Content Marketing Strategy
What exactly is a content marketing strategy? And do I really need one?
Quality content! When you create content for your website, you are certainly pursuing certain goals: For example, you want to arouse emotions in readers and convince them of your offer by providing them with valuable and easy-to-understand content. Perhaps you also want to establish a brand or strengthen your image. In the end, you always want to evoke a specific user action. So you need a well thought-out strategy. Good content is the basis for this. In this context, there is often talk of content marketing strategy on the one hand and content strategy on the other. Are these similar approaches with the same purpose, or do we need to differentiate more precisely? Let’s start by saying that they definitely go hand in hand and are not always used distinctly.
Let’s first take a look at the definition of content marketing: Here – unlike conventional product advertising – the user takes center stage. After all, it’s all about him. After all, as a potential buyer, he is constantly moving through the Internet, comparing interesting offers and demanding convincing content during his foray. In this context, content has a clear function: it should inform, advise, entertain and build trust. It is therefore important that your content conveys knowledge and covers exactly the topics that the reader is concerned with when it comes to your service, your products or your service. Your content should therefore not only convey knowledge, but also solve the problems of your potential customer and provide answers to possible questions in advance. This is the only way to pick up the user in a targeted manner.
When creating content in this context, the term “holistic” often comes up. This is because it is important in the approach to solve these problems holistically and to provide the user with truly relevant information. The uniqueness of the content is also essential. In order not to get lost in the flood of content provided on the web, the challenge is to produce interesting content that does not yet exist online in this form.
What makes a good content strategy?
Clearly, without strategy there is no success. And without relevant content, no customer satisfaction, no visibility in search engines, no traffic and therefore no lead generation.
A professional strategy can be compared to a well thought-out shipping route. When planning your route, the focus is always on the port as the destination. How you reach it, with which boat, which fuel and which cargo, and by which route, defines your content marketing strategy. It also determines which budget, which content, which customers and which publication channel are best suited to achieve your content marketing goals. If you don’t have a strategy, you can’t do much more than react to current developments, many of which are short-lived trends. In the process, you might also be targeting the wrong users and not even be able to measure what you’ve achieved. Or in short, your route would fail and you would sail to America, so to speak, instead of docking in the port of India.
As a big picture in the form of an overarching direction, content marketing strategy holds content planning for specific audiences and needs and creates the framework for specific structures. Thus, it deals with everything on your path to successful content – including distribution and success analysis. Your content marketing strategy precedes your content strategy – that is, the concrete planning of your content – and should answer the following questions:
- What do you want to achieve with your content?
- Who do you want to reach with your content?
- When and where do you want to publish your content?
- What are you willing to invest in your content?
- How do you monitor the achievement of your goals?
If you can answer these questions, you have already defined your content marketing strategy.
Content strategy is about fine-tuning your content as part of your overall strategy, which you never lose sight of. This is about the concrete implementation of measures and the conception of specific content formats and content.
The goal of a content strategy is to increase the efficiency of content marketing. Specifically, the company should be advanced through good content and the efficiency of existing content should be improved. As part of your content strategy, you should therefore address these questions:
What problems, questions, and needs do my potential customers have, and what content do I need to provide them and how, in order to satisfy their needs as best as possible?
To stay with the image of sailing the sea: The captain is concerned with planning and using the right ship so that the cargo arrives safely where it is supposed to go.
Understanding user intent: your key to content marketing success
Your strategy is always closely tied to the following questions: Where do potential customers move and where do they look for advice? When does the user need which information? Which stations and contact points with my brand are there on the customer journey, which is often very complex? How can I identify the user’s problems?
One thing is certain: I want to create an outstanding customer experience and provide the user with useful information along the entire (buying) process so that their journey ultimately results in a purchase decision. To do this, you need to put yourself in the user’s shoes and consider how they perceive your services before, during and after the purchase, which communication channels they use and which customer contact points are offered by the individual departments or which actors have a direct influence on customer satisfaction. This requires content that solves every possible user problem from the moment of initial interest at every single stage, ultimately leading to a purchase decision.
Of course, to capture the touchpoints and choose the appropriate formats, you need to know who your prospects and customers are in the first place. User intent is the key insight for you and your strategy.
Keep in mind that your strategy is all about the (potential) customer and therefore a target group analysis should always come first. In order to deliver target-group-specific measures on the appropriate communication channels, you should of course know who your prospects are and what problems and needs they have. An established method for better understanding your customers is the buyer/content persona approach. If you create buyer and content personas, this forms a valuable basis for all further steps in the implementation of your content strategy. The personas represent your target group with its specific needs and provide you with the answers to the following questions: What influences the purchase decision of my customers and what content can be used to reach them? You can find out how to sharpen your target group definition with the buyer persona approach in this additional article: Persona-based content marketing
Offer a diverse range of content
For purchases and decisions of all kinds, people – including some digital natives – scour the Internet in search of groundbreaking information. That’s why an all-around successful web presence with compelling web content combined with confidence-inspiring positive reviews and comments on other networks is hugely important.
To cover all facets of the information cycle and information needs, you should pick up your (potential) customer with different content formats along the customer journey. Currently, the most popular content formats include newsletters, infographics, e-books, whitepapers, case studies, and multimedia content such as webinars, image videos, and explainer films, in addition to traditional articles such as blog posts and press releases.
Why the content marketing strategy is so important
With a comprehensive planning and definition of your content marketing strategy, you deal with your content strategy as well and make sure that all measures pay off on your goals. Only those who plan carefully in advance will be able to determine afterwards whether the measures serve the desired purpose and thus whether the investments were worthwhile. This transparency gives you security and protects you from short-term, unnecessary maneuvers. But be patient with your strategy! Because often the desired results do not appear immediately, but need a little time until the desired effects appear. It’s not uncommon for your content marketing success to take many months, sometimes years, to materialize. Always keep in mind the speed and position of the ranking, your competitive situation, and the information processes and purchase decision cycles of your customers.
Developing a content strategy: Here’s how
A proven way to plan your content is to look at past publications and see if they helped you achieve your goals. Another approach is to look for content gaps. Below, I’ll give you a quick guide and tips on how to quickly get the results you want.
Take an inventory!
After you’ve looked at possible formats, let’s take a step back and look at the content you’ve already published. To do this, list all the content on your website, try to sort it by topic. Then analyze what works well here and what does not. You will certainly find a lot of potential for optimization. It is important that you are clear in advance about the goals and scope of your all-round audit and define precise evaluation criteria that will serve as a yardstick for your audit. Only then can you consider how to classify and evaluate your findings accordingly – and whether a publication was successful enough for you to want to use it as a basis for your further planning.
Among other things, you might target these goals for your content:
- more leads
- a higher conversion rate
- a lot of traffic
- many good comments
- high dwell time on the page
- low bounce rate
Such a quantitative and qualitative analysis of existing content is always a good idea if your site is in a state of flux – be it due to a relaunch, new products or a reorientation of your brand. It also comes into question if you are not clear about your SEO performance or even notice that your rankings are deteriorating or your content simply does not appear in the search results. While this may sound like a boring inventory that requires a lot of time and effort, a content audit provides you with valuable data for your strategic direction. On the one hand, you can revise your content, update or delete content that is no longer up to date. On the other hand, you can also combine individual topics to create a holistic content piece. So review your past publications against your goals and use the lessons learned to inform your future planning.
Find your unicorns!
We join Larry Kim, founder of the world’s largest PPC marketing software WordStream, in advising the following: Go in search of real “unicorns” in your content landscape, which – at least that’s how it is for most sites – consists largely of useless content. These are the articles that elicit the desired responses from users and achieve good positions in search results.
Using Google Analytics, Mention, Google Trends, Google Alerts, Talkwalker Alerts, Google Search Console, your social media stats – either from the individual networks or at a glance through tools like Hootsuite and Falcon – you can identify your content unicorns.
This well-performing content is then worth promoting more. You can also use it as a template for new content and topics. Furthermore, you can use a gap analysis to find out which trending topics that are interesting for your users you don’t cover yet and why you don’t rank for some topics yet.
You should critically question yourself for each phase of your buying cycle, whether your user is provided with all the information he needs to make his buying decision. So try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about what questions and information needs they have.
The following tools will support you in your search for topics:
- Google Trends
- Site Search in Google Analytics
A good topic search in combination with a detailed keyword and competition analysis forms the promising basis for your content. Only if you know what your customers are looking for and ideally also how your competition is positioned, can you incorporate this into your planning. Your topic plan – which we’ll get to later – can also show you unrecognized potential and you can see at a glance which topics you haven’t covered yet.
Strengthen your expert image!
Just as the curator collects and compiles suitable exhibits, you can do the same with your articles on a particular topic and thus offer users orientation in the online flood. This approach is called content curation and can help you to assert yourself as a pioneer in your field. If the reader perceives you as an expert, this strengthens trust in your product, your company, your service or your offer and thus forms the basis for promising content marketing.
To always aim for top quality and solidify your expert image, it’s best to check your existing content portfolio at regular intervals with a view to certain metrics such as page visitors or conversions.
Why SEO and content cost money
Good things take time. So, of course, do reach and rankings that are worth seeing, and with them more conversions and ultimately more sales. If your first attempts already bear fruit, you can also negotiate more budget on the basis of these successes. After all, content marketing is an investment that pays off in the long run. So treat your content marketing like a long-term investment. If a page makes it to a top position, it can generate new customers for you for years to come.
But first, of course, this requires some resources – both in terms of time and money. It is interesting to note that successful companies invest more in content creation and thus spend more money on content creation than on other areas such as content distribution, also known as content seeding. Basically, budgets in online marketing are growing continuously – above all spending on content marketing. According to the German Marketing Association, two-thirds of companies want to expand their content marketing activities even further in the future. It therefore seems worthwhile to invest in search engine optimization as well as in the creation of high-quality and relevant content. One thing is certain: content is still king. On your site, too, the content provided should be “royal” so that you stand a chance with potential customers and the search engines. After all, no text works online without SEO, and SEO doesn’t work without text.
Optimally, you deliver exactly the content that your target group is missing, even if they may not yet be aware of the lack.
Without thoughtful keyword research, you’re skating on thin ice. Of course, I pointed out at the beginning that search engines are smart these days. They recognize whether content is reader-friendly and can screen the quality of a page very precisely – without primarily focusing on individual keywords. That’s true, too.
However, initial keyword research is still extremely important to understand your users and their search queries. It gives you information about their information and action needs as well as about reach potentials and is the basis for your content creation.
That’s why I advise you to follow these basic SEO tips:
By starting with keyword research, you’ll help jumpstart your ideas and learn what questions might be burning under your users’ noses. Tools such as Searchmetrics, Google Analytics or the Google Search Console can support you here and make the needs and search queries on the user side visible.
Question the intention of your keywords and choose those with an acceptable search volume and not too strong competition.
Look at what keywords your competitors are ranking for and with what content.
Think about the topics that your customers might be interested in.
Note and structure the keywords and plan content that satisfies the needs of your customers, solves their problems and thus offers real added value.
Keyword density has had its day: nevertheless, carefully enrich your text with the most important keywords. Always pay attention to the content and use – if possible – synonyms. In any case, avoid an inflationary use of keywords!
Integrate the focus keyword or the main keyword in your URL, the meta description and in your H1 and H2 headings.
Think of your – keyword white hat SEO – clean slate. And keep in mind that unique content has top priority for search engines.
Link your pages together wisely and create valuable internal links to unleash the full ranking power.
Review your content goals. For example, track your conversions to make sure your content and keyword are working.
To dive deeper into this exciting topic, it’s best to read this comprehensive page:
The Perfect Keyword Research
Check the performance of your site by making use of the following SEO tools:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Google Pagespeed Insights
Good SEO texts give you a higher reach and visibility – and of course have a positive effect on your reputation on the web. Creating texts that are lively, get to the point, catch the reader’s attention, and emotionally engage him or her is an art in itself. Many companies lack the relevant expertise or simply the necessary time. Moreover, online marketing professionals do not necessarily have to be writing experts. If you bring experienced copywriters on board, you can easily solve this problem and look forward to your SEO performance with confidence.
Good planning is half the battle: your editorial plan
Good content planning leads to an editorial plan. The editorial plan defines in which time frame which content should be published and thus visualizes your temporal content planning. It not only helps you to keep an overview and not to forget anything with regard to important events and times for certain posts, but is also an enormous motivational aid to stay on the ball with the publication and to consistently follow your content strategy.
Meet deadlines and provide readers with regular updates
For your content marketing, you should handle it like journalists do in their editorial department: The editorial plan becomes an indispensable tool for you and everyone involved in content creation. Long-term planning helps you to achieve structured and promising work – if only when it comes to resource and budget planning for the authors: Who creates which article and when? Your editorial plan takes care of that.
It also helps you to stay in the flow, and new topics and ideas always arise from the planned tasks.
To prepare your content in the best possible way, ask yourself the same question as when developing your strategy: Who do I want to address with it? This way, you never lose sight of the target group for which you are creating your content.
The following items belong in an effective editorial plan:
- planned date for publication
- addressed target group/persona
- content format
- (focus) keywords
- call-to-actions to different target pages or downloads
- separate column or even separate document for research (brainstorming, ideas, sources)
In addition, a clean and detailed editorial plan can be a great support for you when it comes to monitoring the progress and improvement potential of your campaign, as well as evaluating the success of your strategy. In any case, your plan should also have room for spontaneity. After all, you want to be able to react to new trends and topics as well as market changes and legislative amendments. Here we have put together some practical tools for your editorial planning.
Content creation or: How do I generate more leads and customers with the right content?
Surely you know the following situation all too well: After hours of writer’s block, you painstakingly complete your work. And to your dismay, the article doesn’t strike like a thunderbolt, but unfortunately only interests a few users. All I can say is: investing in good texts is definitely worth it. To be precise, without good texts you will never reach your goal. They are the engine or the sails of your ship.
Just as you plan for the long term with your editorial plan, you will also reap long-lasting success with good publications. Instead of investing in short-term and costly measures that will quickly bring you new customers and boost lead and revenue generation for a short time, you should spend more money on creating valuable content that will continuously generate leads and pay off for a long time to come. So create the highest quality content in a variety of formats, following users through every stage of their journey!
Whether you can free up internal resources or hire a talented writer, hire an agency or find the right freelancer – for example, through an online text exchange – is up to you.
If you operate on an international level, you should consider providing users with information in their own language and localizing the content accordingly. Only content created by native speakers and professional translations can guarantee this. You can signal to search engines that your site is multilingual and that the content in the respective languages is not duplicate content by using the practical hreflang tag.
Place content cleverly with the target group
Stop, before you can really reap the success, it, that is, your content, must of course first be sown. Only if the relevant content reaches your target group can you gain attention and trust as a company. By optimally not only publishing your content on your site and waiting for users to find their way there, but also sharing it on your social networks, the social media posts help you with seeding. Often, your content also needs a promotion as an initial push so that Google indexes and ranks your page appropriately. Thus, use the channels you use to promote your newly created content. This should also happen in a strategic way. For this, just as for content creation, you should allow enough time for promotion.
To promote your content, the following are ideal:
- Social networks and forums
- Your own or third-party newsletters
- video portals like YouTube
- paid search engine advertising (SEA)
- Native advertising with paid tools like Plista, Outbrain or Taboola
In addition, it is particularly efficient if you not only use your own channels, but also bring influential multipliers on board. These influencers – for example, influential bloggers or online marketers – then in turn use their platforms and networks to spread your content. The point is to find influencers who are happy to share your content for the information or entertainment of their users and who succeed in highlighting the benefits of your offering and signaling competence.
Spamming should be avoided at all costs in this context – and paid seeding should be avoided as well. The ideal is a balanced ratio of owned media (own channels) and paid media (paid advertising). Ultimately, the quality of the content is what counts here as well.
Your content strategy has worked if your content is eye-opening to your users and covers topics in a unique way that hasn’t been done before.
Ideally, the user has landed on your site while searching for a solution to their problem via the search engine, your offer has moved them to a conversion, bound them to your brand and then perhaps even prompted them to become a fan of your service and leave a good customer review.
Finally reached your goal? Not quite yet! First, check to see if your efforts have really paid off: Did you reach your goals? How was the content received by your users? Examine the individual formats and channels and always keep your goals and key figures in mind!
Were you able to identify weak points? If so, take another look at every single step of your strategy and think about where things are going wrong and what the reasons might be. Again, use proven analysis tools such as Google Analytics or the Google Search Console. No matter how well your content performs and how satisfied you are with the output of your content strategy, it is like a cycle. Again and again, new optimization potentials will emerge and learning processes will result.
Your content strategy document
And one more thing: Having a content strategy in mind is good. It’s even better to put your content strategy in writing. A written document helps bring all stakeholders up to the same level of knowledge and makes your content marketing more effective. What should your content strategy document include?
What goals do you want to achieve with your content activities? (e.g., more SEO traffic, higher user engagement, more leads)?
What annual goals are you pursuing with your content strategy? (e.g., increase fans and followers on social media to X number by the end of the year, increase unique users on your website by X percent, etc.)
What are the most used channels in your industry?
Where do you best reach your target audience?
3. target audience
Are there insights about what topics your target audience wants?
Do personas already exist for your business?
What content formats are best suited to convey your message?
How much budget do you have to create copy and multimedia content?
Tip: You can easily create engaging visual content yourself with a few helpful tools.
5. content production
Who is involved in content production?
Who plays what role in content management? (Topic planning, content creation, hiring freelancers, etc.)
Who has sovereignty over the content and releases it?
Are there specific departments that regularly provide input for content?
What work processes do you use to manage your content?
How are workflows mapped? (For example, project management tools such as Trello are useful for keeping track of the status of a content piece.)
Depending on the content type, target audience, and topic area, different frequencies for publishing make sense. Roughly, you can use the following recommendations as a guide:
Social media post: several times a day
Blog articles: once to several times a week
E-books & whitepapers: once per quarter or less frequently
Is content communicated to your customers via newsletters? If so, how often?
Through which social media channels will it be shared?
Will you also share your content with relevant influencers in your industry?
9. style and tone
How do you want to communicate with your target audience?
Each publication should express what your brand stands for. Do you already have brand guidelines or style guides, etc.? These will determine the style and tone of your content.
10. content controlling
How and at what frequency do you want to measure the performance of your content activities?
Which results are most important to you (e.g. page views, dwell time, SEO rankings or interactions via social media)?
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