Content marketing requires creating content – varied in format from blogs to white papers – designed to attract and retain customers. The positive results have been well reported, with studies finding that strong content marketing leads to increases in search rankings, web traffic, and social media followers.
But to keep targeting customer interests, and to keep your content varied, you need a well-planned, regularly reviewed content marketing strategy. Building a content marketing strategy is something you can do in house, or in conjunction with your content marketing agency.
Why have a content marketing strategy?
Having a well-designed content marketing strategy in place can deliver a number of benefits to your business.
- Purposeful content
A clear strategy ensures that any content you create is directly contributing towards your business goals. Creating content ad hoc, without the benefit of a guiding strategy, is unlikely to deliver the benefits you hope to achieve.
- Demonstrate expertise and build brand trust
In order for prospective customers to buy from you, they need to be convinced of your expertise and trust that you know what you’re doing – well-planned, highly useful content should aim to establish this by meeting their needs and displaying industry knowledge.
- Content is consistently in line with your brand
Unplanned content can easily stray off-brand. Having a strategy in place will help your business create on-brand content consistently and regularly, giving you a steady supply of quality content to share across your social media channels and with email subscribers.
- Improved search engine optimisation
A content marketing strategy can also have serious benefits for search engine optimisation. By regularly creating content that is closely targeted to your audience’s interests and needs, you’ll naturally perform better in search engines. Regular keyword research will help you to plan topics that are current.
- Vital to stand out
Many businesses are increasing their investment in content, so you can’t compete without a coherent content strategy, that also takes into account what your competitors are doing. With so much content being created you now need to create exceptionally valuable content, as good unique content just isn’t good enough any more.
Getting started – determine your goals
The first step to building a content marketing strategy is to work out how content can help you achieve your business goals. Be specific about what effect you want your content to have, whether that’s attracting new customers, raising awareness of your business or maintaining relationships with existing customers. If you want to attract new customers in a particular niche, for example, what types and formats of content will you need to get attention?
Once you’ve established your goals, you should also determine how you’ll measure success. What needs to happen for your content marketing campaign to be a success – is it down to the number of people finding your page, or the number of conversions through your call to action? Set up measurements and targets so you’ll have 100% real-time feedback on your content’s impact.
Who is your audience and what are they looking for?
A key part of building a content marketing strategy is to define exactly who you’re producing content for. Creating personas for your audience will help you produce content that most closely matches what they’re looking for.
Start by conducting research into your target market find out exactly what content they love and what kind of questions they’re asking. By getting a detailed understanding of your target audience, you can create content that answers their most challenging questions. For example, Buffer, who provide social media sharing software, has created detailed blogs answering common social media questions posed by their audience. The most popular, like “What is the best time to tweet” have garnered over 14,000 shares.
A good exercise is to look at what content has already been created, and find ways to improve upon it. Use websites like Buzzsumo to see what content has been most popular for competitors and others covering similar topics to your business.
Review your existing content
Once you’ve decided on your objectives and identified your target audience, it’s time to review and catalogue your existing content.
Reviewing your existing content will provide the best possible base to build your content marketing from. Ideally, during this stage, you’ll go through every piece of existing content, checking that it’s targeted for your audience and actively contributing to your goals.
As you go through your content, make a note of any content that could be tightened up or needs to be re-written. There’s a whole host of reasons why your current content might not be up to standard, including:
- The details are out of date
- It doesn’t follow web writing best practice
- The call to action is missing or not strong enough
During this process you should also identify any existing content that could be reused, repurposed or expanded upon within the new plan.
The process of creating an index of all your content will also help you spot any gaps in your content, which you can use to start planning your new content in the next stage.
Plan new content
Now is finally the time to plan out new content ideas to meet your audience and support your goals. Use a calendar to create a mix of content, and try to achieve a mix of:
- Content formats e.g. articles, blogs, white papers, video
- Content for different segments of your target audience
- Content types e.g. news roundups, thought leadership pieces, evergreen articles
Ensure you work out how every piece of content fits into the bigger picture – where should people go next after they read it?
Create a content distribution strategy
Creating content isn’t enough, you need an effective strategy for distribution. Ideally, plan a mix of owned, earned and paid content distribution to help your content reach the widest possible audience.
Measure, refine and repeat
A content marketing strategy is an ongoing process. Measure your progress at regular intervals (perhaps every three months) and refine your plans based on what’s working well for your business. Ensure your metrics are re-set after each review if needed.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t see results right away. Content marketing is a long-term tactic, delivering results for those with the patience to see through a strategy for six months to a year.