You've heard all the gurus saying content will cure what ails you. It will serve as the warm center around which your social media and email marketing emanates. It will strengthen your search rankings and render them future-proof. It will help relevant prospects to identify with you, trust you and eventually maybe even make purchases from you.
It's all true, too – but only if you know what you're doing.
Content for the sake of content is pure folly. It takes a well-planned strategy to drive an ongoing content creation process that puts you in position to succeed.
Your content strategy should be documented, referred to throughout execution, and updated regularly. Your strategy needs to spell out criteria according to which you'll determine the quality of your content; it needs to explain exactly how your content aligns with your business goals and marketing tactics; and it needs to address logistical issues surrounding ownership, timing and accountability.
4 Elements of a Successful Content Strategy
Here's our list of four pillars that need to be in place so your content strategy will be able to hold the load:
1. Clear, Measurable and Attainable Goals
Sometimes a senior executive might say something like, “I want to be the top Google result for all the right searches.” This is probably not an attainable goal.
An attainable goal starts with evaluating where you currently stand and defining the next improvement. Don’t worry about underachieving; after you reach the first attainable goal, you will simply set another one.
It’s important to include a method for measuring success in your plan.
If you want to increase the number of visitors to your site, use a tool like Google Analytics to track your progress. If you are trying to boost Amazon sales, use the Amazon seller platform to track the volume of units sold.
Other metrics might include the number of article comments, the tally of shares on social channels, search ranking improvement for specific queries and increases in email subscribers or captured leads.
2. Provide a High-Level Strategy for the Long Term
Putting time restrictions on your strategy will help you not only to achieve objectives, but also to grade the effectiveness of your strategy as you go.
Think about how to affect gradual change, and create a plan with reasonable goals for the next three to six months. A 90-day plan gives you enough time to get the ball rolling but also allows you to reevaluate and tweak your tactics before too much time has passed.
If the plan is not succeeding, you can shift your strategies and priorities.
3. A Roadmap of Scheduled Objectives
Start by asking yourself what you or your team members are experts in that will also be intriguing to a relevant audience. Then choose topics you plan to write about and specific content concepts that speak to each topic.
Break down the work on each piece into stages: researching, drafting, polishing, and publishing. Assign tasks to team members, and make sure you include deadlines.
4. Create a Culture of Accountability
Deadlines are all well and good, but if they are not strictly adhered to, your content strategy will quickly become irrelevant in the execution phase.
Remember that your audience, and the Google search engine spiders, expect new content at regular intervals. It is imperative that you stick to your schedule.
If one team member is consistently falling behind, it may be time to reassign that task. If you find that content writing keeps getting pushed aside, put it on the morning schedule and make sure it’s done before you plunge into the day’s emails.
Consider using a task management system to keep track of content production. If your company is not already using one, consider taking the plunge.
Task management apps, like Asana, will cut down on extraneous emails, keep track of who’s doing what when, and remind you and your team members when a deadline is coming up.
Flying Blind Will Get You Lost
If you don’t know where you want to go or how you will get there, even the most compelling articles won’t make any significant impact on your business. Jumping from task to task without keeping an eye on the big picture will lead to missed deadlines and low-quality writing.
Before you start publishing, publishing, publishing, put together a detailed plan of what kind of content you will create, how it will be created and in what time frame.
Then stick to the plan and measure its effectiveness. Iterate your next plan to be better, and keep improving. Over time, you’ll have a well-oiled content strategy that moves the needle with each new campaign.
A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.