6. Brainstorm content ideas
Next, use your list of keywords to brainstorm new content ideas. But, how do you create unique, usable content when there are more than 4.2 billion web pages competing for attention?
Fortunately, the vast majority of indexed web pages are terrible. So, take that golden opportunity to iterate and improve upon what already exists!
A key to producing great content is to use a process of iterative ideation. As author Steven Johnson shows us in his book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, the best innovative ideas are typically iterative, take shape over periods of time, and often occur in the realm of the “adjacent possible” (relying directly on previous knowledge).
So, don’t waste time looking for the one thing that hasn’t been written. Instead, brainstorm new ways to approach an old dusty topic, or cross-pollinate two separate ideas to forge something unique.
Not sure where to begin? Tools like Buzzsumo can provide insight into engagement, while Ahrefs and Semrush are excellent for shedding light on keyword rankings, backlinks, and traffic.
After you identify the top performing content for each keyword, knock it out of the park with something 10X better. Here are several ways to improve your existing content:
- Leverage proprietary data
- Visualize boring topics with graphics
- Simplify or break down a complex topic
- Combine related content into a comprehensive guide
- Use explainer videos within your copy
- Create something 10X more entertaining
7. Choose a content management system
If you plan to produce a massive amount of content, you’ll need a robust Content Management System (CMS). Your CMS allows you to create, organize, publish, and store various kinds of content, including blog posts, audio, video, PDFs, etc.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options to choose from depending upon your needs.
For large ecommerce stores, for example, there’s Magento, which supports more than 200,000 online stores across 20+ industries. Sitecore is often used for enterprise websites that need strong security and scalability. WordPress has the largest market share of any CMS. And Drupal is a good option if you need extra customization and data management capabilities.
8. Establish a content development process
Your content won’t create itself, so you need a clearly defined, repeatable, structured content strategy development process. The right methodology ensures that you always create high-quality, high-value content.
Your process should include:
- Keyword research
- Content brief
- Media selection
- Browser preview
Clarify who will be responsible for each task and by what deadline. In addition, standardize your content tech stack and workflow. Beyond your CMS, there’s project management software, grammar checking software, SEO software, and much more.
9. Implement a content calendar
A content calendar is much more than a simple schedule. It’s also an organizational structure that aligns your content team with your broader marketing tactics and goals.
An effective content calendar should tie each piece of output back to your S.M.A.R.T. goals so you can track performance. It also helps you prioritize items that are likely to have the greatest impact. Depending upon your organization’s goals, your content calendar should include the following types of information:
- Title of Content Piece
- Target Audience Segment or Persona
- Content Format
- Content Brief Due Date
- Draft Deadline
- Editing Deadline
- Design & Development Deadlines
- Publication Date
- Target SEO Keyword(s)
- Associated Keyword Query Volume
- Comments or Other Information
Do you publish multi-format content such as a blog post that includes a video or an infographic? Then, create a separate line item in your calendar for each component.
Your editorial calendar should be accessible online by your internal team. Keep it clean and skimmable so it’s easy to see what you published, what’s still in process, and what’s on the back burner.
For keyword-focused content, track scores from SEO tools such as Clearscope, MarketMuse, or Yoast to ensure content meets your threshold.
A content calendar keeps the entire content production process on track. It ensures that deadlines are met and that last-minute “fire drills” can be averted. Your content schedule helps the entire team stay organized and on pace to hit your goals.
10. Prioritize quality over quantity
If your audience gives you their attention, don’t squander the opportunity to connect by serving them lazy content. Make your brand stand out with exceptional quality.
Want to rank well in organic search? You must provide valuable content. That advice is straight from Google. In fact, it’s the guiding principle behind most successful content strategies for several reasons:
- You won’t waste resources on thin content that nobody will engage with
- You’ll focus on actionable content that drives traffic and leads
- Stakeholders will see you as an industry expert which can earn media mentions and natural backlinks
- You’ll keep visitors on your site longer
- You’ll increase brand affinity
But, what is valuable, usable content? It depends on your industry, but it could be unique market research, expert advice in a podcast, a listicle of resources, beautiful photos, or even emotionally engaging content and videos.
The bottom line? Give your readers something they’ll love and share.
11. Publish long-form content
When it comes to Google rankings and organic search traffic, long-form content such as blogging almost always wins. According to a study by Semrush, long-form content generates 3X more traffic, 4X more shares, and 3.5X more backlinks.
There are several reasons for this.
First, long-form content often ranks for more keywords than shorter content since it covers a subject in more depth. You can answer more questions, naturally include more long-tail keywords, and structure the content in such a way that it might capture the featured snippet.
Second, long-form content tends to get shared more frequently, which helps expand reach and build valuable backlinks. If you manage a website dedicated to running, are you more likely to link to a 500 word or 3,500 word blog post about how to choose the best running shoe? Obviously the latter because it’s more valuable to your readers.
Third, long-form content lends itself well to multiple content formats in a single content piece, making the content more engaging and link-worthy.
Fourth, it’s easier to build funnels within your content when it’s long-form. With more real estate to play with, you can include more CTAs on the page, helping to drive your readers to the next step in the buyer’s journey.
Finally, long-form content keeps people on your site longer since the content takes longer to read.
12. Build expertise, authority & trust (E-A-T)
Brand trust influences conversions, customer loyalty, SEO, and more. That’s why it’s critical to build trust by showcasing your brand’s natural expertise throughout your content strategy.
For example, if your company sells photography supplies, you should stick to topics related to photography rather than optometry.
From a search perspective, however, there’s more to it.
You’ve probably heard of the concept of expertise, authority and trust (E-A-T), which is a set of principles foundational to Google search. E-A-T is not a direct ranking signal. However, many ranking factors within Google’s algorithm are meant to measure it in some way. Therefore, improving your expertise, authority and trust can indirectly benefit an enterprise SEO program. For example:
- People are more likely to link to content they trust, and links are one way Google measures trust.
- Expert authors cover topics more thoroughly, which means they’re more likely to mention relevant topics and co-occurring keyword phrases.
- Google continues to improve its understanding of entities which helps them recognize well-known authors.
This becomes especially important as you create content for people who may not yet know about your brand or product.
Sometimes, your eyes can get big when you see the search volume behind a top-of-funnel query. But ask yourself this: does it really make sense for my brand to talk about this? If it doesn’t, you’ll need to either find an angle that connects, or look for a different opportunity.
13. Evoke an emotional response
A smart content strategist understands that the most impactful content works on a subconscious level.
The human brain subconsciously processes 11 million bits of sensory information each second. Compare that to only 40 bits per second on a conscious level. In fact, Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman estimates that 95% of our decisions are made subconsciously.
So how do you tap into your customers’ subconscious mind?
The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people who couldn’t feel emotions due to brain damage. Those individuals struggled to make decisions because they endlessly waffled between options, as they couldn’t feel strongly enough about one option versus another. In other words, humans need emotions to take action because we base our decisions on feelings.
Emotions also prompt higher engagement. Jonah Berger, a Marketing Professor at the Wharton School, explained that people are more likely to share content that triggers an emotional response, especially a high-arousal emotion.
Emotional content draws in users, prompts action, and encourages sharing. What’s more, all of those things are a recipe for earning natural backlinks that improve organic visibility.
14. Plan a variety of content types
Make an effort to vary the types of media in your content strategy. Each demographic consumes content differently, so keep your buyer personas in mind while you brainstorm.
Even if your target audience segments are relatively the same demographic you should still mix things up. For example, some people prefer visual content, some are auditory learners, and others prefer to read text.
Consider using some of the following formats in your content strategy:
- Blog Post
- Case Study
- Topic Cluster
- Data Visualization
Develop a content creation strategy with different learning types and scalability in mind.
For example, you could create a survey as your base piece of content. From the insights that you collect, you can shape the takeaways into everything from infographics to videos, podcasts, blog posts, checklists, templates, social content, presentations, etc.
And don’t forget to distribute the different content types appropriately. For example, if you created a video, upload it and optimize it for YouTube. In this way, you’ll have a broader reach. A prospective customer may find your content, for example, in your blog, but another may run across the video version in YouTube or a podcast episode in Spotify.
Think broadly in terms of repurposing content to maximize your SEO ROI.
15. Define your content distribution and amplification strategy
Your content strategy doesn’t end when you publish a blog post or a video. Think about it. You’ve invested a great deal of time and money to produce compelling content that you expect to deliver results. So, don’t share it one time and move on to the next project.
Instead, build amplification into your content strategy process. Share posts multiple times across several social platforms. Execute blogger outreach to online publishers, and even other businesses to promote your blog posts, graphics or videos. Also, don’t be afraid to run paid ads. Just make sure you understand the ROI before you go on a spending spree.
Amplification is the engine that drives more website traffic. If you’re smart about content promotion and distribution, you’ll see a compound effect from your marketing efforts. One publication may share it with its audience, who in turn then share it with their individual networks, etc.
Measuring the effectiveness of your content strategy
This content strategy guide has walked you through the steps to build a plan, establish goals, identify your audience, plan a pipeline, create individual content pieces, and promote them to the right audience.
Finally, you’ll need to measure success so you can iterate and improve. Your content strategy KPIs should define success in terms of your marketing objective. So, if you care about conversion rates, include them. Don’t make the mistake of reporting against dozens of metrics that don’t support your goals.
Here are a few KPIs to consider:
- Google rankings
- Number of ranking keywords
- Organic visibility percentage
- Google organic market share
- Traffic (organic, paid, or referral)
- Qualified leads
Next, determine how you will capture, analyze, and report against those metrics. For example, will you report performance against a baseline each month or against the previous month or previous year? Will you create a live dashboard or pull data from search engine optimization tools like Google Analytics, STAT, and Semrush?
Finally, identify the individual(s) who will monitor and measure performance over time.
Future of content marketing
Consumers and individual B2B buyers are bombarded with so much content each day that they experience cognitive overload. As a result, people tend to filter out most of what they encounter.
What this means for your content marketing is that you need to up your game. Build a strategy that gets you noticed, generates traffic, boosts engagement, encourages shares, and increases conversions.
It’s not just about pieces of content. Think experiences moving forward, and how those user experiences fit into the purchase funnel and the broader customer journey. The brands that provide the best digital experiences will win in the long-term.
A content strategy plan gives you a roadmap to follow each step of the way. It keeps you producing content that serves your audience and your business objectives. It also keeps you from wasting time and effort on content that won’t move the needle for your business.
Get strategic. And get more results!