Your content marketing strategy is one of the most crucial pieces in your inbound marketing strategy.
In The Complete Guide to Inbound Marketing, we cover a wide range of aspects related to your inbound strategy—including how to develop the introduction and outline of your content strategy.
In this blog, we’ll explore and outline the most important aspects of an effective content strategy.
An Effective Content Strategy
A comprehensive and well-executed content strategy will maximize your efforts across all marketing and writing resources—ensuring that the content your organization produces both engages with your audience AND helps you climb the search engine ranks.
A complete content strategy should include the following:
- Goals, objectives, and focus (short and long term)
- Key brand and messaging points
- Content types you will produce (blogs, podcasts, videos, infographics, etc.)
- Structure of those content types (Where they live on your website, pillars, topic-clustering, etc.)
- Voice and messaging for each content type (May vary)
- Primary content categories
- Primary content topics
- Key customer personas and segments
- SEO focus keywords (5 or 10 main keywords, long-tail opportunities)
- Channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, email newsletter, etc)
- Conversion strategy and structure (How and when sales gets involved.)
- Measurement & Reporting (How will you measure success? Where will you capture that info?)
So let’s get to it…
Goals, Objectives, & Focus
The first section of your content strategy should clearly identify your current goals, objectives, and focus. This helps align ALL of your inbound and content marketing efforts.
Tactically, while we recommend beginning your content strategy outline here—you’ll end up working elements from later sections back into this top-level outline.
If you’re just beginning the content marketing journey—your primary goals are likely to generate increased awareness and web traffic. You’ll likely be focused on building foundational content (cornerstone or pillar) as well as supplemental content (links back to foundations)—along with your primary conversion points.
An example might be:
In Q1 and Q2 of 20XX, our primary goal is to build out a conversion funnel around <insert topic/keyword here>. The objective is to increase organic website traffic and improve our keyword rankings around <primary topic> as well as other primary keywords outlined in our SEO focus keywords (section).
Primary Goals Include:
- Complete <primary topic> conversion and pricing pages
- Generate X pieces of content per month (minimum)
- X long-form piece (pillar or cornerstone)
- X short-form pieces (supporting blogs)
- X news article or press release
- X conversion download (whitepaper, guide, or checklist)
- Set benchmarks and measure website traffic, downloads, and conversions (Marketing Qualified Leads)
- Increase organic website traffic by 100%+
- Rank on Page 1 of Google for at least two keywords for <primary topic>
- Streamline efforts and create SOPs for content generation efforts
Secondary Goals Include:
- Identify X future content opportunities (topics for engagement, thought leadership, content types, etc.)
- Identify X additional valuable SEO keywords for optimization
Once we are able to consistently meet these goals—we will analyze and determine additional or alternate forms of content to optimize the funnel, increase engagement, and produce more leads.
TIP: Whenever possible—make your goals measurable.
Key Brand & Messaging Points
The purpose of this section is to help align your content marketers and team around important brand and campaign message points.
This is largely about how you want customers to perceive you. It also helps ensure you’re including your other marketing efforts and considering other aspects of customer perceptions—beyond just the value or solutions you’re providing.
Perhaps you are working on building a brand image that is environmentally conscious or supports local communities (cool, right?). Or you might be looking to change how you communicate your value proposition around a particular service to clarify your value to potential customers.
Regardless, these less measurable and somewhat abstract concepts and goals can help your content marketers better understand the full picture to produce work that contributes to holistic brand improvements.
These messaging points will likely change every quarter or two. They help align your content strategy around the latest campaigns and efforts—as well as your brand messages.
Primary Content Categories (Content Structure/Hierarchy)
In this section, you should outline (list) the main “buckets” in which you’ll be categorizing the various types of content you produce.
It is definitely worth spending the extra time to research the specific keywords that you will choose for your primary content categories.
The category names (and keywords) you select should be representative of the topics, common problems, technologies, and products/services that your organization aligns with.
For instance, on our SequoiaCX site—we’ve determined our main content categories to be:
There are a variety of schools of thought on how to organize and structure content within categories and subcategories. However, universally, the top-level categories you choose will have significant impacts on your later search engine (SEO) performance and organic website traffic.
For many content strategies, once initially populated—this list of primary categories will remain fairly static and unchanged. That’s OK. It’s a central place anyone in your organization can use to refer to (or your website).
During your content marketing journey—when you do think of additional categories (or alternatives) that you’d like to pursue—this is a great place to capture those. Add new categories and your team can perform the needed research and brainstorming efforts to determine next steps.
Primary Content Topics
This section should provide your content team with a shortlist of relevant topics to pull from when writing supporting blogs and news articles.
On a regular basis—you’ll want to brainstorm and curate a list of relevant topics related to the pillar and cornerstone content you’re working on generating and the keywords you’re seeking to rank for. By brainstorming content topics early—you can better understand and begin to refine the most valuable topics you’ll write about as well as the audiences you’ll write those for.
For organizations that are just getting started with content marketing—this section of your content strategy will serve as a critical central location to compile the important topics and brainstorming “prompts” to create new content.
For organizations that are more mature in their content marketing efforts—this section may be a brief bulleted list along with a link or directions for navigating to a “content board” (software) where the full list of content topics are stored.
Project and task management software enables content teams to organize, reserve, work on, and schedule content. Whether you’re a content team of one who needs to communicate progress—or you have dozens of content authors—tools like Monday.com can help streamline and scale your efforts to make your content marketing more effective.
As you’re compiling and developing your content topics—be sure that you’re considering each phase of your customer’s buying journey. Attract > Engage > Delight (or Awareness > Consideration > Decision). Each stage will consist of very different pieces of content.
Key Customer Personas & Segments
You’ll want to pull from ALL of the customer personas and segmentation you’ve outlined.
This section helps you plan for and clarify specific messaging points for your content topics to ensure that language, voice, and framing all speak to the specific challenges of each audience member.
Consider each persona and how your messaging will change based on the context of different topics.
Are you promoting awareness? How can you differentiate your approach from your competitors?
Are you educating on a specific technology or challenge? What’s their technical aptitude? Based on their job role/position—what are the specific questions and challenges they are facing?
Are you trying to persuade someone to take the next step and engage? What are the most common obstacles they may be facing when making a decision?
SEO Focus Keywords
This section is absolutely critical to maximizing your search engine performance (awareness on the web).
You’ll want to align your content strategy around specific keywords. At any time—depending on the size and current goals of your organization—that may be 5, 10, or 25 keywords.
If you’re just starting out, choose 5 or 10 to get started.
Identify the highest value keywords—typically those that have the highest possible amount of web traffic every month, have high organic click through rates (CTR), and those most closely aligned with your brand.
In this section, you can keep a running list of many keywords—but focus your content efforts on those that are most important. Once you are able to improve your rank with those keywords by creating and optimizing content around them—you can shift your focus to others down the list.
Though this section comes after “Content Topics”—the research you perform and SEO keywords you choose here will drive the specific words and concepts you’ll want to choose for those topics.
Your content strategy is always a good place to capture your focus keywords. However, at some point you’ll likely need to invest in a monthly service to help you perform keyword research, exploration, as well as capture and track a variety of keywords and lists.
This section contributes to your overall content strategy by providing a basic outline and description of the types of content you produce.
The most common content types include:
- Long-form blogs (Pillar and cornerstone)
- Short-form blogs (Supporting blogs, specific keyword topics)
- News Articles
- Press Releases
- Short “Authentic” Videos
- High Production Value Videos, Interviews, etc.
- Audio clips
- Downloads (Whitepapers, guides, checklists, ebooks, etc.)
This will help you provide specific clarification related to how your organization leverages these types of content and puts your own spin on them to support the rest of your content marketing.
Once you’ve created content, you’re going to want to promote it. You’ll do that through a number of channels—social media, business networks, email, etc.
By outlining the channels where you’ll promote content and engage potential/existing customers—you will be equipped to provide your content team with strategic notes and recommendations that make promotion efforts more effective.
For instance—on LinkedIn, you may want to use more authoritative and value-based language, stats or infographics to encourage an audience focused on business growth to engage. If you’re promoting the same piece of content on Instagram—the language you use might be more informal but the most important aspect of the post will be the image or video you lead with.
List out ALL of the channels you will promote content on, what expectations are for each channel, and any notes you have on crafting messaging that’s specific to that channel’s audience.
For example, your organization might find the following channels and tactics relevant:
- LinkedIn – Authoritative, focused on business value, data-gathering surveys on feed, targeted messages to specific LinkedIn groups
- Instagram – Share quotes and inspiration, high-quality imagery
- Facebook – Community oriented, share volunteer efforts, etc.
- Twitter – Short responses to the latest industry news and updates
- Email Newsletter – Curated information from our blogs, news, and partner efforts sent directly to subscribers’ inboxes
These are just a few of the most common for small businesses. Depending on your service, product, or customer—you may also find others helpful like: Patreon, Snapchat, TikTok, Reddit, and more.
Here’s your opportunity to communicate how and when specific content marketing efforts turn into sales engagement.
This section requires coordination and buy-in from both marketing and sales teams.
For marketing—you should outline the primary conversion “funnels” or workflows you are deploying to turn strangers into content consumers (leads)—and then into Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL). This will include the specific triggers—such as pages visited, subscriptions, or downloads (aka “buying signals”) that visitors have expressed.
By identifying these, both sales and marketing teams can coordinate the most effective hand-offs and sequences to rapidly engage with leads when they are primed to make a buying decision.
For sales—it’s equally important that they outline and communicate HOW they engage with customers depending on the specific criteria or buying signals.
Both teams should still be focused on providing value to potential customers—the key is providing the right information at the time when customers are ready to make a decision.
Lots of companies struggle to deploy effective hand-offs between their inbound marketing and sales engagement during conversions. The result can be jarring to customers and highlight the fact that sales team members are not “in-tune” or even interested in their real needs—as much as making a sale.
By honing both sides of the sales hand-off and maintaining a focus on the customer—organizations see much higher conversion rates that create long-lasting relationships with happy customers.
At the very least—your content strategy should be able to stimulate the conversation so that both parties are aware how content is being wielded and how to best engage customers for positive outcomes.
Measurement & Reporting
No content strategy is complete without addressing measurement and reporting.
HOW will you measure success? WHERE will you display your measurements?
If you’re just starting out—here are a few basics…
Google Analytics: Make sure you have the ability to track and measure traffic and behavior on your website. This will enable you to go back and see pageviews, average time on page, and bounce rate for your individual pieces of content—as well as in the aggregate.
Set up a dashboard: This can be as simple as an Excel or Google spreadsheet or be more advanced like using Monday.com or another task management tool to keep track of the status and performance of content. It will also help you batch analyze progress at the end of each month.
Outline your measurement process, schedule it, and stick to it: Consistency and accountability will accelerate your content strategy and goals. Sometime during the first week of each month (allow a couple of calendar days at the beginning of the month so analytics can be compiled through the end of prior month)—make a point to gather any necessary data and review. Once you’ve had a chance to review—share those stats and insights with key stakeholders. This will increase transparency, allow for further insights, and keep your content team accountable.
TIP: When you’re just starting out—you should work to build your analytics dashboard/process so that most—if not all—of the necessary insights and analytics are populated for you during the creation process (and not manually at the end of the month). The point of this exercise is not to spend time organizing data—but to build a streamlined process that helps provide insight.
Monthly reports are a great place to start sharing insights and measuring your content performance. They provide a time for measurement at a regular interval so that your team can spend the rest of their efforts on producing great content. That said, your ultimate goal should be refining a measurement strategy that provides a performance dashboard that compiles itself and is always up to date.
Once you’re able to achieve this, your team will save time on analysis while being better equipped to identify and adapt to trends
Some of the specific KPIs and data points you should look to capture include:
- # of pieces of content produced
- Total # of words added to your domain
- Total website pageviews
- Website traffic by source (direct, organic, social, referral, paid)
- Total # of unique visitors
- Avg. session duration
- Pages / session
- Bounce rate
- # of conversions (contact form submissions, downloads, etc.)
- # of engagements on each social/channel (likes, follows, etc.)
By measuring and reviewing these on a month to month basis, you can find new insights and continuously improve your content strategy.
Final Thoughts on Content Strategy
As you produce and develop content over time—you’ll need to come back and revisit your content strategy, perform content audits, and continue to refine your approach.
Likely, you should revisit your content strategy at least once every six (6) months. If you’re aggressively investing in content marketing to drive significant growth, it might be better to revisit every quarter—or even every month.
Ultimately—your content strategy should serve as a master “guiding” document to help align all of your content marketing and inbound marketing efforts. By carefully considering each of these elements—you’ll be able to more effectively communicate and align your efforts and resources around achieving your content—and SEO—goals.