It’s no secret that this year, SEOs and Social Media bods have been throwing the ‘C’ word around like it’s the next big thing. Well, it’s safe to say that content is not the next big thing, it’s actually been a big thing for quite some time now. A marketing discipline in its own right, it can make or break campaigns and can be instrumental in attracting and retaining customers.
Since Google got SEOs all flustered with the Penguin and Panda algorithm updates, SEOs have tried valiantly to keep on the right side of the search giant. The idea is that by creating great content, that’s loved and shared by all, and avoiding spammy link building techniques, Google will reward you for your efforts and let you rise through the serp rankings. If you’ve read my stuff before you’ll know I’m an advocate of integrated working and so I’m all for SEOs and Social Media people to start creating great content, after all it’ll make our jobs as Content Marketers far easier. However, there’s one tiny thing that’s really been bugging me of late, the omission of content strategy.
Now that we’ve got all and sundry talking about content marketing, the strategy side of things is often overlooked. People are more interested in getting content out into the ether for others to link to, share, and like rather than thinking about the bigger picture. And it’s obvious that it’s happening.
How to recognise those without a content marketing strategy
No consistent message
At the heart of any strategy should be your business values, the businesses soul, if you will. These values act as guiding principles which help steer the business in a specific direction. When dealing with Content Marketing it’s no different, every writer, designer and content producer needs to understand not only the business values and what they stand for, but how to portray those values via text. This is something often contained within Editorial or Tone of Voice Guidelines and are usually a by-product of strategic work. A quick and simple way to check this is to look across a brand’s website and if the style, tone and text format of each page is different then it’s highly likely they don’t have guidelines to adhere to.
No dedicated content placement
Content quality is just as important. Generating quality on-page content is essential from both a customer experience, brand and SEO perspective, and it’s vital that a business puts its own stamp on content rather than regurgitating marketing info that’s been passed across. A business should have clear guidelines of what constitutes acceptable copy, while a robust strategy should provide all the necessary information to ensure relevant pages are built and contain the right content. Again, a quick scan of any businesses website will show whether there’s been any thought put into the page structure and content that resides within it. If there’s very few or no content areas across the site then it’s clear content is not a primary concern. Product pages are usually the best place to spot this, if there’s nothing more on the page than the product itself and the blurb that the manufacturer has provided then it’s likely that little thought’s going into content production, let alone strategy.
Onsite content’s neglected
A lot of people understand the need for content and fall into the trap of creating a blog, because it’s what they think they need to do. However, there’s nothing worse than a malnourished blog with infrequent updates (say’s the girl who’s neglected her own for some weeks now). A lot of businesses build a blog, go at it with gusto for a few weeks then as enthusiasm wanes and workload increases, content production curtails. A content strategy will often promote the use of an editorial calendar, ensuring content is pre-planned and regular.
Social links away from site
Content is the lifeblood of social media, without it you’re left with little to say. A content marketing strategy should encompass content for social media, which will provide every Social Media Manager with more to talk about than just the brand and products. If a brand’s social links are all directed to other websites or are conversation based then it’s clear there’s no strategy for social content. While there’s nothing wrong with linking social updates to other company’s content (it’ll at least show people that a business is up to date with industry moves) it doesn’t place the company as a thought leader. Create content with a unique voice and views, and it’ll get a business recognised as a brand that not only provides products but can add value too.
Although basic observations, these small things are clear indicators whether a business is working to a strategy or just creating content with a hit and hope mentality. If you’re struggling to get your head around content marketing and how to build a strategy around it, then why not use the above as a starting point. Similarly, if you’re having troubled getting a social strategy together, why not have a read of our social media strategy blog post.
If you’ve got anything to add to the list then let us know in the comments below or tweet us Tweet to @HuzzahDigital