Without a strategy in place for your content marketing, you leave all of your success and failure to chance. However, according to the latest research from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 63% of businesses still don’t have a documented content marketing strategy. If you want to ensure that your content marketing efforts are effective, you’ve got to develop a content marketing strategy to guide your efforts in boosting traffic and improving conversions.
We’ve broken down the process into 10 steps that you can follow to build a killer content marketing strategy:
1. Define Your Goals
The first thing that you’ll need to do is establish goals for your content marketing. What does your business hope to get from your content marketing strategy? These goals will vary depending on your business objectives. Here are just a few examples of possible content marketing goals:
-Increase traffic to your site by a certain percentage
-Drive more quality traffic to your site or increase qualified lead traffic
-Boost conversions which leads to higher revenue
-Improve search engine optimization, leading to more and better quality traffic
-Enhance your brand reputation to become an industry authority or thought leader
Without goals in place, you will have no way to measure your success over time. That’s why it’s vital to define these goals early on in the process.
2. Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Once you’ve defined your content marketing goals, you’ll need to make sure that they are specific and achievable. This is the only way that you can measure success and identify areas of improvement. Establishing key performance indicators allows you to measure how well you are meeting your goals and therefore how effective your content really is.
Here are some KPIs you might include as part of your content strategy:
-Increase revenue by a percentage or hit certain target
-Generate a specific number of new leads
-Increase site traffic by a certain percentage
-Improve search ranking of specific pages
-Get a certain number of shares, comments, or mentions on piece of content
KPIs will typically have specific numbers attached to them. The numbers you attach will depend on where you are starting and where you eventually want to be. Take some time to carefully consider which KPIs make sense for you and what specific
3. Create Buyer Personas
It’s essential that you get to know your audience – who they are and what they care about most – before you start creating content. Buyer personas are fictionalized profiles of your ideal customers that help you better understand your audience so that you can create content that aligns with their values and appeals to their needs and interests. If you have more than one target audience, you will end up creating more than one buyer persona.
Your buyer persona will include the following information:
-Demographic information like age, gender, location, education, and income
-Employment information like job title, industry, responsibilities
-Greatest challenges and issues they are looking to solve
-Hobbies, interests, likes, desires, and what matters to them most
-Communication, publication, and marketing preferences
-Online behaviors (how they research, browse, and buy)
In order to get this information, you’re going to have to do a little research. It helps to start by asking your current customers as they are a great representation of your target market. Find out as much as you can through customer interviews and surveys. Then, use market research to fill in the gaps and help you flesh out your personas.
4. Perform a Content Audit
Before you start developing new content, you need to access your current position when it comes to content marketing. You can do this by performing a content audit. This is a review of all the content your brand has already published on your website, social channels, and other sites. When taking an inventory of all your content, it helps to create a spreadsheet that you can refer to and update as you go.
Once you have created a log of all your content, you’ll then want to go through and analyze its effectiveness. Identify which pieces have inbound links to the content, which are ranking for relevant keywords, and which pieces of content are most popular or widely shared. This will tell you which content you need to update and which is fine as it is. As you analyze the effectiveness of your content, look for gaps that you can address with new content. These might be keywords you aren’t currently ranking for or spin-offs of popular topics that have driven a lot of traffic to your site.
5. Define the Best Content Channels
Now that you have an idea of what content you already have at your disposal, it’s time to research the best content channels for your brand. You want to be where your audience hangs out most if you want to expand your reach and improve your online presence. Start by looking at the channels you are already using to see which bring the most traffic to your site. These are channels that you’ll want to spend more time on in the future, fostering your community and driving more traffic back to your site.
In addition to finding the channels that are already helping you bring in relevant traffic, you’ll also want to consider what other channels might provide an effective opportunity to reach and engage new leads. Take a look at your audience research to see if there are any channels your customers are using that you’re not on yet, and keep an eye out for new channels that might be beneficial to try.
6. Choose the Right Content Types
Now you need to think about what types of content you want to create. Most successful content marketing strategies involve a combination of content published on the brand’s site and content that is repurposed or shared on other sites – like social media channels or guest blogs. As you decide on which content types are right for your audience, remember that most brands are using a mix of many different types of content to appeal to buyers at each step in the buyer’s journey.
Here are just a few types of content marketing that you might include as part of your strategy:
-Social Media Posts
Ultimately, the types of content that you produce will depend on your time, money, and resources as well on what your goals are for the content. For instance, while a blog post can provide a lot of great information for people who are just starting to research an industry or product, visual content like images and videos are often better for how-to content that breaks down instructions or steps.
7. Identify and Allocate Resources
Now that you have a better idea of what types of content you will create and what channels you will use to distribute this content, it’s time to think about who will be implementing your content marketing strategy. For instance, some companies have a Content Manager that manages writers and edits content while leaving any final decisions up to the Chief Marketing Officer. While other companies may outsource all of their content strategy and production to a marketing agency that specializes in content.
Whether you have an in-house team or you decide to outsource some of your content marketing needs to an agency or group of freelancers, you’ll need to have these roles defined early on. You’ll also need to consider what your budget is for content. This budget should include both production costs and the cost of additional tools such as social media management or content marketing editorial calendar software.
After you have decided who will play what role in developing content, you’ll want to also develop a workflow to ensure that the process goes smoothly when it’s time to start creating content. For a typical written piece of content, your content workflow might look like this:
-Identify the topic and associated SEO keywords
-Create an outline to be approved by the content manager
-Write the piece of content
-Design the document and develop accompanying images
-Send the post to the editor
-Make any changes based on the editor’s comments
-Upload to the website and publish
Having this process defined and documented in your content strategy will help your brand ensure the quality and consistency of your content.
8. Develop a Content Calendar
Now it’s time to develop a content calendar so that you know what content you are writing and when it will be published. Before you start researching topics for your content calendar, you’ll want to choose a tool or system to keep your calendar in. You can use a content planning tool or simply keep track of everything in a spreadsheet.
Your content calendar should include the following information:
-Title of the content
-Type of content
-Description of content
-Draft due date
-Where content will be published
-Any relevant keywords or links
-Plan for promotion (social media, ad, etc.)
Once you’ve got a framework for your content calendar, it’s time to do some topic generation. There are a variety of ways that you can develop topics for your content marketing. One of the best places to start is by looking at the questions that your target audience most often asks. Start by asking your customer support staff about what questions they are often asked or what reoccurring concerns customers have. You can also use a tool like Answer the Public to find questions that are often asked about your industry or product/service.
Many organizations involve their entire team in the topic brainstorming process. Since each team member is involved in a different aspect of business, they may have a different perspective on the target audience, which lends to new customer insights and topic suggestions. Make a list of potential topics and narrow this list down to those that are most relevant to your audience.
Once you have a list of potential topics, you’ll need to do some keyword research to ensure that your content is optimized for the search engines. You can do this research yourself using a keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner. Organizations that don’t have an SEO expert in-house may want to hire a contractor or work with a marketing agency that can provide SEO keyword research.
9. Start Creating Content
Now that you have developed a content calendar for your brand, it’s time to start creating content. The first step in creating content is to research the topic to see what has already been written. This helps you identify how your new piece of content can add to the conversation and create new value for your target audience. Try typing in some of the SEO keywords you have identified for the post to see what others are saying about your topic.
Once you’ve done your research, you can build an outline for the piece of content and start writing. It’s important that you write in a voice that aligns with your brand’s personality. For example, if your company wants to present itself as serious and professional, then the tone of your content should be professional and authoritative. However, you may also want to write in a more friendly and personable tone to help connect with your audience.
As you write your content, keep formatting in mind. You want to use sub-headings to break up the content into digestible sections. Short paragraphs and bullet points also help make the content easier to read. You’ll want to use your SEO keywords throughout the piece without stuffing them into every paragraph.
In the end, your piece of content should be easy for your target audience to read and understand. The content should be useful for the reader by providing new information or insights that are relevant and valuable. The main takeaways of your article should be clear and purposeful, leaving the reader with something to think about or a specific action to take.
10. Publish, Promote, and Measure
The next part of your content strategy is getting this content in front of your target audience by publishing and promoting it. Whether you publish the content on your own blog, as a downloadable PDF, or on another website, you’ll want to have a plan for promoting the content after it has gone live. In addition to your own social media channels, you might share it with influencers or experts whose audience would find the content valuable. You can also distribute the content to your email marketing list.
After you have published the content and implemented your promotional strategy, you will need to monitor the success of your content marketing strategy. Remember those KPIs we created in an earlier step? It’s time to return to those metrics to see if you are meeting the goals that you set out to accomplish when first developing your content marketing strategy. You can use Google Analytics or a third-party tracking tool to measure success.
As you monitor your progress, you’ll be able to see which pieces of content have been successful and which have fell short. Use the information you gather to adjust your content strategy for future success. For instance, if you find that a particular blog topic has brought unprecedented traffic to your site, consider what similar or complimentary topics you might cover in future pieces of content to take advantage of the opportunity.
Though developing a content marketing strategy takes a lot of time and resources, it is well worth it in the end. Without a strategic and documented plan, there’s no way to know for sure if your content marketing is successful. By taking the time to thoroughly research your target audience and develop content that appeals to this audience, you can set your business up for long-term success.