Content marketing continues to dominate in 2015. It seems that lots of people missed that memo. In fact, issues we regularly face with clients indicate that few people outside the marketing world even know what content marketing is. And, content strategy? They've never heard of it. So, let's take a look at some common client questions.

What is content, anyway?
Isn’t content just a few words on a few pages? Actually, "we'll be providing our own content" may be the undoing of the thought and hard work you put into your shiny new website or your latest marketing brochure.

Prateek Sarkar, creative director for the Walt Disney Company, has said, “Content is story. And content strategy is storytelling.” So, listen up. After all, who knows how to tell a story better than Disney?  

What’s wrong with our old content?
Perhaps nothing. For example, evergreen content, such as great white papers, is content that stays relevant and can establish you as a thought leader in your field. However, the world changes fast. So does language and the way we use it. And, people don’t buy the same way they did five years ago. With millions of websites competing with yours, you need fresh content to capture and inspire your audience and a strong strategy to sustain audience interest. 

Where do I start?
To tell your story in a way that resonates with readers and pays off at the bank, you have to ask the right questions and set the right priorities.

Margot Bloomstein, in her book Content Strategy at Work, writes, “Prioritization means holding your work and efforts accountable to a bigger plan, a sort of raison d’etre: why this and why now?”

How do I create good content? 
Paul Grice, a linguist known for studying how people communicate, developed four maxims for conversation—a good place to start when you evaluate current or new content. 

The short version: Give readers content that is appropriate in quality, quantity, relevance and clarity.

Know your audience’s needs and tell them what they need to know, not what you want them to know.  Speak to them in language and tone they understand. 

Although Paul Grice didn’t ask me—from an editor’s point of view—I would add consistency to the list. From staying on brand to correctly employing all those pesky commas and apostrophes, errors and inconsistencies can confuse readers and redirect their focus in a negative way.

Why isn’t our SEO better? Or "Shhh! Don’t tell anybody."
Your Search Engine Optimization depends on good content, thoughtfully written, organized for ease of use, with appropriate links. Cram a lot of keywords into every paragraph, and Google will punish you. “Borrow” from other websites, and, yes, Google will punish you.

One of the most common, and most counterproductive, mistakes we see is burying information deep within the site. Again, Google will punish you. Some clients are strangely shy, even secretive, about what they do. “We sell widgets, but we don’t want those words on the main page. Let’s get people deeper in the site before we start selling them.”

The bad news is twofold: 

  1. They won't get deeper into the site if you don't give them a reason to go there. 
  2. It doesn’t matter if you sell the most righteous widgets on the planet, nobody will buy yours if you don't talk about them. 

Give them information up front. If your FAQs page is one of your most frequently visited areas, chances are good that you aren’t giving readers adequate information when they first visit your website. 

Above all, make it easy for potential customers to know what you do and why they should give you their business and their money. To do that, you need a marriage of great design, great content and the right medium for the right audience.