How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing is one of the primary means of getting your brand noticed online. However, without a well-developed marketing strategy, you may struggle when deciding where to begin, see your conversions sink, or launch an unsuccessful campaign.
The good news? We’ve got you covered when it comes to creating your content marketing plan. There are 10 easy steps you can follow to not only get yourself started on the right foot but also set yourself and your material up for success.
In this article, we’ll give you an in-depth look at what content marketing is. Then we’ll outline 10 steps you can follow when formulating your own content marketing plan:
- Define Your Marketing Goals
- Identify Your Target Audience
- Run an Audit
- Choose a CMS
- Brainstorm Ideas
- Determine Your Content Niche
- Map Out Publication Roles
- Build a Content Calendar
- Create Value-Add Content
- Measure Your Results
Ready to create the ideal content marketing strategy for your site? Let’s dive right in!
An Introduction to Content Marketing
The concept of content marketing is pretty simple. You create material — think blog posts, social media posts, videos, infographics, white papers, case studies and beyond — which provides real value to your audience. This work then acts as a means of marketing your business.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the key to doing this effectively is by producing great content. To accomplish that, you must provide people with something that they genuinely need, is unique, and engages with your target audience.
Of course, before you can start developing content, you’ll need to begin with a solid strategy. This means following a few steps:
- Creating business goals for your content marketing
- Finding your audience
- Knowing what will make your content unique
- Picking a formula that works for you to create content
- Deciding where you’ll publish the results and which channels you’ll use
- Managing the content creation and publication process
- Determine how you’ll track key performance metrics to measure success
This all requires a good deal of planning, but that’s the origin story of most marketing techniques. In case you’re not convinced yet, however, let’s take a look at why your business needs a content marketing strategy.
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Why Your Business Needs a Content Marketing Strategy
The benefits of marketing are relatively self-explanatory, but what about content marketing in particular? It’s a relatively new focus, and you may not see why going to all that effort to make high-quality content is worth the time.
First of all, whether you’re a small or large business, it makes sense to have a website. It’s a fantastic way to find customers and raise awareness of your brand. What’s more, your website needs plenty of inbound traffic to be as effective as possible.
Content marketing can help drive people towards your website and into your sales funnel. Plus, producing informative and quality content to feature on your site and elsewhere can increase awareness of your brand and build trust by cementing you as an expert in your field.
Even better, you can use content marketing to establish (and grow!) relationships with your customers. Once you know who your ideal audience is, you can hone in and focus on content that benefits them. For example, if you sell stationery and office supplies, you can curate articles about office life or write tips for professionals who work from home.
Plus, you don’t have to be an already-established mega-company to benefit from this type of marketing. Have a vegan bakery? Write about subjects vegans care about and branch out into articles about clean living. Run a dog grooming business? Produce blog posts about pet care, how to train dogs, and so on.
When it comes down to it, most businesses can use content marketing to great effect. You just have to find the right angle, and that’s where creating a top-notch content marketing strategy comes into play.
How to Create a Strong Content Marketing Strategy (In 10 Steps)
First and foremost, don’t get overwhelmed by the number of steps ahead. Each one is crucial to set yourself and your business up for success, but all of them are approachable no matter what your marketing background (or lack thereof) might be. Let’s walk through the process of getting started with content marketing, one step at a time.
You may have done your fair share of work on coming up with a marketing plan in the past. If so, then you might know that your first step should be to sit down and decide on your goals. After all, you have to know the “why” behind what you’re doing to see success.
Without purpose, you may find yourself creating content that lacks coherence or doesn’t provide value to your target audience. Alternately, you may not be able to come up with a fixed schedule that ensures new content is being pushed out regularly.
To start making goals for your new content marketing campaign, you can ask yourself a few questions.
- Why are you engaging in content marketing?
- What are you going to offer to your audience or customers?
- How will your content improve their experiences?
- What do you want to gain from the content you’ll create?
- How will you measure your marketing efforts?
You may want to consider writing down your answers and bringing in other perspectives from within your company or even outside of it. These questions can help map out your focus and connect it back to the overall vision for your company. Plus, having clear goals makes it much easier to know when you’re achieving them.
As you create your marketing plan, figuring out who your audience is can be just as vital as deciding on your overall goals. If you don’t know who is most likely to engage with your products or services, creating content that helps to drive conversions will likely be a challenge.
To start your market research, it helps to first determine the demographics of your target audience. Your buyer personas should include characteristics such as your audience’s typical age range, gender, family status, education level, hobbies, interests, etc.
Once you know the “who” you’ll be focusing on, you can then hone in on the “why” and create a “target customer profile” or “buyer persona.” In other words, you need to figure out what the needs of your target persona are and what may convince them to try your products or services.
One valuable starting place is to reach out to past customers. You can ask them why they were interested in your business, and what “pain points” it helped to address for them. You can even ask about what makes them feel frustrated in your particular industry, and if they have any specific feedback for you.
You can take this information and use it to determine what people in your audience are looking for and who might be searching for your business in particular. This can be an excellent blueprint to use later on when you’re coming up with content ideas.
Next up, it’s time to run a content audit. This involves taking a close look at the content you’ve created and shared in the past and determining what pieces have been the most popular and successful.
This isn’t a quick process, but it’s a necessary one. Once you know what has worked well in the past, you can build on that success. Otherwise, you may end up repeating mistakes that made past content less useful. This way, you can compare those missteps with what worked and figure out how to correct them.
There’s no need to be overwhelmed, however. Completing a content audit really only requires four major steps:
- Create a spreadsheet of all your past content (or at least a large portion of it).
- Decide what kind of data you’ll focus on when evaluating that content (was it functional, readable, relevant, etc.).
- Gather and record that data for each piece of content in your spreadsheet.
- Analyze the information as a whole in order to create an action plan for future content.
Often, the part that takes the longest is gathering all of the data in one place. However, once you have everything at hand, you can make direct comparisons, see where you encouraged high conversions and lots of click-throughs, and identify areas where you can grow. This is your best chance for setting future articles, blogs, and other material up for success.
If you already have a website that you’re happy with, you can skip to the next step. If not, however, your business’ site will play a pivotal role in your content marketing strategy. Therefore, it’s critical that you get a high-quality and branded website up and running now.
The first thing you’ll need to do is select a Content Management System (CMS). This is the software that will enable you to create and display content on your website. Fortunately, most of the big CMS names are free to use and relatively easy to navigate. They also come with plugins and themes to make content creation easier and assist you in designing your site.
Some examples of CMSs you can try include:
- WordPress. One of the most adaptable platforms, especially if you want to host blog posts or articles and still have a storefront
- Joomla!. A popular choice that’s fairly approachable for beginners
- Drupal. A more advanced system for those who have a bit of website-building under their belts
- Magento. A solid option if you want to have an online store, as it supports e-commerce websites
Every CMS has its strengths and weaknesses, but each one makes website creation more attainable to those with limited programming knowledge. In fact, with the right CMS, you no longer need to be a computer expert (or even know how to code) to build yourself a successful website. Plus, this will enable you to fully own all of your content.
After choosing your CMS (we recommend WordPress!), you’ll need to choose a domain name and seek out a quality hosting provider. With those elements in place, getting your site up and running is a piece of cake.
At this stage, you will likely have a rough idea of where you’ve been successful in the past and where your content might have needed more work. Now’s the time to brainstorm!
Based on all the information you’ve gathered, especially during your content audit, you’ll want to come up with some general ideas of where you’d like to go in the future. Of course, any practical strategy should point you towards attaining the goals you set in the first step.
When brainstorming, you may want to focus on coming up with keywords, particularly long-tail keywords, to give your content a competitive edge. If you understand which keywords are being used by your competition and by potential customers, you can use them to ensure that your content is visible in search engines.
It’s also useful to understand the different types of search queries, so you can better optimize your content for them. For example, there are:
- Informational search queries
- Navigational search queries
- Transactional search queries
Depending on what your business’ niche is, you may rely more heavily on one or two of these searches than the others. For example, referring back to our earlier example of a fictional vegan bakery, we might focus on both transactional and informational search queries (“Where can I find a vegan cupcake?” and “Best ways to make your own vegan milk substitute”).
Understanding these queries and which ones your audience prefers can help you with your next stage of planning. If you know what your audience is looking for, you can create content that meets those needs.
When it comes to the material you’re going to produce, you have a lot of options to choose from. To name only a few, you can try blog posts, informative articles, e-books, case studies, templates, infographics, videos, how-tos, podcasts, online courses, and various forms of social media.
All those choices can be overwhelming. However, each avenue has its own unique benefits.
For example, blog posts offer a way to grow your audience and attract new clients. E-books can be a means of generating profit time and again, case studies can demonstrate the proven successes of your company, customer spotlights can create social proof, and infographics are easy for visitors to consume and share.
Yet, of all the mediums you could hone in on, video still reigns supreme online. Videos are the most popular way for most people to pass time on the internet. Fortunately, you can depend on websites such as YouTube to host your content (and you can even turn a profit from it if you like).
Using those pre-existing platforms can keep your website from being bogged down with heavy media files. Best of all, you can still feature those videos on your website, simply by embedding YouTube videos on your pages to save precious space.
Once you know what kinds of content you’d like to focus on, you’ll be ready to move to the next step. Remember that variety is key, but you don’t want to overextend yourself. So you may want to choose two or three types to pursue at the beginning.
No human is an island, and no content-creation team is complete without publication and management roles. Once you know what you’re going to create, it’s time to determine who will be responsible for which parts of the process.
Unless you’re working alone, you’ll likely have to discuss with your team to decide who’s going to do what, including publishing and managing. To be productive, each role will need to be clearly defined. What will each role entail? Who will be accountable for responsibilities such as meeting deadlines, idea generation, editing, and more?
When you have those basic roles sorted out, you’ll know who is in charge of the decision-making process and who is in charge of the execution. However, these positions don’t end with the content itself. You’ll also need to look at your website and decide who will do what there too.
For instance, if you have a WordPress site, you may also plot out what you’ll allow various users to do. As the website owner, you’ll likely distribute tasks (such as writing and editing posts, controlling plugins, and managing other users) so you can keep your site orderly.
To divvy out these duties, you can create different roles. WordPress’ basic user roles include:
- Super Admin — Manages multiple websites on one network.
- Administrator — Manages one site, and can do everything from deleting pages to creating posts and adding plugins.
- Editor — Can create posts, edit pages, and moderate comments, but cannot touch the site’s infrastructure.
- Author — Can upload files, delete posts, and edit posts, but has less authority than an editor.
- Contributor — Can only write and manage their own posts (but not delete them).
- Subscriber — Can simply read content and manage their user profile.
If you want to give your team some further guidance, there are additional tools you can use to assist with workflow management, such as:
- Oasis Workflow, which enables you to create easy-to-use templates for assigning, reviewing, and publishing content.
- CoSchedule, a global calendar that lets everyone view the status of each project and who’s responsible for what.
- User Role Editor, which lets you not only assign roles but also add and block specific tasks within those roles.
Having clear roles established from the get-go can make the whole process of content marketing smoother. You won’t have to make decisions on the fly, and people will already know what is expected of them.
The day-to-day work of managing and organizing content can become hectic and quickly overwhelming. With a content calendar, you can map out your content production and delivery, and then track each piece’s progress over days, weeks, or even months. This type of editorial calendar can help you streamline and coordinate your content marketing strategy.
That level of coordination can be particularly advantageous for ensuring there’s a consistent voice and identity that transcends the different types of content you’re distributing. These might include blog posts, social media updates on Facebook and Twitter, and other off-site content. After all, with the overview your content calendar provides, your team will know exactly what everyone is doing.
With that in mind, your choice of platform is up to you. For instance, you could use Microsoft Excel, Google Calendar, or Google Sheets. You could also opt for a WordPress plugin to manage your content calendar, such as Editorial Calendar or PublishPress Content Calendar and Notifications.
Once you’ve made your decision, your next step is populating the calendar with data. That will likely include dates and topic ideas. However, it might also incorporate suggested titles for articles, relevant SEO data (such as target keywords), and any helpful notes that can benefit your team’s content creation.
Calendars can also be used to schedule content updates and conduct audits, so you can identify older posts that are no longer encouraging conversions and click-throughs. You can even maintain individual calendars for each user or team.
Finally, you should color-code your editorial calendar to avoid any confusion. This can be as simple as blue for blog posts, red for editorials, and green for proposed ideas. This way, no one gets confused, and your calendar is easy to understand at a glance.
Long gone are the days where you can simply hammer out a blog post chock full of keywords and hope to find quick SEO success. In today’s world, you’re going to have to invest time and effort into each post and other pieces of content.
That means juggling all of your new posts, repurposing or reusing old content, curating content from other sources, making use of user-generated content, and even atomization. If you haven’t heard of atomization, it involves taking well-written work and implementing it in multiple ways.
Fortunately, there is a recipe of sorts to creating successful blog posts. This includes ingredients such as dedicating a significant amount of time to each post (on average, four hours) and adhering to your mission statement with every piece.
You may also find it valuable to create a schedule and stick to it, thoroughly edit your work, and maintain credibility through following certain best practices. Those include proper sourcing for facts and data, following reputable citation standards, and even integrating testimonials.
Doing these things, and sticking to who you are as a company, can assist in improving brand awareness. Other considerations to look out for when blogging include focusing on quality rather than quantity, using a web host that can keep up with your needs, and dedicating as much (if not more) time to promotion as you do to creation.
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Keeping track of your successes and failures can help you quickly course correct when it’s most necessary. This may help prevent you from continuing down a path of content and revenue stagnation.
To guide your efforts in this area, you might want to look out for a few signposts when measuring your content’s performance. These include bounce rates, conversions, overall time spent on your site, and subscriber numbers.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that can enable you to measure these metrics, such as Google Analytics for tracking your bounce rate. You can also monitor other statistics, such as return rates, where your visitors are coming from, and more. It’s also free to use, which is an added bonus.
It might also be a good idea to track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Doing so will help you answer some very pertinent questions, such as:
- Do you have more visitors now than you did a year ago?
- Are they staying longer on your site?
- Have your search engine rankings improved?
- Has there been a sales revenue increase, if applicable?
- Have you experienced social media traffic growth?
- Has your email (or your newsletter subscriber) list grown?
Once you’ve analyzed your successes and shortfalls, you can then reinvest in what worked well and alter what did not. As with many marketing strategies, that’s what really can help growth take off.
Digital Content Strategy Made Easy
As you can see, it takes work to develop your content marketing plan. However, the time you invest upfront can pay off through increased conversions and lowered bounce rates.
Are you ready to get started? By having a professional WordPress website, you can start your content marketing off on the right foot!