Developing a content strategy is one of the most important steps in your blog. If you think you don’t need a plan since you are still a beginner, you need to think again. Especially since you are a beginner, you need the plan more than anyone else.
Without a proper content strategy, you will not have a path to follow and will have a very hard time in finding inspiration for new blog posts. Lack of a content strategy will be clearly evident in your blog. The inconsistency and lack of value will not help you in building your brand new blog.
However, if you don’t know anything about a content strategy, don’t worry. In my today’s article, I will introduce you to content strategy, show you how to create one for your blog and how to implement the strategy.
What is Content Strategy?
Before diving deep into the advanced stuff, let’s see what content strategy actually is. According to Wikipedia –
“Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media.”
And when it comes to blogging, content strategy is the complete planning about your contents, including content creation, maintenance and even expiration. An important thing to note is content strategy is not the same as content marketing strategy. While the first one deals only with creating content, the other one is about promoting your content.
The main goal of content strategy is to attract and retain new visitors for your blog. As Michael Brenner has outlined in this slideshare presentation, you should have the content your audience needs, not the other way round.
Last but not the least, Distilled has also put together an interesting definition of content strategy-
Now that we know what a content strategy is, let’s see how to create an appropriate strategy for your blog.
Define your Blogging Objective
In order to create a perfect content strategy, you need to identify your blogging objective(s) first. You should develop your content strategy depending on your blogging objective, not vice versa. Here are some common objectives of blogging –
- Driving traffic to your site,
- Earning money from your blog,
- Boosting offline sales,
- Building up your brand,
- Becoming an authority.
Your blogging objective might have a single goal, or it could be a mix up of multiple objectives (like making money and building a brand). However, you need to find a primary focus and formulate your content strategy for achieving your blogging objective at the quickest possible time. Once you have found out your primary objective, you need to focus only on that.
Identify the Audience
Your whole content strategy should be built upon your audience. And to do that, you need to identify your target audience and thoroughly research them. Before you start writing your awesome content, you should definitely find out who will read your content. And the most effective way of knowing your audience is to create buyer personas.
In simple terms, buyer personas are an imagined description of your general audience. The buyer persona will help you to analyze your potential audience and cater your content according to their specific needs, requirements and expectations.
Forbes magazine explains buyer persona like this –
“If you want to get the best return on your marketing dollars, you don’t want to rely on luck. Instead, you need to know exactly who your target customer is. In marketing, we call this your buyer persona.”
While creating a buyer persona is not a simple task, you don’t have to start from scratch. You can download free buyer persona templates from places like Hubspot, Buyer Persona, Propel Growth etc.
These templates include specific questions that you need to ask about your audience. As you will have a detailed list of the things you need to know, creating the buyer persona for your website will become a lot easier.
However, let me show you a sample buyer persona right now. The buyer Persona website has created a sample buyer persona for easy reference. You can download the sample as a PDF.
Besides the general information, the buyer persona also includes the individual’s priorities, probable barriers, decision making factors, elements for success etc. By analyzing this information, you will be able to understand your audience better and serve them more relevant content.
Once you have created your buyer persona, you need to keep it updated and make sure that it is serving you properly. Content Marketing Institute published a great post about keeping your buyer persona fresh. Despite being a bit old, the advices of the article are still relevant.
If you are a more technical person, then you can check this SME article about creating buyer personas by using Google Analytics.
Do Intensive Research
So far, you have got an overall idea about buyer persona and, probably, created a buyer persona for the potential visitors of your blog. Now it’s time to find out what type of content they are looking for. You need to do a lot of research to find out these things. However, keep in mind that the time invested in researching will save you a lot more time in the big picture.
There are several steps to perform research for your content strategy. I will try to mention the most important ones here.
1. Find Out the Most Popular Blogs of Your Niche
Even before you start writing the first post on your blog, you should create a list of the most popular blogs in your niche. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms where they are most active. Try to analyze what type of content they are sharing and how the readers are reacting to those contents.
A simple Google search will reveal the top blogs in any niche. For instance, if you have decided to work in the ‘Stress Management’ niche, you should search for something like ‘Stress Management Blogs’.
Skip any advertisement and make a list of the blogs. Go through each of them and analyze what type of content they are publishing. This should give you an idea about the type of posts your potential visitors want. Now you can use the topics to create new posts for your blog.
2. Find out the Most Popular Articles of Your Niche
This is another important method for finding out which type of content you should be focusing on. While there are several ways of doing this, I have found out the using Buzzsumo is the easiest for the beginners.
Buzzsumo lets you search for the most popular articles for any website or topic. First of all, create a Buzzsumo account and log in to your account. Continuing with our previous example, let’s put ‘Stress Management’ in the search box. Here’s what the result page looks like –
It is possible to filter the results by the past year, past 6 months, past month, past week or last 24 hours. You can also define specific languages, countries, domain(s) and content type. Make a list of the first 10 results (that is Buzzsumo’s limit for the free accounts).
Now you have a list of the topics that are already successful. You just need to find out new angles to cover these topics. Perform a keyword research, find out the popular keywords, put them in Buzzsumo and repeat the process until you have enough information. I have discussed about Keyword Research in detail in one of my previous posts.
3. Find out the Leaders of your Niche
Unless you already have expertise in your niche, you will find it very hard to establish your blog as a reliable information source. In order to increase your reliability, you need to leverage the industry leaders of your niche.
You can quote them, mention their names and/or refer their articles in your posts to increase your credibility. If you can do that correctly, you might receive some retweets or mentions of them too, which could be a huge boost for your new blog.
And to do all of these, you need to find out those people first. Unfortunately, there is no such place or way that will give you a numbered list of all the influences in your niche. You have to find them on your own. However, if you have read the two previous research points, you already have several places to start with.
Additionally, you can also find industry influencers from niche conferences. For example, if you are in Search Engine Marketing, you should check out SMX. The event takes place throughout the year at different locations. Dig deep into the event details and you will find numerous industry leaders, influencers and pundits from the speakers, moderators and coordinators lists.
You can also follow other traditional approaches like scouring Amazon for niche writers, using Twitter, Facebook etc. In this IMN post, you will find 11 tools to find niche Twitter influencers.
Create and Maintain a Content Calendar
A perfect content strategy should include a content calendar (or editorial calendar, whichever term you prefer). You should have several rows in your content calendar. Some common row types could be date, channel, element, seasons, trends, content creators, budget, dateline etc.
However, you have to find out the rows you will need. It is true that you won’t find a lot when you are starting. And that is completely okay. You should refine, update your content calendar whenever necessary. If you continue to do this for a year, you will have a solid content calendar in place.
If your blog has several authors, managing their inputs, distributing content and keeping track of the content status could become a huge burden for you. To get rid of this, you can use third-party plugins like Editflow.
Once activated, the plugin displays a monthly calendar with content details for applicable dates. You can assign custom status like pitch, assigned, in progress, needs editing, ready to publish etc. to contents. The editor can communicate with the authors in the calendar.
You will also receive timely notifications about the content that are being created. You can subscribe to any content to get notifications. It is also possible to create a budget view of all the content along with their status, author, post date and last modified time.
Another important part of your content calendar is how often you should post. While there is no ideal answer to this question, Spokal recommends that you start with two posts per week. It is certainly better if you can do more. But whatever you do, try to establish a consistent pattern in your publishing schedule. Several studies have proved that both the search engines and the readers love consistency.
Analyze the Output and Reflect
Creating a great content strategy requires a considerable amount of time and dedication. You need to go through several trial and error methods before finding out which strategy works best for you. However, you can reduce the time by analyzing your website analytics.
During the initial period, you should keep track of the performance of your content. This includes the share counts, number of comments, likes, pins, promotions etc.
You need to find out which type of content is gaining the most traction in the shortest period of time. Once you have found out a specific type, you can repeat the process and look for other ways to boost engagement.
It may take a few months before you can identify the trends, but the wait is worth it. You have to find out what your readers like and provide more of that. After all, keeping your visitors happy is the one and only key to becoming a successful blogger.
As your blog grows, your ultimate goal should be to create a distinct personality for your blog. An appropriate content strategy is the best way to achieve this. Follow the tips provided above, and be patient. If you follow the steps accordingly, you will ultimately have a solid content strategy in place.
Even after reading this long tutorial, some people will still procrastinate. Being a smart blogger, you shouldn’t be one of them. To get the process started, leave a comment below with your chosen niche and how you plan to create your content strategy. I can’t wait to hear your plans, so hurry up!