How to Create the Best Content Marketing Strategy: The 9-Point Content Marketing Checklist Every Successful Business Uses
Content marketing’s popularity has exploded over the past decade and is one of the hottest digital marketing trends. According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the pandemic saw a boost in content marketing efforts from companies as they scrambled to build an online presence and reach consumers on the internet.
Today, the content marketing industry is worth 66 billion dollars and is expected to grow to 400 billion dollars by 2026. Corporations spend more than one-quarter of their promotional budgets on content marketing alone. And if you’re wondering, “Does content marketing work?” Yes, it does. It’s great for creating brand awareness, increasing traffic, engaging audiences, and generating new business conversions.
Content marketing is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end — selling your products and services. It is one of the methods you can use to get customers, orders, and sales. We believe that integrating your content marketing strategy with direct response marketing meets the balance in educating your audience and generating revenue, which is an essential aspect of any business.
This comprehensive checklist below will show you all the important tasks you need to complete in order to take advantage of the benefits content marketing can create for your business – learn more by reading this article.
Content Marketing Definition
According to legendary copywriter, Bob Bly, content marketing is “giving away free information to build brand awareness, increase response to marketing campaigns, convert more online traffic, and educate prospects on your technology, methodology, products, services, and applications.” It helps businesses effectively create, publish and promote the right content to the right audience, at the right time, and on the right platforms.
Let’s break down what “right” means in this context.
1. Right content – It should be valuable and educational. It should create brand/product awareness, offer solutions, and answer your customer’s most important questions.
2. Right audience – It is famously said that “if your content speaks to everyone, then it is speaking to no one.” Therefore, it is important to identify your audience and address their concerns.
3. Right time – This is your audience’s current stage in the funnel. Creating conversion content for an audience at the top of the funnel is ineffective and a waste of your budget, and vice versa. Before publishing any piece of content, it is essential to understand where your audience is at in the buying journey.
4. Right platform – You can put your content on many platforms, but the truth is that your audience is not on all platforms. When choosing a publishing platform, ensure that’s where your audience typically hangs out. It is also advisable to customize your content to the platform based on best practices.
The Content Marketing Cycle
In the following sections, we shall discuss the 4Rs (right content, right audience, right time, right platform) and how they apply to your checklist. But before looking at the steps, here is a high-level picture of an effective content marketing cycle. This cycle will help you create content consistently and effectively so that you don’t miss any step.
The Content Marketing Cycle:
1. Market Research
3. Content creation
4. Content optimization
5. Content promotion and distribution
6. Performance analysis
The 9-Point Step-by-Step Content Marketing Checklist
1. Identify Your Audience
The first step when creating your content marketing strategy is identifying your target audience. Identifying your audience will help you polish your messaging and clarify your unique value proposition. Take Apple, for example. Their audience can be classified as “misfits, rebels, people who aren’t afraid of being different.” This classification then informs the content they create and clearly distinguishes them from everyone else who manufactures phones.
Another great example is Whole Foods. Their target audience is made up of people with a high income, who generally live in upscale urban areas, care about being healthy, and are environmentally conscious. These audience insights inform the type of content they publish on all their digital platforms, which makes their branding cohesive. To identify your audience, determine the demographic, geographic, psychographic, and personality attributes of your audience. You can start with questions like:
• What kind of goals do they want to achieve?
• What pain points do they have?
• Which mediums do they use to find answers?
• What possible objections do they have?
You can also make this step a team brainstorming exercise and use tools like the customer avatar worksheet to dial in on your audience. Other great tools you can use include: Survey Monkey and Google Analytics
2. Set Your Content Marketing Goals
After understanding your audience, the next step is setting your content marketing goals. Do you want to create awareness, engage with your audience, generate new leads, or simply educate your audience? You can achieve a lot of goals with your content; hence it is important to identify the specific goals you want to achieve.
After identifying your “big” goals, create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, reliable, timely) goals that will help you achieve the “big” goals. For example, your SMART goals could be:
• “I will publish 3 pieces of content weekly.”
• “I’ll attract new leads by creating 30 pieces of quality content that answer the most searched questions in Q1.”
Your big goals speak to the overall objective you want to achieve, while SMART goals represent the strategic, periodic actions you will take to achieve your big boals. When creating your big goals and smart goals, always consider your current business goals in order to align your efforts with the overall business objectives.
3. Find Interesting Content Ideas
With audience insights and clear goals in mind, you are now ready to look for content ideas. Every piece of content starts with an idea, and this is a foundational step that will help you develop the right content. At this stage, scour the internet for interesting, engaging, and relevant content ideas that will resonate with your audience and align with your goals.
To evaluate your potential ideas, ask yourself:
• Will my audience be excited to see this?
• Will this idea help me achieve (insert your big goal, e.g., leads, sales, sign-ups, engagement)?
• Does this idea address a pain/value point my audience is facing?
You can browse Buzzsumo to find interesting blog ideas, check your competitor’s social media to see what’s working, or even browse forums like Reddit to see what your audience is talking about. To make this process easier, we recommend developing a list of target keywords and then looking for topic ideas for each keyword.
4. Create a Content Plan
After finding interesting topics and ideas, it is time to create the structure that will support the production of your ideas. A content plan is the system that supports implementation. Without it, your strategy would be sporadic and ineffective.
You can build your content plan on Excel, Google Sheets, Google Calendar, or any other project management tools like Trello, Asana, Airtable, etc. It should include every single detail of the steps and people involved in the creation, editing, publishing, and promotion phases. Example details you should include:
• The day/time a piece of content will be published.
• The platform the content will be published on.
• The person who will write the content.
• The person who will edit the content.
• The person in charge of thumbnail/image design.
• The actual title of the content.
• The target keywords, long-tail keywords, and large-scale integration (LSI) keywords to be used within the text.
• A content outline with detailed instructions on length, context, goal, and expectations.
• The promotion and distribution methods, timelines.
• Performance and review timelines plus the person in charge.
5. Create Remarkable Content
When creating content, the most important thing to pay attention to is the quality of your content. Each piece you create is an asset in the strategy. Irrespective of the pressure to meet your goals, never sacrifice the quality of your content for quantity. There is so much content already on the internet, and if what you produce doesn’t move the needle for consumers, it will just be another piece of content on the internet. Therefore, invest in quality. At the same time, quantity and quality are not mutually exclusive; it is possible to create a lot of good quality content.
The cardinal rule for creating great content is creating for your audience. Write the way they talk. Invite them to engage with your content. It feels good when you are invited to participate in a learning experience, doesn’t it? See what we did there? We just brought you in with a question. Good content speaks to the reader and not at the reader. Good content values clarity over cleverness. Create for your audience and not for prestige. Additionally, remember to use all the devices you can to communicate your message, e.g., illustrations, infographics, flow charts, diagrams, etc.
6. Optimize Your Content for SEO
Creating great content is amazing. However, it is not the end all be all. After you’ve created it, you need to optimize it for SEO so that it can be discovered by your target audience. This is a critical point in the checklist because it will help you be discovered by the people you intend to reach. Before publishing your content, ensure that it is fully optimized for the platform you’re posting it on. SEO optimization can be done for blog titles, YouTube titles, YouTube video descriptions, H2 and H3 blog titles, image alt text on social media, social media post hashtags – the list goes on and on.
7. Distribute, Repurpose and Promote Your Content
Congratulations! By reaching this step, it means you’ve published your content already. However, we are not done with the content marketing process. The next step is distribution and repurposing. Distribution is about pushing one piece of content on all platforms, while content repurposing is creating new pieces of content from one piece. This step is all about being on the right platform and extending the life of your content.
After posting a piece of content, you should ensure it reaches as many people as possible by doing multi-platform distribution. For instance, after publishing a blog, create an email and promote it there to your email subscribers. Create a Facebook story or post and promote it there. Without properly promoting your content, you minimize your chances of getting any returns from it.
Here are a few pointers you can use to promote your content:
• Send a newsletter to your email subscribers with a link to the latest content.
• Publish the content on your social media accounts
• Connect with the experts mentioned in your content and invite them to share it with their audience.
• Use paid advertising to promote your content on social media.
• Feature the latest content on your website homepage.
8. Use Content Marketing Tools for the Best Performance
Successful content strategies are built using tools. In order to find the best topics and keywords, you need tools. In order to analyze your content’s performance, you need tools. Here are some of the tools we rely on when creating content marketing strategies for our clients:
• Semrush – great for keyword research, topic research, site audits, competitive analysis, content audits, and more.
• Aherfs, MOZ, Ubersuggest – an SEO alternative tool to Semrush
• Google Analytics – for monitoring and analyzing content performance
• Google Search Console – for checking how content ranks on Google
• Google Trends, Answerthepublic – for topic research
• Google keyword tool – great for keyword research
• Google Data Studio – for generating reports and analyzing data
• Grammarly, Hemingway editor – for improving grammar and spelling when writing
9. Analyze, Track and Measure Your Content’s Performance
After publishing your content, distributing it, and repurposing it, it is time to analyze how well it’s performing. Measuring your content’s performance is the last step in the content marketing cycle. It helps identify what topics are performing well and those that are not. It can also help you see what type of content to produce more of.
To track performance, you can use metrics like:
• Number of email signups
• Number of page views
• Number of likes, shares, and comments
• Number of leads/sales
• Video views (for video content)
• Bounce rate (for website content)
• Number of unique visits
• Google keyword ranking
This checklist contains everything you need to create a winning and foolproof content strategy. While this checklist is conclusive, your content strategy is never set in stone. It needs to evolve with time and adapt to what’s working depending on your performance analytics and market trends.
You are one step away from reaping the benefits of a great content marketing strategy. Don’t stop now. Start working on your strategy using this checklist. If this is too much for you to implement, we can help. Simply reach out to us and let us help you create a winning business content strategy.
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