Content Strategy: What you need to know
What is Content Marketing?
Content Marketing refers to the management of owned media: written (articles), audible (podcasts), visual (infographic, videos, webinars), downloadable (lead magnets)...
Content Marketing is the component of your marketing plan that builds your reputation and your brand showcasing who you are and your expertise.
Successful Content Marketing relies on the creation of high added value content and leveraging that content across multiple channels (Website, Newsletter, Social Media, Cold Outreach, etc.).
Content Marketing is increasingly effective, especially for B2B companies. Content marketing fits with emerging customer behaviors and contributes to building strong brands.
If you want a more detailed definition of content marketing you can read our dedicated article: Definition of Content Marketing
3 Content Marketing Stats That Every Marketer Needs to Know
Why do companies that have a real content strategy succeed better than others?
So the question is not whether having a content strategy is relevant or not, but rather how to set up a winning content strategy to start reaping these rewards.
The importance of setting clear goals
A content marketing strategy takes time and should involve to some degree most of your company's resources. You will be tackling a lot of areas of digital marketing and if you don't want to get lost it is important to set clear goals.
A good practice is to start by setting three key performance indicators you'll keep track of to monitor and continuously improve your content strategy. Why three? There's so much you can track with Digital Marketing, that it can be easy to lose sight of what you were trying to accomplish with content in the first place. So Keep It Simple, Stupid for starters, and keep track of 3 KPI that matter to you as you are starting.
Then define SMART goals to achieve: Simple, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
This is important because a content strategy is a long-term project and with no metrics to follow you could get discouraged. Don't get discouraged though, content marketing is worth it!
For you to have realistic expectations about what can be done when you are just starting your content marketing strategy be sure to read this article up until the end where we share our content marketing results after thirty articles in 8 months, with screenshots of our Keyword & Google Analytics.
Indicators you could follow:
- Your articles' rankings on search engines
- Your Website's traffic
- Social Media Engagement
- Your Bounce Rate
- Average Session Time and/or pages per session viewed
- Conversion Rates
Be careful, calculating conversion rates when you are just starting is counterproductive. It's a long-term strategy, that takes some time to pay off.
Step 1: The editorial strategy of your content marketing
An effective content strategy needs a good editorial line. Making content to make content doesn't work. You need to know who you are talking to, what you are going to talk to them about, and how you are going to do it.
Define your Personas
The first step is of course to do in-depth work on your personas and their issues.
You must identify who your targets are and detail as much as possible what characterizes them. No shortcuts! Your content strategy should address everyone involved in the buying process. Not just “Decision Makers”. Content Marketing can help you convince multiple stakeholders within an organization. Once the company is ready to buy, having them champion your solution internally will improve your closing rates drastically.
In addition, you must really detail how your personas do what they do. Their issues, their information consumption habits, and their interests.
It is also an opportunity to detail very precisely what is at stake for them. In 2020 B2B Buyers are not looking for someone who sells something, they are looking for someone who helps them overcome a problem.
Do not neglect this step: A good persona is not "A Californian Executive who wants to grow his business that has 20 to 50 employees".
Find our detailed guide on the buyer persona here to get started.
Choose the types of content
Once your personas are defined, everything becomes much easier. Like the choice of content, you should create. There is an infinite number of possibilities that you can narrow based on your personas behaviors:
- Blog Article
- White Paper
- Web stories
- Mini-game (gamification in general)
- Case Study
- Customer Testimonials
What type of content is your persona viewing? Where?
With detailed personas, the choice becomes clear.
To begin with, I invite you to take a particular interest in:
This is probably the easiest content to start with and is a must to ranking on Google. Indeed, Google is a fan of text content (easy to understand for him). We wrote about how to create successful articles for your content strategy.
Videos improve conversion rates and engagement. They are easy to consume and more effective than any other content type.
It's similar to a blog post, but there is a fundamental difference. A white paper will not be referenced for Search Engines, it is premium content that your audience is willing to give you something for. The main goal of White Papers is to convert traffic into leads because to download it your visitors share their email. White Papers are common Lead Magnets which is essential for marketing automation purposes. Without Marketing Automation you won't get the most of your organic traffic.
Find relevant topics for your Content Strategy
At this point, you know who you are talking to and you know what you are going to talk to them about.
Having the work done on your personas will save you precious time. The goal of your content strategy is to deal with the problems encountered by your target audience.
But it is not enough to say “my target has problem X, so I will explain to him how to handle problem X”. For each issue of your target, start by detailing all related topics. Then for each of those do keyword research.
If you are making content you want it to be read, therefore it has to be found on Search Engines, namely on Google. You can't leave SEO to chance.
On top of that, knowing the number of people googling each of those queries will enable you to prioritize what content create in what order and ensure that the content you are creating is worth it.
Let's take an example:
A SaaS company is targeting B2B sales managers who have a team of 2 to 3 salespeople.
That company identified that a recurring topic for these sales managers is improving sales efficiency. Great!
Do a simple search with a free tool like Ubersuggest (internally we use the keyword magic tool from SEMrush instead) to figure out what keywords generate traffic.
“Sales method” is really very promising, low competition, relatively high volume, that's great!
NOT SO QUICKLY
Let's take a synonym: "Sales technique"
Writing a blog post takes time, so you need to maximize the ROI of that time. If you go too fast and neglect the keyword research you may be missing out on the keyword with the highest potential.
Formalize your editorial line
Getting started with a content strategy is going to take time, but when the results arrive you will want to take it further and strengthen it. Which means you're going to write a lot of content and probably outsource some of it. Any writer should be aware of your editorial strategy, which is to say:
Who is the content for, what are their issues etc.
Obviously, but giving the big picture is important (see the content plan below).
Tone of voice
Empowering, uplifting, friendly yet informative, professional, so far out there it's in another galaxy.
Videos, infographics, lead magnets...
These elements will allow all stakeholders (internal or external) to go in the same direction. Also remember, when you delegate this task, to make sure for each content to add an SEO brief (keyword, content length, etc.).
Step 2: Content Plan
How to make a content marketing plan
If you are reading you probably are working on your inbound strategy to bring your audience to your website. The best way to do that is through Search Engines. So how do you give Search Engines what they want? What do they want?
Like any other company, they want revenue! Where does their revenue come from? Advertising! They get paid by advertisers when users click on their paid ad link.
The more people use the search engine, the more they click on ads.
How can Search Engines influence users? By providing a stellar user experience and incentivizing them to search for everything through their website.
That's why you can search for everything on Google (Books, News, Videos, Image, Shopping, Maps, Flights, Finance), and why they continuously update their algorithm & User Interface.
For example user engagement metrics, which measure what users do on your website (time on page, session duration, bounce rate, returning users...), have become strong ranking signals for Google's algorithm.
The most common mistake is to work on content in a journalistic way. "I think this is interesting", "that's a cool topic", "everyone is talking about this right now", "my audience will love this" etc. are dangerous. I am not saying you should eliminate these thoughts completely, but if you want results you can't make assumptions. You have to look at the data and see what people are searching for right now, your content can't change behaviors if is not being read.
A global vision necessary to take into account the customer journey
Remember, the goal of your content is to help your potential customers solve their simpler problems and mature so that they end up using your services.
If you deal with topics "haphazardly" and without a big picture, it is unlikely, if not impossible, that you will deal with the whole course effectively. Indeed, it is better to plan a little content but on the whole route than a lot of content which would only be discovery content for example.
To simplify, we will say that there are 3 phases:
Your prospect is not yet working on a solution to a problem, sometimes he has not yet identified it. He will be interested in general topics and trends in his sector or profession.
Your prospect has identified a problem in his daily life that he must resolve. He looks for solutions to his problem and compares them with each other.
Your prospect has identified the best solutions to his problem, he knows how he is going to go about it and must decide with which partner he will do business with among those who offer the right solution.
For each step you will have more suitable content formats than others.
So you need to cover the entire journey of one of your personas quickly with content at each stage to help them progress.
Please note, it is not the subject that alone determines whether it is content for discovery, assessment or decision. It depends on your product or service and your target. A comparison of marketing automation tools for SMEs is discovery content for us but will be decision content for a marketing automation solution publisher for example.
Also, with an overview you will avoid repeating yourself too often in your articles. If you know that a detailed article on a topic is coming, no need to go into detail in the article in writing, just link to that article.
Perfect transition to talk to you about internal networking!
An overview to optimize your internal link network
Internal linking is extremely important for SEO as it is for your readers.
It allows your readers to navigate your site more easily, without having to do additional research. If done well, it will also allow them to progress in their journey by moving from one subject to another more advanced.
For Google it's another story, I won't go into details but remember that the more (relevant) internal links you have the more Google perceive your website as offering consistent and quality content to your readers. In addition, each time Google visits (we say “crawl”) your content, it will follow these links and therefore Google will see larger portions of your site on each of its visits. All this will promote your natural referencing.
So why does this internal networking require making a content plan in advance?
Because your content will not all be created at the same time. It sounds obvious but when you go to write the first article you won't have any links to suggest. And over time it will certainly become easier, but quickly you will no longer know which article or content refers to which other.
With a content plan, you can very easily make updates because each link will have been anticipated.
Create the Content Plan
Good news, it's easier than you think. At Sales Odyssey we work on 2 aspects: customer journey and internal link network.
Step 1: Generate Ideas
Start by listing around 30 content ideas, making sure there are some for each step of the customer journey. On the other hand, you should not have as much content for each phase, we are in a funnel logic with for example: 15 discovery content, 10 evaluation content, 5 decision content.
Step 2: Find the right keywords
For each content that will be referenced, find the target keywords for which they will need to be optimized. To simplify, the referenced content will essentially consist of blog articles, they generally correspond to the first two phases of the journey.
Step 3: Map the internal link network
Make a simple mind-mapping to represent the links you want to make between the articles.
Do you need a concrete example?
You're lucky we're nice.
Simplified content plan example
Let's say we're working on a mini content plan for Sales Odyssey: the article you are reading is a review article.
Taking an interest in content strategy shows that you've heard of content marketing before and are looking for things to get you started or to get help to do so. We are experts in content strategy and sell support on the subject so this article is indeed an assessment article with respect to our skills.
Step 1: Ideation
Here's what a simplified 6-content phase 1 could look like
Step 2: Keyword Search
For evaluation and discovery content, keyword research is carried out to select those that will bring the best results.
This article is “optimized” for content strategy, but it could have been for content marketing strategy for example.
Identical difficulty but 10 times more potential traffic on content strategy.
Step 3: Mapping of the internal mesh.
Here is the (partial 😂) mesh that we have planned:
What are those yellow bubbles?
Well, these are the articles on which we are going to offer additional content: a lead magnet. For example, we thought that at this point in the article we could offer you a 45-minute discussion to help you get started with your content strategy.
We have therefore created a landing page specially to book an audit and explain to you what you will leave with this audit. You can go there, it is not just an example we are really offering you 😜!
Create your editorial calendar
Now that you have a list of your content and where each one fits in your content plan, all you have to do is create it!
It is above all an organizational story, most companies combine production done by in-house teams and the support of external partners and editors. Whichever option you want to work you need to have a clear editorial calendar.
Keep it simple, write down in a spreadsheet what content is created by whom, by what date it needs to be ready, and follow up on this document regularly. Also, remember that each of your content can and should be declined. Having a precise schedule will allow your teams to plan your various communications.
Create a communication plan
A little more courage you are almost there! You have done a very important part of the work, now it needs to be known.
If you stop at the previous step you are only depending on the traffic generated by Google. It would be a shame. You should plan to decline your content and distribute it widely on social networks: LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or even Youtube!
This will help you speed up its SEO because it will increase your chances of the article being shared and cited. Moreover when you write a blog article for example, if you convert it into video, not only will you benefit from the Youtube audience but in addition by integrating your video into your initial article you will create what Google calls “rich content. ”-> your article will have a better chance of taking the first place 😉.
Creating an effective communication plan is a subject in its own right so when you are ready I suggest you consult our complete guide on the subject: How to create an effective communication plan?
The article is full of tips and you will even find templates for each social network you want to use!
Step 3: Make your content strategy a powerful acquisition lever
But why do all this basically? Because that's the strategy that works best in B2B today. Let's see how you can use content marketing to grow your bottom line!
Content marketing is a powerful fuel
Marketing content is the fuel of all effective acquisition processes today. You can use it through all of your channels: Commercial prospecting, sales process, newsletter, blog, social network ...
But then why exactly are businesses that use content marketing more successful than others?
Unlike traditional advertising, content marketing brings immediate value to your prospects. In addition, the more quality the content, the more this quality will reflect on your brand, so you will create trust.
It's so powerful that your prospects will transform the way they evaluate you, from finding the best supplier for a service to demonstrating why YOU are the best. We, therefore, go from a dependent sales process to a purchase process with complete confidence.
You do not believe me?
How many companies are equipping themselves with Hubspot without even really putting their solution in competition?
Yet it is one of the most expensive solutions on the market. Very complete, but very expensive. Today Hubspot is $ 700 million in revenue and they are brilliant at their content strategy.
Inbound marketing to educate and convert your prospects
We sometimes confuse inbound marketing and content marketing, it is true that the two concepts are related but it is not quite the same thing. You can't do inbound marketing without content marketing, but you can have content without having implemented a real inbound strategy. It would not be optimal, but it is possible.
Inbound marketing is a process of conversion.
The basic idea is that you attract prospects by all means to your website. Then we make premium content available (downloadable white paper for example), thanks to them we will be able to:
Identify visitors by their email address
Understand their issues (depending on the subject of the white paper for example)
Convert them by sending them tailor-made content and proposals.
The bottom line is that inbound marketing offers you a reading grid for your visitors. Depending on the content they view and their scoring, a visitor will become a lead, then an MQL (marketing qualified lead), then an SQL (sales qualified lead).
In order to function, inbound marketing must be based on a very good understanding of the customer journey and on high-quality content. Finally, when the prospects are very numerous, there remains an essential brick to take advantage of its content: Marketing automation.
Marketing automation to deliver the right content, at the right time to the right person
When your content strategy bears fruit and inbound marketing is also deployed, you will encounter a problem: you will have too many "leads" to manage.
Rich problem? Yes and no. Having a lot of leads isn't a goal, it's a way to achieve the real goal: to acquire new customers.
So in order not to waste this great potential, you must be able to make sure that each lead is treated and that they will receive quality content adapted to their maturity to move them forward in their decision cycle. And when you have a lot of leads, the only way to do that is to automate whatever can be done while maintaining a good level of personalization. So this is a marketing automation tool that you need.
BE CAREFUL, marketing automation is not a strategy, nor an end in itself. It is a means, a tool. A very powerful tool that will allow you to be more effective with your content and inbound marketing strategy.
Measure the effectiveness of your content strategy
You will remember at the start we told you that it was very important to set goals for your content strategy. Goals are important but you have to take them seriously and for that you have lots of tools to help you. Also tailor your goals to your plan.
If even before initiating your strategy your three indicators monitored are:
- Number of new clients
- Number of backlinks
You'll go straight into the wall. Why? Because it's too early. The results are not instantaneous and you will burn yourself out.
For example, an interesting indicator to follow at the outset is the number of impressions of your articles on search engines and your organic traffic:
Example with the Google Search console: Number of impressions from 100 / day in January to 5500 / day in July to 13,500 / day in September 2020.
Our Google Analytics data: we went from a few users per week in January to 7000 unique users per week in November.
This data validates that our content strategy was effective in increasing web traffic. Now what matters is what we get from this traffic!
We are tracking the number of downloads of our resources, the number of appointments made through our forms, and how many of those appointments resulted in a real opportunity.