Content strategy and why it matters.
We are currently experiencing a marketing era where content (alone) is no longer king. Content combined with the right content strategy has taken over the throne. Content would be king if we didn’t have the internet and there weren’t millions of new blog posts, articles, and infographics coming out every day.
I always think of Gary Vaynerchuk when he talks about doing email campaigns before the explosion of digital marketing and having a 80% open rate. Now, you’re considered incredibly successful to even get a 20% open rate.
What this means is – you can no longer just put out content for the sake of putting out content. You can’t just make a blog post, hit publish, and expect leads to start flowing in.
A content strategy is so important because it allows you as the advertiser to have a framework for what you’re putting out. More importantly – why you’re putting it out and who it’s intended to be consumed by.
So…where do I start?
Everybody knows that content marketing matters – but some don’t know the first thing about where to begin. I had to figure out content marketing for myself through trial and error, which is why (in my opinion) I got pretty good at it. To drive traffic to my blog and get leads for my freelance digital marketing business, I had to find out how to use content strategically.
The main thing I found is the fact that content strategy starts with the person reading it, not the person writing it.
At first, I was putting out content that I thought was great. I would write a whole blog post and be like yes, this is the one! But then it got 8 views.
For me, this was a wake up call and it helped me fix my content strategy. Talk less about yourself and more about your audience and their needs.
Use the below 10 steps as a guideline to crafting a content strategy for your own business…
1. Define your content marketing goal.
What are you trying to do with your content marketing? It’s important to ask yourself this question because there are so many different scenarios to use it. A few examples below.
- Leads and sales
- Brand awareness or education
- Growing your social community
- Entertainment and wanting to go viral
- Website Traffic
- Upselling existing customers
You want to figure this out in advance because it will frame everything that you do.
For instance, you would create different content if it was meant to entertain or build awareness. You might make some compelling video content with a story. Or even an infographic or interesting looking still image to post on social.
To drive leads, you might be better off with a detailed case study or testimonials. For website traffic, it might be more important to share blog articles or things that link back to your website. Or even writing guest posts on big publications that link back to your website.
2. Figure out who needs to be reading your content.
To have a great content strategy, you want to build it from the audience’s perspective.
Step one in that process is defining who exactly your audience is. Who NEEDS to see your content? Start writing down a list of people and narrowing it down until you have a persona or “perfect target” in mind.
Me personally – I am going after owners and CEOs of small to medium sized companies, as well as executive or director level marketing professionals who may want to outsource something to me. What about you?
- CEOs of small businesses?
- People trying to learn how to grow their blogs?
- Restaurant owners who are looking for local marketing tips?
- Law firms who want to break into social media advertising?
- People who need help with their finances?
- People who need help with Excel?
Consider exactly who you want to reach because everything you create from a content perspective will come back to them.
You’ll look back after you create a piece of content and say, how does this provide value for people needing help with their finances, or how would I react to this piece of content if I were a small law firm looking to grow?
3. Think about where your audience spends time.
Depending on who you want to reach, you need to figure out where your audience is.
What communities or platforms are they consistently on? Where are they spending their time? Where is their attention?
I personally use LinkedIn and Twitter a ton. On both platforms, I post my new blog articles because I am connected to a solid number of business executives and other marketers. I have gotten new freelance digital marketing projects literally just from posting blog articles.
I am also connected to a good number of attorneys which is why I posted this article on LinkedIn. You never know who is going to stumble upon your content, share it with somebody else, or even directly reach out to you after.
I still spend some time on Facebook and Instagram as well just because I believe in being “present” on all major platforms, but I focus the bulk of my website traffic and lead generation efforts on LinkedIn and Twitter because that’s where my audience is spending the most time.
It’s the same thing as anything in life where you need to be in the right places. If you’re looking for advice on how to get fit, are you going to go to McDonalds and talk to people in line? If you’re looking for a place to pick…apples (so random), are you going to go to the beach in Miami? It’s the same reason I don’t DM company executives and ask them to hit me up on Snapchat.
You have to “hang out” where your audience is.
4. Find out what types of content they pay attention to.
This is where some trial and error might come into play for some businesses. You might not know right off the bat if your audience would rather have a fun video or a long-form blog post.
However, think about it from their perspective and tie it back to your goal.
You’re putting together an online (paid) course that CEOs can take and learn about Facebook Ads for their small businesses. Before putting it out, your content marketing goal is to create brand awareness and website traffic because this is your very first course, so nobody really knows about you. You just want to simply build awareness and make people learn more about you before you launch.
- Create a short teaser video about the course and promote it on social.
- Make an infographic about Facebook Ads & Small Business and promote it on social.
- Write blog posts that talk about the nitty gritty details of small businesses and Facebook Ads.
- Host a free webinar that is a preview of the full course.
- Start a podcast where you interview local CEOs about digital marketing and you post one new episode per week.
See what I mean?
Tie it back to your goal of brand awareness and website traffic and think of what tactics, platforms, and mediums you can use to achieve those goals. All within the context of your target audience – small business owners.
5. Create content that completely hits the core of their needs.
This is the important part – the creation.
The first step you’ll need to take here is deciding if you’re going to do it yourself or outsource. Depending on the content strategy you’ve decided on, you might need to hire a content marketer, hire a blog writer, find somebody who can help you make videos or infographics, or even produce a podcast.
Before and during content creation, keep in mind the core need of the person consuming it.
Considerations to make sure your content is compelling:
- Make sure the content is clear and has a very obvious point to it.
- Consider the emotions you want your audience to react with.
- Make it easy to consume (good for mobile, too).
- Think about different levels of experience and the different types of people who might read it.
- Make it human. Make it feel like they can comfortably reach out.
- Be original. Don’t steal things from other websites or companies.
- Educate the audience. Always be the expert on your topic.
6. Assemble the right technology and tools.
Content marketing takes time and a lot of organization. Fortunately, many tools exist to help content marketers.
For instance, I use Buffer as my “content calendar” tool. I use it to schedule some of my social posts so that I don’t have to remember throughout the week. It saves me time and allows me to be strategic and outline an entire month’s worth of content. You can also choose specific times, post on multiple social accounts at once, and much more.
Another thing that helps me is Canva, which makes it incredibly easy to design beautiful, professional images for social media and other marketing channels. You don’t even need to be a professional graphic designer to make things look great because despite being robust, it’s a fairly easy-to-use platform.
Some other content marketing tools include:
- Google’s Keyword Planner tool – decide which keywords to focus on by assessing their search volume and competition.
- ManageFlitter – a great tool to help grow your Twitter audience by finding relevant accounts to follow.
- Quora – see what questions people are asking frequently to help decide what to talk about.
- MailChimp – one of the best tools out there for creating email marketing campaigns.
- Visme – one of the most helpful tools on the market for making infographics, presentations, and social content.
- BuzzSumo – for researching popular content and seeing what gets shared.
- Google Analytics – for tracking the website activity after somebody arrives on a piece of content.
- Yoast – a great SEO plugin for websites to make sure their content is search engine friendly.
7. Promote the content through social media and digital marketing.
The work is far from over once you hit “Publish” or “Post” on a piece of content. Now, you have to focus on some ways you can get the content seen. Unless you are already well-established and have a huge following, your content will probably only be seen by a limited number of people in your target audience. You need to put some serious time behind promotion.
I personally spend about 30% of my time creating new content for my blog, and about 70% optimizing and promoting existing content.
For all of the quote images and #DidYouKnow facts on my Instagram account, I will dedicate time to crank a bunch of those out at once, then use Buffer to schedule them to go out at specific times. That way, I can focus the majority of my time on promotion.
Here are a few things I’ve used to promote my content:
- LinkedIn – regular posts, LinkedIn articles, and posting within groups.
- Twitter – regular posts (I don’t use paid ads on Twitter).
- Facebook – page posts and paid ads targeted to relevant audiences.
- Email – weekly campaigns using MailChimp.
- Instagram – link to website in my bio, IG stories, images that preview other content.
- “Warm” outreach – Reaching out to businesses and people that I mention in the article.
- External links – links back to my blog when I write guest posts or articles for big sites.
- Native ads – paid content that looks like a normal article on another site.
- Pinterest – making catchy images that link to blog posts. I’ve also tried promoted pins.
- Google Plus – they drive minimal traffic for me but still, you never know until you try.
- Email signature – I’ve tested putting links to recent blog posts in my email signature.
- Medium.com – I’ve submitted and gotten posts published on Medium to expand my reach.
- Reddit – posting in small communities of like-minded individuals.
But those are some of the ones I’ve tested, and most of them I still use. These promotion tactics have helped me grow my blog traffic by over 4,000%. LinkedIn, Twitter, paid Facebook ads, warm outreach, and external links are definitely my top choices here.
8. Reach out to influencers, websites, and other blogs in similar areas.
This is a huge one. It’s a mix of influencer marketing and great SEO strategy.
Reaching out to influencers in your space is a great way to get exposure. Sometimes, in my experience, these people are too busy to be making their own content, so they are happy to share some content similar to what they already produce. It’s very little work for them.
They are also sometimes open to guest blog posts, like this one I did. That post was seen by thousands of people because of Adel’s following, and it linked back to my website several times.
As I mentioned above, another thing I do is mention tools and businesses in my blog posts, then let them know and ask them to share it (after explaining why it would be valuable to their audience).
Here’s an example of that. I mentioned Canva in a massive article I wrote about marketing skills, then emailed them and asked them to share it. Here’s what happened.
As for SEO, getting links to your website from other sources helps your search engine presence in an unbelievable way. I now rank for terms like marketing skills, marketing resume, content marketing tampa, social media management tampa, and more.
I’ve also started making connections with Inc. Magazine and other large publications, and I now get some of my content syndicated. Here is an example of a post I did for Inc that contains several links throughout it, some of them back to my own website.
It also contains links to other companies and individuals – who I reached out to and let them know about the mention, which was greatly appreciated because that helps their SEO too. Great way to provide value and start a relationship.
I also wrote a guest post for Ryan Robinson’s blog, an influencer in the content marketing space, then successfully got that post syndicated to Inc. Magazine which drove thousands of new users back to his website. Over 3,000 in the first week alone. Click the image below to check that post out too.
9. Optimize the content for search engines.
As I mentioned above briefly, it helps to get links from other sources. However, it takes some work within the post as well.
Here is my three-step process for optimizing my content for search engines.
- Research keywords using the Google Keyword Planner tool. Before writing a new blog post, I always search for things like “content marketing” or “Facebook ads” or “PPC management” (since those are my core offerings) then find variations of high-volume keywords that have LOW competition. What this means is – you have an easier time ranking for these terms. It’s going to be much harder to rank for something like “Content Marketing” because the competition will be listed as High, meaning hundreds of millions of other websites out there have been posting about that same exact phrase. However, something else, like “content strategy” might have low competition because it’s less common to search for “content strategy”.
- Use the Yoast SEO plugin during the writing my new post. I always make sure I use Yoast to make sure my focus keyword is whatever keyword I decide on. Then, I make sure to put that keyword in the title of the article, in the URL of the article, and in the search-engine friendly snippet.
- Optimize it for mobile. One of the factors that goes into search engine ranking is the anticipated user experience when they land on the page. Since over 80% of my website traffic is mobile, I make sure that somebody reading my article on a mobile device is having a good experience that makes sense for their phone.
The key here is just doing your initial research and having a strategic reason for focusing on certain keywords.
You can see how there is an art and a science to content marketing. The “art” portion is making sure you’re creating the best possible content for your audience, and the “science” is making sure the algorithms are going to treat you favorably.
10. Measure, learn, do even better next time.
Before embarking on the content marketing journey, it’s crucial to have the proper tracking and measurement in place. The last thing you want is to make an entire content strategy then realize you have no clue how to track the ROI. That is going to depend on the goal you set in step #1 of this blog post.
Here are a few thought-starters, but remember it entirely depends on your content strategy and goals.
- Website metrics (time on site, bounce rate, pages viewed)
- Social engagement (shares, comments, likes, video views)
- Revenue generated
- Number of leads generated
- Email open rates and click-throughs
- Reach and unique reach
Make sure you are using Google Analytics to track website activity. Use the metrics available in every single platform, whether it be Facebook, LinkedIn, or MailChimp. Even Buffer has analytics data, showing which posts did the best out of the ones you scheduled.
The bottom line here is – you need to take a data-driven approach to your content marketing.
Without numbers, it’s hard to tell exactly what worked well and what didn’t. It can be easy to be “attached” to a piece of content you personally liked and thought would do well – but look at the numbers. If it didn’t do well, ditch it. Don’t do it again.
I hope these 10 steps helped you understand how to form a complete, strategic content strategy that will work for your business. Be sure to bookmark this post, so that when you’re writing future content, you can reference it and stay on track. Feel free to engage as well. Drop something in the comments if anything was unclear or you need additional help.
If you’re a small or medium sized business and you’re interested in talking about a freelance content marketing partnership, feel free to reach out. I would love to see what your content marketing goals are, and how I can help you reach them.