Content marketing helps businesses attract and engage with customers in the digital age. But simply creating more (or non-strategic) content is not enough – businesses need an intentional, strategic approach to content in order to drive real results. So what is content strategy, and how can you develop an effective one for your business?
In this comprehensive guide based on the “Marketing, Demystified” episode, we’ll unpack what content strategy entails, why it’s important, and provide actionable tips to transform your content from just “happening” to truly performing. Specifically, I discuss the following in this article:
- What is content strategy?
- Why you need a content strategy
- How to develop an effective strategy
- Performance content
What is Content Strategy?
At its core, content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content to achieve specific business goals. It encompasses determining what content to create, how to structure and optimize it, which channels to distribute it on, and how to measure its effectiveness.
A strong content strategy is rooted in a deep understanding of your target audiences and what kind of information they are seeking. It also requires aligning your content efforts with wider marketing and business objectives.
Rather than viewing content as an isolated tactic, content strategy takes a more holistic view and considers how different content assets and activities work together to move prospects through the customer journey.
Why You Need a Content Strategy
When companies fail to see results from their content that can be because they don’t have a cohesive strategy and ongoing implementation in place. Without strategic alignment, content initiatives end up fragmented and disjointed. And not strategic.
Having a strategic content strategy brings numerous benefits:
A good content strategy helps your website draw relevant organic traffic and increase conversions through the funnel. To achieve that, these steps will help you get there:
A strategy provides focus and direction to content efforts so they support defined goals.
Keeps messaging, voice, and brand alignment consistent across content types and channels.
Allows you to optimize content for search visibility and conversion.
With a strategy, you can pivot content quickly to address changing priorities.
Creates a feedback loop to track content performance and refine your approach.
In short, an intentional strategy is key to creating content that performs and drives real business impact.
How to Develop an Effective Content Strategy
Now that we’ve covered the what and why of content strategy, let’s explore some best practices for developing one:
Set Specific Goals and KPIs
Like any marketing initiative, you need to start by defining what you want your content to achieve. Set specific, measurable goals that align to business objectives like:
- Increase website traffic by 25%
- Boost keyword rankings for target terms
- Increase in MQLs
Then determine relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress towards those goals.
Map Content to the Buyer’s Journey
One of the foundations of solid content strategy is creating content that is tailored to where your audience is in their journey.
Determine what content is needed at each stage to move them towards a purchase:
Awareness Stage: Top-of-funnel content that answers informational queries on Google and that helps a brand stay top of mind.
Consideration Stage: Middle-of-the funnel content that helps buyers weigh their decisions. This could include content that best explains how you specifically solve their problem and might also include comparisons.
Decision Stage: Free trials, product demos, and customer testimonials aim to convert leads.
Map content types and topics to buyer needs during each phase.
Conduct Keyword Research
Conduct keyword research to identify topics and terms your audience is searching for during their buyer’s journey. Tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Google Keyword Planner can help uncover this information.
Look for keywords with sufficient search volume that align with your products, services, and expertise. This will allow you to create optimized content that has a better chance of ranking and being found.
Audit Existing Content
Before creating new content, audit your existing content assets. Review performance metrics to see what’s resonating. Identify content gaps where new content is needed to align with goals.
Also, assess if old content needs to be refreshed or repurposed. An audit provides the lay of the land so you can strategize effectively.
Create an Editorial Plan
An editorial plan is an essential content strategy tool to plan and manage content creation in an organized way. The calendar outlines what content will be produced, when it will be published, and who is responsible.
Factor in keyword research, seasonality, promotions, and other important dates. A calendar helps ensure there aren’t gaps in content output and keeps efforts focused.
Identify Content Formats
As part of your strategy, determine what content types and formats will fulfill which goals. This could include blog posts, email nurture campaigns, short-form video content, branded podcasts, and more. Using emerging content formats can help brands stand out as well.
Consider content types that align with audience preferences and conversion goals.
Select Content Distribution Channels
Your content strategy also needs to outline where content will be distributed. Key channels to leverage include:
Website Blog – Hub for all content and for search visibility.
Social Media – Extend reach and spark engagement.
Email – Send content directly to subscribers.
Paid Ads – Amplify reach for important content.
Promoting content across multiple channels expands audience exposure. I like to think of it as throwing content a parade and who doesn’t like a good parade?
Getting Content to Perform
Use insights to refine your approach and double down on what’s working well. Having a documented strategy with continuous improvements and strategic updates is key for long-term content success.
Focus on Quality
Churning out content for the sake of hitting volume quotas can be detrimental. Instead, focus on creating high-quality, useful content. But, the volume of content being published does matter as well – though it shouldn’t come at the detriment of quality.
Impactful content provides value, educates, and engages your audience. Align messages to buyer needs and pain points. Elite, compelling content will boost results more than lackluster, frequent posts.
Get the Basics Right
There are foundational elements that enable your content to be discoverable and consumable. Make sure you:
Optimize for SEO – Include target keywords, meta descriptions, alt text, etc. to improve visibility.
Promote Content – Market newly created content through emails, social posts, and other channels.
Format for Scanning – Use section headers, short paragraphs, bullet points, images, etc. to facilitate easy skimming.
Nailing down these basics allows your content to reach and resonate with audiences.
Focus on Metrics That Matter
Assess content performance based on metrics tied to overarching goals and KPIs. Common metrics to track include:
- Website visitors
- Conversion rates
- Leads generated
- Sales influenced
- Search and social media performance
- Social shares, backlinks
- Search ranking for target keywords
Connecting content efforts to business results is vital.
Monitor Trends and Feedback
Pay attention to the latest content-related trends, platforms, and formats that your audience is embracing. Also actively seek feedback on your content through surveys, interviews, and reviews.
This market intelligence will reveal gaps and opportunities to make your content even more effective. Continuously refine based on insights.
Promote Cross-Department Collaboration
Content creation doesn’t happen in a silo. Foster collaboration between content, SEO, social media, sales, and other teams for greater impact.
Bring these functions together to maximize reach and conversion from content. Aim to break down silos and foster a culture focused on content performance.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
There are constantly new forms of content emerging, from podcasts to augmented reality. Identify opportunities to test innovative content types and platforms.
While not every new format will resonate, you never know what might take off. Agility to experiment and find what works for your audience is key.
By taking a strategic approach, you can transform your content from just happening to powerfully performing. Now it’s time to start developing your own tailored content strategy.