Yes, that’s right, the seven W’s of content marketing.
The five W’s are commonplace in business and writing.
Think: who, what, when, where and why (cue moment of high school nostalgia).
But when you’re writing content for an online audience, there are a few adaptations and new additions needed to bring this approach up to date.
It can be easy to get excited and dive straight into your content marketing without giving much thought to the bigger picture.
And sometimes you might get off to a flying start and those website visits roll straight in, but it could also leave you with content that lacks purpose and generates little engagement.
All that time and effort wasted.
The best advice I can give is to go back to basics (with a twist).
Why are you creating content?
The pinnacle of all else. What do you want to achieve from creating content?
The obvious answer is that you want to generate more business. Of course, you do. But ask yourself if that is really your ultimate goal?
I’d say that it’s a by-product of successful content marketing – somewhat a given.
Before you jump on the bandwagon, consider how content marketing fits in with your overall business and marketing strategy.
Do you want to boost brand awareness?
Do you want to nurture existing customers and encourage repeat purchase?
Do you want to position yourself as a thought leader?
Do you want to increase website traffic?
Do you want to boost your search engine optimisation (SEO)?
Who is your target audience?
Answering this question will provide you with the cornerstone of your content marketing strategy.
The whole point is to create something that your audience will find interesting and to do that you must have a clear understanding of their interests.
You need to do your research and find out what their needs and motivations are, what they find interesting, useful, entertaining and what their pain points are.
What challenges do they face that you could help them overcome?
A buyer persona is a profile that sums up your ideal customer, and creating one will help you determine how you focus your content marketing.
The idea is to create a profile as if he or she (your ideal customer) were a real person.
Giving them a name, an age and even a face will make it easier for you to think of your customer as a real person when you’re crafting your content.
And going through the process of analysing and documenting their characteristics and behaviours will give you a new and powerful understanding of your ideal customer that you’ve perhaps never had before.
Creating a few personas to cover different buyer groups may well be necessary, but don't go beyond 'a few' - it'll only overcomplicate things.
Who else do you need to consider?
Your buyer persona is your most important ‘who’ – but ‘who else’ do you need to consider?
What content is your biggest competitor providing? Have they forged a top spot in search rankings?
It’s a good idea to conduct an audit of competitor content. Not to copy what they’re doing but to familiarise yourself with the type of content your audience is already engaging with.
This should give you a good idea of the topics that are resonating well (or not so well) and give you a starting point for creating new content which goes one step further than your competitors.
What words are you targeting?
Search engines need to quickly understand what your content is all about for you to rank well - and this comes down to the keywords and phrases you use.
It’s important to identify the terminology your audience is using when searching for information related to your product or service, so you’re then able to capture these within your content.
There are many tools out there that can help you with this research, and you’ll be happy to hear that some are free (and others offer free trials at least).
Google’s good old autocomplete function works a treat too. Begin to type a relevant search term, and Google will present you with a whole host of other related words and phrases that people are using in their search. It’s a fantastic way to uncover less competitive long-tail phrases that you could be targeting.
Aim to write yourself a target list of 5-10 keywords and phrases that you want to be discoverable for and work hard to work these into your content.
Where and how are you going to distribute your content?
Firstly, you should publish all new pieces of content to your company website - as I’m assuming on your behalf that this is where you want to drive your audience?
You should also try to include links to additional content at the end of each article (if it’s relevant to that same audience). A good tip which can increase the time a user spends exploring your site.
Having developed your buyer personas, you should now have a good understanding of where your audience spends their time online. And this is where you need to be sharing your content.
Are they on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest? The likelihood is that they’re using more than one social platform and you should capitalise on all options where possible.
It could also be beneficial for you to partner with non-competitor brands that have a similar target audience in a cross-promotion agreement. This is a great way to increase the reach of your content and is also likely to gain you extra social media followers.
When will you post your content?
Commit to a content schedule and be consistent with when you publish – this way, your audience will come to anticipate your content.
The best way to manage this is by creating a content calendar to plot what you will publish and when, which I find works best produced quarterly.
You also need to drill deeper than just the date you intend to publish – what about the time? What are the peak periods of social activity for your audience?
It’s also worth considering wider business commitments. Could you publish content that ties in with an event that is already in the diary?
It’s important to begin building a bank of content ahead of time for those weeks when it’s impossible to find the time or headspace to be creative.
How will you measure the worth of your content?
Set your goals.
Think back to why you’re creating content in the first place and consider which metrics are going to be relevant to you.
It would help if you could track your content marketing efforts back to a meaningful outcome so that you’re able to demonstrate that it’s worth the investment - right?
If your goal is to increase website traffic, take note of current visitor levels and monitor this monthly to assess what content is causing a spike in activity.
The important thing to bear in mind is that the results won’t materialise overnight. Content marketing is something you must work at consistently to build rapport with your audience and establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Create a content strategy statement
Finally, I find it helpful to summarise all of my planning into something that provides me with immediate focus – a content strategy statement.
A content strategy statement is flexible and performance-oriented, and if you have more than one buyer persona, you should have more than one statement.
This is particularly helpful if you have a team of people working on content as it keeps everyone on the right track.
So, there you have it - the 7 W’s of content marketing.
It's forever growing new arms and legs, but the underlying principles of 'getting it right' should largely remain the same.
Know your audience. Know your goals.