So you've got a shiny new WP theme picked out for your author website. You've customized it with a bit of your own CSS, and it's looking good. Now it's time to get your content lined up and ready to go.
Well, actually, we've put the horse before the cart in this example. Generally, you want your content strategy to guide your design process. For example, short-form updates or a Twitter feed can change the look of your homepage, shifting your whole design. It's best to start with content and then design around it.
But whether your site is up and running or you are in the planning stages, it's never too late to define and shape your content strategy.
What Is Content Strategy?
Every website should have a well-defined content strategy that lays out the guiding principles of what gets put on the website and what doesn't. A strategy can be used to:
- Generate ideas for content campaigns.
- Determine who you want writing for your website (Whether you create yourself, hire creators, or invite guest creators).
- Create a guide that helps filter out irrelevant content.
A great explanation of content strategy can be found on distilled.net. While it can get a little technical at times, it is a helpful guide that lays out exactly what you need to do to create a useful content strategy. In fact, it is what I will be using to guide you through creating a strategy for an author site.
Let's get started!
Company Research: Brand Yourself
This is where most new authors struggle, especially authors who have not found their writing niche yet. For example, my writing spans middle grade to adult and fantasy to contemporary. How does one create a brand that encompasses such variety? It's easy to stick with a generic website- a business card website- until I hone my brand more sharply.
But taking the time to brand my writing— to find the themes that I always tend to circle back to and critically assess my voice— allows me to start building content that echoes my voice. This is important because it will allow readers to immediately recognize my site as mine, and to feel comfortable, intimate, and excited while using my site.
I will go deeper into author branding at a later date, but there are many excellent resources already out there:
- The Creative Penn's 7 Best Ways to Build an Authentic Author Brand
- The Book Designer's How To Build Your Author Brand From Scratch (And Why You Need To)
Knowing who you are and what you offer your readers allows you to provide consistency to readers. It allows you to quickly assess anything you want to put up and say, "Yes, this represents me," or "No, that's not me."
Customer Research: Know Who's Reading You
This part should be easy for most writers. If you have every queried agents, you know that many of them want to understand where your writing fits— who it appeals to and what market you expect it to sell to.
To understand this, you will need to create some reader profiles. Knowing who you are writing for will help you determine whether your site content will be helpful or interesting to your readers. After you have a solid reader profile, you can use information like the Codex Group surveys to create content your specific readership will find interesting.
When researching your readers, don't forget secondary readers. For example, Twilight may have originally been considered a YA series. However, it is popular with female readers up to age thirty. Failing to include these readers in your content strategy would mean missing out on opportunities to develop reader loyalty.
Competitor Research: Know What Other Authors Are Doing
When creating your content strategy, you need to check out what other authors are doing. While you should definitely check out what works for other authors. When doing this, some authors make the mistake of checking out famous authors. Sure, you can get great ideas from established authors. But they are not your main competition.
For example, you are probably not going to be competing with Pottermore anytime soon. So make sure you check out the content approach of writers in your CURRENT bracket.
Remember that when you are looking what other writers are doing, the goal is not to copy them exactly. The goal is to find:
- Strategies that work. What types of content get engagement from users? What do people like and talk about?
- Negative niches. What needs are not being filled? Is there a space where your voice could be amplified by creating content that is desired but not being made?
Your Own Strategy
Once you've collected info on yourself, your readers, and your competition, a vision for your content should start to take shape. Your content should:
- Be consistent with your brand.
- Fill the wants and needs of your readers.
- Allow you to stand out from the crowd.
What content strategies work for you? I'd love to hear your approach to content on your author website or help you figure out some of the issues you may be running into.