December 23

The ultimate guide to how a great content strategy can make you money


We weren’t content strategists from the start.

We started as writers. Writing books. Articles. Trying to do the noble thing called ‘journalism’, uncovering stories and trying to expose things under the rug.

But we acknowledged that with changes to how people were consuming media, being a writer, would mean that we might end up being extinct.

We started doing content strategy. And since then, we’ve taken on more and more clients, with more of them seeing success.

This article attempts to lay out the lessons we’ve learnt from our foray into content strategy, such as what works, and what doesn’t.

You may be hitting numbers, but not your goals

Numbers can be deceptive. Google’s Data Analytics can show you the number of users coming to your site, but they may not be doing what you want them to.

That’s why from the start, you need to know what your goal is.

So the first step is to ask,

  1. What is my goal?
  2. What is my definition of success for this goal?

Ideally, you should focus on that one goal. And do everything you can to optimise for that goal.

Here’s one example of what didn’t work.

During the first 3 months of our site, we focused on getting traffic to our site. But if you stepped back and asked me,

Hey John, what are you going to do with all that traffic?

Why are you even trying to get traffic?

I wouldn’t have an answer. All I knew was that I wanted it to stop looking so pathetic. The numbers.

But later on, when we finally hit steady numbers, I was frustrated.

Why weren’t they buying my stuff?

That’s when I realised that traffic didn’t equate to conversions.

Traffic =/= conversion

This is a very important equation. That’s why you need to know what the intent of your content strategy is.

Because if there’s nowhere you want to go, you might end up going everywhere, and reaching nowhere.

Content may not be the most important thing

If your goal is conversions in terms of sales, such as in a Buyer to Consumer (B2C) context, then it might be better that you spend time writing better ads, posting them, and ensuring that the cost of ads, is below the cost of revenue.

Ad cost < Revenue

It’s a simple equation that ensures you get what you want. The sales.

Knowing your business model is the first step towards crafting your content strategy. For example, if you were a content-heavy site like The Smart Local, whose business model is based on traffic, and selling sponsored posts based on that traffic, then you might find it worth it to invest in a content strategy.

But if you were just a page that offers people the chance to check out, then a content strategy might not be the most effective, nor the most efficient way to get what you want.

A content strategy takes three things.

  1. Time
  2. Creativity
  3. Money

For our blog Live Young and Well, we focused on a SEO strategy on terms around ‘adulting’ from 21 July.

It took three months before we saw the results grow 4-fold.

Today, we organically get 133 clicks, at no cost.

But this has demanded very heavy resources on our team.

The cost of content

Each day, our team spends at least 1 hour trawling through SEO tools such as Ubersuggest, Ahrefs, and KWFinder, to find keywords that we can optimise for.

It’s also meant that we are eating, drinking, and thinking about content, all the time.

In the shower. When we are walking. Wherever we go.

Anything can be a content idea.

You get the idea. It can feel a little crazy.

If you don’t have people who are willing to do that, and think that putting out a pithy post here and there will do… it won’t do.


Without much return

I also admit.

These clicks have not generated the revenues we’ve desired. Since embarking on this massive scale to grow our audience, we’ve only generated $10 in sales of our books.

That’s why you need to focus on search intent, across the funnel

Google offers you a way to peer into the minds of people, giving you an insight into what people are thinking about.

You would ask Google questions you would never think about asking your mum.

That’s why keyword research tools are so powerful.

Understanding the search intent will help you better build your content strategy
Understanding the search intent will help you better build your content strategy

But knowing the search terms people are typing into Google isn’t enough. Understanding why is vital.

That’s where your understanding of your product-market fit comes in.

Worked example of keyword research for a B2C business

Let’s look at a typical B2C business. Let’s say you were selling hand sanitisers. Your product-market fit is quite clear.

The problem is with people trying to sanitise their hands.

You might try to optimise for transactional terms like ‘buy hand sanitisers’. You might even add in ‘buy hand sanitisers Singapore’, if you were based in Singapore.

Data from ahrefs
Data from ahrefs

Then you might start to look at how competitive the keywords are, so that you can start ranking for them.

As they say,

The best place to hide a dead body is on Page 2 of Google.

If you’re not ranked, you’re not found. And you’re not bought.

Sell the problem, not the product

But it’s not just the transactional terms though.

That’s where the content strategy expertise comes in.

Thinking across the funnel, into people who might not be aware of your product, but aware of the ‘problem’, helps you to get more people, who might not be familiar with your brand.

Here we tried understanding 'how to sanitise' to see if this was a problem we could rank for
Here we tried understanding ‘how to sanitise’ to see if this was a problem we could rank for

Understand your core fans, not customers

80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. Don’t believe me? Go check your sales record.

Building a loyal fan base on the Internet ensures that your products sell, and keep selling, whatever duds you produce.

Remember how Apple was at one point producing printers and scanners? Their hardcore true fans still stayed with them.

Building a content strategy is having the tenacity to keep with your brand, and to keep publishing content that speaks to them.

Building a brand requires unique content, not just run of the mill content that can be found anywhere online. After all, when AI can now produce articles, why would anyone buy you?

Because you have a story.

New content strategies require new stories, human stories

I’m not lying about AI writing content.

When a business partner showed me how what he asked for immediately turned into content, I could feel a wave of anxiety flood me.

But it subsided quickly. Because I realised I could do something AI couldn’t.

I could have human emotion and story, that landed and resonated with people, making them cry.

In life, we live for those moments when we feel connected, at peace.

But today, so much of that has been stolen away by the attention economy, which floods us with wave after wave of content, demanding our attention. We would rather swipe up and down than to read something mindfully, understanding what’s happening.

But this isn’t the way to consume.

There’s a different way.

Producing heartfelt content will remain the vestige of what’s human, because whilst we can say that ‘AI creates’, they aren’t creating.

They are just copying. They are running algorithmic analyses of what we’ve produced, and copying it into a different form.

Yes you’re right…

It’s a lot to think about.

As someone who came into content strategy by chance, from something as unrelated as social work, this has been a very difficult job. Because there are no easy formulas that will guarantee your product to work.

The only thing you need is a willingness to try, and keep failing.


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