Almost everyone these days acknowledges that quality content writing is needed to improve search engine rankings and conversion rate. As a very small-time content writer and content marketer, the quality of content assignments that I get these days has markedly improved. Even my clients from India are sometimes ready to pay the price that I ask because I know that what I provide can help them improve their business.
It shows that more clients now have a clearer perspective of how important content writing is for their business.
But there are very few who think about content writing in terms of strategy. Without strategy, you are simply publishing content hoping that writing about certain topics will help you improve your search engine rankings and if you can improve your search engine rankings, getting more business is a natural next step.
It is not.
The above link also reveals that whereas 89% B2B marketers use content marketing (use content to promote their business, in our case, content writing), only 37% organizations use documented content marketing strategy.
This number might be according to the target audience of Content Marketing Institute, the generic status is much worse.
Just because you have improved your search engine rankings doesn’t mean you’re going to get more business. This is because business doesn’t depend on how many people you can get to your website. Business depends on how many people you can convince into doing business with you.
And this job happens on your website. The way your content delivers your message.
In fact, if you take into consideration the RankBrain algorithm, these days even your search engine rankings depend on how people engage with your content when they are already on your website.
For more information on how RainkBrain analyses your content, you may like to read How to write content for the Google RankBrain System.
What does strategy mean?
There are many definitions of strategy on the Internet, but the closest definition that is relevant to our topic goes something like this:
The art and science of planning and marshalling resources for their most efficient and effective use.
Even this is not a full definition in the current context., I would also like to add
The art and science of knowing exactly what you want to achieve, knowing what resources you have at hand, and then planning and marshalling these resources for their most efficient and effective use.
Content writing and the concept of strategy
According to the current definition of strategy, the resource here is content writing.
You may think why I’m just writing about content writing and not content in general because when you want to use content marketing, there can be various sorts of content, and I totally agree.
But for this blog post, I just want to focus on content writing because this is what I provide, currently.
So, the resource that we have is content writing.
How do we use this resource to accomplish what we want to accomplish?
What do you want to accomplish?
Through content writing you want to accomplish two things:
- Improve your search engine rankings to increase targeted traffic to your website.
- Improve the conversion rate of your website.
Both these are very important and there is no use focusing on one and neglecting the other.
Where does strategy come in?
Strategy in the context of content writing means
- Knowing what sort of content you should be writing/publishing.
- Knowing what format is most suitable to draw targeted traffic to your website – general website pages, informative articles, blog posts, social media updates, guest blog posts, email campaigns, e-books, white papers, slides, PDFs, and so on.
- Knowing what channels to use to promote your content.
- Knowing what people should do once they are on your website, what path they should follow.
The biggest attribute of strategy is knowing what you are doing, what you should be doing, and what the outcome is going to be.
Similarly, when you are publishing a blog post, you should know exactly what you are trying to achieve. You should know what sort of people are going to read it, how they are going to interpret it and what they’re going to do after reading it.
Goals and KPIs for strategic content writing
Goals and KPIs are different.
Goals are normally long-term. You want to get more business. You want to generate more ad revenue. You want to get more subscribers to your newsletter. You want to achieve your sales goals for the chosen region.
Goals take place in months, even years.
KPIs – key performance indicators – are, as the name suggests, indicators.
They tell you how your content is performing.
Is your search engine traffic for the intended keywords and search terms increasing day by day?
Has the frequency with which people subscribe to your newsletter improved ever since you published those five blog posts?
Are more people using your contact form?
Key performance indicators tell you if you are moving in the right direction with your content writing. Unless you get more targeted traffic you can’t know whether your content is performing well or not (simply getting traffic isn’t performing, getting new business is).
Web analytics, strategy and content writing
Content writing with strategy is incomplete without web analytics. Having hard data is very essential to a successful content writing strategy.
Web analytics tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics (I’m mentioning just these two because they are free but very potent) can tell you what sort of traffic your content is drawing.
If you want to try out a paid traffic analytics tool, these days I’m using LongtailPro. You may like to read Why I’m recommending LongtailPro to my clients.
LongtailPro tells you which longtail keywords you should target (according to the authority of your own website) and it also tracks the current position of your individual keywords – how much higher and lower they have moved compared to the previous positions.
This can help you streamline your content writing.
These tools will also tell you how much time people spend on your website. They tell you what web pages and blog posts they visit once they have entered your website through a web page or a blog post.
Suppose there is a web page (or URL) that draws lots of traffic from Google but people don’t stay on the web page for more than three seconds. They immediately leave.
Then there is something really wrong with this web page even if it enjoys higher search engine rankings. More than doing good, it is doing harm to your cause because it is telling more people why they should leave your website and why it is not relevant to what they’re looking for.
It also begins to negatively affect your search engine rankings because when people leave your website after immediately finding it on Google, the Google algorithm begins to “think” that the website is being ranked higher for wrong reasons and it doesn’t deserve to be there, and consequently, that particular link begins to lose its place in the search.
There is a reason why sometimes your content writing is directionless – there is no strategy
When you have a clearly drawn out strategy, you know why you should be writing. There is no ambiguity. There is no throwing of darts in the dark.
When you have a strategy, you know why each page, each blog post exists. You want to deliver a definitive message. When you are sure, it shows through your writing.
In the lack of a strategy, you are not only spending more effort on writing content that isn’t benefiting your business, if you are working with a content writer or a content writing agency, you’re also wasting money.
How to quickly create a content writing strategy
A strategy can be as complex as you want, and as simple as you want. It depends on your business size and the goals you are aspiring to achieve.
What about creating a quick content writing strategy?
When my clients ask me to help them come up with content writing ideas I ask them first to make a list of issues they would like to cover through publishing content on their website or blog. A list of questions they would like to answer. A list of ways they can help their customers and clients.
What helps them stand apart?
Naturally most of the clients want to improve their search engine rankings so, keywords are very important.
Improving search engine rankings is one of the topmost priorities when businesses approach me so when they are preparing a list of issues that they want to cover, I try to cover as many keywords and search terms as possible.
Every piece of content these days must have a clearly-defined objective, if you want to get good search engine rankings.
When you are covering a topic, cover it from all angles. Give it all you have got. Deliver something that people cannot get from other websites.
Every web page and blog post that you publish must have objectives like
- Group of keywords to cover
- Message to deliver
- People to target
- What people should do after reading it
Once you have these objectives in front of you when writing content, your writing becomes clear and your bounce rate comes down.
When you have covered everything that currently comes to your mind you will have a good collection of web pages for search engines to crawl and index.
Remember that you want to keep your content relevant to the keywords and search terms you are trying to optimize your website for, because you don’t want people to think that you are misleading them into visiting your website.
As you have more and more web pages and blog posts, you will have more content to link to from within your newer pages.
You also want to focus on quality and purposefulness because you want the others to link to your content.
Focus on creating topic clusters. A topic cluster is a very comprehensive web page or blog post where you have completely, and I mean really completely, covered a topic. A topic cluster web page or blog post easily consists of 3000-4000 words.
Of course, you cannot just fill up bigger web pages and blog posts with random text, it is not going to help you. Only create such clusters when you have enough information to deliver.
Here are some immediate steps you can take to create a content writing strategy:
What is the bigger objective you are aiming for?
I know, the most obvious question, but many people who want to use content to create an online presence, have no clear idea of what their bigger objective is.
Your “bigger” objective is of course a situation where your business does well, and you make lots of money. But this is not an objective for your content writing strategy, it is just a life-related objective.
Clearly define the persona you are going to target
Who are the people who can benefit the most from your content? Why?
Persona is also known as “buyer persona”.
You write content for a defined set of people, who would appreciate what you are doing and who would someday become your customers and clients.
Have you ever done a LinkedIn search? Their interface very nicely allows you to define the personae of people you would like to search. For example, you can target your searches by (or by multiple combinations)
- By region
- By language
- By industry (content marketing, real estate, pharmaceuticals, business consulting, and so on)
- By designation/title (CEO, project manager, consultant, speaker)
- By gender
There are many other attributes you can use to find conacts in your search. The more targeted you get, the better and precise are your results.
In the same manner you can define a persona before starting to write content for your business and then whenever you are writing content, keep these personae in front of you.
You may like to read Content marketing is basically P2P.
Audit your existing content
Why is it an important part of your content writing strategy?
If you already have lots of content and when you were writing (or getting it written) that content you were not very aware of the need to create optimized, targeted and high-conversion content. That content is just lying around achieving little or even nothing.
But it may have great potential once you have revised it for better search engine rankings and better conversion. This content is something that you already have. It is always better to audit your existing content before going for new content.
Define KPIs specific to your business needs
The key performance indicators tell you how effective your content writing is. Before beginning to write content for your website or blog, make note of the following:
- Bounce rate – how much time people currently spend on your website
- Web page engagement rate – for how long people stay on individual web pages
- Email subscribers – how many email subscribers you currently have
- Overall search engine rankings – if you plan to aim for certain keywords and search terms you should note down their current rankings, otherwise, you can note the overall rankings of your website
- Conversion rate – how many people do business with you among all the people who come to your website
It’s only when you know where you are currently that you know where you’re going to be in future. After a few months of regular, strategic content writing on your website or blog, you can revisit these KPIs and see if there is an improvement.
Remember that different businesses may have different KPI requirements. For example, for some businesses, getting new email subscribers is more important than improving their bounce rate or their search engine rankings (although, everything is interrelated). So, define your KPIs according to your specific long-term business goals.
Focus on creating topic clusters and content pillars
Coming back to topic clusters, Google loves authoritative, comprehensive content. No matter how good and relevant to your content is, if it is just 300-400 words, it is not going to be able to compete with web pages and blog posts 2000-3000 words long.
It doesn’t mean you can fill up 2000-3000-word web pages and blog posts with trash – these bigger web pages and blog posts need to be packed with relevant and useful information. Quality can never be compromised.
Remember that no matter how much content you publish and how well you write, ultimately it all boils down to how people react to your content.
If your visitors don’t find your content useful, they’re not going to spend much time on your website and if they don’t spend much time, Google thinks that you are not publishing relevant content.
It might not be easy to create comprehensive topic clusters and content pillars every week. Maybe you can target one such piece for every month.
Repurposing your existing content
Although this current blog post primarily focuses on writing content, content these days exists in numerous forms. You have textual content, video content, audio content, slides, images, infographics, GIFs – and many more formats.
You don’t need to focus on every existing format because you may not have your audience using that format. But you will need to find out all possible formats consumed by your audience.
For example, maybe your audience prefers infographics. If you have blog posts, web pages and articles that contain lots of information around a theme, you can re-purpose these blog posts, web pages and articles and create infographics out of them.
If you have lots of instructional content, maybe you can create YouTube videos out of this content? What about slides? What about combining 15-20 blog posts into an e-book?
Is creating a content writing strategy worth your time?
A long time back I remember we used to tell a joke: there is this man who is running with his bike. On his way someone asks him why doesn’t he climb up his bike and ride it instead of running with it? This way he will reach his destination faster. He says he doesn’t have enough time to stop and get onto the bike.
The same sort of state of affairs exists with content writing strategy. While you are spending all that money and time on writing content without a strategy, you can take a breather and start working on a strategy. It may take a month to figure things out, but when you eventually start publishing your content, it will be more effective.