Want A Great Editorial Strategy? Do This First.
In a recent SEO audit for client discovery, I found a blog page that generated almost 20x more organic traffic than their home page. It was a simple blog post that had related keywords to one of their core product lines. It asked a simple question. What is the difference between that word (in an effort to be discreet)…AND a popular anglicized word spelled slightly different.
Tens of thousands of people Google this question every day. It drives more than 20,000 hits in organic traffic annually.
And zero conversions.
The metrics are so askew that research on this website has to be conducted by filtering out this URL to get a more accurate vision of its performance. This sort of performance becomes a hinderance more than a help.
A better editorial strategy could have left an idea like this in the cutting room floor. It is the focus on your sight that removes the fuzziness around the target. Used properly, you can take ideas based on your overall strategy and tailor them to a proper fitting.
What Makes A Good Editorial Strategy?
A good editorial strategy typically focuses on (but may not be limited to):
- Setting a tone of voice and style for your audience
- Giving your brand a point of view. Personify it and ask what it believes in.
- Channel selection
- Instituting guidelines and quality control standards for the content within each channel
- Idea workshopping within a strategic framework: the proper message, audience, time and reason.
Most important, a good editorial strategy understands the balance of your business and customer goals, and fosters the brainstorming of ideas that address both of these needs (below is an example):
Take Two Steps Back To Go One Step Forward
So how do you create an editorial strategy? Many want to jump the gun and create new blogs, new content, new web pages, email newsletters and social media posts. And if you have something new and exciting on the horizon, that’s a good idea. But not so fast. You probably have (some) user/customer data — it just needs organized and then analyzed.
You have a story — it needs unearthed. You have existing assets — they need refined. Unless you just launched, customers already have an experience with you — but it needs organized in a way you can make sense of it.
Want a bright future? Shine a light on the past.
You may not want to run your tires over the same old tracks that have led you to this point. But it’s important to trek back, because you’ve dropped a golden nugget or two on the way. You can’t build a successful future without understanding your past.
Ideas to start with:
- Discovery — Interview stakeholders, subject matter experts, salespersons, and the like.
- A GA4 report to find what web content is performing and converting, which is not helping, and on what channels.
- SEO keyword opportunities using your chosen platform (Ahrefs for me!) and Google Search Console.
- If your organization doesn’t have an editorial style guide, create one. If you have one, refine it.
- See if your product/service/industry has made recent news and note where, what publications, and for whom are these pieces written.
Now, you can make this data useful!
- Use affinity diagramming and mental models to understand what questions your customer may be asking, and what content might work for them. We have examples of affinity diagrams here.
- Customer journey maps are an excellent way to visualize what type of content can provide value and where. Hubspot has a great article on how to create one.
- Content ecosystem design is a great visualization if you have a multitude of platforms and channels to work from. It’s important to see how each is connected to which department or individuals, and where there are missing links.
- Establishing content formatting requirements and design standards is a must before you move forward.
“The most successful content marketers have a documented editorial strategy. 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, compared to only 14% of the least successful.“-Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks report
Prior to Planning: Are You Hungry For A Big, Juicy Spreadsheet?
You have to determine an organization’s appetite for research.
Regarding the above — you don’t need ALL of it because you probably don’t have the time or resources. It’s up to you prioritize. For example, if it’s a largely referral-driven B2B company that only ranks for a handful of keywords, maybe a comprehensive SEO report can wait. Take a quick 30 minute dive on keywords, competitor ranks, backlinks, and make it a footnote on your report.
Often times, companies don’t have the time or budget to conduct a thorough review. More research doesn’t always equal a better strategy, but there is a positive correlation to the result.
This step is important — you don’t want to overthink it at the cost of delaying planning and execution. You could spend six months doing research and then find out that the market has changed. Make sure you bring this up with the proper decision makers and move fast from there.
In the following matrix, ask yourself or those making the decisions which quadrant is most appropriate. The top left is the least desirable, but if you’re a new product exploring a new market that has to move fast, that’s where you’re at. Just be honest with yourself!
Editorial Strategy Is The Base For Brand Journalism
“You’re only as good as your sources.”
This is true in brand content creation as it is in actual journalism.
The most successful journalists know the right people, conduct the proper research to understand their subject matter, and are willing to work hard to dig and get the dirt.
These days, if you’re just scratching the surface, you’re not discovering anything that someone else hasn’t published. So dig deeper for those golden nuggets.
Remember that preparing for editorial in your brand is all about research and preparation. Find a formula that suits your needs.