The Anatomy of the Content King: How to Plan, Create, and Measure Quality Content

Jun 29, 2016


BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Article ImageWe've all heard the phrase "content is king." And usually, the conversation ends there. Why? Perhaps every marketer universally understands content--how to build it and measure it - or maybe it is a resource we mostly take for granted.

It is a mistake to assume that content development is an assumed talent, or that it can be an afterthought in the digital marketing realm. Content strategy is more than writing for the web. There is a science and strategy behind developing quality content for web pages, blogs, advertisements and social media. And although every successful copywriter must have a foundation of basics writing skills, such as subject matter expertise, an engaging style and tone, and basic grammar usage, there is much more to being a content king.

The Role of Quality Content in Search

Content is undoubtedly a critical component of digital marketing. It is what connects users with the brands, products, and services that they seek and it is the foundation of search engine optimization. That is why it is important for marketers to consider their content strategy when looking at resource and budget allocations to effectively engage users in the age of discovery marketing.

Content strategy is creating a methodology that is reliable and repeatable. It accounts for what happens from the planning and creation of the material, to what happens after it has been published. Thinking through content strategically means much more than being a good writer. It requires writing to capture and retain your audience's attention for the purpose of accomplishing a strategic goal.

Understand Your Goals

What do we want content to accomplish? Your goal may be to generate more traffic to a website, drive sales, or change your brand's image. No matter what you try to accomplish, make sure that you and your team are clear on the motivation behind your content strategy. Identify key performance indicators such as website traffic data that may be tracked through Google Analytics, sales that may be monitored through particular offer codes and landing pages, or public perception that can be observed through surveys or focus groups. Doing so will help you track the ROI of your content strategy, making it easier to adjust resource allocations throughout the process.

Know Your Audience

Just like a successful king must know his subjects, his adversaries, and his own strengths, so too must good content strategists and writers understand their audiences and stakeholders. It is important to be aware of standard demographic information such as gender, household income, age, and the like. However, to really understand your audience, you must also know their interests and motivations.

Knowing these factors can help you build content that resonates. Go beyond simple interests, know why your audience cares - or should care - about your product or service. For example, your audience may consist of mothers, ages 35-50, who like to cook, leading you to provide content such as recipes, how-to's, images of cookware on platforms that provide the opportunity to display pictures of food such as Pinterest or Facebook.

But to really capture your audience and provide content that will resonate, you need to know why they love cooking. Maybe it is because they love spending time with their families, maybe it's because it makes them feel accomplished. Good content developers think a bit like psychologists - learning what motivates and drives readers to build content that deeply resonates.

Plan the Content

Through a strategic plan and gap analysis, you can identify the types of content that work best for your organization. Careful planning and data gathering will help you craft content that will engage audiences, be shared across multiple platforms, and garner more interest in your brand. When planning, consider the following:

  • Subject matter. The topic of your writing must resonate with your audience. Forgo your own goals and try to keep users' motivations and interests in mind. Remember, you may think you have the best product or service to discuss, but if your audience doesn't care to read through your blog, website or social media page, the message of your quality solutions will never be seen.
  • Authenticity and relevancy. Although the users' interests and motivations should drive content ideation, it's important that all of your writing comes across as true to your goals and relevant to your brand. This not only helps keep you on track and working toward your goals, it helps build your entire brand as a thought leader through your content.
  • Time and frequency. Timing is a critical part of the content planning process. The timing and frequency of publication, for example, can influence rankings and the degree to which your content is shared across platforms. Remember that while an editorial calendar may be helpful, it's important to stay flexible in order to capitalize on breaking news or trending topics within your industry.

Writing Like a King

When it comes to finally writing your content, it is important to have the following:

  • A solid foundation of skills. Regardless of your message's relevance, it will be overshadowed if you do not have a foundation of proper grammar usage and writing skills.
  • Authenticity. It is important to be true to your brand. Remember, overly gimmicky posts or blogs bloated with keywords are obvious to users and can damage your credibility.
  • Word count. There are several factors that influence the word count effectiveness of any given piece of content. They include the platform through which you are communicating and the audience that is receiving the message. For example, Twitter only allows 140 characters for a maximum post. However, blog posts may require at least 600 words. Communication studies pioneer Wilbur Lang Schramm's Fraction of Selection theory suggests that any communication resonates based on the expectation of reward divided by the effort required to receive it.  In other words, individuals are much more likely to read content if it is not only interesting, but simple to read. That is why skimmable, succinct writing does very well when generating content for the web.
  • Consistency in style. Utilizing a style guide is very important. Make certain that everything is written and presented consistently across platforms as much as possible. Details such as how you capitalize titles within your company to how you refer to your products and solutions will help elevate your content as credible.
  • Speak with authority and relevance. Make sure that facts are accurate and that you are using the vernacular and language that is relevant to any given space. If you are writing for a particular publication, make sure to use the lingo that is utilized on that space. Follow the norms of the social community where your content is being produced.
  • Appeal to motivations. This is one of the secrets of effective writing, regardless of platform. Remember: It is one thing to write about an interesting topic that your audience enjoys, it is far greater to appeal to the very motivations that cause them to act. Here is an example of two sentences, which provide the same message, but the latter speaks to motivations, rather than simply interests:

 "Our blenders make cooking more efficient and cut preparation time in half."

vs.

"Our blenders do the majority of the work, giving you more time to catch up with your family."

Publication and Syndication

The best content is ineffective if no one sees it. That's why it is important to have a solid strategy for getting content out to your audience. Consider social channels, industry blogs and even traditional public relations methodologies to promote your content. Remember, it is also important to be strategic so that your content is being pitched to relevant sources at the appropriate times. This requires doing careful research and reading of the blogs or publications to which you are submitting.

It is important to consider the many ways that content can be leveraged and manipulated in order to garner interest. Key influencers, such as bloggers and journalists, want relevant content that will resonate with their readers. These influencers and industry experts are selective about the type of articles they run. You also should be careful to make certain that your content is picked up by relevant and quality publications. Remember, not all reposts are considered equal in terms of search engine rankings.

Measure Success

As discussed earlier, key performance indicators such as sales and web metrics will be helpful in determining what content is relevant. Beyond simple page views, here are some of the key indicators of content quality:

  • Pages/visit measures the average number of pages viewed in your site by any given user. If your content is relevant, it is more likely that an individual will browse through multiple pages when visiting your website.
  • Visit duration calculates the average time spent on a website by a visitor. Again, if a user stays longer to read through your content, this is an indicator that your content resonates with them.
  • Bounce rate is a similar indicator to pages per visit. It measures the visits that only go to one page before exiting a site. The lower the bounce rate, the more engaging your content is to users.
  • Clickthrough rate (CTR) is an important indicator for content in advertisements. It calculates the number of clicks on your ad relevant to the number of times your ad is shown. This is a great indicator of relevancy and quality of content in an advertisement.

Beyond web analytics and quantitative data, also consider tracking your brand via Google Alerts so that you can see where your content is being discussed. Look on Twitter for the titles of your blog posts. Success occurs when you are being selected by reputable publications and websites to retransmit your content.

Winning in the Court of Digital Marketing

Being a content king also means knowing where to utilize search engine optimization strategies as well as social media optimization and paid advertising, to elevate your content and make it more visible to users searching for your brand, products or services. Content marketing alone cannot improve leads or increase sales. It must be combined with a comprehensive marketing strategy.

(Images courtesy of Shutterstock.)