So your organization has decided to ride the wave of content marketing! That is great news.
But before you plunge into the job of writing a whole bunch of awesome content, it’s important to put some time and thought into creating a strategy around it.
Think of content strategy as a guiding light that helps you map all your content efforts back to your organization’s core goals and values. It’s an incredibly important part of achieving the vision you have laid out for your company.
That’s why we’ve created this handy step-by-step guide on How to Create a Content Strategy. This guide will show you what you need to include in your content strategy and the tools and tactics you need for each step.
Click the following links to jump to those sections:
What is a Content Strategy?
The first step to getting ahead of your competition is to take a look at your marketing plan and make sure that you have a strategy for your content.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the most successful B2B marketers report spending 40% of their budget on content marketing as of 2018.
But what exactly is content strategy and why is it so important?
Content strategy refers to creating and managing any tangible media for your business, whether it is written, visual, downloadable, etc. It also means getting the right content to the right user at the right time.
Your content strategy will help you answer these important questions:
- Why are you creating content?
- Who are you helping with your content?
- How are you helping them in a way no one else can?
Companies use content marketing to build an audience and to achieve goals such as increase revenue and conversion rate, lower cost per conversion, or increase brand awareness and market share.
Your strategy will define these goals and the tactics you will use to achieve them.
Why Does Your Business Need a Content Strategy?
Most organizations have no problem admitting that content is king these days. But simply having tons of content isn’t enough.
Content creation without strategy often leads to having a lot of random content with no central themes or purpose. This will confuse for your audience (and search engines) as to what your site is about.
A lack of strategy can also cause you to end up with generic content, which doesn’t get clicks, doesn’t get shared, and doesn’t engage your audience.
Skipping the strategy to head straight for delivery is not a wise move and can end up doing more harm than good. Your strategy helps you identify what content already exists, what you need to create, and why you are creating each piece of content.
Content Strategy: A Step-By-Step Guide
Now that you have a firm understanding of what content strategy means and why it is so important, it’s time to dive into the steps you need to take to create your own strategy.
1. Keyword Research
If no one is searching for your content does it really exist?
Simply put, no.
Before you can build out your strategy you have to know what terms you want to rank for in search engines. These are the terms your potential readers and customers are searching for every month to know more about your industry, your products or services, or your company.
Compiling your list of keywords to target can get complicated, but worry not! We created a guide just for keyword research and a free template to download so you can get started.
2. Set Content Goals
Now that you have have your list of keywords to target you can start to set goals for your content. Make your goals meaningful, measurable, time-bound, and coinciding with your overall business goals.
Your goals are incredibly important because they will tell you whether or not your strategy is working for you. Without goals, you can’t be aware of what kind of progress you are making.
Example Content Goals:
- Rank on Page 1 for in 6 months
- Increase traffic to homepage by 20% in Q3
- Average 10 social shares for each blog post by the end of the year
- Get 100 downloads of E-book in 1 month
Your goals are unique to your company and every page on your site should have its own goal.
You may set them too high or too low at first, but as long as you have goals to work toward, you’ll be able to adjust and hone your strategy as you go.
3. Define Your Audience
The next step is to define your ideal audience. You know what they’re searching for, but what else do you know about your audience?
The old writing trope is that if you want to reach a lot of people, write for an audience of one.
In content marketing, this means creating audience personas and content maps. You want to know your audience’s needs and what their engagement cycle might look like. A smart audience persona includes aspects like:
- Demographic info (age, gender, location, etc)
- Which sites they visit
- Which channels they use to communicate
- Who they listen to
- What their pain points are
Your content strategy won’t be complete without a strong understanding of your audience.
Action Item: Fill out this persona for your company
- Income Level:
- Education Level:
- Marital Status:
- Favorite Social Media Network:
- Pain Points:
If you lack the data necessary to accurately define these categories, try running some Google and Facebook ads for your target keywords. From those dashboards you’ll be able to get more demographic information about who engaged with your ads.
Your audience may vary for each product or service you offer. Create a persona for each one, so you can reference it when you’re creating content to target those customers.
4. Perform SEO & Content Audit
If you’re a new site, this step is easy because you have no content so there’s nothing to audit.
However, if you do have existing content, it’s important to take an in-depth look at what keywords you’re ranking for and what pages are driving traffic and conversions.
Before we can get where we’re going we must take a look at where we’ve been. Here are a couple tools to help you analyze your current content:
Use a web crawler like Screaming Frog to create an inventory of the content you already have. It will pull the full list of URLs from your site so you can see them at a glance.
HubSpot’s Website Grader
The Hubspot Website Grader is great to use when you need reports on your blogging efforts, social media marketing and more. It grades crucial areas of your content and sends you in-depth reports to help you optimize and improve each area. With this information, you can make your website more SEO-friendly and discover new content ideas.
Organize and Tag Content
Make your inventory more detailed by describing the content you already have according to certain criteria, such as topic/category, type, length, tone, relevance, and features.
Now that you have organized your existing content, you can add success metrics for each piece. Base these on the initial goals you set in your strategy and include metrics such as:
- Traffic: How many people are visiting your content? Are they coming from your website? Your social media?
- Engagement metrics: How long are visitors staying on your page? Are they commenting on the content? Do they visit multiple times?
- Shares: Are your visitors sharing the content via links you have included for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.?
- Conversions: Do visitors to your content end up taking a specified action, such as providing you with an email, asking for further info, setting up a demo, making a purchase, etc.?
Analyzing your data to look for trends and patterns can help you see what you can build on and what needs more work. Looking back through and classifying your content gives you perspective on what you have already covered and what areas have a gap.
Action Item: Create a spreadsheet with every page on your site along with all the information we mentioned above. Based on that data, decide which pages to build on or improve, and which pages to delete or redirect to better pages.
5. Choose Types of Content to Publish
The next step is to decide which types of content you want to focus on in your content strategy.
Every business and every niche is unique so there’s no set formula for X amount of blog posts or Y amount of infographics needed.
An easy first step is to simply Google your target keywords and see what type of content is ranking for each one.
A tool like Buzzsumo can also show you what type of content is most shared for each keyword.
Here are some of the more common forms of content you will find in your research:
Blog posts are regularly published pieces of content that live on a website and bring in new visitors. They should offer valuable content that engages readers and prompts them to share.
E-books are more in-depth lead generators that bring visitors to a website. They are often published as “gated content” or content that requires readers to take action in order to download (such as providing an email address, taking a survey, etc.).
Case studies are a great way to tell the story of a customer who succeeded in solving a problem by using your products or services. You can show how you have offered value to others before, which is a great way to appeal to new customers.
Templates are a great way to offer your audience something valuable that will help save them time and improve their efforts. They also help establish you as an expert in your industry.
Infographics are a smart and easily digestible way to display data. They are very visual and organized and make large amounts of data very clear and easy to understand.
Videos are 40x more likely to get shared on social media than any other type of content. It is an entertaining and attention-grabbing medium and, although it requires more time and resources than other forms of content, it offers a big payoff.
Pro Tip: Experiment with a variety of content forms to see which drive engagement with your audience. Eventually you’ll find the right mix.
6. Content Promotion
In a perfect world all the content you create would magically show up on the screen of everyone who would find it relevant.
Alas, we live in the real world where you have got to hustle and promote your content.
For effective content promotion we like to focus on the following tactics:
- Social Media (Paid and Organic Posts)
- Email (Direct Outreach and Subscriber Based)
- Forums & Discussion Groups
- Guest Blogging
If you have a strategy prepared for these four tactics, you’ll be in good shape.
Posting on social media is a critical part of extending your brand’s reach and delivering content where your customers will find it.
Popular social networks for businesses include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube and Pinterest.
You can use Buzzsumo to find the channels your target keywords are being shared on the most and who the thought leaders and influencers are on those channels. Follow the influencers and people who share their content.
Don’t just promote YOUR content on social media. You must listen, read, and share the best content from around your industry, ask questions of your followers and thought leaders, and have fun with it. Your audience will appreciate it.
Over time you will be able to see which channels your readers engage with most as well as where to connect with influencers and thought leaders in your industry.
Whether you’re sharing content with an existing audience via your newsletter or reaching out to influencers and thought leaders to share and link to your content, email can be an extremely effective form of content promotion.
To help build your email list be sure to have a clear newsletter sign up on all your blog posts. Your newsletter content should, like the rest of your content, provide value to your subscribers.
Don’t just promote, promote, promote. Instead, inform, educated, and entertain (if it’s appropriate for your brand, of course).
Action Item: Read this excellent study on email outreach by Backlinko’s Brian Dean will help you with what to write in your emails.
Forums & Discussion Boards
A great way to grow your audience is to join and participate in an existing online community. LinkedIn and Reddit are two great places to find discussion groups in your niche. Simply search for your keywords and you should find some great groups.
You can also find forums on Google with these searches:
- “forum” + “keyword”
- “board” + “keyword”
- “forum” + “keyword”
Check to see that they are active and relevant then request to join the groups. And as always, listen first and share content that offers value to the group.
Note: Be sure to read community guidelines carefully. Most of these groups frown upon selling of any kind. Take the time to participate and engage with other people’s content before sharing your own.
Despite the premature reports that guest blogging is dead, it remains an excellent way to build authority, reach a new audience, and earn valuable links.
Finding an authoritative site in your niche that will publish your guest blog can be an arduous task filled with rejection.
But it doesn’t have to be!
Read: “Guest Blogging: How to Get Published On High Quality Sites.” This guide will show you how to find quality guest blogging opportunities and how to pitch your content effectively.
7. Brainstorm Content Ideas (With These Helpful Tools)
The next step is the big one – actually coming up with more ideas for your next content projects. This can seem daunting, but the good news is that there are a lot of great tools available to help you get the wheels turning!
HubSpot Idea Generator
If you’re stuck trying to think of a new topic to blog about, check out this Hubspot tool.
Just enter general topics or terms you’d like to write about and it will produce a list of ideas for you to play with.
BlogAbout is a content idea generator developed by IMPACT. It shows you common headline formats with blanks where you can fill in the subject you are focusing on. This technique helps you put your ideas into contexts that will grab your audience’s attention.
BuzzSumo offers a few different market research tools to help you discover popular content and ideas. One of the tools uses social media shares to figure out if a piece of content is popular and well-liked. It also helps you look at content ideas that are doing well to see if it would make sense for you to create content around those topics.
8. Create Content & Execute Your Strategy
The last step in creating your content strategy is to create, schedule, publish, and manage all of your content. Having an editorial calendar is a great help. This will keep you on the right track for publishing content regularly and covering a diverse array of topics.
The editorial calendar can break down each project into manageable chunks, such as drafting copy, adding visuals, editing, newsletter blasts, etc.
At Scripted we compiled a number of editorial calendar templates available for download.
You will also want to create a social media content calendar so you can promote and manage your content on other platforms as well. Take into account things like seasons, holidays, current events, store events, etc. when developing your content calendar to make sure you have all your bases covered for at least 6 months.
Congrats! You Now Have an Awesome Content Strategy!
Putting together a content strategy can take some time, organization and creativity. But once you have a successful content strategy in place, you can continue to build on it and add in tools and updates over time.
To make sure that your content strategy remains on target, consider revisiting your channel strategy, core topics and team processes on an annual or bi-annual basis.
The key is to always strategize before producing any content. Once you begin producing great content and your users engage with it and boost rankings at the same time, you’ll see how powerful your content can be.
Need help in crafting a winning content strategy? contact us today!
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