So you’ve figured out that content marketing is a great fit to help promote your business. Maybe you’ve written a few blog posts here or there, had a crack at a bit of keyword research, and you’re starting to see promising results. But how can you take your content to the next level? It’s all about planning—a content marketing strategy, if you will. So if you’re new to all this strategy biz, we’ve broken it down into five actionable steps to set up your content marketing efforts for success.
But first, do you need a content marketing strategy?
Writing content to promote your business, but not quite sure where it’s headed? We hear you.
Many businesses in the early stages of content creation fall into this trap. It could mean penning random blog or social posts without direction, or jumping on the latest trending topics rather than showcasing the very expertise that makes your business valuable and unique.
We all have to start somewhere, but if you have the niggling feeling that your content needs a higher purpose, it’s time to introduce a content marketing strategy. Because, once you know what you’re content is trying to achieve, it’s much easier to reach your goal.
Take our agency, Seeker Digital. We have many strings to our bow, but we’re particularly well known for our SEO, content and outreach expertise. So you’ll find this reflected in the subject matter of the content that we produce. Some examples of our recent blog posts:
- 5 Reasons SEO And UX Go Hand-In-Hand
- An SEO’s Guide To Website Migrations
- OutREACH Online 2020 Round-Up
This content has been carefully planned to align with two of our core business objectives: to provide valuable and actionable advice to clients (to retain business) and help generate leads (create awareness for prospects).
And that’s the point of a content marketing strategy—to help you create a long-term roadmap for your content that will help achieve your business goals.
On top of that, a content marketing strategy helps you to create the high-quality content that Google’s crawlers are looking for. When you produce engaging content that your audience connects with, you’ll soon find your website’s search rankings are on the up.
This is down to Google analysing user engagement metrics on your site—including time on page, bounce rate and returning users— to check that you are providing valuable E-A-T (expert, authoritative and trustworthy) content for readers.
So, creating and following a content marketing strategy will help achieve your business goals, improve your SEO rankings, and (most important of all) it’ll give your audience something to enjoy, share and talk about. Great!
Here’s the thing: your strategy will inevitably involve reviewing, monitoring and adapting along the way. You’ll find there are always new insights to uncover, and that’s how your strategy will evolve and grow.
But that’s the beauty of having a plan. With any luck, your strategy will steer you in just the right direction. If not, it’s no biggie—you can plot a new course and see where it takes you next.
Ready to create smarter, more focused content? Let’s go…
1: Define your audience
Before creating a content marketing strategy, you’ll need to know who it is you’re talking to, and what makes them tick. Some things you’ll want to find out about your audience include:
- Demographics—such as age, gender, life stage and location
- Social channels they use to communicate—are they visual Instagram users? Or do they prefer a debate on Facebook?
- Their interests and the people they admire
- What type of websites they frequently use
- What they come to your site searching for.
Knowing who your audience is will help you define:
- Your tone of voice—would your brand better suit the tone of a professional advisor, or cheeky mate?
- Types of content to produce—is your audience interested in longform blog posts, or would they prefer funny videos on YouTube?
- What sorts of questions are your audience asking? And, importantly, which can your business help answer?
You’ll find some of this data on Google Analytics with a little help from Google Demographics and Interests, and you can also interview or survey existing customers for more qualitative answers. Ideally, you’ll glean insights from a range of sources. This will help you to build a more detailed picture of who you’re talking to, and figure out where the opportunities to help your audience may lie.
Once you’ve clearly defined your target audience (this template is a great starting point), it’s time to figure out your goals.
2: Set your goal and KPIs
Do you know what content success looks like to your business? Now’s the time to define it. You’ll want to begin quite broadly, before setting out the more specific KPIs (key performance indicators) that will help you to review the success of your content later down the line.
A few common examples of broad content goals include:
- Improve search ranking—e.g. reach page 1 for a competitive search term within your niche.
- Brand awareness—sharing what your business has to offer and encouraging your audience to invest in your brand and delve deeper.
- Lead generation—turning a more passive audience into an enquiring one.
- Increase sales—the final hurdle: getting your customers to put their money where their mouth is.
Always remember that you can only do one thing well. Much better to focus on one goal that your team can all rally behind than attempt many and fall behind.
Once you’ve chosen your goal, this can be broken down into clear KPIs. The more specific you can be, the better. This could include no. of downloads of a whitepaper, page ranking for a search term, time spent on page or number of comments—it all depends on your content goal.
Make sure to include deadlines so that goals don’t get forgotten in the inevitable sea of day-to-day tasks. Following the SMART format to create your KPIs (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-based) is a great way to stay on track.
3: Map your customer journey
Once your KPIs are in place, you can use the marketing funnel to map your customer journey, and decide which types of content align with both your audience’s needs and your business goals.
Depending on where a customer sits within your customer journey, different types of content will provide more value, and increase the likelihood of conversion:
Awareness—whitepapers, ebooks, blog posts and social posts that avoid self promotion will build your presence.
Evaluation—case studies, product webinars and demo videos will all help to instil trust in your brand.
Purchase—free trial promotions, discount codes and live consultations can all help turn a browsing audience into paying customers.
Ideally, your content will be split equally across the funnel. The idea is to help guide your customers through each stage of the funnel by providing the information they need in a timely and useful manner.
Looking at the content types above, are there any gaps in your offering? Now’s the time to work this out.
4: Use SEO to your advantage
If you don’t know what your audience is searching for, it’s impossible to provide the answer. With this in mind, you’ll want to find the popular search terms that your audience are typing into search engines to help inform your content strategy.
Luckily, there are many tools (and agencies) out there to help hone your keyword research and get found by the right people. You could check out Moz and Buzzsumo to get started—these SEO tools will simplify your research, factoring in data like keyword volume and difficulty to help narrow down which search terms to target.
Using your results, you’ll want to create a list of primary keyword terms. These should be popular search terms for your audience that are relevant to your business, and there should be potential for your website to rank highly for these terms, with relative ease.
Why? Because when 75% of your audience can come from organic search, you’ll want to make sure that you’re ranking high enough in the search results to be on your audience’s radar.
Now you’ve got your list of keywords, remember to weave these into your content—but only where appropriate. Remember, spammy content is penalised by search engines. The key is to create content that meets your audience’s needs and keeps them coming back for more.
So now you’ve put in all the groundwork, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for *drum roll*…
5: Create a content calendar
Now that you’ve formulated a content marketing strategy plan, it’s time to put all the theory into practice with a content calendar.
Ideally, you’ll be able to create your calendar two-three months in advance, with the occasional ad-hoc, topical addition. This ensures that content can be produced to the best possible standards, and all the tasks that go into creating each piece of content can be carefully considered before posting.
There are many great content calendar templates out there. We recommend doing a bit of internet digging to see what best suits your business and the channels that you intend to use, but here’s one for starters.
Don’t forget to bring together everything learned in the previous steps to inform your content calendar! Here’s a quick recap:
- Define your audience
- Set your content goals
- Map your customer journey
- Write-up your SEO hitlist
- Create a content calendar
Remember, as your audience grows and evolves (and it will) so should your content. So it’s worth putting regular reviews in place to measure your results and ensure your content is still helping you to reach those all-important business goals.
Spoiler alert: it takes much more than a lone writer to pull together and distribute top-quality content! You’ll need to involve many different areas of the business, from project management to design and development. So once your content matures, be ready to start looking at a more formalised content process.
We hope this beginner’s guide to content marketing strategy will remove any initial blockers and help get you started. And if you want to take a more detailed dive into content strategy and creation, get in touch with our team of content specialists—our busy little digits tap out 240,000 words and 300+ pieces of content every month, creating high quality pieces that will get your business noticed.