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3 Content Strategy Practices That Will Make You a Better Content Marketer


My recent revelation: When I write, my audience is always top of mind. However, when I look across all of CMI’s websites and channels, I worry that we’re not providing an exceptional experience for our community at all points. For instance, we may have answers to people’s questions, but can people find what they need? Is every point in their experience a good one?

While I continue to refine my content marketing skills, I also am turning more of my attention to content strategy.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe in the power of (good) content marketing. I believe that marketers must create and promote content that educates. But, if we truly are to put customers at the center of our marketing – and get the most possible value from our efforts – we need to look beyond conversions and measurements and apply the kind of strategic thinking that can transform our organizations’ content into well-managed business assets.

Content marketers have a lot to learn from content strategists. Here are the strategy-related topics I will be prioritizing over the coming months. These topics aren’t traditionally considered part of content marketing, but we need to consider them if we want our content – and the experiences it offers – to be as exceptional as possible.

Have a plan to manage your content after it is published

I’m guessing you have a plan to publish and promote your content, but do you have a plan for what you’ll do with all that content once it’s out there? Do you want it to exist indefinitely? If not, when will it be deleted and by whom? As for the content you want to keep, how do you envision it serving as an ongoing asset? In other words, how will it be kept current and relevant? How will it be reused over time, across various deliverables, and throughout your organization’s departments?

Consider every page on your website as a potential landing page. You don’t want people entering where your best foot is not forward – where information is redundant, outdated, or trivial (ROT).

Consider this story Gerry McGovern told at Confab. When Columbia College in Chicago drastically reduced the number of pages on its website – 36,000 to 944 – student inquiries rose from 477 per month to 855. Think of it! They deleted 35,000 web pages, and the response rate doubled. Why? Chances are visitors now are entering the website on pages that are current, relevant, and organized.

As we heard often at the Intelligent Content Conference, content needs to be managed as a product, not a project. In short, you need a plan to manage all of the content after it’s published, which is part of digital governance.

Something to try: Track the pages that get the most traffic on your website, and make a plan for their governance.

To find your high-traffic pages, open Google Analytics for your site, and go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. (If you publish a blog, ignore the newer posts, which are likely getting traffic because they are recent.)

After you identify the high-traffic pages, review them for accuracy and currency. While I’ve done this sporadically in the past, I recently asked Jodi Harris, CMI’s director of curation, to review all of our high-traffic pages and then develop a plan for how we want to manage them.

We list those pages in Trello and track which ones have been updated and which we want to update next. We also have a checklist for each page or post to check for this.

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Consider the tone across all of your content

I’m guessing you have the tone you want your editorial content to have nailed down, but do you have a plan on what tone your content should have across your site? Does your audience read one tone on your blog and in your e-books, then get hit with corporate speak on the rest of your website?

It’s time to start thinking about your tone and style across all of your content. Yes, this is a mammoth challenge, as different people own different content and you only have so much control, but think about the impact it has when you start to think about all of your content as supporting the customer experience.

Something to try: Look at your website from the perspective of a new visitor. Is it approachable? Is it clear how you help people or do you sound like the competition? Would you want  to read this?

If you don’t love what you see, study brands that have exceptional tone. For instance, I’m a big fan of MailChimp’s tone and style guide – and its content across the board.

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Bookmark the brands whose tone you admire and study them – and start to update your pages to have the tone you desire. (HINT: Focus on the high-traffic pages you’ve identified.)

Design your website so users can find what they need

Sure, you create a lot of content, but can your readers find what is going to help them?

If your site is like many, people are stumbling across what’s recent – or the top pages that get the bulk of your traffic. (Are you seeing the importance of these pages?)

What can you do to help the right person get the right content at the right place, at the right time, in the right format, in the right language, on the right device? This is the kind of thing content marketers are aspiring to do, but to get there we need the help of content strategists – or at least strategic thinking. As Rahel Anne Bailie explains:

The reason people hire content strategists is that people can’t find anything.

I have studied the website for This American Life, as it excels at providing an experience that helps readers or listeners find the “right” content or discover something they didn’t even know they wanted. Learn more with Put Users at the Center of Your Content Strategy: A Look at This American Life.

Something to try: One of the keys to findability is having the right categories/taxonomy in place. In two recent articles, Marcia Riefer Johnston, managing editor for Intelligent Content, explains what semantic categories are and why marketers should care, and follows up with some specifics on how to use semantic categories for your blog.

Where we go from here

I am not suggesting that you become an expert on all of these practices, but rather I encourage you to start learning about these things – and find the right content strategist to help if you are struggling in any of these places.

I’d love to hear from you: Are you considering these types of things in your content marketing plan? If so, how are you making progress? If not, what’s stopping you?

To learn more about content strategy – as it applies to content marketing – visit our Intelligent Content blog and sign up for our weekly email newsletter. Not only will you get an exclusive article from our Chief Strategy Officer Robert Rose, but you’ll also learn about content strategy, which, I guarantee you, will help you think about your content in a more customer-centric way.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute