Building an Audience-Focused Content Strategy
Generating content that is relevant to your audience is easy; delivering unique content that actually serves its needs is significantly more difficult. That requires a content strategy.
These days, it's not enough to produce loads of content based on keyword research alone. That might have worked years ago, when Google judged a webpage's relevance and quality by keyword density. Since then, Google has revamped its algorithm and leaned on artificial intelligence to reward content that's unique, useful and engaging. Focusing on people's needs — not just their search queries — is the new goal of content marketing. And yes, there's a big difference.
Does your content strategy really speak to your audience? And, equally important, does your audience notice? Forging a content strategy that achieves these objectives will likely help all of your marketing efforts. Here, we'll review the basics for building an audience-focused content strategy.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
To build an audience-focused content strategy, you must first understand your audience. Who are they, and what do they need? What are their hardships? Why might they want your help? In terms of your content, would your audience prefer articles, blog posts, video tutorials, infographics or something else?
Listening is the key to answering these questions. Keyword research — specifically long-tailed keywords in your analytics reports — are one piece of the puzzle. There are better ways to get actual human feedback, though. Check websites such as Yelp and Reddit to see how people talk about merchants and issues in your sphere, or read your own social media comments for more insights on customers' needs and wants. Brick-and-mortar business owners can ask their employees about what's on customers' minds.
Only after you truly know your audience can you move on to the next step.
Step 2: Find Your Content Tilt
At the core of this endeavor is finding your content tilt. Don't worry if this is the first time you've heard this term — you're not alone. Your content tilt is a form of branding; it's what ultimately makes your content valuable in a way that's unique to your business. Finding your content tilt doesn't just mean pumping out articles that are relevant to your customer's needs. Rather, it's about diving deep into the core purpose of your business — thinking carefully about what makes your business remarkable — and then understanding how you'll help your customers in ways no one else can.
Want an example of a content tilt? Think of how Kelley Blue Book established itself as the go-to resource for people who want to buy or sell used cars, or how Consumer Reports became known as the authority on informative, objective reviews. For another example, go to YouTube and watch different videos of chefs demonstrating their recipes. Then, watch one clip of Nadia G's "Bitchin Kitchen." That's one heck of a content tilt!
Most businesses these days produce plenty of content. They barrage customers with online and print ads, coupons, blog posts, Facebook posts, Twitter posts, Instagram pictures, email blasts and more. And yet, still, people in business are often dissatisfied with their marketing.
That's because content without a tilt is just noise in the crowd. Find your tilt, and you've found your voice. Unlike noise, a voice can send a message.
Step 3: Set Goals
What do you hope to accomplish with your content strategy? Your answer to this question depends largely on your website or the type of business you run.
If you own a car dealership or plumbing store, then you'll probably want content that encourages people to visit your business location. If you're a real estate agent, then you might be more interested in lead-generating content that gets people to submit contact information. Nonprofit organizations might want content that brings in donations or helps build donor lists. Or, your content might be a digital appetizer, carefully prepared to make customers sign up for more.
Defining your goals is much easier than learning your audience and content tilt. It's just as crucial, though. Why waste time on content that doesn't bring success?
Step 4: List Your Content Ideas
Now you can start brainstorming. Start an ongoing list of content ideas that fit your goals, your tilt and your audience's needs. This is the perfect time to revisit your website's analytics data to see whether any of your long-tailed keywords could be rolled into strong content pieces.
As you build out your list, make sure you have enough content variety to address your audience's various needs. Whenever uncertain, try this — make a list of the five most important needs you'd like to address, and then make columns for each need alongside your list of ideas. Then, for each idea, make an "x" in each column where the need is satisfied. When finished, a quick glance will show whether your content list neglects any needs from your audience.
Step 5: Make an Editorial Calendar
Benjamin Franklin once said, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." That adage applies to many things, including content strategies. Make an editorial calendar that schedules the production and launch of your content to best suit your goals.
Step 6: Production
Content creation is rarely easy, but it's easier once you've cultivated an audience-focused content strategy. Don't get lazy, though! Put careful thought into all your content, even with simple social media posts. Strive to adhere to your content calendar. If you can't meet your predetermined deadlines, either rework your calendar or consider getting help. It's vital to establish a regular flow to your content updates - without that, people won't learn to look your way for relevant, new information.
Also, don't stray from your content tilt. Doing so can be tempting, especially when your content list is short on new ideas. That's why you must always think ahead. Veering from your content tilt can soften your voice and muddy your brand, and the content you produce will likely fall between unremarkable and worthless. You can do better.
An audience-focused content strategy will make all of your marketing efforts more remarkable, useful and helpful for your brand. From an SEO standpoint, an audience-focused strategy is a must for businesses facing stiff competition in search engine rankings. Cultivating this focus takes research and discipline, and it's an ongoing effort, but it's one that pays off in the long run.
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Phil is Founder and COO of Main Street ROI. Phil leads the company’s operations and is primary creator of Main Street ROI’s marketing training programs. He is an expert in search engine marketing, website analytics, and sales funnel optimization. Phil’s marketing thought leadership has been published on Forbes.com, Inc.com, MSN.com, and many other major business media outlets.
Phil earned his Master of Engineering Management degree from Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business and his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Engineering degrees from Dartmouth College. While attending Dartmouth, Phil started every game on the varsity football team as the defensive safety.