Developing a content strategy can be a daunting task, but with the right guidance and expertise, it doesn't have to be.
In this post, we've compiled ten expert steps to help you create a successful content strategy that engages your audience and drives your business goals. From defining your objectives to measuring your success, follow these steps to create a content strategy that sets you apart from the competition.
Let's get started!
What you will learn
- Developing a content strategy can help you reach your marketing and business objectives more efficiently.
- Identifying your goals and target audience are the first steps to crafting a successful content strategy.
- Competitive and keyword research can help you build a data-driven strategy.
- Creating high quality content that aligns with your business objectives is only half the job. Your content distribution plan is equally important.
- Continuously track and measure your content marketing efforts to optimize your content ROI.
What is content strategy
A content strategy is a plan that outlines how you'll create, distribute, and manage your content to achieve your business goals while meeting the needs of your audience.
73% of marketers choose to develop content marketing strategies as part of their overall marketing strategies. It's a competitive market out there. You should also have a strategy in place to help you stand out from the competition. Not convinced yet? Let’s jump into the next section.
Why creating a content strategy is important
Compared to other forms of outbound marketing, content marketing delivers up to three times the number of leads while costing 62% less. However, you need to have a comprehensive and data-driven content strategy in place to achieve such results.
Having a content management system and a documented content marketing strategy can offer numerous benefits for your business, including:
- Establish trust and authority within your niche: By creating high-quality content that provides value to your audience, you can position yourself as an expert in your industry.
- Build brand awareness: A content strategy can help you maintain a consistent brand image across all channels. This consistency in messaging and tone helps to build brand recognition and trust among your audience.
- Save time and resources: By focusing your time and efforts on creating the right type of content for your audience, you can avoid wasting time and resources on what doesn’t resonate.
- Improve content creation workflow: A content strategy ensures a structured approach to content creation and distribution.
- Accountability and clarity: A documented strategy provides clear objectives and tactics, ensuring accountability and clarity for your content marketing efforts.
- Measure progress and identify opportunities for improvement: A content strategy includes metrics and KPIs, allowing you to measure progress and identify areas for improvement.
- Track content ROI: A content strategy helps track the ROI of your content marketing efforts, enabling you to make informed decisions about future investments.
10 expert steps to develop a content strategy
Create a content marketing strategy that delivers results for your business with these ten expert steps.
1. Define your content objectives
The first step in developing a successful content strategy is to define your content objectives. This refers to identifying the specific outcomes that you want to achieve through your content, and how they align with your overall business goals.
To get started, you'll need to identify what success looks like for your content. So ask yourself: “Are you looking to increase brand awareness, generate leads, educate your customers, improve customer retention, or is it something else?”
Once you are clear on what you’re aiming to achieve, then it’s time to set up KPIs that are aligned with your objectives. There are three main types of KPIs that you can use to measure your content marketing success:
- Conversion KPIs: These metrics help you understand how well your content is driving business outcomes and contributing to your bottom line. This includes keeping track of your conversion rate, number of leads generated, and sales made.
- Authority & leadership KPIs: These metrics can help you understand how well your content is resonating with your target audience and how effective it is in establishing your brand as a trustworthy thought leader in the industry. Some common authority and leadership KPIs include the number of backlinks, social shares, and brand mentions.
- Search visibility KPIs: These metrics measure the visibility of your content in SERPs. Here you can track your search impressions, page visits, CTR, and average keyword and page level rankings.
After identifying the types of KPIs that are relevant to your business objectives, you'll need to decide on specific targets for each metric. You can do so by setting SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. For example, a SMART content marketing goal can be to “increase organic traffic to our website by 25% within the next six months”.
Establishing your content marketing objectives first will provide the direction for your content initiatives and facilitates tracking and refinement down the line.
2. Get to know your audience
In order to achieve your objectives, you need to create content that speaks directly to your audience’s needs and interests. This requires that you have an in-depth understanding of your target audience, including your audience’s demographics, socio-financial situation, current challenges, and possible solutions.
Here are some ways to gather information about your audience:
- Use analytical tools: Tools like Google Analytics will provide you with valuable information such as the demographics of your audience, their location, the devices they use to access your website, and the content they engage with the most.
- Create buyer personas: Buyer personas help you humanize your audience. It’s easier to get to know and market to one person rather than a nameless group.
Image source: Freepik
- Frequent online platforms they hang out in: Online forums and communities, like Reddit and LinkedIn groups, can be a great source of information about your audience. In such platforms, your audience is among their peers, so they’re openly talking about their issues and discussing solutions, as we can see in the r/bigseo group
Image source: screenshot r/bigseo
- Engage directly with your customers: Why not go directly to the source? Send out surveys to your email list, conduct polls on social media platforms to get feedback on your content (and not only), and reply to comments and online reviews.
- Learn from sales and support teams: Your sales and support teams interact directly with your customers and will have insights you won't find readily available. Ask them for feedback on what questions or concerns prospects and customers commonly have. This information can help you create content that addresses your audience's needs and concerns.
3. Audit your content against competitors
Look at what your competitors are doing and how their content is performing. Then look at your existing content. You can then use these insights to inform your own content marketing strategy. Here’s what you can expect from this step:
- Identify content gaps and opportunities: Analyzing your competitors' content can help you understand what works and what doesn't in your niche. You can see which topics, formats, and styles are most successful and which ones aren't resonating with your target audience. It’s also helpful to identify topics and formats they haven't covered or haven't covered well, so you can then fill that gap.
- Improve your SEO and visibility: Reviewing your competitors' content can help you identify the keywords and topics they're ranking for, and where they're getting their backlinks from. This can help you improve your own SEO and visibility by creating content that targets those same keywords and earning backlinks from the same sources.
Follow these steps to conduct a content audit against your competitors:
- Look at the social media accounts of your top competitors, their blogs, and ads.
- Note the topics they cover, the formats they use, their tone and style, and how they promote their content.
- Compare their content to yours to identify gaps and opportunities.
- Use the insights to inform your content strategy. For example, you can create content that’s not already been covered, target their well-performing keywords and differentiate yourself by speaking to your audience in a way your competitors aren’t.
4. Choose content formats
With so many content formats to choose from, it can be tempting to try to be everywhere and post frequently on all platforms. However, it is essential to consider your objectives, budget, resources, and workflow realistically.
Here are the most popular content types among B2B content marketers as of 2022:
- Short articles/blog posts: This type of content typically takes the least to create, so no wonder it’s the most used one. Nevertheless, high quality short articles that focus on a specific topic can be a great source of traffic and leads for your website.
- Videos: 91% of people want to watch more video content from brands in 2023. That’s because video is interactive and fun to watch, or at least it should be. Just check this YouTube video ad created by Grammarly that has 150 million views.
Suggestion to embed: Edit Essays Faster | Grammarly
- Case studies: Use case studies to showcase your brand's success stories and demonstrate how your products or services have helped your clients achieve their goals. This will show potential customers that you can do the same for them.
- Virtual events: Webinars, virtual conferences, and workshops are an excellent way to reach a global audience and interact with them in real time.
- Infographics: Infographics can help you present complex ideas in a simple, easy-to-understand format. They are highly shareable and can be used to increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.
- Long-form articles: This type of content format allows you to dive deep into a topic, provide actionable insights, attract organic traffic, and increase your search engine rankings.
- E-books & white papers: This type of content helps you educate your audience and establish thought leadership in your industry. E-books and white papers are usually gated content, which means that your audience must provide their contact information in exchange for access to the content. As such, they are an excellent way to generate leads and build your email list.
- Podcasts: Podcasts have gained tremendous popularity in recent years. They are great for building a loyal audience and establishing your brand as a thought leader in your industry. Podcasts can take many forms, from interview-style shows to storytelling and analyses.
Image source: CMI
5. Research content ideas
We’re halfway through but it’s not time to jump into the content creation process yet. Instead, now it’s time for you to research ideas and topics that are relevant to your business and audience and will improve your chances of success.
Start with your seed keyword to explore different ways that people might search for your content and create a list of relevant and related keywords.
Let’s say your product is an email marketing software. Then you can start your keyword research with the seed keyword "email marketing". Enter this keyword into the Google search bar. If you have downloaded and installed Surfer’s free Chrome extension, you’ll get access to a bunch of data on that keyword, including new keyword ideas.
Our search for “email marketing” gives us other keyword ideas to target such as “email marketing strategy” and “email marketing services”. Click on each relevant keyword to discover a new list of keyword ideas.
Scrolling through the first page of Google can give you a ton of other information. Look at what type of content is ranking for that keyword - is it informational blog posts, YouTube videos, shopping ads, or landing pages? Take note.
You can also discover other keyword ideas by looking at Google’s “People also ask” and “Related searches” sections.
Google Trends is another great tool to identify new target keywords and relevant content ideas. Check out the “Related Topics” and “Related Queries” sections to get inspired and informed.
By now you should have a list of keywords. The next step is picking the best keywords for your SEO strategy. There are four factors to consider:
- Keyword difficulty: Before you pick a keyword, you should determine its ranking potential. One way to do this is to browse through the SERPs and analyze the top-ranking pages for that keyword. Look at the content, the number of backlinks, and the domain authority of those pages. If the competition seems too fierce, you may want to consider a different keyword.
- Search intent: Next, it's important to determine the search intent behind your target keywords. Users searching for “email marketing services/tools” might be ready to explore purchasing options. Meanwhile, users looking for information on “how does email marketing work” are not there yet - you should first provide educational content for them before getting them to consider options. While if the search intent does not align with your product/services, then the keyword has no business potential and you should not focus on it (which takes us to the next point).
- Business potential: The keyword you pick should hold value for your audience and your business. Ask yourself if the keyword is relevant to your business and if it will attract the right kind of traffic. The more aligned with your business, the higher the business value the keyword has and the higher the priority it should hold in your strategy. For example
- Search volume: While it’s important to pick a keyword with decent search volume to drive traffic, don’t ignore keywords with low volume because they may possess greater conversion potential. If we go back to the email marketing example, a more narrow keyword like "email marketing software" may have a lower monthly volume (2,400) than a broad keyword like "email marketing" (18,100), but it will attract people who are interested in exactly what you are selling.
6. Create quality content for each consumer stage
61% of B2B organizations agree that creating content for different stages of the consumer journey is the biggest content marketing challenge they face.
In an effort to focus on revenue, many companies target people that are ready to make a decision. While yes, creating content for that stage of the consumer journey is a must, it’s a mistake to ignore the other stages of the funnel - you’d be leaving out the majority of your market. In fact, data shared by Google tells us that 71% of B2B searches start with a generic search and users do on average 12 searches before they engage with a specific brand.
Image source: Think with google
Those 12 searches before engagement are your opportunity to earn their trust while establishing your credentials.
Here are some simple guidelines to follow when creating content for each stage of the consumer journey:
- Awareness: In this stage, consumers aren’t particularly problem-aware, they’re learning about their situation and are not yet thinking about making a purchase. Here people might be searching for things like “How does email marketing work?”. Your aim in this stage is to provide top-of-the-funnel educational content, like blog posts, social media posts, and how-to videos.
- Consideration: Consumers in the consideration stage are problem and solution-aware. A search query example in this stage can be “top email marketing platforms”. Provide users with comparison guides, case studies, and free templates to sway their decision in your favor.
- Decision: Now the buyer will be evaluating specific solutions. This is the time for you to win them over. You can offer free trials or consultations, live demos, and special coupons to remove any doubts they might have about purchasing.
You can also rely on SEO to create content that is tailored to the buyer's journey. Here’s how:
- Satisfy user’s search intent: By analyzing the search terms that people input into search engines, you can understand their search intent and create content that satisfies their needs at each stage of the buyer journey.
- Include semantically relevant keywords: These types of keywords will help search engines understand the context of your page. For example, if you are writing a blog post about “healthy eating,” you could include semantically relevant keywords like “nutrition,” “meal planning,” and “diet tips.”
- Perform on-page SEO: To perform on-page SEO, you should include your primary keywords in the URL, meta data, page title, and headers. This will signal to search engines that your page is relevant to the user’s search query.
- Cover topical maps: Use pillar and supporting pages to establish topical authority. By organizing your content in this way, you can signal to search engines that your website is an authority on the topic and improve your rankings for relevant search queries.
7. Repurpose your content for different platforms
Producing quality content takes time and effort. That’s why you should make the most of every piece of content you create by repurposing it on different platforms.
For example, you can turn a blog post into a video, an infographic, and a social media post. Just remember that each platform has its own unique format and style, so it's important to adapt your repurposed content accordingly. For example, see how Hootsuite has turned its blog post into a LinkedIn post. They have created a short and catchy post accompanied by an eye-catching visual.
Image source: Hootsuite LinkedIn
There are online tools like Canva that allow you to easily repurpose your content for different platforms.
Besides efficiency, repurposing also helps you extend the reach of your content to a wider audience.
8. Promote and distribute your content
Content distribution is equally as important as content creation. You have to dedicate resources to distributing and promoting your content to maximize its reach.
Refer back to step 2 and get to know your audience. Which channels do your target audiences use? Then develop a plan to distribute your content through those channels.
Common content channels to include in your distribution plan:
- Search engine optimization: In today’s digital world, the majority of people will consult search engines at some point in their buyer journey. According to Google, shoppers go first online in over 60% of the cases. Therefore, an SEO strategy for your blog will help people discover your content and brand on search engines.
- Social Media: As of January 2023, there are over 4.76 billion social media users worldwide. While people turn to social media primarily to be entertained, they are also following or researching brands and products as well as looking to be educated. So be there with content that satisfies all these criteria. Also, jumping on trends and collaborating with influencers is a great way to connect with your target audience on social media platforms.
Image source: DataReportal
- Email marketing: Email remains an inexpensive, yet effective way to get the word out as your audience has already expressed an interest in your brand. You can use email to distribute your content through a newsletter, as part of marketing campaigns, or in the form of promotional and exclusive announcements. That’s how Asana has shared its eBook via an email campaign.
Image source: Really Good Email
- Paid ads: By leveraging paid ads, you can amplify the reach of your content and target specific audiences. From social media to search engine ads, there are a number of ways paid ads can fit into your distribution strategy. Retargeting ads have been specifically known for their effectiveness with warm leads. Users are 70% more likely to convert after seeing a retargeting ad.
9. Maintain a content calendar
A content calendar allows you to see the big picture of your content marketing strategy. When you are creating content at scale, it becomes increasingly important to have a clear process and workflow in place to ensure that everyone on the team knows their roles and responsibilities and that deadlines are met.
Your content calendar should include the following:
- Your content topics: List all the topics you plan to cover. Refer back to step 5 where you came up with your content ideas.
- The people responsible: Assign specific tasks to team members. This ensures that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
- Deadlines and timelines: Include a timeline for when each piece of content should be completed, reviewed, and published.
- Content types and formats: This includes a list of the different types of content you plan to create, such as blog posts, videos, social media posts, etc. Refer to step 4 of this guide for this.
As long as it contains the above elements, your content calendar can look as simple as this Notion content calendar template (feel free to use that one).
10. Track your content’s performance
The work is not done yet. Even the most well-crafted content marketing strategy requires continuous monitoring and optimization. That’s why it’s important to track and measure the success of your content marketing strategy against the goals and KPIs you set in step 1.
Monitoring your content marketing metrics can help you identify areas where your strategy is falling short. Once you've identified these areas, you can adapt accordingly.
For instance, by tracking metrics such as leads, conversions, and revenue, you can ensure that your strategy is aligned with your business objectives. Monitoring your content marketing metrics can also provide valuable insights into your audience. By tracking engagement rates, click-through rates, and other metrics, you can gain a better understanding of your audience's preferences and behavior. This can help you create more targeted and effective content. Ultimately, keeping track of your progress can help you maximize your content ROI.
Use tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to measure your content marketing efforts. These tools provide insights into audience behavior, how your website appears in search results, what keywords are driving traffic to your site, and other metrics related to your content objectives.
- Creating content without a plan is unlikely to deliver the desired results.
- Developing a successful content strategy involves identifying your goals and target audience, creating content that resonates with that audience and distributing it through the most effective channels in the most efficient manner.
- By analyzing metrics such as engagement, reach, and conversion rates, you can make data-driven decisions to improve your content strategy and ROI.
Creating content without a strategy is like driving a car without a destination in mind. You may end up somewhere, but it might not be where you want to be. A sound content strategy gives you a roadmap to follow.
Having a content strategy in place will help you to create and distribute content that resonates with your target audience, establishes trust and authority within your niche, builds brand awareness, and ultimately drives business growth.
Follow the ten steps outlined in this post to develop a successful content marketing strategy. Invest the time and effort to do so and watch your content marketing efforts take off!