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A step-by-step guide to creating a successful content strategy

by Gill
07th Apr 2017 - 6 min read

Most marketing professionals accept the validity of content as part of the marketing mix. The principles are widely understood: use content to find and engage audiences and then make them do things (click, watch, buy, join).

But how do you DO content marketing? How do you plan it? How do you choose it? How do you measure it?

Content strategy

By building a solid content strategy you will have, in one place, a document that contains:

  • Insight and data
  • Your strategic approach to content
  • The plan: what, where, when

By methodically creating a content strategy, you will use data and insight to tell you what your strategy should be; your strategy then tells you what the plan should be. Each stage informs the next.

But how do you build a content strategy?

The check list below is a step-by-step guide on how to create a content strategy. Quick caveat: this is a guide not a definition – it is not a comprehensive or definitive method for creating ‘the best’ content strategy.

Aims and objectives

  • What are the business objectives?
  • What is the marketing strategy?
  • What is the brand’s mission?

The brief

What is the brief? What will content be used to achieve?

What does this brief want to achieve?

  • Broad goals
  • Specific goals

State of play

  • Current content pillars (what topics or types of content is being produced?)
  • Communications channels – statistics, successes, challenges
    • Social media
    • Newsletter
    • Website
    • Print
    • Other
  • SWOT

Research and insight

  • Site traffic
    • Popular pages
      • What’s popular
      • Why?
    • Bounce rate and dwell time
      • What’s engaging?
    • Affinity groups
    • How current content is doing
    • Referral URLs
      • How are you acquiring traffic?
    • Value: what types of content are evergreen? What types of content offer only time-sensitive spikes?
  • Social media
    • Channels
    • Successes/themes
    • Social listening (Buzzsumo, Brandwatch)
      • Are people talking about what you do/offer
    • Influencers
      • Who are the most influential people in your sector?
  • User/reader/customers surveys
    • What people like
    • What they don’t like
    • What they care about
    • What they need
  • Insight from client/anecdotal
  • Demographic info (Mosaic data)
    • Use information to define needs of audience
  • Keyword research
    • What does keyword research suggest that people are looking for?
    • What terms are people interested in your sector?
    • How are people searching for what you offer?
    • What else are people looking for in your area?
    • What do you know about that people want to know?
  • Google Trends
    • What key terms are trending?
    • Is there any seasonality?
    • Does it suggest any breakout terms/alternative keywords
  • Google Keyword Planner
    • What is the density of search around your key terms?
    • What terms does GKP suggest is similar or linked?
  • Google auto-complete and Also Suggests
    • How are people searching for the thing you do?
  • CRO data
    • What content is converting the most traffic on the site? (define converting: purchase, newsletter sign up etc.)
  • Device %
    • Mobile
    • Desktop

Competitor analysis

  • Who are the competitors, and what are they doing that works? What are they doing that doesn’t?


Build a picture of your audience. Use all of the insight and data to define what your audience needs, likes and what they need/would like from you?

  • Demographic info
  • Personas
    • What do these people care about?
    • What are they interested in?
    • What questions are they asking?
    • What do they need?

The strategy

  • Why choose content to achieve the goals?
    • What will content do?
    • How will content answer the needs of an audience?
  • Strategic recommendation
    • What does the data say you should do to reach your goals?
  • Content proposition
    • Define content pillars (3-6 is usual)
  • Strategy for audiences
    • If you audience is split, you may have a two-pronged approach
  • Tone of voice
  • Look and feel

The content

  • The idea/piece’s name – not always the title of the piece
  • The idea synopsis in one line
  • What is the hook? Is it unique? If not, how will you make your mark on this idea? (authority, beauty, angle, access, update)
  • What format with the content take? What’s the best way to communicate what this piece needs to say?
    • Video
      • Animations
      • Vlog
    • Infographic
    • Words
      • Review
      • Interview (Q&A or flowing copy?)
      • FAQ
      • Ultimate guide to…
      • News
      • How to guides
      • White papers
    • Photography
    • Interactive graphic
    • A combination…

The plan

  • What?
  • Where? Channels
  • When?
  • Define your work flow and allocate owners and timings
    • Sourcing content (ownership and responsibility)
      • Editorial management/implementation
      • Creation
      • Sign-off
      • Realisation (upload)
      • Dissemination (social, newsletters, PPC, outreach)

Content calendar

Create in Google Sheets/Excel.

  • Plot the above metrics into a calendar
    • Add:
      • Status (live, commissioned, with Sally)
      • Name
      • Synopsis/description
      • Source (if applicable: interviewee/documents/contact)
      • Keywords
      • Assets (pictures, video, social media elements and source)
      • Promo (social, newsletter, PPC)
      • Desired outcome (what this piece hopes to achieve for the brand)

Promotion: marketing the content

Where is the content going to go? How will people see it?

  • Organic
    • Social media
    • newsletter
    • Print comms
    • Media partnerships
  • Paid
    • Paid social media
    • Boosting posts
    • PPC (likes or links campaign)
    • Google Ads
    • Influencer outreach
    • PR
    • Native ads/Branded content
    • Outbrain/Taboola
    • Other paid channels (eg: Reddit)

Plot the above into your calendar/planner where relevant.


Measuring content marketing’s efficacy remains a dark art. Most of what you measure will depend on the objectives and subsequent KPIs set. Pick and choose from those below that best answer your brief.

  • Site traffic
  • New content is the most popular on the site
  • Brand search
  • Social interactions
    • Likes
    • Shares
    • Comments
  • Engagement: smaller % of people viewing only one page
  • Increase in engagement stats on social media
  • Increase in new business leads/enquiries (12 months)
  • Reduced average bounce rate (new content)
  • Increased average dwell time (new content)
  • Increased % of traffic from emails
  • Increased rankings for key terms
  • Newsletter sign-ups
  • Incoming links
  • Review – and amend strategy
    • What worked?
    • What didn’t?
    • What should we change?

Build a second page of your Google sheet and plot the relevant data on it at regular intervals.

There are APIs that can automate elements of this into a helpful dashboard – let us know if you’d like us to tailor one for your business.

Screengrab of content marketing performance dashboard

Would you like us to build a content strategy for you? Why not drop us a line? Call us now on 01603 878240 or use the contact form below.

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Ivan Palii / 7 days ago

Great guide, Gill. Thanks for a lot. And I also want suggest two our internal instruments, which most of our colleagues love to use every day and which can be useful in implementing strategy, you are writing about. - Free on page seo checker - http://sitechecker.pro - Free keyword suggestion and research tool - http://kparser.com I'll be happy to know you opinion about that tools.

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