As a copywriter and consultant for businesses, I’ve been working with content strategy and marketing a lot lately. And it’s really hit home for me that what I do as an author is truly a business, and, in some ways, it’s no different than any other business. With this newfound appreciation for the entrepreneurial side of what I do as a writer, I’ve been thinking a lot about content for author websites.
So, what is an effective content strategy for an author website, and how do you get a system in place that will help you generate what you need to reach your readers?
What is Your Purpose?
In my post on creating content to drive email subscriptions, I mentioned the need to conceptualize your goals for your email list. What is the purpose and what do you hope to gain from it? The same thing goes for your website as a whole. If your website is intended to bring people to the point where they are ready to buy something — let’s say it’s an e-course or even a copy of your book — then you need a content strategy that will bring them down the sales funnel in a certain way. If the purpose of your website is to encourage visitors to contact you for more information, then that’s a different type of funnel. And if you have both of these types of traffic happening, then your content strategy will have to target both and funnel both.
You will also need to consider, beyond your purpose, who is coming to your site and for what reason? How can you best organize your site so that they find what they need to know quickly? And how can you set up your pages so that, as your visitor clicks through your content, you are guiding them to that moment where they need to take action?
What Do You Have to Offer?
Content marketing is not about a hard sell. Your blog posts should not be all about why your product/book/service is the best on the planet, concluding with a neon flashing button that screams BUY NOW! This isn’t an infomercial. Instead, content marketing is about providing useful information for your target audience. It’s about building that know-like-trust relationship so that your name is front-of-mind when they need an answer to a question, or when they’re ready to purchase what it is that you’re selling.
So, considering your website’s purpose and the target audience you are trying to reach, what kind of content will be most useful to them? What questions are they asking, and what answers can you give that only you can give?
This is what we call your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It’s that thing that makes you uniquely you. As an author, you might think that you don’t have a USP…but you do. Your voice, your way of seeing a story, your way of grappling with issues…all of these make you unique, and make your books unique. When we talk about author branding, it’s all about identifying your USP. So, really think about it. What makes you special? What makes your stories different from any others out there in your genre? Try to sum this up in a single sentence.
Now that you have your USP, your audience profiles, and your website’s purpose, you are ready to put together your content strategy.
Create Pillar Content
Creating pillar content is one of the first steps in designing your overall content strategy, and this involves writing some exceptional pieces about the key issues faced by your target audience and that highlight your USP. These pieces of content are “evergreen” — meaning that they don’t have an “expiration date” beyond which they are no longer relevant — and they are the foundation for the rest of your content. These posts tend to be those that you can repost and which get a lot of hits when you do because they are relevant and highly useful. Once your pillar content is ready to go, you can start framing out the rest of your plan.
Post Frequency and Content Planning
I highly recommend organizing yourself with a blog calendar. There are a lot of different templates out there that you can use depending on your organizational style. I’m a pen and paper sort of girl, so I actually have a binder that I use to plan out and schedule content. Depending on whether or not you have other writers working with you, you may need something more collaborative — you could use a shared Google calendar, for instance, to schedule posts. Depending on your goals for your site and your audience, your post frequency may vary, but consistency is key. Content marketing only works if it is consistent and high quality. You can ensure both by planning in advance.
You can plan out your posts on a monthly basis, or a quarterly basis, or even annually. You can always leave yourself room for additional posts — if something comes up that you want to share with your audience, for instance, or if you’re inspired to write about something you hadn’t previously planned. Just like planning out a novel, planning your content isn’t meant to be a straightjacket, but rather to give you direction and something to fall back on when inspiration won’t cooperate.
As part of your planning, you’ll want to do some basic keyword research so that you can ensure that your content can be found by your audience. You can also coordinate your social media efforts and your email newsletters with your blog content. With all of these pieces working well together, you have a great foundation for a successful content marketing strategy.
If you’re going to pursue a content strategy for your author website like another type of business might, there’s a bit of a learning curve involved. And there’s quite a bit of work on the front-end to get everything prepared. But once you have a strategy mapped out, your daily and weekly work becomes much easier, and your efforts are more likely to be fruitful. And, since everything on the web is constantly changing and evolving, you don’t have to worry about getting everything exactly right the first time. Just keep learning and working at it!