The Ultimate Content Marketing Strategy Guide

Content, marketing, SEO — it’s all the same to me. And that’s exactly how you should approach your content marketing strategy. Every good project start has a great exploration phase before the strategy can be put together. The questions you ask upfront, the research you put in, the benchmarks you set and the expectations you define are all part of a great content marketing plan. So today, I’m going to share with you a guide for the content marketing plan outline — a great start to creating a thorough content marketing strategy.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but a fantastic start to touching every part of a business so you have the data you need. What comes next is creativity and flexibility — how you will use this data to create a great strategy for the business, and how that will change over time based on performance, new data or new initiatives.

Whether you’re in-house, a consultant, or at an agency, and whether you’re brainstorming with your team or discussing these questions with the expert, the research process is key. Use this content marketing questionnaire as a template you can grow and change as time goes on to make it more robust.


The Content Marketing Strategy Start-Up Guide

Benchmark Where the Business Is Today

Get an understanding of how the business is performing online today to get a baseline.

  • What’s worked in the past as far as content creation? Why?
  • What hasn’t worked? Why?
  • Look at samples of the most popular content. If you’re not sure what that is, look at the analytics.

Get to Know the Business and Its Goals

You should always align your strategy with business goals. Ask:

  • What are the top three business goals over the next year? Remember, it can be anything from thought leadership to increasing revenue in a specific sector/service/product.
  • How are these business goals affecting your current sales and marketing strategy?

Understand the Competitors

Knowing what your competition is up to is very insightful. Ask:

  • Who are the market competitors?
  • Who are the online competitors? Who is competing for your keyword set?
  • Who is linking to your competition and why? This is to look for potential opportunities for relationships that can make your content more visible.
  • Who is the competition’s audience? Explore the community which may be very like-minded to yours.
  • What does the competition’s content marketing strategy look like? Find out so you can benchmark.
  • What do you like about what your competitors are doing online? Why? Anything content specific?
  • What don’t you like about what your competitors are doing? Why? Anything content specific?
  • List niche publications and events in the industry, either print or online. This helps to examine what others in the space are doing with content.
  • Gather samples of content that you aspire to have for your own content marketing strategy.

Find Out More About the Audience

Describe the typical customer. If you have a different customer for each topic/product/service/offering, segment them and describe them separately using the following questions:

  • What are the common questions they have at each stage in the cycle, from awareness about the topic/product/service/offering to the buy?
  • What matters to them and when does it matter (which part in the conversion cycle)?
  • Will that customer ever crossover to another segment of your business offerings? If so, which?
  • Why do people use your product and when do they use it?
  • What are some related scenarios in the customer’s life that surround the topic/product/service/offering? This helps fuel keyword research/content creation/link building.
  • What’s important to your customer, and how does your brand/product/service become a part of that?
  • What keeps your customers up at night?

Explore Sales and Customer Service 

Know the common questions, challenges and processes the business faces every day, like:

  • What are common barriers to entry to your product/service/offering?
  • What are the frequently asked questions of the sales or customer service team?
  • Why do people say no? Why do people say yes?
  • What internal content assets do you currently have? Understand what materials are sent out currently to prospects and customers.

Dig into Branding and Positioning

The key to any great marketing strategy is to understand the brand so it can be communicated in everything you do.

  • How does the business want to be perceived by the audience?
  • How is the business different than its competition?
  • Why do people use your service/product/offering over the competition? Why do they or will they consume your content over the competition?
  • When people choose your competition over you, why do they do that?
  • What myths can we dispel surrounding the product/service/audience?
  • What does your audience believe about your company today?
  • Do you have a branding guide in place already?

Dive into the Website with an Audit

Get intimate with the website and you’ll have lots of takeaways for your content marketing strategy.

  • What is the purpose of the site – to inform? To sell?
  • Is the site relevant for the purpose?
  • Is the content useful?
  • What would Google consider the purpose of the site to be and is the site delivering on that? For example, a news site would have a different set of standards than a medical/health-related site.
  • What will be the individual purpose of each page? Discuss what conversion events will happen on the page.
  • What pages have topics that are out of date and need to be refreshed?
  • What pages have duplicate content, if any?
  • What pages can have better Meta tags for increased click-throughs?
  • Assess existing content assets to be leveraged in the content marketing plan.
  • Are pages set up for readability? Looking for things like layout, formatting, font, voice, etc.
  • Are pages engaging enough, featuring multiple types of content where appropriate, like images and videos?
  • Are Schemas used where appropriate?
  • Does the information architecture on the site supports keywords and business objectives?
  • Is the reading level/style appropriate for the audience?
  • Are the pages optimized? How can the optimization be improved?
  • Analyze the internal links — the anchor text and structure.

Look at Analytics

Another essential way to see how the content is performing on the site is the analytics.

  • What Web pages are the most popular? Which have the most traffic? Which are the most shared? Where are they shared the most — which social communities? Check Google Analytics social reports for more info.
  • How are people finding you? What keywords? From where are they coming?
  • What content is currently contributing to your goals, if any? Set up goals in analytics if you haven’t already.

Discover Other Online Channels

It’s not enough to know how the business is performing on the website. You have to get the big picture of the brand’s visibility online.

  • Where is the business located outside the current website? List all places where the company resides online – social networks, directories, etc.
  • Check out any analytics data within the social communities the business is in to see what types of content is succeeding already.
  • Look for social mentions and brand mentions online to see what people are saying.
  • Examine “about” sections, biographies, updates and so on to see if the brand messaging is streamlined across platforms.

Get to the Bottom of Services and Products 

Know the products and services you’re creating content for inside and out. Ask:

  • Why do people need this service/product/offering/information?
  • Why do people use this service/product? (Note that this is a similar question but elicits a different response from the one above.)
  • How does the service/product work?
  • What are the common problems that the product or service addresses and how?
  • What are the features, and the benefits of those features — what do the features allow people to do?
  • Why is your company the best choice for this product/service/offering?
  • What are the top three most important messages about this product/service that must be communicated?

Define the Capacity for Content Creation

Understand what’s doable before you create a strategy that is too ambitious or not ambitious enough. Find out:

  • What is the capacity for content creation?
  • If outsourcing is needed, where will you outsource and how will you identify vendors that meet your quality standards?
  • How much training will be needed for content creation?
  • What do you want the volume/frequency of content output to look like?
  • Establish the volume and frequency of the content to match the purpose of the site and the SEO plan. For example, a news site will require a much higher frequency of publishing than other sites.

Set Expectations

Setting expectations about what the content can and can’t do upfront is just as important as the project itself. So ask some questions like:

  • What are the expectations of content as it relates to the success of the site?
  • What do you want your content to be able to do for your business?
  • What do you know today about content and how it fits into the bigger picture of achieving business goals online?

Well I hope you enjoyed this guide … I know it’ll help you formulate that next great content marketing strategy! I welcome thoughts/questions/comments below!

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

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