What’s the best way to build your business from a small startup, maybe even in debt and on the verge of failure into a blockbuster success, making money? There are as many answers to that as there are business success stories, but in the digital age most have something in common. Many companies have established expertise in some area, and became the go-to place for information or a product or service, often in a new and unique way.
Of course, success breeds competition. After all, if one business can be successful, surely there is room for more than one. Someone has to be on top, and every business covets that spot. So how do you stay on top of your niche? How do you make your brand the most recognizable in your specialty?
There’s an argument for making content the forefront of your marketing strategy, almost ahead of the products or services you are selling. It’s addressed very well in this blog post from MOZ, titled Brand as a Publisher. Why is this a reputable source for this information? Because this is the strategy MOZ itself has used to go from an unknown to a big player in the SEO tool game.
I’ve already shared here four ways to build quality linkable content in an ethical way, I’ve also often stated that not accepting guest posts is probably killing your web traffic, or at least hurting you in the eyes of Google and other search engines.
There are other vital elements. Those who create your content need to be experts: the writers hold the keys to the content kingdom. In its latest update, Google even says it matters who writes your content. But probably the most important question for you to answer is the why behind your content.
Drawing from the Brand as Publisher article mentioned above, this is defined as Pillar Three: the Editorial Mission Statement: “the crystallization of your content value and objectives.” Why is this so critical? Because this is the framework on which you hang the rest of your content strategy.
So how do you develop a solid, yet brief mission statement for your content strategy? Here are some steps to consider, and questions you may want to answer about your goals. Imagine for a moment that you are “the leading consumer magazine for your market.” What do you cover, and why?
What is the broadest aspect of your brand and market you can cover?
This is the difference between a magazine like Writer’s Digest designed for writers of all types and genres, from nonfiction to poets, romance to sci-fi; and a magazine like The Big Thrill, put out by the International Thriller Writers Organization for its members, who are primarily authors of suspense and thriller novels.
Both magazines have a place, and although different, neither makes these common mistakes:
- Don’t Overspecialize. Although The Big Thrill is for thriller writers, it does not differentiate between authors of the different types of thrillers (military, psychological, etc.)
- Don’t Wander off Topic. Both magazines have a specific mission and audience in mind, and neither varies from that mission. You won’t find recipes or parenting tips on either, although writers cook and might be parents. Neither subject fits the focus of either magazine.
- Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut. The writing and publishing industry has changed, and both magazines have adapted (although slowly) to the new paradigm. When your industry changes, be on top of those changes and share them with your audience.
Think of your editorial mission as a living document. You must have one, but it can grow and change as your company and your industry grow and change.
Who is your audience?
Sports Illustrated and ESPN are both designed for sports enthusiasts of all types. Whether you like basketball, football, NASCAR, or horse racing, you will find something from one of the two sources that appeals to you. Sports Illustrated is primarily marketed to men, with its sometimes infamous swimsuit issue. That has changed in recent years, but ESPN was first to really reach out to women sports fans and hire more female staff.
Developing a persona or personas that depicts your customer is vital to the success of your content efforts. A combination of your “ideal target” coupled with a realistic picture of your current customer will offer you the best chance of success.
How do you do this? Using tools like the Global Web Index and analyzing your social media followers and their interactions can give you a great deal of data about how users interact with your content and your industry in general.
Using these two questions, you can begin to craft your editorial mission statement. Take this one from Sports Illustrated: “Sports Illustrated covers the people, passions and issues of numerous sports with the journalistic integrity that has made it the conscience of all sport. It is surprising, engaging, and informative, and always with a point of view that puts its readers ‘in the game’.”
Your mission statement should be crafted around the same rules as those for social media:
- Offer information of value
- Be relevant
- Be Timely
- Inspire Conversation
Yours would read something like this: BRAND X [your brand] content is designed to inform [describe the persona you created here] about the issues, passions, concerns, news, how-to’s, etc. [value,relevancy] regarding [your niche] accurately and inviting discussion. [inspire conversation]
Educate through Entertainment
How does Google make money? By providing the best answer to a question or a product search entered by a user, and monetizing that search using pay per click ads (PPC), sponsored search results, and other advertising dollars. How does Google maintain its reputation as the best search? By providing good answers, even in cases where it does not profit.
Essentially, in addition to assisting visitors in finding what they are looking for, Google also seeks the most entertaining answer, the ones other users are engaging with (linking to) the most.
For your content to rank high, it needs to have several elements:
- It needs to be well written and optimized for keyword and long tail queries (if you don’t know what these are, find out or hire someone who is SEO savvy)
- It needs to be written by someone Google considers to be an expert.
- It needs to be well crafted and entertaining.
- It needs to be linkable. (a piece someone wants to quote and link to, share socially, or both)
Not all of your content will have all of these elements. Some of your content should be designed to funnel readers to other content on your site, and it should all lead to your conversion pages.
Site structure is an entirely different discussion, but in relation to content and your mission statement, everything on your site should be consistent, even mid-funnel and below content designed for visitors ready to convert.
Your editorial mission statement is not just for your blog. It is for your brand. For your brand to become the publisher, the authority, the premier place to find information about your industry, everything from Tweets to Facebook status updates, Instagram to your Tumblr must consistently relate back to your mission statement. Your content and marketing strategy must also be integrated into the rest of your company mission, focused on customer relations and retention.
Readers and visitors will notice and react to inconsistencies in your message. Your mission should inform your message, and vice versa. If you find that your message constantly violates your editorial mission statement, it may be wise to revisit the statement itself to determine if it is accurate, or if your message is simply off topic.
All of this may sound complicated. It is. While you can outsource some aspects of this task, including content creation (and where you are in link building and how to intentionally close the link building gap), before approaching any outside expert, you should have formed your editorial mission statement through market analysis and the development of persona.
You can have the best content in the world, created by experts you have paid. You can even have a robust back link profile of high end sites linking to your content. But unless that content is relevant, unless it leads your web visitors to convert, it is a waste of time.
This is not a magic bullet. A content strategy takes time to mature and produce, and it must be nurtured, much like a garden. An editorial mission statement is a critical step in an overall marketing and content strategy.
Embracing your role as an expert in your field, defining your boundaries, profiling your customer persona, and staying focused will pay off in the long run. It’s mission possible, once you know the reason for your content.