Written by Kristi Hines –

When it comes to content marketing, everything you do needs to be part of a larger strategy designed to achieve specific targets.

More sales, more leads, more page views – whatever it is, you need a clear, well-thought-out, and defined plan. You need a content strategy.

Here’s a look at what that needs to include.

What Is A Content Strategy?

As you probably guessed, a content strategy is a specific set of tactics used in the development and management of content.

It uses various forms of media, including blogs, videos, podcasts, and/or social media posts to achieve specific business ends.

It’s not the same thing as content marketing, but it is your content marketing master plan.

What Are The Anatomical Elements Of A Content Strategy?

Like a marketing octopus, there are eight important appendages to a good marketing strategy.

Let’s run through them in the order you should create them.

1. Goals

A successful content marketing plan always begins with clearly stated goals. This is a stage many people skip, to their own detriment.

Different types of marketing tactics work to achieve different goals, most of which probably corresponds with a step in your sales funnel.

Some of the more common goals are building brand awareness, increasing traffic, growing an email list, generating new leads, converting new customers, improving customer retention, and upselling.

The goal you decide on will determine the type of content and channel for each marketing tactic.

It’s perfectly acceptable to have multiple goals; however, understand that not all content will work for every objective.

Remember, a jack of all trades is a master of none. It’s better to have more specialized content.

 2. Research

Every tactic in your content strategy should be backed by research to justify it. And putting in the work here will save you lots of headaches down the road.

Start by looking into your target audience. What are their demographics? What are their pain points? How can you help?

There are a number of ways to find this information, including mining digital data, sending out surveys, and interviewing customers.

Next, apply this knowledge to your current content and identify where it hits the mark, where it could be stronger, and where it missed completely.

Do keyword research, and identify which phrases you’re ranking highly for and which need work. Be sure to note search intent, volume, and relevancy.

Investigate what your competition is doing. What seems to be working?

For digital marketing purposes, identify which keywords they’re ranking for, who is linking to them, and their social media presence.

3. Targeted Topics

By this point, you should have begun compiling a list of potential ideas and messages you want to share.

Identify which topics are most important to each piece of your strategy and how your new content will help achieve your goal.

To evaluate a topic, determine how it will fit with your organizational goals.

For example, if you’re a camping supplies company seeking to educate consumers about your brand, a blog post on the Top 5 Campfire-Building Mistakes, could draw in curious web searchers.

This will give them familiarity with your brand, though it’s unlikely to sell many sleeping bags. For that, a banner ad with a discount code may be more useful.

Try to approach every topic from new angles.

If you can find a new way of framing things, you’ll stand out in a marketplace crowded with retreads of the same idea. Get as specific as you can without limiting your creativity.

4. Editorial Calendar

Now, it’s time to identify when you should publish each piece of content.

Some things have clearly defined seasons. For example, no one is buying a Christmas tree in June, but it’s a huge market in December. Others are more loosely defined (e.g., people need new cars year-round).

Figure out the best time to drop each piece of content, as well as a cadence for how often you’ll release new content. This will vary based on your audience and platform, so there are no hard and fast rules.

Be aware that regularly producing and publishing content takes a lot of work. If you don’t have a content calendar to keep everything on track, it’s easy to fall behind.

You should always be working a few months ahead, so you have things in the pipeline ready to go. This gives you more flexibility in case a new opportunity or emergency pops up, as well as minimizes the stress of content creation.

5. Editorial Guidelines

What does your company sound like? Is it professional? Welcoming? Knowledgeable? Funny? Figure out the voice of your organization.

Write down a document explaining it, and distribute it among your content creators, whether they’re in-house or freelancers. This will create a sense of consistency across all pieces of content and all channels.

In this same document, you should outline formatting requirements, including punctuation, heading styles, and style (e.g., AP style). If you’re including visual aspects, make sure you clearly define brand colors, fonts, and logo usage.

Even if they have completely different objectives and distribution, every piece should have a clear relationship with the next.

6. Distribution Channels

You’ve got your content goals, topics and calendar laid out; now, it’s time to decide where you’ll use it.

Identify the platforms you’ll use to tell your story and your processes and objectives for each one.

Where the content will live will often have an impact on its format and cadence, but your goal is to present a consistent brand narrative across all channels.

By outlining your distribution channels, you’re identifying the best platform for each piece of content.

Look for opportunities to cross-post. There’s no reason you can’t share the infographic from your blog on Instagram. That gives you twice the exposure with the same amount of work.

7. Analytics

Just because you have the content created and distributed doesn’t mean you can sit on your laurels.

Now, it’s time to evaluate it and see what’s working, and just as importantly, what’s not. It’s time to dive into the analytics.

You’re not just looking at the numbers of shares, clicks, or purchases through your website; you’re looking for the “why?” You’re trying to understand what made content succeed as other pieces failed.

Did it work well on one channel, but fail on another? Why did that happen? Is it a different audience or just a lack of exposure?

Google Analytics can be extremely helpful during this step.

8. Key Performance Indicators

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous step; while analyzing content performance, you should find key performance indicators (KPIs) to back it up.

Again, what you measure will depend on the goal.

Some KPIs you might consider are organic web traffic, sales opportunities generated, keyword ranking changes, social shares and engagement, inbound links, and cost-per-lead.

Plan To Succeed

It has been said that even a bad plan is better than no plan at all, so imagine the great results you’ll generate with your strong new content strategy.

Creating this strategy requires some work, but even the simplest organizations, with the smallest marketing budgets, will benefit from using one. And it’s an absolute must for marketing departments with any type of complexity.

Follow the steps listed here, and you’ll create a well-thought-out content strategy that will help you reach your goals.

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Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock





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