Writing for Your Reader: Internet Summit Takeaways

November 30th, 2015

This past month, several members of the Coalmarch crew spent a few days soaking up everything that Internet Summit had to offer. We made a game plan, split up, and attended educational sessions on everything from user experience to content marketing. For the purpose of this post, we’ll focus on content marketing– specifically, Arnie Kuenn’s pre-conference workshop.

As the CEO of Vertical Measures stepped up to the mic, he said what most of us were already thinking: ‘We’re all here for one reason. Google.’ 

It may be sad, but it’s true. Ever since Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird made their appearances online, digital marketers have had quite the time. From cleaning up spammy backlink profiles to revamping websites with thin content– we’ve been busy sweeping over our own mistakes. 

But what if we had put user intent in the foreground from the start? What if we considered maybe we’re not serving our audiences by generating empty content or by encouraging the exchange or links for money? We would probably all be in a much better place. So before we think about how we can game the system (the system now being artificial intelligence that can read hundreds of thousands of pages per second), let’s think about how we can better serve content to our readers– our potential customers.

Make a Game Plan

Throughout his four-hour presentation, Arnie kept reiterating the importance of strategy. He noted that the fundamental difference between successful and unsuccessful content marketers is a plan– a content strategy. This doesn’t have to be some sort of outlandish thirty-page document that’s created and never referenced again; in fact, it should be a 4-6 page resource that’s continually evolving.

Ideally, you have a strategy one year out and a plan for executing the strategy three months out. 

The annual strategy would include things like:

  • Holidays or large milestones for your client’s business
  • New product launches and selling cycles
  • Concepts that make sense for each season
  • Company goals and deadlines

Whereas the 3-month plan would include details:

  • The audience you’re interested in reaching
  • The theme of the article (title/description/H1)
  • The status, due date, and publish date of the piece of content
  • The type of content and who is responsible for producing it
  • How the content will be shared and promoted
  • The goal for the content piece

So think of the annual strategy as more of a game plan and the 3-month plan as the playbook.

Ideation: Get the Whole Team Involved

Ideation is the first step in any content planning phase– and arguably the most enjoyable phase of creating any piece of content. Not only do you get to conduct research ( ie., find out what people are searching for), but you also get to collaborate with your client and your team. Ideation is the birthplace of great content.

Think about the following example:

You have a client who owns a company that designs fun t-shirts themed around a city or state. So a North Carolina t-shirt might have ‘tomato’ on the western side of the state and ‘vinegar’ on the right– representing the age-old NC barbecue rivalry. Now, what would be an example of a content piece that would reach new audiences? What might people search for?

The client might say: ‘funny state t-shirts.’
You (the marketer) might say: ‘where to buy NC-themed t-shirts.’
The PHP developer might say: ‘best gifts to buy my brother for Christmas.’

If I were the one making this decision, I’d probably go with the PHP developer’s idea. Why? Because most people probably have a pretty low level of awareness for these t-shirts. They’re searching for exactly what you offer but just don’t know it yet. They want to see a 2015 gift guide with a filtering option for each family member.

The key here is getting the PHP developer, designer, product engineer, or whomever it may be involved. Anyone on your team who specializes in something other than you and is capable of attending a 10-minute brainstorm should be there. The more ideas, the better.

Strategy: Find the Opportunity

So now that you have a few ideas under your belt, it’s time to dig in. Use Google suggestAdWords Keyword Plannerkeywordtool.io, or any combination of the reputable tools out there to get a better understanding of what your audience is looking for and talking about.  

Once you know what the conversation is about, conduct a simple Google search find out who is already writing on the topic and how well the content answers the searcher’s query. Your goal is to find a hole in the conversation and fill it.

Let’s go back to our previous example. Maybe someone has already written a 2015 gift guide– but has anyone written a gift guide that’s specific to your target market’s city that speaks directly to your ideal demographic? If not, think about other businesses you could partner with. If we’re thinking of Raleigh in particular, who else should we include in the guide? Would they be likely to share the guide if we gave them a mention? How many links could we generate from this piece? How can we refresh this piece of content each year? You get the idea.

Implementation: Get it Right the First Time

It’s easy to take your idea and run with it in the form of a blog. But is your idea really best suited for an article? Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. It’s important that you not only keep your subject matter in mind, but you also think about:

Your Client

  • What’s the voice of the brand?
  • How is this piece of content going to help achieve a business goal?
  • How can we measure the success of the content?
  • What does the timeline look like?

Your Audience

  • Where do they go online? Is it reasonable to believe that you can promote the content in this space?
  • What do they care about?
  • What do they respond to?

Your Core Competencies

  • How has your previous work performed?
  • Should you outsource video?
  • Do you have the capacity to get the work done well in the amount of time allocated?

Additionally, consider how you can recycle the content to reach new audiences in different online conversations. An idea that might work well as a gift guide on a local blog might also work as a video clip for a how-to site– like a behind-the-scenes of 3 of the makers featured in the guide. Our t-shirt maker could answer some of the following questions that the local DIY community would likely find interesting:

  • How does screen printing work?
  • What are the benefits of using organic cotton?
  • Is there a difference in the end product depending on the type of dye used?

Optimization & Promotion: Spread the Word

In my opinion, there’s not much worse than a great piece of content that’s never seen. Give people the chance to engage with what you’ve produced by optimizing your content for search visibility and by encouraging amplification. Use strong headers, title tags, and meta descriptions to be seen in the SERP and always remember to utilize open graph for social sharing.

Measure & Repeat

There’s an acronym that a fellow Coalmarcher has forever burnt into my mind: ‘ABGB: always be getting better.’ You’ve probably heard something of the sort, but the idea rings true. Always test, always measure, always benchmark, etc…If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If your content makes a sound amongst all of the white noise of the internet, make sure you’re there to hear it.

Questions about content strategy? Comments about #ISUM15?


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