So how can a content strategy make you more effective in your business?

Let me ask you this (potentially ridiculous) question first…

Would you build a house without a plan?

No, right?

So consider for a moment that your blog, which sits on your website, is your online house.

It’s the place that people (potential clients or customers) come to visit. It’s also the place that transactions occur and where you make money, increase your impact and influence and share your great gifts to the world.

So why wouldn’t you have a plan for your online property (blog) like you would for your house?

Hold that thought.

So you’ve taken the big jump into the world of blogging for your business (go you!).

You’ve chosen your blogging platform, you’ve picked out a catchy domain name and you’ve made your site look as attractive as possible. That’s the easy part.

You’ll soon find out that as a small business there are a number of challenges you’ll encounter along the way to turning your blog into a sales and marketing machine for your products or services.

Let’s take a look at the 5 common challenges that small business owners encounter with blogging for business.

Common challenges with content marketing

1. Scheduling

Do you know often you should be posting on your blog? Will you just write when you have free time? But when do you ever have free time?

via GIPHY

2. Time 

As with all small businesses – you are squeezed for time. It’s just not possible to take hours out of your “chocka block” super busy day to create content.

Time is a tricky one – too many small businesses launch their blog and really underestimate how much time it takes to create good content.

You know the old saying, “time is money”?

Well this is true and you probably don’t want to waste either time or money.

3. Budget 

So not only is your time tight, but your budget is even tighter.

Developing good content, you know the stuff that people actually want to read, doesn’t come cheap.

First of all you’ll need writers, and then a graphic designer and maybe some budget to promote your blog and and and…

We get it, there’s no budget to waste.

4. Consistency

Here you’ll start wondering what you’ll actually write about? Who will read your blog posts? Why should they read your posts? What is the common thread that’ll run through your posts?

What theme, style, tone, visuals will best reflect your brand and build familiarity for your readers?

How often will you publish and promote your content and stay front of mind for your target audience and build trust and rapport with them?

What’s going to keep your readers coming back for more?

As Problogger’s Darren Rowse put it,

“Regular readers of a blog overtime take on a sense of ownership of a blog and subscribe because they like what they see. When you chop and change your writing to emulate and please others you’ll end up disillusioning and confusing the people who make your blog what it is (your readers).”

So you want to be consistent.

5. Quality

Think about a blog that you absolutely love reading and subscribe to…

  • What stands out about it?
  • Would you say that the blog posts are low quality or high quality?
  • How’s the tone and voice of the writing?
  • Does the blog engage you with eye-catching visuals, catchy headlines, and insightful material that educates, informs and entertains you?
  • What’s the typical length of the posts – short or long? 
  • Does it read well, look good?
  • Is it easy to read
  • Did you first come across it via a Google search i.e. is it optimised for search engines (SEO)?
  • Furthermore, is it optimised for an enjoyable reading experience? (for humans!)

Now think about your own audience…

What will make people want to read your blog?

You need to spend time making sure it’s high quality, but there’s that issue of time again!

Nobody wants to read a post that was thrown together at the last minute… would you?

Five reasons why you should develop your content strategy before you start writing

So how do you deal with all of the above challenges, you ask?

The answer – your content strategy!

Think of your content strategy as your plan of attack. It outlines what will you say, when will you say it and how will you say it. A solid content strategy right from the get-go will help to ensure you’re a blogging success.

So before you put fingers to keys, have a look at these five reasons why you should develop your content strategy before you start writing

(these might look familiar to you, and that’s deliberate…)

1. Scheduling

Developing your content strategy allows you to plan a schedule. This means you can plan when you’ll post blogs and the topic of each post far in advance. As a result you can also plan your resources – money, time and people – accordingly.

You don’t want to go months without posting a blog, but you also don’t want to bombard your readers with too much content.

The key is to ensure that your blog posts are well spaced to spark interest and maintain it. You want to keep your readers coming back for more, so keep them interested with regular and relevant posts.

The key when developing your schedule is to set deadlines. Have a goal to work towards and you’ll surprise yourself with how well you can stick to it!

2. Time Management

Your content strategy should provide a brief outline for each blog post. If you have an outline, and you know the structure of your post, you’ll be able to get it written much quicker.

You can also plan some time for proofreading yourself before handing it off to be proofread. This will also reduce the amount of time that your posts spend in the editing phase.

There’s a constant tension between quality versus output, so having a plan allows you to manage that tension better and prioritise better.

Having a plan of attack also means you won’t be scrambling to get your posts done at the last minute. You know good content takes time, so give yourself time to create the best content you can.

3. Stick within your means

Having a content strategy will help you to plan your budget accordingly. We know there’s no budget to waste, so allocating resources from the get-go is really important.

If there’s a series of posts that you need to outsource, schedule this into the budget.

If you send all your posts to be proofread before they’re posted, or to get nice visuals created to complement the text and make it pop, you need to budget for this.

Knowing how much you’re investing into each blog post will help you to stick within your means. It’s a marketing expense, and an investment, so you need to view it as such.

4. Consistency is key  

Not only do you need to be consistent in the timing of your blog, content consistency is equally important. You need to produce consistent content that supports the goals of your blog. Don’t be one of those small business owners that fall into the inconsistency trap!

If you are consistently producing content on a specific topic you can become a reputable source of information on the topic. You don’t want to confuse your readers and you want to ensure that you’re pushing a consistent message to your readers.

The content marketing pyramid

The Content Marketing Pyramid (created by Curata)speaks about the importance of reinforcing consistent and focused messages, and provides a framework for creating content that serves your business objectives.

A Content Marketing Pyramid is defined as:

“The development of content and related assets intended to reinforces common messages/themes through multiple content formats, distribution methods and promotion channels across owned, earned and paid media.
to
Each pyramid consists of Core Content (the heaviest, most valuable asset, which is based upon thought leadership, primary and/or secondary research) and the corresponding Derivative Assets and Promotional Micro-Content.”

As you can see from this diagram, the pyramid consists of 5 levels of content:
Content Marketing Pyramid
 (Content Marketing Pyramid source: www.curata.com)

To summarise the 5 levels of content in the model:

  • Level 1 – Core content: In-depth, original and well-researched or insightful pieces that act as assets for your business. Typically this level of content requires people to “opt in” to your mailing list to receive access to it. Eg. print books, ebooks, and guides.
  • Levels 2, 3 – Derivative assets: This content takes chunks of information from the Core content and goes deeper into each sub-topic or theme. The purpose of this content is engage people and lead them to the core content. This content does not require opting it for people to access it, which also increases its shareability. Eg. long form blog posts, slideshares and infographics.
  • Level 4 – Contributed Derivative assets: This is more frequent content and guest blog posts that you create on other people’s’ websites. This is the key to spreading your message and reaching external audiences to drive people back to your own core content and generate leads.
  • Level 5 – Promotional micro-content: This is smaller content that you use to increase awareness and consumption of your higher level content. Eg. Social media posts and curated content.

Here’s a handy table that clarifies the different levels and types of content you’d produce at each level:

Content marketing pyramid

(Source: Curata)

Don’t believe me when I say consistency is key?

Meet our awesome client Meryl Johnston.

Meryl Johnston testimonial

Meryl was interested in content marketing and decided to try out her hand at content development for her business, Bean Ninjas, blog. She tried a bunch of different posts, but wasn’t getting the results that she wanted. With her growing business, her content development soon became a sporadic, when-I-have-time thing.

Meryl finally made the decision to have a documented content strategy, which created a vision, a plan and a key theme for her blog.

Meryl outsourced much of this process to our team and couldn’t be more pleased with the results. She now has a team of writers that handle the majority of the content creation process for her, saving her a tonne of time.

The Bean Ninja’s blog now produces high quality content on a consistent basis. This gives Meryl more time to focus on the core aspects of her business. The numbers really speak for themselves, with Meryl doubling her website traffic in only 4 months!

An example of how Meryl applied the content marketing pyramid framework:

Core Content (Level 1):
Bean Ninjas Ultimate Xero Starter Checklist for Small Business graphic

Bean Ninjas Core Content example: Downloadable PDF Checklist

Derivative asset (Level 2,3,4):

Long form blog post – 8 things most people forget with their Xero setup

Promotional micro-content (Level 5): 

Sharing on Twitter:

 

5. Develop quality content

Keeping your blog updated with content is one thing, but keeping your blog updated with good quality content is a whole new ball game.

Using your content strategy to plan your posts, means that you have more time to create high quality content.

You need to make sure that your posts are easy to read, that they look good and most importantly that they’re optimised for SEO.

Mapping out your SEO keywords before you start writing helps to focus your posts. There are some great free tools to help you do this too.

Ideally, you’re writing about something that you’re passionate about. It’s the first thing you want to talk about in the morning and the last thing that you want to discuss at night.

Be original, be creative and make sure that you’re writing something that you’d be excited to read.

6. BONUS TIP (because it’s *that* important): Promoting your content

Another key reason to invest your time into developing a content strategy is that you are able to plan how you’re going to promote your content ahead of time. This means that your team won’t be stuck trying to guess how to promote your content.

Remember, successful content really is 20% creation and 80% promotion. (You might want to allocate your content marketing budget that way too.)

As Rand Fishkin of Moz.com puts it,

“Promotion is the step where most companies fail at content marketing.” 

You can write amazing content, but if you aren’t actively promoting it, how will your readers find it?

You know the old adage, if a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it really make a sound? Well this is kind of the same thing. If you write great content, but nobody can find it and read it, is it really great?

You need a plan of attack (and you too could experience Meryl’s blogging success!)

Now most businesses will share their content on their social channels, and maybe their email newsletter, but that’s where their content promotion efforts stop.

Now if you’ve got a wide audience already then that will work great, but if your intention is to get new readers to your blog and site then you’ll need to look at additional ways of promoting your content such as content amplification through paid social ads eg. facebook, linkedin or twitter advertising.

There’s also getting your content in front of influencers such as journalists and respected people in your industry with large followings.

Here’s a helpful video on how to get content in front of influencers:

The final word on the importance of having a content strategy…

You need to create a vision for your blog and you need to ensure that you’re producing quality content consistently. You need to have the end goal in mind in order to make your blog successful.

Just as you, or a capable architect, would draw up a plan and design for your dream home to ensure that what is built is actually what you want.

Your content strategy really is the key to being successful with your blog and content!

So, I’m hoping that by now you’ve realised that “winging it” is not an effective way to make your blog and content work for your business.

Grab our free 1-page canvas now & come up with a blogging plan for your business in just 10 minutes. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll get you started and moving in the right direction i.e. building a blog that helps grow your business. Once you’ve used the canvas to work out your business and blogging objectives, then you can apply the content marketing pyramid framework above to clarify what content you should be creating next.

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