I want to guide you through the same steps that resulted in 700% organic growth in 12 months –
The same strategy resulted in a 350% increase over six months.
Let’s take it back a few steps before we jump into the good stuff.
“We have 50 posts on the site and we might as well have nothing when you look at what’s converting…”
If you’ve followed the majority of advice out there, eventually you’ll realise just creating content isn’t marketing content.
There’s a lot of discussion around content marketing. Most of it is wrong. It’s primarily based on content creation and has been mislabelled. What we’re seeing is a vast increase in spending and budget behind content creation but a chasm when it comes to content marketing strategy.
If you’re going to spend any time or money on your blog. You NEED to have a content strategy.
This isn’t for everyone. This isn’t for businesses that just want to have a blog. Or are overloading their junior marketers with writing the white papers, sales pages, newsletters, and social posts.
(Junior marketers, I got you, I’ve been there. It gets better).
This is for the business that wants to grow a blog to become one of their biggest income generators.
The 8 Steps to a Great Content Marketing Strategy
The content on your site is only as good as the strategy behind it. If we’re talking about content like a mini product, and we should be, why aren’t you putting your content to market?
If there is no feedback loop, how can you know if what you’re creating is getting better? Or resonating stronger with your customers?
Here are the main questions you need to be asking and answering whilst thinking about your content. They are the essence of a great content marketing strategy and fundamental to seeing a return on your company’s investment in content creation.
- Who Are You Creating Content For?
- What Are You Going To Create For Them?
- How Often?
- How Are You Going To Drive Traffic To Your Content?
- What Does All This Do To Support The Business?
- How Do We Report All Of This?
- What Else?
- Our Favourite Tools
There is a lot here. So we’re going to dive into each step one at a time.
1. Who Are You Creating Content For?
Ok, let’s talk people. Because random names of “persona’s” just don’t cut it anymore.
You should know who you’re writing for. Almost as if you were them. Creepy right? Debatably so.
We must create content for real people. The easiest way to do this is to jump on over to LinkedIn and pull up the profile of someone you’d love to be your customer. By this point, you’ve already had to make a few decisions.
Who do they work for?
What position do they hold?
How long have they been in the business?
With the profile still open, what’s the first problem you think this person is having? If you instantly thought of a pain that your product solves. Wrong. Think again. Step into their shoes. What problems do they have?
Instead of guessing, you could just add them and ask.
It’s important to really do the work here and understand this person. Without writing a whole guide on reader/customer research myself, here are a few of my favourites on the web to help you get started.
- Content Marketing Personas – The Animalz blog is incredible and makes me want to quit every time I read it.
Remember, though, it’s easy to get tied up in sessions and pageviews and large search volumes,
The ideal reader is the one who buys your stuff.
Identify who that person is, scale that, and you’ll never have an MQLs problem ever again.
2. What Are You Going To Create For Them?
We have our eyes, our users. What do we want to put in front of them?
Notice how I didn’t say “What are we going to write for them?”
Content doesn’t have to be just the written word. It can be video, it can be pictures (think of all the business doing +6 figures just though insta, sickening right?) or it can be written. Or any combination of creating value and placing it in front of your audience.
But understanding this step brings you closer to understanding your audience.
We’re going to stick with long-form written content because it’s what we do and it’s also where I think you can create the most value for the longest time.
Written content length is something that has been highly debated for a long time. This blog says you should write over 1200 words. That guru says 1900 is the sweet spot. There are a lot of rights and wrongs in all of this but you should have an idea of how long the content you’re going to produce is.
Is it interviews with industry experts? 2200 words? Short tutorials on common issues you know your customer is having?
This outline of the content types you’re going to create is the same as the brand guidelines for the colours you use and what you can and can’t do with your logo. Think of them as the asset guidelines. They’re nowhere near as strict as brand guidelines but they do convey the message of the company and the kind of value people can expect from you.
Your content strategy should cover the main three touchpoints of the search sales funnel –
- Top of the Funnel – Use keywords to address a high level topic/question and use this as an opportunity to introduce the reader to your brand.
Notice how I didn’t say product, or sell them on your service? This is where most sites go very wrong and try to jump in bed with a customer they only just met.
- Middle of the Funnel – Using a combination of mostly keyword research with a little sales and support sprinkled on top to tie the service you offer to the solution for the problem/question being searched.
- Bottom of the Funnel – Using mostly sales and support feedback to write directly about your product or service. Think landing pages, direct product pages. It’s nice to try and rank these pages, but you’ll find the search volume is usually pretty low and you’re better off nurturing the customer, leading them toward these pages.
3. How Often?
The question of how often are you creating content is really a question of resource allocation. How much time can your team give to writing blogs, or how much share of the budget can you give to getting the content written for you?
Not the question being asked, but an important one nonetheless. Let’s answer the actual question.
I wouldn’t say jump in at the deep end from the beginning. At least not straight away. Ramp it up. We’ll think of it in stages.
4 blogs a month (once a week) 1 whitepaper per month
2 blogs a week
2 whitepapers a month
3-4 blogs a week, nearing on one a day here
1 major guide/whitepaper a week
Stage “How deep end did you want to go?”
2 blogs a day
2-3 whitepapers a week.
This is for insane growth, but at a pretty insane budget to go with it.
I’m looking at you happiestbaby.co.uk. I see your 631 blog posts in the last 18 months (at the time of writing). That’s some ridiculous growth. I’d love to talk about it 😀
There’s no right or wrong here. I’d always prefer you create one piece of content a month with legitimate value to your audience than one 400word long post a day but I’d get more value reading the back of a cereal box. 🥣
4. How Are You Going To Drive Traffic To Your Content?
This is my favourite part because it’s just a long way of saying, how are you gonna rank it? Let’s talk growth.
Let’s talk about compounding growth.
Let’s talk SEO.
As much as I love content, writing content, and consuming content (anyone else with 100+ articles on the new reading list feature on Chrome?), my passion is organic – specifically ranking it. Mostly down to this reason –
It hits all the pointers of the golden rule of content marketing – compounding growth, keeps working once you’ve done it, makes sales in your sleep 🛏
The main other channel is email, which we’ll cover in a second.
Organic Search (SEO)
In my opinion, you should be considering search from before the site is even live. It should be a consideration of how the site is built. How the pages link together. Even what you have in nav bar, footer, home page. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
If you’re writing content search should be a major consideration before the content is written, when it’s being written and every day after the content is published. It never stops because people will always be taking their problems and concerns to the almighty G man in the sky – Google.
I have a whole framework of how SEO impacts your site and your content so I’m not going to re-write the whole thing, you can find it over here. For now here are a few things to be musing over:
- Technical SEO – Yeah, technically we’re doing SEO. What does this actually mean? It’s to do with how Google even finds your site in the first place. Can’t rank if you’re not in the pool of options to be chosen. Think about site structure, go take a look into canonical links (looking at you shopify people) and do a “site:mywebsite.co” search every now and then. Take a look at what pages Google is indexing.
- Thin Content – Think about what valuable means to you when we’re talking content. Is it some behemoth post, covering a lot of smaller topics? *cough cough this one cough*, or a post that takes one topic and splits it apart, explaining every step of the way? Or it is 500 words telling you what kind of bread you are?
Take a look at the content on your site. How long is it? Does it actually teach you anything? Did you work out what kind of bread you are?
- Internal Linking – Go and take a look at some really big websites, click around the blog and see where on their own site they link to. Take note of what pages link to each other, where in the content are they linking to and from?
What text do you need to click to move from one page to the other? These things all matter.
For a master class in this, check out Wikipedia – see how they all link to each other.
There’s so much when it comes to organic ranking factors. This is barely scratching the surface. You want to be looking at these factors and adapting your content strategy around them.
Ideally, the long term play is to take what matters and build it into the content production process itself. There’s a whole post on how pretty much everyone get’s this wrong – No One Cares About Your Blog.
We’re building content to get more eyeballs and users on the site. From what we’ve already figured out new content is mostly built for the ToFu and MoFu parts of the cycle. What can we do to help lubricate that funnel?
Email! Email is where we have total control of everything we put in front of those that sign up. It can be segmented based on interest. Automated based on where they are in the cycle. You can sell unapologetically in your email cycle to people you know are ready based on what emails they’re getting.
It’s amazing. One of the main reasons you should be building content is to get people to sign up to your newsletter and further emails. Talking about newsletters, what are the types of emails you can and should be sending to your list?
- The weekly/monthly, the regular update. Call it a newsletter, the inside scoop, the exclusive tips and tricks list. This is your regular broadcast of offering value.
- Product Updates. If you’re a SaaS company your email list is one of the best places to be testing new product features as most likely they already love your product and will give you the most honest feedback. There is also the opportunity to educate this list to all the different features you offer in providing nuanced solutions.
- The 5-day email course. If there was ever a way to almost guarantee email sign-ups on Top of Funnel content it’s the email course. Take a process you can educate on and provide a comprehensive step by step solution in the form of individual lessons over a 3-5 days email course.
On top of the variety you get with email, I want to quickly touch on automations. One of the absolute best parts of email is setting up automations, emails sent out, without you, based on time, or emails sent before, or if someone has clicked something on your site or other emails.
- Content upgrade or HSO (hyper-specific offer) video downloads. Instead of just giving out a link, swap an email address for further info they’re likely to be interested in.
- Welcome series of emails – If someone joins any list and they’re new, how are you going to welcome them to the content?
- Now we have a few people on the list, how are we going to continue to provide value to them? How are you going to keep them engaged?
- The sales sequence? Now, this could be from anywhere on the site. How to turn those eyeballs, those clicks, those people into sales. This is one of the most essential sequences on the site by far.
- And the last in this list, but not least. The re-engage or remove sequence. The health of the list is massively important, so we want to make sure anyone on the list is an asset to the list. This sequence is designed to get people back in the circle or remove the dead weight entirely.
5. What does all this do to support the business?
Traffic is great. Subscribers are even better. But you wanna know what’s even more significant than this?
Money. Dollar dollar baby. 💸
Traffic costs money. Getting subscribers costs money. The only thing that doesn’t cost money in this whole strategy is paying customers. They literally do the opposite.
There are hundred, neigh, thousands. There are tens of thousands of great, unique, life-changing blogs that make no money. They are at best an accounted for overhead and at worst a considerable time and money sink for the business.
So it’s hopefully no one’s surprise that a content strategy should include, NEEDS to have monetisation. There is an end goal here and unfortunately just writing content ain’t it.
Here are 4 things we cannot overstate enough of their importance to the grand scheming that is content marketing.
You have to assume people have no idea you exist
It’s not enough to just have the content on the site. People won’t click. You NEED to tell them there is software, a service, a course, a solution THAT YOU OFFER behind what they’re reading.
Put yourself in the shoes of the reader for a moment. Now, apart from the weird concept of wearing someone else’s shoes, what’s going on?
Instagram this. Twitter that. Send an email there. Go to the meeting here. HOW MANY tabs does this person have open?
Stop thinking about it. It’s ok. You’re back at your own pc. OMG, how many tabs do I have open?
The point is, these people are b u s y.
It’s on you to make it abundantly clear that you exist. They’re on a SaaS product site. Here’s how –
- Chatbots? Using something like ManyChat or Intercom will give you an automated chance to ask questions to your readers whilst they’re on the site.
Here’s a great question to ask “If you could wave a magic wand, what’s the first thing you’d fix about your WE SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?”
Here’s another – “What’s something you’d like to see us write more about?”
- Keep your blog in a subfolder on the site. There are a number of hard-hitting points when it comes to the SEO benefit of this, but more from a branding side of things this is important. It makes it easier to just go to the homepage. The name of that company is there first, so it’s helpful for branding.
There are a lot of people who would say “don’t put your blog on Medium”, and I’d agree – there’s a blog about it over here where I went into depth about this.
- Correct attribution of job titles on blog posts. It’s looks way more professional to have “Tom – Head of Front End Development” have write your posts on why UI/UX is pivotal to long term customer retention and happiness than it is to have “Maybel – freelance Twitter writer for hire”. Author bios, their links, socials etc – They go a long way in showcasing the people behind the content and the company too.
- Don’t be afraid to sell, but in the right places. The content of every post shouldn’t be a long form sales pages, or in some cases – short form and entirely the wrong offer temperature.
You can offer straight-up value without asking for anything in return, AND have testimonials, social proof on the same page.
- Use HSO’s, Hyper Specific Offers. If your blog post is about the state of search online and why it needs to be changed show me a call to action about the 10 ways Google has influenced how we use the internet.
Here’s a few more for you
Blog Post – Why it’s so difficult for people to save money.
HSO – £10 now, £10k later. How compounding interest works.
Blog Post – Rubik’s cube speed solve timeline.
HSO – Advanced techniques to solve the cube in under 2 mins.
Blog Post – How to shoot great photos on a budget.
HSO – The 5 things to upgrade first as you get more serious about photography.
It’s not enough to just read the blog – The capture is where it’s at
I learnt this from Sabri Suby (total genius btw), audience temperature. Pretty much every company to one extent or another gets this wrong or very wrong.
The vast majority of people won’t buy from you straight away. 1% of readers are in a position where your offer is exactly what they’re looking for, they know it AND they have the funds to purchase it. This happens when a hot audience meets a hot offer. They are intimately familiar with the problem they have and can instantly recognise when someone else knows the issue and can solve it.
The more expensive the solution, the rarer this situation is.
Does this mean that 99% of readers are a lost cause? Yes if your site isn’t set up to take advantage of colder audience temperatures. Most aren’t. This is due to the person writing having a huge case of “not knowing what it’s like to not know”. All this aside, what can we do about it?
Email captures. You need to establish an ongoing relationship with the reader to help them understand their own situation, the problems associated and how you can help them out of this. Search hero’s journey if you want to understand a great organic sales journey.
By capturing an email address we can solve another problem. Content attribution. It’s pretty difficult to measure the success of a piece of content if 99% of readers don’t convert to the MAIN BIG SCARY OFFER, but what about a smaller, simpler offer. An offer that’s your friend.
High-level thoughts over, here are some things to consider to make capturing email addresses easier
- Like we spoke about before – HSO’s or content upgrades. How can you offer even more value in exchange for an email address?
- The tried and tested email newsletter. Keeping people up to date with the blog content, extras they may find interesting, product updates and industry news.
- A free course instead of a newsletter. TBH my favourite. There are very few newsletters I actually enjoy reading. Most newsletters I sign up to don’t make it past 3 months. But a course, kinda hits different. 5 emails sent straight to me? Designed to help solve a problem I’m having? In bite-size lessons so I can learn them in 5-15 mins each day? Are we best friends? That’s how you build a relationship.
Everyone onboard with attribution
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Content marketing is a total shit to measure sometimes. OK, Most of the time. It’s a much picked on pain point of management and often the source of disagreements and arguments.
The main source of this contention comes from people not agreeing on what to measure.
What does success look like?
There’s no one size fits all here, so let’s look at a few options and you can work out what works for you.
- Clicks from SERPs to content, content to email sign ups, email to newsletter or course, conversions from there.
Break down each step, one by one and measure the job done to move the user to the next step ONLY. Not clicks to product conversion.
- Look at the site behaviour as a whole. What are people doing on the site? How long do they stick around? Where do they click from and to?
- How many emails are you capturing? What posts convert the best? Does it make sense to send people to that content from other blogs?
Trying to mush a load of data together to prove success isn’t the right way of going about things. Get everyone on board first with what success looks like and measure accordingly.
No one leaves unwelcomed
Talk to everyone on your list. Again. Maybe try a third or seventh time. Follow up with everyone. Have a plan, an automation, a list, a process. Anything to speak to these people on multiple occasions.
A sales team to reach out. A drip email sequence to nurture the leads. A re-engage or remove sequence.
With automation tools, this process isn’t the massive hassle it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked.
Putting these processes in place can mean the difference between a sale and people leaving the party because you didn’t say hi.
Remember – most sales happen on the 7th or later touchpoint.
6. How Do We Report All Of This?
How do we take this abstract concept that is content marketing and turn it into data? Numbers we can measure and monitor and ultimately improve. Scale. Some kind of report seems most likely.
As someone who loves data and using it to back up decisions and long term plays, I love a good report. But they are time-consuming. So automation of the key points here is huge for us.
What do we even want to measure?
I’ll get the main SEO ones out of the way. One because I know them the best (SEO is life after all) and two, they are some of the easiest ones to measure with the right tools.
Keyword rankings, organic clicks, monthly traffic. Google Analytics goal conversions.
Success could be the amount of new content going on the blog each month. Or quality links built to the site. Email signups.
Make it easy to see the numbers that support your team’s win at a glance. Are the tactics/sprints you’re using contributing to long term, measurable success?
I already touched on the hurdles when it comes to de-facto bottom line changes from content marketing so tracking lead indicators, ones you know will make a difference given enough time, is the plan to prove the success of your team.
Continued improvement in the following almost always produces more sales and revenue
- Total ranking keywords.
- Target keywords ranking.
- Total backlinks and referring domains.
- Month-on-month traffic growth.
- Month-on-month organic traffic growth.
7. What Else?
What else? As if there isn’t enough here already to cause intense information fatigue. 🤯
My main ‘what else’ would be putting these questions, concepts and thoughts into action. Sitting and thinking about it over and over won’t get you any closer to the holy grail of recurring income whilst your sleep.
So, where to start?
Start with talking to your audience. Step One in this whole article. Suppose two people have a similar problem. Write about that problem. Talk about the fixes for that problem.
If you’re wondering how to talk about a problem and turn it into an article, look no further than this article here on our trademark Response Template. Turning almost any question into +1200 words for your to put on your blog.
Turn (almost) any question in to +1200 words of easy to write content.
If you’re wondering about what day one of content marketing looks like for you, and what questions you should be tackling on the first day, we’ve got you covered again, my friend.
Content Marketing: Day One, Step One.
Jumping straight in? Here’s day one, step one of your content marketing strategy.
If you’re in a position where you’ve got content on your site, but it’s not pulling in traffic, then you’ll want to consider removing content, or linking it together better.
8. Our Favourite Tools
This is just a small amount of the tools we use on a daily basis. If you want the full list, hit me up and I’ll get a post put together.
This is mostly a shortlist of the tools we need to get the job done well and properly.
- Ahrefs. I live in Ahrefs. It’s my ‘new tab’ page in Chrome. I’m unsure I could do my job without Ahrefs. Also the blog is incredible.
- Screaming Frog. It’s just the best imo. I love it. Learn how to use this and you’re lightyears ahead of most others in content marketing.
- If you’re not using Screaming Frog, you’re likely using Sitebulb. Great software. Lovely visuals that come with it too.
- Site speed – GTMetrix
- Surfer* So much of my time is spent in SurferSEO. It’s amazing. Clients hit featured snippets with this
- Jasper.ai – It might come as a surprise we use an AI writing software. It doesn’t do the finished piece, but if you know how to use it to collate research and ideas. It’s amazing. You want 25 header ideas in <2 seconds. This is where you go.
Off-Page and backlinks
- Ahrefs. Still one of the best places to get your data from. Both for finding great places to reach out to, and reporting backlinks.
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
- Google Sheets/All the Google docs
- Data Studio
- My good friends over at Ranktracker.
Day to day, just makes the cogs spin tools.
- Coda – I have built out the entire backend business support system, internal tools, external tools, client portals, reports in Coda. It’s insane. For anyone running a business/department, it will pay off time and time again to get your ass on Coda.
*This is an affiliate link. Would I really be a content marketer if I wasn’t trying to monetize my content? 🤔