In previous posts, I’ve talked about the importance of content inventory and content optimization tools. Both are critical components in creating a broader content strategy for your brand.
Your content strategy informs every part of the eight-step content creation cycle: research, planning, briefing, writing, editing, promotion, optimization, and inventory and auditing.
And just like there are tools to help you with every one of those eight steps, there exists content strategy software to help you put together that essential roadmap for your brand.
What Is Content Strategy Software?
Before I answer that question, let me discuss exactly what a content strategy is.
What Is a Content Strategy?
Your content strategy is the plan you put together to market and put your brand forward as a thought leader.
The content you create is part of that strategy and can include blog posts, social media, videos, infographics, white papers, podcasts or any number of other media formats. Usually, your strategy consists of a variety of content types that best suit your audience.
Your content marketing strategy should always put forward the brand message you’re trying to convey. Let’s not forget, content marketing brings in conversion six times more than traditional marketing, and it gets three times more leads than paid search advertising.
Imagine you are a fashion site and you want to promote your summer and fall lines:
- How do you know which content formats will best serve your brand and your audience?
- What are the best topics and keywords to hit?
- When is the best time to post to various channels?
- Are there seasonal topics you should be hitting, like New York Fashion Week or Back-to-School shopping?
- If search engines are a significant source of customers, is your editorial calendar filled with content optimized to do well in that environment?
- Do I have content mapping to all buyer personas or just a specific segment?
- Does my plan take this into consideration?
Content strategy software helps you answer all of these questions.
How Can Content Strategy Software Help?
Content strategy software is the tool that helps you put together the best possible plan for your content creation. It helps you stay focused on every step of the process, helping you create high-quality, effective content.
A content strategy tool can be as basic as a spreadsheet or as sophisticated as a holistic solution. I’ve used both, actually.
With a spreadsheet, my content strategy plan was really my content calendar. Every tab was a different month and every row within that month was a different day, with the title and description of each piece to publish on each day.
In the columns for each piece of content, I recorded the keywords, the target theme it hit in our strategy, the audience it was meant for, social titles for various platforms, whether I would create a video, and image suggestions.
And of course, all of the research around keywords, target audience, topics, etc., I did manually, using competitor research and tools like Google Analytics and Moz.
It took a long time to put all of that research together, and I struggled to maintain a consistent publishing cadence month to month.
I’ve also used a full-service content strategy software to help automate a lot of these processes. With it, I could plan topics based on gaps in the market and my own content. It suggested keywords, titles, and subheads, as well as subtopics to hit within each piece. I could also enter tweets and LinkedIn and Facebook titles that would promote each piece when it published.
Once my content was out there, the content strategy software helped track page views, time on page, social engagement and other metrics to help determine how the strategy was performing and what kinds of content I would plan for future months.
But even with this tool, I still had to do some planning, like which posts to group together in a series for social and how to title them.
What Is the Difference Between a Content Strategy Tool and a Solution?
So far, I’ve mentioned both content strategy tools and content strategy solutions. There’s a big difference between these two. A tool will help you with one or two parts of your strategy, and you’ll probably need a few to get the entire job done. A solution will help you plan and execute your content strategy, start to finish, facilitating enterprise content management.
Let’s look at some examples.
Tools like SEMRush and BuzzSumo will help you hone in on topics and keywords to target. You can analyze what’s trending not only in search but in social, as well.
Google Analytics, as well as the analytics tools offered by content management systems like Hubspot and Wordpress, allow you to track your content for page views, scroll depth, time on page and other metrics that will inform your content strategy moving forward.
Sprout Social, and Hootsuite will plan and track your social posts, allowing you to schedule the best time to post and determine how many likes, shares, retweets, etc., each post is getting.
Constant Contact will take care of your email marketing for you.
Wow! That’s a lot of tools. Using individual tools like these presents two challenges, both of which I have run into:
It’s nearly impossible to keep track of all those tools, and something will inevitably fall through the cracks. You may be doing a fabulous job planning your keywords and social content, but you forget all about tracking. Or your tracking is going well, but you’re not really putting that much effort into new keyword research.
One team will be using one set of tools, while another is using a completely different assortment. I’ve seen this happen. The content team is using Moz, while the marketing team is using SEMRush for topic and keyword planning. When it comes time to get together and plan, no one can agree on the best strategy.
That’s where content strategy software comes in.
A good content strategy software will pull most -- if not all -- of these tasks into one, seamless tool that everyone uses. It should have a dashboard to give you a high-level view of all of your content, and it should pull all of your different publishing channels into one planning tool.
Who Needs Content Strategy Software?
It doesn’t matter if you’re new to content marketing, or a seasoned CMO. Content strategy software can help any organization plan and manage their strategy.
Your content strategy determines how you’ll reach your audience, and has a direct effect on your marketing goals. Whether you’re focused on conversion rate optimization (CRO) or brand awareness, your content strategy will reflect that, so it’s important to start off on the right foot and pivot when necessary.
I’ve read dozens of articles on content marketing and the challenges it presents for marketing teams and content strategists. Two problems always stick out: creating strong content consistently and managing content with few resources. (In fact, 70 percent of marketers still lack a consistent and integrated content strategy.)
A content strategy software will help you overcome both of those challenges.
Where Does Content Strategy Software Fit Into an Existing Workflow?
Just like your content audit, which I talked about previously, your content strategy tool fits into every part of your content creation process. Let’s walk through the steps to give you a better idea of how content strategy software can help you and your team.
Once you’ve determined your audience and your brand goals, it’s time to dive into competitor, topic, and keyword research.
Instead of doing this manually, clicking through all of your competitors, researching trending topics and keywords on your own, content marketing software pulls this all together in one place.
You should also be able to map the competition against your own existing digital content.
Once your content strategy software has identified topics and keywords, you can drill down into more targeted topics that will better attract your audience, and long-tail keywords that position your content in a more niche area. A good strategy tool will not only give you broad topics like “fashion,” but more niche subtopics like “New York Fashion Week 2019” or “back-to-school fashion for pre-school.”
It will also show you exactly how popular a keyword is. A keyword like “fashion” is probably oversaturated, and you probably want to go after something long-tail like “fall fashion for expecting moms.”
Your content strategy tool should help you plan which formats are best for your topics and will best attract your audience, as well.
Once you’ve planned out the topics, keywords, and formats you’re going to tackle, you can plan that against specific content pieces. A good content strategy software can also suggest titles, subheads, questions to address and links to include. Place all of those into a brief to distribute to content creators, and you’ll get back a piece that’s on-target with your content strategy.
A writer or content creator will take that brief and run with it. They should include all points within the brief to put together a final product that aligns perfectly with your content strategy.
Once a piece is created, some content strategy solutions can then analyze the finished piece to make sure it’s on target. It will look for keywords-use, image, subhead, and title use and determine if an article is good to go or if it needs further work.
When you initially put your content strategy together, it should incorporate promotion. Many will automatically post to the social media channels that best serve your brand. They will include your content in email marketing initiatives and boost them through paid advertising, as well.
The research you did to put together your initial content strategy — competitor, keyword, topic, etc. — should be used to optimize not only the content you’re currently creating, but also the content you’ve previously created. Use your content strategy tool to look back at your old content and optimize it to meet the needs of your current content strategy.
8. Inventory & Auditing
When it comes to content strategy, inventory and auditing should be your first steps. Take a look at what you have already and how it can be adjusted and optimized to meet your current strategy. Find gaps in your content offering — both by topic and format — and include those in your plan.
What Are Some Content Strategy Platforms on the Market?
Like every other aspect of content marketing, you can find a plethora of solutions out there. Let’s look at a few:
SEMRush: Is more focused on the technical aspect of planning your content strategy. You can collect trending topics and keywords, and also get ideas on how to gain more organic traffic. You can also track social engagement, backlinks, and brand mentions. A company I worked for used it for a technical SEO audit, looking at things like bad links.
CoSchedule: CoSchedule integrates with dozens of individual content strategy tools so that you can organize your content strategy, publishing, and analysis in one place. It also allows you to create one calendar and communicate with all team members in one place.
HubSpot: Hubspot is a content management system and a content strategy solution in one. You can actually plan, create and publish your content all in one place.
MarketMuse: But here’s where other tools miss the mark: None of them give you an in-depth analysis of the quality of your content and how well it maps to your content strategy. They also don’t generate a step-by-step brief to ensure the content your creating aligns with your goals. Finally, they don’t provide a semantic analysis of content to see how it relates to each other and how it can be organized to perform best for your brand.
Your content strategy is going to set the tone for everything you create. Doing that quickly and consistently across all of your content platforms can boost awareness, conversion, and loyalty exponentially for your brand. And using good content strategy software makes the job of your strategist and content creators much more manageable.