UNDERSTANDING CONTENT STRATEGY AND LINKABLE ASSETS
By Justine Daley
I recently played a pretty tough game at a user experience and interactive design meetup. To play the game, we were each given a piece of paper with a phrase on it. We needed to say whether or not the phrase on our paper was “content” or “the vehicle.”
The reason this was a tough game is because these two terms are very commonly confused.
In the user experience world, “content” is the message, the information, or the idea. But the “vehicle” is how that idea gets delivered, or the medium. It is very easy to get these two mixed up, especially when you’re trying to determine your content marketing strategy. Do you know the difference?
Here are a few examples. See if you can determine whether or not the example is content or a vehicle.
Video: Content or Vehicle?
Vehicle: Video is the medium through which the content is communicated. During the planning of a website this is something that is typically planned for the homepage, frequently before the message of the video is determined.
Weather: Content or Vehicle?
Content: Weather is data and information, a message that is provided. It can be provided through many different mediums as well—video, interactive map, etc.
Recipe: Content or Vehicle?
Both (?): A recipe is information on how to cook or bake something. It is specific instructions and ingredients, a very specific message. But it is also the vehicle by which that information is communicated. So therefore, this could be construed as both.
Infographic: Content or Vehicle?
Vehicle: An infographic is how a specific message is frequently visually communicated. The infographic itself is not the message, the content. It is the medium of how it is communicated. When working with the team and determining content strategies, I find that this concept to be very frequently forgotten. And it is very easy to do so, as much of the time you are specifically planning content by thinking medium first, not the message.
So what do you plan first – the message or the medium?
When determining your content strategy, you should always start with the message you want to communicate. Then, you figure out what vehicle would best communicate that content.
But when you’re working with a team of designers, writers, and SEO strategists, it isn’t always easy to stick to that order.
Let’s take a video for example. A designer may say, “We really need to have a video on the homepage, because as we know, they provide for increased conversion.”
But with that, we have jumped straight to the vehicle without consideration of the content and messaging itself. In the fast paced, website design and SEO agency environment, this is going to happen frequently. Designers and developers will utilize certain vehicles and features, as they know them to be standard conversion optimization elements, before writers and strategists are able to determine the messaging. This is why it is important for the team to work in tandem throughout this process and make sure there is the appropriate content for each conversion-oriented vehicle.
When you’re determining content strategy for the purpose of increasing impressions, rankings, etc., it is necessary to plan the message before the medium. In fact, here at GNGF, we take another step before we plan the content and vehicle; we set goals. Those goals determine both the content and the vehicle.
We recently set goals for one of our personal injury clients. A crucial goal was to increase traffic and rankings for a few specific car accident keywords. When planning the content strategy we of course thought about the messaging—every piece needed to be focused on communicating depth of knowledge in car accident cases to prospects and current clients—and we also thought about the best vehicle.
When trying to achieve a goal focused on traffic and ranking, the most important vehicles are ones that are both crawlable by search engines and linkable by high domain authority sources.
The medium that is most optimized for search is long form written pages. In determining the right medium that is linkable by high domain authority sources, we had to think strategically about linkable assets.
Creating Strategic Linkable Assets
In planning the best linkable assets, you first you need to have a linkable, shareable topic – the content.
In figuring this out, the best way is to find a topic already out there being written about by bloggers and newspapers. We’ve talked before about 10x content, a principle introduced by Rand Fishkin of Moz. This is when you find information that is already out there on the web, but create something that communicates the information ten times better than the current source.
The first step of building links is finding a high domain authority source with information that is relevant to you—for example, local accident data—and creating something that is ten times better for that sources and similar sources to link to. Sometimes this means providing the same content, but utilizing a different, more suitable vehicle. In the example of car accident data, doing this successfully takes an incredible amount of research and planning, but if you do the up front work, it will make your actual outreach for links much more successful.
You’ll be more successful because you are providing information that people actually want to have, link to, and share.