‘If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail’
So you’ve been writing your blog posts. Creating amazing freebies. Posting on your Facebook page. Posting on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter…Giving away tons of value for free. And still…nothing happened.
Maybe it’s because you didn’t have a strategy?
Digital Content Strategy or an online Content Marketing Plan, should be a backbone of your content marketing.
Many business owners learn the importance of a Digital Content Strategy the hard way, once they have spent (wasted) a lot of time creating content that is simply not bringing results.
If you are publishing posts on your blog and social media, and not seeing the increase in sales you were hoping for – read on. And don’t worry, it’s easier than you think! 🙂
What is Digital Content Strategy?
Content marketing is promoting your business through free content. It involves the following stages: PLANNING > CREATION > PROMOTION > CONVERSION.
We will be focusing on the ‘PLANNING’ stage in this post.
Digital Content Strategy is a step-by-step, analytical plan of creating content that:
- attracts only the target audience (your potential customers)
- promotes / sells your services / products (without being salesy)
- has a specific business goal
- helps you rank your website / blog on page #1 in Google for specific keywords that your target customers are looking for;
- that drives qualified* traffic to your website
*Qualified traffic = traffic from the right audience = your potential customers
A good Digital Content Strategy should guide you through the process of not only creating content. It should also include your strategy for content promotion and conversion.
Sooo…let’s do it 😉
The steps in creating Digital Content Strategy
As you can see from my infographic above, the ‘PLANNING’ stage should consist of 7 steps:
- Deciding on your TARGET audience
- Deciding on the target client’s PROBLEM
- SOLUTION – how your product / service SOLVES that problem
- CONTENT TYPE – what kind of content your audience wants to see (blog posts, videos, photos, infographics)
- PURPOSE – what do you want to achieve with your content? (get more subscribers, website visits)
- KEYWORD research – this is actually super-important. In order to write a post that will let you rank highly in Google, you need to know:
- What your target customer is searching for to find a solution to their problem;
- How difficult it is to rank in Google for that keyword?
- Are there any less frequent synonyms you can use that will give you a chance to rank?
- Do COMPETITION research on the chosen keyword – see what your competition has already written on that point, and what other blog posts are popular on their blog
- TITLE – on the basis of your KEYWORD research, what will be the title of your blog post? What subheadings are you going to include? Basically, this will be an OUTLINE of your post.
We’ll now discuss each step in more detail, and then you can get a template 😉
Deciding on your TARGET audience
So, if you have read my DIY Marketing Guide (haven’t you?! whyyy? Come on, download it below now!) you must know that knowing exactly who your target customer is and what problems they have is the key to understanding what they are looking for, what kind of content will interest them, and ultimately convince them to read your post, and maybe even buy your product / service.
Here is an exercise from the DIY guide that will help you understand your target customer:
1. Who is your *ideal* top customer (target client 1)? Describe them in detail (age, gender, occupation, personality, interests, fears, ambitions, goals, dreams)
2. What are their biggest pain-points / problems? Choose only 2-3 most pressing problems.
a. Problem 1:
b. Problem 2:
c. Problem 3:
3. What do they need to solve these problems?
a. Solution to Problem 1:
b. Solution to Problem 2:
c. Solution to Problem 3:
4. Which of your products / services is addressing these problems?
Problem 1 –
5. How is your product / service addressing these pain-point / problem?
Problem 1 –
6. Do you have any other products / services that do not solve any of your target clients’ problems? Whose problems are they solving?
7. 6 → This is your Target Client 2.
8. Who is your Target Client 2? Describe them in detail (age, gender, occupation, personality, interests, fears, ambitions, goals, dreams)
(You can get more exercises like this from my DIY Marketing Guide – simply enter your email below and I’ll send it to you for free!)The selected Optin Cat form doesn't exist.
Deciding on the target client’s PROBLEM
After you have thought who your customer is, you need to decide on the pain point / problem they will want to solve. They will be searching for the solutions / answers on Google for sure, as anyone does these days.
Sometimes understanding your customer’s problem may be more complex than you think. If you are in your zone, it’s hard to see things from your customer’s perspective. What’s the simplest way to discover the *real* pain points your customers have?
Go on Facebook groups, forums or LinkedIn groups and ask them about the biggest pain point they have with XYZ (= something your product/service is designed to solve).
To illustrate how complex your target customer’s pain points can be, let’s have a look at the following case study.
Let’s imagine you have a software house. Your target customer is a CEO of a startup that wants to outsource the development of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product – a working prototype of your product so you can test your ideas) to a developer. They don’t have a background in IT.
What do you think your target customer’s pain point is?
- They can’t develop the MVP themselves.
If you ask the target audience in a startup Facebook group the following question though:
‘Hi Everyone! I am looking for co-founders of tech startups (app-based, SaaS) who have no background in IT. What was the biggest challenge you had in developing your product?’
…nobody will say ‘I couldn’t develop it myself’. Well, this is obvious! Instead, you will get a range of answers that will inform you about what *specific* solutions to what problems your target customer will be looking for on Google:
- I couldn’t find a technical co-founder;
- I couldn’t interview the candidates for technical co-founder because I didn’t know what questions to ask;
- I couldn’t assess the quality of the freelancers’ / agencies’/ software house proposals because of my lack of understanding of IT
- I couldn’t assess if the timescales / budget were realistic or bs
- I couldn’t control the process or quality
- I couldn’t manage the outcome etc. etc.
On the basis of such feedback alone, you can create a series of in-depth blog ‘How-to’ posts that will address these issues:
- How to find a technical co-founder;
- How to interview candidates for technical co-founders if you don’t have background in IT;
- How to assess the quality of the freelancers’ / agencies’/ software house proposals because of my lack of understanding of IT
- How to assess the timescales and budget of your MVP project if you don’t have background in IT;
- How to control the process and quality of an app development project if you don’t have background in IT;
- How manage a SaaS business if you don’t have background in IT; etc. etc.
SOLUTION – how your product / service SOLVES that problem
Now, think about the monetisation logic between your post and your product or service:
Wait, whaaat?! Monetization logic?
Dan Norris in his book ‘Content Machine’ defines monetization logic as the link between your content and your products / services that makes your readers want to buy.
This is basically presenting your product / service as one of the solutions to the particular problem you are providing in your post. We will talk more about how to present your product / service as a solution without sounding salesy later, when we talk about content creation.
For now, in the planning stage – it’s important you know in advance which of your products / services will be relevant to the pain point you will be focusing on.
CONTENT TYPE – what kind of content your audience wants to see (blog posts, videos, photos, infographic etc.)
Depending on your audience (see point 1!) you should think what type of content will be most suitable to communicate your message:
Whatever you do, I would still encourage you do use blog posts as the backbone of your content strategy. Why?
- Ownership: Unlike with social media, you own the content on your blog. Facebook (same with Instagram, can always decide to suspend your page / group for: violations, breach of terms and conditions, or whatever reason.
- Searchability: Plus, the posts you are adding on Facebook have a much lower reach and searchability due to privacy settings than your blog – it will not generate traffic from search engines, which is the most valueable type of traffic (because let’s face it: people don’t go on social media to find answers to their questions as much as they do on Google.)
- Duration: Once you have posted your content on your blog, it’s there forever (unless you take it down), it’s increasing your domain authority, and if it’s really high quality and well-optimised for SEO in terms of keywords, it will continue driving traffic for a looong time. A Facebook post has a shelf life of a few hours, or days at best.
So: Treat your blog as the backbone of your Digital Content Strategy, and your social media accounts as promotional outlets.
You can always repurpose your blog post into other forms of content (and we will be covering that as well):
- I am not going to go into details on how to *create* different types of blog posts – that is coming soon!
PURPOSE – what do you want to achieve with your content? (get more subscribers, website visits)
Depending on the purpose of your post, you should take care of setting up the right funnels (sales / email marketing funnels), calls to action and tweak the content to fit your purpose. Usually, the content will have one (or both) of the following purposes:
- promoting a specific product
- getting people to sign up to your email list
This is an important one and I will devote a separate post to it, but don’t you dare to write another blog post before you have your keywords researched and planned out! 😀
- So: you start from the beginning again: what would your target customer type into Google if they were looking for a solution to the problem you want to write about (because your content is solving it, of course) ? – write it down. This is your basic ‘long tail keyword’
- Go to KWFinder and type that keyword into the search box:
- Look at the results. Let’s say – I want this post to rank for the keyword ‘content marketing plan’:
- It looks like the ‘difficulty’ index for ‘content marketing plan’ is quite high – 54 / 100. KWFinder says it’s still ‘possible’ to rank on page #1 on Google for this, but don’t be too optimistic – it actually means impossible, at least from my experience. Especially if your domain has not been around forever and you do not have high domain authority, anything above 40 on the difficulty index will be hard to rank for.
- So what to do?! Scroll down and check if there is a synonymous long tail keyword with a lower difficulty you could use instead:
- It turns out there is: ‘Digital content strategy’ which can be used interchangeably with ‘content marketing plan’:
8. Note it down in your ‘Digital Content Strategy’ Spreadsheet (you can download one below)
! You can probably see that the difference between the two keywords lies mainly in how often they are searched for. The second of them – digital content strategy – is more niche (484 searches per month, on average), the first one on the other hand is *very popular* (1,555 searches per month). But don’t be fooled by the higher search volume – it won’t help you if you don’t rank on the #1 page in Google anyway!
Choose the niche keyword and note it down in your digital content strategy spreadsheet.
! On top of keyword research, you can also do…
Once you have decided on the shortlist of your target customer’s pain points, and keywords that are relevant to them, do type them into Google to see what your competition has already written on the topic and:
- Check which posts were most popular with the target audience (most views, likes, comments)
- Skim through the content and see what is missing from it
- OUT-WOW your competition – add
TITLE, SUBHEADINGS = YOUR OUTLINE
Once you have your keyword, it’s time to come up with a creative blog post title including it!
Wait…how to create a catchy title that will make people want to read the post?
Here are some tried & tested techniques for creating a good blog post title (you can read more about them in the DIY Marketing Guide!):
1. Element of mystery (unknown term) technique
Don’t let the cat out the bag – make sure the title contains an element of mystery, an unknown term describing a novel solution to your client’s main pain point: e.g. ‘How to lose 20 Ilb in a month with the mindfulness diet’
2. Question technique
Ask questions (but don’t overdo it – according to Tim Ferris, only about 20% of your headings should be questions). E.g. ‘Are you suffering from insomnia? The Blue Light Effect may be the cause’ – this title actually combines technique 1 and 2, using both element of mystery (unknown term) and a question.
3. Prescriptive technique
Be prescriptive, rather than descriptive & use ‘How to’: e.g. ‘Don’t want to be single anymore? On your next date, ask these questions’. This can also include the famed ‘How to…’ headlines and ‘The Ultimate Guides…’. Basically, make it clear that you’re giving your readers instructions on how to solve their problem.
4. List technique
Use lists: better still, you could have put it: ‘‘Don’t want to be single anymore? On your next date, ask these 5 questions’. Lists are a powerful pull factor because they state very specifically what the reader can expect, and break the solution to their problem into actionable steps: ‘6 natural ways to combat Chronic Fatigue’
5. Negative words / FOMO technique
Use negative words & employ FOMO: ‘Never’ ‘Stop’ ‘Avoid’ – are the perfect headline words to instil FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in any reader – ’10 things you should stop doing right now on your blog’ or ‘Avoid these 6 mistakes in your diet to lose weight once and for all’.
Once you have come up with the perfect title, it’s time for the last step of the planning stage in your Digital Content Strategy: creating an outline of your blog post.
For this, you need salient subheadings that will clearly describe the content of each paragraph. Make sure you include the long tail keyword in at least one or two subheadings per blog post for SEO purposed (we will talk about it later when we move on to the creation stage!)
For example, for this blog post, I created the following outline for myself (that I have subsequently tweaked of course, but the key points remained unchanged):
- Define your target customer(s)
- Define your customer’s painpoints
- What’s the monetisation logic? Aka – how does your service / product solve each pain point
- Content-customer fit – so what would your customer want to read about? ASK THEM!
- Check out your competition – similar posts addressing the pain points and which are the most popular (if you can see likes / reads)
- Do keyword search
- Decide on SEO titles – Ask your audience again! (in FB groups relevant to your field – I am creating a plan of my blog posts. Which of the following titles would you be most likely to read?
- Decide on content purpose
- Decide on content type
- Set a creation date
In conclusion, even though it might sound a bit daunting at first, creating your first Digital Content Strategy is easier than it seems – and it’s the only way you can really see results from your content efforts!
It really doesn’t make sense to create content that will:
- attract the wrong kind of audience ( = not your target customers)
- not have any monetisation logic and will not convert the readers into your customers, or
- will not stand a chance of ranking anywhere in google because the keywords it includes are too difficult to rank;
So…is this the end of the Digital Content Strategy?
Of course not 😉
In the next part, we will talk about content creation itself, and then about content promotion and conversion. And that will be roughly the end 😉