Think about it — without content, what would be left on your website? Sure, stellar programming and an eye-catching design are essential for website success. However, without content, you won’t be able to relay information, promote products and services, or generate new website traffic.
Every website needs content, it’s just the plain and simple truth. And while throwing some sentences up on a webpage may seem simple enough, the real struggle is creating engaging content that will effectively push your site above the rest. So, what’s the first step? Take a look at what content marketing is, why you need a content plan, and the steps for creating a content marketing strategy.
Content Marketing Overview
What Is Content Marketing?
It’s the article that popped up in your news feed, the creative text on a website’s “About Us” page, and the informative copy on product pages. It’s also the eye-catching infographic that offered startling statistics, the video that told a brand’s story, and the blog you look forward to reading every month.
Content marketing is everywhere you look, whether it be in the form of words, images, or audio. It involves creating and sharing valuable information with a defined audience, and is an essential component of every online entity.
Why Do I Need Content Marketing?
Great content marketing ensures users will keep coming back to your site for more. It’ll also entice new users to utilize your information and share your resources with people they come in contact with.
Essentially, without content marketing, your website may never be seen by the audience you intended to target. Every single time you add content to your site, you encourage search engines to crawl your site, offering more opportunity to be found in search results.
What Are the Types of Content Marketing?
From the headline to the footer, content marketing is evident on every website. This type of content is specifically useful when you have product listings or are trying to persuade individuals to use your services. Plus, it allows users to learn more about your company to help build your brand and reputation.
One of the more standard types of content, blogs are extremely common and great for attracting a variety of new users. They’re perfect for providing product overviews and explaining in-depth concepts. This is also where you can address the questions that users are asking on search engines.
In addition, blog posts don’t always have to be specifically about the goods or services a company is providing. Blog post topics can be loosely related to your main topic, giving you the ability to target outside audiences to generate new leads.
While you may not think of videos as content marketing, they’re actually essential to most content marketing plans. Most videos begin with a script, and if the script isn’t well thought out or written properly, the final video probably won’t perform as well as it could have.
Videos also help to evoke emotion from viewers. Whether it’s happiness, excitement, or humor, once your video establishes the emotional connection with your brand, viewers may be more inclined to think of your brand in a positive light. With high-quality video content, you can effectively advertise and persuade viewers to use your products or services.
A little different from video content, visual content includes helpful resources such as infographics and product comparison tables that combine design, creativity, and traditional content. Creating visual content tends to help other types of content perform better, like blogs and on-page copy.
What Is a Content Marketing Plan and Is It Necessary?
While it’s important to produce content, the quality of your content is even more vital in keeping your audience’s interest. Make sure you’re posting relevant, share-worthy information. Creating content calendars will help ensure you are developing consistent material. By planning and drafting your posts ahead of time, you’ll be able to keep your strategy organized.
How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
Creating a content marketing strategy can be a bit intimidating as you’re staring a blank document on your computer, wondering where you’ll find new ideas to write about. However, it doesn’t have to be very difficult! We’ve outlined our 5 step process to creating a rockin’ content strategy and our most beloved content marketing tools.
Content Marketing Planning Process
Step 1: Conduct a Content Audit
Your content strategy needs to start with an audit of your current content, both on-site and off-site. Evaluate the content and its worth. Are you producing content because you’ve heard it’s a good idea, or are you writing to benefit the user? Always focus on the user!
For on-site analysis, take a look at your home page, key landing pages, and top navigation pages. If you manage an e-commerce website, you should pay special attention to your site’s category and sub-category pages, as well as each individual product description.
Images and videos also play a part in on-site content, so make sure you include them with any copy to increase the weight of your message. Use this short checklist to do a quick spot-check of these pages:
- Do your web pages include unique copy? Is there any duplicate content?
- Are there more than 50 words on your home page?
- Do you have at least 150 words on your category pages?
- Do your blogs contain at least 350 words?
- Is the content you are writing useful? Is it something that your visitors will want to share?
- Are you making appropriate use of H1 tags, H2 tags, etc., and other formatting elements?
- Does your on-site content include internal linking and calls to action?
Once you’ve thoroughly looked at the on-page content, be sure to take a peek at your off-page content, including e-newsletters, promotional emails, social media pages, and any packaging or literature you may have. By looking at all of this first, planning content for the future will be much easier.
Step 2: Analyze Your Audience
Who is your main audience and what are they searching for? When you create a content marketing plan, develop content topics and ideas that address users who:
- Are starting out in the research phase (ex. “what does SEO stand for?”)
- Have a solid foundation and are looking for in-depth information or opinions (ex. “how does SEO, content, and social media work together?”)
- Are experts and want to understand higher-level topics (ex. “will a diverse link profile play a major role in my domain authority?”)
If you’re just starting to create content for your site, we recommend spending at least the first year building up content that addresses the basic topics and questions in your industry, often referred to as evergreen content. From there you can get more granular with your topics and address more specific questions like the examples above. Use our content pyramid to try and organize the types of topics you cover.
Step 3: Do Some Preliminary Research
Researching prior to actually planning out your content is essential to figuring out what your competition is talking about and what your target users are searching for. When you’re looking at what your competition is doing, be sure to think about how you could transform similar information into something better. You need to offer something new to users, whether it’s a unique perspective, a differing opinion, or a pop culture spin.
Use can also conduct some basic keyword research to see what people are searching for regarding your general industry, products, or services. You can use that information to answer commonly-asked questions or specific concepts in your content.
Step 4: Begin Planning Your Content
Your content strategy is going to be much easier to stick to if you plan ahead. Planning ensures that content is being added on a consistent basis and you’re never left struggling for a topic. We suggest planning at least 6 months out. Use some of these questions to generate some ideas:
- Will you be launching a new product or service soon?
- Is there any seasonality to your products or services?
- Can your topics be tied to any holidays?
- Is there something going on in your industry that you need to discuss?
Once you’ve brainstormed a list of topics, pick the best ones and plot them out on your content planning sheet or content calendar. Add notes about anything you think you should include or link to. Be sure to also make note of infographics, videos, or other visuals that would need to be created for each.
If you’re still stuck on figuring out topics and you’ve hit a roadblock, take a look at our business blog challenge! We highlight 15 pieces of content that you can work on for your website.
Step 5: Get the Keywords
Once you have your topics, you can hone in on each one to find specific keywords that’ll help increase website traffic. Each piece of content you create, whether it’s your homepage, a category page, or blog post, should be assigned a unique focus keyword that best describes the content on that page.
Your focus keywords should fit naturally into your content and should never feel forced. In addition, try to add a few secondary keywords to your content that support your content’s theme. These should include variations of keywords and similar phrases to help capture people that aren’t searching for your specific keyword.
Content Marketing Tools
There are many tools a content writer can utilize when researching and compiling ideas for a content marketing plan. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Moz Keyword Explorer — This keyword tool allows users to see what words and phrases are searched the most. It gives you a monthly search volume, difficulty score, and organic click-through rate so you can effectively choose keywords and phrases that’ll capture the biggest audience. Try plugging in a few words surrounding some of the topics you’re considering and play around with the filters to find related topics and questions that will generate the most traffic.
- Answer The Public — Similar to Moz, Answer The Public allows you to search for a general topic and pulls any and all questions, prepositions, and comparisons surrounding that topic that people have searched for. The results are sorted into two types of displays (visual and data) so you can toggle to the one that reads easier for you. Not only is it great for brainstorming, it also makes the process of outlining blogs and articles a breeze.
- BuzzSumo — When you search for a general topic, this resource provides you with a list of articles that cover it. For each article pulled, BuzzSumo displays the number of social media impressions and total engagement, allowing you to see how well the existing article is doing. By checking out the articles, you can see the strategies other sites are using to discuss certain topics. Make note of what they did and didn’t do well and think about how you could make it better. You may be able to discuss something in a simpler way so more users can understand, or make a visual for a topic to encourage quick scanning and easier comprehension.
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer — This tool is perfect for crafting catchy headlines and titles that will make users want to click on your content. You can enter your preliminary title, analyze it, and change it based on the analyzer’s suggestions. You’re scored on each headline you submit so you can see which title idea would be best for your piece of content. Play around with your words to see if you can beat your highest score!
You can use all of these tools, or a combination of the ones that work best for you. If nothing else, talk your topics through with others on your team. Sometimes the old, traditional way of brainstorming can produce the best results!
What Does a Content Marketing Plan Look Like?
Good news — we have you covered! While a one-page content marketing plan will always look different depending on the kind of material you’ll be writing about, we’ve created a free content marketing template that you can easily download and customize to get you started. Take a look!