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How To: Create A Content Strategy

By Xtensio

(This post includes a free tool.)

A strong content strategy boils down to creating the right type of content for your target audience. This comprehensive planner gives you a clear overview of your content strategy, walking you through the major elements to plan, execute, publish, and optimize your content.

Xtensio’s FREE Content Strategy Template and Editable Examples

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When it comes to content creation, there may be a number of people who work on your content: copywriters, designers, producers, analysts, SEO experts and more. One way to eliminate any confusion and streamline content creation across the marketing team is to have content strategy plan that can be seen by all the key members, aligning everyone’s objectives.

Simply put, having a strategy can help your company create better content. However much social media and blogging have become such an important part of a company, it is also important that your content isn’t just fluff. You want people to leave your content feeling as if they have found an answer to a lingering question, or have learned something that they had not known before. If your content is not helping in some way, It’s better to not contribute to the noise of useless online content.

Now it’s your turn.

Below are tips and tricks to filling in the Content Strategy Template.
Follow along on your own planner:

Content Strategy Planner

Core Goals 

The first step of developing your content strategy is to identify the goals you’re trying to reach through your content or inbound marketing efforts. These goals should be high-level, meaning they should be broad statements or generalities rather than focusing on the fine details. Establish a few goals and build your content around them. Here are some examples:

  • Drive traffic to your site via organic traffic. This means you want your content to be optimized for search engine results so that when users search for your company’s products, services, or keywords, they will find you.
  • Bring exposure to your products and services. When users come to your content to find solutions to their questions, your product or service will be forefronted to meet their needs. This exposure can potentially convert visitors into paying customers.
  • Become thought leaders in the industry. Your brand goes beyond its mere product or service; the content you produce is a huge reflection of your brand image. If you produce quality content that embodies your company’s mindset and brings value to your audience, you’ll be able to establish your company as thought leaders in the industry.
Content Strategy Planner

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

What variables will you look at to indicate the success of your content? Identify these indicators of your success in this section. This will vary depending on your product and service as well as the goals you’re trying to reach. If you’re in eCommerce, you’ll likely want to measure how much revenue you generate as a result of your content creation. If you’re a SaaS product, you might be more interested in gaining new users.

Some common KPIs include:

  • Unique or total views/impressions
  • Number of new users or customers
  • Total revenue
  • Number of newsletter sign-ups
  • Number of times your content is shared

Now translate your goals into metrics you can measure by looking at your KPIs:

  • Reach X number of views per month on blog.
  • Gain X number of new followers on social media.
  • Generate $X in revenue
  • Add X number of new opt-ins to the newsletter each month.
  • Reach X amount of shares per blog post per month.

Pro tip: Define your KPIs to align with your core business goals. Filling out the brand positioning canvas or the lean canvas can help pinpoint what your unique value is and define what goals you need to reach.

Target Audience

Who is the group of people you want reading your content? Understanding who your audience is and what they care about will help you write relevant content. What information are they seeking? What are problems are they trying to solve? Your content should directly answer these questions. Create several personas that represent specific segments of your audience and use the persona comparison template to compare and contrast. These personas not only guide your content choices but also inform the tone of your content.

Suggestions for Persona Changes:

  • Include a keyword cloud or change the trait labels into topics
  • Change Motivations to various content types such as Blogs, Podcasts
  • Change Preferred Channels to Acquisition Channels such as Search, Social, Referral, Direct, etc.

Resources:

  • Xtensio’s User Persona Creator helps you humanize your target audience and boil down the most important elements of their personality onto one page.
  • A step-by-step guide on how to fill out your persona. It’s by no means a strict guide to create your persona. Re-label sections, move sections around, adjust it however you think it will help your content creation.
Content Strategy Planner

Keywords

Ensure that your content resonates with your personas by defining keywords of topics that your audience cares about. This will guide the type of content that you create. Think of a dozen or so. By using the right keywords in your content, it will improve SEO and searchability of your content. Resources:

  • Google Analytics – find the keywords already sending traffic to your website.
  • Google Keyword Planner – determine which keywords or phrases are low-competition and high-traffic.
  • Google Trends – see how search queries compare and how they’ve changed over time.

Content Type

What kind of content does your audience consume? Again think, about your personas and their pain points. At that very moment, what type of content would they be searching for? If you’re selling a beauty product and your target audience is girls aged 14 to 21, you might want to produce video tutorials because they’re likely searching on YouTube for tips. Or maybe you’re trying to attract business professionals who prefer reading case studies in eBook formats.

Some examples include:

  • How-To Guides, Case Studies, or Portfolio Pieces
  • Opinion Pieces, Guest Posts, or Guest Blogging
  • Photos, Infographics
  • Videos, Webinars
  • eBooks or other free resources
  • Newsletters

Resources:

Quick tip: Conduct essential strategy exercises before deciding on your content type. Use the competitive analysis template or the ecosystem mapping template to analyze what your competitors are doing, what’s working and what’s not.

Content Strategy Planner

Frequency Calendar

How often will you be creating new content? Once a month? Three times a month? Think of your calendar broadly and then go into the finer details after. The template is naturally organized for you to think six months into the future. Here’s an example use case for these six months:

6 Month Theme: How Personas Can Help You Make Smarter Business Decisions

  • January Topic: Personas for Content Marketing
    • Week 1: If Your Target Audience is Everyone, You’re Marketing Wrong (Blog)
    • Week 2: How to Design a Persona Tailored for Content Marketing (Blog)
    • Week 3: The Right Content Type By Demographic (Infographic)
    • Week 4: Why Defining Your Brand Tone is Trial and Error (Blog)
  • February Topic: Personas for Startups
  • March Topic: Personas for Enterprise
  • April Topic: Personas for SEO
  • May Topic: Personas for UX Design
  • June Topic: Personas for Media Buying

For this 6 month time frame, define one overarching theme. Define a topic for each month, and create subtopics that can guide your content creation. By creating a content calendar early, you’ll always have content ideas ready that follow a natural progression. Even more important, publishing content consistently will encourage return visits. Once your audience has come to expect content from you at a certain time, it’s best to make sure the flow stays regular.

Resources:

Content Strategy Planner

Publishing Procedures

Sometimes publishing your content can be daunting — especially when you’re pushing an email newsletter to 50,000 users or posting on your Facebook page that has 200,000 likes. You will want to make sure you cover your bases and triple check for spelling errors or broken links. Better yet, create a checklist of procedures to perform before you publish your content.

Here’s a checklist to get you started:

  1. Proofread for spelling and broken links (obviously)
  2. Include a direct and compelling post title and make sure your URL matches
  3. End with a call-to-action you want your reader to perform
  4. Assign Alt Text to any image inserts (recommended for SEO)
  5. Optimize social share language and images
  6. Write a compelling meta description and title
  7. Saturate your content with the keywords mentioned in the section above

Distribution Channels

Where might you find your target audience? Every medium is different, what goes onto Instagram can’t possibly be the same as what goes on LinkedIn. Every platform has a finesse that will yield the most results for your company. Using the same example from earlier, will you find an audience of girls aged 14-21 on LinkedIn? Maybe a few. But if you’re trying to market your beauty products to this demographic, they won’t be looking for it on LinkedIn.

Lastly, do some research as to what tone and style fits each channel, then mold that into the tone and style of your company. Be prepared for trial and error.

Here are possible channels to distribute your content:

  1. Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Etc.
  2. Help Channels: Quora, Reddit, or StumbleUpon
  3. Newsletters
  4. Traditional PR
  5. Influencers
Content Strategy Planner

Trends & Analytics 

How has your content been performing? Keep a close eye on the performance of each post and keep track of any trends. Use Google Analytics or the Analytics/Insights dashboard of your social channels to review your content’s performance. Refer back to your “Core Goals” and “KPIs” from above. Deciphering your analytics data allows you to further optimize your content and perfect your strategy.

To see these trends, you’ll want to record and review changes month-to-month (or year-to-year). This way you can see if there is an explicit positive to negative trend over time. You will likely want to monitor unique vs total page views, bounce rate, and conversion rate (whether that’s purchases, sign-ups, or whatever you define as a conversion). This is by no means an exhaustive guide to uncovering key insights from your analytics — It’s on you to dig through the data and pull out useful information.

Here are some example insights you might find:

  1. There has been a 100% increase in page views from the previous month to this month.
  2. There has been a 75% increase in newsletter sign-ups from Q1 to Q2.
  3. Blog 1 has a 50% increase in shares, while Blog 2 has a 20% decline.

Optimizations & Action Items

Your learnings from the performance of your posts will reveal where there’s room for improvement. Based on your findings, what are some actionable items for improvement? Let’s say you notice that one blog is significantly outperforming your other blogs at converting visitors. Review what’s different. Maybe it’s the language, or the placement of your sign up form, or maybe it’s simply a strong topic choice. Take these findings to refine the content you’ve already published, or use it to inform all future posts. Identify and list out points of attack for your future posts.

Here are some simple examples of optimizations:

  1. Change the copy structure/outline
  2. Add or remove images
  3. Change the call-to-action language
  4. Improve the usability

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