A documented content strategy is crucial to your success as a freelance business owner, especially if you want to realize your full potential. A content strategy outlines what content you create and when and where you share it online. It makes your marketing efforts more cohesive, and it unifies your online presence.
When you prepare to create your content strategy, there are many, many factors to consider. If you haven’t tried your hand at content strategy, err on the side of sanity and start making your strategy with seven key elements in mind. These elements form the foundation of a good content strategy, and they enable you to add to your strategy as your business grows.
Clear Audience Picture
If you don’t know to whom you’re speaking when you create your content, your content strategy won’t take you very far, even if it’s the best in the world. To create content that resonates with your audience, you need to understand your audience.
Be ultra clear on whom you’re talking to when you sit down to create content. You should ideally know your audience’s pain points, motivations, needs, and goals. You want to know their problems so you can be their solution, but you shouldn’t overlook your audience’s motivation and goals, because that’s what helps drive them.
You need clear goals if your content strategy is going to be successful. Your goals help direct your strategy and let you know what you should be focusing your time on.
When you’re creating your content strategy, choose one or two primary goals and one or two secondary goals (goals that are necessary to complete in order to achieve your primary goal). This way, you’re not dividing your efforts in 15 different directions and getting nowhere fast.
To make your goals as clear as possible, make them:
- Specific – Don’t leave anything out. You want to ensure that you don’t have any wiggle room when it comes to meeting your goals.
- Deadline-based – Either use a time frame (e.g. in two weeks) or set a date (e.g. By February 13). When you put an end date on your goals, you’re more motivated to achieve them
- Measurable – Use numbers when you set your goal. Don’t set a goal that reads “Get more page views.” Set a goal that reads “Get 10,000 page views a month by March 3.”
- Realistic – Is it actually possible for you to achieve your goals without taking drastic measures? (Drastic measures = spending non-stop time alone in a Soviet Era bunker to meet your goals.) If you set realistic goals, you’ll feel more inclined to try to achieve them.
With good clear goals keeping your content strategy on track, you’ll have a greater chance at creating a successful one.
Web Page Content
As an individual, you grow and change. Your brand and business do, too. However, your web page content likely doesn’t. That’s a problem, especially if you want to book clients. Your web page content needs to mesh well with your overall content strategy, so it needs to be in line with your brand, audience, and goals.
If you’ve recently rebranded, or if you’re focusing on a different audience now, check your website content to ensure that it still aligns with your content strategy. There’s nothing more confusing for a potential client than arriving at your website and seeing that it’s targeted at a different market.
It’s easy to overlook pages like your About Me page or your Start Here page, but those are often your most visited website pages. Make a habit of checking your web page content every few months, unless you’re actively changing things in your business. If that’s the case, you need to check your web pages as soon as possible.
Opt-ins or Lead magnets
The way that much of the blogging and online business world views opt-ins is as a means to an email address, but they’re so much more than that. If you structure your opt-ins well, you can learn a lot about your potential clients and readers. The key is to making a plan for your lead magnets and using them strategically. Not every blog post or podcast episode you publish needs to have a content upgrade.
For maximum impact, your content upgrades should be used sparingly and only when they’ll truly enhance your blog post. If you’re scrambling to find something to put in a content upgrade, you likely shouldn’t create one.
The most important thing to remember when you’re creating your opt-ins is to connect them to a welcome sequence (a.k.a sales funnel). This is the most effective way to help your audience get to know you, your content, and your services or products.
It sounds really slimy to talk about sales funnels and how you ought to ensure that most of the content upgrades you create should lead to one. The truth is that when you build them right, sales funnels are one of your best tools for learning more about your audience and for helping them connect with you.
The key to creating non-slimy sales funnels is to make the content you send valuable and useful for your audience. Let’s say you’re an interior designer and you have a content upgrade called The Ultimate Home Remodeling Checklist. Here’s a possible sales funnel you could set up for that opt-in:
- Email 1: The reader gets an email that sends them the link to the checklist.
- Email 2: She gets an email with a brief introduction from you and where she can find you online.
- Email 3: She gets a few links to several videos in which you walk people through some of the more difficult tasks on the checklist.
- Email 4: The reader gets an email with a link to a free Ebook you created that covers the psychology of colors and how to choose the best color for a room.
- Email 5: The reader gets an email with links to some of your best blog posts about home remodeling.
- Email 6: She gets an email in which you let her know about your interior design consulting services.
With each email you send out, you’re offering your reader more valuable content that’s in line with her interest of home remodeling. By the time you let her know about your interior design consulting services, she may just be ready to take you up on your offer. However, if she’s not, at least she got some great information from you that she can share with her friends and family.
Blog posts, video posts, or podcast episodes
It doesn’t matter which platform you choose – be it written, video, or audio – but you need a primary platform on your own website. You need a way to regularly create and house valuable content for your potential clients and readers. Your regularly published content is the meat of your online presence. It’s where you show off your knowledge, skills, and personality. Clients will look at your blog to see what you’re doing and if you really know what you’re talking about.
Blog posts or other regularly updated content are also good for SEO purposes. Admittedly, SEO isn’t the end all be all of the online world, but it helps to have a blog that’s regularly updated with awesome content.
Social Media Posts
Social media enables you to connect with potential clients, other professionals, and a larger audience base. Because of this potential, you need to use your social media posts wisely. Sharing your own content is probably a no-brainer, but you also need to share other professionals’ content. Add to that mix a few posts that humanize you and your business, and you’re well on your way to establishing yourself on social media.
Don’t be afraid to use social media the way it was intended. Interact with others. Ask questions. Answer questions, especially if they’re posed by potential clients.
While your numbers aren’t everything, they are important when you’re creating a content strategy. Your content doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so you need to know what other people think about it. Your metrics can give you a good idea of your audience’s mindset. It can also show you where your strengths lie and where there’s room for improvement.
Some of the most important metrics you should consider when creating your content strategy are:
- Page views – Page views let you know which blog posts your audience really connects with and which ones missed the mark.
- Engagement – Your engagement numbers include things like comments and social shares. They let you know how much of your audience is engaging with your content.
- Referral traffic – You need to know how your audience finds you, so you can focus on strengthening your efforts there.
The final critical element of a successful content strategy is personalization. If you create an amazing content strategy but don’t take your business or your time into account, your content strategy won’t do you any good. You need to be sure that the strategy you create works for you.
If you can’t write and publish three blog posts a week, then don’t put that in your content strategy. Your content strategy is meant to help you organize and plan your content. It’s supposed to give you a big picture of what your business is publishing and sharing. It’s not meant to push you to become a content creating machine.
Before you commit to your strategy, ask yourself “Is this going to work for me?” If it’s not, change it.
Build on the basics
Believe it or not, creating a content strategy is a lot like creating the perfect winter outfit. You have to layer. First, start with the basics, (the eight essentials in this post) and then add more layers, like a launch plan or an additional regular content format. Your content strategy can be as complex or a simple as you need it to be to help you achieve your goals. And don’t be afraid to have fun with it.