We’ve heard about—and hopefully developed—content strategy for our website(s). But too often content strategy is lumped in with basic business strategy. Instead of assuming that our site material will parallel our business flow, developing a farsighted plan to draw consumers/readers into our corporate purpose through varying but related angles can build readership, improve sales, and promote sustainability.
When we are looking at content strategy on a website as a whole, or on a subset of pages within that site, we are analyzing the intended vision as it accomplishes company goals. Let’s break that last sentence down. Content strategy directly connects to your business objectives. But be clear: business strategy and content strategy are not the same thing. Hannah Smith and Adria Saracino of distilled.net have explained this concept of content strategy as being a “high-level vision that guides future content development to deliver against a specific business objective”. They are expressing that before writing blog posts or adding substance to your site, such material should be guided by a greater vision that encompasses the core of your purpose. By going back to your business motto and corporate objectives, you can develop a content strategy that determines what material you need to display first and foremost, what information you need to regularly update, and how you will do so. In other words, your content strategy will draw upon your corporate strategy, and if done well, bolster it by hitting those objectives.
Having a guide for keeping up with your website—and specifically with “generation pages” like blogs—enables your site to be a useful marketing tool. That “high-level vision” connecting back to your underlying goals breeds the smart creation of useful content ideas. Such ideas, once thoughtfully organized, can provide a map for upcoming information to be dispersed—often adding upon concepts and allowing for intelligent linking that keeps users on your site while learning and investigating ever helpful material. Mapping out content over time will allow you to further unfold your objectives and draw site visitors back. This skeletal core of your content strategy includes the planning of upcoming topics with enough room to allow for timely pieces when something newsworthy needs to take center stage. It’s not necessarily a linear plan, though some content may flow best that way; rather, it’s a concept hub that grabs the attention of your reader and keeps you continually expanding as well.
By preparing for this process using a content strategy, you will know where you are going with your content; and equally as important, you will remember what you have covered, which will reduce the natural human tendency to become repetitive. Speaking in circles can negatively impact your readership by being too elementary, leading your audience to believe you really have nothing of value to add to the vast Internet conversation. We love the way Smith and Saracino capture this concept:
“Additionally, a lack of strategy can lead to generic content, and generic content simply doesn't cut it anymore. Generic content is unlikely to rank organically. Generic content doesn't get shared. Generic content doesn't engage people and is therefore unlikely to deliver against your wider marketing objectives. If you skip the strategy and head straight to delivery you're in danger of creating content which could either confuse or alienate your audience, or fail to reach them at all.”
With a strategized content plan that is regularly reviewed, you or your employees can more easily determine what material is appropriate for linking your company’s purpose with those seeking your information. Keep in mind this quote from A List Apart: “Content is appropriate for your business when it helps you accomplish your business goals in a sustainable way.” Focus on that content strategy before churning out the deliverable for the screen. While the two strategies discussed earlier are not the same, they certainly support each other through their connection to your company objectives.