Today, the world of marketing is dominated by the internet. Online articles live on forever, making it crucial for brands to keep quality content on their sites. Of course, this means that most businesses are doing the same thing, making it essential for brands to thoroughly plan out their content creation. This is called a content strategy plan, and it’s a necessity for any small business looking to make an impression.
What is Content Marketing?
When developing an effective content strategy plan, it’s important to understand what the term “content marketing” means. Marketing with content generally involves creating and sharing valuable content online. Brands must also identify their target market and determine how they can make content easily accessible to these consumers. Ultimately, sharing quality content attracts new customers while maintaining relationships with existing ones.
Content should do more than simply promote your brand’s products and services. Instead of focusing on a sales pitch, the content should evoke an actionable response from the reader. This might be signing up for an email newsletter, sharing a Tweet, or downloading an eBook. Each action item should be optimized to achieve a specific goal.
Creating a Content Strategy
A successful content strategy can drive leads, increase sales, and establish your brand as an industry authority. Well-planned content also improves your credibility and, most importantly, boosts your search engine rankings. Some of the most popular types of content used by brands are blog posts, video, images, white papers, case studies, and infographics.
Instead of simply generating content based on interesting ideas, create content with specific long-term goals in mind. This is possible with thorough research and planning. If you’re ready to use content to your advantage, try this 7-step approach to developing a content strategy. These tried-and-true content marketing strategy techniques for small business focus on crafting great content and driving new leads.
Step 1: Research Your Niche
The first step in creating a successful content marketing strategy is determining where your brand stands in the niche. You must consider your brand’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the value you bring to the market. Conducting a SWOT analysis is useful during this step, which determines strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
A SWOT analysis largely depends on data, so use your analytics tools to thoroughly examine your brand’s presence. Bounce rates, new visitors versus returning visitors, and site behavior are all good metrics to analyze. A thorough look at your website’s performance helps you identify where you are now – and where you want to be. By eliminating threats and capitalizing on opportunities, you’ll be able to deliver great content to those in your target audience.
It’s also important to look at your competitor’s content. Which social media channels are the most popular? Which types of content seem to foster the most engagement? Competitors’ social media profiles provide useful information about their audience, while their websites offer content ideas. Considering what other brands in your industry are doing helps you figure out where you stand.
Step 2: Assign Clear Goals
A successful content strategy should be focused on well-defined goals. These objectives vary depending on your company’s needs – for example, you might want to boost sales for one specific product. Or perhaps lead generation through newsletter signups is your objective. Whichever you choose, your content should reflect these goals.
One of the top content marketing tips is to use the SMART method when selecting achievable goals. Ask yourself, is this objective Specific, Measurable, Agreed-Upon, Realistic, and Time-Based? This method is also useful when defining KPI, or key performance indicators. KPIs should be measurable – for example, you could aim to increase social shares by 100 percent over the next six months. While broad goals like “I want everyone to love our content” are admirable, they aren’t specific or measurable.
Choosing multiple goals is acceptable, but you’ll need to make sure that each one adheres to the SMART method. Develop a separate plan for each objective, and tailor your content to meet its needs.
Step 3: Define Your Target Audience
No matter which industry you are in, there will be different audiences that your brand needs to connect with. Of course, each one of these audiences has different preferences and needs. This is where creating customer personas is helpful. Break down your target audience by demographics, interests, and location.
If you’re unsure of your brand’s customer personas, look to your sales team for guidance. Most of the time, it’s the sales team that answers customer questions and understands their needs. Examining a competitor’s social media interactions and content creation are other good ways to develop personas.
Once you’ve determined which audience you want to reach, take a look at whom you’re already connecting with. You’ll then gain a sense of which content resonates with your audience – and which falls flat. If you find out that you’re missing a large segment if your audience, it’s time to figure out why. Google Analytics is helpful for gathering this type of data.
Step 4: Develop a Content Plan
After you’ve set clear goals and established your target audiences, it’s time to put this research into action. To get started, consider which trends are happening online and what types of content resonate with your audience. Some examples of content include infographics, blog posts, and YouTube videos. Does your audience prefer long-form content over 500-word posts? Do they often share videos? These are examples of questions to ask while you’re analyzing audience trends.
Creating an editorial calendar is a great way to keep track of when and how content posts to your website or social media pages. Using content scheduling apps allow you to input a series of posts ahead of time, which post on specific days. Over time, the calendar should reveal how your content strategy is working to achieve your goals.
Timing is everything when it comes to planning your editorial calendar. Don’t forget to include important events like conferences, holidays, and sales, as these present opportunities for generating content.
Step 5: Design SEO-Friendly Content
When conducting an internet search, most people find what they need on the first page of results. If your website isn’t SEO-friendly, it’s likely that your target audience will never view your content. However, sites that implement SEO best practices receive increased content reach and visibility. While social media sites help you reach your audience, SEO makes your content more visible to those looking for content.
Keywords within the content largely determine your site’s ranking, so think about the words and phrases a customer would use. Factor in what your audience knows about the topic, their interests, and the keyword’s popularity. Reading competitors’ content is also helpful when determining the most prevalent keywords.
If you’re struggling to locate the right keywords, using a keyword research tool provides insight into both high- and low-volume terms. High search volume keywords are typically used by hundreds of websites, so avoid over-saturating your content with them. Strike a balance when selecting keywords, choosing both high and low search volumes.
Step 6: Create the Content
After you’ve established an SEO-friendly content strategy, it’s time to create the content. Every piece of content you create should be shaped around the five steps that precede this one. Keep your keywords and the audience’s needs in mind when generating content ideas. However, avoid keyword stuffing, as search engines penalize content that isn’t reader-friendly.
All content should be fully optimized to achieve your brand’s goals. For example, if your objective is to increase sales, including product information inside your posts is helpful. Show your audience how your product can help them solve a problem or achieve a personal goal.
Here are some examples of how you can foster engagement with quality content:
- Place social sharing and “click to Tweet” buttons on your posts, which encourage readers to share the post on social media.
- Add calls-to-action at the end of every piece of content, including video. The CTA should be optimized to achieve a specific goal.
- Mention a relevant eBook at the end of a post, and inform readers that they can learn more by downloading it. These often serve as lead magnets.
More Eye-Catching Tips
While encouraging readers to take action through content is important, it’s also essential to provide them with value. Here’s how to create eye-catching content that readers enjoy:
- Write excellent headlines for all content. These should be interesting, but still concise. Never mislead a reader with a clickbait headline – the title should indicate what the post is about.
- When developing blog posts, ensure each piece covers the topic with enough detail. Remember, the goal is not about the quantity of words – it’s about the quality.
- Use data to add value to content. Video tutorials, detailed infographics, and other types of data-rich content are valuable to readers. Constantly offering valuable, informative content encourages readers to continue visiting your site.
- Answer your readers’ questions, whether they’re asking your brand or the entire industry. What is the reader searching for when he or she lands on your page? What problem is he or she hoping to solve? Make sure your content addresses these concerns.
- Utilize multiple types of media to achieve maximum impact. Some of the items to include are text, video, images, and infographics.
To determine whether your content is helping you meet your goals, monitor posts regularly using a tracking tool. Widely available online, post tracking tools reveal which pieces of content receive the most views, shares, and conversions. This allows marketers to create stronger, more effective content in the future.
Step 7: Distribute and Post the Content
From a marketing standpoint, even the most valuable content is meaningless if it doesn’t reach its intended audience. The final step involves distributing the content so that it best reaches your target audience. The distribution plan determines how and where the content will be shared as well as when it posts. Some of the most popular distribution channels include:
- Social media share buttons
- Pay-per-click campaigns, including Facebook Ads, YouTube Ads, and Promoted Pins
- Weekly and monthly newsletters showcasing top content
- Posting on distribution or publishing sites, including Medium and LinkedIn
Increasing your brand’s exposure is another good way to distribute your content. Try using a brand monitoring tool to see which blogs and media outlets write about your brand. Even if they’ve only mentioned your competitors, they also may be interested in featuring your content.
As mentioned in Step 4, content scheduling tools are a great way to simplify the distribution process. Many of these tools allow you to schedule content on multiple sites ahead of time. Plus, some tools offer analytics like social mentions and site engagement.
No matter how you distribute your content, you should always utilize Google Analytics to determine which channels send the most traffic. Identifying the most valuable sources of acquisition is an essential part of any content strategy.
Creating effective content that meets the needs and goals of your business is possible with a well-crafted content strategy. Over time, valuable content that is optimized for SEO and your target audience will yield real results.
Keep in mind that it may take time to see results when implementing these content marketing tips. Marketing with content is a long-term effort, and it often takes longer than short-term ad campaigns. Tracking metrics every month is the best way to determine whether your efforts are working. If you haven’t seen any changes after six months, conduct another SWOT analysis to identify threats, weaknesses, and possible opportunities.