Tired of throwing content at the wall and hoping it sticks? A well-crafted content marketing strategy is your answer.
Here, you’ll find:
- Which elements make up an effective content strategy
- How a content strategy benefits your business
- Common pitfalls (and how to avoid them)
- Insider tips for developing a winning content marketing strategy
With all the competition for snagging those top spots in search engine results, good content writing can be the difference between whether your biz sinks or swims.
Why not ride the tide with a killer content marketing strategy and leave the competition in your wake?
According to Semrush, you’d be one of 66% of businesses with a defined content strategy — a significant increase from last year’s 57%. And with more than half set to increase content budgets this year, it’s clear that content marketing is more top of mind than ever.
We partnered with our in-house content marketing writer, Josie Rojewski, to share proven strategies (and common missteps to avoid) for a successful content marketing strategy.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear roadmap of how to develop and optimize a conversion-driving content strategy and, most importantly? Scale your business.
What is a content marketing strategy?
A content marketing strategy is your overall plan for the content your company publishes. This can encompass:
- The keywords you choose
- Formats you leverage
- Platforms you use
- How often you publish
- How you promote your work
It’s all about how you connect with your audience, build trust, and ultimately drive profits.
But before you do that, you should consider why you’re creating content in the first place. Churning out post after post without careful planning or data analysis and calling it a content marketing strategy won’t cut it.
“If a content marketing plan is a more tactical, step-by-step of how you’re going to achieve your goal, then the strategy needs to help outline what those goals are, and when you’d like to get there,” Rojewski says.
When creating your strategy, start by:
- Defining your brand’s values
- Conducting audience and research
- Planing to promote your content
- Making sure you’re set up to track its performance
Developing a strong content marketing strategy requires ongoing dedication, patience, planning, and refining. The process can also involve some trial and error, draining your resources.
Knowing the do’s and don’ts from the start can lay the groundwork for a solid content marketing strategy that engages and converts your audience. Our goal today? To help you achieve just that.
7 steps to a successful content marketing strategy
Whether you’re looking to revamp your current content strategy or create one from scratch, here are seven essential steps for supercharging your plan:
1. Establish your KPIs
Key performance indicators (KPIs) help you track the progress of your content marketing efforts. Once you determine which metrics are most important, your KPIs will guide you in setting goals for your content and business. With clear goals in place, you’re able to paint a picture of what success looks like for your brand.
But how will you know which KPIs to track?
Consider what’s most crucial to your success. Is it more traffic? Higher engagement on social channels? Increased conversions?
There are two types of KPIs: qualitative and quantitative.
- Qualitative KPIs are subjective measurements based on customer feedback, engagement, and sentiment. They help you gauge how your audience feels about your content and how well it resonates with them. Some qualitative KPIs include social media engagement, increased brand awareness, or better client feedback.
- Quantitative KPIs are objective measurements based on hard data like website traffic, conversion rates, or revenue generated. They help you understand your content’s overall impact on your business, guiding you in improving your strategy. Some quantitative KPIs include more organic traffic, better lead generation, or higher conversion rates.
Striking the balance between these two is where you’ll find the sweet spot.
“Strategy is the long game, and I like visualizing it in terms of your marketing funnel,” she says. “For the most part, I always see qualitative KPIs as the top of the funnel, and then more quantitative KPIs as the bottom.“
2. Define your audience
High-quality content is important, but delivering it in a way that resonates with your target audience is equally vital. This requires an in-depth understanding of their pain points and interests.
The better you understand your readers, the closer to home your message hits.
One way to define your target audience is by creating ideal client (or buyer) personas. This is your opportunity to paint a detailed picture of your ideal customer that’ll frame your content strategy.
In doing so, consider:
- Demographics – What is their age, gender, location, etc.?
- Pain points – What problems do they need help solving?
- Interests – What are they passionate about?
- Channels/social media platforms – Where do they consume content?
Say you own a luxury clothing brand. One of your personas might simply look like this:
|Occupation||Full-time working mom|
|Education||Bachelor’s degree in business administration|
|Location||Suburban area, Eastern U.S.|
|Family status||Married with 2 kids|
|Interests||Fashion, luxury items, fitness, traveling, parenting|
|Goals||Balancing work and family life while maintaining a stylish and luxurious lifestyle|
|Challenges||Limited time due to work and parenting responsibilities, finding clothing that is both stylish and comfortable|
|Favorite brands||Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Burberry|
|Shopping habits||Prefers online shopping due to limited time, enjoys shopping for luxury items and high-end fashion pieces, willing to pay a premium for quality and exclusivity|
This targeted approach would help this brand create content that highlights its product benefits, while addressing topics relevant to this persona’s interests — increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversion.
Tailor content to different stages of the customer journey
Readers in the decision-making stage would likely benefit from product-specific content and strong CTAs. However, those in the awareness stage are likely more interested in thought leadership pieces that establish your brand’s authority in your niche.
Rojewski suggests referring back to the funnel visual mentioned earlier.
“Top-of-the-funnel content [answers those] broad-strokes questions that buyers have, getting them interested in learning more,” she explains. “Then, as you move down the funnel, you start answering more specific questions, offering your brand as the solution.”
3. Plan your content creation and distribution
Planning your content marketing campaigns helps you stay consistent and on schedule, and ensures cohesion across every piece of content.
Otherwise, you risk creating a mess of random pieces that lack authority and confidence.
Instead, map out your content creation:
- Create a workflow or content calendar that lays out a clear path for ideation, creation, revisions, and publication for all your new content.
- Don’t forget to include distribution channels for each kind of content.
- Consider the various content formats, and plan them out in your workflow (e.g. short-form vs. long-form articles, social media posts, white papers, email marketing, podcasts, webinars, infographics, etc.)
- Include brand guidelines, content templates, topic curation, content intent, relevant backlinks, and metadata for every piece of content.
- Carve out time for content audits. Auditing your own content lets you optimize or repurpose outdated or lackluster information.
Does this make it easier for you and your content team to crush your business goals? Heck yes. The more specific your content plan gets, the easier it is to execute your strategy effectively.
4. Create epic content
You’ve laid all the groundwork to create great content. Now you can reference your workflow or content calendar to determine what type of content to produce. Is it an article? Instagram Reel? A monthly newsletter?
Coming up with content ideas is when many marketers start to panic, but we promise it’s not as daunting as it seems.
With your KPIs and target audience in mind, brainstorm and research topics that provide value to your readers, while staying relevant to their needs.
Remember Sarah Parker, our buyer persona for a luxury fashion brand?
As a mid-30s working mom balancing a stylish lifestyle with family priorities, Sarah would likely be interested in styling advice, outfit inspiration posts, influencer collaborations between parents and fashionistas, or product reviews on comfortable, luxury clothing.
Once you have your topic, it’s time to unleash your creativity. These tips can help you stay on target.
- Tell a story: Instead of simply stating facts and product offerings, weave a compelling narrative that connects with your audience on an emotional level.
- Don’t rush: Rushing results in errors, typos, and a lack of depth — so take your time.
- Hook your readers right away: Grab your audience’s attention in the first few seconds to keep them from scrolling by to something else.
- Follow SEO best practices: Use relevant keywords, metadata, and header tags to help your content rank higher in SERPS. However, avoid ‘keyword stuffing,” as this can have the opposite effect.
- Include relevant imagery and graphics: Visual elements such as images, infographics, and videos help break up blocks of text.
Before you know it, you’ll have a carefully-curated, shiny new piece of content ready to make its debut.
5. Polish, publish, and promote
Before publishing all your great content, you need to make sure it’s well-written, accurate, and error-free. Proofreading helps improve the clarity and impact of your writing, ensuring your message is delivered effectively and accurately to your audience.
Skipping the editing stage could lead to inaccuracies, errors, and poor readability in your content — putting your credibility and authority at stake.
Rather than leaving your content’s quality to chance, make sure it’s up to par by:
- Using AI editing tools like Grammarly Premium
- Hiring an in-house editor
- Asking a team member to proofread
- Contracting a freelance content editor
Once you’ve polished your new content, it’s time to publish it. This is where your content plan comes in handy. Guided by your workflow or content calendar, distribute your content across a diverse range of channels relevant to your target audience.
But be careful not to spread yourself too thin. Dig into your audience insights to see where they spend the most time — do they watch informational how-to’s on YouTube or snappy, short-form videos on TikTok? Then those two platforms are a great starting point.
To make sure all that good content reaches your audience and potential customers, promote it via social media, email marketing, influencer outreach, and so on.
Fresh, scroll-stopping content live and shared across all channels? Check!
….But your work’s not done yet.
6. Track the results (and the market)
Professional marketing teams know that great content is a product of adaptability. This isn’t just because, as HubSpot lays out, content marketing is a fluid and ever-changing landscape.
It’s because effective content marketing is continually monitored and adjusted according to both your business goals and the shifting market.
So once you unleash new content into the world, it’s up to you (or your content team) to keep a close eye on how it’s performing. This means monitoring engagement, tracking metrics, and staying up-to-date on emerging trends within both the marketing industry and your niche.
Let’s say you’re a software company that creates project management tools. You’ve been consistently producing blog posts on a range of relevant topics, but notice your readership has declined in recent months.
After tracking your metrics and analyzing your engagement data, you discover that your readers are more interested in visual content (like videos and infographics) versus the long-form blog posts you’ve been publishing.
Armed with this insight, you can adjust your content strategy to include more visual content and fewer long-form articles. Therefore, improving your content’s performance and meeting the preferences of your audience.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of your content is the only way to know whether it’s meeting your content marketing goals, or if it’s time to pivot.
7. Schedule regular content audits
The more content you create, the more often you need to revisit it to ensure it’s still as accurate, relevant, and up-to-date as possible.
Let’s say you published a blog post filled with projections about the banking market in 2019, unaware we were on the precipice of a global pandemic.
The good news: you don’t need to scrap this content. Instead, you can add value to it by giving it a much-needed revamp.
It’s a good practice to revisit content that’s one to two years old. As you comb through your old posts, analyze these factors to see how you can improve:
- Check all links (internal and external) to ensure none are broken or inactive. If you find ones that aren’t pulling their weight, update them with new ones.
- Similarly, review all statistics and quoted research. If you published an article in 2020 with a link to a study from 2018, that statistic is now five years old. Can you find newer data to link to? In the digital marketing world where data changes at lightning speed, chances are high that you can.
- Look for areas to add value. Are some sections thin? Flesh them out with actionable tips and takeaways relevant to your readers.
- Outdated references and information. Will a quip about Tiger King still resonate today? Perhaps, but a clever one-liner about The Last of Us is more on the pulse of today’s audiences. Similarly, tips and insights useful to your audience last year might lose their luster as new trends emerge.
Revisiting older content will ensure you maintain authority and relevance, which is why we recommend working it into your strategy roadmap.
Avoid these content marketing strategy mistakes
Businesses across various industries have come to us to refresh and enhance their content marketing strategies. Our expertise consistently yields impressive results for our clients, with an average ROI increase of 4.5x and skyrocketing conversions — proving that a well-crafted strategy is truly a game-changer.
But before stepping in and achieving these exceptional results, we observed some common mistakes.
Here are some content marketing strategy pitfalls you’ll want to steer clear of:
1. Not investing in the right tools and resources
Say your latest landing page isn’t generating conversions. By accessing detailed metrics and real-time data, you can quickly identify the issue and execute the necessary changes to improve its performance.
Take our exclusive marketing tech, for example. ConversionIQ syncs to Google Ads analytics, HubSpot, Bing, and more to help you easily access, track, and organize all your marketing metrics in one place.
This level of insight lets you adjust your strategy on the fly and optimize your efforts for maximum impact.
You even have free content tools at your disposal:
- Google Analytics tracks web traffic and user behavior
- Canva has templates to help you create visuals, graphics, and other design elements
- Grammarly improves grammar and ensures quality control
2. Not sharing your content strategy with employees and stakeholders
Your content strategy works best if your whole organization aligns with it. We’re talking sales, customer service, and admin — not just your marketing team.
Sharing your content marketing strategy with internal stakeholders helps you:
- Maintain brand voice and values across all departments
- Minimize duplicated efforts and wasted resources
- Reiterate the same business goals and messaging
- Avoid siloed campaigns that weaken your strategy and risk sending conflicted messaging
Establish a unified front with clear brand guidelines and regular strategy meetings that bring together sales and marketing teams. Then, watch the synergy flow.
3. Relying on a single content format
When first starting out, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that mastering one type of content or channel is your shortcut to hacking content marketing. That’s one sure way to limit your reach and impact.
Plus, it could leave you vulnerable to market changes or algorithm updates. Funneling all your efforts into TikTok with a looming ban, for example? It’s risky.
Rojewski says she often sees this in brands’ social media. “Socials are an excellent place to do some really creative marketing, but if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it, your audience won’t connect with you.”
Let’s say a B2B company has relied solely on long-form articles to reach its audience on LinkedIn. They notice their engagement and traffic have plateaued.
Experimenting with other types of content like videos, infographics, or podcasts might capture their audience’s attention in a new way and lead to a breakthrough. The result? Increased engagement, more shares, and potentially more leads and conversions.
4. Publishing inconsistently
Content marketing is a long-term strategy that requires patience and persistence for success. Meaning? You won’t achieve your content marketing goals overnight.
According to Rojewski, it can take between six months to a year to see results. “Most places will provide monthly or quarterly numbers, with that year-over-year metric being a big one,” she explains. “Some factors that can impact that are usually technical SEO pieces, like improperly indexed pages that Uncle Google can’t crawl, or wonky H1s or metadata.”
However, by consistently producing well-planned, high-quality content, you’ll begin to see the impact of your efforts sooner than later.
As marketing exec Jared Cooker says: “Content is king, but consistency is queen.”
5. Choosing quantity over quality
Which is better: a few, high-quality pieces of content per month or a higher volume of mediocre, thin content?
Contrary to popular belief, the pros know producing heaps of content at the expense of quality is a digital marketing no-no.
First, search engines like Google and Bing now prioritize high-quality content over keyword-stuffed, low-quality pieces. Second, flooding your audience with irrelevant, weak content (for the sake of merely pumping out more content) could tarnish your credibility, further burying your brand in an already crowded market.
Instead of churning out constant, quality-compromised content, focus on producing fewer, high-quality pieces.
Well-crafted content that truly resonates with your target audience establishes your brand as a trusted authority, improves your search engine rankings, and enhances your reputation.
Content marketing strategy checklist
Ready to blast through all the tasks on your content strategy? Here’s your official checklist to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
Establish your KPIs
Choose which metrics to track
Incorporate qualitative (subjective measurements) and quantitative KPIs (objective measurements)
Visualize your goals for the long-haul
Define your audience
Create buyer personas
Use your personas to brainstorm relevant topics and content ideas
Tailor content to different customer journey stages
Create product-specific content and thought-leadership content
Map out content creation and promotion
Create a content calendar
Choose your promotion channels
Decide which content formats to focus on
Use your brand guidelines to inform content creation
Schedule regular content audits
Tell a great story
Take your time to ensure quality
Lead with solid hooks
Incorporate flawless SEO
Add visual elements like images, videos, and graphics
Edit and promote
Proofread and polish your content
Create a publishing schedule
Promote your content on social media and in your newsletter
Check engagement on social media
Review your Google analytics
Use tech like ConversionIQ to leverage results and pivot your strategy
Schedule content audits
Revisit older content every 6 months to 2 years
Swap out broken links
Update statistics and research
Expand on thin content
Review tone and language to ensure relevance
Conduct a final review
Invest in automation tools and resources
Ensure your whole team is in on your strategy
Focus on 2-3 content channels
Publish consistently for best results
Prioritize quality over quantity
Whether you’re a small start-up or a larger, more established company, every brand has much to gain from an optimized content marketing strategy.
For small businesses, it can be a cost-effective way to increase brand awareness, establish thought leadership, and generate leads. For larger companies, an optimized content marketing strategy can consolidate and streamline marketing efforts, leading to higher efficiency, better use of resources, and improved ROI.
Either way, a well-planned content marketing strategy can give your brand the competitive edge it needs to thrive.
Rather focus on your brand offerings instead of getting bogged down by content creation and marketing? Sit back and innovate — we’ll take care of the content strategy.