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I know, I know. You just want to write something, publish it to your site or blog and then wait for the magic to happen. You can try that. In rare cases it might work, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a video go viral, but that’s the exception. Sorry to tell you, the written word requires more planning. For those who — like me — avoid balancing their checkbook, the thought of having to actually PLAN something can seem daunting. This is why I suggest hiring a professional content strategist if at all possible.

virtual social network structure diagram

But, if that’s just not in the budget, here are 7 simple steps to help you create your own basic content strategy:

  1. Start with a formal content audit – get your IT department, data miners, or whoever has the access to perform a “data dump.” If you have a lot of content this could be an intimidating spreadsheet but if they include pageviews (unique and total), then that will help you sort it by most popular articles.So, once you have this data dump, collate the stories that belong together; either by type of content, subject, category, etc. Purge the stuff that isn’t working for you and update and revamp the stuff that is.
  2. Define visitor persona(s) – Sounds geeky, eh? It simply means to define your audience. Who are you talking to? It’s possible you may have just one persona, which certainly makes content creation and layout easier. But if you have multiple products or services that need to speak to different audiences, it can become more complicated. But there’s no reason to panic. Just work on defining who you should be talking to first. Organizing the content per audience comes later.
  3. Define your voice and style – Once you know who your customer is, you need to define who you – or your brand – are (although really you should already know this). However, you may not have thought much about HOW you should speak to your customer. Once you define who they are, you can go about telling them who you are, and do it in a way that expresses your personality. Funny? Friendly? Serious? Quirky? Whatever you choose, just be honest and consistent.
  4. Implement a regular keyword delivery schedule – It’s a good idea to create and regularly monitor keywords. You want to know what people are searching for that relates to your offering. This will help you create SEO-rich articles. Now, I am NOT advocating creating click-bait pieces or filling up paragraphs with random words just to get in search results. Eventually this tactic will work against you as the search engines figure out what you’re doing.But keywords that are incorporated wisely and relevantly into an article will make it useful to you, your readers, and the search engines. There are a number of tools, paid and free such as Google AdWords, keyword finder and Google Trends that can help you see what people are searching for, and therefore, help you refine your content.
  5. Mix it up – Variety is the spice of life they say, and this applies to your content too. Create a short list of categories or themes into which most of your content will fall. Once that’s done I suggest the following content mix:
  • 70% foundational content that supports the overarching themes
  • 20% expands/supports the foundational content (white papers, customer success stories, reports, etc. as appropriate)
  • 10% for lifestyle pieces and testing new ideas. This is especially important if you have a generally non-exciting product (software, telecommunications, utilities – sorry guys). It’s an opportunity to show a little more personality and tell stories that you might not be able to tell with your primary content.
  1. Publication frequency – So once you know what you’ll publish, it’s time to decide when. There are different theories on when and how much to publish, especially if you’re posting on more than just your own blog. The intricacies of posting and tweeting to sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn is beyond the scope of this article, but look for a future feature on that topic.So, for posting to your own blog, certainly 1x per week is a must. Not only to stay top-of-mind to your readers, but also to keep your content active and ranking in search engines. The bigger your content operation, the more frequently you can publish. But, don’t publish anything just for the sake of publishing; otherwise you’ll wind up with content that sucks (we’ll talk about that in another rpost).Keep in mind that “publishing” doesn’t always have to mean putting out your own articles. For me anyway, it also includes cross-posting to other content that you find particularly interesting or useful. It means getting on social networks and sharing your own thoughts on a topic. It’s simply about being active within your industry and the communities you want to serve.

    Sample publishing schedule:
    Daily – Post something to Facebook and Twitter as a bare minimum
    Weekly – 1x-3x week post original content to your own blog
    Monthly – Publish a newsletter. If you’re not sure you have enough content for a full newsletter try a special long-form feature article
    Quarterly – collate stories on a similar topic and offer as a premium white paper (collecting contact info in return)

  2. Sourcing ideas – Oftentimes the hardest part about content marketing is what to write about in the first place. If you’re just beginning then you probably have a lot to say about your product or service. But when you’ve been in the game a while it can become more difficult to come up with original ideas.Here are a few suggestions for sourcing content ideas:
    – Have your writers follow industry influencers on all the social platforms they’re on
    – Use Google Alerts to troll the web for news and articles related to any keyword/topic you specify. They’ll be emailed to you for easy reference in one place.
    – Join relevant groups on LinkedIn to monitor and participate in conversations
    – Survey your own customers and take stock of questions sent to you. What are people asking about all the time? What are their pain points and areas of confusion? Addressing those issues gives you a great source for content.

There you have it. Think you can do it? I think you can. Please share any comments or other suggestions you may have on developing a content strategy.

This article was originally published on sharisecunningham.com by Sharise Cunningham, AKA, The Word Chef. Sharise is a freelance ghostwriter and content strategist living the dream in the EU with her two dogs, Jessie and Helmet.