Whether you’re an established content marketing specialist or you are taking your very first steps into the world of content marketing, a content strategy is the only way to truly mark out a path to success.
Taking a ‘spray and pray’ approach of creating content ad hoc and hoping it works may deliver some highs, but in the long run, it is likely to lead to more misses than hits.
To succeed at content marketing, you need a strategy. What is it that you are trying to achieve by creating any given piece of content? And how will that success be measured? Without a clear strategy, how will you truly know if something really worked?
Where to start your content strategy
Starting a content strategy can be daunting. Knowing how to kick things off and how to do the research to inform your strategy can seem like a task with no clear beginning.
We have pulled together this 9 step guide to creating a content strategy that will provide you with answers to all the most important questions and allow you to take your content to the next level.
Strap yourself in and get to work on the following 9 steps:
1. Define your goals
The first part of any content strategy, or any strategy for that matter, is defining your goals. Without an understanding of what you want to achieve, how will you ever know if you have succeeded?
Goals can really vary from one piece of content to another so overall, you need a goal of creating a content strategy. From there, each individual piece of content you create will have its own goal – these can be as simple as driving x amount of organic traffic to more complicated goals around conversions, page views, time on page etc
At this stage, however, you simply need to define some outcomes that you want to achieve by creating and developing a content strategy.
2. Know your audience
If you truly want your content strategy to succeed, it’s crucial to understand your audience so you can better understand the content needed to target them.
This stage can be as detailed as conducting persona research and creating a specific profile of the type(s) of person you want to target with your content or more simply, pulling demographic details from your Google Analytics and social media accounts to understand the audience you are currently engaging.
Of course, you may determine that just because you are currently attracting a certain type of visitor doesn’t mean you want to target them. In fact, many content strategies focus on diversifying your audience by creating different content pieces to target a new audience which has the potential to drive sales and revenue.
3. Carry out a content audit
If you are already creating content, conduct a content audit to identify what is currently working for your audience and what type of content drives the highest engagement. This can tell you the type of content you need to include in your strategy moving forward, however it can also identify opportunities if there are content types you are not currently creating.
If your main content strategy focusses on blog posts, take a look at how you can make them work harder.
Let’s say you work in the tourism industry and you publish weekly posts about things to do and places to eat out etc. Can you look at curating all of this great content into one pillar post that presents a complete guide to specific destinations and then links out to all this supporting content? This could even be a downloadable guide that people can take with them on their travels for example.
Your content strategy should consider every type of content and not just stick to the things you have always done (see point 5).
4. Carry out keyword research
Understanding your audience is important but understanding the keywords they are searching for is equally important.
The foundation of any solid content strategy should include a detailed keyword research report that highlights all of the keywords that you wish to target with the content you are creating. From here, you can identify the types of content that are already ranking for those keywords and determine the best way for you to target those keywords with the content you are creating (see point 5).
5. Audit the search results
Once you have a comprehensive list of keywords you want to target, don’t just stop there.
We have found one of the most useful exercises once we have completed our keyword research is to do a deep dive of all the keywords in Google. If you are targeting international markets, make sure you use a VPN to check the search results in those markets as well.
We usually use an exercise like this to identify the traits of the pages that are ranking in the top 20 results. This will include analysing the type of content that is ranking (blog, list, video etc) but also look at some key metrics around Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as well such as page speed, content length, keyword in page title, header tags etc.
This will give you a really good idea of the type (and quality) of content you need to create in order to rank for the keywords you are targeting in order to drive organic traffic to your website.
6. Brainstorm content ideas
Now you have a clear idea of your audience, the keywords you want to target and the type of content that performs well for those queries, now is the time to brainstorm some content ideas to populate your content calendar.
As a team, get together to come up with ideas (no idea is a bad idea!) for content that meets the needs of your target audience and is likely to meet the goals you set at the start of this content strategy planning.
There are tools out there to help you with your brainstorming exercise and free tools like Buzzsumo are a great place to start.
7. Plan a timeline
Whether you call this a timeline or a content calendar, you need to put a clear plan in place for when and how you will publish your content. The content calendar should be focussed but allow for flexibility – things can change and you may need to move your content around but everything should focus on the goals you set out at the beginning of the project.
Our content calendars are usually done in three-month cycles (with some items planed further in advance if time-sensitive). This allows us the flexibility to plan in the work for each quarter but also allows us to make changes moving forward based on the results we are achieving as we go.
8. Create, review and edit content
Once your calendar is in place, it’s time to start creating.
This is less about strategy and more about doing, however, it’s still an important part of the process and feeds into future strategies.
If scope allows, make sure you have a team of people working on each piece of content, even if that is simply for review and editing to ensure that the content that is being created is being consistent, meets the specific goals set out for that piece of content and appeals to the target audience.
Ideally, you will have a style and tone of voice guide in place which will help with consistency – if you don’t have a large team, it might make sense to create these documents to help anyone working on content on your website to keep things consistent.
9. Measure, review and improve
A key part of any content strategy is the measure, review and improve the process.
Part of your content calendar should include columns that deal with the key measurements for your content pieces. These might include:
- Organic traffic
- Ranking keywords
- Time on page
By measuring the success of each piece of content, you can more easily see what is working and what isn’t and this will allow you to make adjustments each quarter with the content you are creating.
Many clients we work with commit to creating a content strategy, but unfortunately don’t follow through with the measurement so it is difficult to truly measure the success of your strategy.
Make sure you come full circle and remember that your content strategy can be updated as you go if goals change – just make sure you have the data to support any changes.
Creating a content strategy is not as daunting as it sounds and once you have done it once, it gets easier every year.
A content strategy is crucial if you want to achieve long term success with the content you are creating and drive your business forward.