A content marketing strategy is a well-thought-out plan with a clear objective that gets your brand to where it needs to be. A successful content strategy maps out a carefully selected set of tactics, centred around content creation and distribution, to meet your business goals and reach your target audience at every stage of the funnel.
Marketers working in-house will know the struggles of job-juggling first hand. With many channels to look after, tasks to manage, and key dates to remember, marketers are often left feeling time poor and under-resourced. As a result, it’s very easy to fall into the reactive approach, but it’s time to take a step back and get proactive with your content by building a proper strategy.
The term ‘content marketing’ is used as a bit of a catch-all to describe any copy or creative produced for a brand and used for online promotion through various channels including; social media, video, website, podcast, whitepapers, and email. In this guide we’re focusing on SEO content marketing, covering everything you’ll need to know to create the perfect on-page strategy.
1) Set an objective
If you read our blog on digital pr strategy, then you may recall our favoured framework for writing strategies – the trusty SOSTAC model:
It all begins by looking at your current situation as a business. Spend some time reflecting, and make a list of all the problems you’re facing. Use the data and information at your disposal to audit your performance. Look into website analytics, sales, and any third party data you can get your hands on. Carry out competitor research, and if necessary conduct internal/ external interviews to get more insight.
Once you created your list, move the information into a SWOT analysis.
This is a great way of reviewing your::
Strengths + Weaknesses + Opportunities + Threats
It allows you to see: what is and isn’t working in your business, highlight any overlooked opportunities, and pinpoint any threats.
By working out where you are now, you’ll discover where you need to be and this will help to define your main business objective.
Your objectivemight look a bit like one of the following:
Increase brand awareness
Educate/ inspire/ engage audience
Improve conversion rate
Grow organic traffic
Improve search ranking
Establish your business as an authority
Attract/ retain customers
Launch a new product/ service/ category
Sell more of a specific product/ service/ category
Your strategy is a top line statement of how you’re going to get there and reach your objective.
Let’s look at a potential scenario:
Situation: My website isn’t attracting enough visitors or contributing enough revenue for our business
Objective: Grow organic traffic and increase conversion rate by X% in the next 6 months
Strategy: Optimise website for targeted keywords, and convert visitors into customers with blog content and product guides that move them through the funnel
A successful strategy is an achievable one, so write yours withSMART goals in mind.
As a refresher, SMART goals are:
Specific + Measurable + Achievable + Relevant + Time-Bound
Our potential scenario objective hits this criteria. It’s specific to our situation, can be measured through a measurement solution like Google Analytics or Semrush, the target percentage increase we’d include IRL would be achievable, it’s relevant to the needs of our business, and we’ve set a time to achieve it by.
2) Get to know your audience
The best content is written with the reader in mind, so you need to know exactly who your audience is, and find out as much information about them as possible.
We recommend diving into website analytics, conducting surveys, running polls on social media, and arranging interviews with past, current, and target customers to help inform and create your personas.
Your personas should include:
Where they find new content
What they like to read
When they’re most likely to read it
What they watch and listen to
What their hobbies and interests are
The content they choose to engage with and share
The channels they’re most active on
The type of information they’re seeking
What influences them
Your content won’t be able to help an audience you don’t understand, and now Google has rolled out their helpful content update, the need for creating helpful content has never been more important.
3) Stalk the algorithm
A search engine’s goal is to provide the user with the most relevant result for their query, aiming to display high quality, helpful content that meets the users needs and keeps them coming back for more.
To achieve this, Google has introduced numerous ranking factors to score the quality of a website. It’s estimated that there are over 200 ranking factors in total, and Google makes thousands of updates to their algorithm every year.
There’s a lot to take in if you want to master the algorithm, and to avoid any black hat tricks and spammy, low quality websites tricking their way to the top, Google keeps a lot of their cards close to their chest. But they do share plenty of hints and guides to point you in the right direction, so it’s worth paying close attention.
Set time aside to soak in as much information as you can. We’d recommend signing up to #SEOFOMO, a free weekly newsletter with all the latest in SEO – it makes for the perfect Monday morning coffee read to set you up with news and new ways of thinking for the week ahead.Having a great idea of what search engines are looking for is vital to planning a successful strategy, writing the best content and structuring it in the most readable fashion. But remember, you’re not writing for machines. Everything must be written and created for people – keyword stuffers bow your head in shame.
4) Run an audit
The existing content on your website holds a lot of information and a lot of answers that will help shape your new strategy, so don’t neglect it. Content marketing auditing is the process of analysing and assessing the content that’s already on your site. It allows you to see what is and isn’t working, so you can make more of the good stuff, improve the not so good, and get rid of the bad.
An audit can help reveal the search terms your content already ranks for, so you know exactly which pages to focus on and help rank higher. Auditing can also uncover problems you didn’t know existed like incorrect header tags, missing metadata, absent category tags, and dare I say it even the lack of a keyword.
Your audit can reveal opportunities for updating content. Perhaps there’s outdated information in a blog post and now it’s time to refresh statistics, discuss industry developments, or react to unexpected news topics that have impacted your story. If you’ve undergone any brand development then there may be a need to update branding, graphics, photography and even your TOV (tone of voice) or CTAs (calls to action).
You can expose weaknesses in your content like a low word count, lack of imagery, shortage of internal/ external links, poor formatting, or even bad keyword practice (like: keyword cannibalisation, irrelevant terms, and keyword stuffing).
By analysing why certain pieces of content and topics work best, you can focus your efforts on producing the right pieces of content to move the needle and increase your online performance.
5) Keep an eye on competitors
Once you’ve reviewed the existing content on your site, it’s time to review the competition.
To begin, we recommend running a keyword gap analysis. You’ll need an SEO tool, our favourite tool for the job is Semrush, but Ahrefs works great for this too, so use whichever you prefer.
A gap analysis is used to reveal the keywords your competitors are ranking for that you’re not. It also reveals the keywords your competitors are ranking for on page 1, that you’re ranking for on page 2-10.
You might have a good idea of who your industry competitors are, but an organic research competitors report will tell you who your organic search competitors are based on the keywords you have in common. You can then use the keywords gap tool to see how your keyword ranking positions compare to the competitors highlighted in your report, and find keywords your competitors are ranking for that you’re not.
You need to keep an eye on your direct industry competitors too, so analyse: their website, campaigns, social media, PR activity, and events. Make a note of any threats or opportunities from this research and include it in your SWOT analysis.
6) Dig into keyword research
To help increase your search visibility, you’re going to need to target specific keywords to optimise each page on your website for. It’s critical that you don’t try and rank for the same keywords on several pages on your website or you’ll risk keyword cannabilsation, and as result the search engines won’t know which page to rank for.
To select the right keywords, you’re going to need to do some research. There’s no point in trying to rank for a keyword no one is searching, and if the keyword is highly competitive, then it could take a lot of effort to get the result you’re hoping for.
It all starts with a ‘seed’. For example if you’re in the alcohol business and sell beer, your seed keywords might look a bit like this:
As you can probably guess, these terms will be pretty competitive, but they’re only intended to be used as a starting point.
To start building on your seed keywords, you’re going to need to use a tool. There are loads of options out there, some come at a cost, whilst others are free.
Google’s Keyword Planner is an excellent free tool and it’s really easy to use. Just type in your seed keyword, and it will fire back a load of related terms with their search volume.
Another free option is Answer The Public, type in your seed keyword and it will give you a list of search queries, letting you know what people are actively looking for, in the form of ‘when, what, will, can, how, why….’ style questions.
When creating your keyword list, include a mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords have a high search volume and are therefore more competitive. Fewer people are searching for long-tail terms, so they are easier to rank for and are often more specific to search intent. For example, a short-tail keyword like ‘buy beer’ is a lot more competitive than something longer-tail and specific like ‘buy mixed case IPA’ which is more likely to lead to a sale.
Two important types of keywords that help guide customers through the buyer’s journey are: informational and transactional.
Informational keywords – help searchers find out more information about a problem, product, service or category
Transactional keywords – help searchers find where they can purchase a product or service, or complete an action
Once you’ve completed your keyword research, you’ll have a list of content ideas to crack on with. But before you get going, you need to consider the best way to present each of your ideas.
This is where selecting the right format is key. Here are several formats to consider:
Research/ data index page
How to guide
Case Study/ Testimonial
eBook/ White Paper
It’s important to have a good mixture of these formats in your arsenal to help guide customers through the funnel on their buyer’s journey. For example a blog on ‘What is X?’ or ‘How to X’ is a great way to build awareness of what you’re offering. A comparison guide illustrates the different options available in the consideration section, and a case study or free demo can help close a purchase in the decision stage.
8) Get structured
To give your content the best chance of success, you need to spend some time making sure it’s optimised correctly. This will ensure it’s an enjoyable read for your audience, and that it’s presented in the right format for search engines to understand and rank your page.
Here’s what you need to do:
Use a simple descriptive headline that includes your primary keyword, and tag it as H1
Break up your content into multiple sections with subheadings, tag each as H2
For chunky H2 sub sections, break down the content further into H3 subheadings, making it digestible and easier for the user to take in
Create a shorter version of your H1 headlines to use as the URL slug, making sure to include your primary keyword
For long-form content, create a ‘Contents’ section and use jump links so it’s easy to navigate
Write a meta title that is between 30-60 characters. Keep it close to the content’s headline, and include your primary keyword. Include the page category (eg. blog) and use vertical bars to break it up
Write a meta description that appeals to the reader, but is no longer than 155 characters. It should be relevant to the content, including a call to action and your primary keyword
If you include any imagery, keep the file size low and compress it using a free online tool. Remember to add alt text to the images and name it correctly.
Utilise bold and italic font styles to draw attention and highlight key info
Break up big paragraphs of text into bullet points or numbered lists (just like this one)
Keep your paragraphs short and use plenty of line breaks, it’s much easier to read long-form content when it’s presented in small bites
Make use of anchor text to include internal and external links, keep it descriptive and relevant to the link – avoid using text like ‘click here’ or ‘read more’
Spread out your keywords throughout the page, but don’t stuff it. Always remember you’re writing this content for humans not machines, but the keywords will help them find you
Write a conclusion or summary of your content
Don’t publish a page without a call to action, offer the reader another piece of content, send them to a page they might like, or suggest a product/ service to check out
9) Distribute your content
Once you’ve written your content, formatted it correctly and uploaded it to your website, you’re going to need a plan to distribute it. You can’t just rely on direct traffic or search intent alone. Even though your page will be optimised, it’s going to take a while for your SEO efforts to kick in and search visibility to improve.
To make your content strategy as effective as possible, we suggest creating a content calendar to plan your activity and spread out your efforts:
A content calendar, often referred to as an editorial calendar, is a simple, organised way of planning out your activity. You can choose to put in as much detail as you like, and plan as far in advance as you like, but we recommend creating a monthly or quarterly plan.
Each piece of activity should be moving you closer to your objective, one step at a time. You need to ask yourself if the content is right for your audience? And if it aligns with your strategy?
Your calendar could include:
Publishing date/ time in a calendar view
The content format
Stage of buyer’s journey
Title of content
Name of writer
Short description of content
The channels you to plan to distribute through
Captions for Social Media
Imagery for sharing
Here are some recommended channels to consider for distribution:
Email – workflow/ newsletter
Groups – social media
10) Measure your performance
If you’ve gone through all of the effort of: creating a strategy, planning out a content calendar, writing, publishing and distributing your content, then you’re going to want to check if it was worth your time, resource and budget.
This is where the ‘control’ aspect of your SOSTAC strategy comes into play.
In the world of digital marketing there are multiple measurement tools and metrics you can utilise. Whatever you choose will depend on your business objective and of course your budget.
One key tool that you’re likely familiar with is Google Analytics, it’s an ideal solution for all levels including beginners and is super handy for both SEO and Digital PR alike.
After you’ve successfully published and distributed your content, it’s not necessarily the end of the road. It might need to be updated or even repurposed down the line.
As pointed out earlier in the audit section of this guide, sometimes there’ll be a need to update outdated information, refresh statistics, react to a new trend or topic that has affected your story, or discuss industry developments.
Whilst we recommend that the majority of your content is evergreen, often there is a need to create something more specific. For example, a fashion company might choose to write a blog on the “Top 10 Social-Led Trends in 2020’s”, as we’re still in this decade, the blog would need to be updated annually.
Follow the SOSTAC framework by downloading our ‘Content Marketing Strategy Template’
Work out your current situation as a business to find out where you are now
Set an objective to work out where you need to be
Write a top-line strategy statement to describe how you’re going to get there
Discover more about who your audience is
Follow industry updates and find out as many tips and developments in SEO as you can, following a newsletter like #SEOFOMO is a great way to start sourcing information
Run an audit to find out: what is and isn’t working for you, pinpoint anything that needs improving, and start concentrating on putting your efforts into the right areas
Keep an eye on your competitors by: running a keyword gap analysis on your search competitors, and analysing your direct industry competitors marketing strategy
Use a keyword research tool to inform your content ideas, using a mixture of short-tail and long-tail keywords that are spread out across the buyer’s journey covering both informational and transactional intent
Select the right format style for each piece of content you create, cover a wide range of formats to ensure you help move customers through their buyer’s journey
Optimise your content so that’s it’s easy to read and digest for humans, and presented in a clean structure search engines can understand and rank
Create a content calendar, monthly or quarterly and select which channels you plan to distribute through to reach as many members of your audience as possible
Decide on at least one measurement solution tool to monitor your performance, covering the metrics that are right for your business needs, moving you closer to your objective
To get more bang for your buck, refresh your content. Updating outdated statistics or information to keep it fresh
Always remember to write helpful content for your audience, and make sure that what you create gets you closer to your objective!
NORTH – Content Marketing Strategy Template
We’ve pulled together a strategy template with an example to get you started.
If you enjoyed this blog, and want to keep reading up on strategies, check out digital PR strategy guide. If you have any questions or need a hand with your strategy, get in touch we’d love to speak with you!