Content Marketing Strategy – How to Develop Content that Works
What is a content marketing strategy?
Along with selecting the right CMS that enables you to publish your brand’s content quickly and efficiently, it is important to have a winning content marketing strategy. A content marketing strategy is a set of tactical methods that drive traffic and engagement through your website and social profiles. Quality content makes your brand stand out as an industry expert, which builds trust among consumers. If the content is unique and engaging, it also has the ability to go viral, which extends your reach to new audiences, and creates added exposure for your brand. However, in order for your content marketing to do all of the above, it’s necessary to create a foundational plan, and execute against it. Your brand could be churning out amazing content, but unless you’re backing this content with clear objectives and a well defined strategy, your efforts may never be appreciated.
Why is a content marketing strategy important?
A content marketing strategy incorporates research and analytics, giving you insight into your content production. This knowledge enables you to promote and publish your content on the appropriate channels, and connect with your audience on a frequent basis. A cohesive and comprehensive content marketing strategy will take into account buyer personas, topic modeling, and user analytics in order to increase sales and traffic.
We’ve listed a few of the key reasons why a content marketing strategy is so important, and our recommendations on how to perfect your own content marketing strategy.
With a well executed content strategy, the content you create will be the driving force behind attracting visitors to your website. Creating content that draws traffic involves a lot of research and strategic planning. With search engines like Google getting more sophisticated about natural language, the main focus of any piece of content should be quality, and not how many keywords you can cram into a 500-word blog. Do your research and keep up with analytics, search trends, and your target audience’s demographics in order to create relevant content.
As content marketers, it’s important that you don’t get complacent in your marketing methods. Technology and trends change over time, and the best practices for content production are constantly evolving. You should be in a constant state of exploration, with the understanding that there is always room for improvement to stay relevant to your target audience.
Although keywords aren’t everything, they do play a role in increasing traffic within your content marketing strategy. Research works better than instinct when it comes to choosing keywords. There are a number of SEO tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs to help with your keyword discovery. The correct keywords can make the difference between making the first page on a search result or making the 9th page, so you will want to pay attention to data. Another important tip in regard to keywords is to make sure you aren’t saturating your content with so many keywords that you’re taking away from the quality. Too many keywords can make content seem robotic, and consumers might pass over this obviously manufactured content for easier reads.
Many people confuse increasing conversions with increasing sales; however, these words aren’t synonymous. Your conversion rate is actually a measure of how your site turns casual shoppers and website window shoppers into paying customers. Interestingly, it is possible to increase your conversion rate without increasing sales. You might think that there is no benefit to increasing conversions if sales don’t also grow, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. So, what is the benefit of increasing conversions if sales aren’t being increased at the same time?
First, increasing conversions actually raises your ROI because effectively your website is running more efficiently. By targeting where your traffic is coming from, and differentiating between “good” traffic and “bad” traffic, you’ll be eliminating some of the fluff that isn’t contributing to your bottom line. You’ll have to use analytics data to figure out which channels are directing less relevant traffic to your website, and essentially cut this channel off. By focusing on the channels that actually lead to conversions, eventually your sales will increase as well.
Ultimately, the objective behind content marketing is to increase sales. In order to grow sales, you’ll want to make sure you’re coordinating with your sales team on a regular basis. Sales and marketing go hand in hand, and both teams are responsible for business development. As you produce content, you will want to educate your sales team on the types of content you’re running, and how this content can be used to generate leads. Ideally, you’ll want your sales team to be as knowledgeable about your brand’s content as the marketing team, and they should be comfortable suggesting the right eBooks, tutorials, videos, and blogs to potential customers in order to generate sales.
Your sales team can also help with your content production. Because they interface directly with customers, sales team members should be able to provide feedback as to which topics and types of content are resonating the most with customers and prospects. They should also be able to give you detailed insights on consumer personas, which is an important factor involved with creating a content marketing strategy. If you hear about a particular type of content that appears to be buzzworthy from the sales team, make sure to add more of this content type to your editorial calendar.
Lastly, make sure that your sales team is utilizing your content. If they aren’t, this could completely undermine your content marketing objectives. If you notice that marketing and sales aren’t in sync when it comes to content, find out why. It could be that the sales team doesn’t think that customer needs are being met through the topics generated by the marketing team. Or they simply aren’t aware of all of the resources available to them. In a perfect scenario, your marketing team and sales team will work in sync, as this is the best way to increase sales.
How to develop a content marketing strategy
When it comes to developing a content marketing strategy, there isn’t a one size fits all solution. However, there are some general guidelines your brand can follow to create a content marketing strategy that’s right for your industry. To create a cohesive content marketing strategy, our basic framework starts with a few key questions.
Who is your target audience and what do they want to see?
This is the most important question, as it dictates what you’re going to create. Obviously, the answer will vary depending on your industry and target audience. If you are catering to teenagers, you’ll want to take a completely different approach to your content than if you are targeting men or women in their 50’s. Make sure that your tone matches that of your audience, or else you’re likely to create confusion, which won’t help your bottom line.
The second part of this question is equally important. Knowing what your visitors are looking for will help dictate the topics that will be most relevant to them. The best way to keep your audience engaged and coming back for more is to solve a common issue or problem. For example, guides, how-to’s, and FAQs help position your brand as a trusted source and an expert in your industry. These types of content are extremely helpful in overcoming challenges for your audience, and also creating pathways for sales opportunities. By creating useful and purposeful content that converts, your customers will likely return the next time they need a related solution, increasing brand loyalty.
Another way to engage your audience is to make your content entertaining. Make sure you’re engaging their interest by keeping your content fresh and fun. No one wants to reach through a 12,000-word article littered with dry, monotone facts. There are ways to make informative and otherwise boring content fun and interactive. Try incorporating a video, quiz, downloadable, or slideshow into the text to enhance the user’s experience.
How will your content stand out against the competition?
Unless you are far ahead of the curve for your industry, it’s likely that your competitors are also publishing content regularly around a content strategy. This means you’ll want to think of fresh new ideas to help your brand stand out against the competition. If you publish the same type of article over and over, your content will lose relevance quickly.
Although you don’t want clone your competitors, you can learn by analyzing their content strategy. Check out what keywords they are using, which types of content seem to be pulling in the most engagement, and what social media channels they focus most of their attention on. You can also set search alerts, and watch for topics that aren’t being covered, but should be. This will help inform opportunities to bring something different to the table, and reignite your inspiration.
Where will you be publishing your content?
A winning content strategy requires a publishing schedule that reflects the behavior of your audience. You want your content to be seen by the widest audience possible, so picking strategic times to publish is key. For example, there are specific days and times that are proven to drive more engagement on social media channels. Knowing when your audience is most active, and when they tend to engage, will help dictate your publishing timeline throughout the week.
You should also think about ways to repurpose your content for added coverage. For example, blogs from your main website can double as great content pieces on your social profiles. The same goes for videos and infographics. Get the most bang for your buck by utilizing your content wherever possible.
What do you want your content calendar to look like?
A content calendar is a must when it comes to your content marketing strategy. Creating your calendar in advance is key to staying on top of every social profile and website post that needs to be made. It’s wise to get your content calendar together at least a month in advance so you have a 30-day strategy in place. To save time, and be more efficient, you can make use of automation software.
When creating your content calendar, one thing to remember is to prepare adequate time for the content creation. Often, marketers will get so consumed with scheduling that they will forget to reserve time to craft, produce, and generate the content itself. It may take a while to find a balance between creating content, and publishing according to schedule. But without the content, there won’t be anything to post, regardless of how strategic the publishing on your content calendar is. Before getting overly ambitious, it is best to start with a publishing schedule that you know is attainable, and one that provides adequate time to create quality content.
Now that you’ve gotten these key questions out of the way, you’re ready to dig a little deeper into your content marketing strategy framework.
For many marketers, it’s easy to assume that you already know who you are catering to. But unless these assumptions are backed by data, they may be far off track. Even if you’ve been in an industry for years, you may find that the target audience for your content is different than anticipated. The only real way to validate personas for your content marketing efforts is through customer interviews and cold hard data. This way, you have clarity about your audience, and how to engage them with purposeful content. The downside is that gathering persona data can be extremely time consuming, and requires expertise to execute proper research.
Fortunately, there is a proven method that helps to validate personas. First, you’ll want to develop a few “persona profiles” from your customer database. For those who aren’t familiar with what a persona profile is, it’s essentially basic information about your ideal customers, and breaking these into segments, or personas. Once you’ve chosen your handful of “ideal customers,” you’ll want to get started comparing and analyzing trends seen in their data. The goal with this process is to note all of their similar traits, and remove the factors that are less relevant to the audience as a whole. Once you’ve figured out the key traits that these personas have in common, you’ll be able to start honing in on your target audience.
The next aspect of our content market strategy framework is topic modeling. For those unfamiliar with the concept, topic modeling is used to identify the correlation between particular words and phrases. The goal behind topic modeling is to identify a combination of your persona insights, high volume opportunity keywords, and funnel strategy to shape content topics. Topic modeling can be applied to increase search engine optimization on your blog posts, which in turn generates more traffic to your website. When creating a lead generation strategy, you should consider that each blog post, other site content like downloads or videos, provides the potential to engage your audience. Instead of selling your product all the time, you can create topics for the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, and also for the consideration stage. Topic modeling drives marketers to create valuable content for the funnel, while also reflecting on keyword search volumes. This nurturing content becomes the core of the content marketing strategy, which is why it is so important to make sure you aren’t throwing random keywords into your content without rationale. Unless the topic modeling and keywords are aligned, search engines won’t recognize your content as quality, and are likely to give you unfavorable search rankings.
Topic modeling can be generated with software, or by a more manual approach. Regardless of your method, there are a few key data points that you’ll want to include in your topic model. First, you’ll need to go through your entire website, take stock of every page, and identify which topics and subtopics are included. Make note of the primary focus of each page, along with your call to action, and what it is prompting your audience to do. Is your CTA (buy, subscribe, find out more information) relevant to all the content on that page? How does that page rank in regards to quality? Is there room for a revision and improvement? You can use conversion data, which can be added to a searchable spreadsheet, to decipher which persona is most engaged with your content. This will make the results it easy to synthesize and analyze.
Once you’ve got your entire website cataloged, and you are reviewing your spreadsheet, there are a few questions to consider. For example, within the topics you’ve covered in your content, is there any area that could use additional coverage? Are there any gaps within topics covered that need to be addressed, in order to give your consumers a better overall picture of what your brand has to offer? Once you’ve identified the weaknesses on your page, you will be able to update your pages and content accordingly.
At this point, let’s assume you have a strong strategy in place, with content developed by top marketing professionals. But if you fail to utilize an editorial calendar, the chances are slim that you’ll be able to keep your strategy organized and running optimally. An editorial calendar, or content calendar, is the crux of your content marketing strategy. To stay on track, your editorial calendar should include your content production schedule, along with target publication dates. If you’re new to editorial calendars, make sure you’re including these 5 credentials, at a minimum:
- Create a list of content to be published.
- Your list of content should be in line with your content marketing strategy. Don’t rush extra content just for the sake of taking up space on the calendar; quality over quantity is imperative when it comes to a top-notch content marketing strategy. Also, keep an eye out for new topic opportunities, and to give your content a longer shelf life, find ways to repurpose evergreen content when appropriate.
- Schedule time for content creation.
- This cannot be understated; many marketers don’t take into consideration that content creation time needs to be allocated on the calendar. It takes planning and effort to create quality content, which is essential to drive customer engagement. When scheduling time for content creation, it’s advised to assign projects to specific team members, to ensure the work is actually completed. Give your team members editorial deadlines, and check to make sure they set aside the necessary time. If you’re outsourcing, make sure you’re penciling in deadlines for getting those agencies or freelancers the information they need, and put follow up reminders on your own task list.
- Create appropriate CTA’s based on your content strategy.
- Depending on your content strategy, and your conversion goals, you’ll need to create an appropriate call to action. Whether it’s subscribing to your blog, or signing up for a weekly newsletter, make sure each call to action is relevant to the content itself. This will mean testing and creating multiple calls to action, implementing them throughout your content, and seeing which ones work best over time. As a reminder to add and test new CTAs, you can add an ongoing action item on your editorial calendar.
- Plan which channels will be utilized for publishing.
- When planning your content publication, make sure you’re indicating where your content is to be published, and whether the content needs to be distributed across multiple channels. Depending on the channel, your content may need to be altered in order to effectively drive engagement. For example, if you’re posting an article on your official blog, and then promoting the post on a social media platform, make sure you’re altering the post content to make it relevant to that platform. For example, let’s say your post is mostly verbiage, but you want to promote it on Instagram, which is photo based. In order to direct Instagram followers back to your blog post, you’ll want to design an visual image that will draw attention to your content, along with a catchy excerpt and a link to your website. For widespread exposure, you can follow suit with other channels, such as turning blogs into Vlogs on YouTube in order to increase engagement.
Although following a schedule is important, your editorial calendar should allow for flexibility. Whenever it makes sense, it is advised to make changes to your content production in order to provide the best overall user experience.
Creating a strategic publishing schedule is key to driving engagement. There are a few factors you’ll want to remember when generating your publishing schedule, namely:
- Which topics are most important to cover
- How frequently you will be publishing
- Which channels you will use to publish
- When the optimal time is to post your content on each channel
Sometimes, timely content may become priority, or you may need to pivot in strategy to stay topically relevant. Has there been a new technological advance related to your products, or is there an upcoming trade show for your industry? Creating content that addresses current trends and challenge lets your audience know that you’re staying relevant and and up to date within the industry. This gives them peace of mind when deciding which brand to trust for products and services.
Another important factor when it comes to your publishing schedule is researching optimal times to post content on each channel. With a bit of research, you may find that your target audience engages on Twitter at completely different hours than they do on Facebook. Based around these trends, there are publishing automation programs sync up with your editorial calendar, allowing you to schedule your posts for maximum visibility.
Analytics is your secret weapon for your content marketing strategy. Although you’re probably already utilizing analytics in some form, there are ever-increasing methods of employing analytics for sophisticated data tracking. Here are a few of the advantages of using analytics to inform your content production:
- Analytics help you hone in on what your target audience wants to see.
Analytics are so much more than numbers and charts; they are a direct window into what your consumers want to see. With analytics, you’ll gain a clearer understanding of which posts are leading to the highest level of engagement, and which social media efforts are working for your brand. This will save you time and money, especially when you discover a particular channel you’ve been investing in isn’t producing results.
- Analytics will also give insight into the demographics of your target audience.
This is especially important when it comes to social media influencers and promoters; you want to make sure that the influencers you partner with are actually directly influencing your audience. Your analytics will show you who is spending the most time on your website and social profiles, versus which audiences are less engaged in your content.
- Analytics increase your ROI.
Analytics increase your return on investment by making your content marketing strategy more efficient. With analytics, you are able to measure where your efforts are making the biggest impact, and which campaigns are draining time and resources. By testing out new strategies, you’ll be able to refine your methods in order to get the most return on investment. Eventually, you’ll have a stronger grasp of your target audience, and your “trial and error” rate will be reduced significantly; creating a more streamlined and efficient strategy.
- Analytics help clarify your content marketing strategy goals.
Because of their precise measurement capabilities, analytics make reaching your goals much more attainable. Many analytics tools enable you to input your traffic and conversion goals and will focus more attention on these targets. By familiarizing yourself with the goal tracking tools in your analytics software, you’ll be surprised at how granular the metrics can be. For instance, with the right tracking software, you can see the amount of time your audience spends on an average blog post, or when they lose attention in a video. By applying the insight gained from this information, you can adjust your content accordingly, and strengthen your overall content marketing strategy.
By Chloe Spilotro
Hooked onto the platform since first using it through the Zesty.io Incubator Program at the University of San Diego. Passionate about all things marketing, IoT, and helping businesses leverage technology to grow and become major players in their industries.