How to Create a Content Strategy That Actually Drives Traffic

If you don’t have a good content strategy, you’re kinda screwed.

Seriously, just think of your content strategy like a map – you need one if you want to get where you’re going.

No map? You’re going to get lost.

Translation: You’ll waste countless hours and dollars churning out content in the hope it helps you grow your business – fingers crossed!

This is a perfect recipe for burnout and ultimately, failure.

You’ve got to be strategic and intentional if you’re going to succeed. Especially when competition for attention is so tough.

So how do you create a content strategy?

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know to create a powerful content strategy that consistently drives traffic to your website.

Sound good?

What is a Content Strategy?

A content strategy is a plan of action purposely designed to guide content marketing activities and ensure they deliver against a specific business objective.

This includes content planning, production, publishing, promoting, tracking, and SEO optimization. It also includes every type of content you produce, such as videos, blog posts, podcasts, and social media posts.

Being strategic pays off too.

In 2018, only 39 percent of content marketers had a content strategy. However, that number jumps to 65 percent among top performing organizations.

The idea is to ensure that each piece of content you produce resonates heavily with your target audience and serves to move people further down the sales funnel.

As a result, different types of content will serve different purposes.

For example, you might create blog posts to rank on Google for certain keywords so that you can hook in new leads. Or you might create a case study video to show your products in action to educate leads about your products.

Bottom line, a powerful content strategy will enable you to maximize the return on the time and money you invest in content marketing.

So how can you create a content strategy?

Content Strategy Step #1: Define Your Goal

You can’t map a route until you know where you want to end up.

Every single piece of content you create should have a clearly defined purpose, such as:

  • Earning backlinks from other websites and social accounts to drive traffic to your website.
  • Ranking high in the search results on sites like Google and YouTube.
  • Educating and nurturing your customers, leads, and existing social audience.
  • Moving readers or viewers further along the sales funnel by taking an action (e.g., signing up to your mailing list).

So before you begin, make sure to set clear goals for your content marketing efforts.

These goals should be SMART:

  • Specific: There should be no room for interpretation.
  • Measurable: Your goals should be quantifiable.
  • Attainable: Be ambitious, but also be realistic.
  • Relevant: Your goals should lead to the final outcome you want.
  • Time-bound: There should be a clear start and end date.

Here’s an example of a content marketing SMART goal:

Specific: We aim to boost blog traffic by increasing our publishing frequency from two to five times a week.

Measurable: The goal is to boost traffic by 12 percent.

Attainable: We grew our blog traffic by six percent last month when we increased our publishing frequency from one to two times a week.

Relevant: Increasing blog traffic will boost brand awareness and generate more leads from SEO and social sharing.

Time-bound: By the end of this month.

SMART Goal: By the end of this month, we will increase blog traffic by 12 percent by increasing our publishing frequency from two to five posts a week.

To create a content marketing strategy SMART goal, consider questions like:

  • How does this contribute to our overall marketing goals?
  • Is this the most effective way to achieve our desired end result?
  • Do we have the necessary resources to make this goal a reality?

Once you’ve set your content strategy goals, it’s time to move on to step two.

Content Strategy Step #2: Define Your Target Audience

What is a target audience exactly?

In short, a target audience is a group of people that are likely to respond positively to your content – which is why every single piece of content you create should have one.

As the famed management consultant Peter F. Drucker said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

The power of a defined target audience is best explained by Elizabeth Gardner, founder of Garnish Media:

“It’s hard to target a message to a generic 35-year-old middle-class working mother of two. It’s much easier to target a message to Jennifer, who has two children under four, works as a paralegal and is always looking for quick but healthy dinners, and ways to spend more time with her kids and less time on housework.”

By defining your target audience, you can better understand how to create content that appeals to their interests, needs, and emotions. In turn, this will lead to a stronger brand and higher conversion rates.

So how do you do it?

First, you’ll want to create a buyer persona. Let’s look at an example.

The Buyer Persona Institute provides a detailed example of a buyer persona. This includes all of the basic demographic information and psychographic information such as their priorities, potential objections, criteria for making decisions, and what they consider valuable.

Okay, but where do you get this information?

Well, if you already have an existing customer base, take a deeper look and try to draw out commonalities. And if you don’t, start by investigating your closest competitor’s customer base.

Ask questions like:

  • Where do they live?
  • How old are they?
  • What gender are they?
  • What are their interests?
  • Who do they follow online?
  • What is their level of education?
  • What kind of jobs do they have?
  • How much money do they make?
  • What motivates them to purchase something?
  • What concerns them most when making a purchase?

Once you’ve defined your target market, you can begin to identify effective content topics.

Content Strategy Step #3: Develop Effective Content Topics

Your target audience should define everything about the content you create.

Simply put, if you want to generate leads from search engines or boost your social media engagements, you need to create content your target audience will love.

How?

Find out what your target audience is currently searching for and interacting with. There are plenty of ways to do this, but one of the most effective is to use SEO tools to see what people are searching for on search engines.

Cool, right?

There are tons of tools out there too, such as Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, and SEMRush. There are even tons of browser extensions like Keywords Everywhere.

Let’s run through how to do this.

How to Perform Keyword Research to Identify Content Opportunities

You probably already have some knowledge of your target audience. So begin by making a list of some relevant and important topics.

Then, it’s time to see how many people are searching these terms.

In this example, we’ll use the browser extension Keywords Everywhere – this tool is simple, quick, and easy to use.

Once you’ve installed the extension, you’ll see keyword information whenever you use a search engine like Google, YouTube, eBay, Etsy, Bing, or Amazon.

Specifically, Keywords Everywhere will show the keywords:

  • Volume: How many searches a keyword receives per month.
  • Cost-per-click: The average cost-per-click of the keyword when engaging in pay-per-click advertising.
  • Competition: How competitive the keyword is.

When starting out, try to find keywords that have a monthly search volume in the thousands or tens of thousands.

This way, the volume is large enough to draw in substantial amounts of traffic but not so large that your content will be lost in the noise.

Okay, by now you should have some solid keywords that you know your target audience is actively searching for.

Turn Your Keywords Into Content Topics

For example, if one of your keywords is “snowboard helmet,” you could brainstorm the following topic ideas:

  • The Top 10 Snowboard Helmets in 2019
  • How to Choose the Best Snowboard Helmet for Your Needs
  • 7 Reasons to Always Wear a Snowboard Helmet

Just remember the golden rule of content creation: It’s never about you, it’s about your readers.

This is why 90 percent of the most successful content marketers prioritize their audience’s informational needs over their own sales and promotional messages.

So aim to be helpful and engaging.

If you’re struggling to come up with great content ideas, then consider checking out BuzzSumo.

BuzzSumo is particularly powerful because it allows you to see the top performing content for certain keywords:

Once you’ve got some great topic ideas, it’s time to choose your content’s format.

Content Strategy Step #4: Identify the Most Effective Content Format

Today, there are tons of different content formats available. Here are some of the most popular types used by content marketers:

  • Blog posts
  • Emails
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • Graphics and infographics
  • Webinars
  • Social media posts
  • Podcasts

Now, each of these formats also has plenty of options.

Take video marketing – you could create vlogs, reviews, how-tos, behind the scenes, interviews, skits, or Q&As.

You also need to decide on the length of your content and which platform you plan to publish it on according to where you hope to engage your audience most.

For example, if you plan to create a video, will you publish it on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram Stories, or your own website?

It’s vital to answer these questions ahead of time as they will define the type of content you need to create.

For instance, a Facebook Story needs to be filmed in portrait, but a YouTube video will perform best when filmed in landscape.

But here’s the thing: You can’t do them all and you shouldn’t do them all.

Unless you have a massive team and an endless budget, trying to produce content in many different formats will overstretch your resources.

For small businesses, it’s best to just have one or two content formats that you can really throw yourself into.

But with so many options available how will you decide which to use? It’s simple: you don’t. Instead, you let your target audience decide for you.

Red Bull is a great example.

As an energy drink, their brand is all about high-energy, adrenaline-pumping extreme sports and activities that push people’s limits.

That’s why they create content on rock climbing, snowboarding, skydiving, surfing, and motorsports.

As a result, the vast majority of Red Bull’s content is video. Not only does video provide the best medium to present these sports, it’s also the primary format people use to engage with them.

When deciding what format of content to create, keep these questions in mind:

  • Is there a format that will best present your topics?
  • What format does your target audience consume most?
  • Where does your target audience spend the most time online?
  • Which format generates the most social engagement?

Although you may personally prefer one content format over others, opt for the content format that will prove most effective with your target audience.

Content Strategy Step #5: Determine Your Posting Frequency

Consistency is key.

Without a consistent content strategy schedule, you won’t build the necessary momentum to attract organic traffic.

Now, the type of content you create will largely inform how often you should share it. For example, it’s likely you’ll post more social media updates than long-form blog posts.

There are two main things to keep in mind: Your limited resources and your audience’s appetite.

Creating long-form blog posts or videos takes a lot of time – or money, if you decide to hire a writer or video producer. This will restrict how often you’re able to create quality content.

In short, the longer the content, the less often you post.

You also want to provide the right amount of content for your target audience.

Too little and you won’t effectively nurture deep customer relationships. Too much and you’ll overwhelm them send them looking for the Unsubscribe button

Curata’s content marketing pyramid provides a helpful way to see how often you should post different types of content.And if you’re still unsure where to start, check out competitors that use content marketing successfully.

You also need to decide when to share your content.

To do this, think about when it’s most convenient for your target audience to consume your content. Plus, check your social media analytics to work out when your audience is most engaged online.

Once you’ve decided on a posting frequency, create a content calendar.

You can use a simple spreadsheet to keep track of your content or use a tool like CoSchedule, Asana, or Trello.

Start by making simple columns to track where each piece of content is in your overall content strategy.

Alright, you’ve defined your goals and target audience, identified promising topics and the content format, and created a content calendar.

Still, your content strategy doesn’t stop there.

Content Strategy Step #6: Plan Your Content Promotion Activities

Every great content strategy includes content promotion.

Marketer and entrepreneur Derek Halpern recommends spending 20 percent of your time creating content and 80 percent of your time marketing it.

“If you spend time writing a piece of content, and that content only gets 1,000 readers, chances are there are one million other people in the world who can benefit from what you wrote,” writes Halpern. “Why then, would you spend more time creating content when you already have something that your ideal customers can benefit from?”

So how do you go about marketing your content?

Here are a few ways you can promote content you’ve already published:

  • Promote your content to your existing mailing list to deepen customer relationships.
  • Share your posts on your social media channels.
  • Repurpose parts of your content into different formats. (E.g., take short clips from your long videos to create Facebook and Instagram Story videos.)
  • Pay to promote high-performing posts on social media.

You can also use social media tools like Buffer or HootSuite to schedule your social media posts in advance.

To supercharge your content marketing promotion activities, it’s best to build them into the content itself, such as:

  • Creating new research in your niche that other people will link to.
  • Including material and sources from prominent brands in your niche, then email them in the hope that they read, share, and link to your content.
  • Asking influencers for a quote to include in your content and then asking them to share the finished piece.

Remember to circle back every now and then to promote previous content that still performs well.

Content Strategy Step #7: Continually Improve and Optimize Your Content and Strategy

This is when the magic happens.

By tracking the performance of your content, you can extract valuable takeaways that you can use to improve your content strategy in the future.

Ideally, you should have a simple spreadsheet that allows you to clearly measure your content’s performance.

Here’s an example from the Content Marketing Institute:

A simple spreadsheet like this will allow you to track your key performance indicators over time.

The data that you track will depend on your goals and the format of your content. For example, you might track:

  • Video metrics (e.g., views, subscribers, watch time, etc.)
  • Website data (e.g., pageviews, clicks, signups, bounces, etc.)
  • Social interactions (e.g., comments, shares, likes, etc.)

You could even use URL shorteners to track clicks from individual videos and social media posts to your website.

Content Strategy Step #8: Update and Expand on  Previous Content

An important part of search engine optimization is refreshing previous content. Thankfully, these changes don’t need to be massive.

For example, it’s inevitable that parts of your blog posts will become outdated. When this happens, you should remove those parts, add new relevant information, and optimize the keywords.

This simple practice can be extremely effective.

This makes sense. Newer content is more likely to be relevant to searchers. That’s why search engines like Google prioritize up-to-date content.

Of course, you can’t update or change parts of videos on YouTube or Podcasts on iTunes. However, you can revisit the topic.

If you have a high-performing piece of content that your audience loves, why not create more content on the same topic?

All in all, it comes down to one simple phrase: Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Content Strategy Summary

A content strategy is your roadmap to content marketing success.

Without one, you won’t be able to create effective content or enable your performance to consistently improve into the future.

In summary, when creating a content strategy make sure to:

  • Define your goal: Create SMART goals to ensure you effectively utilize your resources.
  • Define your target audience: Make sure you know exactly who you’re creating content for.
  • Develop effective content topics: Identify the topics that your target audience will love.
  • Identify the most effective content format: Create content in the formats that your audience prefers.
  • Determine your posting frequency: Post enough to engage your audience and not so much that they feel overwhelmed.
  • Create a content marketing calendar: Be consistent in your content marketing strategy to build momentum.
  • Plan your content marketing strategy promotion: Spend 20 percent of your time creating content and 80 percent of your time promoting it.
  • Track and improve your content marketing efforts: Draw out actionable insights to consistently improve your content strategy over time.
  • Update and expand on previous content: Refresh old content to improve SEO and expand on high-performing topics.

Don’t get lost. Create a map.

Do you have a content marketing strategy in place yet? Let us know in the comments below!

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