If content is king, then content strategy is like the king’s trusted advisor. Because although content has the potential to be all-powerful, it’s nothing without expert guidance by a carefully considered content strategy.
The question is: what makes a good content strategy? How should you manage your content? And how do you decide what to use your content for?
A well-conceived content strategy is pivotal to successful content marketing. It justifies any spending on content marketing by showing exactly what your content will be used for and how it will drive business growth.
What’s more, it ensures that no effort, time, or money is wasted in generating content that isn’t used to its full effect.
Here’s our simple 12-step guide to creating a powerful content strategy that does justice to your hard work and ensures your content is an all-round resounding success.
Determine the purpose of your content
Before you dive into the ins and outs of content creation, take a breath.
- What is it that you actually want this content to do?
- What business need does it need to fulfil?
All content has a general goal of expressing who you are and what you have to offer, as well as driving engagement. But beyond that, there are different business goals you might want to focus on:
- Growing brand awareness and getting the word out.
- Supporting customers with content to take the pressure off your customer service team.
- Getting customers interested in your products and generating leads.
- Turning leads into conversions by getting customers to take action, whether that’s making a purchase or phone call or joining an email list.
- Winning back old customers and building brand loyalty.
- Improving search rankings and boosting organic traffic.
Decide which part of the sales funnel you are targeting—the top (growing awareness about your company) or the bottom (encouraging buyers to make decisions or take action).
You should also decide what you want your content to be like.
What tone of voice should it have? What message and identity should it convey? Bear in mind that all content should be cohesive. Aim for consistency of style and tone.
Identify your audience
To create content that really hits home, you need to know where you’re aiming. Who is the target or ideal customer?
Develop a profile and define your ideal buyer persona by asking yourself the following questions:
- Who are they? How old are they? What’s their gender?
- Where do they live? What language do they speak?
- How much money do they have? What do they spend it on?
- What’s their problem and how can you solve it?
- What are their goals and aspirations? How can you help them realise these ambitions?
- What other habits and preferences do they have?
- Where do they go online and what kind of content do they consume?
- What social media platform do they like best?
- What are they saying about you and your products or services?
To answer these questions, consult your customer contacts database, social media analytics like Facebook Audience Insights, and Google Analytics.
Ask your customer service team for common questions and problems they get asked. Ask the sales team what the typical buyer is like. Put out surveys to gain even further insights.
Remember that you might have more than one target customer. If so, will you need different content types and channels to target each type of reader?
Developing a detailed description of your audience will help you ensure that you’re creating content they actually want.
Check out your competitors
What are your competitors doing? Where are they outperforming you and how can you outperform them? How can you make your content unique and specific? To answer these questions, you need to conduct competitor content research.
First, determine who your competitors are. Not every company selling the same thing as you, is a direct competitor. Those that sell the same thing but are much bigger can be considered indirect competitors. And those selling alternatives to your product or service can be considered substitute competitors.
Next, have a look at what your competitors are publishing and how often. What are they missing in their content that you could deliver?
How in-depth do they go—and could you offer something more comprehensive? How long are their blog posts? How attractive are their infographics? How well-made are their videos? Do they have the same tone of voice as you? How much engagement can you see from the readers?
You can then use online tools to assess the SEO success of a competitor’s content. SEMRush and Ahrefs, for example, are two SEO tools with a competitor analysis feature which pulls your competitor’s backlinks and monitors their ranking. This helps you see which keywords they are targeting and which they are missing.
Run your own content audit
Once you’ve run a content audit on your competitors, it’s time to run one on your own company. This will give you insights into how your content is performing and help you to develop a more successful content strategy for the future.
Establish a content inventory: a list of all your content—and we mean all of it. Include as much information as you can, such as target keywords and meta descriptions as well as page visits, entries and exits, average time on page, number of social shares, and average bounce rate. Tools like Google Analytics and SharedCount are useful for this information gathering.
Once you’ve done this, you can identify where the problems are—what’s worked in the past with your audience, what gaps exist in your content, and what content is no longer serving your goals.
You’ll also be able to get inspiration for future pieces.
Set a budget
Before you go any further with your content strategy, you need to determine what resources you have.
- How much money is the company able to put behind content marketing?
- How big is your team?
- Is it worth considering outsourcing part of your content strategy?
Your budget will also determine which tools and technology you can take advantage of. While there are lots of free online tools to help with content management, some of the best ones, such as Ahrefs Keyword Explorer and SurferSEO, do cost money.
If you need justification for greater content marketing spending, here’s a good statistic for you. Content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less.
Decide what kind of content you want to create
Deciding what kind of content to create and the balance of different kinds of content depends on your goals. Each type of content is best suited to a particular business objective. The kind of content you choose will also depend on what skills and resources you have.
- Infographics – great for boosting engagement as they’re very shareable.
- Videos – these can give a behind-the-scenes look at your company or serve as a product demo.
- Blog posts – blog content can promote products and encourage conversions rather than simply educating customers about what you have to offer.
- Webinars – a great way to educate customers, build a relationship with them, and showcase your products or services, especially for B2B companies.
- Ebooks – communicate complex subjects to your customers in an easy-to-read format.
- Reports and whitepapers – long-form content is a powerful way to encourage prospects to make a purchase, especially if the product or service is towards the higher end of the price spectrum. It’s also well-suited to technical products and services.
- Case studies – these success stories are a persuasive way to convince customers.
- Podcasts – a highly engaging and entertaining way to build awareness around your brand.
- Email marketing – a powerful means of reaching customers directly and in a way that feels personal.
- Newsletters – a single piece of content that can then encourage your audience to discover other content.
Choose your CMS
A CMS or content management system is designed to help you with the management, creation, modification, and publication of your content. It handles all the backend infrastructure of your web pages, allowing you to create a website quickly without having to do a coding masterclass or have any extensive technical knowledge.
Your CMS is in charge of displaying all your content—so make sure you’ve got a good one. When choosing between different content management systems, consider whether any of them require particular skills to use. Is this a skill set you or your team has?
Also, ensure the CMS you choose is secure and that it’s easy to edit the look of your content using the CMS editor. Also, is the CMS scalable? Can it keep up with the growth of your business?
WordPress is one example of a popular content management system. The WordPress.com network receives more than 409 million people viewing more than 15.5 billion pages each month. It offers an easy-to-navigate and flexible content management solution, allowing you to customize the design and functions of your site.
Another popular content management system is Squarespace, with hundreds of templates on offer, each of which is compatible across all platforms and devices and can easily be integrated with social sites.
Choose a CMS with a good support system. Software is important but even more important is a customer service team that’s always ready to help.
Come up with content ideas
The first stage when thinking up content is to look back at your ideal buyer persona. What do they want? What are their pain points? What are their goals?
You want content that speaks directly to their problems and aspirations. And whatever your content ideas are, you want to ensure it coheres with your brand voice and goals.
You can also look at topics that are trending or are going to be popular in the future. Buzzsumo helps you to discover which content is popular and trending across the web. It shows the content people are engaging with most, whether that’s with shares, links, or comments. This will give you an idea of the kind of content that is most likely to be successful.
Exploding Topics is another brilliant tool that analyses millions of searches, conversations and mentions across the internet to find emerging trends before they take off.
Consider important marketing dates such as Christmas but don’t focus exclusively on timely content. Evergreen content that’s always relevant and valuable is important for attracting readers year after year.
Create a content calendar
Once you have your content ideas, you can slot them into a content editorial calendar. When creating the calendar, consider diversity, balance, and regularity.
You want a mixture of articles that cover different aspects of your particular niche. Strike a balance between scheduled content that appears frequently and one-off specials. Content should be published regularly but not so regularly that you set an impossible standard.
In your content calendar, include the date when a piece of content is going live, but also include deadlines for the first draft and different rounds of editing. This will ensure a structured workflow with less room for slipping up.
At this stage, you can finally get on with content creation, whether that’s producing videos or writing blog posts. With everything above in mind, you and your team can enjoy the creative part of content marketing.
But remember that content doesn’t work alone. Other aspects also play a role in how well your content performs, such as design, SEO, and user experience. As you create content, ensure it’s fully optimised so it can work to its full effect.
Pick your channels
After creation comes distribution—the publishing and promoting of your content. What’s the point of great content if you can’t get it out there and in front of your audience?
Your content distribution channels mostly depend on your target audience. Where do they hang out? Where do you see the most engagement?
Your chosen channels should align with your reader’s preferences. You should also consider whether your brand’s tone of voice is a good fit for that particular channel.
Here are your options:
- Website or blog – these are considered ‘owned’ channels because you have complete control over how your content appears and the flow of information. They are also inexpensive.
- Social media – your social media pages are also considered ‘owned’ channels. Different social platforms are better suited to different kinds of content. LinkedIn, for example, is popular for finance-related content while Instagram is more appropriate for retail content.
- Email outreach – this is an incredibly direct distribution channel, allowing you to reach readers quickly and efficiently.
- Third-party distribution channels – also known as ‘earned’ or ‘shared’ channels, these third parties—like customers or bloggers—share or promote your content for you for free. Examples include press coverage, guest blogs, or retweets.
- Sponsored content – this is when a person, brand, or influencer creates content that promotes your company or products for a fee.
Set metrics of success
Once your content has been unleashed into the ether, you can start analysing its performance. How will you decide if your content has been successful?
Here are some KPIs you can use to track content performance:
- Traffic and views – these are the most obvious metrics of success as they reveal how many people are actually reading or viewing your content.
- Social media shares, likes, and comments – engagement on social media is a great way to judge whether your content is helping to boost brand awareness.
- Downloads – this applies to things like whitepapers or ebooks and is a good indicator that people are interested in your content.
- Reduction in support calls – this is especially significant if your content was intended to compliment your customer service.
- Sign-ups – this could be for free trials or your newsletter.
- Sales – an increase in sales is a clear sign that your content strategy is working.
- Feedback – this might come directly from customers in the form of surveys or you might be able to get a sense of the success of your content from comments left by customers.
Perfecting Your Content Strategy: In Short
These 12 steps will help you to develop a content strategy that does what it’s meant to do, promoting your business and driving growth.
From determining content goals and running content audits to creating calendars, analysing content feedback and success rates, and modifying approaches accordingly, these steps can be used by companies of all sizes to create a content strategy that’s tailored to your specific business needs and goals and is optimised to fulfil them.