How to develop a content strategy

How to develop a content strategy

How to develop a content strategy
  • A content strategy is a plan of action informed by your business goals that rely on the creation and distribution of effective content.
  • Your content strategy will be unique to your business, but it should align with your brand identity and company mission.
  • Nearly every business can benefit from having a content strategy; a well-thought-out and carefully executed strategy can drive growth, keep your brand voice consistent across channels and educate your audience about your value proposition.
  • This article is for small business owners who understand the importance of omnichannel content marketing and want to build a content marketing strategy.

Content is crucial for a business to grow. It can help you generate leads, build trust with your target audience and establish your expertise. To effectively create content, you need a content strategy.

A content strategy ensures you aren’t aimlessly creating content for content’s sake. Designing and implementing a plan allows you to produce more impactful work that meets your short- and long-term goals. By examining your audience and your company’s objectives, you can set intentional targets and track them against benchmarks that help you determine if your content is driving the intended outcomes.

There’s a lot to consider when creating a content strategy. Read on to learn how to create one that delivers results.

What is a content strategy?

A content strategy is part of a broader marketing strategy and should align to specific business goals, particularly as they relate to sales and marketing. Whether you want to increase revenue or grow traffic, a content strategy can help you get there.

Your plan should provide a clear vision of whom you will reach, what aims you hope to achieve through the content you will produce and what channels you’ll publish on. However, your strategy should be flexible. Sometimes even the best-laid plans fall short, or perhaps what worked for your business in the past no longer does. Additionally, as you learn more about how your audience is reacting to your content and your business goals change, your strategy should shift and evolve as well.

The good news is that with a content strategy in place, you can adapt. Because you are accounting for different variables, you can easily identify what is and isn’t working.

Key takeaway: A content strategy is informed by your business goals; it provides a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish those aims, but it should be flexible.

Why you need a content strategy

It isn’t just big or established companies that need a content strategy; every business can benefit from one. A good content strategy provides the following benefits:

  • Gives your content a purpose. By fleshing out a strategy for your content, you gain a clear idea of what you want your content to do. Without a strategy, you risk creating content that doesn’t tie to your business goals or isn’t meaningful to your brand.
  • Simplifies content creation. Filling out a content calendar can be difficult if you’re not sure what your purpose is. But with a content strategy and keyword research, you can devise topics and schedule them on your calendar in a way that strategically suits your larger business goals.
  • Keeps you consistent. Consistent messaging across all channels helps you establish your brand’s voice. Your brand voice will heavily influence the way your audience sees your brand. For example, a law firm might want an authoritative and academic brand voice, while a fast-food brand might be a bit more casual, fun, and witty.
  • Grows your organic traffic. To grow traffic organically, you want to feed Google and other search engines high-quality content regularly. A content strategy helps you organize the keywords that your audience is searching for and then informs the creation of content around those terms. Organic traffic, or visits driven by clicks on a search engine results page, is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to boost brand visibility.
  • Builds relationships with your audience. Content can help solve your customers’ questions and problems. By creating content that takes your audience’s needs into account, you can gain their trust. If you have well-written, useful content, they are likely to have a good opinion of your business and buy your product or service.
  • Boosts your credibility. As you create strong content, you can position yourself as an expert and improve your reputation, which in turn can cause it to rank higher on search engines and gain your audience’s trust.
  • Generates leads. Content can also be used to generate leads and capture user contact information for marketing campaigns. For example, consider offering your audience some type of valuable content, like a case study or a white paper, in exchange for their email address. Once a user gives you their contact information, they receive access to the content and you can begin marketing to them on another channel.

Key takeaway: Developing a content strategy can be beneficial for your business in multiple ways, including giving your content a purpose, streamlining how you create content, growing your organic web traffic and boosting your credibility.

What is included in a content strategy?

While content strategies will vary among companies about the specific goals they want to achieve, a content strategy will include the following elements:

  • Why you’re creating content. Devising topics and attacking keywords will be much easier when you have a clear goal. For example, if you want to drive more sales, you might consider developing product reviews and best picks lists of items you keep in stock. This content can be linked to e-commerce pages and deployed on your blog, via email, and on social media.
  • Whom you are targeting. It’s impossible to create a successful content strategy without pinpointing your audience first. Consider your target consumers and how you can solve their problems. You also want to think about how you will engage them throughout the content piece.
  • Content goals. What do you hope your content will achieve? Consider concrete goals with clear key performance indicators (KPIs). For example, you may want to create a blog to increase website traffic and user engagement. A concrete goal with clear KPIs might be “Rank on page 1 for two major keywords in Q1” or “Improve average time on page by 15% by EOY.”
  • How you stand out. Think about your company and what it stands for. Focusing on what makes your business distinct from your competitors can help you build a stronger content strategy.
  • Where you will tell your story. Your plan should include the channels or platforms you will use to deliver your content. From social media platforms to email marketing and more, your content should be repurposed and optimized for distribution far and wide. Consider each channel and how your content should be framed. You should also think through how they will work together to tell a cohesive story about your business.

As you build a content strategy, you may also want to consider:

  • How will you build a content calendar?
  • How will you source ideas for your content?
  • How will you organize your content ideas?
  • How often will you publish content?
  • How will impromptu requests or trending moments work with your existing content calendar?

Key takeaway: While content strategy elements will differ among businesses, you must have a clear understanding of your brand, whom you are targeting and what you want your content to accomplish.

Types of content to consider in your strategy

There are several types of content you can incorporate into your content strategy. One isn’t necessarily better than another. Whether it works for you will depend on execution, your audience, the topic and more. Here are a few you should consider using:

  • Blog posts. Blog posts can inform your audience about your products, answer your customers’ questions or tell your audience’s story. They also help build organic traffic and can keep audiences engaged long after they are published.
  • Infographics. Informational graphics are a visual way to present complex information in an easy-to-scan image. Infographics lend themselves well to social media.
  • Case studies. Case studies help illustrate how your products or services can specifically help your customers.
  • Videos. While they are not as easy to produce as other pieces of content, videos provide a lot of opportunities. It can make your business more personable. Plus, this is an area that customers want to see more of.
  • User-generated content. By using your customers’ photos, videos or words (testimonials) to talk about their relationship with your business, you put the spotlight on them and reinforce your brand’s credibility.
  • White papers. White papers break down complicated information, research, or data, providing expert-level information to help audiences make a decision, understand a topic, or solve a problem.
  • E-books. Longer than a blog post but shorter than a novel, e-books allow you to explore a topic at length, all while giving your customers the information they need. Some companies use e-books as an incentive when they sign up for a newsletter or service. They can also be featured on your website for anyone to view.
  • Podcasts. While written content is very effective, some consumers will not have the time to read it. A podcast is a good option for those whom you want to reach but who may not engage with your written content.
  • Social media. Social media channels make it easy to connect with your audience. It also gives you a way to distribute or repurpose the content that you have created. Whether you use LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you can amplify your message.
Key takeaway: Different types of content will engage your audiences differently; no one type is better than another.

How to develop a content strategy

There is a lot that goes into developing a content strategy. Here’s where to start:

1. Set goals.

Define why you want to create content and how it will tie to your goals. Some goals may include:

  • Converting leads
  • Growing your organic traffic
  • Building customer loyalty
  • Inspiring more people to sign up for free trials

Make sure your goals are both measurable and timely. For example, “Increase organic traffic to service landing pages by 15% year over year” is a goal that is easily measured and has a clear time frame associated with it.

2. Define your audience.

Defining your audience starts with establishing a buyer persona to serve as a fictional representation of your customer. Start with your most common type of customer and consider their geographic location, their interests, their aspirations and their needs. Flesh out a full picture of how this person comes into contact with your brand and what would help usher them along your sales funnel until they make a purchase?

3. Analyze your content.

Even if you have never created a content strategy before, you have likely used content to interact with your audience. Look over what you have created. Consider content on your website, social media channels, email, text messages and more. What have you done well? What hasn’t worked? What could be improved on? Pull whatever analytics are available to you to understand what types of content have succeeded and which ones haven’t driven engagement.

4. Learn from your competitors.

Just as you analyze your content, you should analyze your competitors. Visit their websites, follow them on social media, and subscribe to their email newsletters. What do they do well? What doesn’t work? Replicate the approaches that have been successful for them, and fill in the gaps where they haven’t built a strategic advantage.

5. Think about keywords.

Analyze your own keywords with tools like SEMRush and Moz so you better understand where you rank. You can also use search engines and Google Keyword Planner to find keywords that you may have missed.

6. Brainstorm ideas and create a content calendar.

After examining keywords, your content and your competitors’ content, you should know what topics you want to target. If not, you can use a few platforms, such as BuzzSumo, Feedly or BlogAbout to inspire you. From there, you can begin to plan your content calendar.

7. Find your tools.

What content management system (CMS) will you use? Will you use a spreadsheet or something more robust to build your content calendar? When choosing tools, consider how your current systems may fall short, what features will make your life easier and how you plan to keep yourself organized.

8. Decide how you will measure results.

To gauge how effective your efforts are, you must have a way to track results and measure ROI. This may be page views, time on page, social media engagement, number of new customers, newsletter signups or more. What matters most to you will depend on your business’s goals.

9. Determine content type and cadence.

Consider your resources, and determine what kind of content you can produce and how often you can create and publish them. You can include this in your content calendar.

10. Publish and distribute content.

The last step is to get your content out in the world. After you publish your stories, you should look at what channels provide the best results for your content. You can do this by leveraging Google Analytics to review the performance of your blog and the landing pages on your website. Additionally, you can use the analytics tools on your social media page, email marketing software and the other software solutions your business uses to track key performance indicators (KPIs), such as user bounce rate, clickthrough rate, and more.

Key takeaway: To build an effective content strategy, define your goals and target audience, analyze your content and your competitors’ content, narrow down your keywords, create a content calendar, find tools that will help you manage and streamline your content production process, and measure your results.