Ultimate Guide to Content Strategy

Many people use the terms “plan” and “strategy” interchangeably. They are different but people can be confused and use them in the wrong context. A plan and a strategy are used to achieve the end goal.

A strategy is the overarching method for reaching that goal and is a long term effect, it can evolve. A plan is static and there are outline steps to achieve a single objective. A plan is short term or part of a short term strategy.

Within SEO, there are many different content strategies to implement. Depending on the budget, you may need to prioritise them.

At Tea Time SEO we had three well known search professionals share their experience with building a content strategy for:

  • Local Businesses
  • Blogs
  • eCommerce sites

There are of course a number of other industries to focus on where the content strategy will be different. However this guide should help you set up the “brilliant basics” for your company or client to help you improve your visibility and drive more traffic that converts.

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Chapter 1 - Local Content Strategy

You may ask yourself, does my business need a content strategy? Whether you’re a giant multinational business, a single store owner, or just an ecommerce site with limited delivery capabilities, everyone needs a content strategy. The big difference is how much time you should invest. The simple truth comes back to, how much of my business is local? Work out the percentages and that percentage is how much of your time is how much you should invest in writing content.

Step 1: Research

Research your local markets, your competitors and how they act within different regions and establish ways to develop a competitive advantage. The best way Dan found to do this is through local networking. Although not ideal at the moment, getting out on the streets and meeting people to understand how your local market is different from all others and where you best fit in that world is invaluable. Once you have got that, the pieces below will fall into place much, much easier. To be clear, everything below will not help every type of business but most of it will help. Dan knows this because he has done it not only for clients, but for friends, family and even for his own business.

Step 2: Optimise your site so that it dominates the local search market

When you focus on these local markets, the competition gets thinner. For instance, when someone is looking to buy a property, they will be very specific about the town, village, borough etc. that they want to live in. Most traditional real estate agents want to brand themselves for the city, when in fact, they should be going after these micro markets. As a local business owner, you need to be thinking the same. 

“What makes me different from my competition and why would locals buy from me?” Then dominate the type of searchers your buyers will be looking for. Create vibrant, stimulating content for your buyers, understand how to write creatively to inspire action, yet include the necessities for producing great SEO copy. High-quality creative content is a crucial ingredient to support SEO campaigns. Not only does it attract natural links, high-quality content also helps achieve better longtail rankings and improves your conversion rate.

It is not always about producing more and more exciting content, existing content should never be launched and forgotten. Your content marketing should be built on an iterative approach to improvement. Keep the popular content current, generating fresh leads by maintaining relevance and continuing to attract high-quality traffic that converts.

Step 3: Write unique content

We all know your content needs to be as unique as you are, targeted to reflect exactly where consumers are in their buying process. Understanding not only your business but also the intent of your audience. Your content output needs to be tailored, positioning your business as the go-to local provider for your products and services.

The easiest way to do this is by breaking your target audience down into four persona groups:

  • the stranger
  • the visitor
  • the lead
  • the customer

You need to take a multi-faceted approach to your content marketing services. Put your consumers at the heart of each piece of content you create, considering each persona’s online journey and placement of your brand to attract them. Your content campaigns, (even on a local level) should be bold and utilise impactful imagery that resonates with your audience. From infographics to video, animation to photography, if you have those capabilities, use them. Make sure they are carefully engineered to breathe life into your campaigns through multi-channel assets that drive results.

The big players in the market do not have enough experience (or resources) in local markets when it comes to writing content. These multinational competitors’ branches will have articles on key products all the way down to what they rate as the best Christmas songs. That is all well and good, but what you can beat them on is local content. Focus on a local level for every town and village you want your expertise showcased on. While the big players have the public information available on your town, there’s local information they can give on things such as local schools on your street (outside of an Ofsted report), they don’t have community activities, local running routes and the best type of house to live in which village.

Offering this information is your secret weapon and will help you earn your badge as a local expert. Try and make this something people cannot get anywhere else. The best way forward is blogging, vlogging and YouTube (Google loves it when you use their tools!). The more Google tools you use, the more Google’s bots will love you, and the longer the user will stay on your site. Remember, your audience can get a free valuation anywhere on the Internet, so offering it on your site is not of any significant value. Local news and content is where you will win.

Step 4. Use long-tail keywords

Long-tail terms are those with at least 3 or more keywords and they tend to be very targeted and as a result convert better. If we take the example of the estate agents in Leeds, UK, buyers are looking for specific homes in and around Leeds. For example they search for “Victorian Mansions in Oakwood”, with Oakwood being a suburb of Leeds. The estate agent in Leeds would have a better chance of being ranked as the search phrase is much more specific, and more importantly, it’ll convert better. With the longer tail terms, you can be even more specific focusing on the cost and type of house as well, for example “cheapest bungalow in Meanwood”. Fewer people are searching these phrases, but that also means there is less competition and more serious home buyers specifically looking for a certain type of property. You can do the same no matter what your business is. Think how your local persona is searching and carve your name in that niche.

Doing a standard search for “house for sale Doncaster, you only see the major competitors like Rightmove and Zoopla.

Houses for sale in Doncaster

Doing a standard search for “house for sale Doncaster, you only see the major competitors like Rightmove and Zoopla.

Step 5. Use the right platform

Any business that wants to rank locally needs a Facebook business page, Twitter and Google My Business (GMB). It is extremely important to complete your GMB profile and maintain it regularly and put these social links on your site too, it will add some legitimacy to your pages.

Social media is also a great source for writing content and for idea generation, e.g. What are the most common questions you get asked on Facebook and Twitter? How often are you having to answer these questions? With regards to the content for GMB, go back to what we said about unique content for your local branch. Don’t do the typical overarching standard corporate approach, your team in each branch is unique and that’s a unique angle that GMB can help you convey and promote.

Chapter 2 - eCommerce Content Strategy

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a crazy year. This is no more true than in the world of ecommerce. Big players like Amazon announce plans to create 7,000 new jobs to meet demand for online retail, while Homebase and other companies are investing heavily in growing their online stores to better cater to their customer base.

The graph below shows that the overall percentage of ecommerce retail sales in the UK rose to almost ⅓ of all retail in May 2020, up from around 22.5%. This trend is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, which means that ecommerce content strategies will become more important than ever.

Image source: https://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-strategy/online-retail-sales-growth/

 

How can you build a layered content strategy fit for SEO in 2021? Hugo shares his five tips:

Tip 1: Present a variety of imagery and video

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of an SEO content strategy is imagery and video content, for two reasons:

  • Visual assets are crucial from a user-experience standpoint and can make or break the likelihood of a user converting on the site.
  • Image SEO is a huge opportunity for ecommerce businesses looking to drive high-intent traffic.

While the online retail experience holds many advantages over brick and mortar stores (simplicity, greater consumer choice, reductions on price, to name a few), it cannot currently replicate the experience of seeing and touching a product first hand before buying.

Consumers like to be able to try on the product before making a purchase, or compare it to similar available products side-by-side. Although online return policies help to increase consumer confidence, it is undeniable that this process is more awkward than simply seeing a product in person and deciding then whether to buy it or not.

Good imagery and video is the best way to give consumers a similar experience. Prioritise high-resolution imagery and video on product pages to give consumers a great idea of what the final product will look like. Also make sure to provide multiple angles and lifestyle imagery where possible. ASOS do this to good effect, showing a variety of angles on their product pages and even including videos of models wearing the clothes.

Tip 2: Optimise your imagery for visual search

The second part of this is image SEO. Visual search is an important consideration for ecommerce digital marketing strategies as it is an often overlooked focus that could give ecommerce sites the competitive edge in their field.

Consumers often engage in a practice called ‘showrooming’, whereby they use visual search to find inspiration before making a purchase. This practice is so common that Google Images accounted for 21.54% of clicks of the entire search industry in the first quarter of 2019. This figure alone should encourage you to reconsider the importance of visual search.

Include your target keywords in your image file names and your image alt tags to help Google better understand their relevance. You should also compress your images to keep your pagespeed fast, which is a ranking factor on mobile devices, and serve images in the right size for different viewports.

Tip 3: Provide unique category content that meets user intent

Category pages, by and large, are the main drivers of traffic to an ecommerce website. This is because the largest portion of their target keywords will be at the Interest / Desire stage of the conversion funnel.

At this stage users are aware of the product and are actively looking to compare their options across different sites, using terms such as ‘men’s blue jeans’ or ‘women’s snowboards’. Rather than having a specific product in mind, the user is looking to compare different models, which is why Google serves category pages in their search results.

Your category content needs to be keyword targeted, unique and must confirm the USPs of the products and explain why the user should buy them. The written copy on these pages should not be overly salesy, nor should it be duplicated across similar category pages. For example, if your website has category pages for blue jeans and another for black jeans, it’s important that the content on each page is distinct enough for Google not to view it as duplicate content.

You can decide what level of information is appropriate by looking at competitor pages and identifying common user queries using tools like alsoasked.com or the Frequently Asked Question Explorer from Authoritas. However, make sure to get the right amount of content; too much informational content that is not aligned with the commercial intent of the category page can confuse Google, while too little content can also devalue the page.

A good example of category content can be found on Bliss, an ecommerce skincare brand. They make sure to include keyword-targeted content above the fold, while also going into more detail below the product range with internal links to relevant pages.

Tip 4: Don’t forget about informational content

In a study Impression carried out this year looking at 100 fashion ecommerce sites, those with active blogs saw 277% more traffic on average than those without a recently updated blog.

Informational content can drive high volumes of users at the beginning of their user journey, the ‘Awareness’ stage of the conversion funnel, helping to increase brand awareness and increasing sales down the line.

The importance of informational content for ecommerce cannot be overstated, so make sure to carry out keyword research early on to identify topics that could form part of a 12 month informational strategy.

Analyse the SERPs to understand what type of content performs best. Is it a ‘How to’ article? Is it a listicle, or perhaps a buying guide? Answering these questions early on will allow you to plan ahead and get sign off from key stakeholders.

Weber BBQ has a great informational content area that compliments their product offering. They have created hundreds of keyword-targeted pieces of content including recipes, FAQs and how-to guides on subjects like ‘How to clean a barbecue grill’.

While it doesn’t drive high intent traffic to the site, it does increase brand awareness. The internal links in the content itself also helps drive users further into the site to browse products they may only have just learned about.

Tip 5: Ensure product pages are unique

One of the most common challenges for ecommerce websites is duplicate content, particularly on product pages. Many sites have very similar products, with variants based on colour and size. While some duplicate content is inevitable, it is important to differentiate each page enough to encourage Google to index each version.

This is important because ecommerce websites that have duplicate content on a large scale risk having their websites being deemed as low quality by Google. Not only that, but product pages that could rank for long-tail keywords could be held back because they share too much content with pages not only on the same website, but also on other websites because of generic descriptions being copied from the product manufacturer website.

You should add uniqueness into your product descriptions by sharing your company’s experience with them, such as what you like most about them and the types of situations in which they can be used. Writing unique content for potentially thousands of pages can be daunting, but if planned properly this activity can be chipped away at over several months, and is certainly worth the time investment to do it.

Chapter 3 - Blogging Content Strategy

How to build a blogging strategy

There are 70 million posts published monthly on WordPress and 77% of internet users read blogs. Therefore it is imperative that you have a blogging content strategy.

Some companies create a blog just for the sake of it, writing content on what the blog owner thinks is interesting. When creating a blogging strategy it is important to think about two elements:

  1. Focus on what your audience will find interesting and helpful. Look at what your customers are asking on social media as Dan mentioned earlier. Also use tools “answer the public” to find out what people are asking, use Google trends and Buzzsumo and write about upcoming events. There are many sites such as Yoast and HubSpot that also provide advice on what to write about on your blog.
  2. Have a plan – don’t just “make it up as you go along”, don’t rely on simply writing about whatever just occurred to you that day. Each piece of content should have a connection to both the next and the last piece of content. Continuity is important to your audience and to Google.

Think about your audience and how you can help them. For example, aim to fill in the blanks for the topics of your blog posts:

We provide {target audience} with {type of content} to help them {business goals}.

This exercise helps you focus on who you’re trying to help, what you’re trying to help them with and what content you need to create.

Organise your topics into silos

Once you have identified the main problems you intend to help your audience with, organise them into topics and sub topics and sub-sub topics. Structure you blog, and your content strategy around that.

Use tools such as Authoritas to identify the topics and subtopics that will be your categories and subcategories. If you intend to create a lot of content over the coming years, it is essential to get these right at the start. Every single piece of content you create should have an obvious home in this siloed structure. You should never have to reorganise your blog.

Find the exact questions and problems your audience is expressing on Google by using a mixture of free and paid tools and looking at your own Google Search Console.

Free and paid tools

Use tools such as Authoritas’ FAQ Explorer, alsoasked.com, answerthepublic.com or keywordtool.io that show you the questions people are asking.

These platforms gather the user queries using Google’s autocomplete, people also ask and related searches. You should also do this manually for some terms. Search for things your audience searches for and look at autocomplete, people also ask and related searches. Jason recommends this manual approach as it helps to understand your products, your market and your audience and will give you insights and ideas that some tools will miss.

Google Search Console

Look at Search Console on a regular basis. What search terms trigger pages on your site on pages 3 and lower in Google results? You’ll find a lot of relevant topics you can address in your content that Google understands you are relevant for, but you currently do not address directly.

Go beyond your competitors

Some people recommend copying competitors, but do not do this. Blindly copying what the competition is doing is a bad idea. Your competitors are often wrong. Plus even if they are smart, you should have a Unique Selling Point that means their content and yours will never match 1:1

This sounds obvious, but you are (or should be) unique. You have a unique product, a unique service and unique talents. Content you create should focus mainly on that.

Internal teams

Ask your own client support and sales teams. What questions are clients and prospects asking? These teams are a great source of information about what specific questions your audience needs answers to. The bonus here is that if you can answer those questions proactively, you will reduce the workload for both sales and support staff since your audience will easily find the answer to their question or solution to their problem directly in Google.

Your content answers a question or solves a problem

Whatever the format or topic of your piece of content, you are answering a question or solving a problem. That’s what Google does incredibly well, it brings the best answer to a user’s question or the best solution to their problem. Serve the best answer for your visitors.

Next steps

Now you have a focussed, well researched and well organised spreadsheet document with a hierarchical set of topics, subtopics and specific questions. Now you can start thinking about the content you’re going to create.
There are two types of content:

1. Short form

For any question or problem your audience has for which you can provide a simple, quick answer, think in terms of short-form FAQ content (text or video). Create short, efficient answers to simple questions. If the answer is simple, never create long-form content. Users (yourself included) don’t want to wade through a long article or video to find a simple answer to a simple question.

The target here is Google – blue links, Featured Snippets and People Also Ask. You can also repurpose this content on other third party platforms where people are asking the question (and if possible include a link back).

This type of question or problem will go in your FAQ section. Find out more about how to build an FAQ section from Jason on his site here.

2. Long form

This is anything more complex requires an in-depth article, audio or video that provides a longer, more detailed explanation. This type of question or problem will go in your blog section which ties into your blog content strategy.

When writing long form, the key is to be empathetic to your audience. Plan your content, the format you choose (text, lists, tables, audio, video…) and, importantly the platform, according to where they hang out and how they like to consume content.

Design and create your content with the aim that:

  1. Your audience will consume that piece of content where they like to spend their time most (eg Medium, social media)
  2. Your content will bring real value to (and actively help) your audience
  3. Each piece of content will pay for itself from offsite alone

Create and optimise each piece of content for a platform that isn’t your website, for example Medium, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Stitcher, Twitter. In short, move your content to where your audience is and use the format that is the most appropriate for your audience on that platform.

You have now created a piece of content that is formatted for a third party platform, but (vitally) is highly relevant to and helps your audience. Here’s the key, it is a simple step to then repurpose that content for your own site and extend its usefulness and value (to you and your audience).

Warning: Don’t just copy/paste. The context is different, so the format, presentation and potentially content can all be different. Adapt the content to fit your site. Each case is unique, but, thanks to your understanding of your USP, your market and your audience, you’ll quickly get to grips with HOW you can adapt that content – you’ll see the specifics of how one piece of content can serve the same audience in a different manner, or potentially another audience altogether.

Intelligent repurposing of your content on your site always means you just served your existing audience better, and also widened the audience who will find and be interested in this piece of content.

A BIG bonus is that your blog / website links out to the original content and vice versa, meaning that you will never create content on your website that has no inbound links. Very simple.

Publish content away from your site

Planning and publishing for other platforms encourages you to widen your horizons both in terms of the topics, but also the formats and even distribution. Widening your horizons and your approach to your audience can only be a good thing.

Additionally, Google will rank both the content from the third party platform and that same (repurposed) content on your site. You get double visibility. Your site will rank. But then so will the content on the (powerful) third party platform. And whatever platform contains the primary content will rank best for the core term. Rank for keywords you would never dream of. If that platform is a major player in your market, you benefit from their ‘juice’ and rank #1 for terms you could never dominate with your own site.

Broaden your reach

The art here is to use your site to expand your ranking opportunities to related longer tail terms with the repurposed content on your site. This then pushes you to create content in formats you would perhaps otherwise not have made. In turn, it then opens enormous opportunities either though the ‘original’ platform or your own site to rank in images, videos and featured snippets.

You might even get a featured snippet video box answer if you’ve made a great video. That has happened to Jason on several occasions.

In this content strategy, Google is (just) a bonus. Create relevant and helpful content on third party, external sources that pays for itself. Then repurpose that content on an incredibly well organised topical hub (your website). Make sure you repackage for Google (AKA do some basic SEO).

In that scenario, you have made great content that pays for itself on the platform it was designed for then you have repurposed and packaged that content on your own site for a controlled and owned presence on Google as a bonus. If you have a content strategy where Google is simply a bonus, then you have a content strategy that pays for itself over and over.

What to do next?

Learn how to build your own Content Strategy from our blog and get started producing great content for your website.

Learn about our Content Strategy tool and what it can do for you.

You can try Authoritas and dig into our SEO big data with a free account to build your comprehensive Content Strategy!

Or, get in touch with our team and see how our software can take your Content Strategy to the next level.

About our authors

Dan Saunders

Dan has worked in marketing for 18 years. Within IDHL he works closely with the directors and heads of service to identify new business opportunities. Generating quality leads, following these up and consistently obtaining high conversion rates. Alongside this, he also works on his own ecommerce and Amazon store promoting other products and services where appropriate and generating referral leads.

Hugo Whittaker

SEO Executive at Impression

Hugo specialises in ecommerce SEO with a focus on international ecommerce SEO. Hugo is passionate about testing integrated digital strategies and leveraging new SERP features to increase the organic visibility of his clients. Hugo recently published a whitepaper detailing the different SERP features available on Google across desktop, mobile and voice, with tips on how to optimise for each feature.

Jason Barnard

Jason, The Brand SERP Guy has been in the digital marketing industry since 1998 and specialises in Brand SERPs (what appears when someone googles your name). Why “The Brand SERP Guy”? Because Jason has been studying, tracking and analysing Brand SERPs since 2013. Conclusion: Brand SERPs are your new business card, an honest critique of your content strategy and a reflection of your brand’s digital ecosystem.

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