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

Most marketing professionals accept the validity of content as part of the marketing mix. They know why content marketing is important – what the benefits are. 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 create a content marketing strategy? How do you create a content marketing plan? How do you choose the content that goes into 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 goals and 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

  • Content audit
    • What’s working? What’s not? What might work that’s not here?
  • 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 research and customer 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

Audience

Build a picture of your target audience. Use all of the insight and data to define what your audience needs, likes and what they need/would like from you? Click here to read our guide to getting to know your audience and building buyer personas.

  • 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: what will the visual design cues and personality be?

The content

Read our ideation tips article here.

  • 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 type of content are you going to make? What format will 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…

Content creation: check out our 6 simple magazine tricks to make your online content more engaging article.

The plan

  • What? What pieces of content are you going to create?
  • Where are you going to be publishing content? Channels. Have a strategy for the web as well as any other platforms.
  • 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 an editorial calendar 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.

Measurement

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

Read our in-depth article: What is content marketing and how do you do it?

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

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