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Content strategy. It’s a buzz word in online marketing, but one that deserves attention. If you have no direction or strategy for your content, then your site is doomed from the get-go. Unfortunately, even in 2010 the web is still full of stagnating brochure sites that are unlikely to reach their full potential from both a traffic, and user experience perspective. The web has grown up, and it’s time to make content much better than that.

Content strategy allows you to achieve business goals by laying out an actionable plan of how to develop, market and maintain content which goes on your site. There are a number of things worth thinking about when you are sitting down to start a new project, and hopefully this article summarises some content tips which can help your website really grow.

Ensure Content Keeps Evolving

Many businesses wrongly approach designers or developers with the age old cry of ‘I need a website‘, a war cry many of you will be all too familiar with. The more nieve of customers will undoubtedly be treating their website as a box ticking exercise that requires little or no work once its ‘done’.  As many of you will know, a good website is an evolving relationship between business and consumer, and it’s important that your content management system allows for that. A good content strategist will ensure that old content gets removed or updated, and new content takes pride of place.

Lead with Content not Design

A great designer not only makes things look good with asthetics, but understands that they can’t ‘design’ until they know what information they need to portray. A great design will never make up for substandard content.

If your content isn’t attracting links, by definition, it isn’t great. That’s simply the way the web works today. It therefore makes sense to place equal if not more importance on content, including the planning of it prior to starting any web project. Social media explorer have some great questions to coax the information out of your clients, or indeed to ask yourself.

Identify your Tone & Voice

Even before you start to develop your content, and think about what your audience really wants, you should think about the tone that your business takes with it’s customers. Are you a friendly brand that needs to keep things light and fluffy? Or do you need to maintain the professional corporate image that your existing marketing material has taken?

Define Key Themes and Subtopics

At the outset you should ascertain what the primary topics and key themes are to concentrate on. Mind mapping different areas of your business (see some of the mind mapping and prototyping tools that are available for that) is a great way to get to grips with the areas that your content should address. When you have brainstormed all the different services, products, problems, and facets of your business, you can move on to logically categorising them. This can then form a good starting point for navigational categories for a blog or website.

With not everyone thinking in the same way, it makes sense to use keyword research to make sure that you are calling a spade a spade. There are a variety of seo keyword tools available online free of charge to really drill down and examine what areas are going to get you the best results.

Make it evergreen

Evergreen content stays relevant long after it has been written. You should be thinking about what sort of articles will stand the test of time, attract links and build your site as an authority. Evergreen content takes time to create, but will form a good starting point for the rest of the content. There are a number of ways to do this.

If there are a handful of key concepts in your industry, you may for example, want to provide definitions for them, and serve as a reference piece for other bloggers and websites. I’ve done this before successfully with my seo glossary in the past.

Other things you may want to look at include. How to articles – these are often bookmarked for reference, which can have a exponential effect on your traffic.  List articles which are easily digested by visitors. Technical articles which teach your visitors something new. Or just plain old resources and freebies.

Align content with business goals

There’s no point in creating content on your site which doesn’t serve any purpose. Before you create content, decide whether it meets any of the following criteria.

1) Will it generate links and contribute to ongoing SEO efforts? Has it been architected with the properties of great linkbait? Will my audience read, share or link to it? Will they care?

2)  Does this content relate closely to my business? Will this increase my authority as a trustworthy business in the sector? Will it drive direct or indirect sales?

3) Is this only relevant to internal staff? Should it perhaps be an intranet article instead? Does this article exist elsewhere online? Is there a duplicate content issue with it that needs addressed?

Think Sideways

Thinking sideways essential involves knowing what is hot out there, and using that information as a springboard for your content. One of the things I’ve learned in my short time as a blogger, is that chasing news isn’t a fun task. Whilst breaking news is beneficial, it isn’t easy – especially with other more established blogs sitting in Silicon Valley day in day out hunting out stories. What you can do however, and a part of my own strategy, is to think sideways.

Microsoft announce migration from Live Spaces to WordPress – write a guide, not a news article.

Google announce real time results – tell your visitors how to track it in Google Analytics – while others cover the news.

Both these articles filled holes in topics with practical articles that were receiving attention at the time, and both received a good flow of traffic.

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