Does your business need a content strategist?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and bet my bottom dollar that your business’ current five-year plan doesn’t simply read “we’ll see how it goes”.
No, It’s much more likely that you’ve taken a considerable amount of time to establish where you want to go, and how you plan to get there. In other words, you’ve developed a strategy.
Well, guess what? You need one for your content too. You can throw out blog posts, social media updates and infographics until the sun goes down, but if these aren’t all serving a common goal you may as well not bother.
And whom, I hear you ask, can you entrust with this responsibility? Ladies and gentleman, I give you… the content strategist!
In this article we’ll define web content strategy, along with the roles of a content strategist (CS). We’ll then look in depth at how a CS can benefit your business, and the skills they need to possess.
What is web content strategy?
Fortunately, I happen to sit opposite a CS who, for the princely sum of three Tim Tams, gave me the following definition:
“Content strategy is making sure your content is ticking the boxes that Google has defined whilst also giving relevant information to human users. It also ensures that your content marketing efforts align with, and succeed in achieving, the business’ overarching goals.”
In practice, this means careful direction, management and analysis of all the content your creative teams put out – from graphics to Tweets, and everything in between.
What does a content strategist do, and how can it benefit your business?
Okay, so how does a CS make all of this happen?
In this section we’ve boiled down the key aspects of the job description into two main sections:
1. Creating a content inventory and audit:
As you’re probably realising, content strategists often have many balls in the air at a time.
Therefore, they need to know what content you currently have available for public consumption, and be able to evaluate how this content is performing.
Content audits are qualitative assessments of all of your published content.
From here, your CS can then identify any gaps in your content offering that, by filling, you can use to help you capture more interest from your audience in the future.
- How do you audit content?
Content audits are qualitative assessments of all of your published content. During this process, there are five useful questions to keep in mind:
What content is performing best? Success here is defined according to your marketing goals. Taking the example of a blog post, key metrics could include the numbers of people clicking through to landing pages, or taking actions such as signing up to a newsletter. Google Analytics is a free tool that allows you to gather information on user behaviour in relation to your content.
Is my content optimised for search? This is part of evaluating performance, but deserves its own shoutout. Doing this involves analysing keywords, word counts, and HTML elements such as titles and meta tags.
What is your audience connecting with? Google Analytics also shows you how long people are spending on different posts and pages. Even if they’re not taking the actions you desire, the fact that they’re finding your content is good for meeting top of funnel, thought leadership goals.
What isn’t working? You may see an old post that continually outperforms newer content. Knowing what isn’t working is as useful as finding success stories when it comes to informing future strategy.
Where are the gaps? Keyword research is a big part of your auditing process. Tools like Moz Keyword Explorer are brilliant for identifying what searches people are conducting around your industry, allowing you to create relevant content to match.
2. Improving user insights
A content strategist also allows you to learn more about your target audience.
Integral to this is creating user personas– research-based profiles that provide vital information on the people you’re aiming to engage with your content.
Core elements of a user persona include:
- Values, ethics and pain points.
Why are user personas helpful?
Let’s take this article as an example.
My primary audience here is digital marketers, and this informs every stage of my article’s production. Our strategist has stress-tested keywords, found a gap in the query market that we could fill and created an article brief that should allow us to do that.
From there, I’ve adopted a tone and style that (I hope) you find engaging, researched reputable industry sources (Hubspot, for example) and formatted the article to hit as many of the brief notes as possible.
Our marketing team will then share this piece on social channels that our research shows you’re likely to frequent – Twitter and LinkedIn, to name a couple.
If we were a fashion brand, the decisions we’d make would be very different, but this all comes down to knowing who you’re trying to reach – a core responsibility of your content strategist.
What skills do content strategists have?
So, what makes a great CS? The following attributes are needed to fill this multifaceted position:
- Organisation and presentation: Keeping track of so much content requires strong prioritising and administration skills. They’ll be creating more spreadsheets than you can possibly imagine, so being able to present their findings in an engaging and clear format is also crucial.
- Creativity: Despite the strong emphasis on data collection and analysis, this is still a creative role, and your CS should thrive on finding new and exciting ways to engage your audience.
- Delivery decision-making: Based on their research, your CS should be making calls on what mediums to use (eg. is a topic best suited to an infographic, or a video?) and where it should be promoted.
- Calculating ROI: Part of the auditing process is calculating the extent to which your content is serving your business goals.
- Campaign experience: While technically not a ‘skill’, a CS should ideally have several years’ experience in campaign execution. Project management (PM) roles serve as a great springboard to becoming as a CS due to the hands-on involvement in delivering content.
The benefits of an agency content strategist
Content marketing agencies live and breathe strategy creation, and can be a useful guiding hand if you’re new to this sometimes confusing world.
Here are four things that an agency CS brings to the table that might be lacking in your current department:
- Experience – Many agency CSs have a huge portfolio of clients. Not only does this mean that they’re veterans of multiple campaigns, there’s a good chance they’ve already created winning strategies for businesses like yours!
- Technical know-how – Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console are brilliant, but take some time to master. A good agency CS can use these in their sleep, providing you with the insights, minus the time and effort on your part.
- An outsider perspective – When you’ve lovingly created a strategy and it hasn’t worked it can be hard to murder your darlings. An agency CS will wield the editorial pen without mercy, cutting the fat off your strategy to ensure every element is serving your overall strategy.
- Multiple insights – There’s a good chance that an agency CS is surrounded by writers, graphic designers and social media gurus. With a simple tap on the shoulder, they can access a wealth of content knowledge to help construct an innovative and effective strategy.
A content strategist is the person who provides focus for your content marketing efforts. They ensure that your output is addressing the right people, using the right platforms on subjects that they care about.
Through their quality testing and ROI calculations they’re also an important champion for content marketing in your business – proving to any lingering doubters that quality content can provide tangible value and improve your bottom line.