Having great and relevant content is one of the best ways of creating and improving your online presence.
In this article, I will explain how you can develop and implement a perfect content marketing strategy in seven steps, accompanying you from setting goals to measuring the success of your content marketing.
A content marketing strategy is only one element of the entire marketing plan. As well as the content strategy, a marketing plan should also lay out over which content should be provided to which target group and over which channels. The content is the message, and the online marketing channels like SEO, SEA or social media are the means.
For many companies, the focus lies on the channels, and the actual content is neglected. "More of the same" seems to be the motto for content marketing - but that isn’t a good approach for search engine optimization.
An effective Content Marketing Strategy therefore becomes all the more important. It combines all long-term goals of online marketing with the creation and further development of digital content. In general, content marketing is successful if it relevant for the target group, and perceived by the target group as high quality content. The content has to be distributed effectively to users, and has to have the desired effect on them. The more competitive the online marketing is and the more expensive online or social media contacts are, the more important it is to have effective content.
The Content Marketing Strategy involves planning content, planning target groups, establishing problems with target groups, and many other points that are discussed in this guide.
The biggest challenge of content marketing is to capture the perspective of users and potential customers. Content is often created from the point of view of the company or agency. The products are known, so the product texts are created en mass, routinely or even lazily. However, with these "standard" texts, companies miss the opportunity to show the product in relation to the customers’ needs, and how the product can provide a solution to the customer’s problem.
Content needs to be planned and structured well, and needs to be adapted to the actual needs of the target group (user intention). If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be creating relevant content that leads to successful online marketing. Your website traffic will increase, as the content offer befits the demand, and gets more attention. Not only will you generate more website traffic, your visitors will more likely switch from just being a user to being a regular customer. High quality and relevant content creates high customer approval rates on pages and makes your Content Marketing Strategy successful.
Your Content Marketing Strategy should describe goals, plans and activities in such a way that anyone involved or interested in content marketing have a precise road map of how the content should be developed.
In this guide, you'll find 7 steps that you can use to establish a content marketing strategy:
When you start your planning, you need to define a goal that the strategy and long-term activities should lead towards. Having a clear goal helps you to focus, and defining a goal makes it easier to measure the success of your content marketing. If you haven’t set any goals, how will you know if your implemented measures are successful?
Goals of a Content Marketing Strategy can be business related, such as increasing revenue, marginal returns or profits. Specific e-commerce goals can include increasing the conversion rate, or increasing the time spent on the page. General marketing and online marketing goals such as brand awareness and online visibility can also be the basis of the Content Marketing Strategy.
An important goal is also to develop unique selling points through content. The content should show that your company, your brand, your team and your products are unique and have advantages over competitors' offerings.
Your goal should be "S.M.A.R.T" , that is
For only "smart" goals can lead to systematic success.
The internet is a global communication medium with a scope of several billion people. Of course, it doesn't make sense to appeal to all users. You can only create effective and successful content if you know who the content is meant for. It is fundamentally important to know and define your target audience. Only this way will you be successful in creating relevant content that ranks well, making your brand visible in search engines.
The more intensely you scrutinise and segment your target group, and use their needs and segment specifications as a basis for your Content Marketing Strategy, the more successful the content marketing will be. For instance, do you know which devices your readers use? Have you looked at the preferred search terms or the topics that are particularly popular on social media? These and other aspects of target group segments are a good foundation for creating content that is relevant for your target group.
You don't have to stick to one target group: Depending on your goal, target groups can complement one another. There can be a main target audience, and several sub-target groups to which you can appeal to with new content. In order for you to better adjust the content, you should reflect your defined target groups in personas. It is easier to write for a specific, defined person than for a large, impersonal group.
In order to recognise and define the target group, you should use the appropriate analysis tools. For example, Google Analytics or Facebook Insights can give you a great deal of insights. With a bit more effort, but a lot of precision, customer surveys provide useful information that can be generated by email, in person, or on the phone.
Before creating new content, you should carry out an inventory check. Experts call this a content audit. That means that every single piece of content is listed, giving you an overview of your content and the impact on your target group.
A content audit also gives you the opportunity to find optimization gaps. When you have compiled all existing content, evaluate it according to the defined goals, and ask yourself a few questions:
These and other questions give you an idea of what content to lose and what to improve. You might also find some really good pieces of content that you can now polish. Furthermore, you might find new thematic focal points that are important for your target group.
After you have gained a sound overview of what your content has to offer, you should now check what the strengths of the competition are in the context of your defined goals and target audience.
First, you should pick at least three competitors. If you aren't sure who the strongest competitor is, you can identify it with a Google search. For this, use the keywords that you and your target group use and search for your competition. It's important that the competition covers similar topics. After selecting competitors, look at the published content and pay attention to factors such as:
Do your competitors have content covering similar topic areas or entire topics that you haven't covered yourself? Find out where and how you can differentiate yourself, and how you might offer better content.
Content Management Systems (CMS) can help you efficiently manage your content. This includes planning, creating, and analyzing content. Similar to content audits, your aim is to get a better overview with the appropriate CMS.
You should use your CMS as an editing schedule so that you can easily structure when which article is published, so as many facets as possible are presented. Using an editing schedule helps to measure the success of new posts, helping you to improve constantly. You can combine a social media calendar with the CMS to advertise content that is to be published later.
Using tools like Google AdWords Keyword planner, you can determine the best time to publish content for seasonal topics. That way you can find out when the search volume for keywords like 'changing tires' is highest for the topic. Key figures like that should also be included in a CMS.
Good content involves a lot of hard work, and producing it can be expensive. A long-term content creation and publishing plan is therefore all the more important. Your Content Marketing Strategy will help you there too.
Seasonal topics can be covered in a content calendar, as well as when the right moment to publish is. Long-term production should also be managed via scheduled topic planning. Travel might be necessary for specific photos or videos, and this of course has to be planned in advance. If there are any big events taking place that are time-limited, the accompanying content has to be planned and produced well in advance.
The last step is measuring results that you achieve with your content. Is your scope increasing organically on Google? Has the number of YouTube subscribers increased? Are your users considering your website or your shop a unique offering? These and other goals should be checked regularly, so your content measures can be critically assessed.
Measuring success takes place in the channels on which you have provided content. Google Analytics, for example, gives you an overview, but social media channels have their own analysing tools too. Always be critical and question even very good results, as spam and similar things can sometimes lead to positive results.
Even if it sounds like a lot of work to develop and pursue a concentrated, focused Content Marketing Strategy, it’s worth it! You’ll end up with successful relevant content that ranks well in search engines.
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Published on 03/26/2018 by Dominik Große Holtforth.
Prof. Dr. Dominik Große Holtforth teaches business studies and media management at Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Cologne. He is also head of the e-Commerce department which deals with strategy-related questions, the controlling of key performance indicators as well as competition strategies in online marketing and e-Commerce. Prof. Große Holtforth is co-founder of the e-Commerce agency Warenkorb.com and founder of the online plant shop “Meine Orangerie.” This is how he combines scientific expertise and practical experience.