Discover the key concepts of a world-class content marketing strategy.
Find out how you use content to raise interest, provide value and build a reputation.
Learn how to build a winning content marketing strategy for your organisation.
Part 1 What is content marketing and why is it important
Part 2 Creating a comprehensive content marketing strategy
How do I create a comprehensive Content Marketing Strategy?
How do I determine the goals for my content marketing strategy?
Which KPIs and metrics should I track around content?
How do I find topics to build content around?
How do I determine which topics make good business sense?
How do I present a content marketing strategy?
Part 3 Structuring your strategies content
Part 4 Content creation tools
Part 5 Publishing content
Part 6 SEO best practices
Part 7 Staying abreast of content best practices
Content marketing only continues to grow in popularity, as you can see below:
From barely any attention a decade ago, content marketing now gets thousands of searches each day. It sits at the heart of the marketing strategies of world-class businesses. There are content marketing conferences worldwide. People build careers around it.
… but what is it?
If you’re one of the many people not quite sure what content marketing is, then we’ve got you covered.
This page introduces the key content marketing concepts, explains how they fit together and tells you how to build a content marketing strategy for your organisation that will get results.
Let’s start at the top.
(A small side note: When we refer to ‘Google’, that is shorthand for ‘Google and other popular search engines’.)
Content marketing is the creation and distribution of content to relevant audiences, with the view to attracting their interest and leading them toward a desired commercial outcome.
This type of marketing falls under the inbound marketing umbrella, the goal of which is to bring prospective customers to you.
Content marketing sits alongside SEO, social media, and branding to achieve this goal.
The idea is to attract and appeal to prospective customers at all stages of the buyer journey.
In simple words: Content marketing provides your desired audience with the information they need to define their problem, to learn about solutions offered by your business, and to feel confident in moving toward an informed purchase.
If you’re wondering what’s included in content marketing, the answer is broad. It’s not just pieces of writing: Content marketing includes videos, infographics, ebooks, articles, webinars, whitepapers, interview transcripts, images, and so on.
The goals of content marketing are to raise interest, provide value, and build a reputation. Also to attract and hold their interest and increase the likelihood of your audience completing a desired commercial outcome through your business.
The goal of content marketing is not to market a product, service, or brand directly to an audience.
Content marketing is important because it provides real value to prospective customers, and encourages them to continue their user journey without feeling pressured or coerced.
By addressing challenges and answering questions your prospective customers are asking, you have the opportunity to provide value. By establishing yourself as a source of real value and useful content, you increase the likelihood that a prospective customer will eventually convert.
An effective content marketing strategy targets every stage of the user journey, from awareness - where people are looking to understand the nature of a problem they’re having - to decision, where they commit to buying a product or service that resolves their problem.
Effective content marketing also looks to attract more engagement through search engines, which means you must consider the factors they use when determining which content to serve.
Google uses an ever-changing algorithm to determine the best content to serve for any given search query.
Over time, the nature and priority of factors in the algorithm shifts. This means content marketers must keep up to speed, and ensure their content continues to provide value over time.
When you type a query into Google, you’re directed to a search engine results page or SERP. Traditionally, SERPs just gave a list of links, each with a short description explaining their relevance to your query. You read the list, click the most relevant link, and went on your way.
The goal of search engines is to provide the most useful content to resolve a user’s search query. If their query is resolved easily, they’re more likely to use that search engine again next time. This means more traffic, more ad revenue, and more profit.
The goal of content marketing is to have your brand’s content delivered by Google for as many relevant search queries as possible. As Google’s algorithms get smarter, the search engine is better able to determine a user’s search intent, and better able to serve them the right content.
Search intent is the subtle meaning behind a search term that indicates what the searcher hopes to achieve. It’s the need that a human user wants to fulfil.
If you type “pizza” into Google, for example, this could mean one of many things:
Google’s job is to determine which of these is most likely based on the words in your query, and serve the best content accordingly.
Below is an example SERP for the query ‘pizza’. The top two results are pizza restaurants. The third is the Wikipedia page for pizza. And below that are answer boxes for other pizza-related queries.
This suggests that Google has determined the main search intent for ‘pizza’ queries to be “I want to order pizza”.
In the past, you’d have had to search something much more granular like “order takeaway pizza in Manchester” to get results that were narrowed down in this way. But Google invests billions in refining its search algorithm to understand your search query as deeply as possible, based on as short a keyword phrase as possible.
Google wants content that provides valuable resolutions to granular search intent. Effective content satisfies human search intent as well as meeting Google’s expectations for quality content.
On the first point: Google wants content that is high quality, well-researched, and genuinely valuable. If Google serves a piece of content at the top of its results, this implies that Google thinks it is the most valuable response to your search intent. If you click through and the content provides value, you’re likely to use Google next time. If you click the top result and it’s spammy and irrelevant, you’re more likely to look elsewhere.
Google promotes the concept of EAT: Expertise, Authority, and Trust. These are the values baked into the core of their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines: A document that’s the holy grail of understanding how Google evaluates and ranks content.
In certain niches, manual reviewers are employed to look through search results and judge them against Google’s standards. This helps to ensure the algorithm is working as intended and provides human input to guide future tweaks and refinements. The Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines gives instructions to manual website raters on what to look for and how to rate content and offers the clearest glimpse into what Google expects from the content.
This is an interesting question. People often feel persecuted by Google’s updates, especially ones that ‘punish’ tactics that worked before.
But if we look back to a sentence from earlier - “Google wants content that provides valuable resolutions to granular search intent” - the truth is that not much has changed.
Google has always rewarded content that provides value and addresses search intent. Over time its understanding of search intent has improved, as has the understanding of tactics that can ‘game’ the algorithm.
Here are the eight key steps to creating a comprehensive content marketing strategy that will get results:
The process above is the one we follow on content-based campaigns at Digital Media Stream.
As you can see, there’s nothing particularly complicated here. Investing time and energy into each step will reap rewards, and is actively encouraged. Monitoring performance and making amends to your strategy is encouraged as well: Perhaps your goals and target personas will shift slightly over time, based on the response to the content you create.
The key takeaway from above is this: When it comes to content marketing, isolated pieces of content don’t cut it - everything has to be part of a wider, informed strategy.
A content marketing strategy covers everything from planning content through to its publication and measuring its effectiveness concerning your business outcomes.
The next sections drill a bit deeper into each of the steps above.
An effective content marketing strategy is built around realistic and useful goals.
Ensuring the goals align with your wider business objectives means that effort invested in content creation and promotion is directly valuable to your organisation.
Here are some common goals that content marketing strategies are designed to achieve. We’ll present these alone for the time being - the next section will detail the KPIs and metrics used to track their performance:
The exact goals of your content marketing strategy will depend on what your business is trying to achieve. It’s worth spending time at the outset to get these nailed down.
Here are some key KPIs and metrics that indicate how well your content marketing strategy is performing:
The precise metrics you track - and the combination - will be dependent on the objectives of your strategy.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of ways to find topics for your content marketing strategy.
The ‘Searches related to’ box also gives deep insight into searches around core topics. By creating content that addresses these, you tap into real demand.
As we said, this list is not exhaustive. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
A content marketing strategy is designed to guide people along their user journey toward a desired commercial outcome that will address problems or challenges they are facing.
This journey is traditionally broken down into three key stages: Awareness, consideration, and decision.
If potential topics align with these stages, it often makes good business sense to include them in your content strategy.
Here is a definition of each stage with regards to a content marketing campaign.
In this stage, a prospective buyer becomes aware of a problem they are having. This could be anything from “I’m hungry” to “the software our company uses is no longer compliant with newly introduced legislation.” Whatever the issue, they begin seeking a solution.
Content at this stage should:
At this stage, the prospective buyer has defined their problem and begins to consider solutions. This involves identifying, comparing, and evaluation of products and services that could potentially resolve their issue.
Content at this stage should:
At this stage, the prospective buyer uses the information they have sourced to decide on a product or service to solve their problem. They commit to a purchase.
Content at this stage should:
If you’re creating a content marketing strategy on behalf of a client, or one that needs signoff from people further up your organisation, there are certain things we recommend including.
Much of the research informing the creation of a content marketing strategy can be omitted when presenting.
Current content best practice is centred on the use of topic clusters consisting of pillar pages and cluster content. This structure provides a clear logical framework for your content, with an intuitive route from broad to more granular search intents.
A topic cluster refers to a selection of content pieces linked by a common topic. The content inside the cluster targets multiple search intents, and multiple stages of the buyer journey.
A well-constructed topic cluster will satisfy broad and granular search intents, and guide all visitors further along their buyer journey.
Topic clusters have pillar pages at their core, with offshoot cluster content digging deeper and addressing more granular queries.
A pillar page provides an extensive, in-depth introduction to a topic. They sit at the centre of topic clusters.
The page you’re reading now is our content marketing pillar page: It answers a wide array of top-level questions about content marketing and links out to various pieces of cluster content for users who want to dig deeper.
Cluster content sits around a pillar page to provide deeper information about granular aspects of a topic. This content marketing pillar page links to cluster content about:
Hyperlinks are the means through which web pages are connected.
When a human user clicks a hyperlink they are taken to another web page. When a search engine crawls a website they use hyperlinks to navigate and to build an understanding of how content is connected.
By linking from pillar pages to cluster content, you establish a clear and logical content hierarchy. Human users can quickly navigate to the content that addresses their search intent, and search engines build a strong understanding of the structure and relative importance of content on your website.
Keywords are the words and phrases that human users enter into search engines. Keywords reflect natural human search behaviour, and web content addresses the search intent they reflect.
Keywords can be short tail or long tail.
A short tail keyword is a word or short phrase that communicates clear search intent. “Dresses” or “cocktail dress” are good examples.
Long-tail keywords are broader. “Buy a red dress with shoulder straps” or “dresses to wear to formal events” are examples of long-tail keywords.
Short tail keywords are often more competitive, as a clearer search intent implies closer proximity to a purchase. Long-tail keywords are less competitive and therefore easier to target, but more steps must be taken to lead a prospective customer toward converting.
LSI stands for latent semantic indexing, and these terms have high relevance to the keyword phrase being used.
Search engines use LSI keywords to build a more detailed understanding of the content on a web page. Pages that use LSI keywords are likely to provide a more valuable experience to a human user, and will most likely rank better as a result.
LSI keywords relating to dresses include things like ‘fabric’, ‘returns policy’, ‘responsibly sourced materials’, and so on.
There are many tools and techniques for finding keywords. The majority suggest keyword terms related to those you provide, alongside estimated search volume, competitiveness, and various other metrics to evaluate their suitability.
There are thousands of content creation tools, from expansive software suites that cover every aspect of the process, to obscure tools covering the most granular tasks.
Here are a few of our favourites to get you started:
And perhaps more helpful, here are some guidelines for helping you choose the right tool for the job.
It’s important to follow SEO best practice before publishing content.
This means ensuring keywords are used correctly, implementing a clear heading structure, and tweaking copy to encourage easy understanding by search engines.
And with all of these things, the human reader needs to take precedence.
Running content through some sort of editorial process is essential. The skillsets for creating content and editing content are different, and not every content creator possesses both.
By proofreading each piece of content, you ensure a consistently high standard. Vital for any brand.
And with a proofreader who’s versed in SEO, you ensure that no technical SEO aspects are missed.
Grammarly is a fantastic piece of proofreading software that we recommend.
We touched on these briefly above, but here are the SEO best practices to observe when creating content:
There are some great places to keep up to speed with the latest content requirements.
Thanks for reading our content marketing pillar page. This page gives top-level answers to pretty much every question you might have about creating a content marketing plan.
With this firm grounding, you’re perfectly positioned to dig deeper into the aspects that interest you most. You’re also well on your way to building and implementing a content marketing strategy that will get the results your brand deserves.
If you’re looking for help with your content marketing, Digital Media Stream can help. Our team of in-house experts are well versed in every stage of the content marketing process. We’re a Platinum HubSpot Partner Agency, too: Testament to our expertise with the platform, and the success we’ve delivered to clients in all manner of industries.