What is Content Strategy, and why is it important?
Content is everything from words to visual media, audio to infographics, print to digital. Because it encompasses so much, it is a tool used throughout marketing, spanning across search, social media, and PR, amongst others.
By putting in place a content strategy, an organisation can have an output of consistently great content. This content is aligned to business objectives and designed to meet a user's need. Quality content will be shared. The more shares, the more coverage the message and values attributed to the organisation will receive, as well as the organisation itself. This will affect search marketing, as well as attracting higher numbers of viewers. The viewers will convert into higher numbers of customers. Therefore content marketing ensures the promotion of a particular brand, which also affects how readily available it is to search engines.
What is content?
The best content is relevant to the audience it is trying to reach, be it to entertain, to be interesting, or to be useful. Therefore, in order to put forward a good content strategy, the audience must be known and understood. Thus the first step of a content strategy is to create web personas for your online audiences, allowing insight into the people that you want to target. When creating the strategy itself, using a multitude of platforms will encourage the engagement of the audience from a variety of different angles; this will also give the opportunity for a variety of different formats. These formats could include print, digital PR and social media, again giving the audience several ways to interact with the brand.
This can be exemplified by Net-a-Porter's magazine Porter, which allows readers to interact digitally, even in print form. No matter what the platform, the output must be consistently good, being regular, original and varied, whilst in keeping with the brand's overall style. It must be remembered that the internet is a time capsule of mistakes that can be accessed with ease, so the importance of accuracy cannot be overstated. Variety is particularly important as the audience will not enjoy being bombarded from many angles with the same piece of information, and will turn away, whilst a more varied approach will have the opposite effect.
Why is content important?
Content strategy is important as it directly engages the audience that it targets. As it focuses on the audience, benefiting them with something from which they can learn, or that will make them laugh, they do not feel as though they are being sold to. Every Instagram photo, newspaper article or blog post allows the brand to transmit its values and creates a way to bond with the customer over shared opinions, which will place the brand at the forefront of the viewer's mind the next time they need a particular product or service. This is aided by the enormous impact that good quality content has on search marketing.
Search marketing now relies on good quality content, which not only drives the architecture of a website, but also makes the website more relevant – search engines no longer pick up on just how many keywords have been used. Instead, the algorithms have been changed so that a more human understanding exists in picking the most relevant websites. Due to these changes, websites that are packed full of keywords, but with little other relevance, rank far worse than previously. This was particularly noticeable with Google's 'Hummingbird' update. The update focused on understanding the meaning behind whole phrases, as opposed to picking out keywords. The search, therefore, became semantic, and is now more similar to human behaviour, resulting in the increasing importance of content strategy.
Search marketing goes hand-in-hand with social media, which is a constant output of content. Again, this is directly connecting with the audience, making it increasingly relevant. Social media also allows viewers to share the organisation's message with their friends, widening the brand's audience. These people are then directed to the organisation's website where they find more shareable content, meaning that the social media machine drives itself.
Content strategy should also maintain the interest of that audience due to the consistency of the content, not just attracting new viewers only for them to disappear later. The instant nature of social media means that the brand can be forgotten in a heartbeat if it fails to enthral. Techniques such as storytelling do this well by not only capturing the imagination of the customer, but also interacting in such a way that they want to know what happens next.
Speaking to your audience
By providing your audience with good quality content, you are able to get to know them better; this supplements the initial research taken before the strategy was created. On social media platforms, there is a two-way channel between customers and the organisations that they are loyal to, allowing feedback. This means that a brand is able to make the content ever more relevant to their audience. However, be aware that those interactions can be seen by other members of the audience and can be as damaging as they can be helpful; how queries and complaints are dealt with is another way of transmitting content, perhaps more important than praise.
Customers are not the only audience that content engages, and members of the media community should not be overlooked. By consistently creating relevant and good quality content, customers will not be the only ones talking. It could allow bloggers and writers to discuss themes and values you touch on. In addition, they could mention your products and services themselves, reaching new people in their network and possibly even giving a link back to your site. Thus you are able to reach previously hidden audiences by appealing to who your audience also reads.
Having a clearly set out a strategy means that not only is content relatively easy to implement, it is also simple to measure. Objectives can be set that are specific and easily analysed to see what is working well and what isn't. Feedback from social media is only one way of doing this. Using website analytics, such as Google Analytics, shows you how many visits your website receives, and from where. This shows how successful certain elements of the strategy have been. A particular storyline may have encouraged a huge amount of views, but if those views correspond with a drop in sales, it suggests that the wrong audience was picking up on your content. Thus the content strategy is also important as it not only helps to promote an organisation but also shows where the marketing falls down, allowing it to be changed and adapted.
Points to take away
Content strategy is the plan put in place that ensures a constantly consistent and well crafted outpouring of content. Anything from videos to interviews to FAQs and everything in between has to be interesting, useful, or entertaining to the target audience, provoking interaction. Through such content, a product or service is not necessarily directly sold. Instead, the brand can bond with their customers, sharing ideals, which gains the organisation the customer's loyalty. This results in a purchase the next time they need what the brand can provide. The content should also lead back to the website, where other good quality content can be shared. Content strategy is therefore very much tied up with social media. Social media greatly impacts the visibility of the organisation on search engines. Search engines are driven by the search for good quality content too, showing that content isn't just very important, but drives everything necessary for successful marketing.
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