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How to Develop a Content Strategy in 10 Steps?

Last Updated on 01st Jul, 2024 | Social Media

How to Develop Content Strategy

A Start-to-Finish Guide for Developing a Content Strategy

Developing a solid content strategy is crucial for businesses and brands looking to reach and engage their target audience effectively. How to Develop Content Strategy is a comprehensive 10-step guide that can help you create an actionable content strategy from initial research through to execution and measurement. An effective content strategy clarifies your objectives, helps create relevant and valuable content, and allows you to distribute that content effectively.

By following this guide, you can develop content that provides value, establishes trust, and fuels your online growth. With a strategic approach, businesses and brands can effectively reach and engage their target audience.

Key Takeaways

  • Conduct thorough research into your business, audience, and competitors when developing your strategy.
  • Define clear goals and KPIs to focus your efforts and measure success.
  • Audit your existing content to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
  • Map out themes and content types that align with buyer journeys.
  • Establish a sustainable content production workflow and calendar.
  • Optimize content for SEO through keyword research and on-page optimization.
  • Promote content across platforms through social, email, PPC, and SEO.
  • Analyze performance and refine your approach over time.
  • Maintain momentum by continuing to produce relevant, high-quality content.
  • Be adaptive and adjust your strategy based on changes and new opportunities.

10 Steps to Develop a Content Strategy for Any Businesses

  • Conduct Initial Research
  • Define Goals and KPIs
  • Audit Existing Content
  • Map Content Themes and Types
  • Establish Production Workflow
  • Conduct Keyword Research
  • Create Optimized Content
  • Promote and Distribute Content
  • Measure and Analyze Performance
  • Maintain Consistency and Momentum

Step 1. Conduct Initial Research

The first step in developing your content strategy is conducting in-depth research into your business, audience, and industry. Thorough research provides the critical insights you need to create content that truly resonates with your target customer.

Research Your Business Goals and Resources

  • Clarify your overarching business goals and how content can help support them. Common goals include increasing brand awareness, generating leads, and driving sales.
  • Document existing owned media assets like your website, blog, emails, and social channels where content will be hosted and distributed.
  • Take stock of subject matter experts, team members, and processes available for content development. This impacts the volume and type of content you can feasibly produce.

Define Your Target Audience

  • Create audience personas that outline your ideal customer demographics, common challenges, motivations, and behavior patterns.
  • Identify where your audience congregates online through social media profiles, forums, review sites, and more. This reveals content channels to leverage.
  • Use tools like Google Analytics, social media analytics, and surveys to glean first-party audience insights.

Research Your Competitors

  • Conduct a competitive audit of top competitors’ content strategies across owned media assets.
  • Analyze strengths such as high-performing content types, distribution tactics, and recurring themes.
  • Identify weaknesses where your brand can fill content gaps and seize opportunities.

Step 2. Define Goals and KPIs

With research completed, the next step is clearly defining your content goals and key performance indicators. This focus provides direction for the strategy and quantifiable metrics to track its success.

Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

  • Use the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
  • Examples include increasing organic traffic by 30% in 6 months, generating 50 new leads per month, and so on.

Choose Key Performance Indicators

  • KPIs are quantifiable measures used to track goal progress. Common content KPIs include traffic, lead generation, dwell time, shares, and conversions.
  • Limit yourself to 2-3 primary KPIs to maintain focus on the most important outcomes.

Align on Internal Resources and Buy-In

  • Discuss your goals and proposed strategy with internal stakeholders to foster alignment.
  • Confirm there are sufficient resources, budget, and cross-team support to accomplish the outlined goals.

Step 3. Audit Existing Content

Now, conduct an audit of your existing content. Analyzing what you have already created allows you to optimize future efforts.

Inventory Owned Media Assets

  • Compile a spreadsheet of current website pages, blog posts, downloads, graphics, videos, and other content assets.

Evaluate Performance

  • Record performance metrics such as traffic, leads, engagement, and conversions generated for each piece of content.
  • Flag top and underperforming content types and topics to focus on or avoid.

Assess Technical SEO Elements

  • Use a tool like SEMrush to evaluate page speed, mobile optimization, meta descriptions, alt text, and other technical SEO components.
  • Make note of technical improvements needed to optimize content discovery and experience.

Identify Content Gaps

  • Analyze themes and subtopics within your industry that are yet to be covered in your content library.
  • Consider stages of the customer journey that need more content tailored to visitor needs at each phase.

Step 4. Map Content Themes and Types

With research and audits complete, it’s time to map out the themes and content types to produce. This content blueprint acts as the foundation of your strategy.

Group Content into Thematic Buckets

  • Review research and audit findings to identify common informational themes within your niche.
  • Group related subtopics under these core themes. For example, a SaaS company may have themes like features, use cases, thought leadership, and so on.

Map Content Types to Buyer’s Journey

  • Look at your audience’s buyer’s journey and map content types to match needs at each stage—awareness, consideration, and decision.
  • For example, educational blog posts for awareness, product demos for consideration, and case studies for the decision stage.

Determine Recurring Content Cadence

  • Based on resources, establish a realistic cadence for recurring content series like weekly blog posts, monthly ebooks, quarterly webinars, and so on.

Create an Editorial Calendar

  • Populate an editorial calendar to outline specific themes and content types to develop each week or month based on your established cadence.

Step 5. Establish Production Workflow

With your content map created, building an efficient production workflow is key to execution. This step outlines content creation through publication.

Document Content Process

  • Map out your content workflow from initial request through writing, approval, promotion, and analysis.
  • Determine owners and timelines for each step.

Select Creation Tools

  • Choose tools that integrate with your workflow, such as Grammarly for writing, Canva for design, and Asana for collaboration.

Set Brand Guidelines

  • Define standards for content, design, formatting, tone of voice, SEO, sources, and legal compliance that all content must adhere to.
  • Build a guideline resource center for content creators.

Manage Requests and Approvals

  • Use a system to submit, prioritize, and approve content requests and collaborations.
  • Establish and communicate timelines for request approvals, draft turnarounds, and publishing lead time.

Step 6. Conduct Keyword Research

Thorough keyword research and targeting are crucial to maximize organic content discovery and traffic. Dedicate time upfront to uncover relevant search terms and phrases for your content.

Generate Initial List

  • Brainstorm a list of keywords based on your topics, products, common customer questions, and industry terminology.

Leverage Free Keyword Tools

  • Use Google’s Keyword Planner, auto-complete, and “People Also Ask” sections to expand your list.
  • Try Ubersuggest, Answer the Public, and other free tools to find additional keywords.

Prioritize Keywords

  • Eliminate irrelevant and low-volume terms. Then, organize keywords based on priority using search volume data.
  • Focus on 3-5 primary keywords per piece of content, being careful to avoid over-optimization.

Track Ongoing Keyword Performance

  • Use Google Search Console and analytics to see which keywords drive traffic and conversions over time.
  • Continue adding relevant keywords and phasing out underperforming terms.

Step 7. Create Optimized Content

Next, it’s time to create compelling content optimized for both search engines and users. Follow on-page SEO and readability best practices during the writing process.

Craft Compelling Headlines and Introductions

  • Use your target keywords in titles and opening paragraphs to immediately signal relevance.
  • Grab attention with emotional hooks – questions, scenarios, quotes, and statistics work well.

Structure Content for Scannability

  • Break content into digestible sections and subheadings using keywords.
  • Include numbered lists, bullets, bold text, images, pull quotes, and other formatting elements.

Link to Internal and External Resources

  • Link out to related content and quality external sources to enrich your content and provide additional context.
  • This also signals to search engines you are a credible and trusted source on the topic.

Write Conversational, Reader-First Content

  • Focus first and foremost on creating content that provides genuine value to the reader.
  • Use natural language, avoid excessive keywords, and answer questions directly.

Step 8. Promote and Distribute Content

Creating excellent content is only the first step – next, you need to effectively promote and distribute it to drive engagement, shares, and conversions. Leverage these key channels:

Email Marketing

  • Send new content directly to engaged subscribers through emails, newsletters, and mailing lists.
  • Promote gated content like guides or webinars through dedicated email campaigns.

Paid Ads

  • Run paid social media and search ads to get your content in front of high-intent audiences.
  • Retarget people who already visited your site to drive conversions.

Social Media

  • Share content across all your brand social profiles, leveraging images, captions, and hashtags.
  • Participate in relevant social conversations and engage with your audience.

SEO Optimization

  • Interlink relevant content across your site to boost page authority and keyword rankings.
  • Promote new pages on social media, submit to search engines, and build high-quality backlinks.

Step 9. Measure and Analyze Performance

To refine your approach, diligently track content performance and analyze the data to uncover what’s working and what’s not.

Track Quantitative Metrics

  • Use Google Analytics, social media analytics, and other tools to monitor KPIs like traffic, engagement, conversions, and ROI.

Review Qualitative Feedback

  • Read social comments, reviews, and emails to understand audience sentiment and qualitative impacts better.
  • Send surveys to gain direct input on what content resonates most with subscribers.

Identify Top and Underperforming Content

  • Compile reports on individual content piece performance to highlight successes to replicate and areas needing improvement.

Spot Key Trends and Patterns

  • Look at performance trends over set time frames. For example, which content formats gain the most traction during certain parts of the buyer’s journey?

Refine and Update Your Strategy

  • Use insights gained to keep optimizing your content themes, topics, keywords, formats, promotions, and more.

Step 10. Maintain Consistency and Momentum

The final step is cementing your content efforts for the long haul. Maintain focus and consistency, but also continue innovating and improving over time.

Commit to Ongoing Content Creation

  • Make content a chronic, long-term investment instead of a short-term push. Continually add fresh, valuable content.

Balance Consistency with Innovation

  • Have standardized processes and cadences in place and test new formats, topics, and distribution channels.

Stay Aligned on Goals and Results

  • Keep referring back to your core goals and metrics. Ensure your strategy continues aligning with desired business outcomes.

Adapt to Changes and Opportunities

  • Evolve your approach based on shifts in priorities, audience interests, market trends, new platforms, and more.
  • Capitalize on big opportunities like trending topics, current events, and news jacking.

The Bottom Line

Developing a comprehensive content strategy is a crucial undertaking for any business looking to effectively attract, engage, and convert a clearly defined audience. By following the step-by-step guide outlined above, you can create a thoughtful and strategic approach to your content efforts.

Dedicate time upfront to research, planning, production workflows, and optimization techniques. Then, continue analyzing and refining your strategy based on performance data over time. A solid content strategy aligns with your overarching business goals, speaks directly to your customer’s needs, and fuels sustainable growth through relevant, high-quality content.

With a laser-focused strategy in place, you can confidently build an audience of loyal brand advocates that will continue to generate value for your business well into the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key elements of a content strategy?

The key elements are thorough research, goal-setting, content mapping, workflow processes, optimization for search and users, promotion, measurement, and adaptability. A holistic strategy considers people, processes, content, and technology.

How do you create an editorial calendar?

Based on your research, select your overall themes and content types. Then, map these to specific pieces of content per week or month based on your production cadence. This will avoid gaps and prevent content from bunching up.

How often should you publish content?

Most brands aim to publish 1-2X per week for blogs, 1X month for in-depth content like guides, and 1X quarter/annually for extensive content like ebooks and reports. Find a consistent schedule your team can sustain long-term.

What are some content promotion strategies?

Social media, email, SEO, paid ads, contributor networks, influencers, live events, Slideshare, paid partnerships, and content amplification platforms are the top strategies for promoting content further.

How do you track content performance?

To quantify content performance, use metrics like website visits, time on site/page, social shares, inbound links, conversions, and ROI. Survey feedback provides qualitative data. Review results monthly and quarterly.

How often should you update your content strategy?

Review core elements like goals, themes, workflows, and processes quarterly. More fluid areas like specific content topics, formats, and emerging channels can be assessed and optimized monthly.

What are examples of content strategy KPIs?

Website traffic, search rankings, lead generation, social engagement, inbound links, conversions, revenue, customer retention, and cost per conversion are common content KPIs. Keep KPIs aligned with your goals.