Content is Nothing if it’s Not Authoritative: Creating an Effective Content Strategy

20 10 2008

Here is a guest post by Kari Rippetoe who blogs over at The Caffeinated Blog

Ok, I’m a fan of Dancing With The Stars (we all have out guilty pleasures, right?). So, the other day I was watching retired NFL player Warren Sapp dance the samba, which basically consisted of him standing around shaking his big, defensive tackle hips while his professional ballroom partner Kym Johnson danced around him. Because of this, the consensus among the judges was that their dance “lacked content”.

So, what does this have to do with your business website or blog? Well, think of it this way: is your content standing in the middle of the dance floor, not really doing anything, or is it dazzling the audience with all the right moves and making you and your business look professional – like you’re an expert?

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “content is king”; but your web content is nothing if it’s not authoritative. I’ve seen more websites and blogs than I care to admit that just slap up any old content without regard to what will actually interest their audience. This sort of rubbish falls into one or more of the following categories:

  • Horribly written articles and blog posts rendered completely useless and nonsensical by keyword stuffing.
  • Regurgitations of press releases and news articles without reaction from the blogger or relation back to the reader.
  • Sales pages disguised as articles designed to push readers towards a conversion rather than pull them in with valuable, relevant content.

If your content falls into any of these categories, than I hope you can take something away from this post – because you’ll do wonders for your brand, online reputation, marketing and communication efforts, and business in general by forming and implementing a strategy around engaging, authoritative content.

Now, I’m not here to tell you that this sort of content strategy will be easy. It will take some hard work and dedication on your part, because it’s certainly not a “set it and forget it” option. You will, however, reap the rewards once you start offering your buyers content that targets them and their needs with consistently valuable information.

So, how do you form an effective content strategy? Here are some points to think about:

  • Determine your goals. Why do you want to add content to your site, and what would you want that content to do for your business? Would you use blog posts or articles to talk about your products or services and increase press coverage? Give your take on industry-related news or relate it back to your readers? Offer advice for relevant problems your readers commonly face? This will give you a better idea of what kind of content will be written, as well as how the content can eventually be promoted.
  • Scope out the competition. What are your competitors doing? Do they have blogs, a resources section with articles, or maybe videos and podcasts? Take the time to read/watch/listen to their content in order to determine if a) there’s a possible gap you can fill, and b) if you can implement similar ideas for your business.
  • Research your target audience. In order for your content to be of value, you need to create it around topics that interest your target audience. Check out forums related to your niche to find out about relevant issues they may have, as you could develop content that addresses those issues. You can also gather some excellent (and free) research from social bookmarking sites to find out the kind of content your audience likes (check out my post on how to use social media for market research).
  • Recruit content creators. Who knows more about your business, industry, or niche than you? You’re an excellent candidate for creating content – but you don’t have to be the only one. Your research should uncover some topics for which some pretty valuable content can be developed, so now you can recruit others to contribute. These can include:
    • Employees at your company with knowledge in niche areas of your business
    • Friends or outside colleagues who know the industry and can offer a unique, expert take
    • Industry experts who would be willing to contribute in exchange for a little good PR and/or a backlink
    • Freelance writers who have knowledge of your industry and can provide regular, authoritative content based on your needs
  • Decide how often to update content. This is up to you and completely based on the needs of your business; however, it’s recommended that you update your content at least 2-3 times a week to keep it fresh and your readers coming back for more.
  • Decide how your content will be promoted. Content does have to be promoted, whether it’s to your existing customer base or to prospective customers. There are so many ways to promote your content, it would take up a whole new post; but a few to consider are email, social bookmarking and networking sites (look for ones related to your audience or niche market), and blog directories.
  • Keep the conversation going. Customer engagement doesn’t end after the content is posted – that’s where it starts. They’ll comment on it, ask questions, and try to start a conversation with you. Why? Because they perceive you as an expert, and they want to know that there is a person behind the company logo. It’s up to you to respond in a timely manner and keep them engaged. Part of your strategy should definitely address who will be your community manager or chief conversation officer, responding to comments and questions from your audience and engaging readers on external sites where your content is being promoted.

No longer is content just words on a page – it has to inform, interest, and engage. By creating a strong content strategy based on your goals and centered on the needs of your audience, you’ll achieve sustainable results that will reap rewards for your business for a long time to come. More than that – your customers will be dazzled by your moves!

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Photo by: pshutterbug

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4 responses

22 10 2008

You nailed it, what a great comparison to dancing on the ballroom floor. That is great way to explain web content to people who are on the bubble of what they should really be doing.

23 10 2008

Thanks Josh! I heard that judge’s comment DWTS and thought it was the perfect metaphor!

24 10 2008

Loved it. Very appropriate to what I am working on right now. Couple of questions though – what can you conclude from the competitor’s blogs if there are not many comments on these blog posts
1) The content is not engaging?
2) The target audience may not be reading these blogs?
3) The target audience are reading them, but are unlikely to leave comments?
4) Just look at the content purely from an SEO perspective so that searches for specific keywords would put your blog article high up on the search results?

I am all for blogging but am trying to make a business case for it and I know that the first question that will be asked is how effective are the competitor’s blogs? Any help in this regard would be appreciated.

28 10 2008

Hi gopalshenoy, and apologies for the late reply.

Yes, you should make a determination whether or not blogging is working for your competitors. If there aren’t any comments, it could be for any of the reasons you listed; however, that shouldn’t be a deterrent to your own blogging business case.

While you certainly shouldn’t try to “shoehorn” blogging into your content marketing strategy, you should examine your competitors’ efforts and then decide if it’s really not the best thing in your niche, or if you could offer something of significant value that improves upon what your competition is doing. If it’s the latter, certainly build your business case around that.

And don’t just look at your competitors – research your target audience. What kind of content engages them that you can develop for your own blog? Perhaps there’s a gap your company’s blog can fill that the competition is missing.

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