For a long time, we’ve been driving home the importance of content to meeting your online objectives. In fact, Ben wrote about the relationship between content, search marketing and social media back in 2009.
Content can be used to connect with and engage your audience at each stage of their buying journey. As such, I believe that content planning should be core to your digital marketing strategy. A solid content plan gives all of your disciplines creative direction, streamlines resource, ensures messaging is consistent and works to enforce the role that each stakeholder (internal and external) plays in meeting online goals.
At the heart of content planning is a strong understanding of your target audience. By understanding the needs and motivations of your prospects and customers it will help you to create content that is in line with how your audience wants to consume it and therefore where to market that content to support search, website optimisation and social media objectives.
How customer insight and content supports these three channels is best reflected in the infographic below:
Starting with search, the information presented back to us when searching comes in a range of content types i.e. maps, images, video and shopping feeds (in Google’s case, this is called Universal Search). In turn, this means brands must create, optimise and market useful and engaging content that benefits both the target audience and supports SEO objectives. In light of Google’s Panda update earlier this year, good quality, relevant and interesting content for the end user is more important than ever. Adopting old hat techniques such as keyword-stuffed press releases and articles, created purely for SEO purposes, might just bring you to Google’s attention…and not in a good way!
Content also has an integral role to play once visitors arrive at your website. A content driven approach to e-commerce helps create a richer and more rounded website experience, which in turn aids conversion rates and average order values. Strong imagery and video, for example, are proven to engage visitors and drive up sales. Marks and Spencer, with its pioneering ‘M&S TV’, has reportedly seen three times as many product views when supported with video and an average uplift in basket size of 23%.
Content is also vitally important in giving your brand a voice across your social media channels. Too many brands fall in to the trap of using social media to simply broadcast special offers and promotions. Content is the foundation of which a truly engaging social media experience is built and therefore how you can build a following by having your customers share your news, views and stories with their colleagues and peers.
This diagram reflects the interdependency between search, social media and content; one discipline cannot operate in isolation of the other two.
Practical steps to creating a content plan
So with content playing such a vital role in search, conversion rates and social media outreach, where should you start?
I recommend working from a central content plan as it helps to ensure consistent and clear messaging from each of your company’s communication channels and ensures any content output is aligned to your business objectives.
The first step to creating great content is to align all communication channels to work together. Holding regular content workshops involving all those responsible for creating content is a great way to achieve this. The objective of these workshops is to mine the business for all marketing plans across online and offline disciplines and brainstorm raw ideas, thoughts and materials.
You can then shape the resulting output into a comprehensive six-12 month content plan that cascades into all online communication channels, for example:
- Content to support sales, such as buyers guides
- Blog content
- Emails / newsletters
- On and offline PR
- On and offline advertising, such as catalogues
- In-store event ideas
This level of planning provides the necessary structure and formalising of responsibilities to maximise the value of the content created by all stakeholders.
The output is a month by month plan (it can be as simple as using an Excel spreadsheet) that details what content will be created, in what format, by whom and through which channels it will marketed and when. It sounds simple but I’m amazed at how many businesses we speak to are creating content in a totally disjointed manner meaning they fail to maximise its value to meeting digital marketing objectives.
Don’t fall into the trap of creating content purely for the purposes of gaming search engines. Really think about your customer and create content that is genuinely useful and engaging. Get all of your content creators in a room and plan, plan, plan. In turn, you’ll be rewarded with stronger search engine rankings, higher conversion rates and more fans and followers who feel a genuine connection to your brand.