Whenever you create a website, whether it be a personal or small business site, it’s going to need content. You’ll need to make decisions on what kinds of content you want on your site, and figure out how to maximize its effectiveness to achieve your goals (page visits, conversion rates, sales, etc.).
Creating content that is useful and valuable to your intended audience, and that achieves your business goals, is called content marketing—and effective content marketing can get three times as many leads as paid search advertising.
But where to begin? What kind of content do you want to create? What format of content will resonate with your audience? How often should you post new content?
From the offset, all these questions can seem overwhelming. Make things easier for yourself by planning a detailed digital content strategy and sticking to it.
What Is a Content Strategy?
A content strategy is the strategic planning of the management, creation, and execution of your content marketing plan. Far more than just a plan for the kind of content you will create, a content strategy delves into the nitty-gritty of all aspects of content marketing—from deciding on your aims and intended audiences to determining roles and workflow.
How in-depth your strategy will be is highly dependent on the size and scope of your site, whether or not you have a dedicated content marketing team, and if you have one, how big that team is.
This beginner’s guide to creating a content strategy will whittle down the basics in an easy-to-follow, digestible way that can be applied even if your resources are limited.
Create an effective content strategy for the web by following these seven easy steps.
1. Identify Your Goals
You need to think about why you’re creating content in the first place. It might seem obvious, but writing your goals down will ensure that you don’t lose sight of your overall aims.
These might include:
- Strengthening your brand profile
- Increasing traffic to your website
- Increasing sales of products and/or services
- Building a loyal following
- Lead generation through educating and engaging potential customers
Knowing your specific goals from the outset will help greatly when it comes to choosing the type of content you want to create.
Once you identify your goals, you’ll be in a great position to…
2. Identify Your KPIs
Key performance indicators, or KPIs, are basically what you use to measure the success of your content based on your specific goals.
Typical KPIs include:
- Number of email newsletter signups
- Number of purchases
- Increase in onsite traffic
- Increase in followers on social media
- Content engagement—likes, shares, comments, etc.
By establishing your KPIs from the outset, you’ll have a tangible barometer of success to refer to, thus ensuring you stay on track with your content strategy.
3. Identify Your Ideal Customer
It’s so much easier to create content that will excite and engage potential leads when you actually know who your ideal customer is. That way, you can create content that appeals to their pain points and problems they need solving.
You probably already have some idea of who you’ll be creating content for based on your product or service. Factors like age, gender, income level. For example, if you’re creating a website for your elegant handmade jewelry business you’ll likely appeal to females in the 25–34 age range who have a modest income. Flesh out this idea by conducting some market research on that demographic.
If your website is connected to Google Analytics (which it should be! If it’s not, check out our starter guide), you can configure it to display demographics. This data analyzes users by age, gender, and interest categories. For more information, check out Google’s guide to setting up and analyzing demographics data.
Other research you can do to find out more about your ideal customer includes:
- Checking out reviews or discussions of similar products on sites like Amazon, Reddit, and Quora
- Researching your competitors’ audience/customers on social media. What other pages and personalities do they follow?
- Conducting interviews with people in your target demographic. Post ads on social media and forums they’re likely to hang out.
This research will give you a more firm idea of your target audience: their needs and wants; life situation; and extracurricular interests. This will also help you guide the kind of tone your content will have. For example, with a younger audience, you can affect a more playful tone, whereas if your audience is older professionals, it will be more serious.
With the information you collect you can also create buyer personas. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of someone in a segment of your target audience that you can refer to when creating your content plan. By having an established reference point you can ensure that you’re consistently appealing to their needs and wants, as well as using a voice they can relate to.
There are numerous buyer persona templates available online, such as this one from HubSpot and this one from Hootsuite. Plug in the information you have and away you go!
4. Define Your USP
USP stands for unique selling proposition. Essentially it’s what makes your product or service stand out from others like it. What makes it not only different, but better? What problem can your offering solve that others like it can’t? The research from the previous point will help you with this too. Defining your USP from the beginning will be a great help when deciding the kind of content you want to create, and instrumental in driving the success of your content strategy.
5. Determine the Content Type and Format
What types of content tend to resonate most with your target demographic? Consider the following formats.
Blog Posts: For most business websites, blog posts are the first port of call when it comes to content format. Blogs aren’t just for individuals; as we’ve discussed in the past, many businesses have blog sections on their websites that are updated regularly with valuable content for their audience.
Infographics: Why write about interesting statistics, facts, or figures, when you can display them in picture format? Visualizing data through an infographic makes information easier to digest while rendering it instantly more shareable.
Video: Video marketing requires more time and investment than the other content formats in this list, so it might be easy to discount entirely if your budget is limited. However, you shouldn’t rule it out entirely. Video provides an engaging way of communicating your message and is a format that viewers are more likely to share. Not only that, but a survey by HubSpot found that 54% of consumers preferred video as a content format from brands they support.
Ebooks: More in-depth than a blog post, ebooks make for a valuable resource for your audience. They’re also great for lead generation—people often subscribe to email lists in exchange for free ebook downloads.
Podcasts: More people than ever are listening to podcasts. Currently, 51% of Americans have listened to a podcast, with 32% listening monthly, and 22% listening weekly. With that kind of data, it’s no wonder that brands like McDonalds and Sephora are getting in on the action. Maybe you can too.
As for the type of content you post, the possibilities are endless. In general, educational content that will leave your audience feeling more informed is always a safe bet. Typical content types businesses opt for include:
- How-to/instructional guides
- Solutions to common problems your target demographic have
- Product/service comparisons
- Best-of lists
- Key insights you may have to your industry
- Relevant research and statistics
- Industry news
- Industry trends/predictions
Take the time to brainstorm what kind of content your audience will like. (If you’re new to brainstorming, our guide will help you out.) Come up with a list of ideas that will keep your content plan full over the next few months. You should also consider your (or your content team’s) strengths and areas of expertise, as well as resources. It might be overly ambitious to plan a video series if you don’t have the budget for the proper tools and software.
For more content inspiration, sign up to sites like Buzzsumo, ShareIt, and Social Animal to check out the kind of content that is doing well competitors and topics that are currently trending.
For more information on creating content that resonates, check out our piece on producing content with value and this guide to writing spicy content.
6. Create a Publication Schedule and Workflow
Even if your team is very small, it’s good to establish a content workflow from the get-go to make sure that only the best quality content is published.
A very basic workflow for written content might look something like this:
- Writer submits draft
- Editor makes comments/suggests edits
- Writer makes changes
- Editor gives final approval
- Content is published
Of course, it may look somewhat different for visual or video content, if a designer is creating images to go alongside the content, or if there is no editor in your team at all. Whatever the makeup of your team, having a workflow process is essential to keep content production rolling. A project management tool like Trello or ClickUp is invaluable when it comes to keeping track. So is an editorial calendar.
An editorial calendar can be as basic or in-depth as you want it to be. Having something your team can refer to with a set schedule of all your content ideas and deadlines will keep everyone on track and ensure content is posted consistently.
There are a number of options when it comes to creating an editorial calendar. When you’re starting out, you could keep it really simple with a color-coded wall calendar. You could use an excel spreadsheet, dedicated software, or integrate it with your Google Calendar.
There is a whole host of editorial calendar templates available online, such as this one from HubSpot and these spreadsheet templates from SmartSheet, to make things even easier.
7. Consider social media
When it comes to getting more visitors to your website, sharing your content on social media is a no-brainer.
Deciding which social channels to focus on is also a strategic one, as different demographics have specific preferences when it comes to where they hang out online. For example:
- Facebook is most popular with 18-29-year-olds, followed by 30-49-year-olds. It is not the social media platform of choice for teenagers.
- Instagram is more popular with women, particularly teens and young adults, with 72% of teens saying they use the picture-sharing platform.
- Professional social networking site LinkedIn is most popular with 20-49-year-olds.
As you can see, if you’re targeting teens with your content, sites like Facebook and LinkedIn aren’t the most ideal social channels. Do your research and find out which social channels are really worth investing your time and effort in. This post by Sprout Social breaks down the demographic data for each major social networking site in an accessible way.
When you decide on which social media networks to focus on, you’ll then need to consider how often to post and what time of day works best. Whatever the social platform, you’ll want to post quality content frequently enough that your audience will remember you, but not so often that you clog up their newsfeed and essentially become a nuisance. This post by CoSchedule compiles data from several studies to gauge the best times and frequency for posting on each platform.
A dedicated social media calendar too will help ensure you post regularly. You could also opt to use social media management software, such as Buffer or Hootsuite.
Since every company has different needs, there’s no tried-and-true content strategy template that will guarantee your success. However, the steps in this guide are a great starting point.
As your website or business expands and your team grows, you can tailor and adapt it over time.
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