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How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy From Scratch

Sarah Patrick
Sarah Patrick

Your marketing efforts will fall short if you don't have a content strategy in place.

Smart business owners recognize the value of good content. Not only does it attract website traffic and boost a company's rankings in search engine results pages, compelling content engages, informs, and persuades their target audiences.

A robust content strategy ensures that your content will produce measurable, meaningful results, helping your business grow.

To create an organized and intentional content strategy that aligns with your company's main goals and objectives, start with these four steps:

  • Conduct keyword research to ensure that your content strategy addresses your target audience's search queries for both core and long-tail topics.
  • Research and invest in formats that engage your audience; share content strategically to boost your strategy's effectiveness.
  • Invest significant staff resources; hire external specialists or outsource projects.
  • Include a plan for promoting and sharing your content on multiple platforms.

Develop content based on target keywords.

Keywords should be at the heart of your business's content strategy. Keywords, or search queries, are words and phrases that users enter into a search engine to find what they're looking for online.

By understanding the exact words and phrases your target audience is using, you can create content that will appear in relevant search results and that will drive consumers to your business.

For example, a real estate business that sells properties in the Bay area would want to create content around the terms its audience is most likely to search; for example, phrases like "best properties in San Francisco" or "average rent in Berkeley."

Keywords are often intuitive: Think about how you would search for property in the Bay Area when you conduct keyword research. What terms and phrases would you use?

Still, an effective content strategy requires research and creativity. Moz warns against skipping keyword research.

To continue with the above real estate example, the target audience might also search for information that extends beyond their need to find a new home. A realtor then may want to create content about related topics such as "moving companies in the Bay area" or "painters in the Bay area." By targeting both the core keyword topic – property in the Bay Area – and its related terms – moving companies or painters – you create a holistic content strategy that helps people complete their desired action, ideally a purchase.   

This concept was first proposed in a 2004 WIRED article called "The Long Tail." In it, author and entrepreneur Chris Anderson made the famous observation that the cumulative impact of specific or niche audiences is as great or greater than the impact of an audience that masses behind a viral or monocultural phenomenon.

In a content strategy, long-tail keywords represent searches that are related to core topics but have lower traffic and competition. Capturing a wide variety of long tail keywords can have the cumulative impact of landing in the first search result for a popular topic.

Keyword research ensures that your website advances in search rankings and connects with your target audience.

Invest in the types of content that best engage your audience.

In the internet world today, businesses contend with the challenge of determining not only what types of content to produce, but where to publish it, in order to engage their audiences.

Nowadays, people consume content well beyond the written word. While your content marketing strategy may rely on written assets – people still search for things online through writing it out – audiences increasingly crave a mix of different content formats, including visual and video content.

Your content strategy should strike a balance between meeting your audience's preferences, and it should convey information as clearly and easily as possible.

There are numerous ways you can determine what types of content will be the most engaging to your audience.

First, spend some time developing or revisiting your buyer personas. Is your audience busy and constantly on the go? They might appreciate quick videos. Does your audience favor luxury products and value time to unplug? A branded print magazine could do wonders for your business like it has for brands like Airbnb and Away.

Next, you can confirm your educated guesses by directly asking your audience for feedback. Online surveys are a quick and easy way to gauge interest before investing in content, while focus groups provide deeper insights.

In addition to creating the types of content your audience is interested in, your content strategy should attempt to meet users where they already like to spend their time online, including:

  • Social media, e.g., Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook
  • Video sharing platforms, e.g., YouTube and Vimeo
  • Popular publications, e.g., industry magazines and web outlets

Although some businesses might be wary of sacrificing web traffic to their company's website by diverting it to other sites, this strategy can pay dividends. Last year, Business Insider reported that YouTube nearly attracted as many users as Facebook, averaging 1.8 billion viewers per month.

Social platforms consume nearly 2.5 hours of the average consumer's day, reinforcing the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Similarly, placing articles or infographics in popular publications can build a brand's credibility.

By investing time and effort into determining what platforms and types of content are most likely to engage your audience, you can increase the return on your content investment efforts.

Determine who will produce your content.

Once you've identified essential keywords and determined what type of content you intend to create, you'll need to decide who will create your content.

Content production is a time-consuming and labor intensive process that requires dedicated staff if it is done in-house.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, recommends that most businesses outsource content production to external experts.

If you choose to outsource content production, there are plenty of resources available to help you. Agencies provide high-touch content production, from Superbowl-worthy commercials to fascinating blogs, and they charge a premium price. At the other end of the cost spectrum, freelance writers can provide assistance on a project-by-project basis.

In general, businesses that assign content creation responsibilities to staff members who are already burdened with other responsibilities put their content strategy at risk for failure. A successful content strategy should include a plan for budgeting ample labor and resources.

Create a plan to share your content.

Once you've invested time and resources into creating outstanding content, there's one final step you shouldn't overlook: sharing and promoting content as widely as possible.

In addition to sharing your content on social media, email newsletters remain a powerful marketing tool, earning a $38 return for every $1 of investment. Content sharing platforms like Quora can also help people discover your content without much effort.

With these suggestions in mind, you can create a content strategy from scratch and start catching your audience's attention.

Image Credit: jamesteohart/Shutterstock
Sarah Patrick
Sarah Patrick Member
Sarah Patrick is a senior senior content developer and marketer at Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm in the heart of Washington, DC. She’s the digital marketing lead, focused on developing data-driven resources about social media, email marketing, content marketing, and marketing automation.