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A Crash Course To a Successful Content Strategy- The Most Common Mistakes and a Few Easy Ways To Get Content Right

Have you ever had the awful experience of writing blog posts after blog posts, and no one ever came? Sure, there are trickles of search engine traffic here and there, but there were no subscribers, no comments… nothing.

It’s almost as if you’re invisible.

Well, that’s one of the symptoms of a bad content strategy – if you even had one. And you’re not alone. When it comes to a running a successful blog, most of us assume it’s the slick graphics that matter, or perhaps social media presence, or SEO, or the latest technology. But at the end of the day, your visitors are there to get content (be it words, photographs, audios or videos). And if it’s not what they want, they’ll leave and never return.

The good news is, there are just 4 steps you need to take to get content strategy right.

1. Define Your Ideal Readers

Figure 1: Who do you want to read your articles?

A blog is not your personal diary. Gasp! It’s not about you, your thoughts and your opinions – three things most people like to write about in their blogs. Your blog need to be about your readers. Their thoughts, their opinions and their wants.

So ask yourself, who are you readers? If your site is of a decent size, Google Ad Planner (free) can tell you key demographic data of those who you visit your site. Google Ad Planner will even tell you what other websites these people visit so you can get a better idea of who you are talking to. If you’re establishing a new site, then ask yourself who are your ideal readers? Do you want to write for designers? What kind of designers (web, interior, graphics, etc)? Freelancers or corporate? Experienced or amateurs?

2. Do Your Research

Figure 2: Don’t get creative about what you write. Find out what people want and give it to them.

Once you know who are, or will be, writing for, you can begin to dig deeper into their psyche. You need to do this because the biggest myth of running a successful blog is “creativity” and creating completely “unique” content. The better way to approach it is to find out what successful blogs out there are already writing about… then use that as your inspiration! Check out their “most popular” section. It’s the market telling you what they like to read.

Another way to do your research is to go to forums, Quora or Yahoo Answers and look at what are some of the most popular questions. Writing an article about those topics is almost guaranteed to attract readers like bees to honey. And don’t forget to tap the social media to find out what people are talking about in your niche. Go to research.ly and type your keyword in – and bam! You got your content ideas.

If all else fail, use software like KISSinsights to survey the people who visited your site. “What topics would you like to read next?” works wonders in setting you off in the right direction.

3. Producing Your Content

Figure 3: Producing content is not just about writing it. There are a few considerations to take note of.

Now that you know who to write for and what they like to read about, it’s time for you to develop your voice and structure. Your voice determines how your content sounds like. Do you want to sound more casual and conversational (like this one) or more formal? Despite what some bloggers have said in the past, formal is not always bad. This is because studies have shown that people tend to view others who are like them in a more positive light. As long as it resonates with your readers, it’s perfectly fine.

For example, if you’re running a blog targeted at university professors – a casual tone like this would destroy your credibility. On the other hand, if I write this article like I would write an academic paper, you’d probably leave two paragraphs in.

Once you’ve determined your voice, it’s time for you to determine your structure. Structure will determine where your content resides on your website.

Some bloggers glance over this, but it’s actually a crucial step. Placed in the wrong category, your piece of content might get thousands of visitors less over its lifetime. The search engines might not rank it for a string of long-tail keywords, internal search might not find it for a relevant query and browsers might not be able to find it when they click through to a category.

Structure includes more than just “categorization”, however. It also involves:

– Tagging – an element of blogging some say are negligible. If you plan to grow your blog to a behemoth get started with tagging now! It helps your readers sift through your content.
– Internal links – most bloggers assume this is purely for SEO benefits. But there’s more to that. Internal links also help your readers stay on your site and read more of your content.
– Pullquotes – These are featured excerpts of an article that makes the readers want to read more.
– Images – most blogs have images yet have no standard about what they put up. What are the sizes of the images you put up? Ideally, you should have no more than a few (this is important for step 4). Are stockphotos ok? If not, what could you do?

Before you determine the answers to all these questions, consider these factors:

– Will the content be produced anywhere else on the web? Will there be a mobile site? How does it look in your RSS feed?
– How does it look in different browsers? How does it look in emails?
– Will the content be reproduced in other formats such as podcast, video, PDFs or PowerPoint presentation?

4. Develop Your System

Figure 4: Your system is crucial as your blog grows to be more than just a one-man show.

 

The last step, developing your system, is short yet crucial. This is applicable only if you start to have teams – or guest posters like me. You will want everybody to be on the same page when they produce content for your blog. So the best thing to do is to document everything in step 1 to 3 on a PDF or a web page and get everyone who reads your content to read it through. Ideally, you want people to go through a system (like a shopping cart) instead of checking off the list manually. There are certain guest-posting plugins out there, for example, that can help you with some of these steps.

The posts they submit will then go into your editorial calendar. Even if you are a one-man or one-woman show, dedicate a few days thinking what you’ll write about at least a month in advance. That way, not only you won’t have days where you don’t know what to write, you’ll also be able to string your posts together to convey a larger message.

And finally, the last step of every good content strategy: evaluation. Make sure you constantly measure how well your content is helping you achieve your objectives (be that get new clients or sell advertising space).

So there, a crash course to a successful content strategy. This is NOT a comprehensive how-to guide – to create one will require a book. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section and I’ll be happy to help.

Bogdan

Bogdan is the founder of Top Design Magazine. You can find him in Bucharest-Romania so next time you want to drink a beer there and talk about web and stuff, give him a message.

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