How to Build Your Content Marketing Strategy [Step by Step Guide]

Before they even entertain the thought of buying, 50% of online shoppers will read 3-5+ blogs.

And that number isn’t shrinking anytime soon.

In fact, it’s predicted to explode. 💥

What does that mean for you? It means it’s time to get ready for what the future of advertising holds – and all signs point to CONTENT.

But are you stuck wondering exactly HOW to build a content marketing strategy (that ACTUALLY works)?

  • You feel like there’s no point in blogging because your brand doesn’t quite “stand out.”
  • You want to learn which duties can be delegated to others, and which practical content strategy tasks you can actually learn to handle yourself.
  • You don’t understand what goes into how to write high-quality blog posts that attract the RIGHT kind of leads to your website.
  • You have those highly sought-after content strategist skills, but something just isn’t clicking mentally.

I hear you, it’s not always easy.

BUT, here’s some really good news.

Once you KNOW exactly how to make a content marketing strategy plan, you’ll quickly realize that it’s completely doable for most people – even if you’re feeling in over your head running your business.

Yes, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and put in the work. 💪

But once you’ve got a solid content marketing plan built, you can expect to see some truly explosive results.

And the truth is, if you don’t put a plan in place, people will go find products and services through a piece of content on another website.

…a website that already has a content strategy in place.

In this guide, I’ve put together a comprehensive, step-by-step framework of the building blocks to developing a successful content strategy for serious growth.

Ready to jump right in?

Let’s do this!

Need to master content marketing and learn how to build a profitable (and practical) content strategy? I’ll teach you all the valuable marketing skills you need to thrive in my Practical Content Strategy and Marketing Course. Psst… this course will no longer be sold in 2022 – last chance for a lifetime seat!

enroll in the Content Strategy and Marketing Course

What Is a Content Marketing Strategy?

Asking yourself “Ok, what exactly is content strategy?” Here’s a definition:

Content strategy is the planning, creation, distribution, and oversight of content to satisfy business requirements.

A content marketing strategy is more than creating blog posts, website landing pages, and email newsletters. A strong content strategy encompasses an entire plan and is rooted in the why behind the content being created. I cover the how, why, and where of content in my Practical Content Strategy and Marketing book because it’s an extremely helpful concept for shifting your perspective when it comes to content strategy.

Each business is unique. Each business will need its own content strategy. But the basics of content strategy planning are boiled down to 11 essential steps which I’ve outlined in the next section.

First, check out some important tasks within content strategy which include:

  • Setting Up Content Workflows: Creating a HEALTHY content strategy involves finding and sticking to proven and replicable processes.
  • Identifying Audiences and Goals: A content marketing strategy will involve learning about who your content should be written for as well as setting trackable goals and KPIs.
  • Attract, Engage, Delight: At the core of a content marketer’s strategy is the goal of bringing in leads from search results, engaging people to become customers, and then turning them into your brand’s BIGGEST fans.
  • Creating Content: As you might have guessed, a major piece of any content strategy is the researching, outlining, writing, publishing, and promoting of your content.

…to name just a few. Sounds exciting, fresh, and modern, right? It is. 😀

Called the “future of advertising”, more and more businesses are clamoring to create a content strategy – 92.96% of ALL web traffic comes from Google alone. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but developing a content plan is a wildly valuable use of your time.

So, how do you create a SOLID content marketing plan? Let’s take a look, step-by-step.

How to Develop a Powerful Content Marketing Strategy: 11 Effective Steps

There’s no getting around it — you need to create a content marketing strategy.

Explosive growth through content is not only possible, it’s happening all around you, every day, to brands big and small.

There’s no reason your business can’t be a part of this, too. You just need to create your own content strategy.

Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1. Pinpoint What Makes You Different in Your Content Marketing Strategy

Every step of building your content marketing plan deserves your full attention, but the beginning is really important (and eye-opening to boot).

The very first step once you decide to park yourself at your desk and commit to making a content plan is to find out what makes you different.

You may not realize this yet, but your authentic point of view – your uniqueness – will be what makes YOU stand out in a sea of 500 million other blogs. 🌊

So, before you do ANYTHING related to content marketing, figure out what makes you noticeable over your competition.

One of the most practical ways to do this? Find out what your Content Differentiation Factor (CDF) is. Discovering your CDF is a game-changer because no one has truly lived your story or has your voice and experiences!

cdf

Can’t begin to imagine what your CDF might be? Well, you have a completely distinctive (and valuable) perspective on:

  • The authentic journey you took to arrive at where you are now.
  • Your specific experience and notable credentials.
  • Your values and mission that drove you to start and show up every day for your business.

Now that you know this, it’s your job to take a close look at your industry and ask yourself what makes me (or my brand) different? Because what sets you apart is how you help your audience differently.

And once you’ve identified your CDF, you’ll build that into your soon-to-be extremely powerful content marketing strategy. (Plus, knowing you’re helping people is a pretty spectacular 🍒 on top of a successful content marketing plan.)

Step 2. Set Goals for Your Content Marketing Strategy Success

You’ll need to set a few objectives at the beginning of this process that you can drive your content marketing strategy toward.

So, you’ll want to set some goals or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure your content initiatives and keep them on track with your long-term plan.

Here are some wildly useful content marketing KPIs you might want to monitor + set goals around:

  • For tracking SEO: Organic traffic from search engines, backlinks, and keyword rankings.
  • For tracking user engagement: Shares, conversations, and comments.
  • For tracking growth in revenue: Leads, conversion rates, and ROI.

These are some INCREDIBLY impactful KPIs for you to track to gauge the effectiveness of your content marketing. You can pick the KPIs to focus on based on your individual business needs and goals. And, there are other wonderful KPIs out there to include in your content marketing plan. 📋

Top content marketing KPIs

Once your goals are set, here’s where the real content fun starts – it’s time to find things to write about (that will grow your traffic and make you money). 📈

Step 3. Pick the Content Topic Areas You’ll Stick to in Your Content Marketing Strategy

It’s SO important to research content topics when building your content marketing strategy. You’ll need to know what you’re going to write about, after all.

Because if you’re just writing posts to write them (and haven’t researched the right content topics for your business) you’re wasting your time. It’s the truth.

That’s why learning how to research and find hot topics is a COVETED skill for any content marketer.

To start, you’ll want to write topics surrounding:

  • What you sell
  • What your audience wants
  • Your expertise

Find your key topics where these factors are connected, and you’re golden. That’s part of how you find your content keywords.

topic area for content

Let’s check out an example of this in action. Imagine…

  • You’re selling high-end running shoes for top-performing athletes (what you sell).
  • Your audience is looking for premium shoes that help them train for events (what your audience wants).
  • You and your brand have helped many happy customers cross the finish line, and you’re an expert on your product (your expertise).

Some key topics content areas in this instance could be training, running events, warm-up exercises, and more. Are you starting to get the idea?

Define your content topic areas BEFORE you write a single word. That way, you’ll attract the RIGHT readers who you can truly serve. You’ll also help establish yourself as an authority in your industry, an important step which we’ll cover more of here shortly.

Step 4. Discover the Audience You’d Like Your Content Marketing Strategy to Reach

Who are you writing to? 🧐

For a stellar content marketing strategy that truly defines your brand, you’ll need to deeply know and understand your audience.

Once you’ve dialed in who your audience is, you can use that insight to shape every piece of your content marketing strategy – from the tone of voice in your blogs and website copy to your email newsletters and promotions, and even your social media posts. (Plus, knowing your audience intimately can inspire new product and service ideas as well.)

Whichever stage your audience is at in the customer journey, they should be exposed to impactful content specific to them, so you can build strong brand awareness and a raving fanbase that feels seen.

These are some tried and true methods for identifying your audience:

  • Competitor analysis
  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Casual conversations and exchanges (via email, social media, events, etc.)
  • Building a “persona” or “avatar” and writing to them

It’s true, there’s an art to writing for an online audience. But to meet your business goals and make your content marketing efforts worth your time, you’ll first need to learn WHO your audience is.

the art of online writing

Step 5. Get to Know SEO and Implement It in Your Content Marketing Strategy

The world is changing, and it’s changing in a flash. ⚡

It’s hard to believe, but since the pandemic started (March 2020, specifically) Google search traffic went from 3.6 billion searches/day to 6 billion searches/day. 6. Billion. Searches. Per. Day.

The number of people using Google to look for answers to their questions has NEVER been higher than it is right now and it’s NOT slowing down. The way to take advantage of this trend is through learning SEO.

seo and content marketing

SEO ties into a lot of your content planning and writing – your content marketing strategy should include original, SEO-optimized content (don’t sweat it, you got this).

I’ve chatted with a lot of business owners, and I consistently hear that SEO is intimidating. Scary. Too technical. Even if you don’t consider yourself a whiz with tech, please don’t let that stop you from embracing the power of SEO. There are lots of DIY SEO tools out there that can help get you started.

You’re missing out on A LOT of traffic if you don’t take advantage of Google by learning how to craft SEO content for your blog. Check out my workshop on Tech & Content SEO to learn.

Step 6. Build Authority & Gain Recognition for Your Content Marketing Strategy

Once your target audience finds you through your content, they’ll want to engage with your brand in more than one place. And, to establish authority in your niche, you’ll need to provide those opportunities. BUT, you always want to make your website your home base.

I call this piece of your marketing strategy your content house. 🏡

If you’re taking this whole content marketing plan building seriously (which I know you are) your website NEEDS to be the foundation of your online presence. All roads lead here. And by roads, I’m talking your Facebook posts, mentions on podcasts you contribute to, guest posts on other websites, etc.

content house with outside channels

For a SERIOUS content marketing plan, make sure to skip free websites like Wix, Weebly, or a Facebook business page. 😬 This is YOUR business. You don’t want to simply give visitors away – you want to send that hard-earned traffic to something that’s truly yours forever (like your website and your email list).

Don’t put your online presence in the hands of a 3rd-party social media network that could remove you from its platform at ANY moment (it happens). Besides, website SEO outdrives social in traffic by 1000%. Nope, that’s not a typo (I triple-checked).

I recommend using Bluehost to host your website + secure your domain name. It’s affordable, professional, and has responsive customer support.

Because you NEED to appear professional. Gaining your audience’s trust is key, so building authority with a content house should be a priority. (Go ahead and write that on a sticky note and slap it onto the nearest flat surface).

content house

Keep in mind we’re just covering the basics of the content house here. If you need a course where we cover all of the steps in this post in-depth, I encourage you to check out our Practical Content Strategy and Marketing course.

This comprehensive, self-paced program includes a 6-week implementation course with content marketing strategy templates, cheat sheets, 75+ videos, and more. On top of that, students unlock access to our private mastermind group, PLUS one-to-one mentoring with me.

This course exposes my proven all-in-one approach to learning practical content strategy and marketing skills (that will add extreme value and put you in high demand in the exciting world of content marketing).

Step 7. Establish a Content Marketing Strategy Editorial Calendar (and Stick with It)

You want to set yourself up for success in every corner of your content creation game. This includes getting help staying on top of your content marketing plan.

It’s extremely important to create an editorial calendar, and there are lots of free content marketing tools out there.

Here at Content Hacker, I use (and recommend) Airtable for my content calendar tool. I like it because it has a feature-rich free version AND is extremely collaborative.

Once you’re up and running with your editorial calendar, make sure you stick with it. Don’t let all that hard work in the planning stage get thrown out the window. Consistency is key when it comes to content marketing.

Everything you need to know to learn the skills, techniques and powerful strategies to skyrocket online growth is exposed in my FREE masterclass.     

Step 8. Consistently Publish High-Quality Content

Even if you’ve NEVER written a single blog before, you’re capable of producing high-quality content. It’s totally possible.

How? Practical content creation.

In the content marketing world, you can use powerful, repeatable strategies to access steady streams of ideas for topics – you just need to learn how.

As a business owner, you can’t afford to put energy in the wrong place. Your time is extremely valuable, so you should aim to learn how to create great content that brings you more conversions and more profits. 💵

I hope you believe me when I say that creating this kind of awesome, money-making content isn’t that challengingbut you’ll need to invest some time into learning HOW it’s done + executing your plan.

Here are a few of my favorite tricks for practical content creation:

1. Start with Keywords.

Write your posts around the keywords you found when you were researching your content topic areas.

2. Write Your High-Quality Content.

Whether you’re at the helm of writing content or someone else on your team is, a lot of time and energy will actually go into content creation.

3. Create Repeatable Workflows

Make it easy on yourself and your writers. Set up content creation workflows you can get in the habit of repeating often. All healthy content workflows should be detailed and involve 3 stages – Ideation, Creation, and Promotion.

For more on optimizing your content and making SURE it’s high-quality, check out my video, My 8-Step WordPress Blog Post Optimization Checklist for SEO.

Step 9. Update More Than You Create

High-quality content is a lot of things, including relevant and timely. When I ran Express Writers, 90% of my content marketing strategy involved updating old content!

Just because a piece of content is old doesn’t mean there’s no value to it. “Aged” content is actually VERY valuable – you just need to continually freshen it up (in the right ways). So don’t fret.

old content

When building a foolproof content marketing strategy, you’ll want to get in a groove of refreshing your existing content OFTEN to take advantage of (and boost) those rankings you already have.

You’ll want to be regularly posting new content, of course, but focusing MORE energy on your existing content can yield excellent ROI from your content creation input time. ⏰

Step 10. Promote Your Content

When my students ask me to check out their content marketing strategy examples, I make sure to double-check they haven’t skipped this part. Even if you’ve followed every step in this guide while planning and building your content strategy, you STILL absolutely need to promote your content.

There’s some nuance to this but, essentially, the more you strategically spread your content around the web, the more links will exist (this is where the term link building comes in). This is important for a couple of reasons. Not only does this bring you more traffic, but a large amount of links (on high-quality websites) also tells Google that you’re an authority — and this will be positively reflected in your rankings across your website.

Since domain authority is part of Google’s ranking factors, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and promote your high-quality content.

Here are some GREAT ways you can promote your content:

  • Send content to your email list
  • Share your content on your social media channels
  • Use paid promotional methods like Google Ads
  • Connect with an influencer in your niche to get your brand mentioned
  • Use a content sharing community

It’s also a wise idea to make documenting these promotional efforts part of your content marketing strategy.

Love a good to-do list? Grab my FREE 7-step Checklist to a Website Content Strategy and unlock 7 no-fuss, beginner steps to take to launch your content plan today.

Step 11. Nurture Your Email List

Email marketing has an astonishingly high ROI. So, part of building your content marketing strategy should include focusing on your email list.

70% of website visitors leave a website and never come back. That means, even if you’re pushing out AWESOME content that drives the right kind of traffic, no content plan is complete without an email list.

Not everyone visiting your site becomes a customer on the first visit. What about the people who found your high-quality post online, read it, loved it, started reading about your products and services, then got distracted by a call that closed their browser before they could become your newest customer? 😰

…you could’ve asked for their email.

Here are a few BIG reasons why your email list is so important:

  • To promote: Your email list is a great place to promote your content, sales/promotions, and announcements. You’ll want to use your email list to get ALL your content in front of your subscribers.
  • It’ll make you money: People who are willing to give you their email address are EXTREMELY interested in what you’ve got to say and they’re much more likely to become a customer (A.K.A. HOT, HOT leads 🔥).
  • You can segment your customers: Most popular email marketing services have rules you can create that automatically send specific emails to specific people. For instance, you can build and unleash a powerful “Welcome” email series that familiarizes new customers with your brand and related products and services. Boom.
  • A chance to build trust: A great way to drive brand trust and turn a website visitor into a paying customer is to OFFER HELP, for free. Give away some valuable information (like a guide, whitepaper, roadmap, etc.) in exchange for an email address, and watch that list skyrocket. 🚀

So, how can you nurture that list once you’re up and running with your email marketing?

  • Write good subject lines: Until someone opens your email, nothing happens. Get familiar with how to craft a compelling subject line that gets your content read. I LOVE this email subject line tester tool – it not only scores your headlines but also helps teach you the basics behind what makes a great email subject line great.
  • Don’t ask for too much: Space out your promotional emails. For every offer you send out, send AT LEAST 3 value-added emails first. This 3:1 rule should be included when building ANY content marketing strategy – it’ll save you from A LOT of unwanted unsubscribes.

Stay on top of this last step in your content marketing plan and expect to see exponential results.

Finally, when you make your content strategy plan, don’t treat it as static. Shift your perspective to see your strategy as a living, breathing, editable process that you can (and should) revisit often to tweak and refine based on your trackable goals and KPIs. Give this whole content marketing strategy process the love and attention it deserves, and I’m CONFIDENT you’ll be over the moon with your results.

Your Turn: Get Started on Your Content Marketing Strategy

With your content strategy in place, you’ll be ready to level up your content marketing ideas and the profits will follow. But you must build it first. 🛠️

When I solidified a content strategy for my company, Express Writers, we saw mind-blowing growth to the tune of $5M in gross revenue completely through ad-free content marketing.

It’s SO exciting. And I want you to be a part of it.

If you’re committed to learning the keys to creating an effective content marketing strategy for your website’s success, I can teach you how it’s done. See you on the other side.

how to build a content marketing strategy

About Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is an entrepreneur, author, and a leading strategist around creating exceptional content that leads to real growth. At 19 years old, she used her last $75 to build a 7-figure agency, Express Writers. In 2021, she successfully exited her agency. Today, she runs The Content Hacker where she ghostwrites books for industry leaders, and coaches creative entrepreneurs on how to build a self-sustaining business they love in 90 days so they are finally freed up to create lasting legacy and generational impact.

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