Content Strategy Best Practices For 2020 (With Examples)


content strategy

Having a solid content strategy in place can produce amazing results for your business, like increased targeted traffic, more influence in your field, and increased revenue.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to create a content strategy framework that works in 2020. By implementing everything you’re about to learn, you’ll grow your search engine traffic, improve your authority, and bring more customers into your door.

This is the exact strategy we use when creating successful content marketing campaigns for our website and our clients.

What is Content Strategy?

Content strategy refers to the creation and management of digital media to achieve specific business goals. This can include written, audio, and even video content.

Overall, the goal of your content creation strategy is to bring your company measurable results. Whether that’s related to more visitors, greater brand awareness, or more customers in your sales pipeline.

A content strategy isn’t just SEO, or content marketing, either. But it encompasses both of these channels.

It can be defined as the set of guidelines to help with planning, creating, and managing all of your content.

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Why is content strategy important?

Without a content development strategy, it’ll be hard to achieve any business goals that you’ve decided upon.

Instead of working from a detailed plan that’ll help your business get more traffic and customers, you’ll be following the publish and pray approach of writing random articles and hoping they move the needle.

On the other hand, a documented content marketing plan can help with the following:

  • Make you way more effective at content marketing
  • Make you less stressed and frazzled (you have a detailed map you’re following)
  • Have more time for content promotion and other aspects of your digital marketing strategy
  • Able to dedicate more time, energy, and money into your content efforts

Creating content won’t grow your business, improve your search engine rankings, or bring new customers into your business. But, creating content that’s in alignment with a well-thought-out content marketing strategy will help you do all of those things, and more.

Here are a few reasons you’ll want a content strategy in place:

It supports your larger business goals

With an overarching content marketing strategy in place, you’ll be able to see how your content efforts support larger goals.

Even goals that seem more ethereal, like improving brand awareness and growing website authority. A robust content creation strategy can even attract high-level employees into your world.

Without a content strategy, your onsite and offsite content creation efforts don’t fit into the puzzle and you’ll be wasting your time and money.

You can see what’s working

Even the best laid out website content strategy won’t always deliver the results you anticipated. It’s difficult to predict what’s going to succeed, this is doubly true if it’s your first time executing a content creation strategy.

To truly succeed you’ll need to continuously test, experiment, and refine your strategy. Luckily, there are all kinds of tools that’ll give you accurate data and feedback, so you can see what your readers and visitors are responding to most.

The more data you have to work with, the better you’ll be able to predict and create content that brings you tangible results.

It helps you publish quality content consistently

Succeeding with content marketing requires a consistent publishing schedule. You need to have your articles mapped out and a clear direction as to where you’re heading.

Publishing content isn’t about volume alone, but instead covering every topic you want to highlight in-depth. Instead of publishing one-off content pieces whenever you feel like it, you’ll be able to publish a steady flow of content.

This provides feedback into other goals as well, such as giving you more data to work with when refining your strategy.

To make things simple, don’t start writing until you have a content marketing strategy in place.

Good news for you, you’re just about to learn how.

How to Develop a Content Strategy

These are the steps to follow to create a content strategy:

  1. Set your business goals
  2. Define your target audience
  3. Research your audience content needs
  4. Identify what’s working for competitors
  5. Run a website content audit
  6. Develop a content marketing plan
  7. Create the best content possible
  8. Optimize your content for the web
  9. Publish and promote your content
  10. Measure the effectiveness of your content strategy

1. Set your business goals

Content marketing can be very effective, but it’ll be hard to generate an ROI if you don’t have goals you can aim towards.

Without creating tangible and achievable goals it’ll be near impossible to determine if your content is hitting the mark.

Here are some common goals that you can model your strategy after:

  • Improve brand awareness
  • Grow the number of leads
  • Improve overall revenue
  • Increase organic traffic

We can also take these a step further and tie them to trackable metrics like:

  • Get 25 brand mentions/links from websites with a DA of 50+
  • Increase email subscribers by 200%
  • Grow organic traffic to 100,000 visitors per month in 6 months

The more you can quantify your goals the easier you’ll be able to see if you’re on track.

2. Define your target audience

audience personas
Learn as much as you can about your audience

Who are you targeting with your content? And no, anyone who has an internet connection isn’t narrow enough.

Your audience will not only dictate what you write about, but how you write, and how you promote your content.

Get this step wrong and you’ll be publishing content to nothing but crickets.

When narrowing down on your audience you’ll want to define their lifestyle, problems, needs, and concerns.

Depending on your business, you might be speaking to multiple different buyer personas, as well as people who are at different parts of the customer lifecycle.

Keep in mind that your audience isn’t wholly made up of buyers as well. Your audience is simply the overarching group of people who are interested in your topic. This also includes followers, buyers, and advocates who not only buy but spread the word about your brand.

Here are some questions you can ask to pinpoint your target audience:

  • What’s the age, gender, and education level?
  • What’s the average income?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What problems do they have?
  • What are their goals and dreams?
  • What websites do they love?
  • What social networks do they use the most?
  • What books and magazines do they read?
  • How do they research before making a purchase?

When you’re creating content you’ll be writing directly towards these buyer personas.

3. Research your audience content needs

When you’re planning out your content it can be helpful to research what your audience is already looking for. By creating content that serves their needs you’ll cut out a ton of guesswork and ensure your readers will be interested in your content.

Here are two ways you can uncover your audience’s desires:

Keyword research

By doing keyword research you’ll be able to find keywords that can send you relevant traffic, along with hidden gems you can target and rank for quickly.

As you research you’ll start to notice trends or groups of topics that your audience is the most interested in.

By using a tool like SEMRush you can uncover valuable keywords your competitors are targeting, along with keywords worth building your content around.

Long Tail Keywords - Search Curve
Long Tail Keywords – Search Curve

User intent

This is covered in more detail below, but user intent refers to what your users are searching for when they type a keyword into Google.

The more you can closely satisfy user intent the higher your content can rank.

There are three types of searches that keywords will fall under:

  • Searchers want more information about a topic
  • Searchers are looking for a website
  • Searchers are looking to make a purchase

The quickest way you can determine user intent is by seeing what kind of content is ranking the highest in the search engines. This will help to inform the type of content you should be creating.

Resources to Learn More
Search ideas – how to use various tools to find content topic ideas for your campaigns.

4. Identify what’s working for competitors

When you’re crafting your strategy there’s no reason to go in blind. You can see what your competitors have done successfully, along with any holes in their strategy you can capitalize on.

When you’re analyzing your competitors there are a handful of questions you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • How much traffic are they getting?
  • What sources provide the most traffic?
  • What keywords are they ranking for?
  • What websites are linking to them?
  • How well is their content performing?
  • Are there any gaps in their content strategy?

The best tool for this is SEMRush. With SEMRush all you have to do is input your competitor’s URL and you’ll get information like:

competitor analysis
Use SEMRush to perform a thorough competitor analysis
  • The organic keywords that send the most traffic
  • The total number of keywords they rank for
  • The pages that send the most traffic
  • The top organic search competitors

5. Run a website content audit

To create a website content strategy that’ll succeed in 2020 and beyond you’ll want to take stock of what’s currently working. If you’ve been creating content without a plan in place, then you probably have a lot of dead content that isn’t serving your business.

How to perform a content audit
How to perform a content audit

A content audit will show you what content is serving your business and what’s holding you back.

Here are a few things you’ll want to analyze:

  • What content is performing the best
  • What content is underperforming
  • How often you’re publishing content
  • What keywords you’re currently ranking for
  • Which pages/posts have the worst onsite metrics
  • Which pages/posts are causing visitors to leave your site

The information you gain here will help you better understand how your site is performing and what kinds of content are already bringing you results.

Once you know what content is underperforming, you can either get rid of it entirely or repurpose it into something more valuable.

6. Develop a content marketing plan

By now you should have a solid understanding of the following:

  • Your existing content, how it performs, and what’s worth keeping
  • The exact target audience you’re creating content for
  • The goals you’re trying to achieve with your content strategy framework
  • The type of content you’re creating and keywords you’re targeting

Now, it’s time to put all of this together into a content marketing plan. Here are some of the elements you content marketing plan will include:

Example of a content marketing plan
Example of a content marketing plan
  • Who’s responsible for creating the content
  • What stage of the sales funnel each article will address
  • The format the content will be published
  • When the content will be published
  • The steps you’ll take to promote the content

7. Create the best content possible

This was mentioned briefly above, but you should always aim to create content that’s better than your competition. As you analyze the search results take note of how you would improve what’s currently ranking the highest.

This could be a number of factors like:

  • Writing in an easier to digest format
  • Including more media like pictures and videos
  • Adding graphics to create a better user experience
  • Creating a longer article that covers every aspect of the topic
  • And on and on

Follow E-A-T

EAT stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, and is a way that Google evaluates your credibility on a given topic. Scoring high on these metrics will help you rank higher.

Importance of Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness for Rankings.
Importance of Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness for Rankings.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • This means that you have a high level of knowledge and expertise on a given topic.
  • This means you (or your website) has a solid reputation in your space, whether that’s from users, other websites, or third-party reviews.
  • This includes things like content accuracy, legitimacy, and transparency, including contact and business information.

Create pillar pages

Pillar pages seek to be the absolute best piece of content for a given keyword or topic. Generally, these will be much longer than traditional blog posts.

There are two approaches to pillar pages. The first is creating a long, in-depth article that covers every single detail about a topic. Or, it can be a category page that links out to other relevant articles you’ve written.

Pillar Page
What is a Pillar Page

Pillar pages can give you a boost in the search engine rankings, along with uniting different categories of content across your website.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re creating pillar pages:

  1. Look for topic clusters (content that can be grouped into a category) within your existing content
  2. Combine this content into a larger post, or a category page with links to every relevant article
  3. Do keyword research to find high-traffic keywords you can target
  4. Write the absolute best article on your chosen topic/set of keywords

Utilize different content formats

Blog posts aren’t the only type of content you should be creating. Ideally, you’ll be creating multiple forms of content to cater to every member of your audience.

Content Types
Content Types

Some of your visitors will like to read, while others will prefer video, interactive content, or downloadables like a PDF.

Here’s a quick look at some of the different forms of content you can create:

  • Studies and data-backed content, written interviews, and more
  • Video content like podcasts, how-tos, webinars, and live events
  • Visual content like slideshows and infographics
  • Interactive content like quizzes and tests
  • Downloadable PDFs like eBooks, checklists, tutorials, and white papers

One way to maximize your content creation strategy is to repurpose your content. Once you’ve published an article you can:

  • Transform it into an infographic
  • Create a slideshow presentation
  • Create shareable social media graphics
  • Write a longer eBook from popular articles

8. Optimize your content for the web

Even if you have incredibly well-written content it’s going to be hard to rank if it’s not optimized correctly.

On-page SEO is usually overshadowed by off-page SEO factors. However, by getting on-page right you’re laying a solid foundation that will make all of your other SEO efforts much easier.

On-Page SEO Techniques
On-Page SEO Techniques

Here are a few key elements of proper content optimization:

  • Make your URLs short and readable, include your target keyword if possible
  • Optimize your page titles with your target keyword and a compelling headline
  • Include your target keyword within the first 100 words of body content
  • Add relevant and related keywords to your post
  • Create content that effectively answers your target keyword (usually over 2000 words)
  • Link out to authoritative resources that enhance your content
  • Interlink your content to other valuable articles you’ve written

There’s a lot more that goes into proper SEO blog writing, but the tips above will help your content rank higher and start moving in the right direction.

9. Publish and promote your content

By now you’ve accomplished a lot of the hard work of research, planning, and executing your content strategy.

But, your work isn’t done yet. Planning and content creation is only half the battle, now it’s time to promote your content.

One great way to do this is to strategically mention well-known brands within your content. Then, when you publish the post you can reach out to them via email or social, and let them know they’re mentioned in the post.

This is a great way to improve social shares and brand mentions, while providing value to influencers and authorities you’d love to connect with.

For example, in this article on the best free SEO courses, I mentioned SEMRush. They shared the post, which resulted in a huge number of social shares and likes.

Twitter Outreach Example
Twitter Outreach Example

There are a handful of other ways you can promote your content as well, for example:

  • Social media. Promote your article on any active social profiles
  • Email outreach. Reach out to blog/website owners who have linked or shared similar content in the past
  • Paid ads. Run paid ads to your published article (it helps if your article is monetized in some way)
  • Syndicate your content. Re-publish your article on relevant platforms like LinkedIn, Medium, or Quora

Each platform you use to promote your content will have its own guidelines and best practices. Over time, you’ll learn which platforms give you the best response and help you achieve your content goals.

10. Measure the effectiveness of your content strategy

The only way to create a content strategy that brings your business results is to analyze how your content is performing. This will help you determine what kind of content/topics are connecting with your audience, and what’s helping you reach your goals.

Content Marketing KPIs
Content Marketing KPIs (source feldmancreative.com)

Here are a few content KPIs to measure:

  • User engagement – This refers to how you visitors interact with your content via shares, comments, mentions from other websites
  • User behavior – This includes the number of unique visitors, bounce rate, page views, time on site, etc.
  • Organic search traffic – You’re looking for an increase in organic traffic, the number of keywords you’re ranking for, and more backlinks.
  • Conversion rate – This could be more leads, better conversion rates, more email subscribers, or more products purchased.

Keep in mind that content marketing is a long-term game and requires patience to see results.

Content Strategy Examples

There are countless examples of successful content strategies you can draw inspiration from.

Here are some of my favorite examples:

Canva

Canva Organic Reach
Canva Organic Reach

Canva is a unicorn startup that’s now valued at over $3.2 billion (link). A lot of that growth has been due to a stellar content strategy and search engine rankings. They get over 7 million visitors per month from organic rankings alone.

A big catalyst to this growth was the focus on using guest blogging as a means to grow authority from day one.

Hotjar

Hotjar Organic Reach
Hotjar Organic Reach

Hotjar is a SaaS company that specializes in heat mapping software for websites.

Even with being a smaller SaaS company, their blog brings in over 100,000 visitors per month. One of the core reasons is how detailed they go with their content.

For example, they rank for nearly every single keyword that’s related to heatmaps and tend to dominate the long-tail rankings.

Key Learnings

Creating a content marketing strategy can seem like a ton of time spent upfront, but you’ll reap the rewards from all this planning for years to come. The more effort you put into publishing and promoting quality content the more your authority, traffic, and revenue will grow.

Without a content strategy in place, you’re going to have a difficult time achieving any results with your content.

Your content strategy is something you refine over time. The more you publish, and the more experiments you run, the more data you’ll have to work with, and the better you’ll understand your audience.

Content strategy is a long-term investment.

With an effective content strategy, you can reach your target audience, while boosting traffic and revenue. When it comes to a long-term investment you’ll have a hard time finding something more valuable than a content marketing strategy.



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