Content strategy, done right, takes both tactical and creative skills. The right content strategy tools can make the most of your content strategists’ talents. Here are 5 essential tools no content strategist should be without.
1. Inventory, Audit & Predict Content Success with MarketMuse
Let’s kick things off discussing some common to-dos that typically land on the plates of content strategists (immediately followed by said content strategists’ eyes rolling back and their heads thumping down on their desks). Thud.
Yes, we’re talking about the dreaded content inventory and auditing process. And why do these exercises cause thudding noises, you ask? Three reasons. 1) They’re typically very manual, labor-intensive processes (especially at the enterprise level). 2) Being so labor intensive, they aren’t done very often, which makes the process that much harder. And 3) there simply aren’t a lot of great tools out there to automate the process.
So, what does the content inventory and auditing process entail? And why is it important? Well to put it simply, it’s hard to figure out where you are going if you don’t understand where you’ve been and where you are today. In the context of content, developing a solid content strategy and a plan that will deliver success all but requires that you inventory and audit your existing content (in all its forms and locations) so that you know:
- What you have
- What state its in
- How it’s performing
- What improvements you can make to it
- And where you have gaps.
The results of a comprehensive content audit reveal countless opportunities for improvements and new content, and guide future strategy and planning. But again, they’re a lot of work. Many companies will hire out the work to content strategy consultants who will gladly jump into the weeds for several weeks/months for a hefty fee. For those companies who have a content strategist and don’t want to spend the money on consultants, there are tech tools that can make the process more automated.
For this we turn to one of our favorite content strategy tools, MarketMuse. Not only can MarketMuse automate much of the content inventory and auditing process, but it will also provide AI-based recommendations for how your website content can be improved, and what content gaps you should start filling ASAP. Here’s a quick overview.
2. Conduct Search Engine Intel Ops with SEMRush
For enterprise marketing teams, keywords are the “secret codes” that unlock the shortcut to the top of your target customers’ searches. Unlike James Bond, you don’t have to do battle with bad guys to get those secret codes.
All you need is SEMRush. Yes, it does help you get some intel on your competitors, such as the keywords they rank for. It can also see which keywords your brand performs well with.
Even better, though, is the insight you can get on new keywords. Here’s where you can gain the edge over your competitors with keywords they haven’t discovered.
Creating content around these keywords allows you to take full advantage of that edge. And, with a full catalog of your past content available on your content marketing platform, you can revise those pieces to focus on your new keywords.
3. Create a Distinctive Brand Voice and Style with a Content Style Guide
While the term “style guide” typically refers to such standards as the Chicago Manual of Style, APA Style, and the Associated Press Stylebook, creating a company-specific style guide is an important content strategy tool. Content style guides dictate and govern brand voice, tone, and the words and messaging you use in any piece of content your company creates. Because these guides are unique to each company, there’s really no way to get around you and your team doing the work yourselves.
The development process follows the steps below, but I’d highly recommend digging deeper here if/when you need to tackle this process.
- Research & analysis – You need to get alignment from your customers, internal stakeholders, and other relevant sources on consumer behaviors, preferences, and how they think about your company, products, and services.
- Create an outline – Typical content style guides will include guidance on content purpose, personas, content types, voice, tone, word usage, key messaging, grammar, and punctuation.
- Dig in.
Make Sure Everyone Has Access
Whether you choose one of the standard style guides or create your own, make sure that everyone on your content team, as well as any content collaborators, has access to these stylistic rules. We recommend that you make it available to your teams on your content platform so that your writers, editors, and collaborators can refer to them during the content creation process.
4. Provide Structure and Create Workflow Efficiencies with Content Templates
Content templates go by many names (ex: page tables, content outlines, content guides, etc.) and come in many forms. The main idea is that you, the content strategist, are thinking ahead about all the bits and pieces that should be defined and present within a content asset. So when your team goes to create said content asset, they understand the purpose of the asset, they have a structure to work from, and are more likely to include everything that needs to be there.
Let’s take a webpage for example. A website content outline template will typically require the creator to define a goal for the page, the target audience, the page title, a sub-title, key messages that need to be present, SEO elements (keywords, metadata), imagery/graphics direction, and direction on linking to other website pages.
Image Source: UXPlanet
Probably the biggest benefits of using content templates are the efficiencies that follow. As a producer, working from a defined structure and knowing exactly what needs to be included on a page tends to be a lot easier (and faster) than starting with a blank page.
Secondly, rounds of reviews and approvals tend to be much quicker as the myriad of reviewers can quickly focus in on the bits and pieces that need their attention, vs. having to take in an entire, unformatted page of text. They will also be less likely to have to do major editing of the entire piece, which avoids the scary situation of turning the final version into some sort of Frankenstein asset.
5. Save Time (And Embarrassment) with Grammarly
Large content teams need to put out a wealth of written content. Blog posts are only the tip of the iceberg. White papers, ebooks, video scripts, press releases, email copy, on-screen text, and print all take their toll on your content teams’ eyes.
When you add all the written material your in-house copywriters create plus any work you outsource to freelancers, that’s a lot of chances for errors. Hopefully you have dedicated editors who proof all that, but even then, typos and punctuation issues are inevitable.
Heck, even the major players in the news industry slip up. If you’re a news junkie like me, you probably know the wince you feel for the writer when you see a big, obvious typo flash across your TV screen.
That wince is likely due to your fear. Your fear that your teams’ copy might suffer the same fate. All the other work you’ve done to create an effective strategy will be for naught if your content shows up on your readers’ screens riddled with errors. Ouch.
How Grammarly Solves this Problem
That’s why you need to equip everyone on your content team, from your junior copywriter to your freelancers to your senior editors, with Grammarly. This tool detects typos, grammar misuse, and even flags the dreaded passive voice. When everyone knows they are responsible for error-free copy, fewer typos slip through. No one’s perfect, but you certainly should aim for perfection.
When your writers know that they have a tool to check for errors, they’ll feel freer to get creative, knowing that they’ll have an opportunity to give their work a thorough going-over when they type the final period.
They’ll also take more responsibility for clean copy. All too often, a company’s copy teams get a little sloppy, knowing that an editor will clean up after them. If you set expectations beforehand and equip them with this powerful grammar-checker, they’ll develop better habits over the long haul.
One caveat, however. Be sure not to blindly accept the checker’s “suggestions.” Occasionally, we’ve come across some awkward ones. For instance, on a recent project, the prompt suggested that I rewrite “over time,” meaning “over a long span of time”, as “overtime,” meaning “working more hours than your contract requires.” On another one, it suggested that I substitute “piece” instead of “segment” to refer to a specific group of email recipients.
Other than that, it’s a great tool. We’d highly recommend it as the “whipped cream” on your content strategy sundae.
A Final Freebie
A big part of a content strategist’s job is to devise all of the processes surrounding the creation of all types of content throughout an organization. But all that thought and effort is only the beginning. Next comes the muddy and often chaotic process of executing all of those content processes. Campaigns and content assets need to be planned and produced. Reviews and approvals need to happen efficiently. Final assets need to be published. And it all needs to be distributed and promoted to reach your buyers.
With a comprehensive tool like DivvyHQ, you and your teams can have all that and more right at your fingertips. From scheduling campaigns and projects on your content calendar to sketching out future plans and everything in between, you have exactly what you need to turn your strategy into reality. And, with our platform, you will also have a robust content analytics program to track your results.
The best part? You don’t have to take our word for it. You and your team can try it FREE for 14 days to see how it can streamline every phase of your work as a content strategist. Start your free trial today!