I just got back from taking my first kid-free vacation after having a baby nearly four years ago.
This was a real vacation – not to be confused with the time my husband and I spent the weekend in the bright, sunny company of norovirus while my daughter stayed home with grandma.
No, it was a full 72 hours doing things like sitting at a nice restaurant without worrying about anyone putting cheese in their socks or spilling chocolate milk in their lap. It was waking up at noon and thinking to myself, Huh, there is really nothing that I have to get done today.
Upon my return, I got to thinking about this feeling of freedom. And how, as content marketers, we can really do a lot with the freedom of a blank slate. (Trust me – I was not thinking about content marketing during my vacation.)
But, if you’re new to content marketing – or looking to approach things in a new or different way – where do you even begin? How can you make the most of your so-called blank slate?
Let’s take a look at some ways to help get you started with a successful content marketing strategy:
Dig into What Your Competitors Are Doing
We all know the digital landscape is crowded. As my colleague Ryan recently pointed out, WordPress users alone produce approximately 80 million new blog posts each month.
So what does this mean if you’re just getting started with your content strategy?
As part of your initial program work, you would have (hopefully) already done your keyword research and identified which core keywords you’ll be targeting in your content. You would have also (again, hopefully) developed buyer personas so that you know who your target audience is (i.e., goals, needs, pain points, etc.) and how your content will appeal to those readers specifically.
The next step is to take the time to do some competitive analysis. In other words, what kind of content are your competitors producing and how is it performing in search results? It’s important to know what you’re up against in such a crowded digital landscape.
While competitive analysis is certainly part of a comprehensive content audit (i.e., how existing content is already performing and what other areas of opportunity there are to improve upon), I like to tackle it as its own initiative as well.
My starting point for going about this is logging into SEMrush. From there, I can simply type in a competitor website and get a look at the keywords they’re ranking for and, more importantly, the types of content assets ranking for those particular keywords.
You can also simply type your keyword into a Google search and see what type of content is coming up for it, noting competitor ranking.
The point is keep tabs on the competitive landscape so that, ideally, you’re creating content that appeals to your target audience and is higher-quality than the content your peers are producing.
If you notice, for example, that list-style posts dominate SERPs for a target keyword, you might consider putting together a similar list with updated stats, additional, relevant insights, etc.
Establish How You Will Achieve Your Content Marketing Goals
This is obvious. After all, what is a content marketing strategy without goals?
But the fact of the matter is that many content marketers fail when it comes to the simple process of setting up goals.
As noted by Content Marketing Institute, 60% of content marketers have a documented content strategy in place, meaning that nearly half do not.
Goal-setting doesn’t have to be an expansive or arduous process. Start by thinking about what you want your content to actually do for you. Are you trying to drive conversions? Organic traffic? Social shares?
Now think about what you need to do to achieve whatever goals you’ve outlined. If your goal is to drive organic traffic, for example, you need to be targeting keywords you know will drive traffic (based on search volume, position in SERPs, etc.) and monitoring how these content assets are performing over time. You’ll need to tweak your strategy accordingly.
For one of our clients whose goal is organic traffic, we keep a shared Google Doc of all of the blog topics we have recommended to them, as well as monthly organic traffic metrics for each post. From there, we’re able to sit down each month and determine which posts/topics have led to the biggest traffic gains and where our areas of priority should be.
Determine What Your System of Organization Will Be
Even the most well laid-out content marketing strategy will be useless unless you determine a system of organization for when you go to actually execute on your content. In other words, you need to know who will be writing about what, when, how it will be published and promoted, and so on.
A good place to start set up an editorial calendar. You can structure it however you like, but key components should include:
- Blog post titles
- Keyword targets
- Publish dates
- Performance metrics
At KoMarketing, we keep editorial calendars for each of our clients running content marketing programs. The structure and level of specificity vary, but it’s an important part of keeping ourselves and our clients organized and on the same page.
For one client in particular, we have aligned our editorial calendar with their sales and marketing efforts to ensure each content asset is targeting buyers at every stage of the purchase funnel. The result is a mixture of higher-level and more in-depth pieces for customers at all journey stages.
Crafting a content marketing strategy doesn’t have to be an exhaustive effort but it should be one your team thinks through (and documents) prior to launching a content program to help you reach your goals.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for creating a content strategy, you’ll thank yourself for doing a competitive analysis (either as part of or separate from your content audit), setting up goals, and establishing an effective organizational system for your content efforts. In the end, the work you do on your content strategy at the onset of your content program could mean the difference between success and failure down the line.
What do you think makes an effective content marketing strategy? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.