TopRank Marketing Editor

5 Tips for Creating an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

It’s difficult to find much value in content with no strategy behind it. Without a content strategy plan, your intended audience is unlikely to find your copy, let alone read it.

During the MIMA Summit last week, the importance of a content marketing strategy was the topic of a session presented by Rachel Lovinger of Razorfish.

For this week’s 5 Tips post, I’ve translated some of Rachel’s valuable points into actionable steps for creating an effective content marketing strategy.

Content Strategy: Discover1. Discover
In a nutshell, do your homework:

  • Research competitors’ content. Whether you’re launching a blog, website or email campaign, determine what information is already out there and how it’s presented. How can you distinguish yourself?
  • Concept your voice based on audience and type of content. If you’re providing quick tips and human interest pieces for consumers, your content voice will likely be more conversational. Are you offering in-depth, research-driven articles for a B2B audience? Your voice should be reflect that.
  • Define the clear goals and message of your content. By failing to do so, you’ll have a difficult time building a solid readership. You also risk confusing the readers you do attract.

Content Strategy: Design2. Design
Step 2 is all about planning—making sure all the “i’s” have been dotted and the “t’s” have been crossed:

  • Determine responsibilities. Before deploying a content marketing plan, ensure that you’ve outlined who will be the keeper of the content. If you aren’t able to hire a dedicated resource, it’s essential to appoint someone to incorporate content maintenance into his or her current responsibilities. Content maintenance could also entail tasking each employee to contribute one piece of content per month.
  • Organize content. Is your content logically located on your site in a central place? Is it easy to search for a particular topic? If your readers have a difficult time navigating through your site to find useful content, they’re not likely to stick around for very long.

Content Strategy: Build3. Build
With Steps 1 and 2 complete, you’re ready to start putting the wheels in motion:

  • Plan a style guide. Include as much information as possible regarding everything from tone and voice to target word count. Provide best practices for optimizing content and writing checklists.
  • Create a copy deck. A copy deck is essentially a roadmap for your content pages, including text, graphics, advertising and links. It can be developed in stages, starting with writing a few paragraphs to describe the content.

Content Strategy: Deploy4. Deploy
With the first 3 steps in place, a content marketing strategy is finally ready for deployment:

  • Maintain. It’s crucial to have a plan in place to continuously update content. Outdated content will quickly turn readers away. Plus, a stagnant site won’t do you any favors when it comes to search engines.
  • Monitor. Leverage analytics tools to gauge what worked best and what failed. Look for patterns in the most popular types of content—i.e., checklists, charts, case studies. You can analyze virtually any variable, from optimal article length to most popular type of headline.

Content Strategy: Adjust5. Adjust
The final step to creating an effective content marketing strategy is ongoing:

  • Respond. No content marketing strategy is perfect. Based on analytics reports, continuously tweak your content efforts to maximize results.

What steps would you add to create an effective content marketing strategy?

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Comments

  1. Very good post and I agree on the need for a great content marketing strategy. In fact, Avitage and Find New Customers have teamed up on a new webpage called Think Like A Publisher. Keep up the great writing

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  2. Elizabeth_H says:

    This is a good structure to follow. As you mentioned, no strategy is going to be perfect. However, some people get so stuck editing the strategy that they never do it! Just do it! Learn from your mistakes and then adjust. It'll get better every time.

  3. Excellent guide, thank you! All great tips that can be applied to blog publishing. I like the idea of having a copy deck, sort of a clipboard for the various resources you will be using and piecing together as you write articles.

  4. scottdolson1 says:

    Nice guide. Very good recommendations for having a content plan. I have seen many people who get bogged down in steps 1-3 and never get to 4 and 5. I think it's important to remember that you don't have to have the perfect strategy before you start blogging and creating content. Let your strategy be driven by your business interactions and the topics you find coming up on a regular basis.

    Thanks for a good post.

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  6. very good post. tnx

  7. I am surprised that more people don't mention “research competitors content”. It is always the first thing I do.

  8. kachingkaching says:
  9. katgritzmacher says:

    Great concise post on creating a content strategy, Michelle. I suggest even taking this strategy a step further: When managing (or attempting to persuade) co-workers or others in different departments to contribute content to your company's blog, build a feed reader to monitor related content to your business. Research the top 50-100 blogs and keyword Google alerts in your industry and add the feeds. Create a schedule for co-workers to browse headlines, read, visit, comment and RT others content on a regular schedule with publishing. I.E. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 15 minutes each morning; Wed, publish blog post. This way, you implement the 'give and take' to help bring readers and links to your blog, and your co-workers don't feel overwhelmed.

  10. Nice one. Under Deploy I might throw in 'Atomize' or 'Socialize' or something — the idea of getting the content out there. Thanks for a clear, crisp summary

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  13. joelavery says:

    Great tips, To many times people forget the last step, no matter how good something is you are always going to have to adjust or tweak your product. Thanks again!

  14. Elizabeth, I really like what you're saying here. I find too many people over-plan. Don't get me wrong. I believe in laying down the fundamentals and ensuring a campaign's backbone is strategic, but one doesn't want to overdo it to the point that the execution is delayed and dragged out over a much longer time period than desired. Sometimes you just have to go out there and do it!

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  17. I think this is great article.

    I find with a lot of my clients, its hard to lay out a road map for content creation. As a web design/development shop its important to preach ease of use and great UX however the largest part of the UX is the content. The owner of the site has to have what it takes to keep updating the content reguarly. Putting them on a plan like this makes sense.

    Thanks for the info!

  18. Excellent insight – especially on the 'maintain' and 'adjust'. It's critical to systematically add valuable new educational content. Plus, adjusting titles, target sights, offers, etc is an area I see a lot of small business owners drop the ball…

    Having your content be timely and relevant is another biggie! We did a Halloween piece entitled: 5 FRIGHTENING Trends That HAUNT Small Business Owners at http://mybusinessassistant.com/FRIGHTENING_Tren

    It picked up a lot of traffic for us, because it was timely, educational, resourceful – and FUN!

    Thanks for your insight!

  19. kelnsteff says:

    Great tips, thanks for th insight! One of the sites I personally use is
    http://www.searchspyunfiltered.com
    I like to see what people are searching for in real time and get ideas of who to market various products to via the sites. Its been alot of work and continually updating content but has proven a succsess.

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