Does your brand devote enough time to its marketing and content planning strategies? In today’s hypercompetitive digital climate, marketing techniques are constantly evolving. However, one critical piece should remain unchanged: a strong foundation of high-quality, well-researched, interesting, and valuable content.
Stay with us to learn content marketing strategy in depth, including its four components, vital performance metrics, and the steps necessary to create a successful content strategy.
What Is a Content Marketing Strategy?
According to “The State of Content Marketing” 2022 report by Semrush, only 57% of the 1500 businesses surveyed had a documented content strategy. The most successful content marketing assets included videos, blog posts, success stories, and case studies. But what is a content marketing strategy, and what does it mean for the future success of your brand?
If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, a content marketing strategy is a plan or outline. It should contain every step and action your brand will take to create and distribute its advertising tactics and marketing materials.
In years past, writing the occasional blog post or updating your company’s social media platforms every other week was enough. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. In today’s cutthroat digital universe, your brand needs a proactive, omnichannel approach to its content creation and marketing techniques. Without a documented strategy, you’ll find it challenging to stand out amongst the crowd of competitors.
Essentially, your content marketing strategy should list all the types of content your brand will use to reach its target audience: Will it be a company blog? A YouTube channel? Facebook Live? Or a different kind of content management system altogether?
Often, companies use a “content calendar” to organize their content and marketing materials. Remember, developing and improving your brand’s content strategy is an ongoing process, and it can be extremely challenging for people with no experience in the business. This is why many companies opt to hire agencies to do this work for them.
The Four Components of Content Strategy
When developing your content strategy, start with these four core elements and determine what they mean for your brand.
1. Define Your Goals and Market Position
The first component of an effective content strategy is to define your brand’s market position and the specific goals you want to achieve. For example, let’s say that you want to increase organic traffic to your website by 25% and boost your ranking on the search engines for high-volume keywords. What steps can you take to achieve those business objectives? What are the current roadblocks or obstacles that are hindering your progress?
If you have trouble getting started, try brainstorming content ideas to get those creative juices flowing.
Next, develop an accurate and clearly defined brand message and product position within the market. In doing so, you can ensure that your content marketing efforts are cohesive throughout your advertising channels, establishing trust and credibility with your target audience. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What are the unique selling points of your brand?
- Why is your brand the better choice over your competitors?
- Who are your current customers, and what are their needs?
- What pain points or problems does your product solve for your customers?
- How are your chief competitors marketing their brand/product/services?
- How can you best serve your customers?
Answering those questions will help you formulate an accurate picture of your brand’s overall business goals and how your content marketing strategy can help you achieve them.
Bonus Tip: If you find that your proposed content strategy is too broad, break it down into smaller, more specific pieces or customer segments.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
The second, and arguably most important, component of a sound content strategy is knowing how to identify and reach your intended audience. As a professional digital marketing agency, we see new clients frequently make the mistake of targeting the wrong demographic.
If you’re struggling to connect with your customer base, the problem could be that you’re targeting the wrong people. For example, if your company sells surfboards, you’ll have much better success advertising in Hawaii than you will in Alaska.
We can’t stress enough the importance of creating content that caters to your specific target market. Here are a few tips for getting started. You can try:
- Conducting market research
- Surveying existing customers
- Identifying who you aren’t trying to reach
- Analyzing your competitors and their targeting tactics
- Examining search intent for primary keywords/queries
Here’s another tip: you should develop a buyer persona, or the “ideal” customer for your business. A buyer persona is not your target audience, which refers to the customer segments who are already viewing your advertising efforts. Instead, a buyer persona is your brand’s vision of potential and existing customers.
Bonus Tip: Use free tools or templates online to quickly create a buyer persona, making your job easier and faster.
3. Develop a Unified Core Message
Your company’s core message isn’t just its slogan or tagline; it goes much deeper than that. Your brand messaging should be unified and clear across all your marketing platforms. It should also form the basis of your content strategy.
Another common mistake that companies often make is sending mixed, contradictory, or ambiguous messages to their customers. Ensure that your content remains cohesive and consistent, whether it’s a blog post, a video, or a social media campaign.
Building a brand message is no simple task. Your core message should influence your customers and convince them to do business with your brand instead of your competitors. It should also address your customer’s primary pain points and present your brand as the best solution to solve them.
For example, let’s say your brand has developed a new product, and you plan on advertising it on social media channels. How will you convince potential customers that they need to buy your new product? In what ways will your product benefit their lives or make their days easier? Create a marketing message that speaks to your customer’s needs and establishes a unified vision of your brand’s mission and values.
4. Determine Content Formats
Finally, you’ll need to determine which content formats will complement your brand’s marketing efforts and get your message across to the right audience. For example, suppose you’re selling a product intended for seniors (i.e., hearing aids). In that case, you may not want to advertise on TikTok or other social media platforms geared towards the younger generations.
Fortunately, multiple content formats exist that you can use to create a unified content marketing strategy for your brand:
- Blog posts
- Email or text campaigns
- Social media posts
- Case studies
- Online reviews
- Interactive content
- Customer testimonials
- White papers
- User-generated content
Bonus Tip: Use the data you have already gathered about your customer base to identify the best content distribution formats for your brand.
4 Vital Content Marketing Performance Metrics
Analyzing and monitoring key performance indicators is the best way to measure the effectiveness of your brand’s content strategies. Essentially, it’s a way to identify which of your marketing efforts and content ideas are producing results and which are underperforming.
Of course, tools like Google Analytics can provide real-time data (i.e., website traffic) and valuable business insights regarding your brand’s performance within the digital marketing stratosphere. Here are four success metrics you can use to measure the performance of your content marketing assets:
1. User Behavior
The behavior of users and how they interact with your website, blog posts, social media pages, and so on, is a critical performance metric. Here are the most important points to consider when evaluating user behavior:
- Number of page views
- Total visitors
- Bounce rate
- Traffic sources (i.e., organic traffic, ad clicks, etc.)
- Pages viewed per session
- Average page viewing time
- New and returning users ratio
2. Engagement Levels
Users are far more likely to engage with and share useful, interesting, and compelling content. Measuring engagement levels is an excellent way to determine if you have quality content that provides value to your readers. Use these sources to measure and analyze user engagement levels:
- Blog post comments
- Number of likes, shares, and upvotes
- Incoming content requests from customers
- Mentions or referrals
- External links
3. SEO Results
SEO, or search engine optimization, should always be a part of your brand’s content strategy process. By implementing the best SEO practices and then measuring the outcome, you can gain critical business insights regarding your brand. For example, you can gauge the success of your content marketing efforts and discover new ways to boost brand awareness and your ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Here are the SEO metrics you should be monitoring:
- Number of third-party backlinks to your content
- Dwell time (how long users spend on your page before returning to the SERPs)
- Organic search traffic
- Keyword rankings
- Search volume for targeted keywords or phrases
4. Content Marketing Revenue
The ultimate goal of every company is to generate revenue. By creating useful, interesting, and relevant content, you can engage your target audience and drive more organic search traffic. Measuring the revenue your content marketing strategy produces will give you an idea of how successful it is. Here are the key metrics you should be monitoring to determine the revenue output of your current content strategy:
- Content marketing ROI
- Conversion rate
- New lead generation
- Interaction levels of existing leads
- Cost per acquisition for qualified leads
Bonus Tip: Use your revenue data to pinpoint your weakest content strategies, then either improve or eliminate them.
7 Content Marketing Trends to Watch Out For
To reach your brand’s marketing goals, you’ll need a dynamic content strategy that you can easily adapt to the latest trends. Keep an eye out for these content marketing trends that can increase your reach with your target audience:
Podcasting is a huge market and an ideal format for content distribution. According to Edison Research, the number of people who listen to podcasts is increasing every year, with 62% (177 million people) listening in 2022, up from 57% in 2021. Audio is a key content marketing strategy for 2022, and podcasting is an excellent way to leverage that content format to your benefit.
2. Interactive Content
Another new trend in marketing is interactive content, which is an excellent way to increase engagement levels and improve user experience across the board. Common formats include slideshows, quizzes, surveys, infographics, and virtual reality (metaverse marketing).
3. Brand Ambassadors
Influencers and individual content creators have considerable power in today’s digital market and provide a unique opportunity for brands. By identifying the content creators that resonate most with your target market, you can leverage the entertaining and valuable content they create to your advantage and meet your marketing goals faster.
4. AI Content Creation
Artificial intelligence tools that create content, like Jarvis, allow for much faster content production and have increased in popularity over the last few years. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice quality content for the sake of speed and convenience. However, there’s no denying that AI can make the content creation process much faster and easier, hence its trendiness and popularity.
5. Social Media Marketing
The power of social media grows exponentially every year. In fact, developing a social media content strategy can provide countless opportunities for your brand. The biggest social media marketing channels include Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You may even want to consider using paid media marketing, like Facebook Ads, to widen your reach.
6. Video Marketing
While many marketers use blog posts as their go-to, videos have taken over the digital universe as a crowd-favorite content format. In fact, 2017 data from WordStream showed that marketers who use video content grow their revenue 49% faster than those who don’t use video. Of course, the right content format depends solely on your target demographic and audience, but videos create a strong visual impact that resonates with viewers.
7. Shoppable Links
Another innovative trend in content marketing is shoppable links. Essentially, users can click these links to make a purchase right there, preventing the time-consuming process of clicking through multiple different pages just to buy the item they want.
How to Create Effective Content Planning Strategies: 11 Steps
To help you get started on your marketing goals, we’ve compiled a list of 11 steps you can follow to develop a practical content strategy framework for your brand. Let’s take a look!
1. Determine Your Business Goals
The first step to planning a content strategy is determining (and then documenting) your brand’s goals. Try to follow the SMART model for goal-making: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Don’t get too caught up in the what, where, and how of content marketing. Instead, ask why. What are your long-term goals, and are they sustainable? Try to be as specific as possible. Here are some common goals to get your creativity flowing:
- Improve social media engagement
- Increase conversions and sales
- Drive more website traffic
- Reduce marketing costs
- Better SEO results and higher page ranking
- Increase revenue through content marketing
- Generate more qualified leads
- Improve customer engagement and loyalty
2. Analyze your Competitors
Evaluating your chief competitors is an excellent way to gain inspiration and fresh content ideas for your brand. Analyze the type of content marketing effort your competition is using to succeed. Why are their strategies boosting conversions or producing results when yours aren’t?
Spend time researching the keywords, topics, industry blogs, and other content formats that are producing the most success for your competitors. Consider their specific tone of voice and use their top-performing pages as inspiration. We’re not condoning plagiarism here, but rather some healthy market research that can guide your brand in the right direction.
Bonus Tip: Don’t just include your top-level rivals in your market research. Look for content from every type of creator within your industry or field, even individuals or influencers that aren’t your direct competitors.
3. Know the Buyer’s Journey
When building a content strategy, it’s essential to consider every possible perspective, including what type of customer journey you want your users to experience. Think hard: how does your target audience think? How do they approach problem-solving?
Essentially, the customer journey consists of three steps:
- Awareness: The customer becomes aware of their specific pain point/problem.
- Consideration: The customer becomes aware of the specific solution that will solve their problem.
- Decision: The final stage of the customer journey is when they make their purchasing decision.
4. Set Expectations
Now that you’ve nailed down your specific marketing and content goals, the next step is to set expectations. For example, developing and launching content planning strategies takes time. Be realistic about the overall timeline and how long it will take for your content strategy to bring in new business and produce results.
Remember, managing the content lifecycle is a long-term process. No single piece of content will skyrocket your business to the top in one day. Keep in mind the phrase “progress, not perfection.” Set incremental short-term goals that will move you closer to achieving those long-term business objectives.
5. Creating a Content Calendar
The next stage in your brand’s content marketing strategy is to create a content calendar, a written outline or schedule of where, when, and how you plan to publish content. It’s a valuable organizational tool and an effective way to ensure accountability for your content goals.
Content calendars are especially beneficial for large companies with multiple employees who create content for their brand. Plus, it gives you a broad overview of all your upcoming content strategy projects and tasks.
When creating a content calendar, you should include every piece of information that’s relevant to your overall content strategy, including:
- Editorial content
- Platforms and channels
- Promotional items
- Brainstorms and future ideas
You can use virtually anything to create a content map, even a spiral notebook. However, large-scale brands will need a better tool. Popular options for businesses include:
- Google Sheets
- Microsoft Excel
- Google Calendar
- WordPress Editorial Calendar
6. Perform a Content Audit
Evaluating the content your brand has already published provides numerous benefits to your content strategy development. A content audit allows you to analyze your current market position and whether your company blog, social media page, etc., is helping you achieve your goals.
First, log all the pieces of content your brand owns, which you can do with a free URL crawler from the web. Next, you’ll want to assess each piece of content’s overall success or usefulness.
You can also use the audit to pinpoint any content gaps. For example, you may discover important high-volume keywords related to your niche that you’re not using. Even if your existing content is ranking well, look for ways you can improve it even further.
Bonus Tip: One of the best places to look for new content ideas is by browsing through user comments on your existing content, like blog posts, social media pages, etc. Look for the questions people have after reading your content, and boom – you’ve got your next blog topic right there in front of you.
7. Implement SEO Best Practices and Pillar Content
Optimizing your content to rank highly on search engines is another crucial step in content strategy planning. The digital SEO landscape is constantly changing, which is why it needs your continued attention.
For example, Google uses over 200 ranking factors in its algorithm, with new updates occurring all the time. If you’re not an SEO wizard, it’s okay. You can always hire a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO to help you achieve your content and ranking goals much faster.
You should also consider organizing your content into pillars. Essentially, pillar content is long-form content (3000+ words) that provides a comprehensive or complete overview of a subject or keyword. Then, you add content clusters (subtopics) that offshoot from the original subject.
Pillar content should be high-quality, well-researched, and engaging. It should also contain a unique perspective that doesn’t consist of regurgitated content or ideas you can find anywhere else on the web.
8. Personalize Your Writing Style and Content
While SEO and content optimization are important, remember that you’re writing for human beings, not crawler bots. So whether you write your own content or not, before you post anything, add some personalization.
If you find yourself bored while you’re writing content, the chances are that everyone else will find it boring, too. Infusing your writing with genuine interest or a fresh point of view establishes trust and credibility for your brand. Also, people are more likely to stay on your website or blog for longer if it contains thoughtful, interesting, or helpful information.
Bonus Tip: Don’t create content just because you can. Try to add value to your writing and never spam your readers with low-quality or useless content.
9. Use Alternative Formats
If you already have a tried-and-true format for publishing content, it’s tempting to pour all your marketing dollars into that one basket. Of course, you should continue to leverage the formats that produce the best results. However, diversifying your content with alternative formats is an excellent way to expand your reach and brand awareness.
For example, maybe you’re currently using a social media strategy that works well for you. But why not branch out? Test out new formats or methods on a small scale and evaluate the results. You don’t have to use every option available to you. Rather, focus on the ones that best fit your particular customer base.
10. Distribute and Promote Your Content
Now that you’ve fully developed your content strategy, it’s time to distribute and promote it amongst the masses. After all, what good is creating content if it doesn’t reach the right people at the right stage in their buying journey? Create a mix of paid, earned, and owned media that works best for your content and brand message. We recommend using paid channels to promote the most important and shareable content, like landing pages, Google Ads, etc.
However, a well-balanced content strategy uses both organic and paid channels to promote your brand and its message, as they complement each other very well. Some popular channels include social media, email marketing, organic search methods, PPC and paid advertising, and influencer marketing.
Of course, you should funnel your resources into the channels where your customer base is already spending most of its time, as it increases the chances of being seen. You’ll know you’re succeeding when your efforts start producing qualified leads or boosting conversions. And that brings us to our last step!
11. Monitor and Refine Your Content Strategy
Developing a content strategy isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. To get the most out of your content marketing efforts, you must continually monitor, measure, and improve your methods.
Analyzing the performance of your content is the best way to discover which formats are the most successful at connecting with your audience. For example, you may want to consider using Google Analytics or other free tools to measure key performance metrics and identify weak spots.
Of course, many business owners simply don’t have the free time that proper content analysis requires. Fortunately, there are plenty of experienced digital marketing agencies out there that can provide support in this area. If you find yourself lacking the time to handle all of your brand’s digital marketing and content strategy needs, our Connective team is happy to help.
A Final Word on How to Create Successful Content Planning Strategies
We’ll state the obvious here: Forming, launching, and monitoring a content strategy is no simple task. It takes time, hard work, thorough research, and intensive data analysis. However, there’s no denying the long-term benefits that content planning strategies can offer brands in terms of revenue.
At Connective, we’re a top-rated digital marketing agency serving small- to medium-sized businesses with content strategies, SEO, web design, and more. Managing a successful marketing campaign is a full-time job with many complicated factors. Fortunately, we have a team of talented marketing and content experts waiting to help you.
To learn more about our agency and our content planning strategies, call Connective at (818) 570-5620 to schedule a consultation with our team.