In this social media age where content is not only the king but everything in digital marketing, it might come as a surprise that only 37% of the businesses surveyed by Content Marketing Institute have properly documented content marketing strategy. 38% of them do have a marketing strategy, but it is not documented at all.
A clear and documented content marketing strategy is very important in achieving success not only in content marketing but also in your overall marketing performance. However, 64% of surveyed businesses admitted that they need more guidance in building a content strategy, which can indeed be a major challenge.
So, if you are currently wondering how to plan a content strategy for your business, know that you are not alone, and we are here to help you.
What Actually Is a Content Marketing Strategy?
In a nutshell, a content marketing strategy is a written document that describes how you are going to bring the target audience to consume your content and engage them as long as possible.
In practice, this can be a really complex document, but typically includes the following:
- The objective(s) of your marketing campaign and how the content will play its role in achieving these goals
- The description of your ideal audience (buyer persona) and their behaviors/needs
- The type of content you are going to publish in accordance with your target audience’s needs
- How and where you are going to publish this content
Remember that content can be an expensive investment, and a proper content marketing strategy simply ensures we can maximize the potential of these investments.
A content marketing strategy for startups will allow a more focused approach in your content marketing game by clearly describing why you are going to create and publish content, what you are going to expect from each piece, and how you are going to achieve these expectations.
Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Content Marketing Strategy
Step 1: Define Your Content Marketing Objective
Setting up clear and specific objectives of your content marketing campaign is a very important step that shouldn’t be neglected. Unless you know the why of your content marketing strategy, it’s going to be much harder to achieve success with it, so make sure to think of at least one before you go further.
Here are some common objectives of content marketing:
- Generate more traffic to your blog, website, or any of your platforms
- Get more subscribers to your email newsletter
- Get more followers on social media
- Get more social shares and engagements (likes, comments, etc.)
- App/ebook download
- Improving conversion rate
And so on.
Understanding your objective(s) as early as possible will also help in other decisions during the content marketing strategy development like where you are going to distribute your content, the type of content, and so on.
Also, your objectives should meet the S.M.A.R.T criteria:
- Specific: the more specific and narrow your objective is, the better.
- Measurable: you should be able to assign KPIs and track your progress towards this objective
- Attainable: that is, realistic enough to achieve in a certain timeframe. This is important to maintain the morale of your team, so break down big goals into smaller, more attainable goals if necessary.
- Relevant: your content marketing objectives should align with your business’s long-term values and overall business goals
- Time-based: you should be able to set a realistic but productive timeline for each task in the content marketing plan.
Step 2: Understanding Your Target Audience
Your content can only perform well if it can reach the right people and at the right time, so clearly defining and understanding your target audience is very important.
Understanding your target audience should begin with basic demographics factors like age, gender, income level, education level, and others, but ultimately it’s about understanding their needs and pain points: what problems are they facing? What are their needs? How can your product/service solve these problems and deliver value for them?
This is where conducting proper market research and developing a buyer persona is very important?
If you already have an existing audience (even if it’s small), you can analyze this data and see who’s already engaged with your content. You can set up interviews and surveys to get more insights about their needs and pain points
Specific to content marketing, your objective here is to figure out how they usually find new content and how they consume this content.
Step 3: Keyword research.
Still related to step 2, a common approach to understand your target audience is to perform keyword research: make a list of common phrases/keywords that are related to your brand and their variations, and find out what your target audience is searching for and their search intent.
Keyword research is important in a content marketing strategy due to several reasons:
- Organic search traffic is going to be the main source of the traffic to your content, so it’s very important to integrate keywords into your content for SEO purposes.
- If you can rank higher on keywords that are relevant in your industry, then you can establish your position as the thought leader in your field, which will help in attracting more audience to your content
- It will also help in providing value to your audience, so they can quickly figure out whether they’ve found the content they need, or whether they’d need to move on to the next one
In general, you should look for keywords that are:
- Relevant for your target audience, which you can measure by looking at the monthly search volume
- Relevant to your brand. Not all keywords that are popular with your audience are going to be relevant for your product/service
- Depending on your budget and/or available timeline, the competition for the keyword must be manageable. The more popular the keyword is, the more competitive it will be.
Step 4: Competitive Analysis
After the keyword research you’ve performed on the previous step, you should now possess a list of your target keywords.
The next step you should do is to check out competitors that are also targeting these target keywords, which will help you understand their content marketing approach, the types of content that perform well on each target keyword, and what you can do to beat this competition.
The most basic approach you can do here is to do a quick Google search for your target keywords, and see the top-ranking pages. You might want to check out all pages that are listed on the first page, but at least check the top 5 pages.
Analyze the content of these pages thoroughly: the format, the topic they are discussing, whether they are using images, videos, etc. You may also use tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush to check factors like backlinks profile, etc. Your job is to create content better than this, or take a unique angle and cover this keyword from a different way.
You should also check the competitors’ websites, social media profiles, reviews, and other information available to gain insights on the following:
- The types of content they are producing
- The content that has been successful and content that hasn’t been very successful. Learn from both their failures and their mistakes.
- How are they positioning themselves in the market? You can either attempt to take them head-to-head or aim at different target
- The strengths and weaknesses of their content marketing compared to yours.
Step 5: Plan How You Are Going To Promote Your Content
It’s very important to understand that content marketing is not only about creating high-quality and relevant content. Yes, it is obviously important, but how you promote your content is just as, if not even more important than the creation process.
No matter how good your content is, it won’t bring any value if you can’t get enough people to consume this content, so utilize all the available marketing channels to promote your content/
While content promotion can be a very broad subject on its own, here are some general tips:
- SEO, as mentioned, will be the main way you can generate organic traffic to your content, and getting high-quality backlinks remains the most important SEO ranking factor, always aim to get more backlinks while promoting your content via other channels
- Social media is obviously where your audience is nowadays, so promoting your content via social media is only obvious. You can also work with influencers to help promote your content
- Broadcast new content with your email newsletter
- Use platforms like Medium to syndicate your content (they allow you to publish already-published content) to help amplify its reach
Step 6: Develop an Editorial Calendar
Based on the information you’ve gathered above, now we should create a well-documented editorial plan/calendar to allocate your resources appropriately. With a proper editorial calendar we can easily track the progress of each content, which content production/workflow is taking longer than expected, the progress towards their specific objectives, and so on.
In general, your editorial calendar should include the following:
- The topic/working title of the content piece
- The target keyword (so it’s easier to track SEO performance)
- Who’s responsible for creating the content, and who’s responsible for publication and promotion
- The current status of the content (on progress, published, revised, etc.)
- The date the content is going to be published
- Where the channel is going to be published (which channel)
- How you are going to promote your content (as discussed on the previous step)
You should aim to get at least 6 months’ worth of editorial calendar, although a year-long calendar is more ideal.
Step 7: Evaluation and Adjustment
Now that you’ve got some content published, the last (but not least step) is to track your progress, evaluate the performance of your content, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
In general, you should check:
- The number of traffic generated to the content
- The number of inbound links/backlinks to the content
- SEO performance of the content
- Social shares of the content (can use tools like BuzzSumo for this purpose)
The idea here is to check which pieces of content are already performing well so you don’t need to make any changes, which can get better with slight improvements, and which need to be revamped or eliminated altogether.
Another important thing to evaluate here is to identify content/keyword gaps. That is, keywords that your competitors already rank for but you haven’t, but might also include questions your target audience is asking that you haven’t answered. Also, there might be content that is already performed quite well but can be improved by adopting your competitors’ tactics.
Now you are ready to create a documented content marketing strategy and put it into good use in executing a more productive content marketing campaign.
As we can see, the most important thing in your content marketing strategy is how well you understand your target audience, their behaviors, their needs and problems, and how your content can provide solutions to these problems. The better you understand your audience, the better your content will perform.
However, remember that how you promote your content is also very important, and this is why a comprehensive content marketing and advertising strategy that covers planning, content creation, publication, promotion, and evaluation is extremely important for any business attempting to do content marketing.
Mike Khorev is an SEO consultant who helps SaaS, software, IT, technology, B2B and startup companies generate more sales and grow revenue online. He offers expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO, inbound marketing, conversion rate optimization, search engine marketing and many other online practices.