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8 Elements Of A Successful Content Strategy

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8 Elements Of A Successful Content Strategy

When it comes to content marketing, everything you do needs to be part of a larger strategy designed to achieve specific targets.

More sales, more leads, more page views – whatever it is, you need a clear, well-thought-out, and defined plan. You need a content strategy.

Here’s a look at what that needs to include.

What Is A Content Strategy?

As you probably guessed, a content strategy is a specific set of tactics used in the development and management of content.

It uses various forms of media, including blogs, videos, podcasts, and/or social media posts to achieve specific business ends.

It’s not the same thing as content marketing, but it is your content marketing master plan.

What Are The Anatomical Elements Of A Content Strategy?

Like a marketing octopus, there are eight important appendages to a good marketing strategy.

Let’s run through them in the order you should create them.

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1. Goals

A successful content marketing plan always begins with clearly stated goals. This is a stage many people skip, to their own detriment.

Different types of marketing tactics work to achieve different goals, most of which probably corresponds with a step in your sales funnel.

Some of the more common goals are building brand awareness, increasing traffic, growing an email list, generating new leads, converting new customers, improving customer retention, and upselling.

The goal you decide on will determine the type of content and channel for each marketing tactic.

It’s perfectly acceptable to have multiple goals; however, understand that not all content will work for every objective.

Remember, a jack of all trades is a master of none. It’s better to have more specialized content.

 2. Research

Every tactic in your content strategy should be backed by research to justify it. And putting in the work here will save you lots of headaches down the road.

Start by looking into your target audience. What are their demographics? What are their pain points? How can you help?

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There are a number of ways to find this information, including mining digital data, sending out surveys, and interviewing customers.

Next, apply this knowledge to your current content and identify where it hits the mark, where it could be stronger, and where it missed completely.

Do keyword research, and identify which phrases you’re ranking highly for and which need work. Be sure to note search intent, volume, and relevancy.

Investigate what your competition is doing. What seems to be working?

For digital marketing purposes, identify which keywords they’re ranking for, who is linking to them, and their social media presence.

3. Targeted Topics

By this point, you should have begun compiling a list of potential ideas and messages you want to share.

Identify which topics are most important to each piece of your strategy and how your new content will help achieve your goal.

To evaluate a topic, determine how it will fit with your organizational goals.

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For example, if you’re a camping supplies company seeking to educate consumers about your brand, a blog post on the Top 5 Campfire-Building Mistakes, could draw in curious web searchers.

This will give them familiarity with your brand, though it’s unlikely to sell many sleeping bags. For that, a banner ad with a discount code may be more useful.

Try to approach every topic from new angles.

If you can find a new way of framing things, you’ll stand out in a marketplace crowded with retreads of the same idea. Get as specific as you can without limiting your creativity.

4. Editorial Calendar

Now, it’s time to identify when you should publish each piece of content.

Some things have clearly defined seasons. For example, no one is buying a Christmas tree in June, but it’s a huge market in December. Others are more loosely defined (e.g., people need new cars year-round).

Figure out the best time to drop each piece of content, as well as a cadence for how often you’ll release new content. This will vary based on your audience and platform, so there are no hard and fast rules.

Be aware that regularly producing and publishing content takes a lot of work. If you don’t have a content calendar to keep everything on track, it’s easy to fall behind.

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You should always be working a few months ahead, so you have things in the pipeline ready to go. This gives you more flexibility in case a new opportunity or emergency pops up, as well as minimizes the stress of content creation.

5. Editorial Guidelines

What does your company sound like? Is it professional? Welcoming? Knowledgeable? Funny? Figure out the voice of your organization.

Write down a document explaining it, and distribute it among your content creators, whether they’re in-house or freelancers. This will create a sense of consistency across all pieces of content and all channels.

In this same document, you should outline formatting requirements, including punctuation, heading styles, and style (e.g., AP style). If you’re including visual aspects, make sure you clearly define brand colors, fonts, and logo usage.

Even if they have completely different objectives and distribution, every piece should have a clear relationship with the next.

6. Distribution Channels

You’ve got your content goals, topics and calendar laid out; now, it’s time to decide where you’ll use it.

Identify the platforms you’ll use to tell your story and your processes and objectives for each one.

Where the content will live will often have an impact on its format and cadence, but your goal is to present a consistent brand narrative across all channels.

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By outlining your distribution channels, you’re identifying the best platform for each piece of content.

Look for opportunities to cross-post. There’s no reason you can’t share the infographic from your blog on Instagram. That gives you twice the exposure with the same amount of work.

7. Analytics

Just because you have the content created and distributed doesn’t mean you can sit on your laurels.

Now, it’s time to evaluate it and see what’s working, and just as importantly, what’s not. It’s time to dive into the analytics.

You’re not just looking at the numbers of shares, clicks, or purchases through your website; you’re looking for the “why?” You’re trying to understand what made content succeed as other pieces failed.

Did it work well on one channel, but fail on another? Why did that happen? Is it a different audience or just a lack of exposure?

Google Analytics can be extremely helpful during this step.

8. Key Performance Indicators

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous step; while analyzing content performance, you should find key performance indicators (KPIs) to back it up.

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Again, what you measure will depend on the goal.

Some KPIs you might consider are organic web traffic, sales opportunities generated, keyword ranking changes, social shares and engagement, inbound links, and cost-per-lead.

Plan To Succeed

It has been said that even a bad plan is better than no plan at all, so imagine the great results you’ll generate with your strong new content strategy.

Creating this strategy requires some work, but even the simplest organizations, with the smallest marketing budgets, will benefit from using one. And it’s an absolute must for marketing departments with any type of complexity.

Follow the steps listed here, and you’ll create a well-thought-out content strategy that will help you reach your goals.


Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.

The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:

  • Visualization
  • Personalization
  • Sustainability

After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.

The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).

The Struggle With Images

Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.

Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.

Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:

  • How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?

Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.

More Uses Cases, Please

Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.

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The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.

Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.

Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.

The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.

  • 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
  • Focus less on verticals
  • Provide more use cases

Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.

Google Product Managers Weigh In

The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:

  • It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?

Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:

  • Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
  • For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page

However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.

Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.

Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?

The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.

Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.

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Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.

Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.

Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.

The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.

Closing Thoughts

Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.

However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.

Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.

A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.

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Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M

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