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Creating a content strategy can seem daunting, but it’s an important step in building a successful online presence. I’ve put together this comprehensive overview of what content strategy is, its purpose, and the different types and elements involved. Review this guide to gain valuable insights and practical tips to create a content strategy that sets you apart from the competition.

There’s something here for all levels of content strategists. Read on to discover the secrets to crafting a successful content strategy that drives meaningful results.

What is Content Strategy?

  • It helps an organization create, publish, and manage content with a purpose.
  • It helps them communicate with their audience to build brand awareness and credibility
  • It requires knowing the audience, defining goals, creating a plan, and measuring the effectiveness of content.

Every day that I talk with content teams, I hear the same thing. Information is abundant, and attention spans are short. Standing out from the competition is hard. This is where content strategy comes into play. Content strategy is the roadmap for creating, publishing, and managing content. It’s not just about producing content for the sake of it. It’s about crafting a cohesive plan that aligns content with business goals and resonates with the target audience.

To create content that works, you need to understand your target audience and have a plan. That means creating content with goals and measuring that content to see how effective it is. By doing this ,you create a content ecosystem that drives engagement, conversions, and business growth.

The Purpose of a Content Strategy

  • A solid content strategy helps businesses achieve their business goals. Often that means increasing brand awareness, generating leads, and driving sales.
  • The goal is to create content that’s more effective.

Content strategy is the compass that guides businesses through the ever-changing digital landscape. It makes sure content efforts are focused, impactful, and aligned with business objectives.

It’s about creating more effective content, not producing it more efficiently. That, by the way, is an issue for content ops (content operations) to deal with.

The purpose of a content strategy is to determine what content needs to be created to achieve specific goals within a defined time frame. A well-executed content strategy can help businesses achieve many goals, including:

  • Increased brand awareness: by creating and publishing relevant content.
  • Improved customer engagement: by providing your audience with useful and informative content. This builds trust, credibility, and establishes you as a thought leader in your industry. This, in turn, can lead to increased customer engagement and loyalty.
  • Increased website traffic: by creating and publishing content optimized for search engines. You can also generate more leads.
  • Improved sales: by providing your target audience with content that’s relevant to their needs and interests.

Plus, a content strategy is very helpful in prioritizing resources. I’ve never met a content team that didn’t have more demands than resources. With a formal strategy in place, it’s much easier to say “no” to demands that don’t align with stated objectives.

Having a documented strategy is a definite success factor, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 14th Annual Content Marketing Survey. That should come as no surprise, really. For a strategy to succeed, it needs to be communicated. How else are you going to convey your plan if you don’t write it down?

How to Explain Content Strategy

  • It’s the roadmap that gets you to your content marketing goals.
  • It helps you create content that attracts and keeps customers.
  • It coordinates all your marketing channels to work together.

In the simplest terms, a content strategy is a plan for creating and sharing content that achieves specific goals. It’s like a roadmap for getting from where you are to where you want to be. It involves identifying what kind of content to create, who you want to share it with, and how you’ll measure its success.

Just like a road map can help you get from one place to another, a content strategy can help you reach your goals and engage your audience effectively. On the other hand…

As Yogi Berra so eloquently expressed, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”

If you’re going in the wrong direction, producing more content won’t fix the problem either. Content efficiency is often mistaken for content effectiveness. The former is the responsibility of content operations (content ops). The latter lies in the domain of content strategy. Don’t make that mistake, otherwise you’ll end up going faster in the wrong direction. That will only get you farther away from your goals.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”

Yogi Berra

Here’s something else that most content marketers get wrong. A blog isn’t an example of content strategy. Neither is long-form content, keyword research, SEO, A/B testing, or a dozen other approaches. Many things can be part of a content strategy, but they aren’t the strategy itself. A content strategy is a well-thought-out plan that uses a variety of tactics and channels to achieve specific business goals.

Types of Content Strategy

  • Content strategy can be specific to the channel, such as search, social, or email.
  • Within a channel, it can be specific to a platform such as LinkedIn or Facebook.

Sometimes a business will have a general content strategy. Then they’ll develop individual strategies for specific channels or platforms. Here are a few common ones:

Inbound marketing focuses on creating valuable content to attract and keep customers. This type of content strategy aims to build relationships with customers and encourage them to take action. That could be buying something or signing up for a service. Inbound marketing often involves creating blog posts, articles, infographics, and videos. Any form of content that’s tailored to the interests and needs of the target audience will work.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a strategy focused on improving the visibility of a website in search results. SEO involves optimizing website content, such as titles, headings, and body text, with relevant keywords and topics. It also includes building internal links and high-quality backlinks. Technical SEO optimizes the site’s technical structure for search engine discovery.

Social media content strategy involves creating and sharing content on social media platforms. This type of content strategy aims to build brand awareness, engage with customers, and to a lesser extent, drive traffic to the website. Social media content can include text posts, images, videos, and links to other relevant content.

Paid advertising involves paying to place ads on search engines, social media platforms, and other websites. The aim here is to reach a wider audience and drive traffic to the website. It can also be very effective when used in combination with SEO. Paid advertising enables businesses to reach highly specific demographics and interests.

What’s a Good Content Strategy?

  • Relevant to your audience.
  • Easy to understand.
  • Consistent.
  • Measurable.
  • Adaptable.

Those are the key elements of a successful content strategy.

Relevance comes first because if your content isn’t relevant, your audience won’t engage with it. That’s a big fail. Relevant content can be informative, entertaining, or a combination of both. But whatever the case, your audience has the final say about what they consider to be pertinent. Which is why you need a solid understanding of your audience.

Clarity is essential in a good content strategy, both in the strategy itself and the content produced. A strategy that lacks clarity is like a tattered and unreadable road map. It’s impossible to follow and will only lead to confusion and frustration.

If your content isn’t understandable, your audience won’t be able to appreciate its value, leading to a poor outcome. Written content should be created at a reading level appropriate for your audience. That makes it easy for them to understand without feeling like it’s been over-simplified. Use clear and concise language, and avoid jargon or technical terms that your audience may not be familiar with.

Consistency is another important component of a successful content strategy. If your content is inconsistent, your audience will be confused and frustrated. That’s the hallmark of an unsuccessful content strategy.

Ideally, every piece of content you publish will be of the highest quality. But it’s consistency in quality, style, and tone that will win the day. That means having a brand guideline for all your content to cover logo usage, colors, and fonts. Here’s an example of the MarketMuse Brand Guidelines.

Create a styleguide for your written content that covers grammar, mechanics, writing about your brand, people, and more. Take a look at MarketMuse Content Style Guide if you don’t have one yet and don’t know where to start.

Measurability is another important element of a good content strategy. This works in tandem with your goals, objectives, and key results. No content strategy is perfect and you’ll need to make adjustments as needed. If you don’t measure, you can’t improve, and if you don’t improve, you’ll eventually fail.

To measure something reliably and objectively, you’ll need metrics that tie back to your objectives. Common metrics include website traffic, social media engagement, and lead generation.

Adaptability is the final element of a good content strategy. We just talked about the necessity of measuring — the purpose of which is to make changes. This may involve changing the topics you cover, the way you distribute your content, or the metrics you use to measure success. If your content strategy isn’t adaptable, it will become outdated and ineffective. Once again, failure is on the horizon.

By following these five elements, you can create a content strategy that will help you achieve your business goals.

What’s Included in a Content strategy

  • Goals: defining what you want to achieve through your content strategy.
  • Audience: understanding your audience and tailoring the content to their needs and interests.
  • Metrics: defining how you’ll measure the success of your content strategy.
  • Content Audit: helps identify the state of your content. What content is performing well, and what content needs updating, merging, or deleting.
  • Competitive Analysis: identifies the types of content your competitors are creating. Then it evaluates them for content gaps and quality of coverage.
  • Content mix: determining the types of content you’ll create, such as blogs, articles, videos, and infographics.
  • Channels: deciding which channels you’ll use to distribute your content, such as social media, email, or paid advertising.
  • Governance: setting up processes and guidelines for content creation, review, and approval.

These are the main components, but there are many other elements that can be included in a comprehensive content strategy.

Generating Content Ideas

The number one deliverable that virtually every stakeholder expects to see from any content strategy is a list of content ideas. That’s often the only thing in which they’re interested.

To offer solid recommendations, you need to know your goals, audience, content, and competition. That’s a lot of preliminary work that needs to get done before you can even think about what you should create.

Coming up with fresh and engaging content ideas is paramount to creating a successful content strategy. Here are several ways often used to generate those ideas:

  • Brainstorming: gathering a team to generate a wide range of ideas and then narrowing them down to the best ones.
  • Research: to understand your industry, target audience, and competitors. Here, you’re looking to find trends and opportunities for content.
  • Analytics: analyzing your existing content to see what’s working and what’s not, and using this data to inform your content strategy.
  • Surveys and interviews: asking your audience for their opinions, preferences, and pain points. Use these insights to inform your content strategy.
  • Industry events and conferences: attend these to keep current on the latest trends and ideas. It’s also a great opportunity to network with other professionals in your field.

Just remember that everything needs to tie back to the goals, audience, existing content, and your competitive analysis. Otherwise, it’s not a content strategy.

The Basics of Content Strategy

  • Start with goals: define what you want to achieve through your content strategy. Common goals include increasing website traffic or generating leads.
  • Understand your audience: research your audience and tailor the content to their interests and pain points.
  • Set metrics: define how you’ll measure the success of your content strategy. Common metrics include website traffic, social media engagement, or leads generated.
  • Create a content plan: develop a detailed plan that outlines the types of content you’ll create. Include the channels you’ll use to distribute it, and the timeline for execution.
  • Use data to inform your decisions: use analytics to identify what content resonates with your audience. Adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • Stay up-to-date: stay current on industry trends, competitor activity, and new technologies. These could impact your content strategy.
  • Embrace experimentation: test different content formats, distribution channels, and messaging. See what works best for your audience.
  • Stay agile: be prepared to adapt your strategy as needed to respond to changes in your industry, audience, or business goals.

These are some of the basic principles behind a successful content strategy.

Start With Goals

Getting clarity on your goals needs to come first. Everything else builds off your understanding of the objectives. So get a clear idea of what you want to achieve before diving into the details on what to create and how to promote it.

Common goals include:

  • Increasing website traffic: by creating compelling content that resonates with your audience. You can attract more visitors to your website and increase your organic search visibility.
  • Generating leads: use content to capture leads. Forms, downloads, and other website elements are where that content lives.
  • Improving brand awareness: through consistently producing high-quality content. It helps establish your brand as a thought leader

Clearly defining your goals ensures your content strategy aligns with business objectives. Now every piece of content you create has a purpose.

Understand Your Audience

Here are some ways to research and understand your target audience:

  • Review your existing customer base: understand their demographics, interests, and pain points.
  • Conduct surveys and interviews: to get a better understanding of their needs and preferences.
  • Analyze social media data: to understand your audience’s interests, preferences, and pain points.
  • Research industry trends: stay current to understand what your audience cares about. Learn how they are using content in their decision-making process.

By understanding your audience, you can create content that speaks to their needs, interests, and pain points. Only then will they be inclined to act. Like buying something, subscribing to your newsletter, or sharing your content with others.

Set Metrics

You’ll need to observe some metrics to measure success and course-correct when necessary. What you measure will depend on your goals. Here are some examples of metrics that you can use:

  • Website traffic: watch your website traffic and referral sources to see how your content is driving visitors to your site.
  • Content engagement: track the engagement on your social media posts. Look at likes, comments, and shares, to learn how your content is resonating with your audience. You can do this for website content, too.
  • Leads generated: check the number of leads generated through content. That could be email sign-ups, downloads, or form submissions.
  • Search engine rankings: track specific keywords to understand how your content is performing.

By tracking these metrics, you can gain insights into the effectiveness of your content strategy. Use what you learn to make data-driven decisions to improve it over time.

Create a Content Plan

A content plan is a roadmap that outlines the types of content you’ll create, when you’ll create it, and how you’ll distribute it. Here are some key components of a content plan:

  • Content types: you’ll want to use a mix of content, such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, or white papers.
  • Distribution channels: decide which channels you’ll use to distribute your content. Broadly, those are your website, social media, email, and paid advertising.
  • Content calendar: outline the dates and times when you’ll publish your content, and the distribution channels you’ll use.

Use a content calendar to stay organized and make sure you’re creating and distributing content regularly. This consistency is essential for building an engaged audience. It’s the way to achieve your content marketing goals.

Use Data to Inform Your Decisions

Some ways to use data to inform your content strategy include:

  • Analyzing website traffic: to learn which pages and types of content are driving the most traffic. There are lots of tools for this. Review periodically and adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • A/B testing: Conduct A/B tests to determine which content performs better and what resonates with your audience. For example, you can test different headlines, images, or call-to-actions to see which one performs better.
  • Verify content quality: use MarketMuse to determine whether a page meets its KPIs such as Target Content Score and Target Word Count.
  • Analyze personalized metrics: MarketMuse’s personalized metrics help you focus on your priorities. That could be updating existing content or creating whole new pages.

Keeping up with industry trends, competitor activity, and new technologies is how you stay ahead of the curve. It’s the way to make sure your content strategy remains effective and relevant.

Stay up-to-date

Keeping up with industry trends, competitor activity, and new technologies is how you stay ahead of the curve and make sure your content strategy remains effective and relevant.

Here are some ways to stay up-to-date:

  • Read industry publications and blogs: to stay informed about the latest industry trends and issues.
  • Follow industry influencers and thought leaders: subscribe to their newsletters to stay up-to-date.
  • Track your competitors: watch your competitors’ content strategies. Look at the types of content they’re creating. Stay abreast of their activities to identify any opportunities for your own content.
  • Attend industry events: conferences and webinars are great for networking with other professionals. It’s also an opportunity for content strategists to learn about new technologies.

Staying up-to-date allows you to identify opportunities for experimentation. It’s a chance to test new approaches to your content strategy.

Embrace Experimentation

Experimentation is all about trying out new things and seeing what works best for your audience. Here are some ways you can embrace experimentation:

  • Test different content formats: try different types of content. That could be long-form articles, short-form posts, videos, infographics, or podcasts. See what resonates best with your audience.
  • Experiment with distribution channels: test social media, email, paid advertising, and organic search. Discover the best ways to reach your target audience.
  • Try different messaging: test various calls-to-action. See what drives the most engagement and conversions.

Embracing experimentation requires a willingness to try new things and learn from your mistakes. By constantly testing and iterating, you’ll develop a more effective content strategy.

Stay Agile

Staying agile is all about being able to adapt to changes and respond quickly to opportunities and challenges. Here are some ways to stay agile in your content strategy:

  • Be open to change: be willing to pivot your strategy as needed. Be ready to abandon a once-successful approach that’s no longer effective.
  • Be flexible: be open to trying new things and experimenting with different approaches to see what works best.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected: have a plan in place for responding to unexpected challenges or opportunities. Sudden changes in the market or a new competitor entering the space can happen when you least expect it.

Staying agile can be challenging. But that’s the way content strategy remains effective and aligned with business objectives.

How to Create a Content Strategy (Steps to Creating a Content Strategy)

Now that we’ve covered the basics, use this content strategy framework to put them into practice.

Define your goals: set clear and measurable goals for your content strategy that align with your business aspirations. Increasing website traffic, generating leads, or improving brand awareness are common objectives.

Conduct research: to understand your industry, target audience, and competitors.

Develop a content mix: decide what types of content you’ll create, such as blogs, videos, infographics, and white papers.

Create a distribution plan: determine the channels you’ll use to distribute your content. Common avenues are social media, email, and paid advertising.

Create a content calendar: it outlines when you’ll publish each piece of content and the distribution channels you’ll use.

Creating a content strategy takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. By following these steps, you can create a content strategy that will help you achieve your business goals.

Content Strategy Example

Here’s an example of a content strategy for a fictional company called “Acme Technologies,” a software company that sells a CRM solution. There’s a lot of research and planning that goes into creating the strategy. We’re showing you at a high level what could be delivered.

This content strategy focuses on educating and engaging Acme Technologies’ target audience. The content showcases the benefits of their solution and establishes the company as a thought leader in their industry.

  • Goal: to increase leads and sales. Showcase the benefits of their CRM solution and establish Acme Technologies as thought leaders in the industry.
  • Content plan: a mix of blog posts, case studies, videos, and infographics. The content will showcase the benefits of their CRM solution and highlight successful use cases. A detailed plan would consist of a list of pages to be optimized and content to create. This would include the idea, topic, title, target intent, funnel stage, overview, and key points.
  • Distribution plan: for publishing content on their website, social media channels, and industry publications. Reaching out to influencers in the industry to promote their content, is included, too.
  • Content calendar: a monthly calendar outlining the topics and formats for each piece of content. Distribution channels and dates for publication are also included.

The key to a successful content strategy is to create content that’s relevant, valuable, and consistent. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create a content strategy that will help you achieve your business goals.

Recommended Books

I’ve compiled a massive list of 255+ content strategy resources along with a glossary of terms to help you create content more strategically. Here are some books that I refer to time and again, that you may also find valuable.

The Language of Content Strategy, by Rahel Anne Bailie and Scott Abel

This comprehensive reference guide provides a common vocabulary for content strategists. Half the battle in content strategy is just understanding different concepts and what the words mean. In this regard, I found the book to be very helpful in gaining a fundamental understanding. It provides context for these different terms, so it’s easier to communicate about content strategy.

Global Content Strategy: A Primer, by Val Swisher

More content, more problems. When you’re working with content at a global scale, those problems can get really big. Val’s book offers great insight into the world of global content strategy. It’s a great starting point for learning about global content strategy. Read this to get a grasp on the key concepts and challenges involved.

Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide, by Robert Nichols

Another recommended resource if you’re dealing with enterprise-sized issues. The book outlines best practices for conducting and executing content. Nichols offers a way to build a content strategy that meets organizational needs. It considers factors such as industry, audience, and business goals. He also includes tips and advice for avoiding common pitfalls that can arise during the content strategy process.

The Content Strategy Toolkit, by Meghan Casey

This book provides a wealth of practical advice and tools for tackling common challenges in content strategy. It provides a range of templates, worksheets, and checklists. They’re great for getting you from theory to practice.

Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook, by Melissa Rach

Thanks to MarketMuse, I haven’t had to perform a content audit in years. But back in the day, I’d refer to this book. Rach covers a wide range of audit tactics. She provides specific examples and case studies of how to apply them.

The Web Content Strategist’s Bible, by Richard Sheffield

I like how this book couples theory with practical advice. It’s very comprehensive in explaining how to manage complex web development projects. Sheffield covers a range of relevant topics, and recommends using data and analytics to make content decisions. That way, content can be high-quality, data-driven and help grow the business.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.