Picture this. You’ve spent hours writing a solid article for your website and more hours (and money) promoting it on social media or paid advertising. Visitors came to your website in droves after you hit publish and your article was shared far and wide through different social networks.
But then a week passes by, then a month or two, and you’re still not seeing the results you’ve hoped for. Sure, there was an uptick in your website traffic when the article first came out but that soon fizzled out.
People are still not buying your product, engaging your services, or subscribing to your email list. It’s like the article never happened at all. You’re back to where you were before you published the article.
What just happened?
The short answer: the article published wasn’t strategic. It failed to help you achieve your goals because it simply wasn’t designed to do so.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to create content that will not only provide value to your readers, it will also help encourage them to take specific actions that you need them to do to benefit your business.
I’ll show you how to create strategic content.
What is strategic content?
To get clearer picture, let’s start with a working definition.
So, what is strategic content?
For starters, strategic content can be any type of content. It can be an article, a web page, an email, a newsletter, an ebook, a video, a slide deck, or a white paper. It can even be as simple as a Facebook update or a tweet.
The only qualifier we’ll need to focus on in creating strategic content is that it should align with your goals and content strategy.
Now, developing a content strategy is a process in itself and there are numerous excellent guides out there, such as this one on Hubspot or this comprehensive content strategy guide on Kissmetrics. Having a cohesive strategy in your content marketing can, without a doubt, help you grow your business so I strongly recommend investing some of your time on developing that.
Adam Earhart explains in this video just how powerful your content marketing can be when you have your own blueprint or strategy to guide you:
For our purposes in this article, let’s keep it simple.
Before diving into content creation, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the content for?
- Is it designed to encourage your visitors to subscribe to your list, purchase a product, hire you, watch a video, or download a white paper?
- How will this content help you achieve those goals?
Begin with a specific goal
Again, begin by asking yourself: what is this article’s purpose? How does it contribute to get me closer to my goal(s)?
What goals do you have right now? Consider these questions:
- Do you want to increase sales of your products?
- Do you aim to get more clients for the services you offer?
- Are you working to increase the number of subscribers to your email list?
- Are you creating content to showcase or improve your brand’s recognition or authority?
Whatever that specific goal you have in mind, you’ll need to keep your focus on that as you create and position your content for it to be effective in getting you there.
Here’s Cision’s Heidi Sullivan discussing with Jay Baer their company’s success metrics for content:
Take this article, for instance. It’s an example of strategic content. It’s designed to lead readers to a specific goal, which is to help market my content writing services. Eventually, this will also become a part of an ebook on content marketing that I plan to produce at some point in the future.
You’ll need to think ahead and focus on a specific goal to make your content really count where it matters.
This is not to say that other types of random or casual content such as those focused on news, trends, industry updates, etc. are less important. Far from that, those content have their own purpose and if you want to stay relevant to your market, build up your authority as a thought leader in your industry, or continue driving traffic to your website, you’ll need to include those pieces in your content mix.
“It’s helpful if you distinguish overall business goals from content goals,” observed Isla McKetta in her content strategy template article on Moz. “Setting specific goals for your content strategy also lets you get more granular about some goals in which content is the star player (e.g. increasing email open rate).”You’ll need to think ahead and focus on a specific goal (increasing sales or subscribers, etc.) to make your content really make an impact. Click To Tweet
Which audience are you creating content for?
Do you have a specific customer or prospect in mind with whom this content will most likely resonate and be effective?
Who is your audience for this content?
If you’re representing a nonprofit, for example, are you writing for a donor, a volunteer, or a casual supporter?
If you’re a life coach, are you writing for a specific type of client or prospect that you want to work with in the future?
Getting specific and granular about your target audience will help you create effective content that will ease the way for that reader to move towards your goal for them.
The process of targeting a specific and highly detailed representative of a segment of your audience is called persona development. As Kevan Lee observed in this persona development article on Buffer, “When I can put a name and a background to the people reading what I write, I can hopefully meet their needs even better.”
Here’s a video showing Ignite Visibility’s John Lincoln explaining how to use social media and other tools to develop target personas quickly:
Obviously, you have some customers or clients who are highly responsive to your messaging or are great people to work with? Who are they?
The more specific and detailed you are about the intended reader, the more impact your article will create on them because you’ll know their pain points. You’ll know what problems to provide solutions for in your content.“Being specific about your target audience will help you write effective content that nudges readers to move towards your goal for them.” Click To Tweet
Make your content authoritative
Your content must be something that not only adds real value to your reader, it must also be perceived as credible and authoritative for it to nudge them into action.
How do you create authoritative content?
There are several ways to do that but these three steps are essential, in my opinion.
- Quote from authority. This one’s a non-brainer when you’re trying to build up authority – you must cite trusted sources. The fact is, your content will be more persuasive and compelling when readers see sources (your competitors included) that are perceived as experts in your industry and whose opinions are valued and trusted.
- Make it meaty. Take the time to do some research and provide substance to your concepts and arguments, your readers will appreciate you more for it. Gone are those days when people pen 100-word articles and become instant authorities on the topic. Never happened actually, but in the 90’s, people used to rank highly on the search engines even with scanty content.
- Set a high bar. A mediocre and poorly-crafted article will never gain traction no matter how authoritative your sources are or how lengthy it is. Incorrect grammar, faulty spelling, or unwieldy content structure shouldn’t get between your audience and your message.
Go the extra mile to really polish your article and make it outstanding. Your audience will be more inclined to view your call to action positively when you do that.Polish your article and make it outstanding. Your audience will be more inclined to view your call to action positively when you do that. Click To Tweet
“Writing content that keeps your audience engaged is one of the biggest challenges marketers face,” remarked Brian Lang in this article about creating authoritative content on Search Engine Journal. “But with a little extra time and effort, you can make your content stand out.”
Allen Gannett of Track Maven had an interesting discussion with a panel of experts on how to create powerful, authoritative content in this video:
Keep it relevant
To think that people read my content because they’re captivated by my creative writing abilities is delusional, to say the least. People consume content because they have a problem to solve (or a curiosity to satisfy).
You should look at your content not as a one-shot deal but as a tireless assistant continuously ushering people to your sales or subscription page. Think of it as a sales rep or agent for your business who’s out there 24/7 trying to convince people to sign up to your list, make a purchase, or give you a call.
For your content to continue working this way, it must remain relevant to your target audience. How do you do this?
It must provide a specific solution to a specific problem or set of problems. Readers come to a page or a website trying to find solutions for such problems or answers to their vexing questions.
When you address those issues in a way that adds value or provides relief, your audience will start seeing you as an authority they’d be happy to build a solid business relationship with down the road.
Evan LePage, Blog Specialist for Hootsuite, has this to say in an article about creating relevant content:
“There’s no question that great content is core to social media success. Forrester Research found that marketers who create valuable content and stories build better relationship with customers, leading to positive returns for their business.”
Promote your strategic content
This is an important step especially if you’re just starting to create content to help market your products or services. The truth is, 99.99% of those people in your target audience are still blissfully unaware of your website’s or business’ existence.
“You can’t expect to publish your content and people to just flock to it,” explained Ronald Dod on Small Biz Trends. “The whole ‘Build it and they will come’ business model doesn’t really work, here.”
People will never be able to find your great content on their own if you neglect to promote your content.
The good news is that social media promotion is easy and anyone can do it. Like any other skill, it takes time, consistency, and the willingness to learn before you’ll become really good at promotion but it’s not rocket science, either. Neil Patel in the video above explains how to promote your content even when you have no social media followers (yet).
“You need to spend as much, if not more time promoting your content as writing it,” suggested social media expert Neal Schaeffer. “Where better to promote your content than where we spend more than 25 percent of our online time: social media.”
There’s no going around this step. You just have to get people to see your content before it can help you with your goals.
“You have to promote your content in order to get it in front of as many people as possible,” stressed Ronald Dod.Neal Schaeffer: “You need to spend as much, if not more time promoting your content as writing it.” Click To Tweet
Make it searchable
When you create content online, you’re not merely writing or producing a video for real people to read or watch. There’s another type of audience whose approval is essential for your content to really take off – the search engines.
There are millions of pages online dedicated to search engine optimization and it will serve your business well if you can invest the time to learn the basics. This video below by Moz’s head honcho Rand Fishkin will get you up to speed with SEO fundamentals:
The bottom line is people search for content online by typing specific words (keywords) on Google, YouTube, or Yahoo search bars. When you know which keywords your audience is using to search for your products or services, you can use those very same words within your content for the search engines to include it in your search results.
As Nate Dame makes that point clear in this article about optimizing content for the search engines:
“Once you know what queries your audience is using, and what kind of content they are looking for, you can design a content strategy that answers their specific questions and helps move them through the funnel.”
Of course, it’s not that simple. Search optimization is a whole discipline in itself but the sooner you’ll start applying this strategy, the sooner you’ll start producing genuinely strategic content for your business.
One last thing before we end this section. Always remember to write for people.
Yes, it’s perfectly fine to tweak your content to make it more search-friendly but don’t go overboard with it. An overly-optimized article with an excessive number of keywords inserted into the text is an open invitation for Google to penalize that page.
At the end of the day, you’re writing for real people whose resulting actions could potentially bring you business so give them the best reader experience when they get to your page.
To recap, you can easily create strategic content, i.e., content with a purpose, by observing these steps:
- Start with your goal.
- Be clear about who your target audience is.
- Create authoritative content.
- Be relevant. Focus on helping your reader with their question or problem.
- Promote your content.
- Let your readers find you through Google.
Time is a precious commodity in marketing and content creation. There’s a limit to how much content we can produce at any given time. Creating strategic content that effectively moves readers from being a casual visitor to a buyer or a subscriber is not only necessary, it’s essential to a successful content marketing strategy.
Let me know in the comments below if you have other ideas on how to create strategic content. Thanks!