How a sophisticated content strategy can boost your business
16 août 2023
Having a clear online content strategy is more important than ever before and that is no surprise. The pandemic accelerated the online presence of many brands and increased digital competition. Consumers love shopping online, and we are never far away from our smartphones — we use them to pay, to scan menus, and even to track our health.
This evolution has brought a lot of positive impacts. For example, the time when the only purpose of content was "to become number 1 in Google" is a distant memory. Companies increasingly see content as a core asset that is relevant from the start. Not just at the beginning of a website process, but also when drafting content calendars, rebranding tracks, and more.
The key to building a successful brand is gaining sufficient insight into the type of content that solves problems for your customers and prospects. But how exactly do you do that? Well, you can devise and utilise a strong content strategy in the following way:
Build the foundations with an outside-in approach
Before you can start gaining additional insights from your target audience, you should consider the goals you want to achieve with your content strategy and think carefully about who your intended target group is — the more specific you can be, the better.
You can of course have different target groups, but one is often more important than the other — they may generate more sales because they show more interest in or need your product or service more.
Data giants like Google give us greater insights into our (desired) target groups than ever before. They offer a wealth of information thanks to online tools such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics. There are also a lot of other platforms such as SEMrush, that help us to audit the needs of our target group with more accuracy. The magic lies in combining the data from all these sources so that you can distil the relevant analyses into an effective content strategy.
Knowing which pages are already scoring well, or which search terms lead prospects to your website is a great start. You can expand this data with keyword research, based on your online competitors. This helps you to reveal some of your content gaps — in other words: you can investigate what content you’re missing and what is or isn’t working for your competitors.
Audits of your website and social media channels can also provide you with valuable insights into your current situation. How strong is your website and are you easily found? Does your brand personality resonate on social media? How can you improve your online position?
You can dive deeper into this data, by adding desk research (such as market research and competitor research). Think about what else can you find about the target group? Are there important trends in the market? How does the competition approach their (online) content?
Get to know your target audience
Along with the analyses and research, it is important to really get to know your target audience. Designing your content strategy solely on the basis of data from desk research is not enough. You risk running into obstacles that you have caused by making inaccurate assumptions and will (unintentionally) push people into boxes. It's also important to understand how your future customers think and act. Think about the journey your prospects take before they buy your product or service and what questions they have before converting.
Ideally, you should use this outside-in approach from within the target group itself, with in-depth interviews and/or focus groups. These insights help you define the customer journey and identify potential pain points that your content is leaving unanswered.
This is especially important with the B2B target audience, because that target group’s interactions are slightly more complex than with established B2C clientele. Given the great added value that these customer journey insights bring to all branches of the organisation— from marketing and sales to customer service — this is an essential exercise that every organisation should perform.
You can expand this input even further with personas, but they only contribute if they are based on previously collected input. Do not get distracted by pretty collage personas compiled on Canva or Pinterest.
Content strategy is a marathon, not a sprint
Now that we have laid the foundations, it is important to build on these acquired insights. Because insights alone are not strategy. That is why it is important to continue working with this information, and to think seriously about the core message that you want to convey to your target group.
Which channels are important for your target group? Where can you find them and do those channels fit with your organisation? Starting small is key: don't try to be everywhere all at once. Are your target audience really using X (formerly Twitter)? You can always add new channels to your marketing mix in after you have found a solid rhythm on existing channels.
Another must is to think about content formats in advance. This doesn’t just make the content creation smoother, but it gives you a chance to demonstrate that you have thought about what content your target audience needs. It also plays a part in evaluating and adjusting your approach afterwards. Formats that do not appeal to the target audience can be changed or replaced.
Then one of the most important points: plan, plan, plan. Try to record your formats and topics in a content plan every quarter so that you have time to schedule your efforts. Conducting a last minute interview with an external party is not realistic, because planning takes time. When you plan your content carefully, it’s easier to stick to the number of scheduled content items per month and you quickly discover whether that is a feasible number or not. Also, don't forget to create a media plan — the days when organic content scored well are sadly over.
Be sure to evaluate your content performance every month, or at least once a quarter so you know where to adjust and what to focus on. Remember, when you create (SEO) content, it can take a while before it is picked up by Google. So don't panic when a blog entry performs less well in the first few months. Sometimes a content item will work better on social media and in newsletters and less well organically — and that's okay too.
Content as a starting point for a new website
Content strategy doesn't just have to be for content writing — it can also be a starting point for a new (or renewed) website.
An information architecture and navigation based on best practices is no longer sufficient. In addition to the experience and insights from user experience, it is also important to know what your target group is really looking for. Interviews, customer journey exercise, and keyword research are the foundations for this.
Moreover, a new website is the ideal time to scrutinise your current content — if you already have it. Especially on older websites there is often a proliferation of text, and it is important to ask yourself critical questions.
Is the content I offer clear?
Do I have duplicate content?
Does my content reach my target audiences?
Can I help my different target groups more on the website?
When is it time to think about content strategy?
Content is important in every step of digital marketing, including when you build a new website. Online competition is greater than ever today — but that doesn't mean you might as well do nothing.
No matter the scale of your organisation; it will always be worth understanding and aligning your website, brand, and marketing story better with your target audiences. Your content efforts will align better with your audience's needs when your offer is built upon a solid foundation. The result: higher quality content, and in the long term better brand awareness, more satisfied customers, interested prospects, and ultimately lower marketing costs. A smaller amount of high-quality content is always better than a lot of content that is of no use to anyone.
By taking the time to think and plan today before creating new content pieces, you'll reap the long-term benefits. Because remember content strategy is a marathon, not a sprint.
Mara Van der AuweraContent strategist
From SEO and copy specialist, she grew into her current role of content strategist. Working on strategies that take companies to the next level makes her heartbeat faster. The best thing about Mara's job? Working with the client and the iO experts on content that really resonates with the target group.