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28 April, 2014 More 

The 24 ingredients
for a delicious
content strategy
By James Carson Advertise here »

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Five more
examples of
interesting
In content strategy, people often focus on the most obvious content from
part (the content creation) and don’t quite realise that there’s ‘boring’
a lot more to it. businesses
3 days ago

Content strategy is a big picture that is made up of four main 14


‘blocks’. A burger (content) can be quite nice, but on its own it’s astounding
stats from
just a meatloaf. You need the bun, the cheese and the sauce to around the
digital world
make it really tasty.
6 days ago

These parts all work together, and are made up of smaller 35 examples
‘ingredients’ to make the whole. of
ecommerce
best practice
from
The four main blocks of Hobbycraft
2 days ago

deliciousness:

RELATED RESEARCH
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RELATED RESEARCH

Best Practice
Guides
Content
Marketing in
South-East
Asia Best
Practice
Guide

Digital
Now we consider these to be a stack, with the one below Marketing
Templates
required before we move onto the next. This is logical, but really
Digital
all of these elements are interdependent. Marketing
Template
Files
If you don’t do analytics, then you can’t really measure any of
the other parts. If you haven’t got a good Information Best Practice
Guides
Architecture and User Experience, then your content will fall
SEO Best
flat. If you don’t have any content, you don’t have anything to Practice -
distribute. Link Building,
Social and
Online PR
As mentioned, these blocks consist of different ingredients. I’ve
Trend Briefings
mapped these out in the diagram below. Now we can look at
B2B Content
each of these in more detail: Marketing
Trends
Briefing:
Digital Cream
London 2014

Best Practice
Guides
100+
Practical
Content
Marketing
Tips: A how-
to guide for
editors,
writers and
content
creators
You can use this recipe as a framework checklist of your own,
and add your own ingredients to it if you feel it suits. I'll go
through my 24 ingredients in four phases below.

RECOMMENDED READING
Phase one: analysis
The key questions to ask here are:
Introducing
The Periodic
What is my audience doing on site? Table of
Content
And what are they (and my potential audience) doing Marketing
a year ago
offsite?
Adaptive web
So the crucial step is to look into your analytics and then do design: pros
and cons
some wider web based analysis. 10 months ago

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You could become drowned in data here, so my advice is to be The five


rough and tear through it. You want to spend enough time to get an golden rules
of responsive
overview, but you don’t need to be too granular. web design
10 months ago

1. Website engagement analytics 18 pivotal


web design
At this stage, all you’re really doing is looking at what content trends for
drives the most traffic and engagement. If you can get things 2014
a year ago
like link data and social share data at a page level, these are both
helpful.

One useful assessment is to quantify the number of pageviews


in a category vs. the number of URLs. If the number of
pageviews surpasses the number of URLs on these overlapping
scales, then you have a category with a performance that is
likely outweighing its editorial emphasis.

You should most likely spend more time on such categories.

2. Website organic traffic information


This is the analysis of which keywords and content are driving
traffic to your site.

I’d normally go back at least two years (if you can) to get
someway round (not provided) and to give yourself an idea of
which keywords have driven traffic.

3. Keyword analysis
While I don’t really put much emphasis on keyword data
expressed by Google’s keyword planner, it is a useful tool for
returning further keyword ideas.

The data does at least give some indication of priority, but it’s
quite difficult to assess each keyword for how difficult it is to
rank.

These content tools can also be helpful in your brainstorming:


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These content tools can also be helpful in your brainstorming:

Soovle

Portent Title Generator (although this seems like a joke


at first, some of the stuff it comes out with is genius).

4. Content mind map


Armed with your own site and market keyword data, you
should now be able to build a content mind map, using
categories and driving down to article titles.

For this I recommend using Mindmeister.com. For a small fee


each month you can create unlimited maps and have multiple
users collaborate on them. 

5. SEO & social competitor analysis


Having mapped out your content, you should do a brief spot
check on how strong your competitors are in getting their own
content found.

The classic way to do this for SEO is to use Moz tools to find out
domain authority and inbound links (competitor analysis is a
feature of the subscription campaign manager).

On social media, it’s a spot check of how many connections your


competitors have and how much they post.

Analysis phase goals:


1. Finding out how your audience arrives at your site and
where they are going to engage with content.

2. Creation of a content mind map that is based on data.

3. Finding out the real strength of your competitors in


promoting content.

Phase two: taxonomy and audit


Most companies will use Wordpress for their blogging needs,
but most companies also don’t really consider the Information
Architecture (driven by taxonomy) for how anything but their
newest content will be found.

Running a 100% news strategy is rarely recommended, and


having a properly functioning and logical taxonomy is an
important feature for allowing users to find content that was
published before yesterday.

6. Category card sort


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If a site has published 50+ articles, it is often very useful to get


the editorial staff to run a card sort.

This basically means writing the titles of 50-70 pieces of content


on index cards then putting them into particular groups or
categories.

This gets the editorial team thinking about which categories


they’ve been writing about, and potentially how much emphasis
they are putting on each category. Your mind map from the
analysis phase will also help with this.

7. Tagging amendments
When using Wordpress, there is almost always a problem with
the tagging of content. Wordpress is a very flexible platform,
but in a tagging sense it’s probably too flexible.

What usually happens is that editors tag content with a wide


variety of possible keywords, many of which cross over with
what already exists at a category level. This can create
hundreds, sometimes thousands, of low value and duplicate
pages.

Often an audit needs to be run to sort this out. As a general rule,


categories are created around topics or subjects like ‘News’ or
‘How To’, while tags match to a ‘profile’ of a particular entity,
like ‘Kate Middleton’ or ‘World Cup 2014.’

8. Menu restructure
Once your category and tags have been properly audited, it’s
normally a straightforward process building hierarchical menu
structures that allow users to better find content.

9. SEO onpage
Moving into the audit phase, one of the first things to do is to
review current content and assess its compliance with good on-
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review current content and assess its compliance with good on-
page SEO practice through four quick checks:

1. Are titles keyword rich and well optimised?

2. Are there inline links to other relevant content?

3. Are images optimised through keyword rich filenames


and alt text?

4. Are there subtitles, using keywords?

Another good way to do this is to simply look at a sample of


content and set yourself the task of understanding what it’s
about in 10 seconds. It’s commonly true for content where SEO
is an afterthought that it’s difficult to know what it’s about
unless you are a regular user of the site (like an editor).

10. Evergreen content audit


This is an assessment of all the content that has a shelf life of
anything over six months. Basically, all the stock content which
isn’t news.

This kind of content can be extremely valuable in the long term,


and it’s worth taking the time tweaking, optimising and
sometimes redoing if it meets a particular customer need or
interest.

11. Retrospective editing


If you’ve run these assessments above, you may find that there
is quite a lot you can improve. For older content that continues
to drive traffic or engagement, you may want to re-edit it.

Particularly, review the keyword targeting and formatting.

12. Authorship review


Much has been written on the importance of authorship
markup for SEO. While it’s good to have the author’s face on
search engines, it does not affect rankings yet.

Still it’s very easy to create the link between an editorial and
Google+ profile, and well worth this small effort. To enable it,
follow Google’s guide.

Additionally, you should ensure that author profiles onsite are


filled out properly, with a profile picture and some text
explaining the author’s expertise.

13. Taxonomy and audit phase goals:


1. Make your categories and tags align to a logical
hierarchy.
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hierarchy.

2. Audit and re-edit/optimise existing content that has the


potential to perform better.

3. Ensure authorship markup is correctly implemented.

Content planning and creation


It’s now down to the phase where you can plan and create
content, but before you dive into what many consider the most
exciting phase, we need to go back to our analytics –
particularly the mind map you produced in phase one.

This should serve as the basis of your plan.

14. Stock and flow


These two content types are best described as follows:

Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the
stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people
that you exist.

Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce


that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is
today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what
spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.

From Snarkmarket – Stock and Flow

It’s easy to go for the latest in an industry and become a kind of


news feed / blog. But this approach often runs out of steam.

If you can combine flow and stock content in your plan and
assign them to content producers in an editorial calendar,
you’re going to find it easier to keep the strategy on track.

15. Page types


Beyond merely stock and flow, we need to consider which page
types will regularly be produced. Product pages (stock) could be
included in an editor’s remit, and may consume time from their
day to day flow activities, such as blogging.

The type of pages you have really depends on what industry


you’re in and your customer needs, but much like our
preference for flow content, it’s easy to simply use Wordpress
post functionality to drive everything. Of course, if you’re
writing a news item, and then a product review, these serve
quite different user needs, so the pages need to be formatted
differently.
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One way you can build new page types within Wordpress is to
use Advanced Custom Fields. With some development, you can
have highly customised posts that break out of the standard
post format.

Christopher Butler’s post The Way you design web content is


about to change is the best I’ve read on the topic of ‘modular
content’.

16. Editorial calendar


The creation of stock/flow content and your specified page
types should be scheduled on an editorial calendar. Some people
use Google spreadsheets or Excel, but I have a preference for
using Trello.

Your web development team are possibly using this anyway,


and there’s a very good free version.

Joe Williams of Blue Glass has written an excellent post on


creating an editorial calendar using Trello.

17. Quantitive benchmarking system


You need to quantitate your content production. This of course
means setting objectives at the start, but content strategy is
really an iterative process. Thus you need fairly constant
assessment.

Scoring your content can be along the metrics you consider


important. Perhaps any of these could be worked into an
objective set:

Pageviews of content

Average time on page

Social shares

Links built

There are of course more metrics that you could offer. But it’s
not just about the performance of the content, the editors too
should be assessed.

As a general rule, content writers should be able to publish 2,000


words a day worth of articles if they are sat at their desks.

But there’s also considerations around the type of the content.


For instance, this benchmark is slightly irrelevant if they are
working on a big idea or research for an infographic. Thus again
you need to consider which production targets are really
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you need to consider which production targets are really
relevant for your team.

A useful list for assessing the skills and productivity of your


content team. 

18. Headlines
Headlines account for as much as 80% of the engagement with a
piece of content (particularly a written piece). Thus it’s
important writers really know how to write them for the web.
More often than not, editors I’ve encountered have used their
intuition, rather than base it on training or science.

Unfortunately, this leads to poor results until they switch to the


latter.

Here are three posts that are helpful reading to all editors:

Five core elements of audience building content strategy

5 Data Insights into the Headlines Readers Click

HEADLINE: A 9 Letter Cheat Sheet for Writing a Winner


Every Time

19. Formatting
This is connected to the audit stage, where I wrote about SEO
on-page and the evergreen content audit. Basically it’s the need
for all content to be well formatted for the web.

These basic tips should point you in the right direction:

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Additionally the Creating Valuable Content checklist by Ahava


Leibtag is also very useful:

Finally, while it’s quite an epic tome, you will probably not find
a more comprehensive guide on creating content for the web
than The Yahoo! Style Guide.

Content creation phase goals:


Ensure that you are considering a range of formats and
page types.

Schedule these in an editorial calendar.

Optimise content through sound headlining and


formatting.

Give your team quantitive targets. 


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Give your team quantitive targets. 

Distribution
The final phase is really about getting your content seen on
everything but your own site – a combination of link building
for SEO and online PR of your content, often through social
media.

20. Distributable content


The first rule of distributing content is having enough great
content in the first place. Unfortunately, rarely does this take
the shape of product pages and blog posts, given they are very
low cost and ubiquitous.

Often it’s more information rich content like infographics, video


and long form that will do the trick. Thus it’s important that
you include these in your planning phase.

21. Social media


When it comes to content marketing, most companies use their
social media feeds to do exactly that: market their content by
merely posting it on social. But it can be about so much more.

Lately we’ve seen the growth of some major feeds focusing on


doing one thing particularly well. History in Pics springs to
mind as the clearest example.

Consider that in your market you may be able to set up a


number of different relevant accounts focusing on doing one
thing well, but drip feed in your content at the same time. For
more on this, check out my earlier post on five ways to avoid
social media fragmentation.
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social media fragmentation.

22. Email
Much like social media, companies often make their newsletter
unspecific, and a collection of content that generally promotes
their product.

Give your newsletter(s) a purpose by really defining exactly


what stage of the customer buying cycle they should be used
for.

Of course, through automated actions, you could be up and


running with something of an Amazon style email strategy that
meets customers at a multitude of touch points. It’s usually
better to do this than merely sending a weekly or monthly
newsletter.

23. Partner network


If you want your content to be seen beyond your own assets, be
it your website or social media channels, then it’s worth setting
up a partner network.

The important thing to do here is create ‘win/win’ deals where


both parties will benefit. It’s no good creating a piece of content,
firing it at people who you’ve never spoken to before, and then
expecting them to place it. Most partnerships are based on quite
a long period of nurturing, and often you will have to do
something for prospective partners before they come on board.

I’ve written an earlier post on a four step process, but Moz’s


Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Growing Popularity and Links guide is
a useful source.

Some recommended tools are below:

Followerwonk (for influencer research)

Buzzstream (for managing partnerships and link


building)

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24. Paid for network


While strong partnerships will likely promote your work, there
may be occasions when you need to give your content a bit
more of a push.

Of course, unlike all the other ingredients in this recipe, this


relies more on media budgets than manpower – thus it’s an
anomaly in content marketing.

You could promote content on social media by using things like


Facebook promoted posts. This can often be quite fruitful, given
it will simultaneously promote links to your content and grow
your followings.

Cost per click content marketing platforms like Outbrain and


Taboola are also good at getting your content in front of people
on highly trafficked sites, but they will generally offer less
conversion/retention than using social platforms.

It’s also important to remember that your content will often be


competing with at least three other links in a block for clicks
often on a mainstream site. Thus, make your content widely
accessible (broad picture rather than details) and focus on
making your headlines as clickable as possible.

Distribution phase goals:


Give your social media and email specific defined roles,
beyond driving traffic.

Create a network of partners within your niche.

Use paid for distribution to give your content an extra


push. 

Conclusion:
So there you have it, 24 different ingredients for my own
content strategy recipe. It's taken me a few years of formulating
to reach this recipe, but I've used it as a framework quite a lot
and it tastes good to me.

Certainly other people may have other ingredients, so if you do,


let me know about them in the comments. 

Many of the images in this post were taken from End to


Content Strategy in 15 Minutes on Slideshare. 

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Published 28 April, 2014 by James Carson


James Carson is Director of Content at Made From Media and a contributor to
Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.
20 more posts from this author

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 Content Strategy, Evergreen Content, Content Marketing Strategy, Content Tools,


Content

Comments (8)

Join the conversation

Alexandra Nicola
A very detailed article that explains the main important
points out. A great way to learn more about all the planes of a
good content marketing strategy.
11 months ago

Peter Carter
Awesome! Love the analogy with the Burger too. So much
quality info in here, going to go through with a fine tooth
comb.

Cheers,
Peter
11 months ago

David Somerville, Head of inbound marketing at Fresh Egg


Great article James and nice to see you're also recommending
some of the tools I've been sharing in my content
presentations (Soovle, Buzzstream etc). The key for me is the
'complete recipe' - mixing together the four elements ensures
that the content strategy is solid.
11 months ago

James Gurd, Owner at Digital Juggler Small Business Multi-user


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James Gurd, Owner at Digital Juggler Small Business Multi-user
Hi James

Excellent blog, a really well structured read for people trying


to piece together an approach to content marketing.

I find a key missing ingredient is knowing how/what to


measure to validate success and fine tune the approach.

What are your tips on positive KPIs to use and ways to


tweak/customise analytics to support this?

Any useful blogs/presentations to point people towards.

I'm currently doing a mapping exercise for @crowdshed and


splitting out into browse / consume / convert.

I need to translate it into some custom reports and not yet got
the answers!

cheers
james
11 months ago

James Carson, Founder at Made From Media Small Business Multi-


user
Hi James (and others)

Thanks for the feedback...

I think that's a big question that everyone has with content


strategy and like most difficult topics there's not one answer.

I don't really see it as a stage in a process either (this is all


about stages and getting things in the right order) - it's
something a lot more holistic that should be discussed before
going into this process.

It really depends on what the company/client wants out of it -


there is not really one report I can recommend specifically...
11 months ago

Larry Kunz
This is a very comprehensive and helpful list. Thanks, James.

I agree with James Gurd that we also need to figure out a way
to measure the results and fine tune as needed. Beyond that,
there needs to be a management or governance stage to
determine, for example, when content should be sunset and
who gets to make those kinds of decisions.

Rahel Bailie (intentionaldesign.ca) has written extensively


about this. I recommend the book she co-authored, called
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about this. I recommend the book she co-authored, called
"Content Strategy." I also found this article on the content
lifecycle helpful:
http://intentionaldesign.ca/2010/04/15/content-lifecycle/
11 months ago

James Gurd, Owner at Digital Juggler Small Business Multi-user


Hi Larry,

Yep the sunset approach is important - need to a way to


ensure topical, current content is most visible + ensure out of
date content is either removed or refreshed.

A key issue to avoid is retiring old content because it's not


generating new visits but killing off links so that if anyone
clicks from a linking webpage, they get a dead-end.

The full impact of decisions needs to be though through.


Thanks for the article link, will take a peek.

Thanks
james
11 months ago

James Carson, Founder at Made From Media Small Business Multi-


user
Items 10 and 11 would take care of this... it's maybe not as
detailed as it could be. I'd say the person who needs to make
these decisions should be the people / person running the
process.
11 months ago

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