9 Steps for an Ultimate Content Strategy

What is Content Strategy?

The content strategy not only looks at “what”, “who” and “how” but it also looks the “Why” question.

Why are you creating this content and who is the target of the content. Why do you think that your product or service will help the target audience better than your competitors?

According to Kristina Halvorson

Content Strategy is about getting into the details of planning, creation, governance and publication of useful, usable content.

We are not only talking about the text that is created but images, videos and other forms of content that will be accessible by potential customers.

A good content strategy ensures that it is usable, and useful, content, with a great structure, can be found easily on search engines in order to bring converting customers.

The best way to market your business in the long-run is through content

Content strategy is about the management of content for a business.

Just like in a content marketing strategy, in content strategy, you have to consider the various personas that you are dealing with.

Content strategy can be directed by a statement that covers the various personas.

One of the most popular statements goes as follows:

The content to be produced will help our company accomplish _________ and _________ by providing _______ and ________ content that makes ______ feel _______ or ____________ so they will do ________ or __________.

Filling in the blanks will create various content strategies based on the personas that are being targeted.

To elaborate further, the content strategy is about the content-aligned components

  • Goals and substance – What should be done to the content to drive customers to visit? We must define a clear goal and what sort of content should be created to achieve that goal.
  • USP – Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Selling Point (USP) is very important for a business if they have to beat their competition.
  • Emotions – Content has to bring out emotion for it to be effective; it is widely acknowledged that emotion drives purchase decisions.
  • Voice, tone, and Style – We must clearly define the brand Voice, Tone & Style. The brand voice always remains the same, but we can change the tone and style based on the topic.
  • Information architecture – When coming up with a good content strategy for website copywriting, you first have to define the Information Architecture that you want to use.
  • Determination of structure – How will the content be accessed, prioritized and organized? This brings focus on the content, mapping it out, bridging it, and having page maps or tables to show just where the content will lie.
  • Resource and Capabilities – You need to have a workflow that is smooth and easy, so you and your team can concentrate on what is important.

1. Goal of content strategy

You need to understand why you have to create a content strategy first.

Since 2016, companies started having a content strategy – every business knows the content will give you entry into success, but most do not know why this is so.

i. Content is the driver of interaction 

In today’s online world, customers and search engines make the difference between success and failure. The way you can serve both is by doing a detailed and delicate dance with your content creation.

The customers have to get to know you through the content, and you have to rank well on search engines.

According to Ascend2 and other related research partners, 57% of marketers said that proper content creation was the most effective SEO tactics, while 49% talked about keywords and phrases.

In order to create great content, you have to understand why you are doing so. Searchmetrics also did a research that showed that content relevance was topmost over other SEO tactics in Google. Content drives everything, and that is why an effective content marketing strategy must be put in place.

ii. What you post is secondary to why you post. 

You must know the cause, belief or purpose that makes you do what you do, and is part of your brand.

You will find it easier to create effective content when you know why you are creating it, and this is another reason why you must have an effective content marketing strategy.

iii. Attention span 

Humans today have a short attention span, of about 8 seconds, when it comes to browsing the web.

You have 8 seconds to get them to be aware.

Awareness is the first step of the sales funnel. If you do not get them to be aware, then the process is interrupted and you do not get the clients. Awareness is not just about letting prospective customers to know about your wonderful product or service; you have to make them aware that they do have a need that your products or service will fulfill.

Your content strategy should outline how you are going to get them to become aware of their need or pain point, and then go further to show how you will help them meet the needs and make a purchase.

The story of your business is crucial in getting your customers. According to a survey done in America, more that 90% of those surveyed said that they will trust firms that try to make a difference. Original content and social media posts will make a difference.

iv. Evaluation 

When it comes to evaluation, you have already convinced the customer that your product or service will address their needs.

This is a very curial stage in creating a content marketing strategy. In this phase, the customer is evaluating the product or service, and will probably take a peek at what your competitors are doing.

Your goal in this phase it to make sure that the customer stays on your site. Even as the customer is evaluating the product or service, you have to show them why they should buy from you and not the competition.

Factors that help customers in evaluating a product or service include interactivity of the site, the way the story is told, how the story is supported by real-life statistics and researches.

The more you do to help a customer evaluate a product will work well in pushing them to the final stage, and this is that of purchasing.

v. Purchase 

A good content strategy will address how to make it easy for a customer to make a purchase. This means looking at how the checkout is structured.

Many times people stop making a purchase because the checkout process is long and complicated. Having a good content strategy has to put in place a way to make the checkout process quick and simple.

This means making sure all issues to do with the buying process are clear at all times, and not too much entry of information is required. The purpose of this entry is to clearly mark out the difference between content strategy and content marketing strategy.

2. Creating a USP

Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Selling Point (USP) is very important for a business if they have to beat their competition. We have covered this in a non-related USP blog.

When you are considering Content Strategy, you will need to consider the USP of the business.

The USP is the feature which you are offering that your competition does not.

This is something that most businesses struggle with and needs a lot of competitor-research so you see what you can offer that will make you unique.

When you look at our contractor and our school owner, you wonder what the USP would be.

For the school, the USP is very clear.

They are offering an environment where children will learn through play and not the clinical atmosphere of a classroom. Children love to play, so let them play, as they learn. Play will reinforce what they learn in class in the traditional school setting.

But when it comes to the contractor, getting a USP is challenging. The contractor does a lot of research and comes up with the USP of giving a low entry investment opportunity with the potential of bringing in huge profits in the future.

The level of investment required will be low and he can maximize by getting more investors on board. The quality of his constructions will figure in the USP.

So the USP statements would be as follows:

School : We provide a playful learning environment where we reinforce the knowledge gleaned from the class and enhance retention of such knowledge.

Contractor : Quality begets profits, invest a little and get a healthy ROI.

Let us talk about alternative types of content that you will have to consider as you create your content strategy.

You must know what content connects with your target audience.

If you are writing for teenagers, then using images and video might be the best way to go.

If writing to a bunch of intellectuals in a university, the use of white papers and blogs would bring you more results than the use of video.

When you are considering the type of content that you will use, you need to think about.

3. Emotions

Content has to bring out emotion for it to be effective; it is widely acknowledged that emotion drives purchase decisions.

When addressing the content strategy to tap into emotions, you have to dig deeper into the personas you created.

You have to understand the psychology of these personas, in order to emotionally content with them. Remember that the first few lines that you create are the ones that will encourage the user to continue reading more.

You have to connect in those few initial seconds.

There are various emotions that drive traffic.

Humor, Happiness, Love, Fear, Anger, Surprise, Admiration and many more. However, each must be targeted at getting your customers to engage with your products and services.

There are YouTubers who offer tutorials similar to other mainstream content, but they get the viewers better than the readers of mainstream content.

The initial connection on video makes them appealing to viewers. Some use humor, and others have a more candid and professional approach.

It is all about getting to know what makes your readers tick.

Now that the difference is clear, let us go into the details of a great content marketing strategy (NOT Content Strategy)

4. The voice, tone, and style

These are three distinct aspects that define the way people perceive the brands of a company. However, they are all connected.

The overall brand will be defined by the content strategy for each as a separate but related entity.

Basically, the brand voice is the uniformity of words, values and attitude in addressing target audience and others.

This is a very crucial step when it comes to creating a content strategy.

I have some friends that I shy away from, and others I look forward to seeing.

They are all my friends, but what sets them apart is their personality.

The brand voice is the personality of the business.

It is the reason why someone will decide whether to pay you $1,000 for a product he can get at half the price from a competitor.

Your brand voice must set you apart from the competition, and the content strategy should be well thought out.

Let us look at these three related aspects, one at a time and see how they work together to create a unique brand.

a. Voice

Take any three words and define your brand voice – this is the first step in trying to create a brand voice. If you cannot find three words that define your brand voice, then you will end up with a mixture of voices that will confuse your prospective customers.

You are wondering why three words is so crucial

Most big brands use three words to define their brand voice. Using more words will create duplicates or water down your core characteristics.

Here are some examples from big brands around the world.

  • Coca-Cola: Joyful, Optimistic, Friendly
  • Nike: Positive, Powerful, Inspiring
  • Mailchimp: Funny, Encouraging, Helpful

These three words will set the voice, and subsequently the tone and style of the content that you create.

There are a plethora of positive words that you can use to define your brand voice, but they have to be relevant and a result of careful though into what you want to portray to your customers.

Let us consider our two clients, contractor and school owner.

The three words would go something like this:

  • Contractor: Professional, Reliable, Innovative
  • School Owner: Fun, Educational, Safe

b. Brand Tone

The brand tone is different from the brand voice, but they relate to one another. Based on the three words that you define, you will now expand them and define the brand tone. If we look at the two examples, we can say: Contractor
  • Professional – Professional but not unfriendly
  • Reliable – Reliable and effective
  • Innovative – Innovative beyond expectations

School owner

  • Fun – Fun but not silly
  • Educational – Educational but not rigid
  • Safe – Safe but not restrictive

With these statements, the tone of the content begins to emerge.

You may have to go further and expand these statements until you have a set of parameters, which form the basis of the style that you want to have.

Here is where you decide whether you will be sarcastic, funny, academic, quirky, intriguing etc.

However, the tone you pick must be in synchronization with the three words that you used to define your voice.

The contractor will choose a straight-forward professional tone while the school owner will choose a warm, inviting, fun tone.

The tone options for the school owner are flexible, but the contractor has little leeway in the kind of tone he should use. He has to be all business. The tone of the content has to be appropriate to the target audience.

The tone must also be in-sync with the voice – consider the following scenarios

A parent calls the school owner and makes some suggestions that will enhance the relationships of the community of children in the school. This could convert her and make her bring her children to the school

First tone – This is fantastic, Angela. This is an innovative and practical suggestion. Issues of children can be complex. I will share your suggestion with other parents and get their feedback.

Second tone – We have noted your suggestion and it has been passed on to the administrators for consideration. We will get back to you within 48 hours.

Which tone will make the school have a great voice? Yup, the first tone.

The tone that you use will influence the way that your target audience reacts to your content. When making your content strategy, you must be clear about the reaction you want from your target audience and then align the tone of the content to meet that objective.

c. Style

The style will play a role in the tone of your content. The content writing style is crucial for effective marketing.

When you hear the word “style” you immediately think of “fashion”, but when you look at fashion blogs, you get the feeling that “style” is “ a way of communicating”.

Yes! Even in the fashion world, style is a way of communicating about who the wearer or designer is.

Whether you know it or not, the clothes you wear are a way of telling others about who you are.

The same goes for content style, and a good content strategy has to address this.

For example, if the contractor wears his work clothes, with the dirt and grime you find at construction sites, and then walks into the office of a potential investor and asks to discuss the investment portfolio, he would probably be arrested and sent to an asylum.

Yes, he is a contractor and works in an environment that is filled with a lot of cement and other stuff, but if he wants to connect with investors, he has to wear what investors expect – a neat suit.

Style can even be more important than the ideas or concepts of the content itself. When you want to use style in content, you have to match it to the style of your target audience and be authentic at the same time – The contractor has to meet potential investors in a suit, but not hide the fact that he sometimes gets grimy at work.

Emotional impact and how style affects it

Emotions rather than rational thought are the ones that drive purchasing decisions. Even if they do not factor too much in the end, they are the ones that bring about that crucial “initial connection”.

Why didn’t the prospect move from your site at first glance? Nobody reads a site in less than 10 seconds, so it is the emotions that make people stay and start reading your content.

Don’t walk into a boardroom wearing a clown suit – that illustrates what I am putting forth. Your content strategy has to look at ways to create a content style that will avoid rejection.

On the other hand, the clown suit could work well for the school owner – as long as the kids don’t run away scared.

So are you wondering why writing style matters so much to define the voice of a brand? The simple examples I mention above should shed some light on that.

But let me go much deeper

Trust – when you provide content that has been written in good style, you earn trust from the target audience. Inappropriate and sloppy language will make readers reject your message instantly. Well, thought-out style will earn you respect and you will “get” the reader.

Decoding – You may have a great product or service, but the style that you use in your content will bring about rejection.

Aesthetics of content – content written with proper style looks beautiful, and this naturally appeals to the human psyche.

Suffice it to say that content style is where marketing art meets marketing science, creating a magical spell that brings about conversion.

Keep in mind some basics of style:

  • When you want to make a humorous blog or article, you use short, witty sentences.
  • When you want to make a serious blog or article, you use longer sentences.

Define – It will be best to choose three words that reflect the personality of the brand. An example would be “Unassuming, but bold”. Add a few more, and then choose those you feel are the best.

Differentiate – Check out what your competitor’s voice, tone and style looks like, and then distinguish your brand from theirs

Listen – Listen to the voice, tone and style of your customers. Yes! How will they hear you if you are not speaking like they do?

Inspire – The brand voice, tone and style have to inspire the target audience. Short phrases and action verbs are the best today.

Engage – Oddly, this requires you to stop trying too hard. Relax and let the brand come out and engage the target audience. With proper procedure in planning, the brand will be irresistible to your target audience.

Authenticity – despite the need to aesthetically connect with the target audience, you have to be authentic to bring about believability, which will lead to retention and conversion.

Once you have the voice, tone and style laid out, you can now identify the type of content that you target audience will respond to.

Bringing it all together

I can bet my socks that you are feeling informed, but still wondering how voice, tone and style come together. Let us explore the journey of troy, who is a blogger of repute.

Troy had written a blog that felt “Right”. It was full of facts, flowed very well, and was structured like a thesis.

It was crystal-perfect in its structure, grammar, spelling, title, sub-headings, etc.

His readers would be inspired and elated.

He was so excited that this particular blog had finally made him realize his Voice. Now he had the power to touch people’s lives.

He goes out to celebrate, leaving minor edits for the next day.

In the morning, he goes over the blog and he feels dejected.

Suddenly the blog does not resound as it did yesterday. What did he do wrong?

When writing to inspire people, you have to use a tone, voice and style that is human. It is that simple.

Sometimes we feel that we are writing to educate people, but we should write to help people and this should determine the voice, style and tone – even if you are writing a tech article.

The voice of a brand has to be consistent, but the tone and style will change to meet the moods of the target audience.

Write in the same way that you talk.

“For those of you who have not received our newsletter, we apologize for the inconvenience” vs. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience you have suffered due to a problem with our server”.

The second tone will elicit a better reaction than the first.

Troy should go back and redo his blog in a voice, tone, and style that connects with the human psyche and emotions.

Troy did not do the proper content strategy that would reach out to people in an engaging way. He was writing like a robot.

The voice, tone, and style of a piece of content, no matter how fact-filled, well-structured, properly-formatted it is, will determine how people react to it.

Define – It will be best to choose three words that reflect the personality of the brand. An example would be “Unassuming, but bold”. Add a few more, and then choose those you feel are the best.

Differentiate – Check out what your competitor’s voice, tone and style looks like, and then distinguish your brand from theirs

Listen – Listen to the voice, tone and style of your customers. Yes! How will they hear you if you are not speaking like they do?

Inspire – The brand voice, tone and style have to inspire the target audience. Short phrases and action verbs are the best today.

Engage – Oddly, this requires you to stop trying too hard. Relax and let the brand come out and engage the target audience. With proper procedure in planning, the brand will be irresistible to your target audience.

Authenticity – despite the need to aesthetically connect with the target audience, you have to be authentic to bring about believability, which will lead to retention and conversion.

Once you have the voice, tone and style laid out, you can now identify the type of content that you target audience will respond to.

Bringing it all together

I can bet my socks that you are feeling informed, but still wondering how voice, tone and style come together. Let us explore the journey of troy, who is a blogger of repute.

Troy had written a blog that felt “Right”. It was full of facts, flowed very well, and was structured like a thesis.

It was crystal-perfect in its structure, grammar, spelling, title, sub-headings, etc.

His readers would be inspired and elated.

He was so excited that this particular blog had finally made him realize his Voice. Now he had the power to touch people’s lives.

He goes out to celebrate, leaving minor edits for the next day.

In the morning, he goes over the blog and he feels dejected.

Suddenly the blog does not resound as it did yesterday. What did he do wrong?

When writing to inspire people, you have to use a tone, voice and style that is human. It is that simple.

Sometimes we feel that we are writing to educate people, but we should write to help people and this should determine the voice, style and tone – even if you are writing a tech article.

The voice of a brand has to be consistent, but the tone and style will change to meet the moods of the target audience.

Write in the same way that you talk.

“For those of you who have not received our newsletter, we apologize for the inconvenience” vs. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience you have suffered due to a problem with our server”.

The second tone will elicit a better reaction than the first.

Troy should go back and redo his blog in a voice, tone, and style that connects with the human psyche and emotions.

Troy did not do the proper content strategy that would reach out to people in an engaging way. He was writing like a robot.

The voice, tone, and style of a piece of content, no matter how fact-filled, well-structured, properly-formatted it is, will determine how people react to it.

5. Information Architecture

For starters, when coming up with a good content strategy for website copywriting, you first have to define the Information Architecture that you want to use.

There is no way you can get a credible content strategy if you do not know what the IA is like.

But even before you start working on IA, you need to have your user persona defined. We have already covered User Persona in this blog post: A Ultimate Guide to define your right target audience.

You cannot talk about content strategy without talking about information architecture.

It is like discussing a car, without discussing the engine.

Information Architecture, or IA, is one of the most difficult disciplines to define, so roll up your sleeves, take a cup of coffee and pay attention.

The Information Architecture Institute defines IA as follows:

Information Architecture is about helping people understand their surroundings and find what they are looking for, in the real world as well as online

Yeah, when I read that for the first time, I had to blink twice and read it again.

Basically, it informs the creation of a website or application that allows users to understand where they are in relation to their needs.

You want to know why it is a crucial part of any strategy, be it design, content or other?

Sitemaps, categorizations, metadata, hierarchies, and navigation are all part of information architecture.

how to do content strategy
Are you still confused?

Let me illustrate with an example – when you are creating a strategy and separating content, and then placing it into categories, so you can have a site map and create a great navigation interface, you are practicing Information Architecture.

Several questions must be answered when you are doing information architecture:

  • When you want to make a humorous blog or article, you use short, witty sentences.
  • When you want to make a serious blog or article, you use longer sentences.

Let us go back to the two clients that we introduced in website discovery blog, John the contractor and Mark the school owner.

When it comes to information architecture, John will need a website where his target audiences can see what projects he has done.

They should be able to see case studies, locations, vision, mission and core values of the business. These are crucial in demonstrating his expertise and knowledge of the industry he is working in.

Images of work that he has done in the past are the clincher that will support the issues above and prove that he has a good grasp on the industry and evoke investor confidence. This will lead to investors trusting him and increase his conversion rate.

So the information architecture for our contractor should look like this:

  • Home
    • USP / Brand Message – this is primal because it is what strikes the prospect within a few seconds. A bad USP means a lost prospect.
    • A glimpse of Case Studies filter by category and locations – this asserts the authority of knowing what is happening in the industry.
    • Location / Areas they work
    • Testimonials
    • CTA
  • About
    • Vision / Mission Core Values
    • Leader Bios
  • Case Studies
    • Residential – This informs the challenges of construction for residential property and why he wants to concentrate on commercial property.
    • Commercial – This gives credence to why a commercial property is preferable to residential property, as far as investments are concerned.
  • Contact
    • Locations

On the other hand, the school owner will need a colorful website which brings out the fun aspect of the school and yet inform parents about their infrastructure, curriculum, board, awards, and testimonials in a strategic and structured way.

They need a site that will excite as well as inform. The contractor site needs to be professional and minimalistic, whereas the primary school website needs have all sorts of fun elements and some interaction.

It needs a lot of pictures of happy children, and proper facilities that are safe for the kids.

Information Architecture of these two will be very different.

Basically, information Architecture is about organizing, labeling and structuring content effectively and sustainably to help users find information easily and make decisions.

Information architecture of school website should look like this:

  • Home
    • USP / Branding message
    • Board / Affiliation
    • Classes
    • Syllabus
    • Awards and Competition won
    • Gallery of pictures
    • Testimonials
  • About
    • Principal Message
    • Teachers Bio
    • Values
  • Syllabus
    • Nursery
    • KG
    • 1st Grade
    • 2nd Grade
    • 3rd Grade
    • 4th Grade
    • 5th Grade
  • Gallery
  • Fees
    • Tuition Fee
    • Extracurricular fee
    • Miscellaneous / Stationary / Books
  • Admission
    • Eligibility
    • Process
    • Online Form
  • Contact

This is a simple illustration of what an IA should be. Depending on the business, it can be more detailed and have more subcategories, labels and titles.

6. Content Structure

A terrible Content Structure will ruin the effectiveness of the content.

Content Structure is very important especially when you are writing related content in several pieces. You must structure it such that one topic flows into the other.

Structure within the individual content; you need to have a structure that flows well within the content.

You do not want your content to move from topic “A” to “D” to “B” and end at “C”.

You want content that flows properly from topic “A” and ends logically at “D”.

This is the structure that you have to form before you go into writing a single word.

Such a structure is what is referred to as a Content Brief.

Here are some of the issues that you will need to place in your content brief.

  1. Title – you need to make sure that you come up with a title that is captivating, catchy, and has the proper keywords. This is something that eludes many content creators. Some struggle with titles even after years of writing.
  2. Audience – this is covered in user personas
  3. Brand – This is where you think about the brand products and services, competitive edge, Unique Value Proposition and a lot more. You need to have a clear understanding of what your brand stands for and how to portray it in the content.
  4. Consider what questions the users will be asking – This is covered in user personas once more.
  5. Editorial method – you need to know how you will present the content. Will you use a bulleted list, numbered list, subtitles, etc.
  6. Information Source – You must have a clear understanding of where you are going to get the information that you need to write a smashing piece of content.
  7. The images used – many people just place images to make an article look great and yet the content is not related to the image.
  8. Psychographics – When you created demographics in the persona phase, did you get the psychographics. This refers to what your target audience hates, ore loves, dislikes or likes, etc.
  9. Emotions – a good content brief will list down what the target audience is supposed to feel. Do you want them happy, or are you raising controversy to get their attention?

Apart from the structure within a particular piece of content, you should do a similar brief for a series of content that is supposed to flow from one to the other. You need to connect the titles, and once this is set, you can go into each and create a content brief for it.

7. Assessment of resources and capabilities

You have come up with an exciting content strategy and your team is raring to go and create the content, but do you have the resources? If you are looking to create content for advertising on FaceBook, do you have the funds to pay for it?

Will you create the content in-house or will you outsource it? Will you be able to pay a credible freelancer to create the content?

If you want to shoot a video from a professional studio to share on YouTube, where is the mullah?

It is crucial that you properly evaluate the capabilities and resources that are there before you finalize your content strategy.

Finally, when you are creating a content strategy, you cannot forget:

The finalizing process

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

You need to have a workflow that is smooth and easy, so you and your team can concentrate on what is important.

The creativity released by a smooth workflow will then translate into effective content that will bring results.

  • Organize your content into groups such as blogs, eBooks, blogs, social media etc.
  • Come up with parameters for best practices. Where does the content start and end? What resources will be availed for that?
  • How will the effect be measured?
  • How will approvals and feedback be coordinated?

Test the process with a team or on your own to see if it will work in a sustainable manner. You do not want to have to change it when you have started the process.

Finally, plan to turn the process into a habit, so you do it without any challenge in future. When you internalize a process, it becomes part of the norm.

Takeaway

You may have heard of the phrase that goes, “A writer’s work is never done”.

This is very true since you are tasked to keep the story of the brand going from day to day. You need to learn how to test and learn

Test a new idea, listen, interact, gather data, and then measure and scale the successes. This is the reason why content marketing is a journey of patience and perseverance, but the payoff is great.

Remember, the payoff will only be astounding if you do your content strategy right.

The steps are many, but you have to work through it and come up with a strategy that will build your business faster than one if you did not.

It is not just about churning out content to increase visibility and traffic, it is about creating content that converts – take time and create a content strategy now.

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