If you read my little corner of Search Insider every two weeks, then you already know that I'm a huge proponent of the strategy that brands and marketers should be acting more like publishers online. With the ascension of meaningful social content dissemination across networks, as well as the signals those networks send to search to rank those pages, it is now more important than ever for marketers - if they want to be successful in their overall digital strategies - to strategically refocus their attitudes and philosophies toward content in a big way. And as I noted in an earlier column, being visible within the synaptic Internet is the difference between a brand's existence or non-existence, at least as far as network users are concerned.
Getting up to the point of becoming a live brand, in the active publishing and social sense, takes a lot of work and development. In fact, if you are thinking of launching your new robust publishing strategy by 2012, you better get started now. If you are smaller company, or mid-sized business marketer, you might be able to act a bit sooner. So with the goal of developing and executing a publishing strategy in mind, here are a few considerations to get started toward becoming a big time online publisher, and getting all the earned benefits you can from search and social:
Perform in-depth keyword and market research. At the top of a content strategy should be sound research, both search-focused, and audience-targeted. Keyword research should be a foundation, as it illustrates content demand in your particular area of development (conversely, supply can be determined through competitive assessment). Market research also helps you better understand your target in both search and social, in order to produce content that is highly engaging. If the content does not pass the keyword or engagement test, then it will ultimately fail, or at least not do as well as it could have.
Identify types of content to be targeted (videos, images, news, text, etc.). In your research efforts, it is also important to determine what types of content your audience prefers and consumes. In one type of business, the audience may like to read blogs and view images. In another, they may prefer social status and videos. In another, they may prefer all of the above. But you won't know until you ask, and marketers should not make assumptions on behalf of the audience.
Plan to develop containers for the asset types that will be promoted (HTML, feeds, Web site architecture, etc.). Of course, once the content types are determined, you will need a place to put them. So if you need RSS feeds, social accounts, video site maps and pages for video display, image galleries, etc., then get with your IT department and start planning for the day that your content is ready to roll out, and as soon as possible.
Develop a detailed content strategy. Once your research is compiled and analyzed, the picture for your content strategy should become clearer. Again, with the goal of engaging your target, it is important to create a cohesive and meaningful publishing strategy, in a way that content can be scaled, and that the overarching themes are clear. Publishing without a well thought-out content strategy only creates a content landfill, and this should be avoided if you are aiming for a sustainable marketing strategy.
Develop a strategic plan for social content dissemination and engagement. Social is a critical aspect of online publishing, and getting this part right is the difference between success, total failure or simply not doing near as well as you could have. The rewards of social propagation of content are immense, but doing it poorly can also do immense damage. Get this part right and ramp up, and execute accordingly.
Identify primary and secondary metrics. Of course, we can't have such a huge marketing undertaking without specific goals. Publishing strategies bring on new types of engagement, and marketers who are looking strictly for the straight 1:1 ROI will need to dig a bit deeper, and think more long-term. The scale of metrics can generally range from direct transactions, all the way to branding metrics, and by also placing a dollar value on these various actions.
Customize dashboards and analytics platforms to accommodate new metrics. Once the metrics are determined, it is also critical to prep analytics and dashboards to measure them effectively. There are a number of external and internal indicators of performance, and all of these can be tied into dashboards. The point is that when you have the future content launch in mind, start working out this piece now, so you won't be flying blind when your content starts to hit in a big way.
Determine the specific resources needed for content development, deployment and social interaction, based on the scale determined in the strategy. Also, another key upfront consideration is the questions of "who's going to do it," and "who's going to pay for it." Once your strategy is in place, start thinking about your writers, your live social managers, who will be manning the dashboards and who will be looking for the next killer topic idea. Depending on the size of your effort, it may take either a basketball team or a whole army.