Over the past 15 years, content marketing (then called inbound marketing) has gone from a fringe strategy used by a few forward-thinking companies to the standard operating procedure for the majority.
In 2021, 73% of B2B marketers had a content marketing strategy. Some other companies used content marketing but without an overarching strategy.
This rise in popularity has contributed to a huge influx in competition for the attention of consumers online. WordPress blogs alone contribute over 2.3 million new blog posts every single day.
To stand out in the rising tide of online competition, you can’t just write and publish content willy-nilly. You need a strategy.
In this article, we’ll break down how you can come up with a digital content strategy that will build brand awareness, attract traffic, and drive sales in 2022 and beyond.
What is a digital content strategy?
A digital content strategy outlines your business goals, target audience, voice, content types, and more and makes sure you create, produce, and promote content that will contribute to your bottom line.
It encompasses all organic digital marketing channels, like social media, SEO, blogging, video marketing, podcasts, and more.
Why you need a strategy for your digital content
It’s not that hard to write a blog post every now and then when you feel like it. But it’s extremely hard to consistently create content that ranks in search results, entices your ideal customers, and drives traffic and sales.
Without the right strategy, you’re just adding extra bytes to your server. You’re not creating value for your business or your customers.
The second most common reason businesses gave for failing at content marketing in 2020 was strategy issues. 51% of companies that struggled to drive results with content marketing highlighted strategy as a primary problem.
With ever-increasing competition, it’s harder and harder to get meaningful results out of organic content campaigns.
You need the right approach, content types, voice, and overall strategy built on a clear understanding of your customers to succeed.
Next up, we’ll cover exactly how you can develop such a strategy for your very own company.
How to create a digital content strategy that works for your company
In this section, we break down every step you need to take to create your very own content strategy, including defining your target audience, setting goals, and more.
Define and research your target audience(s)
You can’t come up with a good strategy for your content marketing efforts without understanding who your ideal customers are.
You need a clear idea of where your target audience hangs out online, what type of content they prefer, what voice they like to engage with, their most important needs and problems, and more.
The best way to explore these aspects is to create customer personas for your business.
To do this, you can either:
- Examine customer data and explore their social profiles.
- Use tools like Facebook Audience Insights to see what your customers do online.
- Hold customer surveys or interview individual customers that represent different segments of your target audience.
The bare minimum you should fill out is age (based on a general range), job title, typical problems and needs, what channels/content they engage with, and where you can help.
Don’t be afraid to create multiple different personas. You can have completely different customer segments that are equally important to your business.
For example, students completing a project during Covid and business executives both use Zoom to arrange meetings.
Set clear goals based on performance and customer needs
Next up, it’s time to identify your content marketing KPIs (key performance indicators). KPIs are metrics you single out to measure the performance of your content marketing efforts.
Here are a few examples:
- Organic conversions (leads and sales)
- No. of organic visits to your website
- No. of keywords that you rank in the top three SERP (search engine results page) results
- Engagement (likes, shares, comments)
- Domain authority (long-term priority)
Many of the higher-level goals are directly related to search engine optimization (SEO). That’s because content marketing has a strong symbiotic relationship with SEO.
A great content marketing strategy will help boost your SEO rankings, and great SEO will help you maximize your content.
If you’re also writing content to nurture and help onboard existing customers, you’ll want to set goals like:
- Reducing the average daily number of help tickets — especially relating to onboarding.
- Increasing the average adoption rate of your product among new freemium users.
Find the right medium/channels to distribute your content
Where do your customers already consume content? What media format do they prefer?
These two questions should be your north star in making decisions about channels and medium.
One interesting development that’s happened over the past few years is that YouTube videos aren’t just effective for building audiences (though they do a good job at that). Because the users in some niches prefer video for many search terms, they can also be Google’s preferred content format.
For content in the DIY niche, Google tends to show multiple videos, the top one complete with time stamps and all.
Plus, 73% of consumers in 2021 said they would prefer watching a short video about a product rather than reading a post.
Keyword research can help you understand the intent behind the phrases your ideal customers usually search for.
That can include things like preferred content format and be an important part of making a final decision.
You also need to decide which social media platforms you should focus on. For B2B-focused content, LinkedIn might make sense, whereas for an interior design agency, Pinterest is the obvious choice.
Focus on a few clear topics related to your ideal customer
In the old days of search, backlinks — links to your content from other websites — were the primary ranking factor, and Google mainly considered the total number every page and website had.
Today, Google tries to evaluate “Topical Authority,” or how trustworthy your site is on a specific topic.
The way to build your topical authority is to get backlinks from sites and articles related to a specific topic. For example, if you get links from American football websites, Google trusts your site when you publish content about the NFL.
If you tried to rank a refrigerator review, however, you wouldn’t have much luck. So focusing on a single topic has clear benefits for search.
It also means a cohesive experience for your audience. By covering the same main topics — like various challenges related to weight loss — you can continually deliver value to your ideal customer.
Come up with a content differentiation factor
If you just churn out blog content or videos that blend in with all your competitors, you won’t strike a chord with your audience.
They won’t care enough about your content or brand to specifically seek you out as a trusted resource.
That’s why you need to come up with a “content differentiation factor.” A CDF is basically a concrete factor that helps your content stand out from the crowd.
To develop a CDF, you need to examine what your competitors are doing and where they fall short.
- Is competitor content mostly dry and boring? You can stand out by adopting a casual and fun voice — provided that’s acceptable in your industry.
- Do competitors fail to take a meaningful stand on issues in your industry? You can stand out by being public about investing in — for example — better recycling for your product’s packaging.
- If your competitors’ blogs and websites are completely anonymous, you can build up writer personas and highlight staff members.
A CDF can really be anything if it helps your target customers resonate more with your content.
It also helps you develop content ideas that interest your ideal customers.
Do strategic keyword research based on customer insights
Once you’ve figured out high-level concepts like customer personas and your CDF, it’s time to plan the actual content pieces that you’ll create.
The best place to start is with keyword research. There are two main approaches here — you can either manually explore Google or rely on professional SEO tools.
- Search for top-level industry keywords in Google, and explore autocomplete, “People Also Ask,” and related searches.
- Use SEO tools to explore keyword ideas related to your top-level keywords.
You can, for example, use The HOTH’s Keyword Planner (which is 100% free, with no sign-up required) to find keyword ideas.
Keep in mind: you don’t have to only rely on one approach. You can start exploring ideas in an SEO tool and also look at the search intent and related searches directly in Google.
Plan your content so that it all complements each other
Without a reliable content plan, you’re probably not going to get any consistent results. The best approach is to design an overall plan where every content piece complements another.
Two common strategies to achieve this:
- The content pillar strategy: Focuses on building up a few core pieces of content — like segment-specific landing pages — and only publishing content directly related to one of your pillars.
- The hub and spoke model: The same approach with a spin — the plan goes beyond just your own internal content channels like blogs and social media. You plan out how all content will contribute to a “spoke,” even guest posts and podcasts.
To stay consistent, go beyond a high-level plan and create a content calendar — complete with topics, intended audience and persona, channel, publishing dates, and more.
Create optimized content that delivers real value
Remember in the very beginning of this post when we showed you that strategy was the second biggest challenge with content marketing?
The biggest challenge for most companies is actually the content creation process.
And it makes sense. Putting a plan and strategy into action requires a lot more effort, investment, and dedication than just coming up with one.
It’s easy to say that your CDF will be an entirely new level of quality — and harder to implement week in, week out.
Hiring writers with actual subject matter expertise is the easiest shortcut to delivering real value and standing out with your content.
Writers who know what they’re talking about can give your readers unique perspectives, share up-to-date research and techniques, and elevate your status as a thought leader.
Make sure you optimize the content for your audience and search engines. For example, you can use AI-powered tools like MarketMuse, Frase, or Clearscope to find relevant questions and semantic keywords to include in your blog posts.
Create a reliable process to promote every piece of content
Writing a great blog post doesn’t matter if nobody ever reads it. To make the most of your content, you need a reliable process for putting it out there.
Your process could look like this:
- Create and share social media posts promoting your new content.
- When relevant, share with your email subscribers.
- Optimize your content for on-page SEO, and build backlinks to important pages.
- Reach out to relevant partners, and ask them to share your content.
- Answer relevant questions on sites like Quora, and plug your content as a source of more information.
It’s crucial to find a process that works in your industry to reach your ideal audience consistently.
Use analytics and CRM to track meaningful metrics and optimize results
By using a tool like Google Analytics, you can track the volume and quality of your traffic, as well as the number of leads or sales.
Beyond visitors and sales, pay attention to bounce rates and average session duration.
If you’re in a B2B industry, you’ll also want to integrate this with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool where you can track what leads actually convert and how much they’re worth in the end.
By using UTM tags, you can track the results of different content assets like podcasts and videos outside of your website.
With access to detailed data about your content’s performance, you can see what works and what doesn’t and adjust your approach over time.
Audit your site, and repurpose winning content
A content audit isn’t just an opportunity to find content that needs more work and optimization. It’s also a way to identify winners that you can expand on or introduce in other formats.
For example, if you see a page with lots of visits, backlinks, and long session durations, you know that it resonated with your audience.
That might be a great topic to create an infographic, white paper, or video about.
If you want to make the most of your company’s website or blog, you need the right strategy. Effective content targets your audience on the platforms they already use and speaks to them in the voice and format they prefer.
If you’re struggling with creating high-quality content or creating editorial calendars that make sense for your audience, don’t be afraid to reach out to HOTH Blogger. Our team can help you produce the quality you need at scale.