Many businesses, especially newer ones, believe that a content marketing strategy is an afterthought, a nice to have but not really a necessity for success. The proof is in the statistics. According to a report from the Content Marketing Institute, only 43 per cent of B2B marketers have a documented strategy.
But the truth is, it is essential. Without one, you’re putting your company at a disadvantage and not maximizing its potential. Why?
Before you can convince a customer that they should buy your product or service, you need to first demonstrate that you’re even worth listening to. What’s your special sauce that makes you unique from the competition? Content marketing and by extension a good content marketing strategy lets you deliver this message in a compelling manner.
Creating valuable, engaging content that helps users reach their search goals is a great way to genuinely earn attention, build trust and garner positive recognition. This holds true no matter where your prospects and customers fall in the buying cycle.
But you don’t just want to create content haphazardly, you need a sound strategy.
There is a right way and a wrong way of accomplishing this. To help you avoid the common pitfalls, the Mike Agency team has put together this content strategy guide, where we highlight what a web content strategy is, why you need one and the best practices you need to follow to achieve success.
What is content creation and content strategy?
Content creation is the development of digital media, whether it be in written, audio or video format. A content strategy lays out the guidelines and direction for this created content, helping a business reach a desired set of business goals.
Creating content in itself doesn’t grow your business, but it does have a domino effect. The better your content, the higher you will rank for your keywords on search engine result pages (SERPs). The higher you rank, the more visibility you will receive. The more visible you are to searchers and potential prospects, the higher chance you have of driving new clients to your business.
The components of a successful content marketing strategy can be distilled down to the 5 W’s and H:
- Why – Why are you on this project?
- What – What is the message?
- Who – Who is the audience?
- Where – Where will the message be read?
- When – Timing to create and publish the content.
- How – How should the content be presented/structured?
Why do marketers need a content marketing strategy?
Great content is necessary to be competitive in every industry – 70 per cent of marketers actively invest in content marketing. But every piece of material that you do create needs a clear purpose, which is where a coherent strategy comes in.
Without a strategy, it’s difficult for your business to reach its business goals. You’ll be throwing material at the wall ad hoc, hoping that something sticks – not necessarily a recipe for long-term success.
Here are three more reasons why you need a content strategy:
- Supports your overarching message. A successful content strategy improves awareness of your brand, educates your audience, and can even attract quality employees into your mix – people will naturally gravitate and want to work for you. You are able to tell your company’s story on your own terms and keep it consistent everywhere.
- Test, experiment and refine. With analytics, you have access to data and feedback, so you can see what resonates with your audience and what needs to be reworked. The more information you can gather, the better content you’ll be able to produce, which leads to real results.
- Ensures consistency & credibility. A content strategy helps you establish a consistent publishing schedule. This is important because it provides a clear direction and layout for everything you do. You’ll be able to pump out more volume and ensure that your business is covering every topic in-depth, before you even commit to writing. The more often you push out in-depth content, the more your business’s credibility increases, even if you’re a new venture.
Once you have a strategy in place, you’ll be able to attract prospects at every stage of the sales funnel and keep them engaged, even after they’ve purchased your product or service. This also frees up time to focus on other aspects of your digital marketing strategy, promoting and publishing content.
Best practices for a sound content strategy
What does a solid content strategy look like? The following is a content strategy framework for your business.
A) Set your goals
Before you can do anything else, you need to establish some business goals, first and foremost. This is the foundation for your content strategy. The specific business objectives that you set will be unique to your organization, but these are some of the most common content marketing goals to get you started:
- Improve brand awareness.
- Grow your leads.
- Improve overall revenue.
- Increase organic traffic.
Every piece of content that you create is geared towards helping your business achieve these objectives. You’ll want to be specific and define each of them with trackable metrics, whenever possible.
B) Define your target audience
Closely tied to your business goals, you need to know who you are writing your content to, as this will determine what you’ll be writing about, how you write it and what channels you’ll use for promotion.
Every demographic requires a personalized touch. Writing the same content for everyone is marketing suicide. You need to utilize different types of content and distribution channels for the best results.
To make sure you’re targeting yours correctly, it’s a good idea to lay out a few buyer personas – essentially a research-based profile of your target customers. You can build these out by asking specific questions about their average income, hobbies, education level, what social networks they like to use and so forth.
As your business grows and needs change, you’ll need to revisit personas and reframe them from time to time.
C) Research your audience content needs
Once you’ve established your target audience, the next step is to research what content they want to see.
A good starting point is to check out what your potential customers are currently looking for on search engines, as it will eliminate any unnecessary guesswork. To zero in on this information, you’ll want to do some keyword research – finding those words that will drive relevant traffic to your content and site overall.
While you’re at it, home in on the intent behind user searches. Typically, they fall under one of the following:
- Looking for more info on a topic.
- Looking for a website.
- Looking to make a purchase.
You’ll notice that there is a common thread to all of these. Most searchers are looking for answers to an existing need or problem. You can tackle these head-on by providing the desired solutions via your content.
However, this should not be the full extent of your approach. The best content strategies support those who are still figuring out their main challenges as well as those who are already using your product or service. Taking this multi-faceted approach reinforces your credibility and helps you get the best possible results in search engine rankings.
D) Analyze your competitors
As you’re developing your content strategy, it makes sense to check out other websites and see what your competitors are doing, pinpointing any areas that you think you can improve upon. Look at how much traffic they are getting, what keywords they are using and even what sites are linking to them.
Doing this manually can be a daunting task, so we recommend using a tool like SEMRush or SurferSEO to uncover this information. Conversely, you can always allocate the legwork to content strategy experts, such as the team at the Mike Agency.
E) Run a content audit
Unless you’re just starting out, chances are your business already has some content on its website. Before you can craft the perfect strategy, you need to review everything you have and determine what’s working and what needs to be rejigged. Remove anything that is ROT: redundant, outdated or includes trivial information.
You should also review the following:
- Your publishing schedule (if you don’t have one, now is the time to create it).
- What keywords you are currently ranking for.
- What pages or posts have the highest bounce rate on your site.
Running this sort of content audit will help you set new goals and realign it with the objectives of the rest of your organization.
F) Develop a content marketing plan
Once you’ve established your target audience, the goals you’re striving for, the type of content and keywords you’re focusing on, you can piece it altogether into a content marketing plan.
This plan should include the following components:
- Outline content creation duties. Creating content is easier with a small team, but as your business ramps up, you’ll need to divvy up responsibilities across multiple teams.
- Your publishing schedule.
- Steps for content promotion.
- The format of your content. Not all of types of content are appropriate for every audience, so you need to adjust accordingly. See below for more information on the most popular formats.
This forward-thinking preparation and planning, ensures that you can garner reliable and cost-effective sources of site traffic and generate leads for your business.
G) Choose right content management system
From business stakeholders to marketing and the design team, more often than not, it takes a collaborative approach between many different teams to achieve an effective content strategy. Without a little organization, it can be very difficult to keep track of all the content creation, publication dates and analytics data.
That’s why it’s important for your business to choose the right content management system (CMS). This tool keeps everyone on the same page, providing a holistic view of content creation and implementation. You can also use it to manage the workflow (processes, tools and resources used) of your team as well as governance (consistency, integrity, and quality of content) for the best results.
The top CMS platforms, such as WordPress, also include a suite of additional plugins for even more functionality (i.e., a booking calendar).
H) Create awesome content
Creating engaging, high-quality content that delivers real value is the crux of any good content strategy. To do so, you will need to analyze what appears the highest in search results and determine how you can improve upon what it offers. For example, you can include more media or write a longer, more detailed piece on a specific topic.
Everything that you do write for the web should use clear and simple language, no matter the education level of your audience. Trying to be too cutesy with your prose will only lose people’s attention, especially when it comes to the online space.
While the tone of your material will vary, depending on the emotional state of your readers and the subject matter, the brand voice should remain consistent throughout.
Struggling for ideas? Try mixing up your content formats. Whether you opt for an infographic or even a podcast, trying different things is a great way to maintain audience attention and cater to their specific preferences. Different audiences consume their content in different ways.
As you create content, don’t forget to optimize it for SEO. This includes on-page SEO as well as off-page SEO optimization. Having great content is paramount, but you need to provide an Oscar-worthy experience. If prospects don’t find answers to their queries based on the given keyword, if you’re not using compelling headlines or being overly salesy in your approach, you’re wasting your content marketing efforts.
Make things easier for search engines too. By adding metadata, a set of programming guidelines, to your content, it helps the algorithm better understand its purpose on a webpage. It is the equivalent of a card catalog for your digital content – without everything would be unidentifiable, unfindable, unrelatable and completely disorganized.
For a detailed look into this aspect of content creation, check out our top 10 misconceptions about SEO to avoid.
If you really want to stand out from the crowd, try creating one or two pillar pages. Essentially, these are all-encompassing, longer pieces of content for specific keyword or topic. They can take the form of a long, in-depth article or a category page that links out to other relevant articles you’ve written. Opting for this approach is a great way to build your credibility and shoot up the search engines result pages.
I) Publish and promote your content
The other half of the content strategy equation is promotion. You can write or produce the best content this side of the Atlantic, but if no one knows about it, you won’t get matching results.
How do you go about promoting your content? You can use several different channels, such as social media platforms, email outreach, paid ads or even re-publish it on the appropriate platforms. The key is to test and adjust your approach depending on what works best for your needs.
You’ll want to keep track of what goes out and when by using a content editorial calendar. This method also helps you visualize your company’s message and establish your authority. Make sure you sprinkle in some timely topics that address a popular trend throughout the year, as this is an easy way to boost your traffic.
J) Measure the effectiveness of your content strategy
Last but not least, you need to continually analyze how your content is performing to get the most out of your strategy.
There are many things you can measure, but these are the most important content KPIs to keep in mind:
- Consumption metrics: Google Analytics, traffic, open rates.
- Sharing metrics: Retweets, likes, forwards.
- Lead metrics: Leads generated.
- Sales metrics: Deals.
Success with content marketing is long term, so remaining patient is absolutely necessary.
8 types of content marketing
The following are eight of most popular content marketing formats that you should consider for your next content strategy plan.
- Blog posts – These are found on a company website and should be posted regularly to attract new visitors. Ideally, a blog post should include valuable content that your audience will want to share elsewhere. The length of a post depends on the preferences of your audience
- Social Media – From Facebook to Instagram, you can create original content specifically for each platform and share it alongside the material on your site. This will allow you to reach a broader audience and amplify your results. Just make sure you tailor your content to each platform’s guidelines.
- eBooks – These are lead generation tools that visitors can download after submitting their info in a lead form, from a business’s site. These tend to be longer, more in-depth and published less often than a blog post. The end user can learn something new, while the business receives a contact that they can engage.
- Infographics – People are visual creatures. An infographic can organize and visualize a lot of data in a compelling way, without overwhelming the audience.
- Podcasts –With more and more people on the go, this continues to be a rapidly growing medium. To make the most of your podcasts, interesting interviews or conversational topics are a must.
- Videos – One of the most highly engaging and often shared content mediums on the market. Crafting quality video content requires more time and resources to produce than written content, but the results can be well worth it. If you’re looking to expand in this direction, the team at the Mike Agency has an in-house video production team to help you produce high-quality, relevant content.
- Case Studies – These are used to tell a customer story and establish credibility. Case studies show how your product/service helped a real-life company succeed in a given business area. They come in many different forms, whether it be an eBook, podcast, infographic or a video.
- Templates – Template tools save your audience time and contribute to their success; they can reciprocate back by engaging with your product or service.
Content development and putting a strategy together takes a lot of work but it can pay huge dividends for your organization in the long run. From increased targeted traffic, more thought leadership to increased revenue, the benefits are many.
The more you put in, the more you will get out of the experience. But each strategy will look differently, depending on the specific needs of your business.
It’s also not a static entity – you will need to continually refine it and add to it over time as you receive more data on your audience.
Need more help crafting engaging content and developing a long-term content strategy? Contact the Mike Agency today to speak to our team of qualified content marketing experts and schedule a free consultation!