Every digital marketing strategy relies on a number of elements to ensure its success.
For a holistic campaign, you’ll need to consider how you’ll approach email marketing, paid search, social media posts, and reputation management, just to name a few.
And while these are all important, there’s one thing that takes precedence over everything else: content.
Regularly posting new, insightful content is a proven way to improve brand awareness, build trust, engage with your audience, and drive action – but just any old content isn’t going to do the trick.
You need high-quality content that serves a purpose. And to do that, you need a strategy.
A content strategy, also known as a content plan, is a collection of tactics used to create, implement, and manage marketing information, materials, and collateral. You can think of it as your marketing battle plan.
And like any good plan, it needs to be detailed and comprehensive, down to what type of content you’ll be posting, when and where you’ll be posting it, and who is responsible for each element.
Here are five things you can use to take your content strategy to the next level.
1. Think Like A Publisher
You know your brand inside and out, which is a good thing, but it also comes with some issues.
For one thing, because you’re so familiar with it, it becomes easy to take certain knowledge for granted, often without even realizing it. Unfortunately, this can easily lead to frustration for your audience.
The simplest way to eliminate that is to think like a publisher. In other words, identify what your audience is looking for and find content to address it. Here are some tips for doing just that:
- Build your content team. You have a lot of expertise in your organization already. Use it. Your team could include marketers, product team members, PR specialists, customer support reps, and IT.
- Establish roles and responsibilities. Everyone on the editorial team should have a specific role in creating the strategy and delivering content. Make sure everyone knows what is expected of them at each step of the creation and management processes.
- Build workflows. Write out exactly how your process works to ensure everything goes through the correct channels for approval. This may include looping in brand specialists, executives, or the legal team.
- Gather feedback. Too many businesses neglect social listening, which is a mistake. You should be actively taking part in the conversations customers are having about your brand. It’s also a good idea to keep track of trending topics, which can provide opportunities for your brand.
- Unify your digital efforts. General marketing and paid media should work to mutually reinforce one another. Partner with your paid media team to ensure your message is consistent and identify places to amplify effectiveness.
- Invest in the right CMS technology. Using a quality content management system (CMS) lets you put the latest technology to work for you. Platforms like WordPress, Shopify, and Squarespace can greatly simplify your workflow and help you manage the entire process from conceptualizing to publication. With the right CMS, you can manage your content across channels without needing to write a single line of code.
2. Make Sure Everything Fits Into Your Sales Funnel
Conversions are the name of the game. In most cases, this means sales, but it can also be clicks, newsletter signups, or any other marketing-specific goal you can think of.
There’s a lot more to content marketing than just sharing a viral video from your office, a blog post on the state of your industry, or linking to an infographic you’ve created.
Yes, it is those things, but it’s also about telling a story. It needs to have an emotional hook that helps change a target’s actions, thoughts, or feelings about your brand. And search is just one small piece of that.
All your online and offline marketing needs to align with your brand narrative and correspond to a step in your sales funnel.
That means that all your content – whether it’s a social post, a photo, a new blog, or even a press release – is important. And it all needs to work together to move your targets further along the sales journey.
And successfully accomplishing this means having a rock-solid strategy before you get started.
3. Refine And Document Your Editorial Process
Whether you’re creating all your content yourself, using a team of people, or outsourcing it to freelancers, it’s important that every piece of content goes through the same editorial process.
The first step to this is evaluating your process. Is everything being looked at by multiple sets of eyes for mistakes, typos, and the like? Sometimes it’s difficult for writers to spot their own mistakes.
Refine your process and then document it with detailed step-by-step instructions. There should be absolutely no confusion as to where a piece of content is in the creation process, what’s performed at that step, and what will happen next.
Be sure to always keep your brand in mind. When deciding on content, don’t neglect the fonts, images, and tone your audience has come to expect from you.
If your tone switches from business professional in one piece to casually familiar in the next, it will leave your audience confused.
Additionally, you want to make sure all your content adheres to your narrative. Make sure every content creator is familiar with things like:
- Positioning – your brand narrative should include the pillars your content is built upon.
- Your values – what issues are important to your brand? (civil rights, ecology, etc.)
- Perception – what does the media say about your brand? What about the community?
- Audience Interests – what are your customers talking about when they’re not interacting with your brand?
- Historical Performance – what type of content has traditionally worked for you? What hasn’t?
- Search Behavior – what are your targets searching for? What phrases are they using?
- Customer Support – what are the recurring support issues you keep hearing from your customers?
Once you’ve identified your brand narrative, it will be a lot easier to craft an effective content strategy and change customer behavior, whether that means closing more sales, repositioning your company, or changing the way customers think about your brand.
Make sure you invest in properly training your team on this new process.
And because there’s always room for improvement, you’ll want to have regular refreshers and continuing education programs built around the latest best practices.
4. Review, Refresh, Replace
Nothing lasts forever, but if you can create the type of content that will have a long shelf life, you’ll be able to generate traffic, clicks, and interaction for months or even years. Other pieces will burn brightly for a short period of time.
It’s up to you to identify what needs to be removed, what should be replaced, and what needs just a minor refresh.
Review your existing content to see what’s still relevant and what needs to go away. If you use stats or link out to other content, make sure you’re verifying these on a regular basis.
Some content, known as evergreen content, will continue to be relevant for a very long time. It’s not something you can set and forget, but it does require considerably less upkeep than trending topics.
How do you figure out what type of videos, blog posts, and how-to guides will stay relevant? With research, of course.
Go through your existing traffic, analyze your competition, and check out industry resources.
What type of topics keeps popping up again and again, regardless of how long ago they were published? Use your keyword research tools to find words and phrases with high search volume over a long period of time.
Either completely avoid news, trends, or technology that could be vulnerable to replacement (that piece on PlayStation 5 might be hot right now, but it’s not going to generate much traffic once PlayStation 6 hits the market) or create it with the understanding that it will have a shorter shelf life.
Choose visuals that are appropriate and less apt to look outdated.
Most of all, make sure it’s useful. If you have a blog post offering a step-by-step guide to riding a unicycle, people searching for information on getting started with a one-wheeler will find it just as relevant in 10 years as they do today (barring some massive change in unicycle technology, that is). Many types of educational content can stay relevant for a long time.
And once you have a good piece of evergreen content posted, keep promoting it. As long as it’s still relevant, it will still generate clicks.
5. Use Your Network
Your content strategy should include more than just your own domain.
Guest blogging is a great way to increase brand awareness and generate backlinks, which will help both your traffic and SEO ranking.
Additionally, if your guest post is on a site your audience trust, it will automatically lend you authority and credibility in their eyes.
Use your connections to find opportunities to cross-promote your brand. Reach out to industry sites and influencers to build a mutually beneficial relationship.
You can use platforms like social media to capitalize on and enhance this, so include this in your content strategy.
Share not just your own content and blog posts, but those from other people in your sphere. You probably don’t want to link to direct competitors, but anyone on the periphery is fine.
Be sure to tag publications, authors, and people mentioned in the article.
Does your industry have popular events, conferences, or trade shows? This is a great place to generate exposure and promote your content.
Run a booth, give a speech, or just have someone on hand to pass out business cards and literature. Not only does this give you a chance to increase exposure, but it also provides opportunities to link back (and therefore generate traffic) to your digital content.
And speaking of digital content, make sure you’re including other relevant and link-worthy sources in your own content. This opens the door for creating reciprocal links.
And if you can get a direct, unique quote from an expert, that’s even better.
Good Content Starts With A Good Strategy
Developing a good content strategy requires a bit of work. It’s not something you’re going to be able to jot down on a scrap of paper in 15 minutes, but instead requires you to do some research.
Generally speaking, the more work you put in upfront, the easier it will be when it’s time to create and implement content.
Remember your targets and consider what they’re looking for. How can you provide them with the most value while simultaneously maximizing your exposure?
Make sure your strategy is built around unique content that you can leverage cross-platforms to promote your social media presence, improve SEO rankings, and build relationships.
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