Content Strategy: What You Need To Know Before You Get Started

By: Gregory D. Welch

Just what exactly is content strategy? You could hop on Google and find half a dozen complicated-sounding explanations that just aren’t necessary. Content strategy is simply the planning, development, and use of content to help advance a business or person’s goals.

"A content strategy is a strategy that takes your business goals, and then uses content as a primary means to achieve those goals." (blog.hubspot.com, How to Develop a Content Strategy: A Start-to-Finish Guide)

In other words, content strategy is the smart use of stories, creative writing, blog posts, and any other form of content to help you achieve the success you’re after.

“Content marketing focuses on the tactics and execution—the actual creation, curation, and editing of content that’s specifically created for the purposes of marketing. This could be anything from blog posts to the confirmation page, and is aimed at building a trusted connection between a company’s products or services and the market that might end up purchasing them. It’s about creating content that people not only want to consume, but that will also help them through the sales funnel.” (moz.com, Content Strategy - Moz)

But that’s just the beginning of this concept. Let’s take a closer look, beyond the surface and into the heart of this highly creative field of marketing. Let’s look more closely at what you need to know about content strategy and how you can apply the lessons to whatever you’re working on.

Vision

Whatever you’re after, if you want it to be successful, start with a clear vision. Define your sense of purpose, what the goals are, what you hope to accomplish and what success looks like for your business, and the content driving it.

“Start with a vision for what you want the company to be in three to five years, and then work toward a plan of how content will help you achieve that vision. That’s the foundation for your strategy.” (moz.com, Content Strategy - Moz)

Start with these elements and a measurable mission with milestones and goals that are firm enough to challenge you, but flexible enough to adapt to any changing situations and you will begin your journey from a much stronger position.

“Content strategy concerns itself with the vision—the ins and outs of how and why your content will be created, managed, and eventually archived or updated. It looks at all of the content your customers ever encounter.” (moz.com, Content Strategy - Moz)

Remember that content strategy boils down to writing content with goals and purposes in mind. No piece of content should be disconnected from any of the rest of your content and larger business goals. That’s where vision and purpose come into the picture.

Plan for Your Success

If you’re working on a project for yourself or someone else, and you want to grow the audience for that content, then you’re going to eventually find yourself competing for the top ranking on Google, or trying to earn the most eyeballs and reads on social.

This means you’re going to need a strategy, a plan of action. You know what you want to accomplish with your content, now the question becomes, how?

“The first step to getting a leg up on the competition — and actively engaging your audience — is to have a solid, smart content marketing plan in place.” (blog.hubspot.com, How to Develop a Content Strategy: A Start-to-Finish Guide)

Any work you do to try and solve the big question of how you’re going to get your content discovered, read, and shared by an audience to their friends, is the beginning of that strategy.

But to get to this point, you have to take a close look at what’s already been done, and how it’s working out. This review is your content audit, which is a very important step in developing your strategy.

“A very important step in creating your strategy is a content audit—an in-depth look at the content you’ve already created. Note that a content audit is often confused with a content strategy, but really it’s only one part of building an effective strategy.” (moz.com, Content Strategy - Moz)

In order to make progress, you have to consider the progress that’s already been made. This means taking a closer examination of all the content you currently have. What kind of content do you have that could be repurposed and given fresh life? What content needs to be updated or could be added to? What content might lend itself to some social media content or graphic design assets?

Keep this in mind: thinking strategically really comes down to asking good questions about the things you’re working with.

A Quick Definition of Terms

A lot of these marketing terms can become a bit confusing. But here’s what this all boils down to:

  • Content marketing is the big picture goals and milestones that you’re using to try and reach whatever success means to you and your job or client.

  • Content strategy is the more focused question of what specifically you’re going to do to accomplish these goals.

  • And then we have content auditing, which is a part of developing your strategy. The audit examines what you have available, and what you have to work with.

Give Your Content Purpose

Here’s the deal, we aren’t testing spaghetti for doneness, so stop throwing things against the wall to see if they stick. You’ve taken the time and invested the energy in creating all your content, why waste it before it even has a chance?

If you want your content to be successful, to reach your audience, and to leave an impression with them, you have to plan for it. You have to think and create strategically.

“The key is to always strategize before producing any content. Don’t just simply churn out content for content’s sake. Once you start producing great content and your users engage with it and boost rankings at the same time, you’ll understand why this is the far superior approach.” (neilpatel.com, Content Strategy: A Development Guide)

So, before you even get started creating new pieces of content for your marketing efforts, hit pause and ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish with them? How do these new pieces fit with other pieces you have and are planning to create? What does the overall big picture look like for your content?

“Great content is created for a specific purpose, and this purpose needs to be defined. Ask yourself if you are creating content to boost brand awareness, generate leads, convert users, attract past customers, improve search ranking results, or something else altogether.” (neilpatel.com, Content Strategy: A Development Guide)

Give your content purpose and you give your audience a reason to read. It’s really that simple. If you’re creating content for a reason, and you plan that out in advance as part of your strategy, and manage to pull it off in the actual work, guess what? Your audience is going to know.

If you do the opposite and just throw random things at them, barely putting in the work or really investing your time, energy, and effort into the content, they’re going to know that as well. That’s why purpose is so important.

Bringing It All Together

A powerful content strategy that connects with an audience and inspires them to action and the elements that go into it can sound complicated, complex, and even overwhelming. But, when you peel back the layers and take a closer look it all comes down to the same core elements as any good marketing effort.

Create things that have a purpose and are a part of a larger vision, that is aware of its audience and the audience it hopes to reach, and that truly provides value. Once you get this pattern down, your job is to maintain the work and repeat.

The more effort you put into a thing, the more effort your potential readers are going to put into discovering it, reading it, and eventually, sharing it. So, if you want to create a truly powerful and effective content strategy, put in the work, learn the details, and don’t let it intimidate you no matter how complicated it may seem at first.

Article originally published to Medium

Written by Gregory D. Welch

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