Consistency and engagement are the two most crucial elements for building a successful brand online. Creating valuable content that connects with your audience no matter where they are in the buying process requires a clear roadmap that only a comprehensive content strategy can provide.
After all, why waste time creating content such as social media posts, webinars, e-books, and videos if it’s not engaging your ideal client? It can be incredibly frustrating to create content that falls flat, but before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, consider what might be missing or could be tweaked to optimize your efforts.
Whether you’re a newcomer to the online business community or your current marketing plan is not quite converting at the rate you’d hope, revisiting your content marketing strategy can get you back on track.
What is Content Strategy?
Content strategy is the planning, development, and management of all the messaging your brand puts into the world. For a business with an online presence, this looks like creating and sharing online materials, such as blogs, webinars, e-books, videos, social media posts, or email newsletters.
Trust attracts. Content marketing earns trust by providing valuable information that solves problems and educates. Above all, it is all about building relationships and establishing yourself as a go-to expert in your field.
Effective content marketing provides value without asking for anything in return to gain the trust of your audience. Once your audience knows that they can trust you, they are more likely to come back to you for solutions and advice.
Content marketing makes your brand relatable, which can seem like an intangible factor, but there is plenty of research to back it up. According to Hubspot, 70% of people prefer to learn about brands from content rather than traditional ads.
Overmore, creating content consistently is worth your time. Companies that put their primary focus on content marketing generate more than 5x more conversions than those that just focus on ranking in search engines.
Through content marketing, you can generate more website traffic, attracting more potential customers, and eventually leading to sustainable profits from loyal clients.
How to Create a Custom Content Strategy
Unlike a fancy logo or beautifully curated Instagram grid layout, a content strategy isn’t just nice to have; it is the foundation for all messaging in your business.
Putting content out into the world is not really doing anything for you if it’s not building a connection between you and your audience. The most common reason business owners run dry of content ideas is because they’re not clear on the type of content that their audience would value — or they’re not clear on how to distribute their message in a manner that encourages engagement from their audience.
The key to creating effective communication is clarity — and it starts with the business owner. A confused customer buys nothing. If you’re not crystal clear on the message your content is communicating, neither is your audience.
The good news is that you can create a content strategy that increases engagement and sales with a bit of tweaking.
Here’s my fool-proof formula for creating an easy content strategy that converts.
Identifying Your Target Audience
The first most important step in content marketing is making sure you know how to identify and find your target audience. Knowing who you are talking to sets the foundation of an effective content strategy.
Creating a customer persona that outlines your ideal client’s lifestyle, income, wants, needs, and aspirations will give you clarity every time you produce a new piece of content. A customer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer based on research.
Examine the data from the customers you already have to create a customer persona. Customer personas can be developed by analyzing your site’s quantitative data, e.g., Google Analytics, and qualitative data, e.g., feedback from the customers. This can help you discover the demographics and psychographics about your customers, along with what motivates them to engage.
This is a crucial step to take as it helps you start mapping out what content you will create. Through these customer personas, you will be able to figure out the types of content your customers are looking for and what is helpful for them, which will help you create the right kind of content.
Ask yourself these questions to define your target audience:
- Target demographic: What is your audience’s age group, gender, marital status? Do they have children?
- Geography: Where do they live (city vs. suburb)?
- Employment: Where does your audience work (consider their industry), where are they in their career (student, entry-level, mid-level, manager, etc.), how much do they earn?
- Social Activities: What hobbies does your audience enjoy, where do they hang out online (consider the social media platforms they are most likely to spend time using?
With this outline, you can even name your fictional persona. For example, you’ve created a persona from answering these questioned and called her “Jessica.” Now, every time you’re creating content, you’re making it for Jessica. Calling her by name helps humanize your content creation process.
Know Your Content Pillars
What do you want to be known for in your industry?
That is a loaded question, but it is the one you’re answering every time you hit publish.
It’s easy to get stuck in a content creation hamster wheel of, “Is this the right thing to say?” or “Does this post reach my goals and speak to my brand’s values?” When you’re about to put something out into the world, you want to be a genuine expression of your real message.
Getting really clear on how your background and expertise align with who you’re serving is how you define your content pillars. Those pillars guide your content planning and help you get unstuck when you’re short on post ideas. It will also help you come up with additional topic ideas and perhaps a series of posts.
Let’s break down the basics:
What is a content pillar?
Sometimes called a content bucket or a brand pillar, a content pillar is a subset of a topic or theme that forms the foundation for your overall content strategy. Each represents relevant topics for your target audiences.
For example, if you’re a health coach, your pillars might be vegan nutrition, meditative yoga, and mindful journaling. Each of those pillars is a very specific subject that you could create content around to establish your authority in that field and help your audience learn more about.
When you’re trying to talk to everyone, you end up talking to no one, so don’t fall into the common fear of niching down to serve a very specific audience.
How many content pillars should your brand use?
At least three, but no more than five. Three is best for those just starting out. These should be topics you can easily speak with authority on when a client has a question. Read more about how to implement your content pillars with the 3E’s Marketing Method.
How do you establish your content pillars?
Content pillars should either solve a problem or answer a question that would benefit your target audience. One of my favorite questions to unlock this level of content creation clarity is What Could You Give a 30-Minute TED Talk Right Now?
Remember, your content pillars are the intersection of your expertise and what your audience desires. Here is a Venn diagram with additional questions prompts to illustrate that intersection.
One final note on content pillars: they will evolve with you. You are not the same person you were five years ago, and you will continue to grow for the rest of your life. For example, our health coach could eventually add the pillar of natural parenting into the mix after becoming a mother.
Ensuring the content you create is relevant and valuable for your customers is the ultimate goal of successful content marketing. Create for humans first and search engines second is a rule of thumb that will always serve you well.
That being said, it’s still important for your ideal customers to easily find your content online, and that requires proper keyword research.
Keyword research is the analysis of what type of words and topics people search for regarding your business. These words are at the heart of good SEO content writing can be gathered from the research you have conducted about your target audience.
Start by identifying popular topics in your industry. Websites like Answer the Public, Also Asked, Buzz Sumo, and Google Trends are a few resources for finding keywords and phrases people will likely use to find your website or blog. Google’s keyword planner is an excellent resource for finding relevant keywords.
You can also draw from your own experience. What are the questions that you get asked about most often? If people are always asking, there’s a very good chance that the answers contain keywords.
It’s essential to know which keywords to use in your blog posts to ensure people can find you in search engine results, but keywords are not just for website copy and blogs. Social media platforms, including Instagram and Pinterest, also use relevant keywords to show your content to the right people.
A Calendar For Your Content Strategy
Companies that publish more than 16 posts a month to their website generate 3.5 times more traffic than those which publish less than four times. Coming up with that amount of website content — plus social media posts — will be nearly impossible to wing.
That is why all businesses need a content calendar. Calendars should map out blog topics and social media posts at least two weeks in advance — this can be accomplished quickly and easily by content batching. This process will help you stay organized and on track, instead of scrambling for content.
Having a schedule will also help you keep your content consistent. This is key to keeping your audience interested and coming back for more.
Tools like Trello or Google Sheets make setting up an editorial calendar simple.
Setting Goals & Analyzing Results
Having a content plan in place is the first step, but it is all for not if it’s not performing well or meeting your growth goals.
Setting goals for your content marketing campaign is better known in the industry as establishing Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. KPIs essentially answer the question, What do you want to achieve with your content?
KPIs must be measurable and time-specific. For example, gain 1,000 new website visitors in May by creating four keyword-optimized, niche-specific blog posts.
Common KPIs to consider in your content marketing strategy:
- Website bounce rate
- Number of downloads
- Number of shares
- Number of email signups
- Number of social media followers or your social media engagement rate
Measuring results after an established amount of time is an excellent way of finding out how well the content did and gives you extra information about which content interests your audience. This helps you realize your successes as well as how to improve in the future.
Having a content strategy is one of the most effective ways of promoting and growing an online business. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your content needs to be relevant and valuable for your target audience.
Once you feel comfortable with the basics, you’ll need to learn how to put it all together and create social media that engages and converts your dream clients. And I’ve got the perfect online course to help you master the process in less time than it takes to watch a movie! Learn how to create content that converts in half the time in Content Creation Acceleration.
Cyndi, Owner of Ascent StoryCraft
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