“Content is king. Link building is dead. SEO doesn’t work anymore.”

If you are looking to develop content for your site, then you will have seen all of these statements recently.

Sometimes they seem to be more than just statements. They appear to have been proclaimed, read from stone tablets brought down from the mountain top lair of the Google God.

And the solution to these problems is always the same.

Content is king. Make more content. You need a content management strategy.

This dash for content has led to billions of pages of rubbish being spewed out, many with no thought put into them at all.

“We must have content, regardless of quality or purpose so we rank and get traffic….”

That’s is not a strategy. It’s chucking money down the wishing well.

Less Than Half Of You Think Your Content Works

A recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute established that only 45% of people working through a content marketing strategy actually think it is effective.

So 55% of the people out there don’t think their strategy is effective. The “Ready, Fire, Aim” panic around getting something out there content wise is evident in these statistics, costing companies time, money and reputation.

One of the key problems is that many people don’t truly understand what a content marketing strategy is. Basically, it’s not creating the content. It is vital to understand what the difference between your content marketing strategy your a content strategy is.

Content Marketing Strategy

As the name suggests, this is a strategy to market your business through generating useful content across multiple platforms, with the aim of generating traffic and conversions.

Content Strategy

This is part of your content marketing strategy. This is where you take the information from your overall content marketing strategy and use it to actually drive the detailed creation of material that fulfills your content marketing strategy goals.

Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail. Big Time.

Are you ready for the truly astonishing statistic from the survey?

OK, take a deep breath.

In the Content Marketing Institute survey, 48% of the respondents said they didn’t have a content marketing strategy at all.

The obvious question is how can a site be successful if it has no strategy for the content put on it?

What you need is a “joined up” content marketing strategy for your business, one that actually delivers value for people and makes you a resource people recommend. That means focusing all your attention in 2014 on the five key things that will deliver you a proper content marketing strategy.

1. Establish Your Key Messages And Themes.

Whatever your niche, you must, should, know who you are. This means knowing:

What your position in the market is.
What your Unique Selling Proposition is. What your target market is. What your core values are.

Basically, you need to be able to state in detail why you exist and how you do business.

Understanding this will allow you to create a content marketing strategy that delivers your key themes intelligently and consistently across all media, helping to achieve your core business objectives.

2. Plan For A Comprehensive Content Reach.

Before you develop a content marketing strategy, you need to understand how you will distribute that content. That means understanding the biggest lie most people who jump into content marketing believe:

It is the belief that content for contents sake works.

It doesn’t.

Too many people believe that tons of unique content will drive their rankings and bring in more business. This is bad logic for one reason. Although you can improve your rankings, unless you are creating content that generates further action, then you are just paying to increase your bounce rate.

So more is not better. Focus on fewer, higher quality pieces and then spend more time on distribution. This means planning great content ideas that can be formatted for distribution in whole, parts, or variation across all major media types:

Text (articles, guest posts, blogs, video and audio transcripts) Video (YouTube, Vimeo, Vine) Social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook) Audio (Podcasts) Downloads (Ebooks, whitepapers, case studies) Mail (Newsletters, auto responder sequences)

So fundamentally your plan should be creating one piece of content that can then be sliced and diced for distribution across all media types.

3. Develop A Proper Content Marketing Plan.

Now that you understand that content marketing strategy is establishing what your key messages are and how those messages can be formatted for distribution across all platforms, it’s time to actually create a strategy.

No two companies are the same. The structure of your plan will be unique, based on your own core objectives. So there is no “blueprint” or “right way” to construct a plan, no right or wrong in terms of how you structure it. Trial and error is inevitable.

However, some key things will be within your content marketing strategy regardless of how you construct it:

What the content themes will be with detail of points to be made and conversion paths. How that content will be varied in structure for dissemination across all media types. The keywords and tight topicality a theme will target. How the person consuming the content’s journey will flow through your sales funnel to conversion. What your conversion goals are and how they will be measured and adjusted. How you will recycle and redistribute successful content in variation to squeeze even more out of it.

One key consideration is having clear goals to measure success through. It is too simplistic, especially in the early days to measure hard ROI through conversions and revenue against costs.

You need to break down your measurement into several parts, so that you can focus clearly on improving all metrics progressively.

So for example, metrics per channel in terms of views, shares and clicks. Work on generating improving interactions to build up data that can then be used to start refining conversion paths.

4. Create Great Content.

The moment has come when you now actually have to get that fantastic content done. There are two key things that you need to avoid throughout the content creation process to maximize the chance of having truly great content:

More is not better

Churning out tons of content is the quickest way to deliver boring, mechanical rubbish. As has been said, your major effort should be in distributing content, not in creating content for contents sake.

Focus on one great piece of content for each topic, that hits a key business message, that can be sliced and diced for marketing across all channels and that has clear conversion potential.

Cheap is never good

Too many people leap straight onto a forum and ask “where can I get cheap content writers”, or they hop onto a freelancing site and post a job which expects people to deliver perfect content for a pittance. Whichever way you do it, if you start from the point of view that cost is the vital factor then you are throwing your money down the drain.

You might get lucky, but the old saying “you get what you pay for” applies. An article that costs the same price as a beer will be just like it. Frothy and the effect of it will be temporary.

The person churning it out for you won’t give a damn, or even understand, what a content marketing strategy is. For $5 they will plagiarize, deliver and run.

If you are going to do it yourself, then it is vital that you create content that follows the basic principles of writing for the internet generation. This means understanding that people have become expert at scanning online content and unless it grabs their attention they will leave. Each paragraph must hold their attention.

And of course it’s not just writing disciplines you need to understand if you want to D.I.Y. You need to learn how to best use social media channels, how to create and distribute digital content and how to construct appealing visuals.

Unless you are a great all rounder, then you are going to need to employ some help. Don’t pretend you don’t and ury your head in the sand. Make sure your strategy factors people in at an early stage, so they can be part of the process and contribute. Getting “buy in” is worth the extra time and money.

5. Measure, Adapt, Re-Deliver.

This should be easy, as you have already established how and what you are going to measure realistic success by, both in the short and longer terms.

Make sure your measurement channels are set-up fully in advance. For most people this means Google Analytics as a minimum. It also means tracking clicks by using URL shortening services, either web-based, or within a CMS such as WordPress (usually via a plugin).

A great trick people forget is to make use of Google Alerts. Your content will be based around key topicality, so you will be using keywords. Set-up Google alerts for those keywords so that you can see if your content is appearing online and where.

Monitor the data coming in from your tracking sources and be ready with ideas to adjust and go again.

The military leaders of history learned quickly that reinforcing failure builds bigger failure. Always reinforce success and move resources quickly from bad to good areas. Improve your chances by being ruthless about what is working and what is not.

Mastering these five key elements of a solid content marketing strategy will dramatically improve the chance of your site competing in 2014.

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