Maybe you’ve been meaning to start up a blog for some time. Maybe you have a blog, but it isn’t performing the way you'd imagined it would or doesn’t reflect your brand anymore. No matter where you are in the blog-creation process, you need a strategy. A blog content strategy is how you create an online library with targeted, quality content for potential customers.
The following is a step-by-step guide on how to create a successful content strategy. It’ll also take you through the necessary steps of strategizing and content planning to craft a high-quality, effective blog. Follow these 10 steps and you can reap these rewards.
What Is a Content Strategy?
It doesn’t make sense to talk about a blog strategy without discussing an overarching marketing content strategy. After all, your blog is a vital channel for your business, but it works best when you use it in conjunction with other channels and forms of content.
Consider this content strategy example to get a better idea of what your strategy could be. Orbit Media puts out an impressive blog that regularly incorporates original research. But their blog is only a part of the web design company’s overarching content strategy. They also establish themselves as thought-leaders and how-to gurus through their YouTube videos and social media posts — which, among other things, promote new blog content.
In essence, a content strategy is a higher-level strategy for creating content that drives business goals. It’s the category that brings together:
- Content marketing objectives
- Brand identity and guide
- Target audiences, customer personas, and customer journeys
- Content distribution channels and plans
- Tactics such as search engine optimization (SEO), competitor analysis, and diversification
As content marketing becomes a mainstay of most businesses’ marketing plans, well-defined strategies also become essential. 84% of businesses in a Semrush survey have content strategies in 2020, which is up from 77% in 2019.
The Role of Your Blog in a Content Strategy
In the same survey, when asked about their most efficient tactics, businesses answered SEO more than any other tactic. They also most often chose organic search traffic as one of their key metrics to measure success.
Every piece of content on your blog should be a continual source of keywords and authoritative material, helping you to rank for the searches that are most important to you.
Regularly publishing relevant and valuable pieces of content contributes to brand awareness and customer loyalty. Aim to be your target customers' go-to for all pertinent information and advice.
Finally, your blog is different from your social accounts, your videos, or your lead-generating ebooks — but that doesn’t mean you should isolate it in your content strategy. Use other channels to promote new posts, and include links in your blog posts to the other channels where they can follow you.
How to Create a Blog Content Strategy
So now that we've discussed what, it’s time to move on to how. The following 10 steps lead to content strategy marketing success in the blogosphere. They’ll let you move forward with confidence.
1. Define Content Marketing Goals
It’s hard to achieve content goals that you haven’t defined. What exactly do you want your blog to accomplish?
Common goals include:
- Attracting more traffic to a website
- Generating more quality leads
- Improving brand reputation
- Improving customer engagement and loyalty
- Promoting new products
You can have a primary goal and secondary goals, but don’t stretch yourself too thin. Figure out what matters most to you.
Once you’ve articulated a general objective, make it measurable by tying it to key metrics. For example, if traffic is your main goal, you’ll want to look at both the total number of sessions and the number of organic searches that brought visitors in. Or, if you're most interested in engagement, look at the time on page, comments, and social shares.
Now, set a specific number to hit within a given time frame. Be ambitious but realistic.
2. Determine Blog Direction
In its ideal form, your blog will become a regular destination for people interested in your area of expertise. You’ll grow your customer base and become an authority that Google trusts enough to keep sending people your way.
The key to reaching that level is a strong and consistent direction that matches both the needs of your target audience and the value that your company provides. For example, a content-writing service might develop a library of material focused on content creation and digital marketing.
In general, your focus should be large enough to support a large amount of content, but narrow enough that your blog will feel cohesive, not scattered. You can also develop series or topic-specific blogs under a larger umbrella.
If you need inspiration, check out the Content Marketing Awards. Every year, it honors the best blogs, other channels, and individual pieces that came out during the year.
For example, last year, it recognized Mass Mutual's corporate blog. It attributed the blog's success to its consistency in making relevant posts that were personally compelling to its readers. If you have a corporate blog — or, really, any type of blog — you could look through your planned articles and see how you could add a personal element to connect with your readers, too.
3. Take an Inventory of Your Content
Whenever you can, build on success. What content is already working well for you? Perform a content audit of your website, including landing pages, posts, forms, and downloadable material.
Where do your customers spend the bulk of their time on your website? What blog categories generate the most traffic, leads, or highest conversion rates? Do your readers perform short or long-form content? What types of content are most effective? This is all information you can get from a well-done audit.
Examine off-website content as well, such as videos or podcasts that you host elsewhere. Even social posts that get unusually high levels of engagement can provide important information.
A comprehensive content inventory helps you produce a blog content strategy and plan that includes more of the pieces your customers love and addresses any gaps or shortcomings.
You’ll also be able to take advantage of recycling opportunities. Repurposing content is a wonderful way to save time and get more out of high-performing material.
4. Research Competitors
After you’ve taken a good, hard look at your own content, it’s time to look at your competitors'. To perform a competitive blog analysis, you’ll need to:
- Identify your competitors. Remember that, in terms of valuable content, your competitors are not only the businesses competing with you for market share but also other similar blogs competing for your audience share.
- Perform qualitative analysis. What are the major strengths and weaknesses you see in their blog? What threats might it pose to your own readership numbers, and what opportunities have they left you? How interesting, how detailed, and how well researched are their posts?
- Perform quantitative analysis. What are their numbers? What’s their SEO strategy, site traffic, and number of shares? How often do they post, and what’s the average length of a post?
This final step can sound like the trickiest, but there are many tools you can use to get the data on your competitors.
Different content strategies suit and shape different brands. For example, look at two major players in fitness apps, Zwift and Peloton. Both of their blogs feature personal success stories and promote new features in their apps. But the layout, style, and category distribution of the blogs suggest the differences in their brands.
Zwift aims to build an international community of amateur and elite athletes. Peloton wants to be a hub of fitness and wellness content that mainly targets a wealthier clientele. However, they can still learn a lot from each other.
If Zwift wanted to claim some of the traffic that usually goes Peloton’s way, it might try to produce more informational articles on health topics. And if Peloton admires Zwift’s engagement numbers, it might try to adapt Zwift’s coverage of promotional events to fit its brand.
5. Brainstorm Topics
Numbers five and six on this list play into one another but start by brainstorming relevant topics for your blog. Create a list of content ideas that appeal to your ideal customer.
Divide your main focus into several categories that you can use to organize subtopics. Refer to your content inventory to see which areas already have a healthy number of posts and which don’t. Remember that minor tweaks to old pieces might help give your back catalog more direction.
Then, come up with as many blog topics as you can for each category. Cast your net wide at this stage. It’s better to have a slightly bloated list to trim than to ever be unsure of your topic when you start to write your posts.
As you come up with topics, try to include some of the most popular types of blog posts:
- How-to’s and tutorials
- Case studies
- Trends and predictions
- Long-form guides
Depending on your brand and industry, you might gravitate more towards a certain type of content. Your blog content strategy should incorporate a few different types of articles.
6. Research Relevant Keywords
If organic traffic is one of your content strategy goals, use keyword tools to find related search terms you can target. Research both evergreen and seed keywords. Make sure to note the search intent of the keywords to guide your content strategy. Also, see what blog posts you already have that are doing well in search rankings. It's effective to optimize your current content while creating new posts.
While you can pay for more advanced SEO research tools, you can get a lot out of Google’s free tools, Google Trends, and Google Ads Keyword Planner. Google Trends shows you what a particular market is searching for. The Keyword Planner puts together detailed lists of closely related words and phrases — and it gives you a sense of how hard it will be to target for them.
Target keywords that are within reach — often longer, more specific phrases with a lower search volume. Go after more competitive keywords only when you’re already close to the first page.
As you find keywords, brainstorm blog topics that feature them.
7. Create a Blog Style Guide
Don’t neglect style when you create your blog content strategy. Your blog should represent your brand, building it up in a chosen direction.
Make it easy for writers to be consistent — whether your blog is written by one person or many. Outline important elements of the format, voice, and audience. Some things you should include are:
- What perspective should bloggers use? Should pieces be written from the perspective of the writer (I), brand (we), or the general/universal (you)?
- What sort of tone do you want your content to strike? What responses should pieces elicit from their readers?
- What’s the voice and persona of your brand? Do you want to sound professional, quirky, fresh, relatable, etc.?
- Who’s your target audience? What kind of prior knowledge and reading ability do they have?
- How should bloggers format pieces? Should they include pictures or a minimum number of headings?
- How much research should a post reflect? How many citations should it have, and in what format?
Blogging is a lot of work. Making a style guide gives you the ability to spread out that labor without compromising your blog's integrity or quality.
8. Develop a Content Plan
Now that you have goals, a direction, and blog post ideas, it’s time for content planning. In other words, you have the what and why of blog strategy. It’s time to add who, where, and when.
If you’re running things on your own, the answer is you. You will be doing all the labor of writing, distributing, and promoting the blog. If you have a team, clearly identify who will be responsible for what task, and how often they need to do it.
You also need to decide if you want to write all of the content in-house or if you want to outsource to a service or independent freelancers.
Where will you publish your blog? Solely on your website? On LinkedIn? On a third-party platform like Tumblr?
You also need to consider where and how you want to promote your blog.
When do you want to post which content?
To meet your goals, you’ll need a schedule in which you regularly publish new content. Start with high-priority pieces, either because they hit valuable keywords or because they address a demonstrated need of your current customer base.
You can draw up your schedule with a spreadsheet or content calendar app, but there are also several free editorial calendar templates that you can use to refine your content plan.
Or pay someone else to write posts. It’s time to put your blog content strategy to the test.
If you want to improve your quality of writing, the best way to do it is to keep doing it. But, if you want to get better faster, it can also help to find a few blogs that you like reading and break down what you think they've done well or what hasn't worked for them.
Comments from readers can also be a great source of criticism — although you will need to learn to filter out just the constructive feedback. Over time, if certain commenters pop up more often, these are generally good people to listen to if you want an idea of what your core audience thinks of your writing.
10. Review, Refresh, and Revise
Your strategy shouldn’t be static. It will evolve as your business and industry do. You’ll have to respond to new trends, threats, and opportunities.
You also need to make sure that your strategy yields the results you want. For example, if new content doesn’t produce new traffic, your strategy may be flawed. Are your objectives realistic? Did you choose your keywords well?
If your strategy still seems sound, your execution is the next to consider. Look at your content. Is it high-quality and relevant? Is it SEO-optimized? Are you publicizing it enough?
Your strategy can constantly evolve or adapt to what you learn from new posts. So don't be discouraged if you aren't having as much success as you'd like — it's just more data to help guide your strategy.
Start Creating Your Blog Content Strategy
Stop the scattershot approach to blog creation and start designing a more effective system. Your blog is a critical part of your content marketing efforts, and you now know how to create an effective content strategy that makes the most of it.
So start at the beginning. What do you want to accomplish through your blog? Give yourself an objective, and be ready to work hard to meet it.