Why are we writing all these blog posts?
Are you a growth-hacking marketing guru, creating compelling content that resonates with your target audience and drives value?
Translation: Do you write loads of blog posts and eBooks hoping people will one day buy your stuff?
Sounds pretty stressful.
In this talk, Alice looks at the reasons for writing things online and argues it isn’t realistic, or necessary, to constantly churn out loads of content.
Together, we’ll throw off the content marketing shackles and focus instead on creating UX-led, well-written core website pages.
You’ll go away with the tools needed to create your own content strategy that includes:
• Realistic user personas
• Your brand’s tone of voice
• An SEO strategy
• UX-led page structure
Below are the individual slides, transcript and speaker deck from Alice Still’s talk at WordPress London on September 28th 2017.
Unramble’s planning spreadsheet can be downloaded here. It’s a Google Sheet so feel free to download, use and change it up as required. The user persona questions are more tailored to a B2B website. For B2C personas, get creative and add your own questions – you can never be too specific when it comes to your user personas.
We’d love to hear how you get on with this spreadsheet – ping us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
The two main points I’m going to cover today are:
– Why I think you should focus on quality content over quantity
– And the details of how we create content strategies at Unramble
Today for the first time I’m going to talk about my day job which is content strategy and copywriting.
Copywriting is really all about sales, and content strategy is the higher level planning, development and management of all your content.
I specifically do this online. And I have a particular method I use for website copywriting, which I’m going to share with you later on.
So let’s keep in mind always what we’re trying to do here is sell something. A product, a service, whatever. Doesn’t really matter what it is.
A lot of people sell through instinct, but behind it is this idea which has been around since the late 1800s of attracting attention from your audience, maintaining their interest, creating a desire for whatever it is you are selling and then making it near enough impossible for them not to buy from you.
This idea has been rehashed time and again.
You might have heard of this version: Attention, Interest Desire Action – it’s probably the best known version of this technique, but basically means the same thing.
One of the most recent incarnations of this technique is content marketing – not to be confused with content strategy.
This funnel illustrates how content marketing should work.
You have a website which is attracting leads through blog posts and generally good SEO.
At the top of the funnel or TOFU you have content like white papers where you’re meant to start to generate interest.
MOFU is where you’re creating desire for product or services, producing things like eBooks.
By the time we get to BOFU we have executive summaries and various other very niche types of content. Then we go ‘Actually, I was just pretending to be helpful with all that content: now buy our stuff!’
Does it work though?
Maybe, sometimes. It depends.
What we know for sure is it takes an awful lot of time and effort.
I do believe in investing time and money in your business marketing, obviously, but I think we also need to remember to balance input and output and look realistically at whether most companies can afford to do this in any meaningful way.
We’re talking weekly blog posts, bi-weekly eBooks, white papers, videos, infographics.
When most businesses struggle to get one blog post published a month – including those people who sell this as a service by the way – I would argue that for most businesses it’s simply not viable.
Perhaps surprisingly, sometimes when you’re producing more you actually get less.
More blog posts won’t necessarily mean you get more traffic. And actually, deleting content can sometimes improve your SEO.
More traffic isn’t the same as getting sales – and bad content puts people off your brand.
Before we go into talking about creating a content strategy, I want to quickly segue into showing you a cold hard graph showing the affect your content strategy can have without dealing with all this convoluted content marketing stuff – mainly so you can see I’m not just making all of this up.
So Unramble has a fairly compact website: currently 17 pages and 21 posts.
SEO is a part of our content strategy, although it’s secondary to pleasing our audience. Not least because Google is getting very good at knowing what our audience is looking for. Basically if our audience is happy, Google is probably going to be happy too.
And that’s pretty much what this graph shows.
We’re in blue, this green line is copify.com, and these other colours are some other folks who sell similar services to us.
I realise it looks a bit ridiculous, but it is genuinely what we’re seeing.
This looks at some of the keywords we rank for or are currently trying to rank for in the UK. You can pretty much ignore the percentages on the side as they’re quite meaningless without more background context. Feel free to find me after and I can show you more detail.
Some of the keywords we rank for are pretty niche and easier wins, like ‘content strategy brighton’. But we also rank for things like ‘website copywriting’, along with some highly competitive keywords like ‘copywriting’.
These Gs are all the known or suspected Google algorithm updates.
As you can tell, after some of these updates, we’ve seen particularly big wins. Especially this September.
You know how I was talking about quality over quantity? In early July, I deleted 8 posts so – writing more isn’t the cause of this boost in visibility.
We’ve really done nothing especially new or different from what we would usually do, it’s just that Google is liking it more and more as Google puts more and more focus on quality.
All the biggest updates in Google recently have been what are called ‘quality’ updates.
So basically what I’m saying is, you don’t need to have a massive content marketing factory to produce nice results.
In the rest of the time we have, we’re going to whizz through creating a content strategy. I won’t have time to cover everything in great detail but as I say, I’ll put all these resources online after so you can relax and follow along now.
I thought it would useful to share the project plan that really forms the basis of everything we do. I’m afraid this includes spreadsheets…so I hope it’s not too boring.
I’ll quickly go through our spreadsheet first and then show you how each part works in real life and whizz through some examples.
First up, very important: your goals. You’ll want these to be really quite specific, ambitious enough to be worth your time but not so ambitious that they’re unachievable. For example, to increase our leads from 1 a month to 10 a month within the next 6 months. Or maybe you want to increase your sales by 500% in 1 year.
Next, also super important – your audience. These are the people you’re selling to so they really need to be your focus. This is an example of a user persona, which is really more about their personality. This is based on the questions from that spreadsheet, so their goals and aspirations, etc. We’ve taken those and created a real person we want to be able to picture clearly anytime we’re writing.
Next up, a bit more about us. So this goes back to the bit on the spreadsheet where we’re asking questions like: ‘Why did we set up this business? How do we want people to perceive us?’ etc. So one of our brand values is Quality and here’s a bit more description about what that means.
And then how will we communicate: this is about our writing itself. This is the middle ground between your brand values and your audience. How we want to write to connect with them in a meaningful way. By this stage, this will actually come quite naturally. An example of this is that in our writing we want to sound genuine. And then here this is what we mean by that and why we want to sound that way.
At this point you’ll have thought a lot about your goals, your audience, your brand values and what your writing is going to sound like. But what about the structure of your site, and the actual content.
This is where you’re going to be looking at your competitor research, choosing which main keywords you want to target, any related keywords that you think might further boost your visibility, you’ll want to look at your audience – where they hang out online, what they like reading, what they’re searching for.
Here are some tools that can be really useful both in your initial research and content strategy planning, but also later on when you’re testing, measuring, seeing how everything is going and deciding what needs changing.
I’m just going to show you one example here which is our Unramble home page. This has undergone many iterations over the years so this is just the most current version of it.
This is a heatmap generated by Hotjar. It shows where people click and how often. It can also tells us how far down a page most people tend to make it. You can live record these page views and watch the cursors actually move around. We were finding most people didn’t really make it past that first button. Which is fine if they’re going to the pages we want. With the main goal being for people to contact us, one recent change we did was to add a Contact button at the top of the page where that previous button was to make it easier for people to do the action we want them to.
So here’s a little summary of the process for creating a website content strategy. Research first – that’ll really help with your content strategy and I hope you find our planning spreadsheet useful for this. Then write and publish – don’t wait around because the sooner you publish them sooner you can start testing and improving. Then repeat the whole process to get continuously better results. And that is content strategy for websites in a nutshell.