a snapshot of your calendar:
You’ll also see an improved content status that’s better than WordPress’ default draft and pending review:
What I think is great are the inline comments between writer and editor:
Then there are the user groups to help you keep your team of writers organized by department or function.
Step #6: Create great content using these 13 questions
When it comes to actually creating content, you need to deliver technical and detailed information about your area of expertise. It’s become especially important since the Panda and Farmer Updates.
Plus, there are so many blogs churning out poor-quality content, your readers are going to ignore half-baked, half-page posts.
This means they won’t comment or share them either.
That means you need to create high-quality, interesting content, which takes time. But if you ask yourself these 13 questions, your chances of writing great content will increase:
- Is what you wrote original?
- Can you provide practical advice or relevant research?
- Did you correct any spelling, grammar or factual errors?
- Is the topic you chose of interest to a reader or a machine?
- Is the article well edited?
- Does your site have authority?
- Are you providing insightful or interesting information beyond the obvious?
- Would you bookmark your article?
- Is your article cluttered with call-to-actions, ads or promotions?
- Would a magazine or journal print your article?
- Is your article short, weak and useless?
- How much time and attention did you give to detail?
- Would someone complain if they saw this article?
Step #7: Share great photos
According to 2011 Technorati State of the Blog report, 90 percent of bloggers shared some kind of media on their site, photos being the number one piece of media:
If you think about it, that’s a great content strategy to draw attention and drive traffic to your site.
But you can’t just put any old photo up there. It’s got to be the right photo. And it’s got to be big if you want to get a lot of attention.
Now, you may not want to go that big, but the point is that the web is a visual medium, and you can’t neglect getting this area when it comes to your content strategy.
Step #8: Keep your content consistent to drive traffic
According to research published by Hubspot in its 2011 State of Inbound Marketing, bloggers who blog daily get five times as much traffic than those who blog once a week or less.
This means you have to create a schedule so you can sustain such a frequency. But this is only true if your blog objective is short-term, like driving traffic to your site.
On the other hand, if you have a long-term objective, where driving traffic isn’t a priority but deep SEO and links is, you may want to cut back on the number of posts you share. This used to be one my objectives on my blog, and one of the things I learned over the years is that a lower frequency of blog posts increases interaction.
In fact, when I’ve run some tests, where I’ve delivered long, detailed posts on a less than frequent basis versus daily posting, my readership and number of comments rose. I believe that less frequent posting gives space to your readers to digest what you wrote and then to comment and share.
Step #9: Audit your content
When it comes to web content, it’s better to think of your content as a living thing that needs long-term care rather than something sitting in a museum collecting dust.
This is where audits come in.
This doesn’t have to be a daily habit, which could get costly in time. Instead, run quarterly site-wide audits. If it’s a huge site with lots of content, audit just a tenth of your site every quarter.
It’s well worth the effort, because without it, you won’t be able to maintain a blog that is relevant and accurate, which is critical for maintaining trust and credibility with your readers.
And, of course, one of the most problematic parts of the task is checking outgoing links. Are they still pointing to relevant, live pages? If the page is dead, then the hosting company may park its own page at that link. Or somebody could fill a page with a sponsored ad that doesn’t reflect the content of your blog or that page. And even worse yet, the outdated link could point to a porn site.
Another approach is to simply review an older post for every new post you publish.
And if you are wondering what audits look like, here’s what my audits look like (I use a spreadsheet for this):
- Page ID (a number you apply to organize the hierarchy, e.g. 1.0, 1.1, 1.1.2, and so on)
- Page title
- ROT (redundant, outdated or trivial?)
You don’t have to use a spreadsheet. You can use the Content Audit plugin instead. This plugin will allow you to set up notifications to audit a certain piece of content at a certain interval:
Then you edit the page based upon the audit category and author notes:
Once you’ve finished your audit, go after the low-hanging fruit. ROT content should be dealt with immediately. Want to dig deeper? Look for opportunities to consolidate, streamline, refine and update content. When it comes to web content, less is more.
As you can see, starting a blog takes time and lots of energy. But trust me…it will totally pay off! I employ these strategies myself, and I use them for my corporate blog. They are so effective that I haven’t launched one blog that hasn’t hit at least 100,000 monthly visitors.
Do you have any other content strategies that I’ve missed?