Do I really need to create a content marketing strategy?
Updated: Jul 2, 2019
What is a content marketing strategy and does your business need one? These are two common questions when the subject of content marketing is broached with business owners – and the simple answer is…yes! Content is everywhere, it’s what pulls your audience into your website, it’s what educates them about your business – from web pages, campaigns, email marketing, social media to blog posts, features, eBooks, resources and all that’s in between.
Content is all around us.
It’s confusing – all the different phrases and terminology. For example, a content marketing strategy isn’t the same as a content strategy. This post aims to iron out any confusion you have around these terms, exactly what they mean for your business and discusses how and why you need to create a content marketing strategy.
Let’s start off with the basics:
What is the difference between a content marketing strategy and a content strategy?
Think of your content marketing strategy as the outer casing for your content marketing. The casing helps you understand why, who and how. Why you need content, who your content is aimed at and how you can help your audience by educating them and addressing any challenges they have within your industry.
After you’ve understood your why, who and how, your content strategy comes into play. The content strategy is effectively a sub-section to the content marketing strategy. It is a deeper insight into how you’re going to create genuinely useful content that engages and educates your audience. Content extends past your blog to your social media, your web page content, guest blogging and more.
Four reasons you should take content marketing seriously:
55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority. (HubSpot, 2018)
Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising. (Content Marketing Institute, 2017)
42% of companies hired a designated content strategist executive. (Curata, 2016)
47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. (Demand Gen Report, 2016)
How to build a content marketing strategy
Just like any digital marketing strategy, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to building a content marketing strategy. I’ve outlined the basics to get you started when creating your own strategy below.
Step one: understand your audience
Understanding who makes up your audience is the common denominator throughout all your marketing activities – how can you create content strategies around an audience you don’t understand? Jumping in at the deep end and creating content for content’s sake is a complete waste of time and resources.
How can you understand your audience?
Interview your current clients/customers. Why did they pick your product/service over others? What challenges did they have before purchasing your product/service? What did they expect to get from your product/service, and did it deliver? What sites do they use to keep up with trends or industry news?
Look at your website analytics. What does your audience demographic look like? Analysing this overview can help you determine a rough idea of who makes up your audience and their interests.
Once you’ve got a feel for who makes up your audience, it’s time to build a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal client. Creating a buyer persona has many benefits and once created you can:
Send it round your marketing department so everyone can always have a unified vision of your ideal customer and can adapt their strategies with the persona in mind
Ensure your marketing isn’t wasting precious budget marketing to the masses and appealing to no one
Create meaningful and engaging content to target and widen your audience and brand awareness
You can build your personas from scratch by using these free buyer persona templates from HubSpot.
Step two: analyse competing websites
Analysing your competitor’s website is the easiest way to start building an idea of what content does well in your industry. I use an SEO tool called Ahrefs.com. In this tool I can analyse any web address, finding out in a split second which of their pages generate the most organic traffic and which pieces of content generate the most links and overall perform solidly. This tool also enables me to find low competition keywords to help optimise content for search engines.
This tool is a must for me, but I don’t use this alone. So, if you don’t have the budget or the time to analyse using this tool there are many other free and cost-effective tools to use to generate relevant content ideas for your business, here are just a handful:
Answerthepublic.com – a great tool to determine genuine search queries related to your industry
Google Alerts – set up alerts surrounding your keywords and you’ll receive email updates containing news/feature stories around the web containing this keyword phrase
Keywordtool.io – a fantastic tool to generate new keyword ideas based on a single keyword
Google Analytics – navigating to the left-hand menu in analytics and clicking ‘acquisition’ > ‘campaigns’ > ‘organic keywords’ – will generate a list of all the keywords users have typed to find your website organically. This gives you a very clear indication of what users are searching for to land on your site already. Maybe you need to build more content around the top-performing keywords?
Google – simply typing your keywords in an incognito window, will bring up a list of autofill options – basically, queries other searches have searched for relating to this keyword. Make sure you do this in an incognito window, though, as your past searches and location can influence the results.
Step three: build a content plan
After you’ve nailed down your audience and what content is popular in your industry, now is a good time to start building your content plan. This plan is a tactical document and should include the measurables of your content marketing strategy - who oversees what and your content marketing objectives can also feature here. It’s important to understand what success looks like – which tools are you using to measure aspects of your strategy? Etc.
The plan should also outline keywords and content types you will produce, where/when they will be published and where the content will be shared/promoted.
How to make sure your content marketing strategy is successful
A lot of companies fail to make their content marketing strategy successful. Content marketing expert, Neil Patel, undertook research to find out why. The reason that came out on top was that the company simply had no strategy. He gives three ideas that you can implement into your own content marketing strategy and they are all to do with looking at your competitor.
- Why has their content been successful? Emulate that.
- Where have they shared their content? Mimic that.
- Who’s sharing their content? Reach those prospects.
What else can you do to ensure your strategy doesn’t fail?
Take the time to make it work.
Content marketing is something that can take months and years to see concrete results and that’s why a lot of businesses seemingly give up on the tactic but then complain they don’t see traction in the search engines, and they don’t witness many new leads through their website. This is a strategy that
Keeping you and your team focused on the strategy can be difficult but it’s the only way you’ll see results. Therefore, creating buyer personas can help your team stay on the same page when it comes to generating actionable content marketing ideas.
Don’t become too rigid with processes.
It can be easy to slip into a rut, such as ‘post X amount of blog posts per week’ – your time might deliver this rigidly but are these blog posts going to resonate with your audience? Did you know, according to Search Engine Journal, the average length for page 1 results on search engines is around 1,900 words? That’s a lot of words, right? But you can’t publish several decent posts a week if you’re a small business with limited resources. That’s why planning your content around topics and trends that are going to excite and engage your audience is key. Take the time to plan content but don’t just produce it for the sake of your blog looking neglected. One highly-engaging post once a month or once a week is much more beneficial for your website (and your resources) than several lightweight blog posts around 400-500 words each.
Content marketing is very much a trial and error process. Sometimes your content will call for 500 words instead of dragging them out to 2000 words and that’s ok – it’s just important you don’t follow a strict content schedule ‘just because’.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a lot to think about when it comes to the direction of your content marketing tactics. It’s important to not only implement a content marketing strategy for your business but to ensure it is correctly documented, too. It’s easy to sporadically carry out content marketing activities but without focus or an understanding of your audience, your content marketing strategy will fall flat wasting hours of resources in the process.