Content strategy calls for regular content on your web site and that's great, but only if it's useful and relevant to your prospects
Maybe you’ve noticed a lot of talk lately about content strategy. If you’re a savvy marketer, the idea of driving traffic to your site by providing awesome content makes perfect sense. Ideally, you’re already developing a strategy to provide your target market with useful content.
I want to address one aspect of developing a great content strategy that often gets overlooked: relevance.
The potential to connect with our prospects via our web sites is exciting. We know that prospects are continually searching the internet for information. We also know that traditional media is delivering less and less of the return on our investment than it used to.
So, we create as much content as we can and publish it to our site.
But, for our content to truly be effective—meaning for it to draw in prospects—it has to be relevant and useful. Just putting content up on a regular basis is not going to drive sales unless that content is somehow worth something to your audience. It’s like a magazine for dog lovers. If the magazine is chock-full of articles about cats, well, there’s a good chance that its readership will drop off significantly.
I know that’s a bit extreme, but it’s not far from what a lot of companies are doing because they are publishing content, but its worth to their target market is dubious.
I’ve been following a publicly traded high-tech company with close to a billion dollar market cap as they foray into content strategy. They have a blog, video, news releases and regularly revised sales info. Not bad, right? I mean, they’re doing it by the book. But, almost all of their content is a sales pitch. Their blog posts can be distilled down to, “Hey! Look at our cool new thing we’re offering!” Their videos are product demonstrations. Their news is about what trade show they’re attending. Who cares, other than the company itself?
What they should be doing is first drop the sales pitch and start to provide information that impacts their prospects' lives. What problems can they help solve? What information can they share that will make their prospects' jobs easier or make them more successful? How can they make their company more accessible in ways that are useful to their prospects?
We, as marketers, want to publish information that we are excited about. “Look! A new product!” But, our prospects are trying to solve problems and their problems are not the same as our problems. Our prospects aren't worried about our lead-gen campaign or our sales quotas.
Start giving your prospects content that helps them with their problems and you won't have to worry about quotas. Instead you’ll have to figure out how to deal with your new sales volume, and who doesn’t love problems like that?
Google's Jon Orwant reveals his company's approach to parsing content by corpora. Learn how you can take advantage for a stronger content strategy and better search results
I attended a talk recently by Jon Orwant. Jon works for Google and is in charge of Google Books. He made a comment that caught my attention and might help you with your content strategy and Google search results.
Jon said Google separates all content into 'corpora': video, books, blogs, etc. When it receives a search query it first tries to figure-out which corpora is most relevant and then pulls results mainly from that corpora.
He gave the example of someone searching for "Michael Jackson Thriller". He said the books corpora would not raise its hand very high whereas the video (youtube) one would raise its hand really high. Google would then search through the video content and weight the results from that corpora.
Sounds simple enough, right? But, this has significant ramifications for businesses using content marketing strategies. If you have a content strategy that is focused on getting a high page rank on Google’s search results, you need to consider Google’s corpora approach. Are you publishing your content in the best formats?
Marketers typically ask if they’re publishing the right content. Is this white paper relevant? Is this blog post useful? (I say typically, but amazingly, a lot of marketers don’t even ask these questions!) But, marketers rarely ask if the content is in the right format.
Should your case study be published as a video rather than a pdf? What about your white paper? Would that be better off as a podcast or as an eBook? Or should you release it in multiple formats?
Just publishing in a number of different formats is not enough. You can have tons of videos out there, but if the content does not make sense for video, then Google is not going to serve it up as a relevant search result. And that means no one is going to watch it.
Questions to ask:
1. Is my content relevant?
2. Do I have enough content formats?
3. What formats make the most sense for my content?
A smart content strategy will focus on the needs of the target market and will take into consideration the ways search engines parse and serve results. Google’s corpora approach is simple and is consistent with a smart content strategy: offer useful content in formats that make sense for both the content and the target.
Web site projects can be large and complex, making it easy for a project to get sidetracked or to fall short of expectations. The following five tips will help you deliver an awesome site that’s an asset to your organization and maybe even make you a hero in the process.
Here are five tips for web site development success.
1. Let your company’s goals and objectives drive the project
The best place to start with any web project is at 30,000 feet: your company’s goals and objectives. These goals and objectives should be your yardstick when deciding what your site should and should not do.
Everyone has an opinion on what your new site should look like or how it should function and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of trying to keep them all happy. But you’re going to spend a lot of company resources to deliver a new web site. A project of that scope should align with company goals and objectives.
Be a zealot about building a site that helps the company accomplish its goals. If a feature, design or function can't align, it shouldn’t be done. This will help you stay focused and it will give you a sound argument when dealing with all those 'helpful' opinions.
2. Refuse to choose between functionality and design
In the early days of web development you had to choose between functionality and design. Either you got a web site that had a lot of technical functionality and allowed you to manage your own content or you got a site that was visually stunning and delivered your brand proposition beautifully. But you could not have both.
Those days are gone! Open source content management systems (CMS) make it easy to build sites that are customizable and functional. That means you can have a functional and flexible site that is custom designed to deliver your message and give your visitors a great user experience.
So, don’t buy it when a stakeholder or vendor wants to focus on just one or the other. You can have it both ways and you should. Help your stakeholders accept the need for both high functionality and great design. Insist your vendors are able to deliver on both. If they can’t or won’t, find new vendors.
3. Content may be king but are you ready to swear fealty?
Everyone agrees that web sites need new content on a regular basis. A static site doesn’t cut it anymore, especially if you want your site to be found on Google and support your marketing efforts. But, here’s the problem: who’s going to create all that new content on a regular basis? Creating content every day, every week or even every month is a big undertaking and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up.
How many sites have you visited where the last post in the news section was from six months ago? What did you think? I bet it wasn't good. You don’t want to be that company.
You can beat this trap by developing a content strategy. Before you launch your new site you should have a strategy in place for content. A good content strategy includes the following:
It should also include a one-year editorial calendar. This calendar could include articles, videos, interviews, podcasts and any other item that you want to publish over the next year. It should identify who’s responsible for what and it should include due dates!
4. Talk to imaginary friends
One way to ensure your content meets the requirements of your content strategy is to create customer personas. A customer persona is a little like an imaginary friend. A persona is an imaginary, but accurate representation of an ideal customer.
So, rather than being general and saying, we’re writing for the owners of sheep dogs in America, you would create an imaginary person to represent your market. We’re writing for Sue Jones, a 53-year-old attorney from Boston who took an early retirement to move to Vermont and raise sheep as a second career. She is married and loves animals. Since she worked in the corporate world she is technologically savvy, but loves being back to the land. Sue enjoys training her sheepdog to help with the sheep.
You can have a number of personas depending on your customer mix.
Personas make it really easy to identify great content because you can get in the mind of your audience and understand what they need and want and what you have to offer that can help.
5. Measure for success
Finally, design your site with measurement in mind. Remember the first point? Develop your site to deliver on your company’s objectives. If you’re trying to deliver on your company’s objectives, then your site should be measured as to how well it’s accomplishing that.
Measuring is important because it does two things. First, it helps you to refine the site over time, as you can interpret the data and make changes until it’s doing exactly what you want it to. Second, it allows you to promote the success of your efforts within your organization. Some of your coworkers may be skeptical or ignorant of what you do. Or, maybe your manager was not keen to spend money on a new site. With real data that shows how the site delivers on company objectives you can win them over and gain more support for what you do.
So, launch the site and celebrate—you got it done. And then, after you’ve put down your beer, start measuring!
There’s a lot of work involved in developing and launching a new web site and that means all kinds of things can go wrong. Follow the five tips I’ve just shared and you and your organization will be pleased with the results of your hard work.
Bob Wright Creative is proud to announce that it has become a member of the Drupal Association.
We joined because the Drupal Association is the main organization dedicated to the support and growth of Drupal. The more we have been integrating Drupal into our web development offering the more important it is for us to get involved with the Drupal community. With thousands of members from all over the world we felt this is the place to be.
Drupal founder, Dries Buytaert, offered his view on future business models for Drupal in a recent blog post. He says he's seeing more Joomla theme developers starting to offer Drupal themes, creating new ways of monetizing Drupal other than custom enterprise deployments and Drupal training.
From his post:
In the Drupal community, today's business-model of choice seems to be providing implementation services for medium to large websites. The Joomla community, it seems, is very focused on the low-end of the market and most people make money by selling subscription services, usually either by selling commercial support for their GPL extensions or by selling access to template clubs
Dries thinks theme development for Drupal is a good thing and will only help it expand into more of the market.
We've been integrating Drupal into our web development offering lately. It's really impressive!
If you don't already know, Drupal is an open-source content management system (CMS). It's amazingly friendly to development, which makes it perfect for creating custom-designed web sites with a non-proprietary CMS. Developers all over the world support it and it's the CMS of choice for sites like the London government, Mensa, Kofi Annan's foundation, Intel, the Grammys and the White House, too!
As designers and developers we love it because it's flexible enough that we can make it do almost anything. Clients love it because they don't have to buy it, pay licensing fees or get locked into one vendor for life while getting a powerful and capable CMS. Everybody wins.
The more we use it the more we love it and we're really loving what it can do for our clients.