Introducing Content Strategy
Content Strategy is becoming evermore important for the web, beyond Search Engine Optimisation we seek to develop a brand online that tells a story.
Content Strategy involves managing the overall content of a website why the is and will be created and used.
Given the recent changes to SEO we’re now seeing Search Practitioners becoming Content Marketers which is a world away from just ‘optimising for search’.
Content Strategy touches a wide-range of digital subjects and is not just limited to Copywriting Marketing or Design.
As we look at Content Strategy we need to firstly consider,
- Setting goals, why does the Web Site or content exist?
- Who are the audience and what are they looking for?
The core purpose of the web site should lead the design process, within SEO there’s a misperception that we just chase the algorithm with a view to quickly increasing keyword rankings (even, although they can’t be brought). Content strategy needs to be applied rather than creating content for search rankings, as tempting as it is.
The value of keyword rankings is often understood as a factor of success as the visability in search results is clear to see. It’s the end-users that we’re targeting to forfill a content requirement and not the keyword. If a search and content strategy is led by keywords as a measurement for success then we’re missing out on delivering to the end-user which can affect the sites authority in the long-term. Keywords shouldn’t lead a Content Strategy even although they’re a main ranking factor.
We might assume that if we optimise for a keyword and the search engine serves the results, we’ve gain the opportunity to be seen by a visitor who’s actively searching for the content, therefore we’ve reached our communications goals. Great but what do they do when they arrive on-site? (Within offline marketing keywords are very rarely used i.e in traditional print media and yet they’re a fundamental driver online. But what works best? I would say digital but that’s only because of the opportunity to engage with our audience.)
What if we could create an entire website that delivered upon clients and customers needs without any keywords used? Maybe in a few years google will be smart enough to be the query. Until then keywords may well be over used online.
In summary, a collection of keywords isn’t a content strategy, it’s much more than this.
Research and Goals
When our content and design is created around the goals of a site, the purpose becomes clear and we’re able to understand why content is placed, it serves a specific purpose for the defined user-experience.
Developing a web site has become quite complicated, it’s easy to skip content strategy and user-experience design. admittedly we’re confined by the amount of content available. The more time spent planning strategy the better the end-result.
Here’s one way we might define the intial build process,
Marketing > Content Strategy > Information Architecture > User-experience Design > Web Design / Development > SEO
By researching our content goals and objective we’re able to build a strategy-map to understand what content needs to be created. Much of this work is undertaken offline, via market research. Some of this can be undertaken via interviews of stakeholders and users.
Website Goals and Purpose – Top questions to ask
What are the top goals for the site?
What do you want it to do?
What are the most common complaints you get about the website or content online?
What are the three most important questions that your clients ask, online or offline.
What is the best part of your site and why?
What are you known for as a company?
What do you do today that you will do tomorrow?
How well do you think the website communicates with the mission statement? (assuming they’ve got one)
Developing user personas..
User personas are great! In most forms of Marketing we target people carefully via segmentation, when it’s applied offline we study demographics sometimes data can be pulled from ACORN which is a demographic pool of people in the U.k.
By using this data we are able to build a picture of the users of our sites. and develop a profile of the type of content that may work well. The better we understand our audience the better the site and experience will be. Although we can go too deep into developing these personas, so we try and keep them light as assuming behaviour or drivers without enough information can cause our content to become misaligned with the initial mission or web sites purpose.
Demographics: Urban Professional
Age: 21 – 55
Culture/ Language: English Speaking
Geography: UK / Southwest
Education: Some College
Computer: Experience Computer Literate
Access to PC: Desktop, Laptop, Smart-phone
As we start to understand our audience we are able to create content around what the users need. Such as tone, readership levels, graphics, layout, media, etc.
Testing our Content Strategy.
It’s often a great idea to undertake user surveys, there are many tools out there such as Survey Monkey that can be used to create bespoke surveys.
Once we have this data we are able to test our content, some of this can be done via multivariate testing (if there’s a wider enough sample available) A/B Split-testing is where we might test several versions of our content and analyse the results to see how well different version perform. We can even go as far as heat-maps and recording visitors sessions to learn about interactions. It’s a data driven approach to content marketing that we’re seeking to apply.
A Conversion Rate Optimisation Content Test
We recently did some A/B split testing for a client to understand the effectiveness for a the advertising spend. We pulled all of the PPC campaigns and display advertising to test the organic traffic. We made some variations of the landing-pages to test the conversion.
We found the page-level changes increase the conversion rate of the site. When we cross reference this data gained from our advertising spend. We can see the correlation to conversion which shows keywords that have a higher level of intent. It was the changes of content within the split-test that met the visitors needs which increased organic conversions.
Overall shows that content is more important before paid advertising is applied.
It also shows that the organic traffic is strong enough to convert, therefore we might assume that the Content Strategy is on-track.
The task of the paid strategy is then to fill in the gaps for content that hasn’t yet been created.
These are just some of the things that we can do to constantly improve and measure the performance our Content Strategy.
Once we’ve created a Content Strategy, the reviews are not a one-off exercise, far from it, we need to constantly test our content and update it as time goes on. It’s a very different process to Search Engine Optimisation and this needs to be considered when making changes to the website.
- Study your analytics to learn about your traffic.
- Test the content via content experiments which is the new version of Google Website Optimizer.
- Map-out your web site in a flow diagram
- Audit your content every 3 months to check that it meets and is aligned with the sites goals.
Test your content with users, internal and external stakeholders to gain feedback and action where appropriate.