Content strategy is a higher-level business activity than content marketing. Content strategy is the roadmap that guides your content marketing. It’s the decision making that underlies whom your content will impact, how your content will cut through all the noise, and the desired outcomes. In addition, it involves defining content success.
What are the 3 components of content strategy?
And while there’s no one-size-fits all, content strategy essentially begins by combining three key elements — brand focus, user experience, and content distribution — that will serve the requirements of a business and its customers.
A content strategy is a content creation and deployment plan to achieve business goals. It outlines the decision-making process behind whom your material will impact, how it will cut through all of the noise, and what you hope to achieve in smaller, more measurable metrics – defining content success.
A good strategy sets a roadmap to plan, create, and manage content. It guides all of your marketing assets and supports ongoing content lifecycle management to meet your critical business initiatives. Organising, scheduling, generating, publishing, and promoting content pieces all fall under the content strategy umbrella.
Content strategy and SEO strategy go hand in hand. A central part of an effective strategy is identifying the questions, desires, pain points, and challenges that drive your audience to action. Then, you do strategic keyword research to determine how your audience searches for solutions to their needs. Finally, you create content around these topics that fulfill their search intent.
Terakeet recently published two organic search market share reports for the beauty industry and the financial services industry that showcase the value of full-funnel content marketing strategy. Surprisingly, the largest brands worth billions of dollars are losing significant market share to online publishers with more robust, search-focused content strategies.
Map content to the customer journey
Then, develop content that amplifies brand awareness, solves problems, and influences decisions. This might include blog posts, articles, and videos that answer your customer’s questions. It could also include MOFU content to help them take the next step in their journey, such as webinars and case studies. And finally, you might create content like interactive tools and calculators, product comparison charts, etc. to push them over the finish line at the bottom of the funnel.
Align with search intent
No matter the content you generate, be sure that you’re aligning with search intent. In other words, make sure that you’re providing the type of content, information, and answers that someone searching on a given keyword is actually seeking.
Intent really matters. If someone is searching for educational information and all you have to offer is a product, Google will likely identify the disconnect and display other content at the top of the SERPs instead of yours. Similarly, if they are looking for a checklist and you’re not serving that up in your content, you’ll likely miss the mark again.
Launch SEO topic clusters
Along with full-funnel content and aligning with intent, your content ecosystem should be mindfully structured. To that end, SEO topic clusters are a particularly effective way to increase organic traffic for relevant keywords.
A topic cluster is a hub-and-spoke model of content production. It contains a central pillar page (the hub) that thoroughly addresses a broad topic at a high level. The pillar page is supported by a number of related, longer-tail cluster pages (the spokes) that address specific subtopics in a much more in-depth fashion than the pillar pages. The pillar page connects to all of the cluster pages and vice-versa through internal links.
So, topic clusters are like concentrated buckets of relevance. They help search engines understand the context, relationships, and hierarchy of each page within a family of content. At the same time, they help your audience find answers and related information easily.
Step #5: Listen to Your Customers to Improve Your Content Strategy
While data analysis can be an immensely useful tool, it gives you only black and white figures on a spectrum that encompasses a lot of subtleties. Access the rest of that spectrum by really listening to your customers. Your customers need to know they are being heard on social media, so ask them for feedback and suggestions and engage with them regularly.
Also, speak to other members of your staff to get a better understanding of the needs of your customers. Sales teams and help staff who are speaking to your customers on a regular basis are better positioned to have thoughtful insight into how customers perceive your business. Then, reaching out to your customers and responding to their feedback enables you to gather valuable data, whilst also showing them that their opinion matters.
Virgin provided an excellent case study by showing how they utilized big data. They incorporated search terms used on the web, people being followed on social media platforms, and views and interests expressed online.
What’s the first step of creating a content strategy?
The first step to creating a content strategy should be to define your goals. From there, you can make decisions about what your processes should look like, who your target audience is, what your publishing schedule should be, etc.
Using our step-by-step guide will push you in the right direction to creating a great content strategy, whilst also making sure you are paying attention to key metrics that can make or break the success of your content. Remember: starting your content strategy on the wrong foot is guaranteed to waste your time, and publishing your content on the wrong platforms for your audience means you won’t generate the leads you desire.
He is the co-founder of NP Digital. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies. Neil is a New York Times bestselling author and was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations.
After you determine what your biggest content needs are, then you can assign relevant metrics. For example, if you need to focus on awareness content, relevant metrics could be social shares and newsletter signups; whereas for content at the bottom of the funnel, you might, for example, focus on lead form completions.
With the emergence of the axiom “content is king” within the SEO world, the definition of what exactly content strategy is has been debated. We’re not going to try to throw our hat in the ring about what the end-all, be-all definition should be since lots of smart people have done so; however, we’ll define content strategy and marketing as it relates to this guide.
What is content strategy?
Content strategy is the ongoing process of developing a comprehensive plan to ideate, design, create, share, and promote content that aligns with your brand, speaks to your target audience, and is measured against specific goals.
Content strategy acts as a glue, tying together numerous elements important for SEO, from your overarching brand vision to promotional campaigns, all of which we will be addressing within the following chapters of this resource. As SEO has moved past manipulative tactics such as keyword stuffing and link buying, what’s important is creating content that’s relevant and engaging to your customers, which in turn strengthens Google’s understanding of your website and its topical authority.
If you have a dedicated content team, great! See what strategic plans they already have, and collaborate with them moving forward. If not, no problem. Many SEO teams may act as hybrid content/SEO/PR teams, and the following steps are still well within your wheelhouse.
Boost your content with SEO
What’s the difference between content strategy and content marketing?
While many, many people use the terms "content strategy" and "content marketing" interchangeably, they are not the same thing, because you can strategize about non-marketing content. For our purposes, though, when we talk about "content strategy," you can assume we’re talking about "content marketing strategy."
Content strategy concerns itself with the vision — the ins and outs of how and why your content will be created, managed, and eventually archived or updated. It looks at all of the content your customers ever encounter. It overlaps with content marketing, which is why you’ll see a lot of things in this guide that look like content strategy, but they are not the same thing (did we say that already?).
Content marketing focuses on the tactics and execution — the actual creation, curation, and editing of content that’s specifically created for the purposes of marketing. This could be anything from blog posts to the confirmation page, and is aimed at building a trusted connection between a company’s products or services and the market that might end up purchasing them. It’s about creating content that people not only want to consume, but that will also help them through the sales funnel.
For example, a content strategist might find that there’s a lack of trust between their company and their customers, suggesting a number of ways that trust might be built. A content marketer might do the work to gain that trust by featuring an interview with the company’s founder. See how these disciplines complement each other?
What Is a Content Strategy?
That’s pretty simple too. Without a content strategy, you’re basically taking shots in the dark, creating piecemeal content that isn’t as effective as it should be, and working off of hunches instead of solid data. At the end of your campaign, quarter, and annual cycles, you can’t even evaluate your success because you never had a strategy to begin with.
- Make better decisions. Being able to actually “see” your strategy lets you spot potential issues, trim the fat, and visualize your entire content ecosystem. It also allows you to record hypotheses and assess them once you have your results.
- Keep everyone on the same page. Communication is more efficient with a documented content strategy. It helps everyone working on your content—both internally and externally—know exactly what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, how they’re doing it, and why it matters. This empowers your team to take more ownership, contribute better ideas, hesitate less, and produce better work.
- Stay accountable. With a content strategy, you can test your ideas, plan and schedule deliverables, measure and monitor results, and maintain momentum in a tangible way.
- Improve your resource and budget allocation. This is one of the biggest benefits of a documented content strategy. You can plan well ahead of time and determine the best way to get the most value from your resources. It can also help you keep a handle on your budget—or justify the need for more budget.
7 Steps to Creating a Complete Content Strategy
Long-term planning allows you to anticipate challenges and allocate resources effectively. Laying out these seven steps will help you develop and implement a content strategy aligned with your marketing and business goals.
As mentioned earlier, you must document your plan. This could be a slide deck, a Google document, a spreadsheet, or another format that works well for your business model and can be easily shared with all essential stakeholders.
Step 1: Determine Your Audience and the Story You Want to Tell with Your Content
While your buyer personas will form the base for your content strategy, your audience isn’t solely made up of buyers. Audiences include people who begin interacting with your brand long before they intend to make a purchase.
Besides, becoming a valuable source of information can help you build a community of brand advocates who will spread the word and strengthen your thought leadership. We sometimes call these people “reader personas", highlighting that it’s all about delivering value to your audiences vs. pushing your products or services.
Red Bull is an excellent example of a brand that creates content for audiences, not buyers. Red Bull’s owned media doesn’t focus on its product; it covers topics the audience is interested in, like extreme sports and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. You can easily identify the target audience—young and adventurous people, passionate about sport and an active lifestyle.
Red Bull showcases the importance of integrating your brand story into every content piece and every message sent to your audience. Remember about your mission, where you stand, and why you are sharing content in the first place. Creating this unique voice and character can help you stand out in the age of “content shock.”
The Empathy Map
The “Jobs to Be Done” Framework
For example: When I work, I spend too much time completing all my tasks, that’s why I want to find a tool to improve my time management, so I can spend more time with my family.
Once you have an understanding of the prospect’s current problem, the solution they need, and the result they envision, you can create compelling content that can transform them from newcomers into your brand advocates.
Step 2: Analyze Historical Content Performance and Establish Your Content Marketing Goals
Such metrics might be primary: e.g., revenue generated by content marketing or organic traffic and the number of leads. Others might be secondary: e.g., organic traffic, ranking, and shares.
Remember that we all live in a world of limited resources. Your goals and plans are closely tied to the available budget and capacity of your team. So, make sure to take this into account when setting your targets.
But we encourage you to always look at the bigger picture and see content marketing as an integral part of your overall marketing strategy. An example of an overarching goal could be: “In 2022, we want to achieve a 20% increase in revenue created by organic content and generate 15,000 MQLs with a budget of $30,000.”
Pro tip: Take the buyer’s journey into account when setting your content strategy goals. For example, in B2B, the sales cycle tends to be much longer than in B2C. So, multitouch attribution would be more optimal when analyzing your content performance and defining your KPIs (key performance indicators).
Let’s look at some progressive goal-setting frameworks that can help you at this step. While you may be more comfortable with traditional goal-setting frameworks like SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals, flexibility is key to setting realistic benchmarks. Consider using the framework CLEAR, which can help you become more agile in a fast-changing environment.
With this approach, you can target an ambitious result, but set a minimum threshold for reaching the goal. Progress indicators (0–100%) allow each team member to see how attainable each goal is and understand what remains to be accomplished.
Irrespective of your product and niche, your potential customers likely already use one or more social media platforms. Ensure you identify the right content formats into your content creation strategy and publishing times of each social media channel for maximum traction.
Set a mission, goals, and KPIs
A few years ago, athenahealth debuted athenaInsight, its data-driven news publication, to make a serious investment in content marketing. According to executive director of content and communications John Fox, the marketing team made a choice to adjust the brand’s point of view as they prepped for the launch.
“At various points in our history, we’ve talked a lot about what’s wrong with healthcare, what’s broken. We’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that in terms of thought leadership,” Fox said. But we’ve made a conscious move to point the way toward a solution, being that voice of hope and optimism to help doctors and others.”
Since athenahealth’s initial goal was building an audience, the team was “obsessed over growth metrics like unique visitors.” But they also operated with a long-term view of business metrics, so their plan also accounted for pageviews per visit and visits per reader—data points tied to loyalty.
Let athenahealth’s early steps serve as a framework for getting your content program off to a clear start. “You can’t stand for ten things,” Fox said. “You need to stand for one thing and have a clear message for what you’re putting out in marketing. Align everything behind that as much as possible.”
Tips to Develop Your Content Creation Strategy
8. Brainstorm Content Ideas
Gather your team and start jotting down all ideas, themes, and subjects you think will resonate with your audience. You can also use a tool like AnswerThePublic to find the questions your audience is most likely to about a particular topic. When you’ve got many ideas, list them in an Excel spreadsheet and start researching each topic.
9. Audit Your Existing Content
Inside of StoryChief, you can use various filters and searches to find content that needs to be updated. One easy way to find opportunities is to look for posts with low SEO and readability scores. Our SEO and readability optimizer gives you a score for each and tips on how to improve it.
10. Outline a Content Calendar
A content calendar outlines your content creation strategy and distribution schedule, so you’ll stay on task and consistent. You’ll find a plethora of content calendar templates online to help with your content creation strategy.
11. Create a Content Marketing Playbook
A content marketing playbook (CMP) acts as a quick-reference guide that outlines your organization’s content marketing best practices. It facilitates collaboration and coordination within your team and makes it easier to train new employees.
12. Leverage a Content Marketing Platform
If you have an adequate budget, getting an easy-to-use and reliable content marketing platform like StoryChief is a great idea. It’ll provide you with an all-in-one platform to develop, publish, monitor, and manage various content assets. Make sure you evaluate the available options and select a CMP that best suits your needs.
Content Creation Tactics for the Best Strategy
13. Set Up Your Blog
If you haven’t set up your blog yet, it’s high time you get started. You can use a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or HubSpot to build a lovely blog in a few simple steps. You can also leverage StoryChief on WordPress.
14. Publish Keyword-Rich Content
15. Optimize Your Content Structure
No one likes to read a long wall of text. While long-form content performs better, you need to make it readable and scannable. Use short sentences and paragraphs. Also, divide your content into individual sections using meaningful subheadings.
16. Write Compelling Headlines
17. Use New Content Formats
The final selection of content formats depends on your target audience, marketing objectives, and budget. Also, it depends on the distribution channels you plan to use to reach your audience. You can create blog posts for different types of content, such as podcasts and videos, and promote them from your blog, so you drive traffic to your main website.
18. Use Awesome Images
Make your blog posts more valuable and enriching by including relevant, high-quality images, illustrations, and infographics. We have a media library, full of all of your previously used content (so you can add images from old blog posts). Plus, we integrate directly with Unsplash for free access to high quality stock images.
19. Include a CTA
20. Publish Case Studies and Checklists
Publishing case studies is an excellent way part of a content creation strategy to build credibility, authority, and trust. List your client’s problems and highlight how your products/services helped resolve their issues.
21. Repurpose and Optimize Existing Content
It’s a good time to repurpose your blog posts into more engaging formats such as infographics and SlideShare presentations. You can even turn a podcast episode into an insightful blog post and further repurpose it as an animation.
22. Curate Relevant Content
23. Host Interviews & Webinars
24. Leverage Guest Posting
25. Try Newsjacking
26. Harness the Power of User-Generated Content
Publish client testimonials and user reviews on your website and social media profiles to build reputation and trust. You can even reward customers for uploading pictures or videos featuring your products on their social media profiles.
27. Use a Project Management Tool
A project management tool is instrumental in helping your team monitor the progress of each content asset. That, in turn, ensures that every content piece has been revised and edited before the scheduled date of publishing.
Now you have documented who you’re targeting, what you’re publishing, how it will be promoted. You should also have some idea for which influencers you are collaborating with, which formats you’ll be using and also how often you’re going to publish.
Like any plan to reach any goal, you’ll need to measure your progress to keep yourself on track. Content marketing is a marathon. It’s a long-term process. Unless you track your progress, you’re likely to get discouraged and give up.
Track your activity
Track your progress
After the first year of content development and promotion, driving your editorial calendar and running content marketing campaigns, you’ll be ready to run a content marketing audit. Follow this process to see which of your content marketing efforts are getting 10x results, and which blog posts have the best opportunities for updates in their content lifecycle.
This applies to the experience of so many content marketers. Results are slow at first, but the benefits are durable. It’s like a flywheel. It gets easier. Eventually, you’ll create cumulative advantages that will make your business very very hard to compete with.
Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing Strategy
I have no specific expertise in the broader, content strategy topic. But Hilary Marsh does. Hilary has done content strategy work (both for marketing and non-marketing content) since the 1990s. She is an expert on the topic and the Chief Strategist at Content Company, LLC.
Content strategy – more than content marketing strategy
The terminology is confusing, isn’t it! I don’t think we do ourselves or our clients/colleagues any favors when we use “content strategy,” “content marketing,” and “content marketing strategy” interchangeably. Even the read-aloud video on this page mixes up the terms: The text inside the video says “content strategy,” but the title slide and the YouTube title both say “content marketing explained.”
The definitions differ too. This article says content strategy is the practice of planning the creation, promotion, and measurement of content, and that it’s really a plan for content marketing. But that’s not actually all there is to content strategy.
The disconnect and confusion arise because “content” itself has so many meanings. For content marketers, content is what they create. It’s marketing-focused content – campaigns, testimonials, lead-focused landing pages, and the like. Since the goal of marketing content is drawing prospective customers, or leads, there’s no need to include that in the definition. And since the content is forward-looking, governance is pretty straightforward:
Every organization creates much, much more than marketing content. As I like to say, content is the way an organization’s work manifests itself in the world. Every product, service, or resource ends up in the world as words, pictures, audio, and/or video – aka, content.
That’s where content tends to get complicated, and where content strategy can make a huge positive difference for a company. At its heart, content strategy helps an organization answer three basic questions for every piece of content:
Content strategists roll up their sleeves and, armed with an understanding of the organization’s goals and challenges, as well as the top-priority audiences and their needs, help the organization create the necessary roles, processes, and standards so that ALL of its content works.
The good news for all of us is that the better the organization’s content strategy, the easier the content marketer’s job is, because after the compelling testimonial or landing page, the prospective customer who explores the rest of the organization’s content will have a better, more holistic experience. Then the marketing content can do its job more effectively.