Creating a solid content marketing strategy will help ensure your content efforts are successful in driving traffic, leads and sales. Here are the essential steps to develop a comprehensive content strategy that works!
#1 Research Your Audience and Competitors
Thorough audience and competitor research is essential to creating relevant and effective content. Some key research activities include:
- Identify long-tail keywords. In addition to broad, generic keywords, look for related 3-5 word phrases that capture more specific intent. These long-tail keywords often have less competition but can still drive relevant traffic.
- Use keyword tools. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, UberSuggest, or Answer The Public to generate a wide list of potential keywords for your topic. Look for relevant industry keywords and topics related to your products/services.
- Analyze keyword difficulty and volume. Tools like Ubersuggest can show you the approximate search volume and difficulty of different keywords to help you set realistic targets.
- Cluster related keywords. Group similar keywords that share the same concepts together into “clusters.” Establishing keyword clusters can help guide your content creation around broader topics.
- Research through searches. Enter likely target keywords into Google’s search bar to see what types of queries and content already rank well. This can give you ideas for angles to explore in your own content.
- Analyze your competitors. Review the keywords and content of your main competitors to see what keywords they are ranking for and targeting. Identify any keyword gaps you can exploit.
- Monitor keyword trends over time. Use keyword tools to track changes in the search volume, difficulty and competition of your target keywords. This can reveal new opportunities or saturated keywords to avoid.
- Continually expand your list. As you create content and learn more about your audience, be on the lookout for any new, related keywords to add to your research.
Audience Persona Profiles
Create detailed profiles for each type of audience you want to reach through your content. Profiles should include:
- Demographics – Include key details like age range, gender, marital status, family size, occupation, income and education level. Personas should represent specific demographic groups within your audience.
- Psychographics – Go beyond demographics to identify the personalities, values, attitudes, interests and lifestyles that define your personas. This helps make them feel realistic.
- Goals and tasks – What goals is this persona trying to accomplish? What tasks do they perform on a daily or weekly basis related to your offerings? Understanding their goals can guide your content and product development.
- Pain points – What frustrations does this persona face in trying to reach their goals? Identify 2-3 key pain points that your offerings could potentially alleviate.
- Technology use – What devices do they use? What platforms and applications are part of their daily life? This helps you determine the right channels to reach them.
- Personality traits – Give your persona a name, quote and 1-2 distinct personality traits that bring them to life. Writing in their “voice” helps create a human connection.
- Role in decision making – Clarify if your persona is a purchaser, influencer, decision maker or some combination. This impacts the messaging and content you provide.
- Use cases – Provide 1-2 specific examples of how your persona might interact with or use your products/services to achieve their goals.
- Detail through stories – Share anecdotes and details that illustrate who this persona truly is as a person. The more real you make them, the more useful they become.
- Identify your top 3-5 direct competitors. These are the companies most similar to you in terms of the audience you serve and the products/services you offer.
- Analyze their marketing mix – the 4Ps:
- Product: What products or services do they offer? How do they compare to your offerings? What gaps exist that you can fill?
- Price: What are their pricing structures? How do their prices compare to yours? Are there opportunities to be more or less competitive on price?
- Place (Distribution): What channels do they use to reach customers and distribute products? What can you learn from their distribution strategies?
- Promotion: What marketing strategies and techniques do they employ? What social media platforms and channels are working best for them?
- Evaluate their branding and positioning – What values do they emphasize? How do they differentiate themselves? What brand attributes do customers associate with them?
- Assess their content marketing – Analyze their most popular and shared content. What topics, formats and styles resonate most with your shared audience? What techniques could you model?
- Evaluate their customer reviews – Read through customer reviews on sites like Google, Facebook, TrustPilot and their own pages. What pain points or concerns frequently come up? How do they respond to customers?
- Compare key metrics – Look at metrics like social media followers, organic traffic, domain authority, backlinks and brand awareness. Which competitors are performing best and why?
- Identify gaps and opportunities – Based on your analysis, where do clear opportunities exist for you to improve on what your competitors are offering? What gaps can you fill?
Audience Surveys and Insights
- Create an in-depth survey with both quantitative and qualitative questions. Ask for numerical ratings where relevant but also include open-ended questions to gain a richer understanding of needs, preferences and motivations.
- Target your most engaged customers and readers first. They are likely to provide the most useful feedback. Consider incentives for completing the survey.
- Ask questions to gain insight into:
- Content preferences: topics of interest, preferred formats, speaking tones, length, etc.
- Pain points and needs: the biggest challenges, frustrations and goals around which you could craft helpful content.
- Current perceptions and awareness: familiarity with your brand, view of your offerings, etc. This shows where you can improve.
- Desired outcomes: what change or impact your content could ideally create for them.
- Delivery channel preferences: which platforms and sources they find most useful and trustworthy.
- Gather qualitative feedback through follow up interviews. Ask open-ended questions to gain stories, examples and a deeper perspective on insights from the survey.
- Look for patterns and themes in the feedback. Group responses around common topics, needs and preferences to identify your most actionable insights.
- Test assumptions – Don’t discount feedback that differs from your expectations. It may point to unmet needs you could address.
- Periodically resurvey your audience. Needs and preferences change over time, so repeat the process every 6-12 months to identify shifts in priorities that require new strategies.
- Start small and scale up. Pilot your first survey with a small subset of readers before distributing more widely. This lets you refine your questions and process.
#2 Set Specific Business Goals
Clearly defining your business goals upfront will keep your content efforts focused and help you measure success.
Think SMART Goals
Set goals that are:
Specific – Define your goal as precisely as possible. Instead of “Increase leads”, say “Generate 25 new leads per month”.
Measurable – Quantify your goal so you can track your progress towards it.
Achievable – Set a challenging but realistic goal based on your resources and audience.
Relevant – Ensure your goal aligns with your business objectives and strategy.
Time-bound – Attach a clear deadline to your goal to keep it timely and urgent.
Consider Multiple Goal Types
Here are some different types of goals you may want to consider for your content efforts:
- Increase overall site traffic through content, both organic and referral
- Increase organic traffic from specific sources like search, social media, email newsletters, etc.
- Drive more traffic to target pages like landing pages or product pages
- Increase average time on site through more relevant and helpful content
- Improve social media engagement metrics like comments, shares, retweets for specific posts
- Increase email newsletter open and click through rates
Lead Generation Goals
- Generate a certain number of qualified leads from your content in a given time frame
- Improve quality scores for the leads generated through content and social
- Reduce cost per lead through content marketing
- Increase conversion rate – both overall and for specific pages
- Increase number of converted leads that become paying customers
- Boost social proof elements in your content to improve trust and conversions
- Improve brand awareness and recall through thought leadership content
- Increase positive brand mentions and reduce negative sentiment
- Build a loyal customer base through helpful, consistent content
- Directly increase revenue or profit from content marketing efforts
- Link content to upselling or cross-selling opportunities within your business
- Estimate return on investment (ROI) from your content budget
Depending on your business objectives, you may prioritize certain types of goals over others. But having a mix of SMART goals across traffic, engagement, leads, conversions, brand and revenue can help you measure holistic success for your content marketing.
The key is to tie the right metrics to each goal so you can accurately track progress and make mid-course corrections as needed.
Monitor Key Metrics
Some important metrics to monitor to track progress on your content goals are:
- Total organic traffic from search and social media
- Organic traffic from specific sources like Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
- Organic traffic to target pages
- Number of social shares, likes and reactions
- Comments on social posts
- Follower/subscriber growth
- Number of leads generated from content
- Quality score of those leads
- Cost per lead
- Overall site conversion rate
- Conversion rate for target pages
- Number of brand mentions
- Sentiment of brand mentions
- Revenue directly attributed to content marketing
- Estimated ROI from content budget
Adjust Goals Over Time
Review your goals regularly to see if they need adjusting based on metrics, audience insights and changes in your business. Revise them to:
- Become more ambitious as your content efforts mature
- Target different personas or audiences
- Align with shifting business priorities
#3 Define your Target Audiences
Creating personas for your main target audiences will help focus your content messaging and format.
Create Audience Personas
Personas make your target customers feel less like statistics, more like friends you can actually learn from. They transform vague audiences into archetypes you can actually relate to and tailor your strategies for.
- Give each persona a specific name, title, and role that represents their demographic and job function. This helps make the persona feel realistic and relatable.
- Include demographic details like age, gender, industry, company size, job title, and location. These attributes define which persona represents which segment of your target audience.
- Outline the specific goals, challenges, and pain points your offering can help resolve for that persona. Connect these clearly to your product benefits to show how you solve for that persona.
- Determine what motivates the persona and their interests beyond work. This helps you connect with them on a personal level and match their tone of voice.
- List the persona’s preferred content formats and channels. Since personas consume information differently, this ensures you meet them where they want information.
- Capture an insightful quote from a real customer to bring the persona to life and inform the content you create for that group.
- Define 2-4 primary personas that represent your key audience segments. Any more than this becomes difficult to keep distinct and actionable.
- Periodically review and update your personas as audience needs change. Capture new insights from customers and research.
- Socialize personas across teams. Content, marketing, sales and product teams should all understand and apply personas in their work.
Align Personas with Business Goals
Map each persona to specific goals in your strategy. For example:
- Sally (Small business owner) → Generate 10 new leads per month
- Jason (Marketing manager) → Increase website traffic from targeted campaigns by 15%
- Preeti (Director of Operations)→ Boost brand awareness and credibility
This ensures your content focuses on the right audiences to achieve your objectives.
Use Personas to Guide Content
Leverage personas to:
- Determine relevant topics, keywords and search queries
- Shape content around their interests, challenges and goals
- Tailor tone, style and level of detail
- Select the most suitable formats and channels
Personalized content resonates more deeply with target audiences and drives better performance.
Test & Refine Personas Over Time
Validate personas against real customers and prospects to refine over time. Look for ways to:
- Expand personas to include new or emerging audiences
- Combine similar personas to simplify your strategy
- Realign personas with shifting business goals and metrics
Personas should evolve as your audiences, insights and business changes.
#4 Create an Editorial Calendar
An editorial calendar lists all planned content with important details to keep your strategy organized and on track.
Include Key Details
For each planned piece of content, document:
- Series or theme (if applicable)
- Content type (blog, social media post, video, etc)
- Target persona or audience
- Keywords and phrases
- Main idea or headline
- Author or content creator
- Draft or final due date
- Planned publish date
Keeping this information centrally ensures consistency and reduces missed details.
Schedule Content Regularly
Set a regular publishing cadence based on your available resources and the formats you’re creating. Common schedules include:
- 1-2 blog posts per week
- 1-3 social media posts per day
- 1 long-form article per month
- 1 email newsletter per month
- 1-2 videos per quarter
Steady content production keeps your audience engaged and search rankings high.
Plan Content Themes in Advance
Map out content themes or series aligned to your target audience needs and business goals for at least 3-6 months. Themes can include:
- Industry event
- Product launch
- Business milestone
- Educational series
Recurring themes give your content structure and attract repeat readers.
Account for Changing Variables
Leave some flexibility to adapt the calendar based on:
- Shifting audience insights and keywords
- Availability of contributor resources
- Changes to business priorities or goals
- Competitive content that emerges
- Current events
#5 Define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Identify the metrics you’ll use to measure the success of your content marketing strategy. In addition to your business goals, consider monitoring:
- Traffic and pageviews
- Social media engagement
- Lead volume and quality
- Downloads, registrations and form submissions
- Shares, links and mentions
Track these KPIs over time to assess how your content is performing.
So there you have it – the foundational steps to build an effective content marketing strategy from scratch. Now all you have to do is knock out that killer editorial calendar, craft some captivating copy and hit “publish” on that content machine!
Of course, like any good strategy, your content plan is likely to evolve over time as you get feedback, gather new insights and adapt to challenges. But the most important thing is just to start creating content that your audiences actually want. Don’t get paralyzed trying to plan the “perfect” strategy – just get your words out there and start tweaking as you go.
As the great writer Ernest Hemingway once said, “The first draft of everything is crap.” So don’t worry if your early content efforts feel a bit messy or imperfect. That’s normal! The key is to keep writing, keep publishing and keep learning from your audiences. Experiment with different formats, tones and angles to see what resonates. And most of all, have fun unleashing those creative copywriting muscles.
To help you master SEO copywriting, I have created a free SEO copywriting checklist that covers the essential tips and strategies outlined in this article. You can use as a handy reference when optimizing your own website content for search engines and converting readers. With this checklist, you’ll have a valuable resource to boost your SEO content and see greater results from your efforts!
Your content is sure to improve over time as long as you’re listening to your readers and unafraid to make mistakes. Remember: there are no failures in content marketing, only opportunities to get better. The journey of a thousand pageviews begins with a single, attention-grabbing headline. So get writing – and good luck crafting awesome content that drives real success for your business!