How to Create a Successful Content Marketing Strategy
17 minutes

How to Create a Successful Content Marketing Strategy

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.

In this guide, you’ll find out exactly what a content marketing strategy is so that you can create and implement your own. We’ve even thrown in a handy downloadable content marketing strategy template to help you get going.

Content Marketing Strategy eBook

Contents

  1. How do I build a content marketing strategy?
    a) Set an objective
    b) Get to know your audience
    c) Stalk the algorithm

    d) Run an audit

    e) Keep an eye on competitors
    f) Dig into keyword research
    g) Select the right format
    h) Get structured
    i) Distribute your content
    j) Measure your performance
    k) Refresh your content
  2. NORTH – Content Marketing Strategy Template

 

How do I build a content marketing strategy?

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: 

Situation →  Objective → Strategy → Tactics → Actions →  Control.

SOSTAC Content Marketing Strategy

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 objective might 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 with SMART 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:

  • Their demographic
  • 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. Our guide to content pruning can tell you more about this.

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. This can be a good opportunity to consider keyword mapping.

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:

  • Beer
  • Lager
  • IPA
  • Stout
  • Bitter
  • Wheat Beer
  • Belgian Beer
  • Craft Beer

 

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.

 

Here are a selection of tools for the job: 

 

There are lots of different types of keywords to explore, if you’d like to read up we suggest heading over to Ahrefs to find out the 8 most important types of keywords for SEO

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

Make sure to include these types of keywords in your strategy to ensure you’re moving customers through the funnel. Here’s some more information on how to choose the most valuable keywords.

 

7) Select the right format

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. 

Content Marketing Formats

 

This is where selecting the right format is key. Here are several formats to consider:

  • Blog post
  • Pillar page
  • Category page
  • Product page
  • Landing page
  • Research/ data index page
  • How to guide
  • FAQ
  • Case Study/ Testimonial
  • Survey
  • Tool
  • Video
  • Quiz
  • Interview
  • eBook/ White Paper
  • Infographic
  • Listicle
  • Checklist
  • Glossary
  • Comparison guide

 

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:

 

Content Calendar

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
  • Keyword/s
  • Title of content
  • URL link
  • Name of writer
  • Short description of content
  • The channels you to plan to distribute through
  • Captions for Social Media
  • Imagery for sharing
  • Notes

 

Channels

Here are some recommended channels to consider for distribution:

  • Website
  • Social Media
  • Email – workflow/ newsletter
  • Groups – social media
  • Paid Social
  • Display Ads
  • PPC
  • PR
  • Sponsored content
  • Influencer
  • Forums
  • Slack
  • Whatsapp

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.

 

Here are some more recommendations to consider: 

 

Measurement solutions:

 

Things to measure:

  • Pageviews
  • Organic traffic, 
  • Bounce rate
  • Keyword ranking
  • Conversion rate
  • Organic clicks
  • Organic Impressions
  • CTR
  • Source of traffic
  • Time on page
  • Pages per visit
  • Social media engagement
  • Backlinks

 

If you’d like to dive in a little bit deeper, and need an explanation of metrics then we recommend you check out our blog on how to measure content marketing metrics.

 

11) Refresh your content

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.

For further reading on refreshing content, check out our blog post discussing the value of repurposing content for SEO.

 

Let’s wrap this up:

  • 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

NORTH - Content Marketing - Strategy Template

 

We’ve pulled together a strategy template with an example to get you started.

Download our PowerPoint template: NORTH – Content Marketing Strategy Template (PowerPoint)

Download out PDF template: NORTH – Content Marketing Strategy Template (PDF)

 

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!