What is Content Strategy and How to Make it Work for your Business with Devin Asaro, Content Strategist

In Spring, Devin Asaro, along with couple more folks from the iAqcuire inbound marketing team, guest lectured in my search marketing class at NYU on the topic of content Devin Asaro NYUstrategy, content marketing and SEO, which was part of the Inbound Marketing Clinic initiative we started at NYU SPCS, within its M.S. in Integrated Marketing Program. Below I included a video of Devin’s lecture as well with a (sometimes paraphrased) transcript of Devin’s lecture.

You can also view the video of the entire iAqcuire panel we did on that day in one of our earlier blog posts on Search Decoder blog: SEO Strategies and Content Marketing Tips with iAcquire team at NYU.

Devin Asaro (@copydev) is SEO content strategist and digital copywriter at iAcquire, a leading inbound marketing marketing agency. Devin lives, works and writes in New York City. You can get in touch with him and check out his work here.
 


 

What is Content Strategy?

Devin Asaro:

Content strategy is coming up with the story line for what you want your site to essentially communicate to the users, to the persona that you’ve figured out, and how you’re going to match their needs states up with what content putting on the site. Whether that’s the SEO considerations or your standard marketing considerations, all of it is tied into content strategy. Content marketing is a lage stage of content strategy.

Lately it’s been a huge trend to talk about content. Every marketing director you talk to says, “Yeah, content! We’re really pumped about content! We really want content strategy and content marketing. We want all that stuff. Can you guys give that to us?” Generally that’s it. That’s all they care about. They pass it along to other people and nothing happens. They don’t plan for the content that they actually want. They just know they want it, because everybody wants it. Without content strategy, the king is dead.

Content strategy is the art of organizing, researching, measuring, planning for, creating, promoting, and measuring the success of content. Everything that goes into the creation, all the way back to market research and persona development, is content strategy, because we’re thinking about how we want to engage our customer with everything facing forward on our website. Content created with content strategy is designed to meet the needs of the business, it’s not just thinking about what is going to look good on the website or what is going to make you look cool. You’re actually thinking about the sort of customers you are bringing to your site with your search efforts and how you’re going to get them to do what you want on the site.

But one of the bigger questions is: what is content when we’re talking about content strategy?

Content, at it’s root, is just something that is contained within something else. Everything contained within the web is content. When you think about it that way, content strategy becomes this huge, overwhelming job because the amount of content on just one website alone is huge.

For more great tips on content strategy, check out Devin’s blog post from the iAcquire blog: Are Feelings Good for Content Strategy?

what is content startegy

What is content audit?

When I audit content, where I go through every single page of a website and figure out its use, its needs and whether or not it’s meeting the objectives of the business, it’s a very, very long time. It gives me an overall picture of the website that I can begin to use to tell the brand’s story. It’s everything we write. Everything is content and content is everything. Everything we’re putting onto our site, from the images, to the copy, to the videos, to the design, everything comes back to content.
 


 

How to organize content to match a customer’s journey?

If you’re running an e-comm site, all of your content should be designed toward moving those people toward learning about the product and then buying it. If you’re just getting them toward buying it, you’re probably not going to do very well because they’re not going to know anything about your product. That’s something we run into a lot. People just want to drive their customers directly to the enrollment page or to the purchase page as soon as they enter the site. The fact of the matter is the down rate on those is huge because nobody wants to stay on a page to buy something they don’t know anything about. We actually try to guide them through the site in a discovery phase, where they learn about the product and think about what they’re going to do, and include calls to actions to engament and conversion assets on your site.

How to engage the user with content?

We actually track the click patterns and how people are moving across the site. It’s all about creating content that reflects a journey of your customer, sort of creating a story that has its beginning (when your customer discovers your content) and ending (when the customer performs a desired action). It’s designed to meet all the business needs with an emphasis on organic search when we’re talking about SEO content strategy, which is what I do. We think about the people behind the search. This happens all the time, where I’m looking at a keyword that has huge, huge traffic, huge volume and I wonder, do we actually want this particular keyword? What was the person actually thinking about when they typed this keyword? What do they want? Everything we do is directly geared toward that.

For more on the topic of digital copywriting for SEO, check out Devin’s blog post from the iAcquire blog:  Content Strategist are Not Copywriters (but Sometimes They Have to Be)

What are the tools that you use for keyword research?

These are two great tools you probably know about: Google AdWords Keyword Tool and SEMrush. This is a great way to build up your keyword portfolio and start to investigate what people are searching for and how competitive it is to rank for certain keywords. SEMrush also tells you what your competitors are already ranking for. That’s a big part of competitive analysis as it relates to search.

What are the key considerations when you optimize content for targeted keywords?

You need to have your audience and target market in mind when you research keywords. For instance, for one of our clients that offers interactive books for iPod, we figured the actual highest target audience was graduate students, not undergraduate students, so we made sure that was considered in our content and the keywords we focused on. One of the things we do when we’re preparing for content strategy for a client is, we map all the words in their keyword portfolio into buckets, and essentially map them into different pages on the site. We know the homepage is targeting these particular keywords, and we know the product pages are targeting different keywords, because we don’t want them to be competing with one another. You don’t want to be cannibalizing your own search volume on a site. We do a lot of information architecture working with wiremaps and then map those keywords to various pages on the site.

When does SEO come in in a content strategy project?

Another issue I come across is when the SEO being brought in at the last second to be the sort of cherry on the top, and then you hear “oh yeah, we have to make all this rank.” Really, when it’s properly done, it’s done from the beginning. I personally like to work with web developers, when we’re going through the wireframes, and talking about what the SEO and content considerations are for everything we’re putting on this site. That’s where an annotative wire frame comes in handy, where you take the bare bones visual element of the site; where is everything going to go? Then, you think about how that is going to serve our needs for search and serve our needs for the customer.

What are the top content marketing tips for newbies?

tips for newbies

Dig deep. Another thing with content is that it’s not all just what you can see on the site. You actually have to dig in a little bit and find that there’s content buried beneath the code with metadata, right? I spend a lot of time working on titles and meta descriptions, because these are what the user is actually seeing when they come looking for you in search. Even brands like J.Crew aren’t doing it right, because the meta descriptions they’ve come up with are just too long. They’re getting truncated in the search, and it’s not telling the story of their brand. It used to be 70 characters you could get in a title and now it’s measured in pixel width, so it’s a little bit up in the air. There’s a tool I should have put on here. It’s actually called SEOmofo.com.

Make it fitI try to tell it to clients, but they have a great tool that lets you type in what you’re going to put in your meta title and it will judge it by pixel width, so you can plan all of that out. Like a pretty great copy that would have been great if you could see all of it, you just can’t. It just kind of stops. You see this all over the web. As for social metadata, they did this right, sort of inadvertently, because they didn’t actually plan any social metadata. When you share the page on social, it sort of scrapes from the site and gathers everything it can and throws it into this little snippet here. It grabs an image, a title, and a description. You can control that, but they got lucky with it. We use social metadata to determine what actually goes into this. We do it for Facebook, we do it for Twitter, and we use it in a weird way using schema.org for Google+. When we do it right, as they should have done, you get pretty looking descriptions, that you can see everything and everything is sort of optimized for the particular social media network you’re on.

Every problem has a different answer. You need to make social metadata different for Google+ and for Facebook, because if you did your market research, you would know there are very different audiences on Google+ than on Facebook. We know that Google+ is mostly driven by tech related things. I really love Google+ because I’m a marketer and I work in tech and all of these things. I don’t even have a Facebook. So it’s very, very different audiences we’re targeting. Therefore, with social metadata you can really get granular with the audiences you’re focusing on.

To learn a bit more about content strategy, I recommend this book, “Content Strategy for the Web.” It’s like the Bible of content strategy. It’s not just about SEO Content Strategy, but it’s its own field and it sort of touches on every other field in traditional marketing, digital marketing, and beyond.

For more great tips on how to write engaging and effective meta description, check out Devin’s blog post from the iAcquire blog: The Poetry of SEO.

Have a question for Devin? Write it in the comments section below or tweet at Devin @copydev

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About Matthew Capala

Matthew Capala (@SearchDecoder) is a growth-focused Internet marketer and entrepreneur, who understands both the customer and the algorithm. He built SearchDecoder, a place for inbound marketing ideas for start-ups and entrepreneurs. Matthew teaches a graduate class on search marketing at NYU, where I founded Inbound Marketing Clinic. He is a dynamic speaker, trainer and blogger. Check out his popular free personal branding ebook, Away with the Average.

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