Creating Strategic Website Content
You’ve heard it said that “content is king”, and it’s true. You can use content to attract people to your website, to educate them, and to persuade them to hire you or buy your products. But to reach these goals, you need to understand how all the content you will create works together – both on and off your website.
Onsite and Offsite Content
When you create content, you’ll need it for both on your website and off your website. It’s important to identify what is going on your site and what is going off your site, because it needs to work together to attract people. It also needs to keep people on your site once you’ve attracted them.
This is any type of content that resides on your website, such as your home page, about page, landing pages, your blog, and even error pages. If it lives on your website, it is considered onsite content and it’s very important. If you put a page on your site, the content on it is important.
This is any type of content that you need to create that is not on your website, such as emails, social media content, invoices, guest posts, articles and online ads. It also means physical content such as invoices, packaging, or even messages you have on your phone or leave on someone else’s.
Your Content Ecosystem
Understanding the difference between onsite and offsite content is an important distinction due to the fact that the entire system has to work together. Just like nature works together to create amazing plants, animals, and humans, so does your content ecosystem works together to create amazing traffic. Not just any traffic, but targeted traffic that wants what you are offering.
Because of the way all the content you create and spread to your audience works together, all content is important. Therefore, it should all be quality content.
Steps to Creating Effective and Timely Content
Follow these steps to ensure that you are on the right road to creating the right content at the right time – content that helps your business get the word out in a way that your audience understands and will make them take action.
Step One: Create a Branding Guide
Before you even start creating much of the content, you’ll need to propel your business forward by developing your brand. To create a branding guide you can make it as simple as one piece of paper, a one-page Word document.
Add your colors, your font choices, a picture of your logo or headers, as well as a paragraph describing your brand’s voice. Add additional notes about your overall message and what you want your audience to know about you, your products and services.
Write something about who your audience is, such as the demographics and other information. If you have created an audience persona avatar, include it here. Finally, include your overall mission statement.
By creating this document, if you outsource you can give it to them to help guide them. But, it will also help you keep your content on message if you look at it prior to creating any type of content as a reminder.
Step Two: Develop an Editorial Calendar
When you developed your branding guide, you should have answered some of the questions that will help you develop your editorial calendar. For instance, you need to know who your audience is, what they need, and how you’re going to provide it.
Know why you’re creating the content. Do you have a product launch coming up? Even while you’re creating the product you can start educating your audience on the problem the product will solve via your blog posts or social media posts.
It’ll also help if you know what skills you have and what skills you need to include in your business. That way you know which content needs to be outsourced, and to whom, as you create the calendar.
Find a little extra way to “wow” your audience with your content. Look to your competition, find the gaps, and fill in those gaps with your content. You can also tie your content to holidays, events, and even trending news. The trending news is a little trickier and will need to be created on the fly, whereas all the other content you create can be planned in advance, created in advance, and scheduled in advance.
You can create one master calendar for your website, blog, social media, guest posting, and so forth, but create it in such a way that you can break it down for each area. There are calendar creators you can pay for, but Google Calendar works just as well for most people. You can also use your project management system, like Basecamp, to create your calendar.
Step Three: Implement
This is the most important step of all. You can create all sorts of plans; however, without action, none of it matters. As mentioned, when you create your calendar you need to consider products, events, holidays, and make time for trending news too. Develop different types of content around each problem, each product, each event, and so forth.
For example, let’s say you have a product launch for the Most Amazing Course Ever. It’s a 12-week course that you’ll deliver weekly using a drip campaign or a membership website. You can organize a lot of content around this as you’re brainstorming about the course, as you’re creating the course, and as you launch it and afterward too.
Go to the launch date on your calendar and work your way back, including all the types of content that you can include. You might want to have infographics for data, memes for thoughtful quotes, and blog posts that explain the problem your audience has. You might also include a “day in the life” as you create the course. There really is endless content that can be created for just one course or one product launch.
Now, fill in the gaps with information that will help to persuade your audience that they need help with a problem once you’ve defined the problem for them. The important factor here is that you put it all in the calendar and create it and publish it on time according to the schedule. The better you become at implementation, the better your content / editorial calendar will work for you.
The Only SEO Tips That Matter
This may be surprising news to some of you but if your website content strategy is in place, you don’t really need to worry much about SEO. Search engine optimization simply means that you optimize your website or any type of online real-estate to be search engine friendly. But, it also means that it’s consumer friendly. Let us explain.
The first thing your audience often sees when they come to your content is the headline or subject line, right? So obviously you should spend some time on that. But, avoid using clickbait. Yes, a lot of successful websites are doing it, but it’s not going to last. If you look at the history of SEO, you’ll see that the tried and true never changes, but the tricks soon fall away as Google seeks to send their audience the best and more relevant content.
Titles and Subject Lines
The best titles will include keywords in the first three words of the title. In addition, the title needs to explain to the reader what is inside so that they’ll click. Please avoid tricks during this time. Only create factual headlines and subject lines. The reason is that even if you do get a lot of traffic via clickbait titles and subject lines at first, it will wear off and you might even alienate your audience against you.
Note that this is for your audience’s benefit as well as for SEO purposes. A good title will tell humans why they should read what is on the blog post or article, or why they should download a checklist or white paper. But, it will also tell the search engines that the content located “here” is authoritative, accurate, and well-created.
Headers / Sub-Headers
These are also called H1 or H2 tags and so forth down the line. It’s best to include a keyword in these headings because it describes for the search engine what’s inside the content. You should avoid using the same keyword for each heading; instead, use variations of a word to change it up and avoid oversaturation of keywords.
This works for the search engines by alerting them about what’s on the page, but it also works for your audience because it breaks up the content for them with a bolder or bigger word with white space that means something to them. It kind of signals the brain to stop and absorb what was just read. People online often read from top to bottom before reading from left to right.
Some SEO experts will say that these tags don’t matter any longer, but they absolutely do matter. They matter for search engine results but they also matter to your audience. These tags will help your audience know whether or not they want to read the content. But it’s also a signal to search engines that this is what this content is about.
Including tags is easy when you use WordPress. It is part of the basic functions of WordPress and one of many reasons search engines love WordPress websites. It’s easy to include tags and other indicators that help both your audience and search engines read your content better and understand it more.
There was a time where keyword stuffing was commonplace. It’s one of many reasons that keywords aren’t used as much within the actual content other than a few strategic places. Using too many keywords within your copy is a bad thing now because it really just makes your content hard to read. Some internet marketers started including misspelled keywords and unnatural usage of the words in their content, and this posed a problem for Google Search.
Remember that Google’s job is to send their audience relevant search results. All the tricks in the world won’t make your site relevant to everyone, and honestly, you don’t want just anyone clicking through. You want your audience clicking through. Use the keyword within the first paragraph, and at the end, but you don’t want more than a two percent keyword-to-content ratio. Often the headlines will fill that quota.
If you use WordPress, a good plugin like Yoast SEO will help you get this part right. But, always ensure that the content is understandable and readable to your audience. If you can’t make it work, don’t use it.
You should write longer content today. If you don’t want to do that, at least connect your content together. For example, if you have several blog posts on “Why You Shouldn’t Eat Sugar”, use similar topics such as “8 Delectable Desserts without Sugar” and then link to them internally at the bottom of the other posts.
Longer more in-depth content is seen by Google as more persuasive and more desirable; therefore, do create some longer, 1500 words or more posts, white papers, or other content visible on your website. This will make a huge impact in how not only search engines see you, but more importantly how your audience sees you.
Remember, perception is everything.
Try to make every page of your site different in terms of URLs but also content. In the case that you have no choice but to have two pages that are similar, use canonical tags, which is part of the set-up you can choose when using WordPress.
To learn more about canonical tags, click through to read more here.
The point is that you want each page of your site to be unique to Google Search and if it’s not, you want them to recognize the pages as only one page even if there are two. Plus, you want to use keywords in the URLs and especially the slug, which is easy to do if you use WordPress.
This is super-simple, but you should always fill out the tag information called “alt text” for all your images, plus give them a file name that makes it clear what the image is. Not only is this going to help with SEO but it’s also going to help you with keeping things organized. You never know when you might need that image again.
WordPress gives you the ability to accomplish this part very easily with the way they have their media libraries set up. Once you upload a picture or image you can re-label it, title it, size it and even make it clickable to another page.
But a lot of people don’t fill out the blanks. Fill it out. You want a good file name that says what the picture is of that includes keywords, plus a tag that mentions the topic, and a description that says what is happening in the picture based on the content you’re posting it with.
For the best SEO, not only do you want people to link to you, you also want to link to yourself. So, practice good internal linking to relevant content to help your readers know what to do. If you link to outside pages, ensure they’re authoritative, legitimate websites, if not your affiliates – and warn them that it will take them off site. Because for the most part, you want to keep people on your site longer and not send them away without a good reason.
It’s not that hard if you know how to repurpose content and make it all fit together. One thing will lead to the other if you understand your underlying message and purpose. Before you know it, you’ll have a very well rounded and large amount of content to choose from to use in many ways.
Finally, create or have created relevant content on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be every single day. It should be regular enough to satisfy your audience’s needs, but not so often that you throw anything up without a reason just to fill the content void.
Secret Web Writing Tips and Tricks
There are a few little tips and tricks that you can use to help make your content more readable, understandable, and more focused on your audience. You’ll get better results when your content is made for the medium it will be consumed on, and for the exact audience you want consuming it.
Know Your Audience
Even if you’ve studied your audience in the past, you need to continually involve yourself in their lives and be where they are so that if they change anything, you’ll know. Think about how soap was marketed to women in the 1950s compared to today.
Imagine if Dove did not change their marketing message for today’s audience? If you get down to demographics their audience is the same today as it was fifty years ago, but the values and ideals of the audience have changed. Spend some time each year surveying, observing and studying your audience for best results.
White Space Is Your Friend
While it is our natural inclination and possibly years of training in school to separate paragraphs when it’s appropriate and grammatically correct, and not just when it looks good, when writing for online consumption you need to break up paragraphs so that they’re easier to read. Reading a wall of text, even if grammatically correct, is very difficult online.
Try reading each paragraph out loud and separate them at areas where you make a natural break in your reading. This way, you won’t cause any awkward pauses with the new formatting. But, your audience will enjoy reading your work a lot more because their eyes won’t get as tired by the wall of text.
Write How You Talk
Sure, you may want to clean up the grammar and sentence structure a bit depending on your audience, but you don’t want to sound as if you’re talking down to them. You want to just talk to them like you would a friend. Tell them the information, show them the information, but don’t talk at them using super-large words or a lot of jargon, when you can use simple terms and words instead.
Shorter sentences are typically better. No one always succeeds with that goal. However, if you just write in a flow of words and then go back later and edit for clarity, you’ll find yourself shortening sentences and rid the prose of extraneous words. Try using software like Grammarly.com to help.
Tell Them What to Do Next
Never put any content up that doesn’t lead to something else or have a reason for being. It doesn’t matter if it’s to buy something, click something, sign up for something, or respond to something – give your audience a task at the end of every single blog post or piece of content you publish anywhere. When each bit of content has a purpose, the calls to action will be so much easier to create.
While it’s tempting to post things that have nothing to do with your niche, especially if an issue hits close to home, it’s usually a mistake. Ensure that everything you write is relevant to your audience, to your products, to your services and to your overall mission. If you can’t relate it to those things, then it doesn’t belong in your content calendar.
10 Steps to Creating Strategic Website Content
Now that you have some background, let’s get into the meat of creating your website content strategy. Keep in mind that you know your audience best and you know what they want, more than anyone else. Use these as ideas and jumping-off points to help you get the most out of any content you create.
Step #1: Define Your Goals and Objectives
You can’t do anything until you know what, when, why and how. That’s the fact. You need to be able to identify exactly the reason for creating the content and the goal that you want to meet with the content.
For example, if you have a product launch coming up in 21 days for a new information product, you should start the moment you know you’re creating the product by giving background information to your audience in the form of informational blog posts, white papers, and even videos.
But, with each of these, you need a goal. Perhaps you know you need to build your list prior to the launch. You might have a free webinar (which is content) talking about the problem your information product will solve, with the goal of building your list so that when your product launches they’ll be the first to know.
Step #2: Know Your Audience
To help you create content for a wide variety of people within your audience, try creating two to five audience personas. This will give you someone to think of (and even look at if you make a drawing as you create the avatar) when you are writing or outlining content.
This probably should be step one, although since you’re reading about creating strategic content, it’s second because you already know your audience. But as mentioned already, you may need to do new research into your audience periodically; while demographics might stay the same, over time ideals, values and morals change.
Step #3: Identify Resources
Take the time to identify the resources you have, whether it’s certain people in your circle, within your business, or even technology and money that can help you to build your content strategy better. Your resources and connections can make all the difference to your success.
For example, to get content to work for you, no matter how well written and how great your call to action is, the content has to be seen. If you met someone at an event who serves your audience but is not a direct competitor, you may be able to work out a JV deal to help you get promotions off the ground even faster.
Step #4: Know Your Distribution Points
Where do you need content and which content will be distributed where? For example, you’ll need content on the static pages of your website (about page, contact page, etc.…) but also on your blog. It will help you to know where it’s going because you’ll need to customize images and the content to fit the medium.
Don’t just share the content via the share buttons without giving a nice blurb and update with each share, per each social platform needs and terms of service. You need to know all of the rules, image sizes, character limitations and so forth of each network (distribution point) that you plan to use to promote your content.
Step #5: Identify Key Website Pages
On your website, you’ll have key pages that will make or break your site. The contact page, your about page, the homepage and the blog page or any landing pages (even error pages) are important to make you stand out. You can update pages as you go and make any page better at any time that you want, but focus more on these pages at first.
Hire a copywriter for landing pages if you’re not one. Consider a copywriter for your about page too and remember that your about page is still about your audience even though it looks like it’s about you. Every piece of content on your site should be directed toward the audience and make them think of themselves, not you.
Step #6: Complete Social Media Profiles
If you’re going to be on any particular social media, you may as well optimize your profiles to ensure that they fit the service and help brand your business and spread your brand. Choose your words and your images and headshots based on your branding and message. Do change things up a bit for each site, but your fans should know it’s you.
You need an appropriate headshot, perhaps an intro video, links to slideshows, published works, your business site and more on each social network, depending on the space provided. Remember to use important keywords and keyword phrases within the profile, as well as bullet points to make your meaning succinct.
Step #7: Tell a Story
Remember that while you can and should share your story of how and why you got started doing what you do, there are other stories you can share too. You can share customers’ stories and even competitors’ stories. You can tell generalized stories about the problem you’re solving. There are endless content formats that can be created and shared on the topic of stories. You can even ask your audience to create and share stories with you.
Consider video testimonials and live Facebook Q & A. You can even put a customer on the spot and show off their work if they’ve been successful with your product. There are so many stories you can share based on your product or service that you should be busy for some time with the content. However, always remember to have a point. “So and so did this and that because they followed this, and now you should do XYZ.”
Step #8: Know Your Products and Services
It’s essential that whoever is creating the content gets some education about the products and or services that you offer. If you don’t know what you’re selling, why you’re selling it, or why your customer needs what you’re selling, it will be hard to create effective content.
Consider creating a manual that explains your voice, your core beliefs, and even examples of how you want content laid out. The more information you can include for outsources, and even yourself, the better focused all the content you create and publish will become.
Step #9: Promote Your Published Content
It’s not over once the content has been published. Once you publish it you need to promote it. Don’t just share a blog post once; share it a few times over several days. If you have an evergreen blog post, share it weekly or monthly. Test out different places and ways to share content. A great software program you might want to try is MeetEdgar.com to help you schedule and share on social media more efficiently.
Don’t be a pest but do share new blog posts with your email lists, your social media followers, and ask others to do the same. It’s going to be helpful to get traffic to your website and ensure that the content is read. Also, consider using paid promotion methods for particularly important content.
Step #10: Audit and Repeat
At least yearly, audit your content to locate and update old content, and identify gaps in your content. All the content you share, other than event announcements or time-focused topics, should be evergreen and shareable forever. If you update information to accommodate for changes, you’ll be able to put all your content to good use. Plus, you should repeat this process on a regular basis.
Imagine content written just five years ago about search engine optimization. So much has changed that you would probably benefit from updating any content like that. This is mostly true in technical communities but it can even happen in a “mommy” community. For example, at one time it was normal to put raw honey on a baby’s binky, but today we know that children under two shouldn’t have honey due to risks of botulism.
Finally, (and this is really the 11th step), check your metrics. Don’t skip learning about the data. The reason is that you can believe something is working if you’re getting sales. But, you might dig into the data and discover that you’re getting sales from an entirely different method than you thought. Once you identify what is working and not working, you can drop what doesn’t work and only do what does work.
Helpful Tools to Help You Create Strategic Website Content
If you’re nervous about creating content online, there are numerous tools that can help you make it easier. Check out the tools listed here, many of which are free or come with a free trial. Also, don’t be afraid to look up other tools as new ones come out daily.
- Analytics – Of course, use Google Analytics. It really is the main platform you need to study the metrics and know what’s happening with your website’s content. But, also try software like Open Web Analytics to get even more information. You really cannot have enough information about what works and what doesn’t.
- URL Inventory – Wouldn’t it be nice to know all the URLs you’ve created so far? You can use a URL inventory checker like Zulu or Web SEO Analytics to get a lot of information about the risks and rewards of your URLs, both internal and external.
- Content Audits – It can be very helpful to conduct periodic full content adults. You can do this alone, hire a VA to do it, or you can use software. One to try is Content-Insights.com which will help you know exactly what content you have which will identify gaps.
- Customer Surveys – One great way to study your audience to find out what they want to know is to conduct a survey. You can use Google Forms or survey software like SurveyMonkey.com to do this. You can also use Facebook Polls if you choose. The important thing is to get the information you need.
- Website Analytics – Again there is the tried-and-true Google Analytics, and if you use nothing else you need to use this and learn how it works, or hire someone. Data is important to help you know what exactly is successful and what is not. That way you can do more of what works and less of what’s not working.
- Images and Editors – There are a lot of great tools out there for helping you with images. Tools like BeFunky, Canva, Gimp.org and even Photoshop via Adobe Creative Suite are great ways to edit images for your use. You can get stock photography in a variety of places; one great place to check out is StockUnlimited.com.
- Keywords – Google’s Keyword Tool is great, but you want to try others like MOZ Keyword Explorer When it comes to keywords you can hardly do enough study. Keywords don’t just help with SEO; they help with keeping a steady flow of content ideas in development too.
- Grammar – A good one to use is of course the Word grammar checker, but also Grammarly and the Hemingway App. And when in doubt, check out The Grammar Girl online and in your mobile app store.
- Storage – You don’t want to lose everything you’ve put your hard work into. Don’t rely on your website not to crash; keep copies of all the content you create on your computer and back it up using a storage solution like Google Drive or Dropbox. Even if you think your external drive is enough, it’s not; those get blown out and destroyed too.
- Social – Content on your website may not even be seen without access to social media. Each piece of content you create should be promoted as if it’s a product unto itself. You can use software like MeetEdgar or Hootsuite.com and others to help you promote your content with ease.
Look for these tools to make content creation and promotion easier than ever before. You’re at a good time in history for all things content. If you follow the steps, you’ll be very successful – assuming you’ve done your due diligence and found a profitable niche.
The best way to get started is to sit down and brainstorm a plan. If you already have content on your website, start with an assessment of that content. Make a list of all your products, events, and services, and then connect the content you already have on it to ensure that you’re representing each item well.
If you identify gaps (and you will), write down the things you need to do in order to fill those gaps. It may help to create a spreadsheet of what you already have, what you need to update, and what you need to connect with a product, service or another call to action. Then, list what you need to add to the content you already have.
After that, you can move forward by creating a content / editorial calendar based on the same principles: what you’re trying to promote, what problems you want to solve, and for whom and how. What are you waiting for?