How To Develop a Blog Content Strategy: A Start-to-Finish Guide
You might use content writing services and buy articles to support your brand, but do you have an actual blog content strategy? According to data from Content Marketing Institute, even though more than 70% of surveyed brands say they are engaged in content marketing, only 37% support their efforts with a documented digital content marketing strategy.
The brands that have a solid blog content strategy in place report better return on investment and an increased ability to track results and meet goals. Whether you are a complete content marketing novice or you have already been dabbling in driving online traffic with blog content, use this guide to get ahead of the game by establishing and following a clear, concise content marketing strategy.
What is Content Strategy?
First, let’s identify exactly what content strategy entails. The definition of content strategy in general terms is that it is a plan that helps to satisfy business requirements and goals through the use of content creation and its distribution. That’s simple enough. But what actually goes into blog content strategy in order to make it successful?
How Do You Develop a Blog Content Strategy?
This is where we get into the meat of it all. Let’s start at the top with creating company goals and work our way down from there.
1. Create Clear Objectives
You cannot create a digital content strategy without specific, measurable goals. Why do you want to delve into content marketing? What are the objectives you hope to achieve? Don’t write or buy articles for your website or blog without answering this question. Content marketing expert Neil Patel identifies several common goals you can use as a starting point when developing SEO content strategy goals, including:
- Improving your brand’s ranking on Google and other search engines
- Bringing past customers back to your company for repeat business
- Converting website or social media visitors to valuable clients
- Generating fresh leads for your sales team
- Building awareness of your brand
SMART Content Strategy Goals
To help you make appropriate goals, try using the SMART framework. This mnemonic device stands for goals that are:
- SPECIFIC: Be very clear about what you want to achieve. For your content strategy, that could be converting existing website visitors to customers, driving new sales among existing customers or increasing website traffic.
- MEASURABLE: Attach numbers to enhance the specificity of your goals. Don’t just say “driving new sales;” a SMART goal would be “to increase sales by 15%.”
- ATTAINABLE: Set realistic goals based on your brand’s current performance and/or competitor performance.
- RELEVANT: Check each goal to make sure it fits with your organization’s overall mission. Each objective should directly support your brand vision, and each piece of content should be directly tied to an objective.
- TIMELY: Choose a realistic date for each goal. For the purposes of your content strategy, set three annual objectives that you can break into smaller quarterly and weekly milestones.
Once you have goals in place, you can begin to determine what type of SEO content will best drive results for each objective, then decide whether to buy articles or write your own. To start, identify no more than three discrete goals and refer to them regularly as you flesh out your company’s website content strategy. If you need to convince executive leadership about the need for a content strategy, the list of goals can help you build a business case for this approach.
2. Identify Your Audience
You know why you want to create content, but do you know who will read your carefully crafted blog posts, e-books and social media shares? Creating a persona for each of your potential audiences allows you to gather data about what they want, where they hang out online and how you can best reach them. You can target each piece of SEO content and delivery channel specifically for those personas. Think about the problems and challenges that person may have so that you can present a value proposition about how your business can solve those pain points.
You may already have robust data about who your audience is and what they want. If not, you’ll need to do some research to complete this step in your SEO content strategy. You can survey existing customers to find out:
- The topics in which they are most interested
- The biggest challenges and issues they face
- Their level of education
- The publications they read, both online and off
- Where they spend time online
- Their content delivery preferences
- Demographic information such as age and gender
- Their career or industry
- Income level
- How and where they spend money
SEO Content Strategy Tools Available
Search Engine Journal recommends using this data-driven approach to create effective content that converts. Where to gather this data? Google Analytics is a good place to start if you aren’t already gathering information about your website visitors, but countless tools exists to distill and deliver information about the people who encounter your online content. Neil Patel recommends starting with just one audience persona. As you get more comfortable with content marketing, you can segment the audience to target content in an even more granular fashion.
With your objectives and your audience defined, you can establish a mission statement to which you can refer throughout your digital content strategy. This brief guiding principle should simply state why you want to create content, for whom you plan to create content and how your content will fulfill your audience needs.
3. Conduct Keyword Research
Conducting keyword research as a part of your content creation strategy lets you zero in on specific search terms that will help your content get noticed by your target audience. Dozens of free tools exist to support keyword research, but many new content marketers start with Google Keyword Planner, especially when they already have a website that runs with Google Analytics.
If you’re completely new to the idea of keywords, start with the concept of commercial vs. informative keywords. With commercial keywords, you can encourage visitors to purchase products and services from your website by attracting an audience who is actively searching for your products and services. Commercial keywords contain terms like “buy,” “purchase” and “affordable.”
Informative keywords help position your brand as an industry authority. These keywords should encourage readers to visit, engage with and share your content. Ideally, content with the right informative keywords will draw the attention of industry blogs, news websites and experts who might provide valuable links and shares. While commercial keywords are primarily transactional, informative keywords build authority and increase the quality of your content.
Short-Tail vs Long-Tail
Keyword choice can be a challenge for new SEO content strategists. You want to choose keywords that are general enough to drive customer searches, but specific enough so your brand won’t get lost in the shuffle. For example, if you own a bakery in Boca Raton, you probably don’t want to try to rank on Google for “cakes,” “cupcakes” or “pastries.” A more relevant keyword would be “bakeries in Boca Raton” or “custom birthday cakes.” You may hear these more specific keywords called “long-tail keywords.”
Short-tail keywords, which consist of just one or two words, are quite competitive as far as Google rankings. However, implementing plenty of these long-tail keywords in your content, such as “custom cakes” and “order cupcakes,” will help drive relevant traffic to your site and improve both your visibility and your conversion rate.
So do you need keywords in your blog content strategy that drive traffic, improve SEO rankings or encourage conversions? For most brands, the answer is “all of the above.” A professional content writing company can help you choose the keyword mix that best supports your defined objectives. You also need a writer who can naturally weave these keywords into content that solves pain points for your audience.
4. Get To Know Your Competitors
Via the process of getting to know your competitors, known as a gap analysis, you’ll look for a unique content niche to fill within your industry. Choose your main competitors and review six months of web content and blog posts. Make note of the topics they cover, the tone they use, and the tools and resources they offer website visitors. Creating a spreadsheet with this information allows you to visualize the gaps in coverage where your brand can truly make an impact. Remember, it’s important to know what your competitors are doing when it comes to creating a digital content strategy, but you should also pay close attention to what they aren’t doing.
The Convince and Convert blog recommends finding your brand’s “one thing” to stress in your content using this simple method:
- Make a list of the messages your company plans to or already uses in its content.
- Review competitor websites to see where similar messages appear.
- Eliminate messages that other brands have exhausted to uncover the “one thing” you should try to express as your company’s unique selling proposition.
Returning to the example above, maybe your bakery is one of five different bakeries in your town. Every shop offers fresh-baked pastries, a pleasant environment and free wireless internet. However, your bakery is the only one that offers custom birthday cakes. That should be your brand’s “one thing.”
While you’re getting to know your competitors, you should also become familiar with their best-ranking keywords with Google Analytics or a competitor research tool such as Ahrefs. This helps you spot areas in your content strategy where you may be able to outrank your competitors and neglected keywords that could potentially give your brand a big SEO boost.
5. Brainstorm SEO Article Ideas
You have your keywords and you know what your competitors are publishing online, but you aren’t sure where to get a steady flow of ideas for your weekly, monthly and quarterly content releases. Try drawing inspiration for your content strategy for the web from sources such as:
- Industry newsletters and blogs
- Content aggregators such as Feedly, where you can follow topics of interest
- Online forums such as Quora, Reddit and industry-specific message boards
- Reader and customer surveys
- Social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other popular platforms
- Google Trends
You should also jot down ideas in a notebook or in an app on your phone that you can page through whenever you’re in need of some fresh ideas to add to your content marketing strategy.
6. Review Existing Content
Before you buy articles or hire a content writer to execute your digital content strategy, an extremely important step is to take an inventory of existing content. Unless your brand is new, you should list all your existing blog and social media posts, web pages, white papers, and other forms of online content, along with the channel and audience for each.
After the content inventory is complete, conduct a comprehensive audit to remove content that does not fulfill your goals or distracts from your brand’s core message. Relevant but outdated SEO content should be refined and revised, which both improves your reader’s experience with your content and improves your SEO rankings.
Repurpose Instead of Rewrite
During the content audit, look for content you can repurpose in new ways. For example, the custom cake bakery from the above example could take a series of blog posts about planning an unforgettable birthday celebration and use them to create an e-book download that will drive email subscriptions.
While developing your blog content strategy, consider these calculations from Search Engine Watch: If you have 30 existing content assets, whether blogs, web pages, articles or unpublished writings, each of those can drive 30 social media posts. If you can group those 30 assets into three overarching themes, you have three e-books for publication.
7. Create an Editorial Calendar
As the writers at industry blog Search Engine Land note, the step of creating an editorial calendar is where all the research, data and planning begins to coalesce into a bona fide content strategy. This calendar will serve as your touchpoint as you plan, create, deliver and measure content throughout the year. While your editorial calendar serves as one of the key documents in your SEO content strategy, it isn’t necessarily set in stone. Allow the flexibility to adjust it throughout the year to take advantage of current events, news and trends in the industry.
When you create your content calendar, build out the entire year with slots for quarterly, monthly and weekly updates, publications and posts. You can buy articles, assign content to staff members, and/or work with guest bloggers and industry experts. Many companies that succeed in content marketing use a combination of these strategies.
For example, you may want to schedule thrice-weekly social media blurbs, weekly short-form blog posts, monthly long-form posts and one extended piece of content (e-book or white paper) each quarter. For each publication, list the keywords you plan to include, the source of the content, the deadline and whether you need ancillary items like photos, illustrations or infographics.
Fill in the Content Creation Gaps
The content audit you completed in the previous step is the ideal starting point for your editorial calendar. After adding those items, fill in the gaps with new content ideas that include your keywords and support the content marketing objectives you established all the way back in step one.
If you aren’t sure where to start placing content, try assigning a theme to each month or quarter. Remember those quarterly and weekly milestones you set in step one? Now’s the time to bring them back.
Make sure to leave room for brand events and milestones throughout the year so you can use your digital content strategy to highlight those initiatives. For example, your custom cake bakery may want to plan content that showcases the “custom graduation cakes” keyword as June approaches.
When it comes to SEO content, don’t limit yourself to blog posts. You can mix up your offerings with a host of other formats, including infographics, quizzes, interviews with industry experts, reader question and answer sessions, FAQ pages, how-to guides, original research, case studies, video stories, podcasts, checklists, guides and newsletters. You may be aware that you can buy articles, but you can also hire professionals with experience in creative content.
8. Find a Content Creator
How will you source and create your website content? Do you have an internal marketing department with the skills and bandwidth for this project? Do you have the time in your schedule to manage a freelance writer or the budget to hire a full-time staff writer? The answers to these questions will inform the next steps in your website content strategy, whether you decide to buy articles from a content writing agency or online database.
If you aren’t sure how much time you should realistically dedicate to content creation, consider research from Copyblogger. The site’s experts say they spend an average of five to seven hours on each blog post. Do you have an extra five to seven hours in your week? If not, you may want to consider outsourcing the content creation process. Consistent content delivered on a regular schedule will help build reader trust in your brand.
Outsourced Content Writers or In-House?
Many brands struggle with the question of whether to use in-house or outsourced content when they introduce a new content marketing program. To help answer this question, we performed a cost breakdown for our blog readers and found the following facts that may help you decide:
- B2B companies spend 29% of their marketing budget on content writing, while B2C companies spend about 26%.
- The more blogs published by a brand, the higher its average ROI for content marketing.
- Businesses spend an average of nearly $75,000 per year to hire an in-house content writer with a full-time salary and benefits.
9. Plan for Content Publication
If this is the first time you’re publishing content for your brand online, you’ll need to develop a system for vetting, preparing and posting your content. With countless content management systems available, research your options to choose the best one for your digital content strategy. For example, you can choose a comprehensive CMS where you can publish and maintain your content as well as analyze its performance. If you aren’t sure where to start, you may want to outsource this step to a full-service marketing agency.
You should also consider who should control the content writing and marketing process within your organization, unless you run a one-person show, of course. If you work for a larger company, usually an in-house marketing professional will manage the content creation process, whether you have in-house writers or plan to buy articles or hire a content writing company.
In addition, your firm’s chief marketing officer, CEO or another executive may want to have final approval over content before publication. You need a writer who can take constructive criticism and deliver content that meets your publication parameters.
Design a Content Development Workflow
Design a workflow for this content strategy process before you start rolling out new content. The optinmonster blog recommends this simple list of steps for each piece of content:
- Develop a comprehensive brief or outline, including images, links and formatting details.
- Obtain approval from the C-suite.
- Deliver the outline along with background information and resources to the writer.
- Edit the finished copy and make changes as needed.
- Obtain final approval from the C-suite.
- Upload and publish your post, including meta data such as blog categories and tags that make it easier for readers and search engines to find your content.
- Share your new content on the appropriate channels.
10. Get the Word Out on Social Media
To determine the appropriate content channels, refer back to your buyer persona and remind yourself where your audience hangs out online. Pew Research offers a data-based breakdown describing the demographics for popular and niche social media sites. Give it a read with your buyer persona in mind as you plan your distribution within your social media content strategy.
Some pieces, like long-form industry analyses or original research, may be most appropriate for LinkedIn. More immediately digestible items such as infographics work well on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. For best results, choose approximately five of the most important platforms for your potential readers and publish loyally on those channels.
The Digital Marketing Institute recommends choosing well-known channels with expansive membership numbers if you want to build awareness of your brand, ideally paired with paid advertisements for the most impressive reach. Literally everyone and their grandmother has a Facebook page, which explains why the site has one of the best reputations for return on your content marketing dollars.
Looking for leads? The industry blog says that LinkedIn articles beat most other channels for social media shares, especially if you actively join group discussions with your followers and industry forums. Twitter and Facebook also fare well for fresh lead generation.
11. Measure Content Strategy Performance
How will you know your content writing strategy is actually working? You’ll need thorough analytics for each and every post. Convince and Convert identifies these four different types of metrics you may want to track for your content items:
- Sales metrics: The amount of money generated
- Lead generation metrics: The number of leads created by the piece
- Sharing metrics: How often your readers shared the piece with their own social and professional networks
- Consumption metrics: How your readers interact with your content, such as visiting your site, downloading a guide or returning to a page to view it again
To get started, keep an eye on simple benchmarks that signify an effective SEO content strategy. Ask these questions:
- Are more readers sharing and liking our content than before we implemented this strategy?
- Are we gaining more website traffic?
- Do fewer users “bounce” (visit the site and immediately click away)?
- Are visitors spending more time on the site than before strategy implementation?
- Are blog posts and other content items driving a positive return on investment?
12. Adapt and Adjust SEO Content Strategy as Necessary
When the indicators in the previous step are positive after the first few months of your content strategy, stay the course. If you aren’t seeing results in these areas, consider tweaking your strategy. Make small changes to effectively iterate your digital content writing strategy, such as adding a new channel, changing the time that you post or introducing a new form of content.
The Active Insights industry blog recommends using this iterative cycle for various channels and content initiatives:
- Test: Start a new content strategy with clear objectives in mind.
- Analyze: See how the numbers measure up to your SMART goals.
- Prioritize: List the necessary changes to meet your goals in order of necessity.
- Optimize: Make changes to your content or strategy based on your analysis.
- Repeat: Start the cycle again, whether you continue to work on the current campaign or begin anew with another content initiative.
Starting slowly benefits your audience because you’re not obscuring your brand message. It benefits your data by giving you get better numbers when you test just one new channel at a time. Calculate the ROI as you complete each iteration cycle so you can streamline your spending and stretch the budget of your content program. When you hit on a content marketing strategy that works, focus on expanding using the principles you learned.
According to the blog, content marketers who followed this strategy increased their content marketing revenue sixfold, boosted the number of qualified leads by more than 500%, saw a 200% boost in open rates among email subscribers and experienced 253% more engagement with followers online.
13. Maintain and Scale Your Blog Content Strategy
Although an effective content writing strategy involves careful planning and continuous tracking for true success, it’s difficult to overstate the benefits of blogging for business. At BKA Content, we’ve found that blogging brands get 97% more links than companies that are less savvy when it comes to content.
What’s more, businesses that publish content at least 16 times a month are rewarded with 3.5 times more online traffic and 4.5 times more leads than companies who publish fewer than five times a month. As you test the performance of your strategy, you may find you need a writer to keep up with the consistent content your readership demands.
Developing an SEO Content Strategy is Vital to Online Success
Whether you plan to buy articles to fill the gaps between in-house content, decide to sign up for a fully managed content program or go for a dependable blog subscription service, BKA Content can provide the resources you need to get your blog content strategy off the ground once and for all. Contact us today to learn more about the customizable, targeted writing services we provide.