Congratulations are in order if you’re beginning your content strategy! You’ve made the first important step in developing thought leadership, increased traffic, and return on investment. The world of content marketing can be daunting, but it’s a rewarding one, literally and figuratively.

In today’s marketplace, it’s also vital to your success. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, nearly three-quarters of all B2B marketers surveyed reported they planned to create more content this year than they did in 2016. It’s not hard to see why – content is a reliable and cost-effective source of revenue.

Think of it this way: It only takes one blog post with a steady stream of traffic to automatically generate more leads for your company (through embedded links, for example). When done well, a content strategy educates, informs, establishes your authority, and creates awareness for your brand.

This should provide a compelling reason to start your content strategy (or refresh one, if yours is getting stale). But where to begin?

Begin at the End

Your content strategy should start with some brainstorming. What is your goal? What do you want out of your content ultimately? What does your vision of success look like? Answering these questions will help frame your strategy. It also will help you gain executive support for your strategy down the line – if you have a clear goal, higher ups are more likely to give you the go-ahead – and forgive any missteps along the way.

Develop Your “Reader Persona”

Anyone in the marketing field is familiar with buyer personas, and your content uses the same strategy. To develop a successful content plan, you’ll need to define a target audience. This helps you create engaging, relevant content that will actually gain traction on your site.

For veteran marketers, this may also present an ideal opportunity to reassess your targets. Is it time to expand your market? Are you vying to reach a new demographic? Align your content strategy with your market research to ensure you’re delivering pieces your audience wants to read.

Consider All Types of Content

When we say “content marketing,” people automatically think blog posts, but this is only a facet of content. E-books, videos, social media, infographics, webinars, case studies, even memes can be part of your content strategy. If you’re posting blogs week after week and failing to gain traction, consider branching out.

Podcasts are emerging as a popular way to engage with content; they help your target audience reach your brand, especially if they don’t have any time or interest in reading online. Estimates say that 57 million people tuned into podcasts each month in 2016, making them a huge potential market. Podcasts work well as a content format for businesses that have interesting people to interview.

While a health podcast may provide people with valuable information, it might not be ideal for someone with a painting business. Be sure your platform is relevant to your target audience.

When done well, video is also a great way to connect with your audience. The “Like a Girl” campaign from Always provides a compelling example of how a video marketing campaign can go viral.

Brainstorm Subject Matter

Brainstorming fresh, relevant content ideas is easier said than done. Once you dive into content marketing, you’ll find the hardest part is delivering excellent content consistently. Thankfully, a wealth of resources online can help you:

  • What to Write is an online blog generator that promises to help you come up with a month’s worth of blog topics in 10 minutes.
  • Outsource to a content marketing or writing firm. If you’re not the creative sort or if you tire of coming up with ideas for blogs each month, share your vision with a content management company and let them bring it to life.
  • Ask your audience. When pressed for ideas, reach out to those who keep you in business. What do they want to read? Eliciting input from your readers will help ensure your hard work creates value, both for your audience and your company.
  • Feedly is a useful tool for marketers who are stuck in a content rut. This RSS feed organizes trending topics by industry, so you’ll never run out of ideas. A caveat: Take these ideas and make them fresh, providing your own point of view.

Understand the Basics of SEO

Optimizing your content for search is essential to broadening your reach. Google spits out a few algorithm updates each year, changing the way we write and produce content. Search engine optimization is always evolving, but the fundamentals remain the same:

  • Excellent content will always rule over quantity. Google punishes “dupe” content, so don’t plagiarize or fill your blogs with keywords in an effort to rank your page on top. Well-written content will not only engage your readers, it will rank higher in search results.
  • Best practices suggest that long form content is better for SEO than shorter content, but take this with a grain of salt. Your readers will be the ultimate decision-makers of the length of your content.
  • Use keywords sparingly and consciously. Google punishes a practice called “keyword jamming,” or stuffing your content with keywords just to rank it higher. Preferred keyword density is 1-3%. In other words, in a 1,000-word article, use your keyword about 10 times, but no more than that. Ensure that the keywords flow organically in the content. Google’s algorithms can sniff out words that have been tossed in.

Reassess Your Strategy

Here’s the reality about content strategy: You might not hit it out of the park the first inning. Your strategy will evolve as you learn more about your readers and their desires. Work to align your strategy with your reader’s pain points: This will ultimately convert leads and help gain traction with your readers.

Over time, you’ll become more comfortable with your content and create relevant pieces your audience will love. It takes time and practice, but it’s well worth the effort.

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