So, you want to create all of that “web magic” you hear everyone buzzing about, huh?  You want people to view you as a bonafide expert, sing your praises on Twitter, and be captivated by the products and services you sell?

Well, to do it, you need the right content marketing strategy!

Not sure how to come up with a strategy of your own?  No problem!  Follow these 5 steps, and you’ll be well on your way to a content strategy that generates results:

1.  Look in the mirror

Do you run a new business that’s trying to build a name for itself?  Or, do you run an established company that wants to generate leads in a new way?  Or, do you own a website that was mauled by the Google Panda, Penguin, and/or Hummingbird?

The answer you give when you look in the mirror will determine where your content marketing strategy needs to start.

For example, if you’re new to your industry, starting a blog is a great way to show off your expertise.  So is giving away a free report, in return for having people sign up for your subscriber list.

If your company is already fairly-established, why not create a blog that focuses on breaking industry-wide news?  Or, why not publish guest blog posts that analyze the latest developments in your industry?  After all, if people already know who you are, they’re going to be more likely to turn to you for updates and insights.  As long as your content “walks the walk” (not just “talks the talk”!), you can go from being fairly-established to a full-fledged authority.

But if Google has decimated your site’s rankings, your content marketing strategy has to focus on cleaning up that mess first.  Google is on record saying that it’s looking for high-quality content, so if you’ve plummeted in the rankings, there’s likely something very wrong with the content that’s sitting on your website.  It does no good to write guest posts or publish YouTube videos if your site is a mangled mess.  So, clean up your existing content (or completely start over with new content) before you publish anything off-site.

2.  Calculate your time commitment

If you really want your content marketing strategy to succeed, you’ve got to devote time to it.  The exact amount of time you have to spend will determine a key part of your strategy — specifically, whether or not you have time to write content yourself.

If you’re constantly running from meeting to meeting, you always seem to forget to have lunch, or your phone never stops ringing, you probably don’t have time to write articles, blog posts, newsletters, press releases, or video scripts.  So, if you want to carry out your content marketing strategy, you’re going to need to hire a professional writer.

Just be sure to do your homework!  Nothing can kill your content strategy faster than a bad writer.  You don’t need content that’s “OK”.  In order for your strategy to succeed, you need content that compels people to read all the way to the end — and then still be interested enough to click on your link, buy your product, or do whatever else may be included in your call-to-action.

Whether you hire a writer or take on the writing duties yourself, you need to come up with a content schedule.  Your readers are going to get accustomed to reading your blog posts, articles, and newsletters.  Publish content that’s good enough, and people will actually look forward to reading your new stuff!  So, the last thing you can afford to do is leave them hanging.

Above all else, your content schedule has to be consistent.  Whether you decide to update your blog once a week or every day, stick to your schedule.  If you don’t, people are going to stop working you into their routines — and you may even look unreliable to them!

Whatever you do, though, don’t publish content JUST to adhere to your schedule.  Nothing is more boring than content that feels forced — and, yes, your readers will be able to tell when you’re “forcing it”!  So, when you create your schedule, think about how many LEGITIMATE content ideas you can think of in a month/week.  That way, you’ll be known for publishing content that’s genuinely helpful and insightful — instead of being known for “word vomit” that just takes up space.

3.  Walk a mile in your readers’ shoes

You can’t start brainstorming content ideas until you know exactly who you’re talking to!  So, take some time to figure out what makes your readers tick.  What are they concerned about?  What’s important to them?  What confuses them?  What makes them happy?  Sad?  Frustrated?

Until you know the answers to these questions, your content isn’t going to leave a true impression on anyone.  Remember, the goal of every content marketing strategy is to build a relationship with readers.  Until you can speak their language and address the issues that are important to them, they won’t be able to relate to you.  But once they relate to what you’re saying, they’ll be a whole lot more likely to buy what you’re selling!

4.  Figure out how you’re going to measure your progress

It makes absolutely no sense to go full-speed-ahead on a content marketing strategy without knowing if it actually works!  So, before you publish anything, think about how you’re going to measure your progress.

The most obvious way, of course, is to see if your sales go up.  But don’t stop there.

  • Analyze your web traffic, so that you can see if your content is driving more people to your site.  (If you’re getting more traffic — but it isn’t converting into more sales — then you’ll know that something on your website has to be tweaked.)
  • Keep an eye on your social media accounts.  An increase in re-Tweets, “Likes”, +1’s, and Pins will tell you that people think enough of your content to share it — and that’s a MAJOR step in the right direction!
  • Look for an ever-expanding inbox.  If more people are emailing you with questions, it’s a sign that you’ve established yourself as an expert.  (After all, no one’s going to take the time to seek out your advice if they don’t think it’s really worth it!)

5.  Keep going

A truly successful content marketing strategy has no end point.  If you want to use content to make your mark on the web, you’re going to need a constant flow of it.  You need to publish high-quality stuff on a regular basis.  Otherwise, all of the competitors who are working so hard on their own content marketing strategies will pass you by!