Back in the good old days of content creation, you could create a short blog post, share it on social media, and expect to get a nice bump in traffic to your website.
Those were, indeed, the good old days.
Unfortunately, those tactics aren’t particularly effective anymore. Why? There at least two primary reasons.
First, Facebook (and other social media platforms) are increasingly committed to keeping people on their sites. In other words, Facebook doesn’t want to send people away from Facebook. They want people to stay on Facebook for as long as humanly possible.
If you post a link to your website, Facebook simply won’t show it in many people’s newsfeeds.
Second, the amount of content being created every day is absolutely staggering. Approximately 4 million blog posts are written every single day. When you combine this with podcasts, videos, and social media updates, the amount of content being cranked out is absolutely mind-numbing.
Standing out from the crowd is challenging, to say the least.
So what’s the solution? Is it to simply pump out more content in hopes that something stands out?
You need a content marketing strategy.
What Is A Content Marketing Strategy?
To state the semi-obvious, there are three key elements to a content marketing strategy:
If any of these key pieces are missing, you simply won’t get any traction when it comes to people engaging with your content. Let’s look at each one individually.
At the heart of any content marketing strategy is high-quality, highly-relevant content. Both of those things are key. You can’t simply put out a 300-word, generic blog post and expect people to care about it. If you want people to notice your content, it needs to be of the highest value and highly relevant to your audience.
It should be as good or better than the best content on any given subject. Yes, that’s a high bar, but if you want to stand out amidst 4 million blog posts, that’s what’s required.
You may create amazing content, but if no one ever sees it then you’ve wasted your time. Not only do you need to be creating amazing content, but you also need a marketing plan for getting that content in front of as many people as possible. You need a specific plan for getting as much exposure as possible for your content.
The reality is that effective content marketing can’t be done in an ad-hoc manner. You need a well-planned strategy for the content you will create and how you will distribute that content. If you want to create high-value content that gets seen by a wide audience, you need to be very strategic.
Developing Your Content Strategy: Step-By-Step
Now let’s talk specifically about how to develop your content strategy. Here are 8 steps to building a highly effective content marketing strategy.
Step #1: Define Your Goals
The first step in any content marketing strategy is to determine what you’re trying to achieve. Are you trying to generate more leads? Establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry? Generate a significant increase in organic search traffic? Knowing your primary goals beforehand will guide you in terms of what types of content you create as well as how you market it.
Step #2: Define Your Target Audience
In order for your content marketing to be effective, your content must be highly relevant to your target audience. Before you do any content creation, you need to map out:
- The pain points of your target audience
- The types of content they prefer
- The subjects they want to be educated on
- Their preferred learning methods
The more you can define your target audience, the more effectively you’ll be able to create content that is highly relevant to them and the better the odds you’ll achieve your overall goals.
Step #3: Do Your Keyword Research
By doing keyword research before you begin creating content, you can determine what questions your audience is asking and what pain points they’re trying to solve. Then you can create content that speaks directly to those questions and pain points.
As you create this type of high-quality, highly relevant content, you’ll inevitably see an uptick in organic search traffic, which is a big plus even if it isn’t your ultimate goal.
Step #4: Determine The Types of Content You’ll Produce
Once you’ve determined your core audience and done your keyword research, it’s time to map out the kinds of content that you’ll be producing. If you’ve been in business for some time and already produced a significant amount of content, you may want to run a content audit to see what has produced the best results. Then you can double down on that type of content.
When thinking about what type of content you’ll be producing, consider what your audience will want at each stage of the buying journey. When they’re in the research phase, in-depth blog posts may be the most effective type of content. When they’re further down the funnel and much closer to buying, case studies and white papers may be more effective.
As you plan out your content, also consider the length of content you’ll produce.
While there’s not a “right” length, numerous studies have shown that longer content performs much better in search rankings than shorter content. As a counterbalance to this, there are also instances where short-form content works, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons. Yes, producing longer content requires more effort, but if you want to dominate the search results, longer is usually better.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you create high-quality content. No one will stick around to read even 5 words, much less 5000 words if the content is not top-tier quality.
Step #5: Create An Editorial Calendar
Once you’ve determined what content you’ll be creating, you need to organize it in an editorial calendar. Pushing numerous pieces of content to various channels can be challenging unless you’re well organized.
An “editorial calendar” is exactly that, a calendar where you establish specific dates as deadlines for getting your content produced, reviewed and approved, and finally published. And as other people are going to need to see it, the calendar should be sharable, editable or at least viewable by others on your team.
Step #6: Set Up Your Collaboration Tools
In order for your team to effectively create and market your content, you’re going to need collaboration tools. Before you execute your content marketing strategy, determine the tools you’re going to use.
Step #7: Determine Your Publishing Channels
As noted, nobody will see your content if you don’t distribute it effectively. You need to determine ahead of time where you’re going to publish the different pieces of content you create. Will you be publishing on your blog? YouTube? Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? Medium?
When considering which channels to use, consider how your audience likes to learn. Do they prefer to read or watch videos? Do they like podcasts? What about infographics? Ideally, you’ll publish in a variety of formats that appeal to the way your audience prefers to learn.
Step #8: Assign Responsibility
The final step is to assign responsibility for each step of the content creation and distribution process. Determine:
- Who will create each piece of content
- Who will edit it
- Who will publish it
- Who will promote it
- Who will measure the appropriate metrics on the content (clicks, shares, traffic, etc.)
At every stage, there should be one person responsible for approving the finished product. This person should be well-versed in your company’s culture and language or else you risk putting out an inconsistent message.
Before You Launch
Once you’ve mapped out your full content marketing strategy, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. There are a few key things you need to be sure before you get started.
First, are you trying to do too much? In other words, are you being realistic about how much content you can create and publish during the time allotted? It would be better to pull back and do fewer things more effectively than to try to do too much and miss the target altogether. Limit your focus to what you really can handle.
Second, do you have the personnel and the financial resources to launch the content marketing campaign that you’ve mapped out? The simple truth is that most campaigns require more time and money than originally estimated. Make sure that you and your staff can handle the load. If you’re not sure whether you have sufficient resources, scale back. You can always add things back in at a later date.
Third, be prepared to document everything, including your mistakes. Mistakes will inevitably happen. By documenting them thoroughly, you can ensure that they don’t happen again.
You’ve mapped out your content marketing plan. You know exactly what kind of content you’re going to create, who’s going to create it, how you’re going to publish it, and how you’re going to create it. You’ve stepped back and looked at the bigger picture and are fully confident that you can execute upon your strategy.
It’s time to launch.
It’s time to start creating that amazing, high-value, highly relevant content and then putting it out for the world to see.
Don’t wait any longer.