Content Marketing

So, what does a winning content strategy include in substance?

The 4-step program to come up with an endless list of content ideas, and how to act on those ideas.

We started talking about creating a stellar content strategy yesterday. This is what we have covered so far:

  1. Content marketing is crucial for businesses, no matter how big they get.
  2. The basic goals that you need to list down before you start creating your content strategy.
  3. The need to understand our audience better for us to be able to create a content strategy that’s cohesive and helps achieve the goals we listed in #2.
  4. Our role in the whole process. To be a helpful, trusted guide, enabling our audience’s journey.

Today, let’s carry it forward and talk about what the execution of this content strategy will effectively entail.

The perfect content

The perfect content, much like the perfect product, is a myth. No matter how good your content is, there will always be room for improvement, and there will probably always be at least one more piece of content that is addressing the topic better than you, has a better probability of ranking higher on search results, or has higher domain authority than you.

Suffering from at least one of those disadvantages is unavoidable. So, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. What I will worry about is ensuring I create a piece of content that indeed adds value to my audience - irrespective of whether that value has exclusivity or not.

You need to remember that there are countless businesses out there vying for the same audiences you are. Competition is tough, it is ruthless, and customers have absolutely no dearth of options to consider and choose from.

You should want to stand out from the competition, but that doesn’t necessarily always mean being unique and exclusive. Being unique and exclusive is great, but with the sea of content out there, the probability of you achieving exclusivity is low, and will keep on getting lower as you push out more and more content.

You can still succeed in standing out, despite not being exclusive. Just present things in a different light. Crafting your content headlines as opinions is a great way of doing that. In a world of listicles and guides, opinions presented with conviction (and backed by logical and rational fact-based, data-led arguments) tend to stand out.

Write about topics your audience cares about

If you remember, I have never put a lot of stress on the importance of doing keyword planning and keyword research. I have always said that it is important, and gets more and more important as your business continues to grow, but as far as my immediate focus goes - especially for early stage businesses - it is not in my crosshairs. Why? Because your audience doesn’t think in keywords, neither do they search that way.

Phrases. Questions. Curiosity. Answers. That’s the focus area. What does your audience care about? Why? And how do they go about it when looking for answers? You want your content to be a part of your audience’s discovery process. So understanding the answers to these questions become crucial.

If you understand your audience, and can predict, to some extent, their search patterns, you won’t have to struggle to come up with content ideas. This understanding and the ability to predict can be largely attributed to having experience in the field, and some previous background as a marketer.

But what do you do when you don’t have experience in marketing, or are new to the field? Without an understanding of these areas, you will often find yourself at loss when trying to come up with ideas for your content. That disadvantage can be easily overcome though.

Let’s see how, in a few simple steps:

  1. Identify few businesses, blogs that would have a similar audience base as yours. Rank them in order of popularity and domain authority.

  2. Use Google keyword planner, and enter the link to one of those blogs. In addition to throwing up a list of their top ranked keywords, it will help you get an indication of what their audience searches for and reads. This, in turn, will help you zero down on the best ranking topics and subjects. Things that your audience will be interested in, thereby exposing you to a wider audience base, and driving more traffic your way.

  3. If you still find yourself unable to come up with at least 10-20 ideas for articles for your blog, start searching for those indicators from #2 on Google. This will help you see what your audience is seeing, and help you get a better sense of why they are performing as well as they do. What do these content pieces look like? How have they been presented? How detailed are they? Are they for beginners or experts?

  4. Finally, read some of those articles. Nothing sparks creativity as much as going through someone else’s content. You get ideas in your head, opinions start forming, you identify gaps in the content that users could have benefitted from.

This 4-step program, so to speak, should serve you well into coming up with content ideas. But if you still need help, you can add a few more steps to the program and make it your own x-step program. Just remember, do not follow a piecemeal approach. Use the different steps in conjugation with one another. That way, you will be adding layers to an already strong foundation, and your results will keep on increasing in their ability to create an impact.

Buzzsumo

As their website reads: “Find the content that works best”

​​ buzzsumo homepage

Buzzsumo can help you find content that has already performed well, thereby helping you come up with content ideas your readers will respond to.

We already have a solid list of search indicators as well as some idea on what content pieces are being produced out there. Add to it Buzzsumo’s buzz tracking capability, and you are getting closer to creating content that is likely to be discovered and even more likely to be distributed and shared across.

Quora

Quora is arguably the greatest gift to anyone just getting started with their content marketing. That list of keywords, search phrases, blog ideas, competitor’s content etc you have been sitting on, just start searching for them on Quora.

Keep your searches on the broader side of the spectrum. You are looking for indicators, and going extremely precise without having access to data to back up that route could backfire quickly. So look for macro indicators. Perform broad keyword searches.

For every keyword you search for, you will come across dozens of questions the community is looking for answers to. That’s your content ideas the easiest way possible.

Another approach would be to look at topics related to your list and go through the top and popular questions related to it.

Should you worry about your competitors?

Everywhere during our research, we have used our competitors as some sort of a benchmark. Looking up on the content they produce, trying to figure out what makes their audiences tick etc. So, should we keep a close eye on the content they produce, and make sure we are producing similar content as well?

That’s a tricky question to which there is no right answer.

It will depend on you I guess. Whether you are keeping yourself just aware and mindful of your competitors, or are you obsessively following every single move they make down to the point where you could be soon categorised as a stalker.

Personally, I do not put a whole lot of stock in what competitors seem to be doing, and I would never try to emulate their style. The reason for that is simple. There is no way for you to know for sure if they are doing it right or not. And if they aren’t, why would you want to replicate those mistakes?

And from a strategic viewpoint also, it doesn’t make sense to follow in the footsteps of your competitors. When you do that, then by definition, you will always be playing catch up, and I am going to go on a limb out here and say that it’s not exactly what you want now, is it? You want to surpass your competitors, not follow them. So why not focus on the only entity that matters? The customers!

Focus on the customers and the customers alone. The rest will take care of itself.

Be aware of your competition, keep a close eye on them, do extensive and regular research on them. But don’t let them influence your path. Your path to success is dependent on your customers and your customers alone. Be singular in your focus on that front.

Next on the list? Having a system to deliver on this research.

Every single person who writes has a graveyard they are not proud of. A graveyard full of content ideas and drafts that never quite made it to the coveted “published” status. Ask anyone, they all have at least one such graveyard. I myself have more than a few. I’m not proud of it, but unfortunately that is the truth.

Unless you act on all the work you have done till now, you will end up with a graveyard as well. The worst part, it would be like flushing down the toilet all your hard work you have done to this point. So, let’s come up with a system that works.

First, you will need to realise that your system will be unique to you. No amount of guides, content publishing guides and content calendars is going to be a readymade solution. So, come up with something that works. For you. As long as it helps you push out content on a consistent basis, it’s all good.

For example, I myself have never been able to make good use of a content publishing calendar. Or content ideas list, for that matter. No matter how many lists or schedules I make, I either end up missing out on them altogether (and end up with massive gaps in my posting schedule), or I end up creating content that is altogether different from what my calendar said. Why? Because when I would start creating content, my thought processes would often take me a different chain of thought. Something I would feel more value inducing to my audience. So my final content would be miles off the target.

So what did I do? I no longer have content calendars, or list of content ideas. I come up with a topic I feel valuable to my audience when I fire up my laptop to write, and then I write till I’m done. This has been the only approach that has worked for me. Everything else failed to deliver, or at least failed to deliver as well or as consistently as this has.

Even today, when I started to write, I came up with a topic and had started writing about it already. It was to be an article on the importance of marketing reports and how do you leverage your analytics dashboard to create insightful marketing reports, and do it without spending too much time, or inducing too much of a stress. I was excited about writing on the topic, but by the time I was done with the first two paragraphs, I remembered I made a promise to continue talking about content strategy in my article yesterday. And that is how we are here. Promises made, promises kept.

Oh. And another thing you should know about how I create content. I make it a point to push one out every single day. In dealing with different challenges, I have realised that having some discipline has been the only surefire way for me to deliver. And I have tried those once a week, twice a week, thrice a month approaches. Somehow they have never worked for me. I guess they weren’t disciplined enough approaches, and gave me enough of a wiggle room to break free of the pattern and slip through the cracks. The last time I created content on a regular basis, I was writing every day, and I found that extremely well suited to me personally, and extremely value-inducing as well. So, I create content every day. In no way does it mean that you should as well. But if you enjoy creating valuable content pieces for your audience as much as I do, go for it. It’s cathartic, to say the least.

Now, as I said, this approach worked for me, it may not work for you. The content calendar approach didn’t work for me, for you it may. So come up with your own approach.

Our goals though - both yours and mine - would always be the same. To push out content that’s valuable to our audiences. The approach we take to achieve that goal matters less as long as we’re on task.

The flow of the content

Depending on what your content type and your writing style is, the flow of your content pieces will change. Your intent, however, will remain consistently the same. To add value to your audience. To satisfy their curiosity. To answer their questions. So decide on the flow of your content accordingly.

But don’t be boring about it. Don’t just lay out facts. Your audience isn’t looking for a documentation style piece full of facts and lists. Walk them through your thought process. Describe the challenges involved. Illustrate possible scenarios they will encounter. And offer solutions. Use your content to leave an impression as if they are sitting right beside you while you take up the task of dealing with the challenge.

There. Wasn’t so tough, was it? As long as you follow these guidelines and have the discipline to come up with value-inducing content pieces on a consistent basis, you will never face the blinking cursor syndrome again. No more writer’s block for you.

Tomorrow, we will hopefully conclude this series when we talk about:

  1. Examples of some content types
  2. Promoting your content.

Questions, Suggestions, Feedback, Criticism? I would love to chat.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.

Cheers

Abhishek

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