Developing a Content Strategy: A Step by Step Guide

Jonatan Parski CEO

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developing a content strategy

Quality content is essential if you want to reach as many people in your target audience as possible. With the advancement in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you can no longer slap together a 600-word article with a 3% keyword density. The article must be informative, answering the burning questions of your potential clients while teasing their desires. That’s why developing a content strategy is so crucial.

While 95% of online businesses understand that quality information is vital to success, it often leads to volumes of blog posts with no clear direction. You’d be surprised to learn that less than 40% have a content strategy in place. In the end, the internet is saturated with articles that hold no real value to your company or your readers.

This detailed guide takes a look at what developing a content strategy entails and how marketing can improve your readership and online sales. More significantly, it evaluates the main considerations of a marketing strategy and the top steps towards developing your content framework.

developing a content strategy

What Is Content Strategy?

Your content strategy reflects who you are, what your brand is, and the expertise you bring to the industry. It includes marketing, which evaluates the different media available for presenting your thoughts and ideas. These media include written posts, audio files, and visual content, to name a few.

There are four main stages of developing a content strategy:

  • Development
  • Publishing
  • Distribution
  • Analysis

The main focus relates to what type of articles to produce and for which audience. It also looks at who is responsible for specific tasks and what goals they need to achieve. While quality information and SEO form part of these considerations, it’s only an iota of the entire process.

Why Content Strategy Is Vital To Business Success

Competition for marketing the same products and services is high. Online businesses battle every day to reach readers that will convert into sales. To this end, most of them have a content strategy in place to ensure that they market their products the correct way. If you aren’t developing a content strategy by now, you’re falling behind.

Churning articles for the sake of SEO won’t aid you in meeting your business goals. The information needs to create positive audience engagement. While it must excite the reader to participate in discussions, the ultimate goal is to naturally market your services without them realizing it.

How do you know what articles to create and in which way to present it? Once you publish your content, how do you attract potential clients? Content marketing forms part of the strategy, an essential cog in the process. Your posts will remain stagnant on your website without it.

Essentially, your content strategy funnels all your business goals into your posts and marketing strategy. It doesn’t merely look at short-term goals but forecasts for how long your posts will remain relevant. It also aligns the team’s commitment to the same objectives. 

Key Considerations

Before we get to our ultimate guide to developing a content strategy, we want to highlight a few significant considerations. It paves the way towards a better understanding of how content marketing works and why it’s essential. As soon as you grasp these concepts, you’ll be ready to start working on your strategy.

Your Audience

The top reason you’re developing a content strategy is for your audience. Yes, ideally you’ll convert readers into clients. While that is certainly the end goal, your initial objective is to learn how to satisfy your readers.

Many businesses make the mistake of believing they only have one target audience. Yet, you can present information in such a way that you reach out to different types of readers. You’ll also establish various means to display the information to them. For instance, some readers like to read long articles, while others prefer infographics and visual presentations.

Solution To The Problem

One of the objectives of quality content is to educate readers on a specific subject matter. It eventually leads to marketing your services, but it begins with addressing a particular dilemma. The primary motive for people using search engines is to find a solution to a problem.

There are two sides to the coin when developing a content strategy. Firstly, some people research what benefits there are in using a product before buying it. You’ll also find readers who already own the product but face particular challenges. Whichever type of reader engages with your posts, it needs to provide solutions to both. 

Unique selling points

As we’ve already mentioned, your competitors probably have content strategies in place already. Therefore, they’re attempting to address the same issues with their services. The primary obstacle to success is marketing your services in a way that rivals theirs.

You must prove that your services are better than any other available online. It’s a daunting task, with thousands of articles appearing online daily. If you can insert your unique selling points in your posts, you’ll hook and reel in your readers.

Content Types

You need to determine which formats your team has expertise in developing. It can have a monumental effect on your budget if you decide to go beyond merely writing articles for your blog. While having numerous formats can draw in different crowds, you should look at whether it results in a substantial return on investment.

If you’re a small business, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to free methods such as blog writing to boost your SEO and social media marketing. As your business grows, you can upgrade your content strategy with other formats. 

Publishing Channels

Content marketing is equally as essential as creating quality articles. While the initial marketing will be on your blog and website services pages, you’ll need to include other online properties. These include social media channels, press releases, backlinking from other authoritative websites, as well as paid adverts.

Choosing the correct channels and how to market on them is vital to successfully developing a content strategy. It’s the last line of defense between your site and your potential followers. If you can’t draw readers through social marketing channels, then your posts may be dead in the water. 

Content Management

All of the information we’ve provided so far may intimidate you. There are many factors to consider before you even start developing a content strategy. So, what’s the main ingredient that can put it together for you? The secret is content management through effective teamwork.

You can’t do this process alone. Your entire team must be on board from the beginning. If there’s any weak link in the chain, it can do tremendous harm to your content marketing campaign. Ensure that every team member understands how the entire process work, even if they’re not involved with every step in the content strategy development.

Content Strategy Framework

You may have heard of a content strategy framework and wonder how it relates to developing your strategy. The framework is just a fancy way of referring to the process structure. In other words, it takes all the daunting information and puts it in a neat little box that’s easier to understand.

It may not seem significant at the start, especially if you have a small business. However, it becomes complicated the more you develop your strategy. It helps to structure your plans and goals in a content framework that aids your team in the implementation. 

Here are some aspects to evaluate while formulating your framework:

  • Why are you creating your content strategy?
  • Who are you creating it for?
  • How will you create content?
  • How will the articles convert into sales?
  • How will you make readers aware of your posts?
  • Who is accountable for specific tasks?
  • Is your information still relevant?

You can adjust your content framework over time to make it more efficient. It becomes the benchmark for future creation and achieving your business goals. 

developing a content strategy

Steps In Developing A Content Strategy Framework

Now that we’ve dealt with the theory of a content strategy, it’s time for you to put it into practice. We’ve prepared your mind for the vital aspects of the framework.

Here is the complete guide for developing a content strategy framework in 11 steps:

  1. Missions and Goals
  2. Key Performance Indicators
  3. Audience Personas
  4. Current vs Desired Position
  5. Content Channels
  6. Content Types
  7. Resource Management
  8. Content Scheduling
  9. Creating the Content
  10. Publish and Market
  11. Analyze Results

1. Missions and Goals

You should start developing a content strategy with a mission statement that defines the marketing campaign’s vision and objectives. It establishes your target audience, the content needed, and how it will resolve their challenges. Describing your mission aids in determining what your campaign goals are.

While your mission concentrates on the audience, your objectives look at your business goals. Content marketing can focus on short, medium, or long term goals.

Here’s a brief list of some common content strategy objectives:

  • Increase website traffic;
  • Improve leads and increase sales;
  • Gain topic authority and earn influence towards a better company image;
  • Refine SEO;
  • Reduce the marketing costs of campaigns
  • Increase social media engagement.

With your mission and goals states in writing, your team has a central focus on what the campaign’s objectives are. It leads to higher productivity and better results.

2. Key Performance Indicators

It doesn’t help to establish goals if you can’t measure the results. Setting KPIs for each member in the content strategy gives everyone a better idea of what they’re meant to be doing. It also highlights what you want to achieve, whether in terms of traffic, sales, or cost reduction.

Merely stating that you want to see an improvement isn’t enough. You must clearly state the type of improvement you want and by how much. There also needs to be deadlines per KPI, so that the team knows by when they need to achieve goals. 

Here are a few examples of KPIs when developing a content strategy:

  • At least 50 signups from your lead magnet within the first week;
  • 100 new subscribers in the first month;
  • 20% increase in website traffic during the first quarter;
  • Revenue of $20,000 from marketing campaigns by the second quarter;
  • 50% increase in social media shares, likes, and comments.

You won’t always succeed in meeting your KPIs. While you should always strive to meet your set goals, the initial content marketing campaigns will set a benchmark for future projects. Just remember to keep your expectations realistic and attainable.

3. Audience Personas

The time has come to shift focus to your audience. First, you’ll need to specify information about the audience you would like to reach. It can include demographic information, such as age, gender, income level, and education.

If you’ve already had interaction from readers with your content, there are online tools to help you identify which demographics enjoy your site content so far. They provide valuable information and help you decide if you need to change your content for a different audience.

Reader feedback is another insightful way to see what content your audience requires. Their comments highlight how they feel about your articles, as well as identifying what else they need to know. If they are having issues with any of your products, you can address it in the next batch of content.

Finally, you’ll use all the above information to create a customer persona or avatar. This step assists you in defining your reader’s needs and how your content strategy and goals align with them. It also establishes which behavioral motivators will encourage readers to buy your products.

Your sample persona could contain the following information:

  • Avatar name, gender, marital status, dependencies, and location;
  • Occupation, income level, education, and industry;
  • Personal goals and values;
  • Sources of information, such as websites, newspapers, books, and conferences;
  • Challenges, strengths, and weaknesses;
  • Product objections and role in the purchasing process.

4. Current vs Desired Position

If you’re reading this article, the chances are you already have content up on the internet. Whether it consists of written articles or video blogs, your current material can assist you in deciding the way forward. You need to align it with your goals and KPIs to determine what the success gap is. 

You’ll start this step by assessing your internal content. While online tools are available to crawl your pages for this information, nothing stops you from manually investigating your material. However, it will take you longer and cut into valuable time.

The results worth analyzing include the following:

  • List of website URLs;
  • Sitemaps;
  • Duplicate pages;
  • Page descriptions and titles;
  • Categories and tags;
  • The average length of content;
  • Backlinks;
  • Social sharing.

Once you have a base to measure KPI results against, you need to assess your current content’s success. You should evaluate which content is performing the best and which factors contribute towards that accomplishment. You must also list which articles need improvement to meet your new goals.

What you’ve done up to now is to establish where you are and where you want to be. The final part of this step is to determine the content strategy gap. Pay attention to your goals and KPIs, ensuring that you develop them further to exploit these gaps. It could entail finding new keywords you’ve missed or finding reader questions that your content doesn’t target.

5. Content Channels

During your evaluation of your current position, take a look at how well your social engagement is working. Are you on the correct social platforms? Is your content creating community discussions? Is it bringing in views on your website?

If you’re successfully engaging with readers on a specific platform, use that one as your central content strategy focus. Don’t push the others aside though, as you can develop them further to improve interaction. You should also analyze other social media platforms you aren’t using to spread your content to other audiences.

6. Content Types

Your writing team may be efficient in writing specific types of content, such as blog writing and product reviews. That doesn’t mean that it’s what the readers are looking for when they search for articles. Some enjoy video blogs or podcasts, while others are seeking short articles with top ten lists.

The strategy entails finding what content types your readers enjoy the most and creating similar content that drives traffic and sales figures. A ‘how-to’ guide can effectively lead to sales if you present the material properly. Even podcasts and videos can lead to revenue, depending on how you market the content.

7. Resource Management

Up until this point, you’ve established the following:

  • What types of content you need;
  • Your business goals and KPIs;
  • Who your audience is;
  • Where you can find more readers.

It’s time to put your resources into action. First, determine the roles of each team member. Who is creating your content, and who will be the content manager? Which tools will you use for the campaign strategies, and what are your standard procedures?

It’s easier at this stage of developing a content strategy framework to allocate tasks. Your team has a better idea of the mission and goals, as well as what is expected. If you attempt to establish roles at the beginning, it leads to confusion and frustration, especially if you haven’t defined any KPIs. You’ll end up with members taking on more than they can chew when you realize how much work is needed.

You need to determine what the content steps will be to streamline the process. Here’s an example of a content production process:

  • Develop an outline for approval;
  • Assign the task to a writer;
  • Write content;
  • Edit or send back for revision;
  • Proofread final draft;
  • Publish online.

8. Content Scheduling

One of the biggest content strategy mistakes is the lack of planning. A topic that could be relevant today may not be as significant in a few months. If you’re reviewing a product that’s launching on a specific date, you don’t want to miss the traffic that will be looking for more information on that day.

Before you assign the content creation to writers, you should schedule deadlines for articles. You can use online tools such as Google Calendar or Trello Boards to place the due dates for each task. In this way, you’ll ensure efficiency and regular posting on your website.

9. Creating the Content

Everything you’ve worked on up until now has led you to this point. Your team is ready to create the content. The objectives are clear, deadlines are set, and your writer starts producing the articles.

Research is as essential in this step as it was in the previous ones. Not only do you need to see what is already available online, but you need to identify the value you can add. It also ensures that you don’t accidentally plagiarize any other similar content online.

Creating the content isn’t as easy as merely writing words on a page. The writer must simultaneously align your company’s brand with your reader’s needs and your business goals. Adding keywords naturally is also essential, as is retaining your domain authority. It’s a delicate balance that requires planning and strategy.

10. Publish and Market

This step focuses on reaching that target audience you evaluated right at the beginning when you started developing a content strategy. After you publish your articles, you need to share it on the correct platforms, community groups, and press releases. Content marketing includes social media posting, email newsletters, and contacting your list of influencers.

Remember to engage with your audience. Comments on posts often lead to more readers interacting with the articles, especially where the discussion is exciting. You can also create more leads by answering a few questions related to your topic.

11. Analyze Results

The final step is measuring the results. Go back to your KPIs and goals and see if you’ve met any of your metrics. You can also reward teams for extensive achievements, which will motivate them towards a repeat performance. 

You’ve set a benchmark for how you want your content strategy to work. Ensure that you note any vital points from this exercise for when you update your content strategy. Now wash, rinse, and repeat, and start all over again.

Final words

Developing a content strategy may be one of the most intimidating tasks you undertake towards improving site traffic and revenue. That’s why 60% of businesses who know what a content strategy is don’t have one. It’s a tremendous task, but the outcomes are rewarding.

Once you’ve established a content strategy the first time, it becomes easier over time. Sure, there will be more KPIs as your business grows. Yet, if you practice this process enough times, you’ll deliver content strategies like a professional.

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