The Common Mistakes People Make in Content Strategy

Read any popular blogs on the web – or any blogs with real community engagement - and you’ll hear them tout the importance of “awesome content”. And they are right: with literally billions of websites out there, awesome content is just about the only thing left for you to do if you want to stand out from the crowd.

But have you ever wondered what they mean exactly by “awesome content”? The term is used so many times, it has become a jargon of sorts. It means nothing to most of us.

Before I go into what I think really makes content, awesome, let’s first go through what do not:

No one tactic will make your content great. Not great headlines, great openings/endings, images, videos, social media, etc. All these stuff are important, but by themselves they do nothing to raise your blog’s reputation.

What you need is a content strategy. It’s that jargon, isn’t it?

Let me explain it: content strategy is simply a system you go through before you publish any content, on your blog or anywhere else. You need a system because blogging is like assembling a domino - you miss one part and the show will stop right there.

But here’s the thing: few people ever talk about content strategy. And those who do, usually serve the corporate world.

And as a result, I see a lot of bloggers make crippling mistakes when they launch their website. The good news is, those crippling mistakes are easy to fix.

Here are 5 of them:

1. Writing to the Whole World
Ask any successful bloggers and they will tell you they are writing for one person.

Just. One. Single. Person.

Newbies are always defensive when I talk about this. Why limit your audience, they asked. Why not write for the whole world? This is the most common mistake new newbies make.

Here’s why: relevancy. When you blog, you’re going to use a certain tone, voice, metaphors, examples, images, and you’re going to need to design your blog and promote your content. Whatever tactics you choose to implement, they must resonate with your readers.

The problem is, they can only resonate with ONE type of reader. If your tactics are relevant to an 80 year old war veteran, they are not going to be relevant to a 4 year old barbie-loving girl.

Sure, some degree of generalization can work, but the more you do it, the less impact your message is going to have.

2. Lack of a Core Message
Every successful blogger has a set of core messages. And every post they make is somehow increasing the value of that set of core messages.

They do that so as to strengthen their brands. A brand must stand for something - and it must piss off at least a proportion of people out there. If you try to make everyone happy, no one will be.

Copyblogger, for example, believes in the power of copywriting and sales - something Madison Avenue advertising “creatives” simply don’t appreciate. Seth Godin believes in permission marketing - something huge corporations who spend billions in ads to interrupt us, just never subscribe to.

So sit down and put together ten values that you want to convey with your blog. And before you write a word, ask yourself if that post is in line with what brand’s values or not. If not, perhaps you shouldn’t write it at all.

3. Relying on Serendipity
Successful bloggers also spend 80% of their time sharpening their axes instead of chopping down trees with blunt steel. They stalk other blogs, media outlets in their niche, thriving forums and they are always in tune with what the market is saying this very hour.

Why do they do this?

Because here’s the truth: writing the post is relatively easy (at least to them). It’s knowing what to write that’s difficult. I’m sure you understand: have you ever sat down to blog but have no idea what to write?

So what they do is to deep dive into the topic and “get in the flow” with research once a week or so. They will come out of that state with dozens of great ideas. They will then develop an editorial calendar.

That calendar can go for months in advance so they can plan out what post to publish during a particular time (eg: festive season) and in what order (eg: basics vs advanced techniques).

If you’re starting a brand new blog, spend a week or two developing a 3 month editorial calendar. You may even quit this “blogging thing” once you know how hard it is - and save yourself 6 months of potential work down the drain if you just started writing.

You can thank me later.

4. Lack of Promotional Plan
With all the buzz about social media, you’d think it’s a channel everyone simply must have.

But it’s not necessarily true: Seth Godin runs one of the world’s most popular blog, yet other than his automated tweets and Facebook posts, he has 0 social media presence. He follows literally no one on Twitter.

Am I saying you shouldn’t use social media at all? Of course not.

The point is to think through your promotional plan before you jump into whatever is the hottest tactics today. And remember to write down your promotional plan, broken down to step by step. Execute it every time a blog post goes live.

5. What’s Your System?
By now, you should realize that there are a lot more to blogging than just writing. Newbies “roll with it”. Pros document each and every step and develop a system around it.

A system is a step-by-step guide on what to do about everything from deciding what to write to what to do after the post is published. It determines, among other things:

1. How long is your review cycle? Your post is not done after it’s published and promoted. You’ll need to go back in 6 or 12 months and ask yourself whether or not you can update it. Remember, these posts are probably getting lots of organic traffic. It’d be foolish not to take full advantage of that.

2. What’s your policy on linking? Should you link to the most relevant internal post or should you link to what’s best for your users, even if it leads to an external site? How many links per post, ideally? What anchor text should you use?

3. How do you determine what images to use? Should they all be unique or are stock images fine?

4. How do you determine which pull-quotes to use?

5. How do you structure your post? How do you determine where sub-headlines go, when do you use lists and how long should a paragraph be?

6. What kind of ads should you display on that particular page? Would you promote an affiliate offer, Adsense or any other network?

And of course, there are plenty of other considerations.

If you don’t document all these down, it’s easy to miss one or more of them. And that, is the fifth and last common mistake in content strategy.

Andrianes Pinantoan is part of the team behind Open Colleges. When not working, he can be found Google+.

Featured image on home page courtesy of liewcf.

Filed in: Feature Articles, Internet Marketing, Marketing
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