The Anatomy Of A Content Marketing Strategy [2021 Update]
content marketing strategy - content marketing plan

It’s 2021 and like it or not, content still rules. 

According to SEMrush’s 2021 content marketing statistics, 84% of businesses have a content marketing strategy, while more than 70% of them believe their content marketing efforts are more successful than those they’ve undertaken last year.

What could be the reason for that?

Covid pandemic taught us how important it is to continuously adapt to the changing needs of our clients and customers in order to succeed. More than 90% of marketers have changed their CM strategies last year.

Whether you are starting from scratch or updating your content marketing plan, join us as we take a look at how to execute the process from start to finish.

The anatomy of a content marketing strategy

Creating a content marketing strategy is not something that can be done in a day or two. It is a multi-step process that can be roughly split into 3 major phases:

  1. Research
  2. Planning
  3. Execution 
content marketing strategy

The graphic presents a barebone structure of a content marketing strategy that focuses on generating leads through organic traffic. It represents the core processes you should go through, regardless of the industry you are in.

Now that we have the theory down, let’s see how to create and implement a content marketing plan in practice.

1. Doing the necessary groundwork 

All good plans have one thing in common: they are based on quality research. Crafting a content marketing plan without doing your due diligence is a great way to waste your internal resources. 

Let’s see where to look – and what to look for. 

Research your target audience 

The first step of the research process is identifying/researching your target audience. Conducting a comprehensive target audience analysis is a must if you want to understand your audience’s needs, expectations, and pain points. After all, those are the things you will be addressing with your content.

Some of the ways you can gather useful data are to:

  • send out questionnaires and surveys
  • monitor your audience’s behavior on your page (with Google Analytics and heatmap tools)
  • perform competitor analysis (more on that later in the article)
  • read through relevant Quora and Reddit questions
  • join niche forums discussions
  • look at what top blogs in your industry are talking about
  • if you want to automate things, you can even install chatbots and let them gather valuable data by asking qualifying questions to your website visitors
  • interview your existing clients/customers 

Perform content audit & content gap analysis

Content shouldn’t be something that just exists on your site, it’s a valuable asset that has its purpose – to attract, inform, convert, and retain the audience. The production of content depends on the goals you’ve set in the strategy. 

Before you can start planning your editorial calendar, you should conduct an audit of the existing content and a content gap analysis. This will help you evaluate how your existing content is performing. 

Important pieces that are underperforming probably need an update. Maybe you are missing content for different phases of the sales funnel. Maybe you need more content for specific target personas to improve lead nurturing. If so, that will need to be reflected in your new/updated content strategy.

Conduct competitor research

It’s always smart to see what your top competitors are doing. You have to understand what kind of content you are competing with. 

The idea behind competitor analysis is to learn what they are talking about, what works for them, and how saturated with content your niche really is.

The competitors you should choose for this research should:

  • be the similar size as your business or bigger (analyzing your biggest competitors is fine, but keep in mind that you probably can’t follow their pace)
  • have better website metrics (traffic, engagement…) than you – so they are worth analyzing 
  • focus on content marketing (if they are not producing any content, you will not have much to analyze)

The easiest way to conduct competitor analysis is to use tools like Ahrefs, Alexa, SEMrush, and Buzzsumo. Our practice showed it is best to focus on 5 or so competitors who have the best numbers in terms of engagement and organic traffic.

After you’ve found the top performers in your niche, conduct more in-depth research:

  • check the keywords they’re ranking for
  • check their most engaging content – content that got the most shares/likes/comments (“Top Content” in Ahrefs)
  • check their best performing content in SERPs – content that earns your competitors most of their organic traffic (“Top Pages” in Ahrefs)
  • study their blogs (what kind of writing style they use, which type of content are they focusing on, are they using images/videos/GIFs, what kind of CTAs are they using, what is the overall quality of their content, etc.)
  • check their off-site efforts – are they actively link building, using third party platforms (e.g. Quora), or any other off-page SEO technique
  • comb through their online presence and check the distribution channels they’re using (social media, newsletter, PPC campaigns, etc.)

By conducting a proper competitor analysis, it will be much easier to estimate your position in the market. At least in terms of your online presence. 

You will find out the weaknesses and strengths of your biggest rivals. Hopefully, you will learn which tactics seem to be working well in your industry. 

Who knows, maybe you even uncover topics and pain points others missed. Use that info to focus on areas where your business can stand out and excel.

how to analyze top-performing content

A template Point Visible uses to analyze top-performing content

Conduct a keyword research

If you’re targeting the wrong keywords, it doesn’t matter how good your content is or how many links you’ve been able to build. 

Why?

Because great content doesn’t bring visitors by just “being there”. Planning ahead is at the core of every content marketing strategy. 

Without keyword research, your content marketing plan is as good as blindfolded LeBron James on a bicycle trying to score a basket. No matter how good he is, the ball is not going in.

So, before you start filling your content calendar in, create a list of keywords that’ll be your focal point. There are plenty of keyword research tools that can help you with that. In case you’re on a tight budget, try using one (or a combination) of the free marketing tools.

While conducting the keyword research, focus on these four main things:

  1. Keyword difficulty: how hard it would be to rank for a certain keyword (search query). The higher the metric score, the more difficult it is to rank.
  2. Search volume: the number of monthly searches for a specific keyword. Make sure the keyword you choose has sufficient search volume. That being said, even if the search volume is low, you might want to cover it if there is enough commercial intent behind it.
  3. Search intent: you need to find the why behind the query. The content and pages you publish have to match the search intent of your target audience. It is the only way to make people stay longer on your website. When executed right for identified money keywords, it can also significantly boost your conversion rates.
  4. Relevancy: Does it make sense for you to talk about this topic/keyword? Can it be connected to your product or service? If the answers are no, you probably should not try to compete in the SERPs for such a keyword.

Unless you want to be stuck on the fifth, tenth, or hundredth page of Google, and be completely invisible to your audience, you have to start working on your keywords! 

The only businesses that can disregard this advice are those that do not care about organic traffic. We are talking about companies with a strong focus on social media, paid advertising, or affiliate marketing.

All in all, skipping keyword research is never a good idea. If you are a beginner, make sure to comb through a couple of in-depth guides on keyword research, like this one from Backlinko.

2. Creating your content marketing plan 

That finally brings us to the action plan. Let’s go through the steps you gotta take to get your content marketing plan up and running.

Set your content marketing goals

There is no strategy without strategic goals. Otherwise, you have nothing to strive for and no way to measure your progress. Content marketing is by its nature a long-term approach.

Creating realistic marketing goals can be very challenging. This is because you are not depending just on yourself. 

New competitors, products, and sales channels (like TikTok as the most recent example) can disrupt the market. Google can decide to significantly update its search algorithms. The competition can increase or decrease the investment in different content marketing campaigns. 

While defining your content marketing goals, keep your budget and other internal resources in mind. Focus on metrics that reflect your goals and that can be tracked over time. Follow the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) when defining the goals.

Here are a few examples of how you can define different marketing goals:

  • By the end of 2021, increase the domain authority from 50 to 55.
  • Increase website traffic by 20% through social media content by the end of 2022.
  • Generate X leads per month through newsletters by the end of 2021.
  • Increase the overall average conversion rate of our lead magnets by 1%.
  • Generate X free-trial sign-ups over the next 6 months. 
  • By the end of 2022, get 50% of the primary keywords on the first page of Google.  

Outline your content strategy

To achieve the set goals, you’ll need a content strategy. In other words, you have to define the following:

  • How much content do you plan to produce over the next X months? This has to consider your internal resources and should be outlined later in your editorial calendar.
  • Which type of content are you going to produce? Written guides, videos, infographics, interactive content (quizzes/calculators/surveys…), landing pages, webinars, whitepapers, and so on.
  • Who will be producing the content? Do you plan to do everything in-house, or do you need to outsource (outsourcing is often used by firms looking to scale content production).
  • How are you going to promote it? We will present you with some options later in the article.
  • How will you measure content performance? As the famous saying goes: “what can’t be measured can’t be managed.” That rings true for your content marketing strategy too. Set KPIs related to the traffic your content drives, on-page performance (like “time on page”, “bounce rate”, etc.), backlinks it earned, conversion rate, social engagement, etc. Ideally, KPIs should be set in a way that informs you if you are getting close to your goals.

If the whole process of developing a content strategy sounds a bit challenging, consider hiring an agency – but make sure to ask them the right questions before placing your money on the table.

Create a content calendar

It is hard to produce and publish content on a regular basis if you do not have a content calendar in place. It keeps things organized and accountable. 

If you are creating an extensive content marketing plan, it’s only natural that you have a lot of content in the pipeline.

There isn’t a universal template you need to follow. Your content marketing calendar should contain the fields YOU need. Below, you can see a version of the CM calendar used by Point Visible. 

editorial calendar

We combine it with a simple project management tool to keep everyone on the same page.

If the number of monthly content pieces you produce is in double digits, you might want to consider using a more advanced platform like CoSchedule to track and organize work:

tracking and organizational tool

3. Executing your content marketing strategy

The plan is here, it is time to put it into practice.

Setting up a content production process

In this step, you’ll have to set up the content production workflow. Firstly, you’ll need to form the content team – in case you already haven’t – and make sure everyone is on the same page. Define who’s in charge of what, especially if you’re combining in-house teams and freelancers. 

Standard content production team

After you have formed your squad, gather all the heads and create the general guidelines everyone will follow to maintain consistency. The guidelines can vary depending on the type of content you are producing.

In general, you will want to define: 

  • tone of voice and other writing guidelines
  • a recognizable style for visual content (rules for the usage of brand colors, brand logo, slogan, templates for custom graphics, and similar)

Furthermore, it is smart to establish a firm content production workflow in order to avoid people waiting on each other to finish their tasks.

There’s no general rule about how many steps the workflow should have – it all depends on the type of content you’re creating. For some inspiration, take a look at our workflow diagram below, with suggested team members assigned to each step.

standard content production workflow

Standardized workflow and detailed content creation guidelines will ensure the quality of your content doesn’t go down as you scale. Additionally, it will help you develop a unique brand voice and a recognizable brand image.

Publishing & promoting content

After publishing content on your blog, you’ll need to spread it throughout different channels. You could:

  • send monthly newsletters
  • share it on different social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, QUUU…)
  • share it on third party platforms like Quora, Reddit, and niche forums
  • promote it through link building and blogger outreach

There are various ways to approach content promotion, and the channels you choose depend on your goals and the audience you’re targeting. Do not waste time on channels your potential customers and clients couldn’t care less about.

If you want to learn more about the most effective content distribution channels, take a look at these content promotion strategies from Buffer. 

Becoming a content marketing strategy builder 

In order to become a successful content marketing strategy builder, you won’t need steel and concrete, rather a lot of time, effort, and a few (marketing) tools. 👷‍♂️

The complexity of creating a content marketing strategy depends on the size of the organization. More accurately, it depends on the size of your marketing budget and your marketing goals.

Nonetheless, a well-thought-out content marketing plan will help you attract leads, convert them, and turn them into loyal customers and clients.

In case you decide to accept the challenge and build the strategy yourself, keep in mind the steps we outlined above.
However, if you need professional help with any part of this process, outsourcing marketing is always a viable option. Get in touch or schedule a call with Point Visible today, even if it is just for an informal chat to explore your options.

Point Visible
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