To successfully convey the message and goals for your business, you must create a content strategy. It’s the pulse that beats at the heart of the most excellent branding initiatives, acting as the lifeblood of acquiring new business. It’s the secret ingredient in a brand’s recipe, yielding trust with clients or establishing a favorable reputation with customers.
Your content strategy is not simply about idealized aspirations, but rather a documented outline for who you want to reach out to, why you want to reach out to them, and what types of messaging can accomplish your end goals.
At its core, a content marketing strategy seeks to answer measurable goals like increasing revenue, lowering costs, conveying an actionable message, or bettering customers. Rahel Bailie, (co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the Dots Between Business, Brand, and Benefits) says it best:
“Content strategy deals with the planning aspects of managing content throughout its lifecycle, and includes aligning content to business goals, analysis, and modeling, and influences the development, production, presentation, evaluation, measurement, and sunsetting of content, including governance.”
And so, why should your business create a content marketing strategy?
According to Lyfe Marketing, 78 percent of consumers prefer getting to know a company through rich articles rather than ads, and 70 percent believe organizations that develop custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. If the content that consumers read is valuable, educational, and engaging, they will start to believe the same about your business.
Furthermore, creating a content strategy is a great way to bring in new leads, as it costs 62 percent less than regular marketing tactics and generates three times the amount of leads. For small and large businesses alike, content marketing makes sense when seeking maximization of a budget with the desired lead generation.
Even though creating a content marketing strategy makes good business sense, knowing where to start can feel a bit overwhelming.
Let’s start off slow by first focusing on what you want to get from your plan and then outlining your SMART goals.
Writing out your reasons for putting this plan together will be your cornerstone as you create you content strategy and build your plan. It will also be a great sanity check when distractions come or the work seems overwhelming.
Take some time to create a statement or a list of problems you want to address within your business, such as:
Your statement or list will be a great starting (and returning) point as you build your plan. For sample purposes, we will choose “Our sales slip every 3rd and 4th quarter” as the overarching reason for launching this new content strategy.
Once you state your purpose, it’s time to identify your S.M.A.R.T. goals, which stand for:
Specific goals use action words to state exactly what you’ll do. Measurable goals include a metric pointing toward a defined target that indicates success over time. Attainable goals must be challenging, yet realistic. Relevant goals should be tied to overall company goals and make sense within your industry. Time-based goals must provide an exact target date by which you hope to see successful results.
To begin, first write out some basic, actionable goals that could help contribute to an influx of new leads for the business, such as:
Then, follow the SMART guidelines to enhance them. For example, increase search traffic on our website could be changed to: Increase weekly search traffic on our website by 15% (from 10,000 to 11,500 unique visits per month) over the next four months (by November 15).
Give your content strategy a sense of direction by taking time to outline at least 2-3 SMART goals related to your purpose. Write them out and discuss them with your internal stakeholders to ensure that everyone agrees with both the purpose and the relevancy of the goals. You might discover that what seems relevant and attainable to you might not be the case for others on your team.
After having established both the purpose and SMART goals for your new content strategy, you’re done for the day. You now have a great foundation and roadmap for where your content generates, and how success gets measured.
So far we’ve outlined what a content strategy is, discussed why it’s so important for small businesses, and applied step one by stating our purpose and goals.
Before moving on to day 2 of how to create your content strategy, let’s briefly review the importance of a content strategy.
If done right, your content marketing strategy aligns closely with your business goals and drives intrigue from potential customers to produce interest that leads to loyal customers who trust your brand. And it has been proven to generate three times as many leads as outbound marketing, drive six times higher conversions, and result in an 8-fold boost in web traffic.
What companies tend to forget when developing a content marketing strategy is that it also allows you to get to know your customers in a profound way. By identifying successful content along the customer journey, you can create better audience segments and improve personalization. This is why we’ve chosen to focus day 2 on getting to know your audience.
It’s so easy to assume we know everything there is to know about the people we’re trying to reach. Take the popular iceberg model, for instance. When you see an iceberg, the majority of its breadth lies beneath the surface. Upon first glance, each person in your audience is like the tip of the iceberg. You might notice people of different ages, races, ethnicities, and genders, but those are only surface characteristics. It’s up to you to dive deeper and learn about their interests, their goals, their needs, what keeps them up at night, etc.
To help you prepare for this deep dive, we’ve outlined four helpful steps in getting started with developing audience segments – a critical element to creating your content strategy.
Set aside a day with your team to peek through customer records. Take note of elements like:
This is a useful exercise to identify notable patterns. You might be surprised by what you discover about your current client base.
This step can be handled in two different ways:
After connecting your website to Google Analytics, look at what the data might be trying to tell you. Focus on the audience factors, like location and common links being clicked.
The same applies for social media analytics — although these analytics are more likely to provide user interest information, which might yield more helpful insights. Look for patterns and note them down. Are there commonalities within your current clients? Are you seeing a surge in unique demographics? Talk with your team about your observations.
As you gather information about your own client base, look into who’s interacting with your competition. Is the competition reaching the same target groups? Are they reaching people you haven’t targeted yet, but should? What can you learn from their efforts that might better set you apart? Have your team dedicate a few hours to research local and national competitors to gain new perspective – a helpful indicator as you create a content strategy.
Set aside a few days to talk with varying target groups. Choose to meet with a long-term client, a short-term client, an individual whose business you’ve been unsuccessful in acquiring, or an individual who has expressed great interest and wants to learn more. Also, seek to diversify by interviewing different genders, people of different races, businesses with varying hierarchy (CEO vs. a sales rep), or individuals who know nothing whatsoever about your company.
Ask open-ended questions that will force these individuals to give you useful feedback. Keep it personal, but appropriate. Your list might include questions like:
It’s always fun to switch things up from the normal dinner date. Try getting to know your clients better by having them come and tour your office space on an individual basis or as a group. Hosting a group event might provide the right context to spark interesting conversations between your clients, allowing you to listen and learn.
Another idea might be to include them on planning discussions around new products or services. Their insight into development might reveal issues you weren’t aware of or needs that need to be addressed.
After you’ve spent some time researching and speaking with your client base, it’s time to review and list out their pain points and goals.
Have your team look over their notes from client feedback and discussion and answer the following questions:
While pain points identify issues that need to be solved, goals are positive milestones for your clients. They give them something to work toward, not against. Both perspectives are important as you create a content strategy.
Again, have your team list out client goals. While their goals might not directly relate to services/products your company has to offer, it will give you information on how to position any future content.
After your team has identified your target group’s pain points and goals, it’s time to marry them with the benefits you can provide.
Ask the question, “How can we help?” It’s important to keep your focus on the benefits you provide and not just the features your service/product offers. List out common pain points and goals on one half of a whiteboard and then list out the benefits your company provides on the other side. Match them up and note them down.
Remember, you can’t solve all their issues or goals. Stick to what your company does best.
Your last and biggest step should now be building out your different audience segments. With all your information in hand, it’s time to fill in your audience persona chart — used to drive messaging, understand customer motivations, and position your product or service in a way that resonates with your segments and drives personalized content.
The practice of filtering through your data might yield as few as 1-2 segments or as many as 20-30. As long as the data accurately supports these segments, you can build many as you see fit.
Set aside a few hours to break out your research into audience background, demographic, identifiers, goals, pain points, how you can help, and the proposed service or products. The chart below describes how each section might be populated:
Should accurately describe the type of person this is along with a memorable title.
What might their job be? Typical career path? Family life?
What is their gender? Age? Income? Location?
Should list their typical demeanor and communication preferences.
Should list common goals.
What are the primary challenges they face on a regular basis?
How will we overcome their challenges and accomplish their goals?
What are the products or services that will provide the benefits they seek?
Why wouldn’t they want to purchase this product/service?
When designing your audience segments, be careful not to just list characteristics. It’s easy to fall into the habit of listing out facts and forgetting to address aspirations and areas for improvement. You might also consider adding blocks for “communication channels used by this segment” or “common language used by this segment” so as not to use the same digital marketing tactics across the board.
Building a content strategy centered around audience segments will ensure you are accurately tailoring messaging to their specific needs and desires. By doing your research, having meaningful discussions with new and old clients, identifying their motivations, and developing strong audience segments, you can be sure to create a content strategy that will cultivate trust and set you apart as leaders that care.
We’re confident you’re already having fun dreaming about building your content strategy! So far, we’ve discussed getting to know your audience on a deeper level and how to design audience segments that drive focused content strategy.
As we prepare to move into day 3 and ramp up content management tools, let’s look back on why creating a content strategy is key to your success.
It’s known that a good content strategy will drive traffic to your website. Beyond the google search, really good, consistent strategy builds brand reputation, generates qualified leads, and develops stronger relationships with your leads and customers. Creating a content strategy ensures you have engaging, personalized information hitting the right people at the right time without sounding like a hard sales pitch. It isn’t just a one-time campaign, but rather, regular touchpoints for prospects to learn, digest and then come back for more. According to Hubspot, 47 percent of buyers will view 3-5 pieces of content before contacting a sales representative. With this in mind, it’s vital you have the right plan and tools in place to carry this out.
Now, we will explore how marketing tools often make the message. Many firms know this and dedicate entire teams to the selection and evaluation of tools in their industry. A message can start strong, but die a slow and painful death when it goes unnoticed. You could have just written a post about the cure for cancer and have it lost to the bottom of search results without having targeted it to the right audience in the right place.
When choosing the right medium, you must first carefully consider the following factors (they might look familiar):
Your audiences are going to differ when it comes to where they choose to spend their time. Some like to read blogs, and others prefer podcasts. Some spend their day scrolling through social media, while others look for scholarly articles. This is where it’s important to keep your audience segments on hand. What did you notice from your discussions with current/potential clients? Where do they go to find accurate and interesting information? One of the biggest mistakes we see businesses make is when they select a platform simply because it’s “trendy.” While trend can drive the masses, it’s not always the best indicator for where your target audiences spend their time. Meet your audiences in their most frequented spots.
What is it you’re really wanting to say to your audience? This harkens back to day 1 of how to create a content strategy when we asked you to carefully plan out your goals and purposes. The content you plan to push out should always align with your company’s main purpose and SMART goals.
This is an area to carefully consider before establishing your mediums and channels. There are fantastic tools of all types out in the market ranging in price. Just because a management system has a hefty sticker doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be your best option. Look into the features that medium can offer, what their support system looks likes, and the expected price per month/year. Remember that avenues like social media and blogging don’t cost an arm and a leg, but can yield fruitful results.
Who on your team will be responsible for the regular research, creation, management, and reporting of content? Establishing appropriate resources internally is just as important as choosing the medium for which the message will travel. It is amazing how often we see corporations develop elaborate content marketing strategies without first determining who they plan to help carry it out. Identify your planner/marketer, writer, and analyst and ensure their time allows for them to distribute content regularly.
First, what is a Content Management System? A CMS is software designed to help users create, store, manage, and publish content on a website without the need for specialized technical expertise. It’s a tool that allows you to build without needing to write code from scratch and manage users and assign permissions for better control.
A CMS can also include format management, version control, indexing, and search and retrieval. Many of the best CMS tools are free with additional costs for plugins or themes you might deem necessary. These seamless dashboards connect to other important areas — like your social media outlets, analytics, SEO and RSS feeds — for full connectivity and insight. As you create a content strategy, a CMS is something to consider.
Here’s an excellent example of what a CMS Dashboard like WordPress might look like:
Consider too the ease of use in writing new posts in WordPress below as displayed by Kinsta:
Also take a look at Kentico’s management dashboard:
Or maybe Mura:
Or perhaps Joomla:
Forrester analyst Ted Schadler, in his company’s Content Management Wave report, called content management the “Backbone of Digital Experience Delivery.” Salesforce found 75 percent of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage (e.g., website, social media, mobile, in person). Getting the right Content Management System in place will allow you to post and manage your information on one platform and give your other tools a place draw information from.
As you dive into creating a content marketing strategy, the following factors are important to think through when deciding on CMS.
Nowadays, CMS platforms are highly intuitive with high usability. While they make your job simple, it doesn’t always mean you’ll be without questions. Support should provide services like hosting, user mentoring, strategic guidance, or even web development.
Look through samples of the front and back end provided by CMS platforms. Do you like the functionality? Does information flow and communicate as it should? Is there too much scrolling? Does navigation make sense? Is it easy to type up and post blogs, podcasts, articles, etc? Make sure managers can easily leave information and pick back up where they left off so that work can run smoothly. Don’t forget to ask about what training looks like!
Even though most CMS platforms have basic HTML management capabilities, make sure the programming language make sense for the person coding in the backend. A CMS that supports multiple coding languages can be useful, as it allows your coder/manager to work with ease.
Businesses require very different apps and microservices to manage day-to-day work on the website. This demands a solution that can easily integrate with marketing automation tool, business intelligence tool, Google Analytics, and RSS to deliver personalized content. To ensure success as you create a content strategy, pick a CMS that has robust APIs and lets you easily connect with third-party tools.
Many CMS platforms have built-in analytics for you to have a basic understanding of how pages are running. That being said, some content management systems provide deeper insights than others. Ask which elements of reporting are most valuable to your team and see if the CMS supports your requirements.
This is one area where it’s valuable to take note of the vendor’s vision for their CMS platform. If you and the vendor are aligned, desirable features will be added and enhance your experience to grow your reach. If vision is not aligned, then new features will probably clutter the platform.
When engaging with businesses similar in nature to yours, pay attention to what they say about the CMS platform they use. Even though the website selling the new CMS might boast impressive return, does it match up with online reviews or word of mouth? As you create a content strategy, do your research and see what others are saying when it comes to functional use.
After having reviewed the most important factors, it’s time to select the best content management platform. Consider the following lists from BlueLeadz, Tech Radar, and Finances Online to help inform your decision and understand which platforms are best designed for your company’s needs. Don’t hesitate to request a test-run or demo period to ensure that this really is the best choice. There’s nothing you’ll hate more than getting stuck with a system for years that your team hates using.
Audience segments are absolutely key when selecting the right social media platforms. Where do you find your segments spending most of their time? For example, if you reside in the fashion industry, platforms like Pinterest are preferred as 93 percent of active pinners said they used Pinterest to plan purchases. The following list (with data from Omni Core Agency and Statista) helps to detail purpose and challenges behind some of the more popular social platforms.
As you work to create a content strategy, map out your audience segments with the best social medium and get started on setting up basic accounts. If possible, make sure your social accounts all have the same name and description so that users can easily identify your brand. Also, be sure that all social media passwords and logins are being managed in a company-appropriate location. We all know that one intern who created the company instagram page 12 years ago and no one can quite seem to remember the password. Keep logins close and secure.
Then, having determined which social media channels to use, it will be helpful to select a social media management platform.
Social media management is especially useful if your company plans to push out heavy amounts of content or manages content for clients. These tools seek to offer services that allow you to plan out and auto-post content well in advance. Some management tools include calendars and smart queues, as well as social media analytics, social inboxes, and separate client management support. Establishing social media management allows you to combine content marketing efforts with social networking to make the most of the information being pushed out, all while working to accomplish greater business goals.
Handling content posting from your content management system IS possible, but doing so manually can take a great deal of time and effort. Having a social media management platform gives you an all-access pass to keeping tabs on what’s happening with you and your client’s information.
Listed below are great tools to consider before purchasing and connecting social channels:
Last but not least connect your various platforms to Google Analytics to gain the insight you need to tailor your content strategy appropriately. This extensive tool gives details on direct traffic to your website alongside organic searches, paid searches, social media, and referrals. Not only that, Google Analytics allows users to establish conversion goals so you know which actions are getting the most traction and accomplishing the company’s purpose.
Don’t be overwhelmed. Setting up Google Analytics is fairly simple:
As you create a content strategy, consider starting with Google Tag manager to easily update and add tags to Google Analytics code without having to manually update code in the backend. This can be accomplished by setting up a Google Tag manager account here.
Then, navigate to google.com/analytics and create an account (or sign in to a preferred company Google account).
Establish your goals within Google Analytics. While you might have a decent idea of what your key performance indicators might be, Google does not know. It might be helpful to suggest discussing this step with your team as online KPI success can be tricky to determine. You want people to read blogs and articles — which means they would spend more time reading — but don’t want them lingering too long on the homepage. Decide what success means for your site and detail them within Google Analytics.
Link your website to the Google Search Console. Linking to this tool will give further insight into search metrics and data. With it, you can discover which pages link to your site, look at what keywords you rank for in search engines, see your site’s search crawl rate and see how Google analyzes your website.
Grant your team access by adding their email addresses and assigning permissions. You can choose to have one or two people reading the data, but having multiple pairs of eyes might spur greater reporting discussion as you incorporate analytics and create a content strategy.
By default, Google Analytics will provide you an overarching view of the website associated with your account. While it’s nice to view everything at a high level, you’ll want to tailor information to better understand what types of traffic is coming in and how often (i.e. what traffic is generate via social media, how much traffic is organic, etc.)
After your settings and views have all been configured, it’s time to watch and learn — the moment of truth for how your content strategy fares online. Give your campaign strategy the time it needs to provide the data you’re looking for and bring it back to your team for review. Were there surprises? Was there more/less traffic than you anticipated? Were actions generating the interest you had hoped for? Work with your team to determine if the mediums you chose were right and how you can improve for the coming months.
Choosing the right tools for content distribution and management will be key to staying on top of your content marketing strategy and will position you for success. As new markets, industries, and trends permeate the landscape, the form and function of content will evolve. Your early and active establishment of content management tools will allow you to grow with the landscape and tailor messaging quickly and clearly.
Next, as we proceed with creating a content strategy, we will shift our focus to the creation of the varying content that will be generated through these new tools.
At this point in the journey to create a content strategy, we’ve discussed choosing an appropriate content management system, selecting your social media channels and management platform, and setting up your Google Analytics.
As a reminder, a healthy content strategy is all about preparing and planning for reliable and cost-effective resources that will help generate genuine interest in your brand and drive new leads. Developing consistent, evergreen material ensures you get to experience the 7.8x lead in unique site traffic that other content generators see. You have the opportunity to blaze the trail and act as an industry voice through bold, meaningful content.
Moving to Day 4 in creating a content strategy will involve us getting our hands dirty as we audit what’s in our repertoire, decide which types of content you’ll be using, which channels that content will filter through, and then brainstorm some fresh ideas.
Running an audit of what you currently have on hand is an excellent start to understanding which content can be reused, which content is missing, and which content needs to be retired.
How old is the information? Some items like photos might not be too big of a deal when it comes to datedness, but it will matter when it comes to content like blogs. As you work to create a content strategy, make sure your team understands what kinds of content will stand the test of time (evergreen) and which needs to be thrown out.
What is the content about? Does it refer to what’s being sold, or is it more educational? Do the titles vary in nature? Come up with categories that capture what you’ve covered in your time in business. Did you see higher engagement on certain topics over others? If so, mark them down.
This area is a bit different from topic, as content can also be labeled through tone as professional, witty, feely, etc. Identify tone descriptors for your content, and apply them to each individual piece for analysis.
How long are different portions of content? Consider this for video, recordings, and written pieces. Does this affect how it’s viewed and shared by your audience? Do your followers prefer longer, more comprehensive pieces of content, or do they prefer things short and sweet?
Does the content align with your SMART business goals? Does it match with the purpose of the company? Also, does it refer to your services or products? Does it even fall within industry skill? If not, it’s probably wise to toss it. All of these are important considerations as you create a content strategy.
There are all kinds of great options out there for content you can create. Here are the most popular formats marketers are using – ones you can consider incorporating as you create a content strategy.
What are blogs? News Flash: You’re reading one. Blog posts live on websites and should be published regularly to keep up new interest. Posts should provide audience segments with valuable information, inclining them to share often.
Webinars are live, interactive, web-based videos (much like Skype). Professionals use webinars to give educational presentations related to their businesses or industry. Many hosts treat webinar presentations as lectures or seminars to educate end-users and act as a subtle tool for selling. Webinars allow for some helpful elements like display slides, video streaming, talking directly to audiences, editing and making live annotations, chatting, conducting surveys, and recording for others to re-watch.
Photography has the power to stand alone. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Imagine the impact you’ll make with professional photography as a partner to your blogs, webinars, social media, etc. Photography also supports your most basic marketing efforts like brochures, business cards, or print catalogues.
While offering highly engaging content that can be shared via social media platforms and websites alike, videos require a big time and resource investment, but are 40 times more likely to get shared than other types of content. This content is best used for how-to videos or product/service demonstrations.
Ebooks are lengthy, well-researched documents. They’re typically more in-depth, require more time and are published less frequently. Ebooks, however, are a great next step in the inbound marketing process because they allow you to offer hungry readers more information. Calls-to-action direct people to a landing page where they can submit their contact information and download an ebook/whitepaper to learn more.
Case studies highlight success stories from your happy customers and can be a great asset when creating a content strategy. These are testimonials that prove your claims and amplify individuals that trust your business. Case studies should be released regularly as interested buyers are always looking for recent experiences.
Infographics are a fun and visually appealing way to share information. It takes someone with graphic ability to design them, but can be excellent options for visual learners. It works well when you have lots of statistics or comparison that would be be laid out through imagery.
Podcasts act a lot like radio shows, but are segmented in episodes. This format allows audiences to listen and learn whenever and wherever they like. Consider hosting leaders in your industry for interviews or select relevant topics to discuss so that your audiences learn to see you as the trusted voice. They are also a popular content channel with nearly one-third of the US listening in 2018. Here at Keyhole, we have our podcast, Metaphorically Speaking, focused on addressing the elements behind marketing and learning about the people and world in which we serve.
Social media allows you to gain greater reach and post the same content in varying formats. Posting to social media is all about getting the message in front of people in small bites so that they’ll be enticed to click to learn more. As you create a content strategy, consider the powerful reach of social media.
In day 3, we explored the mediums and social channels through which this content could be shared. After auditing your current content and selecting types of content, it’s time to decide which mediums this content should filter through.
With what you have, take a look at the options above and pair up which elements will go to which channels. One column should list out your current inventory and the other column should list out the mediums you’ll use to communicate. As you create a content strategy, pair everything up and look for areas that need improvement. Maybe you have a ton of material for regular blogging but nothing for video. Or maybe you have an endless amount of service pictures, but no how-to steps. Mark the gap areas or types of content you’d like to use.
As you create a content strategy, brainstorming new ideas for your future content requires understanding, creativity, and time. Have your team exercise these steps to get started:
Content creation can often feel overwhelming and a bit daunting. By performing an audit, understanding types of content that could be used, and brainstorming fresh ideas, the content generation becomes much more manageable. Soon, you’ll make sense of all your new content and organize it into a detailed calendar – a helpful step in creating a content strategy.
Now it’s time to switch gears and focus on your content keywords and robust language.
Now that we have a fairly solid marketing plan in place for which types of content will be used, we will aim our focus on the theme of quality through our keywords and how to perform keyword research that you’ll use in your content planning.
If you’re still struggling to see the need for a content strategy, just know that quality content:
You might think you have an awesome idea that everyone wants to read about, but how do you know it’s actually good? Even if you’re right and you’ve discovered something truly worth sharing, how do you quantify its value? How do you find the right content marketing keywords?
To help answer these questions, it’s important to do effective keyword research as you create a content strategy. Keywords reflect the voices of your audience and each search is like a vote stating they want to see more content of this nature.
Keyword research is the process of analyzing search terms that people regularly enter into search engines. The insight gained with these search terms can help inform content strategy, as well as your larger marketing strategy.
How do we identify search terms that people are Googling and create marketing content designed to answer these exact queries? Using keywords that exactly match a person’s search is no longer the most important ranking factor for search engine optimization (SEO). Rather, it’s the intent or purpose behind that keyword, and whether or not content resolves the purpose.
For example, when researching keywords for “how to learn to fly,” the word “fly” can mean the insect or the actual act of flying. Does the searcher want to learn more about flies? Or do they want to know how to get their pilot’s license? If your content strategy is only targeting people interested in the latter, you’ll need to make sure you understand the keyword’s intent before choosing to focus on it.
This process is all about how people search online. While Google keeps us on our toes with all their algorithm updates, one thing has stayed pretty consistent for marketers looking to optimize their websites for search: keyword research. This will be important as you create a content strategy.
The following are practical steps for performing keyword research to support meaningful content:
To kick off the process, think about the topics you want to rank for in searches. This step is largely already taken care of when we identified company SMART goals and audience segments in days one and two of how to create a content strategy. The exercise we addressed last week in finding fresh ideas will also be a great foundation for finding the right topics.
You want to think about and write out items that are most relevant to your audience segments and their needs. Pick 5-10 buckets you’d want your company to address so we can better break out research.
Now that you have a few topic buckets, it’s time to identify keywords that fall into those buckets. These are keyword phrases you think are important to rank for in the SERPs (search engine results pages) because your target audience is probably conducting searches for those specific terms. The point of this step isn’t to come up with your final list, but rather to brain dump phrases you think potential customers might use to search for topic-related content.
As you create a content strategy, this is an excellent step to take, especially if you’re having trouble pulling terms that make sense for your topics. It helps to go to Google and take a look at the related terms that appear when you plug in a keyword in the search bar. When you type in your phrase and scroll to the bottom of their results, you’ll notice suggestions for searches related to your original input. These keywords can spark ideas for other keywords you may want to consider. Another very simple and easy way to find related search terms is also by looking up synonyms to hot topics or words your company already goes after.
Make sure your team isn’t just finding single words like “blogging” or “flying.” Shorter words like this are much trickier to rank for as you’ll often have many companies vying for the same information.
Have them write out more direct, relevant phrases that will be easier to rank for like, “Where to take flying lessons” or “Is it easy to obtain a pilot’s license?” Someone looking for something that specific is probably a much more qualified searcher of your product or service than someone looking for something generic. Someone searching for shorter terms like “flying,” on the other hand, could be searching it for reasons unrelated to your business. Check your lists to make sure you have both generic and specific to support what you need.
Just because a keyword is important to your competitor, doesn’t mean it should be important to you. Understanding what keywords your competitors attempt to rank for is a great way to help you give your list of keywords another look over.
If your competitor is ranking for certain keywords that are on your list, it makes sense to work on improving your ranking. However, don’t ignore the ones your competitors won’t address. This could be a great opportunity for you to jump on new keywords.
How do you figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for in search results? Tools like SEMrush allow you to run free reports showing you the top keywords for the domain you enter.
At this point, you have your buckets and strong keywords (both short and long in length and compared against competitors). Now, it’s time to narrow down the keywords according to trend and search volume.
You can use tools like Google Trends to search trend history and search term projections. This isn’t always a set-in-stone indicator for how your search term will do once it’s used, but it will give a decent idea of whether or not you’re headed in the right direction. You can absolutely focus some attention in areas with high search volumes, but be aware that some of these search terms will be harder to rank for in search results. As you create a content strategy, look for your opportunity niches.
The small list of tools below will also help outline how your keywords and phrases rank in the industry:
You’ve now got a list of keywords to help direct content for your business and drive higher rankings so your audience segments can find you faster. As you create your content strategy, you’ll want to be sure you re-evaluate these keywords every few months to ensure keywords are ranking as planned.
Your content marketing strategy can surpass all expectations or fail depending on the keywords you choose to target. The key is to take your time and be thorough in your research. Thankfully, you have all kinds of keyword research tools readily available to you at any time. Use them frequently and wisely to create a strong content marketing strategy that will drive genuine interest and inspire your audience to take action.
Here comes the fun part. It’s time to build out our content calendar.
As you create a content strategy, auditing your current content, determining which types of content to use moving forward, and brainstorming new content are all very important steps in preparing to build your content calendar.
Now is the time to make sense of the clutter and information that came from day 4, in order to set your business up for consistency in posting content. We’ll start by understanding what a content calendar is and how it can help you, then outline simple steps for building your content calendar, followed by the keys to calendar success.
In short, a content calendar is a shareable resource that your team uses to plan all content activity. As opposed to creating a long list of content ideas, a calendar-based format allows you to:
As you create a content strategy, note that consistency is key in developing this content calendar. Sure, you can still come up with ideas or last-minute posts, but adhoc posting is not the way to manage content for marketing or business purposes. A calendar organizes work for your team and provides peace of mind for year-round planning efforts.
Day 4 of how to create a content strategy was all about auditing old content and brainstorming the types of content to create. We asked you to remove content that didn’t relate to your SMART goals or weren’t relevant to your audience segments.
Now, take your tagged content (organized by date, topic, tone, length, and relevance) and place them on one half of a whiteboard and the publication channels you’ve chosen to use (blog, webinar, video, photography, whitepaper, case study, infographic, podcast, and social media) on the other side. You’ll need to understand what’s available to you before outlining how the content will go out.
Then, select your most appropriate topics and publication channels so you can start building them into your physical calendar.
Regular posts should function somewhat like TV programming. You want to create regular posts that viewers expect on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Programming should look and feel the same and be called the same thing.
For instance, if you are wanting to highlight one employee per month, you don’t want to highlight one through a blog post, another through video, and another through podcast. You’ll want to choose one method of programming that audiences can expect and look forward to when visiting your pages. Some programming will be “specials” or one-time events that might happen once or twice a year. Others will be quarterly, and others will act as the consistent information to keep interest up. When working through your programming model, be sure to keep in mind that certain channels can take more time and energy (i.e. videos take more time and resources than writing a blog post).
After determining your topics, publication channels, and programming model, outline a weekly, monthly and yearly publishing schedule that your team can handle. Whatever schedule you build, keep it consistent. If you’re not sure, start small with one to three posts a week.
After determining your topics, publication channels, and programming model, outline a weekly, monthly and yearly publishing schedule that your team can handle. Whatever schedule you build, keep it consistent. If you’re not sure, start small with one to three posts a week.
Within the calendar itself, or as an additional tab, have your team write out and agree on posting and tracking best practices. This should include elements like SMART goals you want to stick to, tone of voice, suitable content formats, and preferred language.
It should also list out guidelines for using the calendar and deadlines that every team member needs to follow. Dates are one thing, process is another. Your content strategy will only function as well as the practices put in place to support it. Ensure the team understands what’s expected of them and why they need to use a calendar.
Depending on how quickly your organization moves, there are several keys to content calendar success:
While not everyone should have the ability to edit the master elements, everyone should at least know where the content calendar is located and have viewing access.
A content calendar is a living, breathing document, and should change and grow as your business grows.
There are a million different methods, templates and approaches to take when developing a content calendar. Play around with the approach that works best for you and modify elements, as needed.
Don’t get frustrated with ideas that you can’t implement immediately and don’t throw away “never” ideas. Instead, create a place for content ideas to live that you can tap into.
Ultimately, an editorial calendar will help you consistently deliver relevant content to the right channels, so that you meet your SMART goals and drive interest to your audience segments. Start small and build the calendar out so you have a manageable table that keeps you on task. You’ll soon wonder how you ever lived without one.
Stay tuned as we work toward the final step of how to create a content strategy – posting your first piece of content. In the meantime, feel free to download our editorial calendar template to get you well on your way to building a fantastic content strategy.
It’s been our goal to help you identify the importance behind a content strategy and outline practical steps to make that happen. You’ve put in the time to review SMART goals, pinpoint key audiences, choose the best content mediums, do a content audit, select productive keywords, and build your calendar. We’ve asked you to take a deep dive into your business and devote a significant amount of time to have your team understand why creating a content strategy is so important to your success.
Speaking of which, let’s once more review the importance behind a strong and consistent content strategy. People have always liked to buy from businesses with whom they have relationships and whom they trust. With the growth of the internet, it’s easier than ever to deliver content and build this trust.
One survey found that 67 percent of B2B buyers base their buying decisions on content and then frequently share that content. Currently, 80 percent of B2B marketers have a content marketing strategy. However, 48 percent do not have a written plan. In most cases, this means their plan can fluctuate and stay fairly inconsistent. That’s good news for you because just by putting in the effort, you’ll be far ahead of most online marketers!
With all your preparation for an effective content strategy, it’s time to craft your first piece of content, share it, and measure the results.
When it comes time to writing or developing your first piece of content, the topic and purpose shouldn’t surprise you. You should have already established your first month’s worth of planning, identified the mediums to use, and selected what the topic should involve. Even though you might have a general idea of what should be posted, there are some principles to keep in mind:
Set aside time to write, document, or film and stick to it. Don’t let other meetings overtake the creation process. Creating content (especially good content) takes research and editing to make it really stand out.
Ensure that you are capable of creation without interruption. For instance, if you plan to post a how-to video, do you have a good camera that will capture details? Do you have how-to supplies to demonstrate? Do you have a good video editing software? Set yourself up for success be coming prepared.
You’ve spent a good amount of time outlining key audiences, don’t forget them when developing. What voice would an executive prefer over a front-line IT specialist? You have to keep correct perspective at the forefront so that information doesn’t go off the rails. Focused tone will make deliver stick and yield higher return.
Depending on the industry and audience you’re developing for, the keywords will change. On day 5 of how to create a content strategy, we walked through selecting appropriate keywords. These should have been saved, so be sure to refer to them when developing.
Whether you’re writing a blog, hosting a webinar, recording a podcast, or filming a video, all layouts should have a form specified before execution. Outlining headings and subheadings can ensure you stay on message throughout the creation of content.
Some companies spend way too much time on development and not enough time on editing and tweaking. Give yourself enough time to really run through details and find out whether or not the correct message is coming through.
Now that you have your first piece of content, it’s time to share it with your key audiences. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t start posting without a plan. Make sure it’s being shared at the right place and time.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while you craft those social shares:
On day 3 we walked through content management systems and sharing platforms that allow you to schedule sharing ahead of time. Many social media platforms get more response at certain times during the week and should be posted for greater engagement. Other times, you might have a specific release date that needs to be teed up prior to your release.
When going to share, ensure the information is going out through multiple platforms. Don’t forget to share content via email and through social or industry influencers. Another great way of keeping that content evergreen is finding ways to share later down the road. Maybe you wrote about breast cancer awareness in October of 2015 and would like to share the same principles again in October of this year. Find areas to reshare and draw attention back to relevant information.
Have you ever noticed that some posts shared on social media have an image, title, and description, while others may be missing an image or have an incomplete description? This is due to publishers not paying attention to their Open Graph settings. It’s worth searching how to adjust for your CMS if you don’t already know how.
Participate in conversation around the post when you share it. You want your audience to view you as approachable. Those people could eventually become your clients or customers, or refer business to you.
It’s useful to get traction, so try lining up people willing to share your content before you post it on social media. You can reach out to any person or company you referenced in the article and ask if they would check it out and consider sharing.
Your content is developed and shared. Now what? Being able to evaluate your content activity — from creation to distribution — is critical to understanding its success. You can use analytics to identify and address both issues and opportunities in your content strategy. What are you trying to achieve when reading impact? Typical objectives include increasing brand awareness, lead generation, customer retention or upselling.
With this in mind, below are helpful metrics to pay attention to:
As a content marketer, it’s important to remember that measuring overall impact to your business through content generation takes time. Months or even a year, in fact. When establishing your goals for the year, take time to establish conversion goals that are mindful of brands that need to be built over time. Building trust takes time in person, the same applies for building trust online.
We hope this step-by-step process of establishing a strong content strategy helps your business reap incredible results. If you get stuck along the way or still want someone to take it off your hands, we at Keyhole Marketing are here to help! Let us know how we can provide assistance in developing your content strategy.