Planning Your Content Marketing Strategy

How effective is your content marketing strategy? Are you worried that potential customers might not find your business when searching online? As a business owner you invest time and money into your online presence, so that customers will find you and buy your products or services. You want to appear at the top of the search results for your keywords, but most web pages remain largely ignored in the mass of results.

Planning Your Content Marketing Strategy

What Google Wants

Although there are other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo, most people focus their resources on trying to attract organic traffic through Google search. Therefore, it is important to consider what Google is looking for when they rank web pages. You should also remember that webpages are ranked, rather than entire websites. Therefore, internal pages might rank higher than the home page, for relevant keyword searches.

In simple terms Google wants to help people find the best possible result for any search. Rather than trying to trick search engines, it is better to provide them with what they want. This involves giving people good quality relevant content and helping the Google algorithm to understand the subject matter of your web pages. A good onsite experience, which engages with your target audience, encouraging them to subscribe and join your mailing list, could help you to build a good online presence.

Content Marketing Strategy

When setting up a new website, you will probably invest considerable time and resources into design and functionality. However, before you begin the website design and development process, you should plan a content marketing strategy. Have a clear idea of what you want the website to achieve and understand your target audience. Carry out any necessary research and find suitable content, such as text and images.

Having gathered together your content, you should design the web page so that it will attract your target audience and be understood by Google. For example, use a good title and page description. This could encourage people to click on the link to your page, when they see it in the search results. Within the webpage, use heading tags to organise and prioritise content and make use of short paragraphs, so that text is easy to read on mobile devices.

When planning the structure of your website, think carefully about navigation and hierarchy. The URL (uniform resource locator) of each web pages should be search engine friendly and describe the page content. After launching your website, monitor the performance of content in terms of visitor traffic and engagement. Software such as Google Analytics enables you to find information such as the geographic location of site visitors, the page they land on, their onsite activity and where they exit your site.

Keyword Research

During the planning stage of your website, keyword research is an important part of the content marketing strategy. Using online tools, such as the Google Keyword Planner, could help you to find the search volume of relevant keywords and phrases. Ask yourself what your target audience might type into a search engine when looking for the information they will find on your web pages. Creating personas for site visitors can assist this process.

Define a different main keyword for each webpage and ensure these occur naturally within the content that you write. Keywords could also be used in pages titles, descriptions, headings, sub-heading and image alt text. You might be inspired to write articles or blog posts on a particular topic, if you find that your target audience frequently searches for answers to particular questions.

The web page title and description appear in search results and should therefore be given due consideration. They tell people and search engines what a page is about and should accurately reflect the content they will find. You should use titles which are attention grabbing, descriptive and include the main keyword or phrase. Do not overuse keywords. They should be included naturally within a web page and increase how well the page delivers what people want.

Search Engine Optimisation

There is much discussion of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) techniques that could be employed to help web pages rank highly in SERPs (search engine results pages). Although some of these approaches have worked in the past, Google updates have meant that they were often not long term solutions. In some cases old approaches to SEO eventually lead to websites losing, rather than gaining traffic.

Google does not reveal the details of how their search engine works. However, they do provide recommendations about best practice, which you should follow. Factors influencing web page rank include; content quality and age, usability, backlinks from authority sites, internal links, outbound link quality, domain history and page speed. The importance of different factors can change over time. However, if you get the basics right when planning your content marketing strategy, then you should benefit long term.

Some people might promise quick results with SEO. However, if you want to build long term success online, you should follow best practice. Give people what they want and help search engines to understand the content of each webpage. Search engines are then more likely to rank your content highly for relevant keywords and phrases. People who find your content will also be more likely to share your content.

Domain Name History

Choice of a suitable domain name for your website is an important decision when planning your content marketing strategy. Short keyword rich names are often already registered and either unavailable or expensive to purchase from their current owners. Many businesses opt for a made up brand able domain name or something which combines their business name and a descriptive key word. You could create a list of possible domain names and ask other people for their opinions.

If the domain name that you use for your website has not previously been registered, then you are starting with a clean slate. The Google algorithm will have no negative or positive opinion, until you establish the reputation through you’re your own new website. Be patient, as it can take several months for the pages of a new website to begin ranking for keywords in the search results.

Before registering a domain name, or if you are considering purchasing one that someone else has already registered, you should carry out some research into its history. You could begin by using a website such as archive.org, where you could find out how a domain name was used in the past. If a domain was previously used for a website that Google ranked highly this might be beneficial. However, if a domain name was previously penalised for some reason this could cause you problems.

Website Hosting

Even the best designed website with wonderful content will suffer if it is slow and unreliable. The server on which you host your website can affect the speed and reliability of your site. Performance and security of a website can affect user experience and how well web pages rank in search results. Therefore, when choosing a hosting platform for your website you should look at their service level agreements (SLAs).

Whether you decide to use a shared hosting platform, VPS (virtual private server) or dedicated server might be influenced by your budget. However, you should consider the nature of your website and expected traffic levels. For example, a busy eCommerce website might need to be on a VPS or dedicated server, whilst shared hosting might suit a small brochure site.

Find a host offering good value for money and one recommended by sources whose opinion you trust. Consider factors such as page speed, uptime and responsiveness of customer support. Be aware of the length of any contract before you sign, along with termination rights and any additional costs that might arise in the future. Be prepared to move your website to a new host if necessary. You might also prefer to have your domain name registration and website hosting with different companies.

Content and Reputation

Before you begin creating a webpage, you should have a clear idea of the subject matter and target audience of the page. Gather together relevant content, such as text, images and video, along with references to relevant supporting data. The reputation of the page author can also be a ranking factor. You should therefore include relevant social media links and information in the about page, such as experience in an industry related to the subject matter.

People will often look for and value information provided by someone with experience in what they are writing about. Therefore, when you write on a topic that you have or can acquire knowledge and experience, you are more likely to find a receptive audience. As your reputation is established other people might begin to refer to you as an expert or thought leader in your particular field.

When planning your content marketing strategy, consider where your main audience is located. Post fresh content, such as blog posts, at a time when they are likely to be receptive. Doing so each week or month on the same day and at the same time, could encourage your audience to look forward to the next post. Content which includes information that changes over time, such as news, sports and travel advice, should be regularly updated.

Backlinks

When planning your content marketing strategy, acquiring backlinks might be among your key objectives. However, although backlinks from authority websites can benefit your site, you should not worry about chasing them and avoid link sharing schemes. Focus on providing good quality content that attracts relevant traffic. This could lead to people naturally sharing and linking to your content. You could also engage constructively with relevant websites, by for example offering to write guest blog posts on topics of interest to their readers.

Web Page Performance

When someone clicks on a link in the SERPs and visits a webpage, Google measures how they use the page, as a factor towards evaluating page relevance and quality. For example, how long does the visitor remain on the page and what link do they click on next. Does their behaviour indicate they are satisfied with what they found, or do they quickly leave your page to find better content somewhere else? You should also test the performance of your website using a variety of mobile and desktop devices.

The position of webpages can rise or fall in SERPs, as Google determines their relevance and quality. Rather than worrying about this, you should focus on attracting your target audience and giving them good quality content. Apply the results of your keyword research, follow best practice regarding the design of your website and carry out suitable onsite and offsite marketing. Over time this should deliver increasing levels of traffic to your web pages.

Writing for Search

When searching online using text people expect to receive results ranked according to relevance to their search terms and the quality of the landing pages. People often prefer to have alternatives to choose from, though most will visit pages listed on the first page of search results. They might visit several websites and compare products and services, until they find what they are looking for.

Some people enjoy exploring the Internet, to find original content, special offers and information that they might not otherwise have found. They might follow hyperlinks to content that attracts their attention and you should therefore ensure that you use good headline and descriptive text. Ask yourself what people who land on one of your web pages is hoping to achieve and give them what they want.

When you are writing content, text should be written in a clear natural style that is easy for people to follow. You could make content more digestible, by breaking information into short blocks of text with relevant headings and highlighting important information. People often use short phrases when searching for something and your text should include them, as a natural part of the content and because they add value and clarity.

Voice Search

Increasingly people are navigating the online world by asking digital assistants for answers to questions. For example, recommendations of where to go, what to do and what to buy. When creating content you should consider when, where and why people might be using voice search. For example, they might be doing other things at the same time, such as preparing a meal, socialising, shopping or planning a holiday.

As with text search, voice search depends upon search engine algorithms finding relevant keywords and ranking the best available content. Often people use voice search to find local information, particularly if they are on the move, so if your business serves a local area this should be reflected in the content. Think in terms of the questions that people might ask and what would be a suitable reply, such as referring to a well-known landmark when giving directions.

The principles of responsive mobile design, good quality content, use of long tail keywords, fast loading pages, compressed images and caching apply both to text and voice search. Page content should be well laid out and easy to navigate. Whether users read or hear text spoken, information should be relevant and calls to action should motivate people to do something specific.

There will probably always be situations in which text based search is preferred, such as when a user is unable or prefers not to speak or listen to audio. However, rather than risk customers not finding your business online, you should consider voice search when planning your content marketing strategy. You should also try using voice search yourself and compare the experience and results to text or image based search.

Voice search is useful if there is only one possible answer to a question or when giving a specific instruction, such as play a particular song or movie. Providing only one answer to a voice search does not though allow for the exploratory nature of the Internet. However, the development of more conversational smart assistants could enable them to offer a variety of results for people to choose from.

Content Management Systems

Many websites are built using a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress or Drupal. This can enable even someone with little experience in web design and development to get a website up and running relatively quickly. However, it is worth investing time and resources into receiving some training, which you could find online. You might also benefit from the assistance of someone with experience in website design and development.

Plugins will give a CMS additional functionality and a theme will determine the appearance of your website. Look for plugins and themes that are well maintained, with many downloads and positive user comments. Mobile responsiveness is important both for usability and search engine ranking. The theme that you choose should also reflect the tone and brand of your business.

Website Security

Be aware that there will be malicious people online who look websites with weaknesses that they could use to damage your online presence. Although no website can ever be one hundred percent secure, you should take steps to do what you can to protect your website. For example, do not carry out day to day work on your website using the default admin login account.

Any CMS that you use, along with plugins and theme should be kept updated. This is an important part of your website security. The process can be automated and if you use a hosting company that manages your WordPress website they should take care of this. Your website should also be backed up on a regular basis. If your website is damaged in some way, you should ensure that it can be quickly and easily restored, with minimal loss of content and business data.

If other people will be editing content on your website, create roles for them to limit what they are allowed to do. Ensure that login passwords are strong and if necessary put two step authentication in place. You should also get an SSL (secure socket layers) certificate for your website. When SSL is installed, visitors to your website should see the familiar green padlock in the address bar before your site URL.

The installation of a valid SSL certificate is something that your web host should be able to help you with. The use of SSL adds a layer of security to your website, by encrypting data communicated between the site and users. Google recommends the use of SSL and websites without SSL could be negatively effected in their search engine ranking.

Launching Your Website

When planning your content marketing strategy, remember the famous quote; Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. When this approach is also applied to the design and development of your website, you will be less likely to run into problems during or after launch. If issues arise before launch, you should have time to allocate the people and resources needed to resolve them.

The pre-launch marketing plan for your website might have been put in place during the weeks and months prior to launch. This could include a mix of social media, email marketing and advertising, in publications popular with your target audience. You might have planned a launch event, to which you have invited other members of your team, investors, clients and members of the media.

When project planning your content marketing strategy and website design and development, put in place a realistic schedule. You should resist the temptation to launch before you are ready, hoping for the best. Doing so might mean that content is missing, the user experience is lacking or functionality does not work correctly. Investing the necessary time and effort into good planning, should provide you with a foundation upon which to build your future success.

You might like to read a sample of the book Grow Your Small Business Online

Posted in Marketing.