A content strategy involves the planning, development, and management of content. It consists of creating and distributing audio, visual, or written materials to promote a website or an online business.
According to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), “[Businesses] need to create a content strategy. That means saying no to many channels and content types, and focusing on where they can build an asset, an audience, over time.”
Why is a content strategy important for your business?
Companies primarily use a content strategy to get the word out about their business and market their products or services. And they do so for a good reason.
A content strategy helps businesses to be more visible on search engines, generate valuable traffic on their website, and win leads.
From a marketing perspective, your content strategy makes your content production more meaningful and successful. It gives you a way to measure success, provides insights into your failure to succeed, and keeps you on track with the plan you’ve designed. Interestingly, CoSchedule observed that marketers who document their strategy are 313% more likely to succeed.
Also, from a manager or business owner standpoint, having a content strategy helps you eliminate the guesswork and do things that matter. It ensures that everyone on your team is aligned and in sync. It also helps identify the goals, the effort that needs to be put in, the people who need input, and everything that needs to be done to achieve those goals.
10 steps for creating a killer content strategy
Now that you know why a content strategy is essential for your business, here is a step-by-step guide to creating a content strategy that delivers results.
Step 1: Know your business
Knowing your brand inside and out is the key to a successful content strategy. Here are the things you need to consider to pull this off perfectly.
Your business goals and missions
What is your company hoping to accomplish? Where would your company want to get to if you were stripped of your envy to sell or make money? You need to understand those and figure out what content and how it can get you there.
Your brand’s reputation
You need to know how your brand is perceived—what’s great about it and what needs changing. More importantly, think of how you want the world to perceive your company and define the type of content, voice, style, and messaging that’ll help you get there.
Are you using the right marketing channels?
Is your brand using the right marketing channel? What other channels are you missing out on? Analyze the channels your brand is using depending on your offering and how your customers access it. This will help you uncover content opportunities and plan the right process for effective execution. It’ll also contribute to specifying the company’s target audience and how to best reach them.
Who are your competitors, and what are they doing?
You’ll also need competitive insights to position your business as the best. You must know who your competitors are and what kind of content they are using. Thought leadership? Case studies?
Once you figure that out, you’ll have a clear idea of what direction you should take with your content for it to make the most impact. More importantly, you’ll discover outgrowth opportunities in your content strategy that you’ve probably never thought of.
What is your USP?
What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? Figure out why your customers choose you over your competitors.
One way to find out is to ask your customers—during the onboarding process—why they chose your brand over others. It could be cost, quality or features. You could also think about why you started your company in the first place, the problem you’re solving. Then, highlight that USP in your overall strategy and brand messaging.
Step 2: Understand the target audience
A content strategy must take into account the needs and problems of your audience before it works. Content shouldn’t just promote your product. It should help your audience solve some of their problems—and use your product if it happens to be the right tool to solve said problem.
So it’s important to first understand what their problem is and then create content to help them solve it.
Here are a few points to help you.
Know their demographics
You must identify who your audience is and determine their demographics. This goes down to answering questions like:
- Who is your ideal client?
- What is their age range?
- What roles do they work in?
- What are their expectations?
- What information are they looking for when they land on your website?
Understand their psychographics
You need to understand how your target audience thinks, their hobbies, and the type of content they prefer. Understanding your target audience’s psychographics also implies knowing how they process information, the places they hang out on the web, and their decision-making power within their company or as individuals.
Figure out their pain points
Now, you want to figure out their issues, fears, challenges, and everything they might need your help with. That is, everything that pushes them to look for your solution or that of your competitor. Your job is to position your content to answer those specific challenges and your service to alleviate the pain.
Step 3: Determine your specific objectives
Not all business goals are related to marketing. Start by assessing your overarching business goals and determine how content marketing fits into each. Set realistic and measurable expectations. The best way to do this is to set SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.
You can create three main types of content according to the content marketing funnel. Each content you put out should push your audience further in the buying process.
Top of the funnel
Top-of-the-funnel content is generally informative and directed to a broader audience. In this context, your objectives can be the following:
- Ranking better on Google
- Driving more traffic to your website
- Improving brand awareness
Middle of the funnel
This stage involves transforming visitors into qualified leads. What you want here is to win your audience’s heart and elicit buying intent or action. Your content goal here can include:
- Boosting credibility
- Encouraging the prospect to consider your product
- Warming leads for the sales’ team
- Generating more qualified leads
- Providing excellent prior-to-purchase customer service
Bottom of the funnel
Your sales team primarily uses bottom-of-the-funnel content to fuel conversion. This type of content helps you highlight the solution you are selling and position it as a far better alternative to your competitors’. Your objectives here include the following:
- Increasing revenue
- Boosting customer lifetime value
- Reducing churn
- Providing great customer service
- Building a community
Step 4: Understand and determine content formats
Once you have defined your target audience and objectives, everything becomes easier. Now you need to determine the content format adapted to your goals and audience.
Here is a list of content formats you can choose from.
- Blog posts
- Social media content
- Print materials (magazines, brochures, etc.)
- eBooks and white papers
- Research reports
- Visual content (infographics)
Keep in mind that blog posts are the most common format and are an excellent choice for the foundation of an effective content strategy.
Step 5: Keep your strategy consistent with your brand
Set content guidelines and style guides to ensure consistency across different platforms. Having a consistent style across the board also makes your brand unique and memorable.
Here are the main points you need to consider:
Messaging and language
How would you like to keep your brand voice and tone? Based on your audience, which voice and tone will be more effective? You should have a unique foundational language that you use across your content materials.
For example, you can be conversational, casual, fun, or formal. It’s worth noting that the same brand voice could vary in tone depending on the channel (i.e. social media vs. official site announcements).
Syntax and readability
What type of words do you use in your content? For example, at AppSumo, we recommend our writers always use simpler, accessible language where possible. For example, we’d rather choose the word “use” over “utilize”. Do you prefer long or short sentences? Active or passive voice? How do you feel about the different punctuations?
Step 6: Have a content editorial process and calendar
Having a content calendar means planning the topics to be covered in the next few weeks or months.
It’ll allow all the stakeholders involved in your content strategy (internal or external) to move in the same direction. Also, as the content strategist or manager, it will put you in control, and you can get a 360-degree view of how your content is coming along.
So, having a content editorial process and calendar means defining and preparing all the elements in your content strategy, from ideation to publication. In this way, your content will always align with your objective, be produced on time and within budget. Here are a few things you will need to include in the process:
- Content description
- Content goal
- Distribution channel
- Publication date
Here’s an example of what we used back in 2019 here at AppSumo.
It shows who needs to take a given action, when the content will go live, and what type of content it is.
Step 7: Keep SEO at the heart of your content plan
Creating a content editorial process is not enough. You need an SEO strategy to establish a keyword and topic agenda. This ensures that your strategy works.
SEO does not just apply to written content but videos and images. There’s a whole world of SEO knowledge out there, but we’ll set you up with the basics:
Follow SEO best practices
This includes internal linking, adding meta descriptions to content, using image alt tags, link-building, etc.
Improve your site’s performance
SEO issues can hurt your site’s performance. Your site may have technical problems that are causing crawling or ranking issues. It could also be that you’re seeing a high churn rate because your site takes ages to load. A site audit will tell you everything that’s wrong with your site and what needs doing.
Find content and keyword gaps
Finding keywords and content gaps involves searching for keywords your potential customers are using to find your solution but that you, for some reason, are not covering.
Plan content based on content analytics
This involves studying what works and what does not and using it to your advantage. Analyze data from your site’s Google Search Console or Google Analytics and see what type of content is getting the most engagement. Then, create content that matches that ideal.
For example, what does the data say about the following dilemmas:
- Should your article be short or long to be effective?
- Is it best to make a video or a blog article for “this keyword?”
- Is it more effective to place the CTA somewhere around the introduction or at the bottom of the content?
Step 8: Create a solid content distribution strategy
Your content is only as good as its readership. You need to use the right communication channels to share it as much as possible. Here are the main distribution channels you can consider.
Build an effective social media strategy to pull this off with perfection. Think of it as a blueprint that you implement every time you produce new content. For example, for one article, you can create a LinkedIn post, an Instagram story, a Twitter thread, and possibly a TikTok video.
This may not work for all businesses, but email newsletters can be a highly valuable marketing channel.
First, though, you need to have an audience. If you do, sharing your content through email is quite simple. Stir your readers’ curiosity with your subject line, and make sure you get straight to the point in the email body. Always end with a call to action.
Repurposing old content
Repurposing content means that you change the format of a content to republish it on another platform. You can use one piece of content and turn it into different materials and have them perform well. For example, you can turn a YouTube video into a podcast or a blog post.
Step 9: Know how to measure success
Now that your content is published and distributed, what does success mean to you? What KPIs do you use to measure the effectiveness of your content efforts? Common metrics marketers track include the following:
- SEO position rankings and visibility
- Traffic to the website
- Average time on site
- Bounce rates
- Social media engagement (likes, shares, comments, clicks)
- User sign-ups
Step 10: Build your content strategy tools stack
Obviously, you will need help to complete your workflow smoothly and seamlessly. Depending on the different activities you may have to perform, here are the different tools you may need.
A content management system allows you and your team to plan and execute as one in the creation, editing, and production of digital content such as web pages, blog posts, etc. Top examples include Sitecake, My Digital CMO, and SEO CMS.
Analytics and SEO tool
SEO tools provide data and analytics on the overall health of your website. Discover room for improvement, identify weaknesses or problems and improve visibility in the SERPs. The best SEO tools include Ahrefs, TrueRanker, Blogely, SEMrush, and Moz.
Social media scheduling tool
Project management tool
These tools help you manage your content projects and tasks effectively. You can create multiple boards, to-dos, add your team members and work together as one. These are also the tools to develop and monitor your content calendar and editorial process. The best project management tools include Planarty, Tugas, Airtable, Workload, Asana, etc.
5 content strategy templates you can use to grow your business
Developing a content strategy isn’t an easy task. It takes time, expertise, and niche experience to create one that works. But as with most things, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Here are some content strategy templates you can start with.
This content strategy helps you build a consistent content system for your business. It enables you to create content that engages your audience and walks your prospects through the sales funnel before they are ready to buy.
If you’re struggling to create content that attracts views and builds you a solid audience on TikTok, this is the template for you. This template helps you determine the right content style and identify best practices to win on TikTok.
This is a collection of templates to help you conduct your marketing activities for various purposes. The goal is to help small business owners or marketers start their businesses with as little stress as possible. The kit contains five templates, all with a guide page with instructions on using the documents.
- Content Audit Template
- Marketing Campaign Planning Template
- Editorial Calendar Template
- UTM Creation Template
- Marketing Analysis Dashboard
Building a solid social media strategy that ensures a high engagement can be challenging. This template helps you do just that without too much effort. It offers a content calendar for consistent social media posts, a way to build a strong presence and engage with the people.
It’s a content framework to help you scale up your content production and get a clear view of your content performance. It offers a consolidated system with all the steps of a content production process. You can also track your audience’s behavior in the same workspace and make sense of all the data.
Upgrade your content strategy template
A solid content strategy will facilitate your efforts and allow you to maximize the reach of your online business. You’ll produce more accurate content, properly brief your content creators, assign tasks to your team members, and solve your target audience’s pain points.
Here are the characteristics of a good content strategy.
- It tells you who will be engaging with your content
- It clearly states the problems you will be solving for your audience
- It makes your process and your content unique
- It shapes your creative vision and forms a content plan
- It lets you know what content formats you will focus on
- It breaks down the channels you will publish your content on
- It helps you manage content creation and publication seamlessly
Now that you know what a killer content strategy looks like and have some templates to start with, head over to our AppSumo Marketplace to get some great deals on software that will help you implement your strategy.