Content is how a brand shapes and impacts business and consumer associations. It is a thoughtful investment in a brand’s legacy and an opportunity where businesses can become thought leaders and industry experts. Customers remember the experience brands create, which will determine if they ever want to return.
We broke down the elaborate content marketing process into a logical list of steps. This covers everything that a brand needs from start to finish, i.e., creating, executing and evaluating a content strategy.
1. Setting the content marketing budget
Content marketing goals and budgets look different for every brand. Often, the content marketing efforts fizzle out when brands realise that they do not have the money for specific tools or cannot afford the growing team size. Having a set budget from the start allows brands to realistically approach their target, hire people and use the appropriate tools. The team can now create a marketing plan around the budget, curtailing less fruitful areas to focus on more productive areas.
2. Establishing team roles
If brands desire to create epic content, they must learn how to create a team that will deliver. Here we break down all essential team roles and their responsibilities that bring diversity and expertise to a content marketing team. It may not be necessary to hire people for every position. A single person may be given multiple responsibilities. That said, an excellent content marketing team should be a diverse group of experts, with each one bringing a fresh perspective into the mix.
3. Build a brand story
The content strategy is not centred around what the brand does, but who the brand is and why the brand does what it does. A content strategy must begin with knowing the brand and the people who run it. The content team must know the brand values, the mission and the story of the brand. When the content marketing team knows the customers’ touchpoints well, the content becomes a brand story, connects with the customers emotionally and becomes more relatable.
4. Establish goals and strategy
Any content strategy becomes measurable only against specific goals. While the primary goal in content marketing is to generate more profit, the secondary goals may be creating brand awareness and building customer relationships. It is essential to define both the immediate and long-term goals of the content marketing plan. Short-term goals should be fluid and adjusted based on the content performance to target the long-term goals. An efficient goal-setting framework is SMART- specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely. Content goals also help in staying motivated as one progresses towards each milestone.
5. Know the customers
The content is always directed to a particular target group, so one needs to clearly define the target content group, also known as a buyer persona. One can then create more relevant and valuable content for the audience. It is good to chart the audience demographic, age group, content platform preferences and similar content preferences at this stage. One way to do this is by carrying out market research through public or internal sources. Another way is to study the existing customer base and use that information in formulating a content strategy.
6. Scrutinise brand offerings
Since one of the main aims of the brand strategy is lead generation and sales, brands must scrutinise all their products and services. By listing down the details and competitive advantage of their offerings, they will be better positioned to create content around those offerings. Detailed and documented data of the company's expertise will remove any ambiguity and help the content team convey the strong points confidently.
7. Perform content audit
A brand should conduct a content audit if they have an existing online presence. The content audit will allow deep scrutiny of the content optimisation efforts and help identify both strong and weak spots in the present content model. It is recommended to check for metrics like website visitors, dwell time, the most engaging content for the visitors etc. Knowing the existing performance of the content will help the team work on the weak and the strong areas. Ultimately, the data from the content audit will work as a reference point to chart the future content performance.
8. Run competitors’ audits
Brands must list their immediate competitors in the industry and perform their content audit. The competitors can be identified by discretion. There are online tools that identify other brands providing similar products and services competing for similar keywords online. Firstly, this will help in understanding their top-performing content while planning one’s brand strategy. Secondly, one may learn about the shortcomings in the competitors’ content to improve one’s strategy.
9. Perform keyword research
To increase the visibility of the organic content, brands must target specific keywords throughout their content. Focusing on these specific keywords will help generate traffic to the most fruitful content. Researching for the right keywords involves a mix of brainstorming and using online tools that tell actual search numbers and volumes for specific keywords. For any content strategy, a brand must have a set of precise keywords, long-tail keywords and branded keywords. We have shared more details and statistics on the role of keywords for content performance here.
10. Create a content marketing funnel
Brands must create a content marketing funnel to understand the needs of each visitor, provide step-by-step content and convert prospects into customers. This is an elaborate process that we have described here. The content funnel will break down the customer journey from the “awareness stage”, moving to the “evaluation stage”, and finally reaching the “conversion stage”. It is essential to have segregated content according to user preferences, behaviour, needs and data at all these stages.
11. Select the marketing tools
Brands must identify all the tools and applications necessary to create, publish and analyse their published content. Various tools are helpful for running audits, finding keywords, identifying trending content etc. Here, we discuss some affordable tools every company can use. Using tools that rely on real-time data is far more dependable than manual and assumption-based practices. Your team might use these tools for collaboration and content automation. The right strategy implemented through the right tools provides more accurate data and eventually generates the desired results.
12. Draft a content calendar
The content team must create editorial calendars that align with the businesses brand values and long-term vision. Firstly, the content calendar will ensure that all the content-related tasks are happening, making it easier to measure and obtain the true value of the content. Secondly, the content calendar will provide a bird’s eye view of every team member’s responsibilities, making it easier for the team to coordinate, be accountable and keep up the pace. Thirdly, the content calendar will help visualise a broader perspective of the content plan to track the results of each piece of content and optimise the next content cycle based on results. Here we have shared everything a brand needs to create a content calendar.
13. Generate content ideas
Now is the right time to generate ideas. The information from the buyer's persona will help narrow down the subjects in which the audience may be interested. The content audit data can be used to analyse the most engaging content of the brand. The data from competitor's audit will also be useful to identify the top-performing topics in a similar industry that can be covered in depth. There are online tools that inform about the most trending content based on keywords. These are some ways to create a pool of content.
14. Creating a content style guide
For a brand that is serious about its content, a style guide establishes and enforces rules to measure communication and foster consistency. Within a business, there will always be multiple people with different styles of writing or designing, and this guide will help them follow a uniform pattern of content production. A guide also eliminates valuable time spent on training and educating new team members. The style guide might include but not be limited to deciding a style, structure, research, authority, tonality, imagery, grammar, punctuation and media.
15. Revamping the website copy
The website is the face of a brand, and it is imperative to begin with revamping the website content. The website content must be written as per the style guide and should clearly communicate the main message on each page. The selected keywords must be used all across the website pages in order to complement search engine optimisation. The website content must be accompanied by brand design and media elements. Every page must have a strong call-to-action, as this will play a critical role in bringing the visitors from the awareness to the purchasing stage as per the content funnel.
16. Off-page SEO
While search algorithms and ranking factors are constantly changing, the consensus is that off-page SEO significantly affects the content ranking by increasing the website's relevance, trustworthiness and authority. Building backlinks is at the heart of off-page SEO, as high-value backlinks rank better than an otherwise decent site. Other off-page SEO factors to consider are social media, guest blogging and influencer marketing.
17. On-page SEO
If content marketing is about providing value to the audience, then SEO is about helping the search engine algorithms determine the value of the content. Therefore, content marketing and SEO always go hand-in-hand. Brands need to have a thoughtful SEO strategy if they want to make sure their valuable content reaches their audience. During this step, brands must outline critical on-page SEO factors to target with every piece of content. These factors are title tags, meta descriptions, headlines, header tags, keyword cannibalisation, image optimisation and page URL. Here we share some actionable ways to implement on-page SEO.
18. Technical SEO
It may seem like the responsibility of the content team ends with a good on-page SEO and off-page SEO strategy, but the success of both of these hinges on the technical SEO. Here we share some advanced SEO strategies. The most important ones are: fixing any broken links, removing any crawl errors, getting rid of any duplicate and thin content, migrating the site to HTTPS protocol, optimising XML sitemap, optimising robots.txt file, optimise site loading time, adding schema mark-up, and setting browser cache policy. For this specific step, the content team will require the assistance of the web development team in the beginning. However, the task becomes more manageable with time.
19. Creating content
The point of the content marketing plan is to create engaging, well-researched and original content for increasing brand awareness and generating leads. The content writers, editors and proofreaders must work together to develop high-quality content using the best SEO practices. The content may vary based on the platform, but it should follow the content style guide for consistency. The designing team must create relevant images, videos and infographics to elevate the quality of the content. The content must be comprehensive enough to be repurposed in the future. The content team must constantly update the writers with content performance metrics to help them evolve their writing.
20. Content automation process
Content automation adds discipline and predictability to content marketing, making content publishing more streamlined. Whether it is advertising the content, sharing on social media, or delivering newsletters, content automation empowers marketers to accomplish more with fewer resources while pushing the workforce to improve the processes. These automated tools also offer performance analytics which provides data to evaluate content performance over multiple platforms. The content team works with more precision, consistency and agility when they automate certain processes.
21. Choosing social media platforms
A considerable part of a successful content marketing strategy is identifying the brand’s personality and audience and then choosing the optimal place for them to get together. It is nearly impossible to create content for every social media platform. It is wiser to narrow down the choice to just the most relevant platforms so the team may prioritise their efforts and get the best return on investment. Some decisive questions to ask would be: Who is the target audience? Which platforms do they use most? What kind of content does the brand need to produce consistently? How will the platform allow the visitors to convert? By answering these questions, a brand will be better positioned to identify its key social media platforms.
22. Email marketing plan
Email marketing is crucial because it outperforms all online marketing strategies, including SEO, PPC and social media marketing. It is the most cost-effective way to promote products or services, communicate with customers and reach marketing goals. For the best results, the content team must ensure that the subscribers are segmented, content is personalised, and the campaign template is well designed. Brands must resort to email automation and set up trigger-based emails based on user behaviour. Automated campaigns measure the campaign performance, and the data can be further used to know the best times and days to send emails and identify the most converting content.
23. Running paid campaigns
Desirous of outperforming their competitors and reaching results more quickly, brands use content advertising to promote the content through paid distribution channels. The advertising campaigns include pay per click campaigns, paid social media campaigns, sponsored placements and any other type of paid promotional opportunities. The content team must first define the campaign’s objective, such as gaining more social shares, likes, newsletter subscribers, video views, website visits, product/service purchase etc. Based on this, it is easier to identify the most relevant platform for the campaign and set a budget and target audience. Planning and executing the right paid campaign takes time but yields good results with a strategic approach. However, there’s a caveat: content promotion via paid channels will never make up for the quality of content.
24. Content repurposing
Repurposing and revamping existing content should be a part of every successful content marketing strategy, and here we share how content repurposing helps to scale a business. Some common repurposing goals are enhancing SEO, reaching a new audience, reinforcing the message and gaining authority. The content marketing team must identify their evergreen content and re-share it in different formats on multiple platforms or club together similar content to create an extensive guide. In any case, planning a systematic content repurposing channel will save time, money, hard work and grab the attention of both people and search engines.
25. Measurement and analytics
Engagement and conversions are the ultimate indicators of content marketing success. The content strategy comes full circle only when the content plan is measured based on actual data. Selecting publishing and analytics tools in the beginning and later integrating these tools with social media, email marketing and website hosting platforms provides insights on the content performance. As a matter of fact, most automation tools provide performance analytics, in which case the brands may only need to monitor them. The content team may choose to measure marketing effectiveness daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. The most crucial part is to use these metrics to adjust the content strategy and create future marketing plans.
Like any other marketing process, content marketing is evolving. Once the content team runs a complete cycle of this checklist, they may want to adjust the sails and start from the top. Brands must keep creating and publishing great content, observe what works and what does not, adjust the process and repeat. While goals, products and services and your audience may change over time, the content marketing process remains the most challenging task. This content marketing checklist will help brands create, execute and evaluate a content strategy that stands out.