16 July 2018 12 simple steps to a successful content strategy

You have it all: a website, email newsletters, social media, but something’s not right. You’re not getting your message across. You’re struggling to meet deadlines. Your content is all over the shop. 

What you need is a content strategy.


1. What is the problem?

Websites, internal communications, social media and other channels are running rampant. There’s no overarching strategy to manage your content or any way of knowing what you have. 

A good starting point is to find out:

  • What websites, email newsletters and social media do you currently have?
  • Which do you no longer use?
  • What are the connections between, and the purpose of these channels?
  • Who owns, creates and publishes content?
  • Who you think the users are?
  • Are there other content formats such as books and leaflets?

2. What are your business goals?

What is your core vision? Is this something everyone in your organisation is trying to achieve? Do they know how it fits into the individual projects they are working on? What tactics are in place to help everyone integrate and achieve those goals?

If that’s too challenging, think about it in other ways:

What do you want to communicate through your key messages?

  • Do you have business priorities, and what are your business challenges and problems?
  • How do you measure success?
  • What is your investment in digital?


3. Who are your users and what do they want?

Do you have a clear picture of your users? Do you know what they want? If you answered no to either of those, you might need to do some research:

  • Who are our users?
  • What do they want?
  • What problems do we need to solve for them through content?

The better you understand your users, the more likely you will build a website or service that works for them.

Find out what users want. Create and structure your content to suit their needs.


4. What does your content look like right now?

Get down and dirty with the content currently on your website, your email newsletters and your social media. Start by answering the following:

  • How much content do you have?
  • Where is it all?
  • Do you know who owns the content?
  • What type of content is it?
  • When was it last updated?
  • How much traffic is there to this content?


5. How to measure your success

To measure the success of your activities, set goals and objectives against which to test your strategy. 

Having a vision and mission statement coupled with your goals is helpful. The happy formula combines your business needs with your user needs. This will set you up to develop the goals and objectives of your content strategy.

Some principles to consider:

  • What are the goals for your content?
  • What measures and metrics will you use?
  • How will you test your content?
  • What are the baselines of success?


6. Who is in charge of content?

Sometimes it’s not clear who owns what content. Set up a content governance model to align with the goals of your content strategy. Content creators may not always know or be aware of their area of responsibility. Be clear about quality standards, who owns the content and who does what.

Govern your content appropriately: 

  • Put a content governance model in place
  • It’s important that everyone in your organisation is aligned on this model
  • Ensure that everyone understands their role in the content strategy process
  • Sometimes your people need upskilling. Send them back to the classroom.


7. Remove content

This is a good time to remove redundant and out-of-date content. Reduce clutter so that users can find what they need.

The five-step content removal strategy:

  1. Get approval to remove
  2. Create a removal plan
  3. Record and archive content
  4. Remove content from the web
  5. Decommission or remove a website.


8. Is your architecture in need of renovation?

Now that you’ve found all your content creators, implemented a governance model and cleaned out old content, consider the structure of your remaining and new content. 

Refresh your site’s information architecture:

  • Organise it so users can find what they're looking for
  • Highlight content so users can discover new and relevant things
  • Streamline the information architecture to make life simpler for everyone
  • Test the information architecture to make sure it works.


9. What does a search engine look for?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) helps the right users find the right content on your website. SEO can create a better user experience and a better source of online traffic. But how?

A search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo searches and scans website content across the internet. Then it ranks and displays results in order of relevance to your users’ search queries. 

Google has the most influence in the SEO space, and other search engines tend to follow their lead. In the past, Google SEO was all about keywords. This led to the practice of keyword stuffing as people tried to get their content to rank highly in search results, which in turn led to lower quality results clogging searches. 

Google SEO has since moved on from a focus on keywords to more subtle algorithms that favour high-quality, user-centred content. This doesn’t mean you can’t include relevant keywords in your content! It just means that if you understand your user’s needs and you’re designing your content to meet them, you can’t go wrong. 

Some good tips for SEO are provided by the Australian Government’s digital guides as well as Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.  


10. Putting out an editorial guide

It’s a pleasure to read well-produced content. Not only is it stylish, it also makes it easier to understand your business and what you’d like users to do on your website.

Good content requires a little love and attention from your writers and editors. Make it easy for them with an editorial guide that includes:

  • Your organisation’s content writing style
  • The voice and tone you want to convey to your users
  • The essentials of spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Terms and phrases relevant to your organisation
  • Some formatting guidelines
  • Guidelines around creating accessible content.


11. When are you going to do all of this?

Well done on reading this far! Implementing a content strategy might sound a little daunting, but if you approach each step one at a time, defining the activity as you go, you’ll be fine. Try this approach:

  • What exactly is the activity?
  • Why does it need to be done?
  • What skills do you or your staff need to get this activity done?
  • Who needs to be involved? Do you need to employ external specialists, or can everything be managed by internal staff?
  • How long do you need for each activity?
  • When do you think it needs to be done by?
  • What are the dependencies?


12. What are your next steps?

Think about what you need and what you can manage. Inform yourself, particularly if some of the terms and activities are new to you. Perhaps you can start with a small part of your website, like the home page and the next level down. If you see some quick wins, do those first.

This article was written with reference to the very useful Digital Transformation Agency Content Strategy Guide.