Posted on Sep 17, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Content Strategy

According to Pew Research, 35% of adults in the U.S. said they owned a smartphone in 2011. By summer 2017, that percentage had jumped to 77% with smartphone adoption in 18 to 29-year-olds reaching 92%.

Mobile devices, perhaps the most rapidly adopted technology in the modern era, have changed how we consume information. To accommodate that change, marketers, designers, writers, and editors needed to reshape how they craft and present digital content.

The strategy behind the language and presentation of digital content is called content strategy. It involves the careful assessment of your website’s current content, metadata, site navigation and subsequent content creation and organization based on the findings of that assessment.

Don’t be intimidated by the complex planning content strategy requires. Here is a step-by-step explanation that details everything you need to know about content strategy, including which elements to consider and how to implement them.

Step 1: Content Inventory and Audit

Most websites contain huge volumes of content: graphics, images, text, and applications. A content inventory is a basic accounting of all of your website’s content.

To complete a successful inventory, it’s necessary to include the raw data associated with every piece of content on your site. Be meticulous about your accounting, listing its title, domain name, file format, author, location, meta description, meta keywords, meta tags, and publication date.

Once your list is complete, go through every item. Decide which items need to be kept, removed, revised, or relocated. Note places where new content should be added. This audit will be the jumping off point for your content strategy.

Step 2: Information Architecture and Metadata

Since you’ve just performed a content audit, you will have a clear idea about what content you’re keeping and what you need to add. Now, you’ll proceed to building your site’s information architecture.

Information architecture encompasses content strategy, site navigation, and user experience. It’s the guiding structure through which you organize information on your web pages and how and where you place web pages on your website.

Start by deciding which labels are going to be featured on your navigation menu. It’s an industry standard to keep the total labels on the nav menu fewer than seven. If your content contains subspecialties, plan for a drop-down menu where these pages will be featured. Leave room in your organizational structure for more web pages to be added without cluttering up the site navigation.

As you build the user experience, remember that every page should ultimately drive the site visitor to a conversion (i.e. contacting you, signing up for your newsletter, or purchasing an item directly from your site).

Lastly, develop the categories and tags, also known as metadata, you’re going to use to organize posts on your website. Be consistent about the language of both the categories and tags, which helps to keep your content searchable on your site.

Step 3: Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are a fictionalized representation of members of your target audience. They include basic demographic information, such as gender, age, and household income, as well as psychographic information, such as hobbies, buying preferences, and personal interests.

B2C marketers specialize in researching and building personas for their clients. Despite how in-depth this process is, website owners with limited budgets can nonetheless create their own buyer personas.

Begin by imagining your ideal customers. Write down their ages, gender, location, job titles, and industries. Give each of these personas a name.

Next, brainstorm what their personal responsibilities, goals, and challenges are. Do they have children and a high-powered job and therefore have time restrictions? Are they younger, without children, and have budget restrictions?

This is, in many ways, the most important part of your buyer personas. Your website offers a solution to your audience’s problem, but first you must understand what that problem is.

Finally, brainstorm how each persona makes decisions and what their communication preferences are. For example, a 40-something mother of two may want to do internet research before buying a product and may prefer texting over speaking on the phone.

Step 4: Editorial Guidelines

To publish content that lands, the topics your website covers, as well as its tone, should be consistent. It also should target your buyer personas. Without the development of editorial guidelines, it’s easy for any site to expand its coverage, lose focus, and overlook their target audience.

Choose which topics are outside of the scope of your website. For example, if you operate a B2B marketing firm, your editorial guidelines should detail the extent of the strategy your posts will reveal.

Build a list of adjectives that you’ll use in your written content. For example, a fly-fishing outfitter based in Montana might use adjectives such as adventurous, wild, and unparalleled to describe their trips. An investment bank on Wall Street would use radically different terms to describe their services.

Decide how your content should be punctuated, abbreviated, and structured. Many companies stick to a third-party reference like Associated Press (AP) Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style.

Step 5: Editorial Planning

Now it’s time to develop topics based on the information you’ve gathered in the previous steps. Take no more than 50 cards and, as you brainstorm content ideas, write the prospective topics onto the cards. Make sure to organize the ideas under the appropriate label on your site’s navigation menu, i.e. Home Page, Services, Products, Blog, and so on.

As you decide which topics you’ll write about, create a content calendar that clearly outlines due dates for content submission and publication.


Want to Implement an Effective Content Strategy? Start with a User-Friendly Website Template.

Create website content that lands with your audience and drives conversions; follow iPage’s ultimate guide to content strategy.

Before you starting writing and collecting digital assets, take the time to explore our selection of website templates. The design, usability, and readability of your site directly affect your visitors’ experience and the implementation of your content strategy. If you have questions about the user experience of a particular template, reach out to our website design experts.


Feature image: