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Content marketing is a highly effective digital marketing tactic. And content marketing success rests on having a strong, well-documented content strategy.
In this article, you’ll learn how to create a content strategy you can use to expand your reach, drive traffic to your site, and get more conversions.
A content strategy is documentation of your content goals as well as the types of content you need to achieve those goals. It also covers how you’re going to go about creating, distributing, and measuring your content’s performance.
Your content strategy helps you make tactical marketing decisions and brings focus to your marketing efforts. It helps you fine-tune your content marketing strategy so you’re not just throwing content out and hoping for results.
Content marketing is a great way to get traffic to your site and generate leads. It gives you the chance to not only show off your products and services, but to also establish yourself as a thought leader.
A solid content strategy gives you a roadmap to follow so you’re more likely to achieve your content marketing goals.
Can you do content marketing without a strategy?
Sure. But it probably won’t get the results you want.
If you’re new to content marketing and have never even thought about a content strategy before, don’t stress.
You don’t have to know everything right now. Learning how to create a content strategy that gives you a return on your investment is a process of trial and error. It takes time to find what works for your business and audience.
Fortunately, there are specific steps that every solid content strategy has in common. Here are seven steps you can use to create a content strategy that will help you grow your business.
As with anything that requires planning and dedication, your content strategy starts with a goal. Or multiple goals.
When setting goals for content marketing, it helps to think about what your brand’s values are and your overall marketing objectives.
Your goals will change as your business grows and your marketing objectives change. Here are some goals that you might consider:
Improving brand and product awareness
Providing education and support to customers
Influencing people’s opinions on a topic
Turning customers into repeat customers and brand advocates
Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. You may also use content to recruit and retain employees or encourage visitors to your site to sign up for a free trial.
Think of your content strategy as a living document that will change with your business. And, schedule time to review your content strategy regularly so you’re sure your goals are in line with your business’ needs.
It’s not likely that your products or services are going to appeal to everyone, everywhere.
And that’s okay. Your content doesn’t need to meet the needs of all those people, either.
Defining a target audience will help you keep your content targeted, helping you serve the audience that is most likely to be interested in what you have to offer. While content with a broad focus can drive tons of traffic to your site, if that traffic isn’t converting, it’s worthless to you.
Narrow your focus to a single, primary audience. This should be the customers you can best serve with your content.
Choose an audience that is relevant to your business and isn’t getting the information they need elsewhere or that is representative of the customers you’re trying to get attention from.
Once you have your target audience nailed down, it’s time to create a content marketing persona.
This is an in-depth view of who your target audience is, complete with their goals, challenges, interests, and everything else you know about them.
These are the people you’re creating content for.
Content marketing personas help you understand how to make your content, distribution channels, and ideas appeal to them.
Remember, your audience’s needs, goals, and even behaviors may change over time—especially as your content reaches them. You can stay on top of where they’re going and make sure you create the content to meet them along the way with a customer journey map.
While you don’t want to copy your competition, you definitely want to see what they’re doing.
What is it that they’re doing that’s working for them? The tactics they’re successfully using could be something you want to add to your own marketing tactics.
You can use any number of free or paid tools to see what your competitors are up to. Pay particular attention to their traffic sources, paid and organic keywords, backlinks, and audience interests.
If you’ve researched and defined your target audience, you know what topics you’ll need to address with your content marketing. Now, it’s time to figure out what those people will type into search engines to solve their pain points.
One of our favorite tips for conducting keyword research is called “review mining.” You just go to your own reviews or competitor reviews and read through, grabbing snippets of the reviews that you think will resonate with your audience.
Then, use that exact wording in your content.
This really helps a lot with capturing the words and terms that people will likely be typing into a search engine.
You can also use a free or paid keyword research tool. Just take the topics that you want to write about and enter them into your chosen tool. You should be able to get a nice list of keywords and related keywords, complete with traffic estimates.
We recommend getting at least 50 search terms for each topic you want to cover.
Creating great content is only part of content marketing—you also have to distribute it!
The distribution channel you use will vary depending on the type of content you’re distributing and your audience. There are three types of content distribution channels:
Owned Content Distribution
Owned content distribution channels are those that your company owns. That means you have control over when and how content is published. Owned content distribution channels include your website and blog, social media profiles, and your email newsletter.
Paid Content Distribution
Pain content distribution channels are things like PPC (pay-per-click) or paid social ads as well as influencer content. Basically, anything you pay to have content distributed falls under this type.
Earned Content Distribution
Earned content distribution channels are shared third-parties that promote your content. This could be other bloggers, customers, or anyone who shares your content for free. Public relations, social shares, product reviews, and guest posts, as well as forum posts fall into this type, too.
Distribution tends to get harder over time since everyone is competing for the attention of the same people. To combat this, be intentional with the audience you target, the keywords you use, and how you distribute your content.
We recommend creating content specific to the distribution channel you want to use. This might mean that written content goes on your blog, but video content gets shared to social media and YouTube.
For each type of content you plan to create, document how you plan to distribute that content and if it needs to be altered in any way to perform well across different distribution channels.
By now, you have defined a target audience, have a list of keywords and topics to create content around and have distribution channels established for the content you’re going to create.
Next, you’ll need to create an editorial calendar.
Your editorial calendar includes where and when your content will be published, any upcoming holidays or events that may impact your content or provide seasonal opportunities, any deadlines, and when, where, and how your content will be promoted and distributed.
Start by making a list of the topics you want to cover. Then, grab a blank calendar and start scheduling the content out.
Once you’ve scheduled all of the topics, go back through and add in any deadliness (content due dates, image creation, promotion scheduling, etc).
You have everything you need to start creating your content: content marketing goals, a target audience with content marketing personas, topics and keywords, ways to get your content out, and a schedule.
Now you get to create awesome content.
The last thing to consider for a content strategy that converts is your content’s performance.
The success of your content is largely determined by the goals you defined in Step 1. If your goal was to generate leads, for example, you’ll want to track the content’s traffic, conversions, and the number of qualified leads generated by the content.
While it’s easy to track conversion and traffic statistics using a free tool like Google Analytics, it’s a little trickier to track the number of qualified leads that have resulted from your content marketing efforts.
Since you’ll want to track metrics related to each article, content marketing persona, topic, and customer journey stage, it’s helpful to use tags in your pages that can send information about these various segments to Google Analytics.
Then, in Google Analytics, you’ll create content groups to put it all together.
Content Grouping makes it easy to group your content into buckets that reflect the way you think about your site. Then, you can see aggregated metrics by group. For example, you can see the aggregated number of pageviews for all pages in a group like CrossFit/Shoes, and then drill in to see each URL or page title.
To create a content grouping in Google Analytics, go to Admin > your view > Content Grouping > + New Content Grouping.
You have different options for tagging your articles:
Modify the tracking code on each web page
Add a single line of code to identify the content index number and the Content Group to which the content belongs
Extract content based on URL or page title
Use a regular expression to identify a full or partial URL, page title, or screen name
Use the rules editor to create simple rules to identify and group content
There are also plugins available that can do this for you in conjunction with Google Tag Manager.
When you know how to create a content strategy, you can set your business up for success by creating content that meets your goals, reaches your target audience, and inspires them to convert.
Creating a successful content strategy takes organization, planning, and time. By following the steps in this article, you’ll build a content strategy that provides the perfect jumping-off point.
Remember, your content strategy is supposed to change with you. When you find that your business goals have changed, or if you’re changing your mission, you’ll need to revisit your content strategy to ensure that your content meets your new business needs.
At minimum, we recommend reviewing your distribution channels and topics annually if you’re already established, more often if you’re just getting started.
No matter when or how often you review and revise your content strategy, this guide will walk you through the process you need to create a content strategy that converts.
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