Successful digital marketing is founded in the creation of great content. After all, content is king, right?
Today more than ever before, brands need to be creating the highest quality of content for their audience (which comprises both end users and promoters, such as the media) if they are to differentiate from their competition and achieve high rankings in the SERPs.
But with so many topics to potentially talk about, how can brands pin down a targeted content strategy that’s going to hit the spot every time?
Why we need a content strategy
For anyone who worked in SEO or dabbled in it for their own website back in the early 2000s, you’ll remember how simple things were, where keyword density was our biggest worry and we knew that sticking our target search query into an article a few times would result in pretty decent rankings.
At the time, Google’s Keyword Planner was a veritable treasure trove of new opportunities. Throw in a few seed keywords and allow it to bring you a plethora of suggested terms to target next – some of which would be relevant to our brand, others that would be completely irrelevant but hey, if it got us traffic, why not pop up a quick blog post on the topic anyway?
Of course, modern SEO is much more complex – and much more user-focused – than these early days. And that’s why we need a content strategy. Because today’s SEO strategy must be appreciative of the advanced understanding Google has of our content and its semantic relevance, and of the savviness of our end user, who is much less patient of poor quality content than ever before, too.
Identifying your Circles of Focus
Getting started on a content strategy can therefore seem quite daunting. We know we have to create something awesome, but where do we begin?
Circles of Focus is a technique I’ve been using with my clients and have found to be a useful internal exercise, too. I’ve started training other people on its use and their feedback suggests it provides them with better clarity around what content to create, as well as a way of prioritising their content production and relating it back to their end goals. Here’s how it looks:
The image above shows the Circles of Focus, comprising the Core, Secondary and Tertiary levels. We can start to categorise topics into these three areas, depending on how close to our core offering they are.
Your Core focus
The Core area is that which most closely mirrors your central product or service offering. This is what you want to be known as an expert for.
For us at Impression, our core focuses are simply our core service areas – so we want to be known for expertise in digital marketing, web design, SEO, PPC, PR, CRO, content marketing and so on. These are the things that we want to be able to sell, so having a core focus on those is important.
And because they are our core focus, we typically create content about them more than anything else. We write blog posts about them. We make videos about them. We speak at conferences about them. We train people on them. Ask anyone what we do as a business and (hopefully) they’ll know us as digital marketers above anything else.
Your Secondary focus
The Secondary circle comprises those things which are related to your core offering but are not your main areas of expertise. They should be relevant to what you do, and more often than not, will reflect the benefits of your products or services.
For Impression, our secondary circle of focus includes broader marketing theory, commercial concepts, business growth strategies and so on. It’s not directly what we sell, but it’s highly related and relevant to us and to our audience.
Because these are our secondary focus, we will create content about them from time to time, but it’s not our specific area of expertise.
Your Tertiary focus
The third circle of focus is that which is still related to you and your business, but much less closely tied to your core offering.
For us as a business, our Tertiary circle includes topics like Nottingham and London (which are our two bases), recruitment (our team is always growing), management techniques (Aaron and Tom provide expert comment fairly frequently on business matters), office design (our office is so nice!), graduate support (we do a lot with universities) and so on. These things are not what we sell, nor are they directly related, but they are still relevant to our business and we’re still happy to talk about them.
Bigger circle = broader appeal
Generally speaking, the bigger the circle, the broader the appeal of the topic.
If we use Impression again as the example, there are likely to be far more businesses whose own areas of focus cross over with our Tertiary topics than those which cross over with our Core focus. And it’s likely there are a lot more people and publications interested in more general business topics than there are in specific SEO techniques, for example.
This is no bad thing. In fact, the size of our Circles of Focus is indicative of the results we can expect from that content; create content in your Tertiary circle and you can expect to gain – generally speaking – more coverage or more traffic. Generally speaking.
When we focus on those topics in the Core, we expect fewer people to relate but for those people who do to be much more engaged with our core offering and therefore much more likely to want to buy from us.
Consider it like a face to face networking event. Walk up to someone in the room and simply push your business card (read:sales message) in their hand and you’ll struggle to build any form of rapport. Walk up to the same person in the room and open a conversation about the weather (classic British opener) or the state of the economy and you’re much more likely to engage that person in a conversation to which you can both contribute, and from which you can start to guide that person toward a better understanding of your core offering and, ultimately, to conversion.
Circles and the conversion funnel
The Circles of Focus are therefore simply a ‘top down’ view of a classic conversion funnel, where the outer circle is all about awareness, and then each circle within moves us closer to the point of conversion.
This is where we can really start to think about prioritising our content production. When we know that those things that sit closest to our core are going to be the most likely to attract new customers to our business, we can ensure we get those things right before we move on.
In practical terms, that means focusing on things like our core product or service pages. Get those right, and we can then move onto deeper web pages, blog post and, eventually, creative content and PR campaigns.
At every step, recognise that the further we get from our core focus, the more steps the user has to take to get to the point of wanting to convert. That’s where techniques like having a clear content strategy, and potentially incorporating CRO, can really help.
What do you think? Does the Circles of Focus approach help you? How do you plan your content? Let me know in the comments below.