Content marketing is a promotional method used by businesses globally. Amongst other things, it’s a key tactic for driving awareness of your brand, facilitating lead conversions, and establishing thought leadership.
But whether you’re a content marketing newbie or a seasoned pro, revisiting the ins and outs of your strategy is imperative if you want to keep ahead of your content competitors.
That’s why we’ve laid out a simple 7-step process to show you how to create an effective content marketing strategy:
According to Hubspot, almost 70% of businesses are actively investing in content marketing (in 2020). This means that retaining your authority on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and maintaining your status as an industry expert is more important than ever before.
So, let's get started!
1. Define your goals
Each piece of content that you produce should, in some way, contribute towards a goal or objective.
Your goals should be S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-bound. When you know what you want to achieve and what you’re working towards, the steps that you take to get there become far more streamlined.
If your primary goal is to increase your MQLs, then you should escalate the rate at which you publish gated content. Similarly, suppose you wish to improve your SERP ranking. In that case, you need to analyse your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts and research how to optimise your current content - think keywords, meta description, H-tags, backlinks, etc. It’s likely that your goals will often relate to your customers or prospects, so be sure to understand your leads’ lifecycle stage so that you can offer them the right content.
Defining what it is that you want your content marketing strategy to achieve, or your overall business goals and objectives, ensures that you stay on the right track when creating your content.
2. Establish your target audience
Marketers today create content for multiple audience segments. According to Hubspot, three audience segments is the most common number. You don’t produce content just to throw it out into the ether; you create content for a specific purpose and specific people. So understanding who your target audience is and what content they require is fundamental.
A great way to visualise your target audience is by conducting market research and creating buyer personas. Buyer personas are essentially a fictional representation of your company’s ideal customer -- they act as a blueprint for who you want to reach and why. When marketers create personas, they include key characteristics such as demographic information (age, job title, gender, income), potential pain points and touchpoints, challenges, behavioural motivations, etc. Then, they consider how the business can align with this ideal customer and provide solutions.
Once you know your target audience you will find it easier to develop content that yields better results, simply because it’s more relevant and valuable. Take a look at your website and social media analytics - are there any trends? How do people behave on your site or profile? It’s important to regularly conduct persona research; experienced marketers will tell you that your target audience can change, or you can decide that you want to target new groups or expand into different markets. Similarly, people themselves can change due to market shifts or societal trends - external aspects that are out of your control.
3. Identify keywords by establishing the problem your business solves
There’s no use in creating high-level content that doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re selling or the values of your business. You can develop the most innovative, insightful, educational, or entertaining content on the market, but if the audience that this content draws to your website doesn’t have any interest in your product or service, then all of your hard work will have been for nothing.
So, begin by defining your business via the product or service that you sell. This will be the basis for the primary keyword(s) and phrases that you want to target and the main theme of your content. Including the right keywords and phrases in your content will help you rank highly in SERPs, ensuring that you’re found by the right people. You need to let your target audience know how they can benefit from your business, what value you can offer them, and why they should choose you over your competitors.
Aligning your content with the problems your business solves will give you a greater perspective of how customers see your brand and will ensure that the content you create is relevant, valuable, and easily found by those seeking solutions.
4. Run a content audit
A content audit is a process wherein you analyse the content that you have created and published. The aim of this is to gain insight into the types of content that perform best.
Auditing your content not only shows you what you’re doing right, but it also identifies the areas that need improvement. With this knowledge, you can utilise the metrics that you’ve gathered to inform the creation of your future content. These types of audits also allow you to discover what needs to be updated, rewritten, or deleted altogether.
You can use content audit tools like Screaming Frog, SEMrush, or Google Analytics, to partly automate your content auditing process. They detail the most popular pages on your website, user patterns and behaviours, the amount of time spent on your site, and even information on how you can improve the likes of SEO.
Content audits are a useful resource for designing and planning content, improving your SEO and website traffic, and they act as a roadmap for marketers’ future creations.
5. Determine which content types you will use
Once you’ve defined your goals, established your target audience, identified your keywords, and completed an audit, it’s time to determine the types of content that you will create. Content has the power to make or break your brand positioning. That’s why it’s so important for you to plan, create, and execute your content marketing strategy as meticulously as possible.
Some pieces of content act as a staple for businesses - blogs, for example, are created and published by brands both big and small. But there are so many different avenues available, and each serves its own purpose. Here are a few of the most common and most effective forms of content marketing:
- Blogs: blogs are informational journal-style pieces of digital content that can help to develop an online presence, engage with audiences, attract leads, and significantly improve SEO.
- Guides: digital guides are like ebooks - only, they tend to come in PDF form and don’t have a physical counterpart. Often in-depth and on-brand, guides go into more detail than the likes of blogs and are often gated so they can be an excellent tool for lead generation. Guides are where you get to demonstrate your thought leadership and share your extensive knowledge on a topic.
- Videos: Hubspot reports that 54% of audiences want to see more video content from the brands they support. One of the great things about video content is that it’s so versatile - you can create animated videos, explainer videos, interviews, how-to videos, short snack videos or extended guidelines, etc. The options are endless. Video content is highly engaging as many people learn visually, so putting your powerful message in an entertaining, visual format is highly effective.
- Infographics: infographics are a fun and easily-digestible way of getting information across to your audience. As far as content marketing goes, infographics are relatively low-cost, easily created, and eye-catching - every marketer’s dream. Whilst infographics are harder to rank highly for SEO than, say, a long blog piece, due to their lack of keywords, they’re perfect for sharing new and interesting facts, stats, lists, and processes.
- Podcasts: Podcasts are audio files that can be accessed online, generally via an app or website. They tend to be episodes that are part of a series and can be voiced by several people in the style of an interview or an engaging discussion, or simply by a single person recanting a story or offering information. (Like this…)
The popularity of podcasts has increased significantly over the past few years. Around 24% of the US population (68 million) listen to podcasts weekly. Podcasting can be a cheap and easy piece of content for marketers to create if done right. Not only is it simple for marketers, but it’s also efficient for audiences to consume, too.
- Case studies: case studies are super important when it comes to leads learning more about your business, product, or service via the people who know best; your customers. They’re real, authentic testimonials that work as ‘word of mouth’ marketing and demonstrate the value that you can potentially offer.
- Pillar pages: pillar pages have come about as a result of the rapid rate at which search engine algorithms change - if this is a new concept for you, just bear with me because they’re worth understanding! So, pillar pages are essentially large pieces of content that cover an entire topic. Within them, you will find other, smaller, more focused pieces such as blogs, infographics, videos, etc., which (altogether) are known as a ‘topic cluster’; a cluster of different pieces of content whose focus is on narrowed down branches of the same topic.
For example, we’ve created a pillar page on market segmentation. This is a thought leadership piece (as segmentation is kind of our thing) and covers every topic you might hope to find within the category of ‘market segmentation’. So, the primary topic is ‘Market Segmentation’, and within this extensive piece, there are relevant blogs, infographics, guides, videos, etc., which delve into subtopics or related topics of market segmentation, such as market segmentation analytics, geographic segmentation, a beginner’s guide to segmentation, market targeting, etc.
This diagram visualises what a topic cluster is: pillar page content at the centre, surrounded by smaller, cluster content, such as blogs, with links between these pieces (plus links between the smaller content which contain high-quality links to 3rd party sites - these are not necessary but they will help you to gain more authority on SERPS):
It may look a little complicated from the outset, but take a deeper look and you can see that all you need is an extensive piece of content that contains other, smaller pieces connected via a hyperlink.
Pillar pages are super useful for brands and marketers because they build topic authority, striking a balance between thought leadership and search-focused content. That is, providing the content that you write (and that which is linked within the pillar page) is valuable, well-written, digestible, contextual, and has the right hyperlinks in the right place. Remember, not all links are created equally, so you need to fill your content with those that are high-quality and authoritative.
Of course, there are many more forms of content that you can delve into - just make sure you research what is best for your company, audience, and industry.
6. Create a content calendar & publish
For your content marketing to be successful, you need to know what you want to publish, when, and via which platform - how you organise your content is key. Content or editorial calendars act as visual workflows that help content marketers schedule work whether that’s on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Content calendars can come in many forms; you can use a printed calendar, a spreadsheet, something like Google calendar, an app like Monday.com, or a specific, all-encompassing tool such as CoSchedule. They enable you to track the types of content you wish to create, your titles, authors, and dates/times that you aim to publish - no one loves a deadline, but we all know that they’re a surefire way to keep us on the right track.
Some brands also include social media content calendars to give them direction with specific regard to publishing on their social media channels.
At the end of the day, all content calendars serve the same purpose; to plan, organise, and schedule content and marketing campaigns as efficiently as possible.
7. Measure results
Analysing your content performance is the best way to understand what type of content is connecting with your audience, which will inform your subsequent and future pieces.
By utilising tools such as Google Analytics, your social media analytics, and the analytics offered by your marketing platform or CRM software (if you use these), you can gain deep insights into the actions, motivations, pain points, and touchpoints of your audience. This data will offer you clear signals about what attracts your audience’s interest the most, making it easier for you to come up with new and intriguing content.
Content metrics typically fall into these four categories:
You can also incorporate other tools for analysis, like Moz, which analyses your domain authority, or Mention, a tool that offers real-time alerts whenever your company’s keywords are mentioned on the web.
Regularly measuring the results of your content and analysing your audience data will help you to successfully design content that’s creative, valuable, and engaging for your customers and prospects.
The benefits of utilising content in your marketing strategy range from drawing new prospects and retaining current customers, to converting leads, improving SEO, and amplifying the credibility of your brand -- these are just a few of the many reasons why content marketing is such an essential tool for many businesses globally.
Whilst user preferences can fluctuate rapidly, the core principles remain the same - if you create content that’s interesting, valuable, educational, entertaining, trustworthy, and correctly targeted, you will achieve your content marketing goals. So follow these 7 simple steps and let us know how you get on!
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