Almost everywhere the word Content pops up, you would definitely see the phrase “content is king”.
Today, too many companies approach content marketing with the intent being to simply to publish something literally anything without a strategy in place for why they are creating that content to begin with.
This is why we end up with so much impractical, lackluster content on the web–it’s from a lack of direction and vision that rarely produces any value.
Let’s change that.
Instead of creating “content,” let’s look more deliberately at the role content marketing plays in meeting both business objectives and customer needs.
If you’ve wondered what the value of your content might be or how it fits into the bigger picture, then this post is for you.
In this guide, I’ll define what a content marketing strategy is, help you decide if a content marketing strategy is right for your business, and outline a three-step process to analyze your customer base, understand their journey, and then create a content marketing framework that incorporates both pieces. From this, you’ll be able to create a laser-focused content marketing strategy, with each piece of content playing a key role in both your business and the life of your customer.
What is Content?
Before we discuss what content strategy actually is, it’s worth understanding what we mean when we say “content.” “Content” is a single word loaded with different meanings that depends on the context. Yet, a single concise definition is elusive – most of us would simply say we know it when we see it. That’s why it might be best to think of content along several different lines. In the realm of digital marketing, content encompasses four core elements:
Information – What are the actual contents of your message? It can be informative ,practical ,factual, entertaining or some combination of the three.
Context – What is the content supposed to help you and the reader accomplish? Who is the target audience for this content? Why is it being published?
Medium – What channel are you publishing the content on, and how does that influence the overall message?
Form – Is the content text, graphic, audio, video, interactive, virtual/augmented reality, etc.?
Content is information that is relevant in a given context and has a form shaped by the medium through which it’s transmitted.
Many definitions of content focus too much on the information and not on the rest of the elements. Information without context is just noise. Information that isn’t presented with the form and medium in mind risks being lost on the recipient. For example, you could write out the steps of changing a tire, but including images would make it a lot clearer.
Content is vital for businesses in our current dispensation as a means of attracting potential customers without relying on traditional “push” advertising techniques. Digital content allows potential customers to discover and engage with you organically. As they search for topics and concepts relevant to what they want to do or know, they find you and dive deeper at their leisure.
It’s content that helps people learn something new, solve their problems, do better work, and ultimately find solutions that help them reach their goals.
It’s a means of showing your expertise and awareness around things your target audience cares about and building trust with them so that if they decide to make a purchase, you are front and centre. It’s not about being purely promotional or transactional. You have to truly add value in some way if you want your content to move any business goal forward.
What is content strategy?
Content strategy refers to the management of pretty much any tangible media that you create and own: written, visual, downloadable you name it. Content strategy is the piece of your marketing plan that continuously demonstrates who you are and the expertise you bring to your industry.
You might’ve heard how important content creation is to the growth of your business, but as you’ll see throughout this post, it needs to have a well-planned purpose.
When you develop a content strategy, there are a few questions to answer.
Why you need a content marketing strategy
While your company should have a content strategy – a strategic plan for all its content usage across the enterprise, it also should have a dedicated content marketing strategy – a unified, strategic road map focused exclusively on how your business will use content to attract, acquire, and engage its prospects and customers.
Why is it critical to develop (and document) a deliberate strategy? For starters, consider that CMI’s annual Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends research has consistently found that a documented content marketing strategy is a factor that separates successful content marketers from their less successful peers.
In fact, according to our latest B2B findings
65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy vs. 14% of the least successful.
73% say it keeps their teams focused on established content priorities.
68% say it helps their team allocate resources to optimize desired results.
Furthermore, the insights from a documented content marketing strategy can make all your tactical decisions – including which types of content to develop – easier to plan and manage.
Who will be reading your content?
Who’s the target audience for your content? For how many audiences are you creating content? Just as your business might have more than one type of customer, your content strategy can cater to more than one type of reader or viewer.
Using a variety of content types and channels will help you deliver different content to each type of audience you have in mind and engage everyone your company does business with.
How to Create a Content Strategy – Your 6-Step Cheat Sheet
To formulate a solid content strategy, you must first think through the major inputs, both internal and external to your company. These include your goals, who you want to reach, the competitive landscape, your resources, your costs, and how you’ll measure results. This information will shape your strategy.
Now let’s walk through the major inputs of a content strategy.
Step 1: Define Your Goal
All successful stories, in business or otherwise, begin with a goal. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can hardly know what’s the best way to get there. It’s crucial to establish your team’s explicit goals as a first step in developing your content strategy workflow.
It’s also important to remember that goals are fluid, as are the methods your team may develop to reach them. Every business has variant ideas of success, and every project will not aim toward the same outcome. It may be that you start with the basic goal of driving brand awareness, and later that goal morphs into increasing conversions.
How you develop content around these two goals will shift with the goal, and it’s a good idea to condition your team toward versatility early on. A few of the more common starting line goals that businesses might use at the top of their content strategy workflow include:
Increase conversions Drive brand awareness Educate customers on products and services Gain more social media followers Scale your current content strategy Recruit talent Generate brand loyalty Maybe your business is concentrating on the sales funnel right now and wants to build content goals around various stages of that process. That could look like anything from creating personalized tutorials and value-driven stories to pushing product suggestions that filter seamlessly into existing content. The takeaway here is that the more specific you can make your goals and the more clear the route to attaining them, the more unique and memorable your content becomes.
2. Research Your Audience
Your content strategy can be effective when you know who your audience is. Valuable information can be gleaned by checking what types of sites your prospects are already visiting, which content they engage with, and which social media platforms they share content on. This can be done by enabling Google Demographics and Interests for the types of sites prospects engage with and Google Analytics for the content they engage with, and by reviewing which social platforms are more popular for sharing on content pages.
Delve into Google Analytics to determine which content is producing the best results. Click on Behavior>Site Content>Content Drilldown. To find the best results, sort by different factors such as Average Time on Page, Bounce Rate, and Pageviews. With this information, create content that is targeted to the user, rather than content that you want to read. Your goals for creating this content are to increase Average Time on Page, decrease Bounce Rate, and increase Pageviews.
3. Content audit
A very important step in creating your strategy is a content audit an in-depth look at the content you’ve already created. Note that a content audit is often confused with a content strategy, but really it’s only one part of building an effective strategy.
We’ll show you the basic steps of a content audit here. If you’re looking for a deeper dive, check out this guide from Distilled and this more SEO-focused one from Everett Sizemore. In addition, Michael King has a great presentation that takes a deep dive into the use of personas in content audits with a solid look at some helpful tools, and Inflow has a helpful chart to focus your auditing efforts The basics are the most important pieces, though, and they aren’t too difficult to follow. We’ll take you step-by-step. Ready?
4. Perform SEO analysis
Once you have a better picture of your audience, you can lock on in on what topics they care about the most. Enter: Google.
Search algorithms used to have this weird, mystical quality in marketing because everyone was supposed to care about them but very few people actually knew how they worked.
Thankfully, that changed over the years . Third-party tools like Moz and BuzzSumo now offer data on valuable search engine optimization data like keyword volume, difficulty, and click-through rates.
Gather all of this information and compile a list of primary and secondary keywords. For us, a primary keyword is “content marketing resources”–it’s a frequent search term that just about everyone in our audience cares about. A secondary keyword is “brand voice” it’s important for part of our audience, but it’s a bit more niche and probably isn’t what a buyer would search when they’re ready to make a purchase.
How you rank for keywords related to your business could ultimately be the difference between good or bad brand awareness. Today, it’s not uncommon for brands to expect a majority of their traffic to come from search up to 70 or 80 percent in some cases.
As Monster VP of marketing Margaret Magnarelli put it, “Search traffic is underrated. It’s so important because it can be the first opening for brand awareness. They’re not looking for your company. They’re tripping over your company because you happen to be providing the information that they’re looking for.”
5. Analyze the Competition
Once you understand what your target audience and keywords are, it’s great idea to examine your competitors content along with the areas and keywords that they rank for. “Look at what your competitors are doing, but more importantly, look at what they’re not doing,” Reed said. Study the topics, keywords and length of the content on their website or other distribution channels. If you find areas where your competitors have content that’s lacking, you can fill in the gaps and provide better value to your target market.
6.Plan your content
Now that you know what you wish to achieve and to whom you are speaking, it’s time to figure out what the best format is for conveying your message. Your content marketing outreach might include blog posts, videos, infographics, white papers, case studies, podcasts, images or an email newsletter.
You don’t need to create a ton of different content at first. Start with one or two mediums to see what works. Likewise, your content strategy should identify the resources you have available in order to create media assets. Who will create content, how much do they have to spend and what tools will they use to make this content on-brand and unique?
7. Choose Your Distribution Channels
Don’t let the endless amount of distribution channels overwhelm your teams. Prystatsky believes brands should choose a small handful of channels for content distribution, such as a blog and a YouTube channel, allowing the company to “focus on distribution to the right people through the right channels.”
8. Develop an Editorial Calendar
Once you’ve chosen your distribution channels, “create an editorial calendar to iron out the nitty-gritty details of where and when this content will be made available,” Reed said. An editorial calendar will help you keep track of your content and ensure you’re publishing consistently.
As you can see, creating a great content strategy isn’t rocket science, but it can be quite challenging to implement. Expect to encounter roadblocks and go through lots of trial and error. Once you have a recipe for success, though, all you’ll have to do is rinse and repeat to see the kind of audience growth you’ve always dreamed of.