Content is everywhere. Everything you read, see, listen to, or watch is content. The headlines, writing, and images on every website are content. Everything posted on social media or discussed in a webinar is content. This blog post is content. The only thing that’s not content is the saying about golf that’s stitched onto your dad’s couch pillow.
So if content is everywhere, why is everyone always telling marketers and business owners they need to create more of it if they want to engage customers and prospects, get more eyeballs on their websites, and sell more stuff?
Because it works. Good content draws people in, holds their attention, and earns their trust. That leads, sometimes directly but more likely over time, to sales. A study conducted by Hubspot in 2021 revealed that in 56 percent of online purchases, the buyer engaged with related content directly before their purchase.
So that’s what all the hubbub is about. But, and this is an important “but,” just any content won’t help you; if it’s not providing value to your audience it won’t do you any good at all. And even if you’ve got insights and ideas that an audience will value, you shouldn’t just start spewing it all out there. You need to start with a strategy, and a plan. Keep reading to understand of how you lay out a strategy and start creating content that works for you.
What is content creation, and how does it affect strategy?
A content strategy can take many forms, but it should always have three components: an overall vision for why you want to create content, your plan for creating it, and a distinct, measurable goal.
You may want to start with an analysis of your current content strategies to see what’s working and where there’s room for improvement. You should probably include an examination of your competitors to see what insights they’re providing, so you don’t end up repeating what they’re already saying.
A few things to keep in mind for describing your vision for content:
Always answer the questions, “What is the problem my audience is dealing with? How can my content solve it?” Consider supplementing what you know with an audience survey.
Dig deep into what makes your content unique vs. the competition. What can you give your audience that they can’t find anywhere else?
platforms. Where does your audience go for information and insight? You’ll want to meet them there if possible. Are they a Twitter crowd, or do they interact on LinkedIn? They probably spend a lot of time reading their email.
Creating a content plan and setting goals
After you sketch out your vision, you'll need to move on to your plan. Here's where you lay out in clear, tangible terms how you plan to achieve your goals by producing content. You'll also need to list the tools and resources you need to achieve those goals and the timeline for achieving them .
One of the fundamental things your plan should do is specificy what types of content you’ll create. Such as:
Social media posts
Videos (i.e., a vlog)
Your plan should lay out a specific schedule, settings consistent, achievable publishing cadence. .
Next, set some goals. Your content goals need to be tangible, achievable, and related to your product. Increasing visits to the product’s page on your website could be a goal. Sales growth always works, too.
Note that your goals could influence the format you choose. will If you’re trying to raise brand awareness, thought leadership articles published on your blog and promoted in email could be your primary format. If sales are the goal, you might social media and paid content promotion — if so, be sure to budget for it.
And speaking of budget, your plan should also tell you who’s going to create the content. If you can’t do it all in-house, you'll need additional staff or a budget for outside help.
The content creation process
Content doesn’t create itself. And there’s a direct correlation between the amount of time you put into content and how effective it will be. Once you start publishing, it can feel relentless and exhausting
But while it may all sound overwhelming, it can be done. The best approach is to break it down into a series of clear, specific steps. Here’s an example, using writing. You could also apply these steps to video or podcast creation.
1. SEO research
Through your knowledge of, and research on, your target audience, you should know the basic terms they’re searching for. From there, you can use any number of technology tools — SEMRush, Moz, Google Keyword Planner, to name a few — to help you home in on the specific topics your audience is searching for most, along with the keywords related to those topics.
Learning to use SEO tools, and to understand how to choose keywords is an art, but it’s a critical part of content marketing today for the simple reason that search is where most of us go to find information. Think of it as a proxy for what your audience wants to know. If you have the budget for an SEO agency like Graphite (who we use at Descript), their know-how can supercharge your content.
2. Picking your topics
Once you identify the keywords you’ll build around, you need to figure out what you have to say about them. What unique insights can you bring on those topics? How can you help customers and prospects solve the problem they’re grappling with? When you layer your answers to those questions over your keywords, you’ll have your topics.
Let’s say your audience is doing a lot of searching on the terms “minority hiring.” In your 10 years as a recruiter you’ve seen some companies succeed in hiring diverse teams, and others fail. What did the successful ones do differently? Identify five steps you’ve seen successful companies take. Your topic is something like: “5 steps to building a team that’s diverse — and successful.”
There’s not getting around it. Once you’ve got your topic, you have to do the writing. It can be hard, frustrating, lonely work. But it must be done. Two pieces of advice. First, let your keywords guide you; they have to be inserted prominently, and they can form the foundation of an outline to help you get started.
Second, write like you talk. Online writing is generally conversational, and it will come much easier if you don’t try to sound overly formal or imitate someone else. Keep it quick, engaging, and to the point.
Finally, just start writing. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time or revising as you go. Just sit down and knock out a first draft in one sitting. Then you can revise, rethink, refine. It will go faster and easier this way.
Self-explanatory. Either edit yourself if you must. But it’s always better to ask someone else to review your writing before you publish. It will help you see the reader’s perspective, identify weak points in your argument, and untangle any muddled writing.
Once your editing is complete, your content should be ready to upload into a content management system. At some point this will involve copy-and-pasting from wherever you created your draft. There will also likely be some formatting, and insertion of images (don’t skip that) and meta tags, for starters. Whoever’s doing this should do it almost every time, which will make it much less likely that any parts will get skipped or screwed up.
Last on the list, you’ll push it out there for all the world to see. Most likely you’ll want to schedule your posts in advance. Mornings are typically best, and Fridays are usually the worst. But it varies by audience and platform — do some research, and then some testing to determine what’s optimal for you.
Once your content is out there, mixing it up in the war for audience attention, you’ll want to keep an eye on how it’s performing. Choose a few key metrics and track them. Use the results to refine your topics, your content itself, and your distribution tactics. Consider this a perpetual loop — i.e., always keep measuring and improving.
Metrics you might use:
Page views: how many times a particular piece of content has been seen
Organic traffic: how many people found your content through a Google search
Bounce rate: the number of visitors who left your site after visiting a single page
Conversion rate: tracks the number of people who engage with a direct call to action; e.g., clicking on a “buy” button or subscribing to your newsletter
Engagement rates: using various metrics, track how many people interact with your social media content
Subscriber growth: how many new subscribers you get from publishing a particular piece of content
Content creation tools
If you’re creating articles or other written content, the only tools you’ll need are a computer, a word processor, and a bottle of whiskey in your desk.
But if you’re creating videos or a podcast, you’ll need production software. Guess what: I think you should use Descript. If you’re new to video or audio, Descript will make the whole process infinitely easier, faster, and less frustrating. If you’re a pro, it’ll still make it faster and easier.
Descript gives you automatic, accurate transcription. It lets you edit your audio or video the same way you edit a doc. It does all the things a fully powered audio editor can do. And it lets you export directly to a bunch of different hosting services. You’ll get an embeddable video player with a searchable transcript. And easy audiograms for social promotion.
It’s important to remember that once your content goes live, you have to follow its metrics to gauge its performance. If it’s not successful, you’ll need to know why, so you can change your content plans for the future.
We also recommend reading Descript’s blog to learn more tips and tricks for content creation, especially in the audio and video sphere.