DOING CONTENT PROPERLY
AUDITING & BRAINSTORMING
In this chapter we’ll be putting both of those lessons into practice, assessing the content you already have in your arsenal, considering which needs it addresses for your audience and highlighting areas where you’re leaving your audience hanging. But don’t worry, we’ll be discussing how you can fill those gaps and build a content calendar which ticks all of the right boxes too!
"A full on site content audit will help you rid your website of any messy, spammy, low quality content and consolidate the great stuff you already have.”
AUDITING YOUR CONTENT
But before you can create a brand-boosting, audience-satisfying editorial calendar, you need to know exactly what content you’ve got and what content you’re lacking on site. A full on site content audit will help you rid your website of any messy, spammy, low quality content and consolidate the great stuff you already have, ensuring you don’t cover old ground with your shiny new approach. Here’s how it’s done...
1. PUT TOGETHER A PAGE LIST
Start by detailing all of the pages on your website. You should be able to find a full list of all pages on your website in your CMS (content management system). If you’re working with a particularly tricky CMS or don’t have access to your system, there are free online tools which will generate a list for you. Try:
2. MAKE A SPREADSHEET
You now need to conduct a thorough, detailed audit, so fire up Excel, Open Office or your Google Sheet and get organised. You’ll need to create several category columns for each piece of content including:
• A unique page number or ID (to help you keep track of pages should you need to reorganise or restructure)
• Your page’s place in your website’s navigation or hierarchy
• PAGE TITLE
• Type of content (i.e. blog, white paper, how to guide)
• Target persona (if personas have been implemented previously)
• Which part of the conversion funnel your content targets. For instance, is it directed at an audience who are ready to buy or is it targeted at people who are still exploring their options?
• Content writer
• Date of latest update to the conten
• Tone of voice
• Calls to action
• How this fits your brand identity
• Your plan – What will you be doing with this piece of content going forward?
• Additional comments
3. IMPORT PAGE LIST INTO SPREADSHEET
Now your spreadsheet is nice, neat and all set up, import the page list you’ve generated. Or just copy & paste!
4. GET ORGANISED
Now get your pages arranged properly, according to where they’re located within your website architecture. This isn’t always a quick and easy task, especially if your URLs don’t conform to standard rules. One simple trick you can try is to highlight the URL column and sort it alphabetically. Make sure you choose to “Expand your selection” if prompted to ensure that all data travels with it’s URL when it’s reordered.
5. ASSIGN PAGE NUMBERS AND NAVIGATION LOCATIONS
Make sure all of your organisation and admin doesn’t go to waste by assigning every page an individual page number, and identifying its place within your site’s current navigation. One useful trick is to number each page according to its navigational location. For instance, pages within your blog section should start with one, and pages within blog subsections should start 1.2.X.
1.1.1. How to make a cake
1.1.2. How to fold paper cranes
1.1.3. How to number your pages
1.2. Company news
6. START YOUR AUDIT
Now everything’s looking shipshape, you can get stuck into your audit properly. Work through the sections outlined above in your shiny new spreadsheet. Once each section is ticked off, your site inventory is complete.
With your inventory complete, it’s time to take a closer look at where your content is going right and where it’s not doing quite so well. Your audit should be able to show you pages where you’re meeting your audience’s needs and interests head on, and where you have gaps...
• Take a look at the personas and at the stages in the content funnel your content targets. Are any of them under-represented?
• Is your content all much of a muchness? Do you need more creativity and diversity?
• Is your tone of voice inconsistent? Is your brand represented differently in different content on the same site?
These are all issues your new strategy will need to address.
BRAINSTORMING FRESH CONTENT
“Knowing where you’re going “wrong” is extremely helpful when you’re brainstorming a fresh approach to content”
As luck would have it, knowledge is power! Now you can identify and point to the aspects of your existing content which need to change, you can start to fill in the gaps. Knowing where you’re going “wrong” is extremely helpful when you’re brainstorming a fresh approach to content.
To get your brain buzzing and to help you explore your big ideas, we’ve popped together a bundle of key content types that could help you to solidify a new approach or even spark a brand new content series on your website. These are just ideas, so do not use them as gospel. Instead, let your creativity flourish and use these content types as inspiration, and “jumping off points”.
1 Using your audience research to explore which words people associate with your brand. What are their antonyms? How do all of these words pertain to what you do?
2. Imagine your brand as a person. What would they look like? What would they do? What would their guilty pleasures be? What stories would they tell?
• Which questions are your sales reps and customer service team asked most often by customers? These are likely to be the most common questions your audience want answers to.
• Which area causes the most confusion in your sector?
• Think of the greatest explanation you’ve ever seen or heard. What made it work so well? How can you apply those lessons to your guides?
• How could you explain key elements of your service or product using only images or video?
• Which are the most contentious areas in your industry? Which topics are considered “taboo”?
• What new developments are just around the corner?
• What are the widely held beliefs and “general truths” which underpin your industry? What would happen if you took the opposite stance?
BRAINSTORM BEST PRACTISE
Everybody’s approach to brainstorming new ideas is different – that’s what makes it so much fun. But there are a few best practice pointers you can use to make sure every idea gets heard and you come out of your session with some brilliant new approaches to your content...
GIVE IT TIME - There’s no point rushing creativity. Give yourself and your team a good hunk of time to come up with ideas and bounce them around.
WE'RE BETTER TOGETHER - So get your whole team involved. Different team members will have different insights, angles and ideas, they’re all valuable! Too many cooks, however, can spoil the broth and make it difficult for less forthcoming colleagues to speak up. Brainstorm with a maximum of 4 people at a time – and ask everyone to have a 10 minute individual brainstorm before they come to your session.
GO NUTS - A few ideas are good, a huge pile is fantastic. Go wild and think of as many ideas as you can.
TRY METHOD ACTING - Get into the mindset of your target demographics and personas. Hang out in their favourite spots, have a go at their favourite activities, pop into customer service for some first hand experience.
DON'T FORGET YOUR NOTEBOOK - You never know when inspiration is going to strike. Make sure you’re ready to capture it when it does.
USE A CONTENT MATRIX - Identify content which will help you target all sorts of customers at different points in their buying journeys. Very broadly, you can divide content into four types:
1. CONTENT WHICH ENTERTAINS
2. CONTENT WHICH INFORMS
3. CONTENT WHICH PERSUADES
4. CONTENT WHICH CONVERTS
CREATING PERSONAL FUNNEL CHARTS
The personas you created using the information you gleaned in chapter 1 are powerful tools for content brainstorming. Consider basing your process around these personas. One way to do this is to develop a persona chart with content ideas based on each persona’s location on the conversion funnel.
To get started, break each of your personas down into the four main conversion funnel stages:
1. THE DISCOVERY STAGE
2. THE TRIGGER STAGE
3. THE SEARCH STAGE
4. THE BUYING STAGE
Then, for each stage of each persona ask yourself the following questions...
• What are the biggest problems and worries this persona is confronting at this stage?
• What questions are they likely to have at this point?
• Which content types could you use to answer these questions? What topics will you need to cover?
• Can you come up with any examples of content titles which will do this job?
BUILDING YOUR EDITORIAL CALENDAR
Before you even start putting your content calendar together, make sure you know:
WHAT SORTS OF CONTENT YOU ALREADY HAVE
WHAT SORT OF CONTENT YOU DO NOT YET HAVE
WHAT DIRECTION YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR YOUR CONTENT IN THE FUTURE
Now that you’re all-knowing and a certified content genius, it’s time to put all of your insight and creativity into an editorial calendar which will ensure every piece of content you or your team create is focussed, on-brand, on-message, carefully targeted and relevant. This is the map your team needs to follow if you want to make it all the way to content strategy success.
• Ensure your PR, content, social and marketing teams are all on the same page and well-coordinated. There’s no point rushing creativity. If a really cracking piece of content has PR potential, everyone knows when it’s happening and can coordinate their efforts.
• Help you monitor and track successes and failures. Over the long term it will help you identify what works well, which writers are best suited to what content and much more.
• Bring a little more variety into your content strategy. At one glance you can see how diverse your schedule is and update it accordingly. Once something’s in the calendar and responsibility has been allotted, you can then make sure it happens.
WHAT GOES INTO AN EDITORIAL CALENDAR?
The more detailed, collaborative and functional your editorial calendar, the better your content strategy’s end result will be, month on month.
If you have a small in house content team it may feel like all of this admin is unnecessary as you all already understand the goals etc. However, for a larger team or for an outsourced team, clear, comprehensive calendars are crucial. You’ll want to include:
• THE DUE DATE
• THE ASSIGNED WRITER
• THE ASSIGNED EDITOR
• THE NAME OF THE POST
• A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE POST
• THE CONTENT TYPE (blog, guide, white paper, infographic, listicle)
• THE PUBLISHING LOCATION (internal blog, guest blog, Vine, Linked In)
• THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE POST
• THE REQUIRED TAGS AND CATEGORY FOR THE POST
• THE CALL TO ACTION (crafted to hit the right persona and conversion funnel segment)
• ADDITIONAL KEY NOTES
• METRICS AND GOALS (400 tweets, 50 downloads, 15 sign ups etc.)
Content requirements vary widely, which means that a diverse and flexible writing team can be a big advantage. A core in-house content team will help you to ensure quality, while trusted external freelance writers can help on a flexible basis when you need additional quantity.
When you’re creating large volumes of content each week, maintaining a healthy balance is essential, but tricky. While coming up with entertaining content which captures visitors at the discovery stage of their buying journey may be easy enough, dreaming up equal amounts of content which ticks all of your other persona and conversion funnel boxes is no mean feat. Use your editorial calendar to give you an overview and to help you build a healthy balance and tick all of the right boxes.
Google Calendar – Try a user-generated Google doc to help you turn your calendar into a pretty impressive editorial calendar.
Excel, Google Sheets, Open Office etc. - You can always do things the old-fashioned way. If you want your calendar collaborative, go the Google Sheets route. If you’d rather stick to the basics, why not download an Excel template you can fire up right away?
Trello – If you like a really customisable, visual and shareable way to do your editorial calendar your own way, Trello is a good shout.
Kapost – Designed with exactly this sort of task in mind, Kapost goes in all guns blazing, it even has space for sharing, storing and discussing new content ideas – plus an analytics section for measuring content performance. Be warned though, it’s the only tool we’ve mentioned which isn’t free.