You know that guy at a party who bangs on about one topic all night long? Jeez, change the record buddy… is he ever going to stop!? He’s the man who can turn a fascinating subject into a tedious trudge through sheer repetition.
Secret content hint one: don’t be that guy!
How about the gal at your dinner party who jumps from topic to topic non-stop with manic energy. Changing subject suddenly and extremely every five minutes like the Mad Hatter after too many coffees. Just as you’re finally starting to enjoy a juicy topic, BOOM she’s talking about another thing altogether, which you’re not even interested in.
Secret content hint two: don’t be that gal!
Your readers and clients don’t like stuck records or mad hatters because that’s not how they think. They have a narrow, but not too narrow, area of interest. And they want a thought leader who talks to them about all of it, and nothing else.
You need to choose topics that are highly relevant to their lives and problems but also varied in the same way that their lives and problems are varied. There’s a sweet spot, and a system. That system, my friend, is buckets.
CONTENT BUCKETS: YOUR EASY SYSTEM FOR ENDLESS PERFECT TOPICS
I first learnt the art and science of content bucket creation from Neal Schaffer’s social media marketing strategy book; Maximise Your Social.
It works wonders to create 4 ‘buckets’ when building your content strategy (it doesn’t have to be strictly 4, but it’s a nice even number that seems to hit the nail on the head).
These buckets are overarching categories or themes that all the content you create (and curate) will fit into – across your content channels and social media platforms. It’s a very easy system to keep you on the straight and narrow, so you always know how to behave.
Essentially, it means that if you are creating or sharing content with a topic that falls under one of your four buckets, then you’re on the right track. If you veer off topic and create/curate content which doesn’t fit any of them, then stop!
Content buckets help companies keep their content very focused and targeted, but also broad enough to catch the different segments of their audience who may be attracted to their different offerings, services, and areas of expertise.
Here’s an example:
Broadly speaking, at The Creative Copywriter, our services fit into four overarching categories – copywriting, content marketing, brand strategy and social media marketing. Sure, they overlap, but they’re also quite distinct offerings and areas of expertise. And hence, our four content buckets are; you guessed it, copywriting, content marketing, brand strategy and social media marketing.
If we only banged on about copywriting, we’d likely miss out on those prospects who come to us for brand strategy work. Catch my drift?
Making your buckets is easy. We’ll talk about that in a second. First, just to show you how important these buckets are, here are;
THREE MISTAKES THAT SINK CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGIES QUICKER THAN ICEBERGS
We see these time and time again with new clients. Are you making them?
- Focusing too narrowly, like the stuck-record lady at the party
We know that your blog and social media is ultimately about growing your business. So, in a way, your posts are about conversion. But if you focus in too narrowly on this factor, you’ll drive readers away. Nothing screams ‘sales before value’ louder than endless blog posts focusing endlessly on topics like;
‘Why You Should Hire a Copywriting Agency Immediately’
‘10 Things to Consider before Hiring a Content Marketing Agency’
And so on. But this is still surprisingly common, and seems the natural thing to do for many marketers and salespeople.
The problem with this is: you will NEVER grow a readership. Visitors won’t share this kind of content, or subscribe to your blog – and so, while these kind of pieces may help convert, if you only focus on them, your blog will never leave the ground. You won’t gain enough traffic, or organic backlinks for SEO. And thus, in the end, ironically, you won’t convert anyone anyway!
Now, these types of post do have a place and purpose, such as BoFu (bottom of the funnel) content, to send to prospects who have already shown interest and subscribed. But for your everyday posting, use buckets, keep it varied but focused, and save the sales talk for the gradual increase in calls over time, as a result of your compelling and shareable content that grows a true fanbase.
- No focus. Too broad – Mad Hatter style
On the other end of the spectrum, companies can go too broad and unfocused with their topics. This is where you’re focused on the masses, not using buyer personas and speaking to your specific target customer. Don’t write about some event you went to last week or ‘10 Funny Christmas Traditions’ just because it’s the season to be jolly.
Always keep things tightly relevant, and tied back to your service, offering, and area of expertise. Save the chit-chat and gossip for the office kitchen.
Your buckets will help you know when a content idea (whether created or curated) is heading towards unstrategic waters and needs to be reeled back in.
- Overly focused on SEO and keywords – just plain wrong
This is a biggie. Plenty of companies focus too narrowly and consistently on SEO keywords, and thus suffer the same burden as mistake number one. What’s worse is, this doesn’t even get you SEO rankings!
I worked with an inbound marketing agency that fed us all the titles for their client, and without fail requested that we jam the location into the title. So, every title went along the lines of;
‘What You Need to Know about IT companies in Los Angeles’
‘How to Find an IT company in Los Angeles’
‘3 Things You Need to Know about IT Companies in Los Angeles’
Remember mistake one. This will never gain a readership! SEO keywords certainly shouldn’t dictate your content calendar. Use them tactfully, but don’t force it. Sprinkle them in like hundreds of thousands on a cupcake.
You’d never make a whole cupcake of hundreds and thousands, would you? That would be crazy.
How to understand Mr SEO Engine
SEO is smart. Talk about a topic and the search engines will find you. The number one reason SEO is smart is because people are smart (yes, believe it or not, they are) and the search engines know when people who are customers for your service are engaged and enjoying the things you’re putting out there… so the engine can do what it’s supposed to, and bring more of you together.
Think about it. Jack likes windsurfing. Jack sees a few articles about windsurfing. He particularly enjoys one because it’s well written and gives good advice. He follows that particular article creator and reads lots of their things (staying engaged because they keep focused on their area of expertise AND offer enough variety within that area to be his go to source of windsurfing info). Jack likes that brand and buys things from them too.
Mr SEO engine sees all of this. Every bit of it. And he thinks ‘hmmm, Jack loves windsurfing and he sure does love this brand. I bet other windsurfers would like it too. Let’s hook them up.’
That’s the essence of how SEO engines work.
Where in that process does keyword stuffing come in? It’s not the 90’s, people. Thinking that keyword stuffing helps SEO engines today is like thinking the rules to Pacman apply to Call of Duty. Mr SEO is smart now. As smart as the customers you’re talking to.
Articles stuffed with keywords do not interest Jack one bit. He likes well-written articles and all Mr SEO cares about is what Jack likes. Keyword stuffing can ONLY turn Jack off by reducing the content quality, increasing the bounce rate, decreasing the page depth and duration. And in doing that, it turns off Mr SEO, too.
Here’s how to write SEO-friendly content for Google in 2019.
How to Create Content Buckets
So, here’s where the rubber meets the road to thought leadership.
The easiest way to make your buckets is to break down your services or area of expertise into four overarching spheres. If you offer four things, then that’s nice and easy for you. Congrats.
But, more likely, you may cover a lot of different areas. So first, brainstorm and write down all your potential content buckets. For example (for us);
- Content marketing,
- Content strategy,
- Influencer Marketing,
- Social media marketing
Then see if you can group a few together. For example, content strategy can fit into content marketing, and so on.
Do this until you have just four buckets, and you’re all set.
The idea is that you will then switch between these buckets for each blog post or vlog episode. Whatever your content needs are for the day, week or month. Always keep it mixed so you aren’t ignoring certain audiences.
And once you’ve broken it down into four, make sure they carry equal ‘weight’. There would be no point us choosing social media marketing if it was just an extra add-on service that barely brought in any business or profits. Instead, it could be put into a more general ‘marketing’ bucket.
Get the insight first
Before creating your content buckets, make sure you do buying insights research to find out what your prospects are actually interested in. This book on buyer personas by Adelle Ravella is an absolute must-read. I couldn’t recommend it more.
Always keep your focus on the customer, and ask them what they’d love to learn about.
What are the biggest problems they need solving? The biggest pains they need soothing? The area of expertise that would really help them score their personal/business goals?
Your buckets should be hyper-focused on your target audience.
But here’s an extra, somewhat-controversial thought: don’t JUST focus on your target audience. Also consider the ‘sharers’ and ‘referrers’ in their lives.
Here’s what I mean:
In some situations you might have a target group of buyers who are, frankly, just not that interested in reading content online, or interacting on social media (e.g. the older generation, or mathematicians, or very busy C-level managers). And virality is important for gaining traffic, readership, and good SEO. So bear it in mind.
If that’s the case, all is not lost. As you might have an opportunity to engage people who are closely connected to your target audience and are likely to share your content with them, or mention your brand when the time is right. This might be the children of those 60+ year olds you’re targeting. Or the accountancy teams of the CFOs you want to convert. Or the marketing assistants of those busy CMOs who just don’t have time to digest an eBook.
And if that’s your strategy, or a slice of it at least, then make sure it has its place when locking down your content buckets.
But that’s a whole other strategy for a whole other post. In the meantime, don’t be the bore and don’t be the hatter. Keep it tight but exciting. And use those buckets!
P.s Need some help creating and structuring your content calendar? Get in touch.