My grade school principal had a saying she was fond of using on me regularly: “walk with a purpose.” (I guess I was prone to wander, even from a young age.) It was a good reminder there were times it was appropriate to loiter and lollygag, and times when a clear destination was called for, as well as the most expeditious route to said destination.
While I sometimes resented being called out for my time-wasting shenanigans (who among us doesn’t?) I’ve come to appreciate the truth in it: Walk with a purpose. Know where you’re going. And if you don’t? Stop and think about it before you get out of your desk. Plan your route. Think ahead.
They were good lessons to learn before graduating the eighth grade, and it turns out, they’re lessons that are eerily transferrable into my daily adult life as a content strategist, and especially transferrable into creating a useful content marketing plan.
True or False: Content is a Commodity?
Chances are your answer to this question depends on your role in an organization and/or your relationship to your company’s digital content.
And the truth is, for a growing number of organizations, the answer is often YES. You can get cheap content and you can expect to have it relatively quickly (as much as it pains me to admit) thanks to content farms and other low-cost options for outsourcing your content needs.
So, the real question isn’t whether content is a commodity, but whether it’s doing the work you need it to do. How do you find that out? That’s where I’d argue the real value of content marketing and content strategy emerges — in understanding your existing content landscape, leveraging what you already have effectively, and planning for anything new you might need with clear goals in mind.
A Content Marketing Plan Starts With Tracking
It’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t understand where you’ve been. It’s even harder to plan on going somewhere better without a solid picture of where you are.
- Do you have proper tracking set up on all of your content? Or any of it?
- Do you have easily understandable dashboards and filters applied in Google Analytics to help you analyze your content’s performance?
If not, I’m begging you, please go do it. Talk to your data guy, your analytics person or your webmistress, whoever you need to sweet talk or bribe — do it. Need to find someone to help you outside your organization? We’re here to help, and there’s almost nothing we love more than getting down and nerdy with your tagging set up in Google Analytics.
Define the “Why” Behind Your Content
After you’ve gathered the raw data from your site and have a picture of how all of that content is performing, you can proceed with a much more robust content strategy. If, or when, it’s time to create new content, you’ll have a rough understanding of what kind of ROI you can expect on it, whether it’s a blog post or new services page, because you have the data from your site informing how similar pages have performed.
You may also discover that new content isn’t necessarily what you need. If the numbers tell a story you don’t like, then it’s a good indication that your existing content needs attention. For example, if you think you should be getting more conversions from a certain page, the contact form maybe, then it’s time to evaluate that page and see where you’re losing your audience.
Perhaps it’s a copy issue or a design hiccup, and with your tracking in place, you’ll be able to make adjustments to find out what exactly the problem is. If you’re really invested in a particular page — high conversion pages are a great example — you may want to spend some time A/B testing different elements of the copy or design to help you make the most informed decision about what resonates with — and motivates — your users.
Continue Planning For a Purposeful Content Future
Once you do your data due diligence, you can go about your content tasks with confidence, presenting plans with real dollars and revenue tied to them. Plan out your editorial calendar scheduling the most effective types of copy when your sales need the biggest boost. Leverage redesigns to dovetail with new productions and social initiatives, and spin it all in with offline and/or traditional promotions. It takes more investment on the front end, but the payoff is well worth it when you can content with a purpose.