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40+ Tools & Tips to Execute a Winning Content Strategy

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There really is no excuse for poor content in 2014. Content marketing and content strategy is an important piece of any digital marketing campaign. Doing it properly requires a disciplined approach, some great tools, and a meaningful investment.

Moderated by Lee Odden (@leeodden), CEO, TopRank Online Marketing, here's a recap of the Creative Content Marketing: From Strategy to Execution session at ClickZ Live New York 2014.

There's No Excuse for Bad Content

The rapid-fire session began with Michael King (@ipullrank), executive director, owned media, Acronym, who brought up the universally acknowledged "content is king" mantra and the frequent disappointment that occurs when fresh content fades into obscurity. King asserts that the number one reason for this is the quality of the content being pushed out. He drives the point home with an infographic bordering on pornographic that begs the question – WTF?

Excessive Heat Infographic

King said "there's no excuse for bad content in 2014" when there is so much data available. The winners are those who can distinguish between content marketing and content strategy.

A strategy answers the age old questions:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
  • How

When developing a content strategy, diversification is key. He mentions 24 different types of content in his slide deck. This is a bottom line affair and not an artistic endeavor, so keeping the focus on ROI is critical. This is accomplished by associating KPI's with consumer actions at varying stages of the decision process.

Tools to Create a Winning Content Strategy

Having the right tools makes any job easier. King identified the tools that he uses when creating a winning content strategy:

  • Murally: An online whiteboard designed to visually organize ideas and collaborate.
  • Storyboard That: An online storyboard creator.
  • Balsamiq: A rapid wireframing tool akin to sketching on a whiteboard.
  • Gliffy: Works in your browser to create flowcharts, org charts, diagrams, wireframes, and more.
  • Trello: A personal favorite of mine for highly intuitive and effective project management.

Pro Tip: "Great content has great structure." Use images, bullets, and formatting as attention grabbers.

Finding Good Ideas

King recommends building audience and buyer personas at scale. This is what Google is doing with Affinity Segments as explained in this YouTube Video. The icing on the cake is that affinity segments and demographic data is available in Google Analytics.

The User Journey

He defines this as the path a user must take in order to fulfill a given need or meet a given goal. It can be as broad or as granular as you wish. Just bear in mind that each step must be actionable and be mapped to content.

He then identifies the tools used to map the journey:

Data Collection

King listed the following tools for this purpose:

Creating the Content

King suggested the following resources if outsourcing the job:

  • 99Designs: The world's largest online graphic design marketplace
  • Dribbble: A "show and tell" for designers, developers and other creatives
  • Contently: a platform to craft, maintain, and optimize a high quality content strategy
  • Skyword: A content production platform
  • Newscred: A content marketing and syndication platform
  • Copypress: Content creators
  • Plag Tracker: Plagiarism checker
  • Grammarly: Grammar Checker

And he suggests this toolset for the Do-it-Yourselfers

  • Infogr.am: A platform for easily creating info-graphics
  • Piktochart: An easy infographic design app
  • Google Fusion Tables: An experimental data visualization web application to gather, visualize, and share larger data table
  • Infographics Toolbox: I'm substituting this as a replacement for King's choice, Icharts, which appears to be offline. Illustrate your data with custom graphs, charts, maps and more
  • Dipity: Create an interactive, visually engaging timeline in minutes
  • Storybird: Create, read and share visual stories
  • Kuler: Try out, create and save various color schemes
  • Adobe Edgefonts: A vast free web font library

King emphasized that when communicating with creatives, it is important to do so in very specific terms. Failure to do so can lead to both frustration and disappointment on both sides. He strongly recommends using a Data Viz Brief, leaving nothing to chance or subjective interpretation.

Of course the final step is promotion. King highly recommended the Buzzstream Guide to content promotion as a playbook for content promotion.

Content Goals

King's final takeaway was goal determination:

  • Goal Leads + Qualified lead rate = Download Goal
  • Download Goal ÷ Conversion Rate = Visitor Goal

And spend per channel requirement:

  • Views ÷ Spend = Views per Dollar
  • Views per dollar x Conversion rate = Conversion per dollar

Outreach goal requirement:

  • Goal Links ÷ Response (or link) Rate = Outreach Target
  • Outreach target ÷ 20% = Initial List Length

Content Marketing & Rocket Science

Clayburn Griffin (@Clayburn), Senior SEO Content Strategist, 360i, took to the podium next and got right to the point, likening Content Marketing to Rocket science. Like rocket science, good content creation follows a specific blueprint and process. Griffin laid out his process as follows:

  • Strategy
  • Brainstorm
  • Schedule
  • Create
  • Distribute
  • Measure
  • Repeat

He too emphasized the need to specifically and accurately communicate the creative vision. One man's boat is another man's yacht and placed in the wrong context, just doesn't work. Clayburn's solution is one of the aforementioned tools, Balsamiq, to produce a mockup, leaving nothing to chance.

His approach to brainstorming for good ideas included:

  • Personas
  • Mind Maps
  • Affinity Diagrams
  • Competitor Research
  • Keyword Research

And the tools that he uses include:

Pro Tip: Yahoo Answers. Use the Google advanced search query [how does + keyword] to discover topics of interest:

How does blogging

Creating Content on a Budget

Next, Griffin offered his thoughts on creating content on a tight budget, and listed the following possibilities:

  • Content Vendors – Fiverr for Video, animation, illustration, book covers, voice overs and more
  • Repurpose Existing Content
  • User Generated Content
  • Creative Commons
  • Internal Influencers – initiate a conversation on Quora

You manage what you measure. Look beyond traffic and conversions. Measure engagement:

  • Time on site
  • Pages per visit
  • Social Shares
  • Comments

Autocomplete can be a brainstorming gold mine filled with content ideas:

Google Suggest is conan...

Long-tail phrases like this can rank with little, if any, effort. Leverage trends and current events in the same way.

Be a social butterfly. Respond to user questions on social platforms like Reddit or forums if your answer leads to a good user experience. Don't cross the line and spam any social websites. This will have the opposite effect of what you are looking to achieve.


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