Before you start producing content for your website, you should be able to answer the question “why?”—that is, “why do you want to start a content marketing program?” You should also be able to explain how you’re going to produce your content, where you’re going to put it, and what your ultimate goals are.
Like all new marketing programs, it is crucial to create a strategy and set some expectations for your content marketing before you start. Additionally, you should do an analysis of your current marketing, your needs, and your business goals to determine how content marketing will fit in.
Start by Asking Questions
You can begin your analysis and the process of creating your strategy by asking questions about what your want to accomplish with your content marketing program. You can jot down your answers independently, or meet with your team to answer them as a group.
Here are some sample questions to ask:
- Why, specifically, do we want to start content marketing?
- How do we expect content marketing to change the way we do business online?
- What kinds of goals do we want to meet with content marketing? (ex. Google rankings, links from other websites, website traffic increase)
- What types of content do we want to produce?
- Are there any types of content our website visitors have been asking for?
- Where are we going to place this new content? (on our website, on social media...)
- Who is going to produce the content? Who will edit it? Who will publish it?
- How will the content be promoted? (ex. social media, outreach)
- After starting content marketing, what goals do we want to meet in six months? A year? Two years?
Write Down Your Goals
In the answers to the sample questions above, or to any other questions you may have come up with, look for any specific, data-driven goals that can be pulled out. Usually one or two major goals come up early during the strategy creation process, and some smaller ones may emerge as additional questions are asked.
Some sample goals may look like this (from broadest to most specific):
- Increase website traffic in 12 months
- Improve Google ranking on top 10 keywords
- Rank #1 for a specific keyword
- Increase new leads by 200% in 6 months
- Use new company blog to increase website traffic by 300% in 9 months
If you don’t have highly specific goals at this stage, don’t worry about it too much. You can develop more specific goals as time goes on and your content marketing matures. However, avoid creating a single vague goal (like “increase traffic” or “get more leads”) as this won’t set any kind of expectations for your team.
Determine Your Methods
Not every type of content will be suitable for every business, especially those just starting their own program. Additionally, budget and staff constraints may present a problem, preventing some companies from doing more than one or two things at once.
Each method of content marketing has its advantages:
- Articles are especially helpful for industries where customers are likely to search for answers to questions, ex. “what is...,” “how do I...,” “where can I...”
- Blog posts are ideal for businesses who deal with trends (ex. design, fashion, products, food) or newsworthy information
- Infographics have the potential to go viral, bringing in traffic and valuable links, making them ideal for newer businesses or those who need to get their name out there
- Guides and ebooks can be the first step to get in touch with potential customers who will need an expert’s guidance or help with solving a complex problem
- Videos can educate and entertain, and may help make some ideas seem more tangible
Think carefully about which methods you’d like to start with. You don’t have to try or stick with all of them. You may also want to think about what your customers may already be asking for – for example, have you already been asked to start a blog or provide how-to guides?
For businesses that are brand new to content marketing, and are not planning to hire a dedicated content marketer or strategist, it’s best to start small with a blog or collection of articles. However, bigger businesses can experiment with as many methods as they like, if they budget allows, just as long as they are committed to tracking the results on each method individually.
Put it All Together
So let’s say you have the following two goals:
- Increase sales by 100% in 12 months
- Improve Google rankings on top 5 keywords
And you’re committed to these two content marketing methods:
To create your strategy, put it all together. Try to ensure you have some kind of reasonable deadline in this strategy so you know when to evaluate your work. Having said that, you should be evaluating things on an ongoing basis, not just once a year.
Here’s how our sample strategy would look:
We will use articles and infographics to increase our sales by 100% or more and improve the Google rankings on our top 5 keywords within the next 12 months.
Is This Realistic?
At this point, you may wonder if your strategy is really going to work. Can starting a blog, producing a few videos, or writing some how-to guides really increase your website traffic, improve your search engine rankings, or make a difference in your sales?
Yes, content marketing really can achieve these results—however, what works for someone else may not work for you. The only way to know how successful your content marketing strategy will be is to try it. Without first testing a strategy and monitoring your website’s analytics for the results, you will never know whether or not something will or won’t work.
Something else to keep in mind is that it takes time to see results. Just as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will your website rank for your most coveted keywords the day after you write an article targeting them. High quality content needs to be consistently produced for several weeks before you can determine with some level of accuracy whether or not what you are doing will get you the results you want.
Finally, as we indicated before, content marketing is not a magic bullet. Blog posts, guides, and long-form articles on their own won’t convince a consumer to make a purchase or push someone to fill out a contact form. Even if you have the best content in the world, if the rest of your website doesn’t make a convincing argument, your content marketing program may fall short.
Our advice to you, if you’re concerned about setting realistic goals, is this:
- Aim low for the first few months—that is, aim for page 1 instead of spot #1
- Only try one type of content at a time—open a blog, wait a few months, then add articles, etc.
- Schedule check-ins that involve reviewing hard data from Google Analytics and any other tools you may use
You may want to set a more aggressive strategy after six months to a year of content marketing, once you’ve had some time to evaluate the initial results. If you find that your blog or articles are producing amazing results, great! Ramp it up and keep the momentum going. If not, it’s time to re-evaluate your methods and try something else.
Now that we’ve covered how to create your content marketing strategy, let’s move on to the research stage, which will help you determine exactly what your content will be about, and what “content gaps” you can fill.