Chris Raines: Well, hello there. Welcome to Episode 38 of the Dodgeball Marketing Podcast. My name is Chris and this is Michael right here.
Michael Utley: Hey, everybody.
Chris Raines: Today's topic is about planning content strategies. When talking about SEO, we talk a lot about actually doing the things, writing the content, writing the blog posts, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Before you do any of that, you need to actually plan what you're going to do, map it out, put it on a calendar. We're going to cover five questions to ask when planning a content strategy. These are good, kind of, foundational things to get you moving in the right direction, get you with going with the strategy so you can actually implement something that works and that matters. You're not just out there just spraying content into the air. Great. Michael, I'm going to interview you for this one. The first question to ask is, is there a content strategy in place already? Talk about why would you want to ask that question? What's valuable about that?
Michael Utley: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. A lot of people were, we're a digital marketing agency, actually, we're two companies GoEpps and Bullhorn Media. But yeah, a lot of what we experience with people reaching out to us is when there's been a changing of the guard, usually, it's a new marketing executive moves into a role and they're kind of doing a fresh take on who the vendors are they're working with. And so we always say, "Well, let's ask first." They'll come to us and say, "Hey, we want to do SEO. We want to do inbound content marketing." And so we'll often ask, "Is there a strategy in place now? Or what's been in place in the past?" And if the answer is yes, we'll try to take a look at it and see where they've been. Sometimes the service mix or the focus has changed or something was planned, but it wasn't executed, but then we'll actually just put together a strategy.
Michael Utley: We'll say, "Hey, we think," and we generally do this during the sales process, we don't try to sell strategy. We usually sell execution. And so during the sales process of us gaining a new client, we'll say, "Yeah, we think that it'd be good for you to have two ebooks a month, four new blog posts a month. We're going to recycle these over to email and social and then maybe two videos per month are going to happen and you're going to generate them in this way." And so putting together a plan and for us, all this comes together in an editorial schedule. And so that sort of creates one place to tie in everything that you're doing. And we try to do one row for every single new item that's going to hit the internet. If it's a blog post, that's a row and we're tracking it as sort of almost like a ticketing system, but we just do this in a spreadsheet.
Michael Utley: And that way you can sort by pub date, the publication date or you can sort by the format, if you want to look at, okay, what are the emails we have planned? But it creates a little bit of a framework for topic planning so that you can do this one very important thing. You can look at the services and the areas that you offer, that you're promoting, and you can weigh your content planning against those services. Because if you just try to rotate through everything, that might not really be the right weighting. Equal weighting may not be the right thing. It may be better to say, "Well, most of our business is this." Whatever most of your business is or where you're trying to grow, that should be the weight and the focus, but you also need to make sure you're telling the internet that you do the other things that you do, that you've generally taken for granted, that people would find you for.
Michael Utley: Yeah, having a content strategy, knowing what's been in place in the past, what you're doing now, and where you want to go going forward, that's something that we do quite a bit. It's extremely important to get it all in one view.
Chris Raines: Yep, perfect. Number two, I like this one by the way, does the site feel sterile or human? We're writing for humans, not just robots, right?
Michael Utley: Yeah. Yeah. We do a lot of lead generation for what I would just call big ticket B2B sales. These would be, we do a lot of work for healthcare products and services that are things for the healthcare industry. Think cybersecurity or even high-end technology and development environment consulting. Infrastructure management, so assets, physical assets. A lot of the companies that we work with for whatever reason, tend to fall into this very sophisticated sale category.
Michael Utley: What we have found is that often engineers want to publish material and content that feels a lot like a technical spec. They're very interested in sort of showing what's different and unique and it's easy for them to forget that B2Bs are people too. You're talking to humans. At the end of the day, everyone's a human. What are humans interested in? Well, they kind of want to have fun. They don't just want to read technical specs. That doesn't mean you have to be silly or entertaining, but it does mean let a little bit of the humanity frame or contextualize what you're sharing. If you're describing how to resolve a particular technical problem or overcome a challenge, maybe show a little bit of empathy and how you contextualize that page of content. Whether it's a services page or a blog post or social media post.
Michael Utley: Social media posts be kind of all the way of human typically, but even on a blog post frame it with, hey, you're probably in this situation, this thing happened. It's really terrible. There are all these negative consequences to it. These people are upset. It's okay to be human. It's okay to describe those human terms and to let people feel some of that resonance. And this also applies to images. Are you using images that are just stock photos of circuit boards? Sort of impressionistic concepts of circuit boards as if to say, "Hey, we're technical, don't worry. We're smart people." Or are you confident enough to push past that and say, "We're humans." If you can hear the noise back there.
Chris Raines: Some humans back there.
Michael Utley: That's the party bus. That's the Nashville party bus going by. We have a lot of tourism in Nashville and that bleeds into the audio here. But yeah, being human both with the way you contextualize technical content, just a little bit of icing, but just something that people can kind of see and connect with and feel like they're talking to humans. And then with the images showing real client images, sample samples of use cases. There's a lot of creative material even for technical work. I haven't come across any business or service that could not at some way be reflected through imagery that was more human and less impressionistic and sterile.
Chris Raines: Right. I love it. All right, number three. What are the most valuable pages? I'm assuming this is pages that already exist on the website before you do the content strategy, right? Let's talk about that.
Michael Utley: This is good. We've got a little part of this title for this episode. SEO. It's important when you're doing search engine optimization to understand which pages are attracting the most traffic to the website. Often the big page is going to be the homepage. But when you get into working with websites that have tens of thousands of pages, whether they're system generated or content that's been produced over years and years, it's going to be worth it to always understand what your hottest pages are. And a trick that we'll often do to measure this is not just use the Google Analytics data of saying, "What pages have had the most traffic of all time?" Incoming traffic. What we'll often do is download that data and we'll have a column of the page views or the entrance page views. Someone coming to the website for the first time, the publication date and then we'll develop a little ratio. What is the ratio of page views per days live?
Michael Utley: And that's going to really give you a hotness measurement for your pages, for your website. Far and away is going to be the homepage but then what you're going to have is a mix typically of blog or news items and service pages. And this is going to help you understand for service pages, which items if you want to be practical about it and just do more of what's working, this is going to help you understand which items to move higher in a top nav, if it's in a dropdown menu or further to the left in a top nav for a desktop view.
Chris Raines: I like that. Yeah.
Michael Utley: Optimizing your top nav and what that says same thing for footer and I'll talk a little bit more about footer with this, but optimizing items in your nav. Also, it's going to tell you in your blog strategy or your supporting content strategy, which things have gotten traction. And that's typically in our experience when there's a lot of data, a lot of content that's been published over the years, it's going to show you some areas where there's actually been really low competition and you've been able to pop to the top. And so I think that's a good indicator of where to say, "Hey, why don't we have any hot posts related to our top services?" And to actually kind of take your top services and say, "We're going to come up with some," I call it a lightning rod strategy. "We're going to come up with some lightning rod topics."
Michael Utley: And a good way to do this is to think in terms of evergreen things like five things to consider when hiring a cybersecurity firm. That's an evergreen topic that's kind of universal and it's built around the pain point that your audience is going to have to know when to hire. And so thinking about and measuring those most valuable pages is the roadmap to doing those things.
Michael Utley: And then real quick on footer, sometimes I like to do a second, a repeat of the nav in the footer and to kind of mix it up a little bit. Take the items that are in the top nav, but then take some of these hot topics and just rotate them in so that there's an alternative view of, hey everybody, here's who we are. And that also gets a lot of good keywords into the footer and pointed to all those pages because the footer's in every website, every page on the website.
Chris Raines: Right. Love it. Okay so number four, is the content questions you can ask when planning a content strategy, is the content compelling on the key pages? We just talked about the key pages here, most valuable pages. Talk a bit about how do we know if the content is compelling or not? What are some ways to think about? What makes compelling content?
Michael Utley: This is great. This is a really fertile area for improving. This is probably the meat and potatoes of doing good work with your website. Is the content compelling on key pages, falls into two categories. We've already kind of identified in previous segment if you're listening to this as clips, maybe check the episode and get the whole episode. Once you know your most valuable pages, you can think of this in two categories, services pages and then supporting content pages like blog posts. On services pages, do you have content that's focused on everything someone needs to know there to move to the next step in working with you? Do you have, for example, a gallery of images? You don't need a portfolio or a gallery as a top nav item where people have to drop back out of the subject matter and get into a different functional category.
Michael Utley: It's actually better to just wrap everything around the particular service and do what I call a 360-degree view of how you do that service on one page. Do you have copy that's compelling and is specific to that service or product? And then do you have images and supporting material, like a gallery, that is relevant to that one topic? Not to you as an overall company or hey, here's other stuff we do. First, do the thing the page is supposed to do. Don't cross-promote first and confuse people or tell them to go check out our portfolio. No, show it to them right on the page. Don't make them work. And so having a full 360 degrees of compelling content on that services page is really good.
Michael Utley: Now, number two, supporting pages like blog posts. Do you have good content? Number one, but then are you driving people to do something that's going to let them take action? What we really like is to develop a set of CTA blocks that can be dropped in anywhere on the site. On blog posts, every blog should end with something that says, "Hey, if you want to know more or you're ready to talk to somebody, do this." And that's a good CTA in the body copy of a blog post.
Michael Utley: Another approach is for every piece of content on your website, every case study, every bit of every press release, the about us page, heck even the contact us page, throw in a full-width block that says, "Hey, have you gotten our PDF on five ways to do XYZ?" And that's good because then you're off, you're asking for a lower, it's a smaller ask. Instead of saying, "Do you want to schedule live demo? Our sales team would love to talk to you." That can feel a little aggressive. Maybe it's just something to get an email address for a download. When we talk about compelling copy or compelling content, we're really not just talking about good content, we're talking about things that compel you to move further in the relationship. And that could be the form of a demo request, but it could also be this lower ask of get a download. And it's different for different types of pages.
Chris Raines: Great. Fifth and final question to ask when planning a content strategy, is there good FAQ or Q&A content?
Michael Utley: That's right. A lot of people's websites just hit the surface of what's going on. Hey, here's our products and services. We'd really love to hear from you. Please call us, do something. It would be better if a company were to take the time to be thoughtful about all the pain points that a customer has before they discover a product or service and then all the pain points they have after they're using the product or service.
Chris Raines: And the questions they have in the sales process.
Michael Utley: And in the sales process. Oh, that's a good one, yeah.
Chris Raines: You're pre-selling them when you do Q&A content.
Michael Utley: When you do Q&A content or FAQ content, anything interactive, there are a couple of things about it that are really unique. Number one, it's really good SEO material just to have on your website, in terms of the richness of the content, actually solving direct problems people have. Number two, this format of content, Google really likes FAQ material. We've been using it in special types of markup to tag it and say, "Hey Google, if you have somebody who's asking just this specific question, here's a chunk of copy that you can count on as a really tight answer to that question." And so this FAQ format is really good for schema markup to show and show up in what we call search position zero in search results. And so, yeah, we really recommend developing a robust sense of interactive rich content that hits all points in the sales funnel before and after the sale.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Perfect. Okay. That's all we have for you. Five questions to ask when planning a content strategy. Hopefully, if you're embarking on a content strategy, that can kind of get you moving in the right direction.
Michael Utley: Excellent. Thanks, everybody.