Tuesday, October 6, 2015

High level Content Strategy


The purpose of this blog post is to give anyone a high-level view of what Content Strategy is and how it works. You should be able to walk away from this article nodding your heads with a decent understanding that you could then take to someone else and explain: This is what content strategy is.

This is a very, very simple way of explaining things in a fast-moving conversation but has proven to be extremely effective for me in it's ability to convey that I know what I'm talking about.

So if you want to sound like you know what you're talking about...keep reading.


I've been going through the interview process for about 6 weeks now after moving back to Seattle from Phoenix in mid-August. During that time I've been talking with a lot of people about what content strategy is and what content strategists do. At first I was finding it hard to communicate because I was more concerned with explaining my story and how I'd ended up at their door, but eventually I learned to distill things down to a very simple formula that I believe works for communicating the core principles content strategy.

Who is this for

Content Strategy can be a confusing topic for:

  • People who don't work in marketing. 
    • Is that you? Don't worry, this is still extremely important for you to understand because you now live in a digital world and are affected by good and bad content strategy, keep reading!
  • Marketing and advertising professionals that work on the Account and/or Media side of the business.  
    • Not that you aren't strategists, you just don't spend all day in the creative world ensuring you're finger is on the pulse of the latest content marketing tactics. This post should provide some added clarity when it comes to conversations with highly educated clients or horizontally, your industry counterparts. This post will make you smarter. 
  • Agencies with clients who don't understand the value. 
    • Good news! This blog post should help you convince them why content strategy is important and why they should give you MORE MONEY to do more of it. 
  • Literally anyone who doesn't know what SEO stands for. 
    • Hint: it stands for search engine optimization. 
Search Engine Optimization

Okay, so to really understand why this is important from a high level, you kind of need to understand how search engine optimization is and how it works. The good news, we can boil it down to one sentence, albeit a bit of a mouthful: 

"Who ever has the most links back to their website on a specific keyword or key phrase ranks the highest in google for that keyword or phrase."  

Now take that with a grain of salt. Google has over 200 different factors that contribute to how sites are ranked (another data point you can drop in a client convo) but that sentence above, that is 95% of the algorithm. After that, it's: 

  • How long has your site been around? 
  • And, are you following all of Google's other rules like: 
    • You can't get paid to post links back to other peoples sites
    • You site needs to be mobile friendly
    • You haz lots of social shares? Super. You're cool, we'll rank you a lil higher. 

The Rub 

So you might have noticed something from what I just explained above. The way to rank the highest is to have the most links back to your site...but I also said you aren't allowed to pay for them...

Google's mission is to organize the worlds information. 

It's every company's goal to manipulate Google's algorithm in order to rank higher, get more people to view their site, and convert those visitors into customers. (The first 5 search results get 75% of the clicks). 

So you want more links, but you can't pay...Boom! Enter Content Strategy. 

Someone has to figure out how to create content that's cool enough or useful enough to encourage people to share and link back to. That's pretty much it. 

How you do that? How do you create content that's cool enough or resourceful enough to get people to share it, link back to it, or even buy your product simply from viewing or engaging with your content?!?!  - Honestly, this is more of a question for the agency crowd so we're going to skip that and come back to it another time. For the sake of time, and making sure you walk away with something tangible, let's understand the core principles, and let's understand them in human speak, not crazy convoluted marketing speech.

Content Strategy 

Okay. So you totally get why content strategy is a thing now...but again...what is it...well, in the most basic terms I can use to break things down, this is how I explain it to other people in conversation: 
  • What are we saying
  • How are we saying it 
  • What's our process for creating the content
  • And what's the process for measuring it? 
Now don't get me wrong, we can go deep on all 4 of these points, and I intend to in different blog posts, for example, if we wanted to talk about point number 2 "How are we saying it" we would have a conversation about: What channels of communication are we using? Social media? Facebook vs Instagram? Email? Even traditional creative like TV, Radio or Print should be driven by the content strategy which is the guiding light behind everything you do. The real way to answer this question quickly is: Will this help us get where we're going?

But again, let's not get wrapped up in the tactics right now, memorize those 4 things above and you'll be miles ahead of the rest. 

An even shorter definition of content strategy coming from Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach's book Content Strategy For The Web is: 

"Content strategy guides your plan for the creation, delivery, and governance of content." 

If you want to dive deeper you can come back to my blog or you can simply go buy the book I've linked to above. It's literally THE book on content strategy and I suggest every serious professional content strategist have a copy in the top drawer of their desk at work. I do. 


  • What are we saying
  • How are we saying it 
  • What's our process for creating the content
  • And, what is the process for measuring it? 
Got it? Of course you do! You're a smart cookie.

The next step is to start noticing how you're being marketed to and realize how stupid most of it is. How it lacks a comprehensive strategy that moves consumers down the purchase funnel and communicates consistently across the channels you spend the most time on.

Use what you've learned in this article to create your own insights into either your own work, your agencies work, or you're day-to-day life so you can learn to communicate more effectively.

Be Relentless. Be Curious. Be Human.

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