Most companies nowadays are creating content and understand that they should be content marketing, but they are doing so without a strategy in place. A content marketing strategy that is aligned to your personas and their buyer's journey, as well as having the right architecture is key to content marketing success. And these are there areas where many are falling down and seeing their content marketing efforts fall flat.
The companies we speak to who are creating content but don't have a strategy in place tell us that:
- We don't know where to start with content marketing strategy
- We don't have time to create a content marketing strategy
- Or both!
But with the right groundwork, and the right approach, it is actually possible to create a content marketing strategy that...
- Is aligned to your personas, their goals and challenges
- Addresses every stage of the buyers journey, with ideas for offers and content for the Top, Middle, and Bottom of funnel
- Has a SEO friendly architecture that sees you own organic traffic for key topics
- Has clear strategic directives
- Sets you up with enough content for the next 12 months (or more)
... all in under 2 hours!
Want to know why and how we do it here at Hype & Dexter and why our method is so successful? This article has all the answers.
Can you still compete for organic traffic in 2019?
Imagine creating content online 25 years ago ... you could probably quite easily own the content around your keywords and get on the first results page for multiple searches. Later, we had to look ad medium-tail keywords, and eventually long-tail keywords to try and compete. Fast forward to today and of course it's infinitely harder still.
So is there still any point, or any opportunity, to compete for SEO in 2019?
The Topic Cluster Model
Search engines are smarter than ever and now recognise a user's intent instead of just finding specific words. We are taking advantage of this every time we use a search engine. Instead of typing in a search term like “Local restaurant,” you can now just type (or increasingly ask using voice) “Where should I go for dinner?” and your search engine knows what results to serve you. No restaurant has the long-tail keyword “Where should I go for dinner?” on their site, and yet your search engine serves you restaurants in your area.
Does your current content strategy (if you have one) reflect this change in the way search engines behave?
The strategy we implement is called the topic cluster model. This strategy has multiple benefits like improving your site architecture and making it easier for search engines to find related content. The end result is improved search engine visibility.
Topic cluster model focuses on topics instead of keywords. By choosing a base of core topics that apply to your website, we create a foundation on which all your content is organised. Think of it as a tree with multiple strong branches that support smaller branches instead of a single trunk with smaller branches coming off of it. The smaller branches represent content with those specialised long tail variation keywords that boost your SEO.
It's critical to remember: You're creating content for search engines as well as for people.
Fortunately, search engines today are smart enough to recognise what users find useful and engaging. So usually be serving one you are serving the other!
Content with appropriate keywords is the top way to boost your website’s SEO. In the past, this meant having a site and blog, where you’re constantly adding content with the latest keywords. This leads to a large and bloated website with redundant content that must be added to to stay relevant.
We choose to use a content marketing strategy that is more organised, called the topic cluster model. This strategy has multiple benefits like improving your site architecture and making it easier for search engines to find related content. The end result is improved search engine visibility.
Topic cluster model focuses on owning topics first, and then looks at the relevant keywords second, through simple research and validation. By choosing a base of core topics that apply to your personas, we create a foundation of content that is absolutely relevant to their buyer's journey and on which all your content is prioritised and organised.
How we set out to develop a content strategy in just 2 hours
Here at H&D we have created and implemented a methodology for our content strategy sessions that our clients love. Not only that but it also gives them clear strategic direction, well defined topics, a thought-out SEO and friendly architecture, and at least 12 months of content ideas - all in 2 hours.
Our Content Strategy Workshop
Our 2 hour workshops allow us to dive deep into aspects that support content creation and ensure we are creating successful content pieces.
For this session to be successful we need:
- Well researched buyer personas, and their goals and challenges
- Research into topics, questions and keywords that our target audience is searching for
- Key marketing, sales, and operations people who deal with and understand your customers
- A facilitator who understands the business, the buyer's journey, the topic cluster model, and can lead the conversation
- Lots of post-its or memo cubes and pens!
- At least 90 minutes
We start off by explaining the 'why'. Why we produce content, what are we trying to achieve (the right answer is "to guide users through the buyer's journey"), and how to create content that performs brilliantly for SEO.
We then do a recap of the buyer's journey so that everyone in the room is clear on what we are trying to achieve.
We look again at our personas, their goals and challenges, and what their key questions would be as they go through the buyer's journey.
After explaining the topic cluster approach, everyone in the room gets a pile of paper and they are all encouraged to start writing down ideas of what content we could create to answer our personas' questions/help them achieve their goals / overcome their challenges.
We encourage discussion as thoughts are written down, this will allow ideas to bounce of one another and help generate more answers - and there are no wrong answers at this stage.
We write down everything and anything that comes to mind and brainstorm around 100-200 ideas within an hour. Once we feel that our best ideas are on the table we then stand up and look for ideas which are similar to one another. Don’t overthink this step to start with, just look for any similarity amongst what is written down, and start to group them together. You will slowly begin to identify themes, call these out as they emerge.
Once everything is in groups, stop to validate them and see if the groups make sense. Can the larger ones be split out any further? Could any small or solo groups be combined into a slightly larger group?
Ok now, think about what themes have emerged and give them labels. These are your topics. Next, you need to decide on a priory for these,
Next, identify any strategic directives for content that have been discussed or that have emerged from the exercise. These will often be things that were written down multiple times in the workshop, or things that have been written down but don't really belong in one group as they are applicable everywhere! Make sure the strategic directions are aligned with your business goals: eg: all our content should come back to the benefit of how we save businesses time.
That's a lot of topics & content ideas!
Validation & execution of your content strategy
Once you have determined your topics which to prioritise (based on most business capacity we usually recommend choosing 3 topics to address each stage of the buyer's journey to prioritise) and strategic direction, we have to validate the work.
HubSpot has a wicked tool that lets you not only build topic clusters but also lets you see search volume for the terms you’re using, so you know you are hitting the mark with keywords as well. Using HubSpot you can also see the similarity between the topics and subtopics which are key to the SEO benefits of the topic cluster model.
Once our topics and terms have been validated, when then create a content schedule. Typically we plan three months upfront, as that's a practical amount of time to roll out the new strategy and assess before moving forward, but we actually have usually got enough content for the next 12 months or more just from this one simple session!
The content marketing benefits that you will reap from following this approach and running the structured two hour session will amaze you. By making a plan and getting your team aligned to start working, you will have taken a giant step forward.
Of course, the final piece of the puzzle is execution of your content strategy. Your capacity or budget will decide how much content you can create, and how frequently you can create it. There's also a lot to say about what types of content to create - enough for a separate post!
Here at Hype & Dexter, I run these sessions to develop content strategies for all our clients. I love them, and the clients come away buzzing as well! If you want to know more about the way we do Inbound here, sign up for our free crash course now!