How to Create a Content Strategy: Step-by-Step Guide

This article will help you build a content strategy at any stage of your content marketing journey – whether you are just starting to create or have been working on your content for a while. Creating a plan is simple as long as you complete the following three steps:

Step 1 – Define your ultimate goal

Before anything else happens, stop and ask yourself “Why do I need content in the first place?”. If the answer is “I want more traffic”, try looking at it from a different perspective. Even though traffic drives your success by exposing your product or a service, business goals are often described by end-results.

They could be commercial – e.g. reaching a certain revenue milestone or non-commercial, such as brand awareness. These long-term goals are often referred to as a “North Star”

Example of a North Star goal

About North Star Metric (Goal)

North Star is a metric that companies or teams use to focus on their growth. An example of North Star Metric for software teams is “Active product users”, while brands use awareness and metrics like “Reach” or “Exposure”. North Star is always fit into company strategy and is commonly broken down into Factors (or Outcomes) that fuel the progress towards your ultimate goal. They are the outcomes of basic initiatives – smaller tasks performed by parts of the company or a separate team.

Step 2 – Describe your audience

Researching the audience greatly helps you understand the topics that should be covered. Quite often finding the right audience is done by defining the key challenges your product or service addresses. For example:

  • John Reith summarized the main mission of BBC as “Inform, Educate, Entertain”, which lasted until the current day.
  • Tableau, a data visualization software company simply says their product “helps people see and understand data”.

What is the value you bring to your customers or readers? Who is most likely to benefit from it?

Loyal Reader Profile

Tips to better understand your audience:

  • Talk to your product team to learn about the key challenges your company addresses.
  • Research the keywords – e.g. what people search for when they enter your website. Tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs or SEMrush are great options for search intent monitoring.
  • Learn about your competition – Knowing your competitors, especially the value they bring to their audience and who is their audience, is a great source of information. Tools like Similarweb may help simplify this task for you.
  • Use Google Analytics to find out more about their interests and demographics. Look at different topics, sections and types of content and learn about what engages your loyal audience.
  • Search for articles on community platforms like Medium or Quora for more examples.

Step 3 – Start measuring your progress

One of the most popular frameworks associated with goals is called SMART. SMART is an acronym that contains the main criteria used in setting the objectives:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement
  • Measurable – quantify an indicator of progress
  • Actionable – objective can be directly or indirectly influenced
  • Realistic – results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
  • Time-bound – specify when the results can be achieved
SMART goal framework

Working with goals that can be measured allows you to easily adjust your workflow, instruments and methods, based on the performance indicators that directly influence your progression towards the objective.

There are many metrics content teams focus on while monitoring the results of their work.

Key performance indicators can be separated into three main groups:

  • Reach. This group consists of data that describes the exposure of your content. Page or Video views, number of unique users reached through Social media, comments count, entrances from search engines – all of them work great to understand how many people you’ve reached. Reach data is often combined using multiple data sources, such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Social Blade
  • Engagement. Metrics that describe how people interact with your content have become “unofficial ranking signals with Google”. More and more teams nowadays pay attention to the content quality by tracking scroll depth, engagement time and recirculation (or bounce rate). Reaching big audiences and creating high quality content is equally important to build trust and rank higher in search rankings. Engagement data is collected using a web analytics tool, like Google Analytics.
  • Value. Measuring the impact of content on your business goals is even more important than knowing how many readers you have reached. Good examples of content value are: advertisement revenue, number of website registrations or clicks on your partner’s offer. You can set up reports in your Ad Manager for advertisement revenue and track conversions using Google Analytics or any other third-party tool that supports custom events.

There are several companies on the market that allow you to monitor all these metrics within a single tool. This saves a great amount of time, making it easier to collect and report on Reach, Engagement and Value. Examples of those tools are IO Technologies, Smartocto, Chartbeat, Upscore, Parse.ly .

Starting to build your content plan really comes down to answering three questions – “What?”, “Who?” and “How?”. After getting past these, all that’s left to do is create a publishing schedule and get to work.