Building a comprehensive content strategy helps solidify your authority versus your competition. When executed correctly, a well-designed content strategy can be a dependable source of organic traffic.
Organic traffic becomes a catalyst for audience development, and in time, helps you make money from your blog.
Content strategy as you figure out how to start a blog is not one-size-fits-all. A company’s content strategy has to match its maturity level for efforts to drive a healthy return.
Let’s take a closer look at how to build a strong content strategy.
Table of Contents
What is Content Strategy?
Content strategy is the practice of actively managing any of the media products that you create, whether written, video, audio, or anything else. It’s a vital part of your marketing mix showing the world:
- Who you are
- What you do, and
- How you can help readers reach their goals or solve a problem
Developing a strong content strategy requires you to consider the content, but also who will be reading, viewing, and listening to it.
Building content without first knowing your audience can be a total waste of time.
So, first, you answer: Who?
Then you answer: Why?
A deep understanding of your target reader is essential to create impactful content.
Developing a reader persona is a great way to focus your work. You can think about the person sitting across the table and visualize them as you write. This sounds a little strange, but if you don’t understand your reader, your writing can miss the mark.
Knowing why you’re creating content for your target audience is the other half of the battle.
How to Conduct an Audience Analysis
Conducting audience analysis is Step 1 in persona development.
Audience analysis has three parts:
- Demographics of your audience
- Psychographics of your audience
- How your audience behaves
Let’s take a quick look at each.
Audience demographics are unique characteristics that make your readers who they are.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual Orientation
- Occupation, and
- Education level
When you know some of these characteristics, it’s easy to “paint a picture” of your ideal reader.
Demographics relate to specific, individual characteristics.
Psychographics is the study of how your readers’ psychological makeup affects how they make decisions.
Audience psychographics includes, but are not limited to:
- Interests, and
- Lifestyle choices
When you know what matters to your reader, the puzzle’s final piece is understanding their behavior.
The irony of audience behavior is this:
Your readers may not interact with your content in the way demographics and psychographics suggest they “should.”
Therefore, it’s essential to evaluate how your content is resonating.
If alignment is off, you may need to tweak things to improve.
There are three “lenses” that describe how audiences behave:
- Lifestage – where your audience is in their life shapes their habits
- Media use – how and where your audience consumes content
- Identity – how your audience consumes content is a direct reflection of how they see themselves
People in the Baby Boomer generation, for example, consume content differently than people in Gen Z. They may also do so in different places or at different times. These habits shape their self-identity as a reader, a music lover, a film buff, or in many other ways.
Your persona becomes clear when you understand how these elements fit together.
With a persona, you have the who. Now you need uncover the why.
What are the Business Goals Driving Your Content Creation?
Content creation without business goals isn’t a content strategy.
It’s just content. What are the business goals that drive your content strategy?
A clear outline of these is essential. These goals inform the tone, voice, and promotion of content at each stage of your company’s maturity.
Content creation goals align with these funnel stages:
These stages make up the AIDA content model.
For some companies, content focuses on awareness.
Your readers have no idea who your company is or what it does.
The content you create is to build awareness and help people understand what your company stands for and the services or products you offer. Sometimes people know about your company, but you need to turn awareness into action.
Other times, content is a priority, but there is a misalignment of content direction and business goals.
Each scenario requires a different strategic approach.
First, let’s take a look at the elements of a content marketing strategy.
What Is a Content Marketing Strategy?
A content marketing strategy outlines promotional tactics you use to bring awareness to content once published.
For a content marketing strategy to be impactful, it must be naturally tied to your content strategy and be 100% focused on working toward business goals.
Here are the four content marketing strategy categories:
- Brand positioning
- Unique value proposition
- Business case, and
- Strategic plan
Let’s dig into each of these some.
This one’s straightforward. Your brand positioning is how you would like readers to see your brand. It’s also the market in which you would like to compete.
With insights from audience analysis, it’s easier to know who your potential customers are and what they want. When you combine these insights with knowledge of the competition, the right niche becomes obvious.
When you do competitive analysis, it’s easy to see how your brand is different from your competition.
This difference is your unique value proposition (UVP.)
Content Strategy – The Unique Value Proposition
Your UVP is the unique value you provide your audience and potential customers through the content you create. It’s the “special sauce” that makes you stand out from the crowd and your competition, and the reason you build a loyal following.
Part of developing your UVP is finding content gaps. When you understand your competition’s content you can create content to fill the gaps.
When you fill a gap, your audience size and engagement levels grow naturally. You’re providing a unique angle that your competition hasn’t considered.
Creativity is essential for impactful content marketing.
When you have a clear UVP, it’s easy to build a business case describing how content will have an impact.
Content Plan – Business Case
Your business case should include the reasons why content marketing is an integral piece of content strategy.
Content marketing helps your content:
- Have a better chance of earning organic traffic from the search position
- Generate leads by turning awareness into action
- Drive a good return on investment at a reasonable cost
There are many studies and statistics out there to back these claims.
Your business case outlines the numbers that matter.
All of these elements help develop your content marketing strategic plan.
Content Marketing Strategic Plan
Your content marketing strategic plan outlines the goals for your content and how you will reach these goals.
The strategic plan is the nuts and bolts of your content strategy. It describes the content you will create. Also, how you will promote this content, and what readers will get from your content.
Your audience will earn benefit from your content when it’s framed and promoted correctly, and helps them solve a problem or heal a pain point.
There are several types of content to create and channels where it can be promoted.
A well-built content marketing strategy includes repurposing written content.
Here’s how to repurpose content for maximum return:
- Turn blog posts into videos. Repurpose blog posts into a video outlining the blog’s points. If it’s long-form the video should be also. Short videos for social media are a great way to repurpose blog content.
- Turn blog posts into podcasts. Audio content is emerging as a fantastic alternative to written content. Turning blogs into podcasts can reach an audience that would rather listen to what you have to say.
- Better yet, host a webinar. Host a webinar on key topics. Give away information freely, only asking for an email address in return. You can market content, products, and services to your fans later.
- Use significant points for infographics. Infographics are great for several reasons. These can be used on social media, to break up long articles, and as focus pieces for outreach campaigns.
- Create a slide deck to share on social media. Slide decks are a fun way to repurpose your blog’s points for a highly engaging social media post. These can be effective on Instagram, and LinkedIn, where your followers are there to learn.
- Refresh your older blog posts. Repurposing isn’t always for new content. Take time to refresh old blog posts by adding keywords, updating information, or making grammatical tweaks.
The more creative you are, the more options are available. Eventually, organic traffic will drive leads.
However, before you dig into execution, it’s worthwhile to build a content calendar.
The first step is to think about your existing content.
How can it be shared with your audience and repurposed?
And what’s the right cadence to share new content?
Make sure to add entries on your calendar each week for sharing repurposed content and promoting your latest blog posts and other pieces.
There are several ways to go with a content calendar. Some people prefer the pen and paper route to write down their goals and hold themselves accountable.
Others prefer online tools and calendars. There is an unlimited number of these to consider.
I recommend tools like CoSchedule as a way to bring your content calendars into alignment. It’s very powerful if you have a growing team and volume is getting tough to handle.
It could also be a project management tool like Trello or Asana where you drag and drop cards from one column to the next as you work on a project. Trello is perfect if you’re a visual learner and doer. Plus, it’s free.
No matter if you go old-school or new-school, a content calendar is vital.
Once you’ve built it, it’s time to focus on content channels and promotion.
Content Distribution Channels
Content distribution channels are where you share your content with the world.
There are two types of content distribution channels: organic and paid.
Organic Content Distribution Channels
Organic content distribution channels are those that drive traffic to your content for free.
- Your social media channels
- Your email list
- A mobile app (if you’ve developed one)
These types are “owned organic” because you own the channels and have full control over content you share.
When another website links to your content or shares it for free, this is “earned organic.”
Paid Content Distribution Channels
Paid content distribution channels require spending money.
- Social media advertising (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Quora etc.)
- Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising (Google and Bing Ads, primarily)
- Influencer marketplaces and networks
Social media advertising is effective if you can pinpoint your target audience and deliver content leading to clicks. It can also be very expensive as you identify audiences and test.
The same is true for Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising.
If you have some money, though, it’s an effective way to bring interested buyers to your website.
Influencer marketing relationships can be lucrative but come at high risk.
Using influencers makes sense if you sell a lifestyle product. Having just one influencer pitch your product can open the doors to unexpected new audiences. However, this method comes at a high cost and there’s a substantial risk of under-delivery. Go down this path at your own risk.
As you’re getting started in the content world the focus should be on organic content distribution channels. Then, once you begin to make money from the traffic coming to your site, start experimenting with paid channels.
These shifts happen. You’ll get in a groove that works for you and the balance will seem natural.
Once you have established your content calendar and content distribution channels, the next step is to pin down how to measure everything you’re doing.
These measurements are called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
KPIs are different for everyone, but there are a few marketers should track.
Content Strategy KPIs
You can’t measure every content marketing activity. Therefore, it’s best to keep it simple and measure what matters most.
Some content marketing KPIs are quantitative (driven by hard numbers) while others are qualitative (not driven by hard numbers).
Quantitative Content Marketing KPIs
Quantitative KPIs are a straigh-forward measure of how content is performing:
- Visits to your website. This KPI includes single visits and return visitors. If your return visitor percentage is greater than your single visit percentage, you’re on the right track. Your content is building strong engagement and reader loyalty.
- Time on site. This KPI is one of my favorites. Our attention spans are short. If you’re keeping someone on your blog for a minute or more, you’re doing well (I know, that sounds crazy.) If you’re keeping them on for two-three minutes, you’re doing great; more than three, you’re a rockstar.
- Pages per visit. Similar to time on site, if your readers are visiting more than one page per visit, your content is attention-grabbing. If this number is greater than two, you’re doing a fantastic job.
- Inbound links. When other websites link to you it’s a signal your content is seen as authoritative. These links can come from outbound link building sometimes (i.e. guest blogging or manual link building,) but are a great indicator of content quality when they happen organically. The more organic inbound links an article gets, the more authoritative that content is considered.
How about a few qualitative KPIs?
Qualitative Content Marketing KPIs
Qualitative KPIs aren’t measurable by numbers. However, they are still great measures of the success of your content marketing:
- Influence. Is your content getting shared by followers? Is it linked back to organically? Has your brand been mentioned by other brands? If so, your content is building influence.
- Thought leadership. Are you being asked to write for publications in your niche? When you share content on LinkedIn, do people react positively, and quickly each time you share? Are you building organic followings across social media? If so, you’re starting to be considered a thought leader in your niche. This leadership is a great thing.
These are just a few KPIs you can use to evaluate your content marketing initiatives. The idea is to keep things simple and find KPIs that are right for you. Then, track them obsessively. Tweak content based on what’s working and what isn’t.
You’ll find a groove.
When you understand for whom you’re creating content, who will be creating the content, and how it will be measured, you have the building blocks of a content strategy in place.
Then, you must apply the strategy that matches the maturity level of your personal and professional brands.
If not, you run the risk of putting the “cart before the horse” and your content can miss the mark.
Content Strategy That Matches Maturity Level
For all brands, there are three maturity levels:
- Fledgling Brand Content Strategy
- Emerging Brand Content Strategy, and
- Mature Brand Content Strategy
Your approach to content creation should match these stages.
Everyone starts as a fledgling.
Fledgling Content Strategy
Fledgling brands are inexperienced. They’re getting started with content creation, are stuck in analysis paralysis, and haven’t gotten started because:
- They don’t see enough hours in the day
- They’re afraid of approaching content incorrectly
- They don’t think content is worth the money and time investment, or
- They have gotten started and have “hit the wall”
Fledglings are bootstrapping.
They have a limited budget and have to make careful decisions about how to spend money to make money.
The best thing you can do as a fledgling is take baby steps.
Commit to 30 minutes a day for creating content yourself, or delegating that creation out to someone on your team or a freelancer.
If you’re the creator, push for writing 200 words a day. If you do that every business day, you’ll have a 1,000-word blog post a week.
That’s four 1,000 word blog posts a month.
You’ll get faster, and will create more in less time, while still maintaining and protecting quality. In the fledgling stage, you’re building traffic, but also building domain authority.
Domain authority refers to how competitive your content is versus more established websites and brands.
Don’t do too much too fast. Set reachable goals, and break content efforts into bite-sized pieces you can control.
As your content gets traction you shift from the fledgling stage into the emerging stage.
Emerging Brand Content Strategy
Emerging brands have a content operation that’s humming along and driving traffic to the brand’s website. The majority of traffic is “top of funnel” traffic, also known as awareness traffic (see the AIDA model we mentioned, earlier.)
Awareness traffic is excellent but not very impactful for the brand’s bottom line. An emerging brand content strategy focuses on shifting awareness toward purchase.
Blog articles are fine in this stage, but they take a backseat to content that shows your audience why they should work with your brand. Case studies, data-driven whitepapers, customer testimonials, and thought leadership pieces are most important for emerging brands.
This point is also when you should start to dig into a simple social media content strategy. Spending too much time on social media prior to now is a wasted effort.
If you don’t have an audience to share content with, why share content?
You’ve heard the cliche “the proof is in the pudding” right?
The emerging stage is where the pudding is made.
Mature Brand Content Strategy
Content strategy isn’t always about creation. It’s also about evaluation. For mature companies, change comes through reframing.
For any brand, a primary goal of content is lead generation. Driving leads isn’t as simple as publishing lead forms and funneling people to those forms. Far too often, there’s a single-minded push toward lead generation without considering positioning.
Content should nurture people, slowly, building trust leading to action.
Without the right value proposition, there will be confusion.
Without speaking to humans as humans, you cannot build trust. If your readers are confused and they don’t trust you they won’t ever buy from you.
To establish understanding and trust, content sometimes has to be reimagined.
For mature companies, this includes:
There are as many as ten steps in this process.
Methodically following these is challenging, but necessary.
It’s a time-consuming path, built on the backbone of data.
A brand that understands how to do grunt work to build the backbone of a content strategy can then effectively make that strategy work for them and become a powerful, impactful business engine.
Don’t cut corners.
Do it right.