There’s an old proverb that says “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”. This is probably true in many fields, but definitely in SEO and on-line marketing. Any action you take should be according to a carefully conceived plan.
And the content of your site is a perfect example of something that most definitely needs to be planned, if you want your website to be successful. So what should your plan address?
Content Strategy – The Plan
There are a number of aspects of a viable content strategy that need to be considered. Surprisingly (or not), the basics haven’t changed much in generations of marketing. Basically, you need to say:
- the right thing;
- to the right people;
- at the right time and place;
- in the right fashion.
Who is the audience?
The first step is to understand your audience. Know the demographic of the people you’re talking to, as much as possible. Are they predominantly male or female? What level of education are they mostly comprised of? What polarizing characteristics, if any, do they share? How did they find your site?
Knowing what makes your visitors tick will be a critical factor in marketing to them effectively, so this will be the foundation of your content strategy.
What is the message?
Amazingly, this is a step that many business owners fail to give due consideration. They often think it’s simply “to sell my goods”. That isn’t your message, folks… that’s simply your goal, and not a very well defined goal, at that. Your message should be what you will be communicating to your audience in order to achieve your goal.
A “We sell widgets” message won’t get you very far, unless you happen to hold a monopoly on the widget market. You need to know what your visitors are looking for in a widget. Is it quality, price, availability, service? Here, knowing your audience and how they found you will come into play in a big way.
Even the search terms they used to find your site can give you a good indication of what they value most in a widget.
Tailoring your message to accommodate your potential customers’ motivation for visiting your site is the heart of the conversion process. Missing this is definitely missing the boat. In most instances, for example, selling benefits will be a lot more effective than selling features. Just remember that motivations can change at the drop of a hat.
What is the right way?
Here again, knowing your visitors is critical, if you expect to be able to present your message in a way that will have the desired result.
Different demographics will definitely require a different approach. Voice and tone play a critical part, as you need to be speaking to your visitors in a way that will be comfortable to them and will instill confidence and trust in your message and brand.
Consider the following questions:
- Is your message highly technical?
- Is the vernacular you’re using appropriate to the knowledge level of the topic possessed by your visitors?
- Are you using the right person (1st, 2nd, 3rd)?
- Are you hitting the right balance of formality or informality for your audience?
- CRITICAL: Does your site have impeccable spelling, grammar and punctuation? (Never underestimate the importance of this, regardless of who your audience is!)
When and where is the right time and place?
Determining the right time and place to deliver the different facets of your message will depend upon where your visitor is in the conversion process.
There are a lot of things to consider here, and there are usually several different ways to move your audience along through the funnel. Testing is typically your best bet to find what works best, since what may be perfect in one situation might be the worst possible choice in another.
This is an area in which many site owners shoot themselves in the foot. What I’ve most often found to be the problem is that they tend to design their conversion techniques around what appeals most to them. Hello, people! Who are you selling to? It doesn’t make a bit of difference what appeals to you! Remember the audience? Your users? THEY are what matters.
Obviously, none of the above will do the job alone. Your content strategy must address all of them, at the very least, in order to be effective. Miss one, and it’ll be reflected in the results – and not in a good way.
Content strategy is a lot more than just generating some copy and inserting a few keywords. It’s more akin to reaching through the monitor and taking your visitors by the hand, then leading them through your site, while building trust.
When you’ve achieved that, you’ve struck gold!