When it comes to creating content for the web, many often confuse strategy with tactics. I think that Wikipedia's definition of strategy will help to clear this up a bit:
"A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. The word strategy has military connotations, because it derives from the Greek word for general. Strategy is distinct from tactics. In military terms, tactics is concerned with the conduct of an engagement while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. In other words, how a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: the terms that it is fought on and whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy. Military strategy is the overarching, long-term plan of operations that will achieve the political objectives of the nation. It is part of the four levels of warfare: political goals, strategy, operations, and tactics."
A web strategy, then, is a "master" plan to achieve particular objectives, whether focused on user engagement, marketing or sales, that identifies who the audience is, and what types of content will be most effective. In other words, it's the conceptual planning that needs to happen before you actually do any content creation. However, the act of creating any particular type of content, or the how--whether newsletter articles, blogs, whitepapers, or the like--is tactical. The tactical issues are the necessary practical steps that will enable the success or failure of your strategy.
Ideally, much of the planning that will determine your content strategy will happen in a planning phase well in advance of the website going live. However, that doesn't mean that the strategy won't ever change. It's very common for our clients to gain more clarity or new insight into their strategic direction once the site is live, has been used, and has gathered feedback. It's at this point that those who manage the site may regroup and repeat--often in abbreviated terms--some of the initial planning steps like persona development. We've already written quite a bit on the subject of planning that I encourage you to read through if this applies to you:
For more information on planning and web content strategy, check out our newsletters on Who Are You Speaking To?, The Web Development Planning Process, How Much Work is a Website?, and Developing an Effective Content Strategy.
If you are clear on the objectives and the intended audience of your website, then the next step is identifying the particular types of content that are most appropriate to use. Written content, of course, will enable your site to gain the most traction from users coming in through search engines. The more written and indexable content on your site, the more accurately search engines can determine what your site is about and connect searchers (those looking for your material but not yet aware of it) to your site. But identifying content conducive to search engine optimization is only part of your strategy.
The other part of your strategy is identifying content that will actually speak to users in the most direct and satisfying way while reinforcing your brand as well. For many consumer products, blogs and video are the most user-friendly content types that can easily connect users to your brand and facilitate their engagement with you. However, for more technical products like software and hardware, additional types of content, like user and customer support forums, can be a great way of continuing the engagement beyond purchase, letting happy customers vouch for your brand and unhappy customers vent and receive help all in a setting you control. For business services, on the other hand, more in-depth and informative resources, like newsletters, webinars, or whitepapers, may be the most appropriate way to educate prospects. Whatever the choice, it should be made on the basis of what type of content is most appropriate to your message and intended audience, not what seems the most trendy at the moment.
Once you have identified the types of content that you will be producing, you'll need to get serious about your plan to produce. The best system for this is an editorial calendar that specifies who is responsible for creating each type of content, how often it will be published, and even the particular subjects that each piece will cover. This kind of structure allows you to think in advance about how to communicate your expertise over time and who on your team is best suited for specific subjects and/or methods, and provides accountability for everyone involved.
Keep in mind that no system alone will support your strategy. Everyone, from the top down, must be committed to the goal and the work required to achieve it. Creating content, whether writing blogs or newsletters or producing videos or webinars, takes a lot of time, so your editorial calendar needs to take this into account. If you are just starting out, consider a conservative publishing schedule (e.g. blogging a few times a week, writing a newsletter once a month, and producing a webinar quarterly) so that you can actually sustain the work your plan requires beyond the initial weeks of excitement around it.