Ask someone about their content strategy and you may hear, “We’re blogging three times a week.” They might mention that they aim to address defined personas. Or that they cover certain topics.
But are those strategies? And if not — what does a content strategy look like?
If you work in the content marketing world, you need a framework that will help you create a solid content strategy. We’ll dig into a few examples from different industries and give you a handy cheat sheet. So when your marketing director or client asks about content strategy, you won’t even skip a beat!
Download our customizable content strategy template now to fill in as you you go.
What is Content Strategy?
Content strategy lays out the goals you want your content to achieve, what type of content is best suited to achieve those goals, and how you’re going to create, distribute, and measure the performance of it.
Defining your content strategy brings focus and purpose to your efforts. A well-defined content strategy provides a foundation that will help you make tactical decisions. Think of your content marketing as a highway. You’ve got to decide where it will go, lay down some pavement, and figure out how many lanes there will be. If you just start driving before you’ve thought out the road, you’ll use up a lot more gas – and you may not even get to your destination.
Bear in mind that content marketing is a business investment. It requires time, money, and (possibly) extra people. As with all investments, you’ll want to tie it to results. That means starting out with clear goals and the KPIs that indicate whether you’re accomplishing those goals.
How to Create a Content Strategy – Your 6-Step Cheat Sheet
To formulate a solid content strategy, you must first think through the major inputs, both internal and external to your company. These include your goals, who you want to reach, the competitive landscape, your resources, your costs, and how you’ll measure results. This information will shape your strategy.
Now let’s walk through the major inputs of a content strategy.
Step 1: Define Your Goals
Content strategy starts with defining what you want to accomplish. Consider what your brand stands for, your marketing objectives, and the needs of your business. Be sure to get buy-in from all major stakeholders, because your biggest decisions will flow from your goal.
A few goals that a content strategy may address include:
- Growing awareness of your products
- Supporting customers
- Changing how people think about something
- Attracting and retaining employees
- Encouraging free trial signups
- Nurturing leads into conversions
- Building repeat customers and loyalty
It’s natural for goals to shift as your organization grows. For example, when you’re just starting out, you’ll want to focus on building brand awareness. As you become more established, your attention may move to nurturing leads. Plan to periodically revisit your content strategy goals to keep them aligned with the needs of your business.
Step 2: Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is critical to a successful content strategy. Go deep here – spend time talking to your sales team and gleaning every bit of insight you can find about your audience.
Who do you want to reach? For B2B marketers, this will often include multiple people: the buyer, the end user, experts who consult on the decision, the business owner, and so on. For B2C products with less complicated buying cycles, you will want to gain a sense of 1) who makes the purchase and 2) who can help you amplify your content.
What do they care about? Think of the problem your business solves, your prospect’s pain points, or the things related to either of these that your intended audience will spend time learning about.
How and where do they like to consume information? Is video big in your industry? Does your audience tend to spend time on certain social media, like Reddit or Instagram? When do they turn to Google for information? Are they likely to subscribe to a newsletter?
The answers to these questions will point to which media types to use (video, audio, images, long-form blog posts, influencer or celebrity endorsements, etc.), what topics to address and what stage of the sales process (top, middle, or bottom of funnel) the intended audience is in, and the delivery channels that make sense for your content strategy (SEO, paid search, social media, email, forums, PR, etc.).
Alexa’s SEO and competitive analysis tools can help in answering these questions. Sign up for a free 14-day trial here.
Step 3: Examine Your Competition
Look at what your competition is doing. What seems to be working? Are there things that no one else is doing but you think would resonate with your audience? (Only 5% of content creation budgets are going towards podcasts right now – is that an opportunity in your industry?)
Use Alexa’s free Site Overview Tool to see competitor data, like where their website traffic comes from and their paid and organic keywords, backlink profile, audience interests, and more.
Step 4: Look for Your Unique Position or Resources
What do you do better than anyone else in your industry? Do you have a unique point of view? An outspoken founder whose voice you can leverage? Here, you are looking for your hook that will let you cut through the clutter. (If only your customers knew this about you they would love you.)
Conversely, are there tactics and angles you know you can’t own because of resources or another constraint? It’s good to consider this ahead of time, as it helps you narrow down your choices.
Step 5: Estimate Your Investment
The average B2B marketer spent 26% of its marketing budget on content marketing last year, and 84% plan to maintain or increase that. Start by estimating the cost of your strategy. Where do you need to ramp up internally? Which parts might you need to outsource?
Be sure to consider the useful life of your content, because there is a cost to maintaining and retiring it, too. Consider what resources you will have at your disposal before you finalize your strategy, to make sure you will have the budget.
Step 6: Plan How You’ll Measure Results
Decide the metrics ad KPIs that will make sense for evaluating your content strategy, given your goals. Here are some common examples.
Examples of Content Marketing Metrics
Growing awareness of your products
Traffic, views, shares
Downloads, reduction in support calls
Advocating for a change in thinking
Engagement on social media
Attracting and retaining employees
Number and quality of job applicants, staff turnover rates
Encouraging free trial signups
Conversion of traffic to trial
Nurturing leads into conversions
Use by sales reps, conversions from email
Building customer loyalty
Newsletter signups, word of mouth referrals
Consider that content strategy is a long-term play. It will take time to show returns on your business’s bottom line. If SEO is part of your strategy, for example, it can take six months to a year before you start to see an effect in the bank. But you can measure progress by looking at keyword rankings, backlinks, page views, and leads.
4 Content Strategy Examples
Let’s take a look at four examples of content strategy in different industries.
M.M.LaFleur is an upscale clothing retailer for women professionals. It uses content to reach its target clientele, help overcome the barriers to buying its clothing online, and build loyalty for repeat purchases.
A few things that M.M.LaFleur employs in its content strategy are:
- Featuring professional women on its blog and building an audience for distribution via email subscription. (The company blog, The M Dash, was a winner in the Digiday Content Marketing Awards for Best Brand Publication).
- Using short, pithy copy for its time-strapped audience.
- Placing importance on images to help the buyer relate. Images help entice traffic from social media and convert site visitors.
- Incorporating movement and video to demonstrate unique textures in its clothing. (See the Backwards and In Heels video about the making of its new shoe collection.)
Is M.M.LaFleur’s content strategy working? Founded in 2013, the company has reached estimated revenue of $22.5M and 170.4K fans on Facebook. Given that their percent of search traffic is higher than their competitors’ and their bounce rate is lower, we’d bet their powerful content has a lot to do with that.
Source: Alexa’s free Site Overview tool, comparing M.M.LaFleur to top competitors.
Formlabs is an international maker of 3D printers and materials for engineers, designers, and manufacturers. It uses content to reach buyers at various stages.
A few things that Formlabs employs in its content strategy are:
- Attracting top of funnel traffic and leads through SEO with its blog, educating site visitors with a library of resources, and helping customers and encouraging referrals in an open 3D printing forum.
- Bringing the narrative of the company and industry into the light. See an example highlighting the effects of 3D printing on the dental industry. This is one method that can be used to help drive repeat engagement.
- Producing content that’s detailed, but easy to consume. This is a departure from the usual dry technical copy for industrial products. The company’s materials use engaging images with movement, video, short paragraphs and clear, simple writing.
Is Formlabs’ content strategy working? The narrative-driven approach appears to successfully engage audiences across social media: The company has a combined following of over 200,000 on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and its YouTube videos typically reach tens of thousands of views each. Looking at traffic statistics in Alexa’s Site Overview tool, we can see that Formlabs has 5,920 links driving referral traffic, which is significantly higher than their competitors’ average of 506. That suggests they are creating content that is valuable enough to be considered linkworthy.
3) Consumer Service
Enjuris provides information to injured people and their caregivers, and it lists local lawyers in a directory. It uses content to gain awareness and build trust, educate, and then show consumers how to find an attorney.
A few things Enjuris incorporates into its content strategy are:
- Connecting with people through an empathetic, authentic voice that flows from the writing team’s own experiences. This is supported with images and captions that create a feeling of hope.
- Building an extensive library of deep, long-form articles. The site also freely offers un-gated worksheets for download by consumers.
- Creating partnerships and active contributor placements on industry websites. Partnerships can help build brand awareness and garner backlinks that boost site authority.
Is it working? When the SEO agency behind Enjuris launched its content strategy, the website was receiving fewer than 1,000 pageviews per month. It took one year to reach 5,000 pageviews monthly in its ultra-competitive industry – and then compounding growth from SEO kicked in. After three years of steady growth, the site now receives over 100K pageviews monthly. The website has been able to capture share of voice and search traffic for extremely competitive search terms that help fuel growth in the directory of personal injury attorneys.
You can find all kinds of keyword data like this in Alexa’s Advanced plan.
4) Technology Company
Hotjar is a SaaS tool for usability testing on websites. Its content builds awareness for its product and affinity for its culture to support a new way of thinking and encourage free trials among marketers, product managers, and UX designers.
Hotjar’s content includes:
- Avoiding the typical strategy of “massive amounts of ‘high-quality’ informative blog posts in the hopes of attracting qualified users” that many tech companies use. Instead, it focuses on purpose-driven content that embraces “transparency, vulnerability, honesty, and humanity.”
- Attracting search traffic with deep content organized in a hub and spoke structure.
- Building its email subscriber list to encourage repeat engagement and nurture leads.
Is it working? With 20,000+ people subscribing to receive the company’s blog posts by email, Hotjar’s content is striking a chord with readers. Alexa’s site overview tool points out additional stats that show the site is improving relative to other sites.
Key Takeaways and The Customizable Content Strategy Template
It’s clear that nailing the right content strategy can set your business on the path to success. But an unsung benefit of putting effort into defining your content strategy is that you can do more with less. You’ll know when to embrace a new idea – and when to say no to those that don’t fit. At a time when businesses continue to churn out content at record volumes, laser focus on your mission. Keep your eye on results and revisit your strategy periodically.
Download our customizable content strategy template PDF to set your strategy and align your team on goals and priorities. It includes an accompanying spreadsheet, which gives you a way to collaborate with your team and record your content research.
Alexa tools can help you analyze your competitors’ content, find keyword gaps, and more. Sign up for a trial of our Advanced plan to get full access to the Competitive Backlink Checker, Keyword Matrix, and other useful tools today.