content strategy training

Content Strategy Training: What You Need to Know to Succeed In the Industry

Content marketing is exploding as an industry.

With 91% of B2Bs using content marketing, the industry itself is set to be worth $412 billion by 2021.

This means, of course, that there are no shortage of jobs available in our beautiful industry.

Searching “content marketing jobs” near me in Austin Texas alone, I find there are hundreds of jobs available:

content strategy and marketing jobs

If you’re in marketing at all, your job will probably cross over in content marketing, heavily.

Content marketing is marketing’s future.

If you run an agency, ensuring you or your staff know how to implement content marketing for your clients will seriously boost your bottom line. 

So, how does content strategy fit into this content marketing of today? (In today’s guide, we’re talking all about content strategy training.)

content strategy and marketing

Content strategy drives the planning, development, and management of content marketing.

Content strategy is, in fact, critical to the underlying success of your content marketing.

Content strategy is like the engine to your car, the caffeine in your coffee, the kale to your salad. Read more about #contentstrategy vs. #contentmarketing via @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

When you’re lining up what you need to know to serve your clients best in content marketing skillsets, think content strategy.

What base knowledge should you have a grasp on, and which topics do you need to dive deeply inside of to get ahead in the industry?

If you don’t know what kind of content strategy training you need to succeed, you’re in the right place.

We’re discussing EXACTLY what you’ll learn in my program, the Content Strategy & Marketing Course, and how that lines up with (and goes above and beyond) industry standard training, covering 13 major skills involved in creating, implementing, and executing a content strategy.

You can teach yourself everything you need to know to implement successful content marketing – or have your staff members take this course, and with this knowledge empower them to better serve your client base. How much is that worth? Possibly thousands of dollars.

But first things first. Let’s find out what today’s necessary content strategy training topics are. Ready?

content strategy training guide

13 Content Strategy Training Topics You Need to Succeed

According to the Content Marketing Institute (one of the major industry leaders in our beautiful industry), you need a documented strategy for your content and marketing.

Why? Because it makes the entire process easier.

And what’s more important – more successful.

You’ll be more effective, feel more confident in your efforts, and will have zero problems justifying why a specific chunk of your marketing budget (or your company/client’s marketing budget) should go to content marketing.

cmi-do-you-need-a-strategy

My student success stories attest to just how much a practical knowledge of content strategy contributes to content marketing triumph.

kyle-murray-student-success-story

Our student success stories include Kyle Murray, who implemented a content strategy for his clients and saw results right away.

Why is a strategy so vital to the process?

Why does strategy = success?

It provides a framework to follow – a roadmap to ROI.

It leaves out any guesswork.

Instead of guessing, it tells you exactly what you need to do to power your content marketing.

CMI defines the underlying framework for successful content marketing as 5 principles that are essential for this sturdy foundation:

cmi-content-strategy-framework2

  • Purpose and goals
  • Audience
  • Story
  • Process
  • Measurement

CMI goes into further detail about these principles in their Content Marketing Framework for 2017:

cmi-content-strategy-framework

These principles are at the heart of every facet of a content strategy.

Helpfully, we can map them to the content strategy training topics you should know and understand.

They branch out into 13 different areas:

13 skillsets content strategy and marketing

  1. Foundations of Content Strategy (purpose and goals)
  2. Audience Personas (purpose and goals, audience)
  3. Sales Funnel Content Mapping (purpose and goals, audience)
  4. Brand Content Style Guidelines (story)
  5. Understanding Keywords (audience, story, process)
  6. Researching SEO Opportunities (audience, story, process)
  7. Creating Keyword Reports (story, process, measurement)
  8. Building Authority Online with Content (purpose and goals, audience, story, process)
  9. Content Creation and Guest Blogging (audience, story)
  10. Content Promotion (audience, process, measurement)
  11. Budgeting (process)
  12. Creating and Preparing an Editorial Calendar (process)
  13. Maintaining Your Content Strategy (process, measurement)

Naturally, each and every one of these topics is covered in the Content Strategy & Marketing Course, over 6 modules (check out the course syllabus to see how this shakes out).

To give you a general overview of what each module entails, we’ve outlined them below.

You’ll also find thorough training and teaching on these same modules in the companion workbook for the course: Practical Content Strategy & Marketing.

practical-content-strategy-and-marketing

This book is a useful resource both on its own and as a reference while you’re moving through the course modules.

6 Modules in The Content Strategy & Marketing Course, Explained

Each module in the course covers the major topics involved in content strategy creation, execution, and maintenance.

Here are how the topics divvy up (and what you’ll learn in the process):

1. Module 1 – “Core Foundations of a Practical, ROI-Focused Content Strategy”

The course begins with making sure your content strategy is based on core foundations:

  • Your expertise, including content topic areas you can cover with authority
  • Your content differentiation factor (CDF) – What sets you apart from other brands, and how your content can tie in
  • Your content goals – what you hope to achieve with your content marketing

You’ll find out why these matter, as well as how to define them for your own content strategy.

2. Module 2 – “A Beginner’s Guide to Audience Persona, Sales Funnel Content Mapping, & Brand Content Style Guidelines”

The second module is all about how your audience informs major pieces of your content strategy.

That includes:

  • Why and how you should create audience personas as reference tools
  • How to do audience persona creation for existing and new audiences
  • Low-budget ways to research your audience
  • How to map your buyer persona to sales lifecycle stages (and create sales awareness content)

social-bakers-content-customer-journey

Image via Socialbakers

  • How to create a brand content style guidebook that will direct future, audience-based content creation for all your team members

3. Module 3 – “Understanding Keywords, Researching SEO Opportunities, & Creating Keyword Reports”

The third module explains in detail how SEO and keywords should tie into your content strategy for higher organic ROI. You’ll learn:

  • Why your overarching content goals need to inform keyword research
  • Why organic search brings in higher ROI than paid search
  • How to discover profitable keywords to target in your content
  • Recommended keyword tools and a comparison of top options
  • How to find long tail keywords for local SEO and geotargeting
  • How to create a keyword report

search-demand

The Content Strategy & Marketing Course covers the ROI potential of long tail keyword use. (Image via NeilPatel.com)

4. Module 4 – “How to Build Content Cores for an Authority Presence Online”

Module 4 dives into why and how you should build your core content – the main assets that will work as authority and trust-builders for your brand.

This section covers:

  • How to create a content focus
  • Why you should focus on doing a few things amazingly well for your content marketing (vs. doing everything unexceptionally)
  • Why consistency, quality, and quantity matter
  • Why you shouldn’t build your authority exclusively on outside channels (social media, proprietary publishing platforms, etc.)
  • Why you need a solid “content house” that serves as a foundation for your content marketing

no-content-house

5. Module 5 – “Practical Content Creation (Your Site & Guest Platforms)”

Next, you’ll learn key steps to content creation you can use every time, for every piece you sit down to create. These steps comprise a workflow you will follow that makes creation easier – and results in better content.

You’ll discover:

  • The three stages of the content process: ideation, creation, and preparation
  • How to map topic ideation to your content goals
  • Tips to make each step of the workflow go more smoothly
  • How to find trending topics, buyer-focused topics, and sales awareness topics for your content with industry tools
  • SEO basics for optimizing written content
  • Why you should write long-form blog posts
  • How to guest blog for high ROI, including how to get on your desired platform/publication and how to pitch topics to editors
  • Why the call-to-action is an indispensable part of high-ROI content

medium-cta

Image via Medium

6. Module 6 – “Content Promotion Techniques, Setting a Budget, Preparing Your Editorial Calendar, & Maintenance”

The final course module covers the last steps to make sure your content strategy is a self-propelling, circular entity.

This means it will guide your actions both now and into the future, and will always help you stay on the road to high ROI.

This includes topics like:

  • Content promotion strategies and tips from experts
  • How to boost your content’s exposure
  • How to use social media to promote content, including best-practices for posting to various platforms
  • Email marketing basics, including writing and scheduling
  • How to budget for content, and expectations for costs
  • Tips for outsourcing content creation
  • How to set up and build an editorial calendar
  • How to repurpose and update old content pieces
  • Measurement techniques, including how to track your rankings
  • How to conduct a content audit
  • And more

Choose the Right Content Strategy Training for Concrete, Real Results

The right content strategy training should teach you everything you need to know about the topic, front to back.

I call this “full-circle knowledge” – you’ll have everything you need to implement successful content marketing, and even build your own successful content marketing agency team.

That way, you can confidently go forward and create/implement your own strategy – not to mention, see the best results from this full-circle, complete knowledge.

So, what does the right content strategy and marketing training look like?

It is:

  • Comprehensive – It covers everything you need to successfully create and execute your own content strategy.
  • Practical – It offers education and advice for the real world.
  • Actionable – You can take what you learn and apply it immediately.
  • Easy to follow – It isn’t full of jargon or industry-speak that goes over your head.
  • Useful – There is no fluff or filler; every lesson is worth your time and effort.

The Content Strategy & Marketing Course hits every one of these points, on the nose.

masterclass cta

 

small business content marketing strategy

Why Your Small Business Needs a Content Marketing Strategy (& 6 Steps to Start Building One)

If you’re an entrepreneur or a small business doing content marketing, but you’re not seeing the amazing results you’ve heard about, ask yourself one question:

Are you missing something?

Here’s another question.

…Could you be missing a small business content marketing strategy?

Every content marketing endeavor, no matter how small or low-budget, NEEDS a strategy.

(Not “needs,” lower-case, but “NEEDS” – all caps, in-your-face. A small business content strategy is that important!)

Without a strategy, content marketing is like a pile of puzzle pieces. They make no sense…

…Until you put them together and form the whole picture.

That is the strategy, and that is exactly what you need to make content marketing work.

Because, when content marketing works, the ROI can be enormous.

Think about these facts:

  • A big chunk of buyers (47%) said they look at 3-5 pieces of content before talking to a sales representative, according to a 2016 study by Demand Gen Report.
  • Strategic content marketing is the key to 67% more leads for B2B companies who use it, via a HubSpot study.

hubspot_leads

  • Content marketing’s worth as an industry has skyrocketed – by next year, it will reach hundreds of billions of dollars according to the 2017 Global Content Marketing Forecast. (Don’t you want a piece of that?)

If you want in on this action, a strategy is the lynchpin.

Here are even more reasons to begin building your own content marketing strategy for your small business. Once you’re convinced, continue to the next section to learn the six steps you need to get started.

small business content marketing strategy

3 More Reasons to Create a Small Business Content Marketing Strategy

1. It’s Not Just for Big Brands with Even Bigger Budgets

You do not need a big budget to create a workable content marketing strategy.

I repeat:

You. Do. NOT. Need. A. Big. Budget.

(Check out my case study discussing how content marketing is higher in ROI than traditional, main-stream marketing.)

You can (and should) scale your strategy to work for the size of your business and your resources.

For instance, maybe you need to start by dedicating a few hours every month to content creation. It’s totally doable if you teach yourself some basics first, focus on putting out quality over quantity, and stay committed to building your authority on one platform.

Center your content around keywords that are low-hanging fruit – the ones that people are searching for, but still offer the opportunity to break into the rankings.

Start small. Then, as you build your gravitas, slowly increase your efforts. (Duct Tape Marketing has more ideas for strategizing on a budget, proving it doesn’t take much money or time at all.)

One high-quality article published every two or three weeks is a better investment by far than putting out two or three sub-par, rushed articles weekly.

Plus, according to original research from Kapost and Eloqua, content marketing costs 31% less than paid search for mid-size businesses. That means a content strategy is a more cost-effective route than funneling money into ads.

kapost_content-marketing-savings

2. It Takes the Guesswork Out of Content Creation

Overwhelmingly, one of the top roadblocks many marketers face is hitting a brick wall at the content ideation/creation stage.

In Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, 63% of B2B marketers rated their project management workflow as “good,” “fair,” or “poor,” while only 37% felt confident enough to rate theirs as “very good” or “excellent.”

cmi2018-content-creation-process-rating

It’s a concern for most of us.

BUT, that’s why a content strategy is so awesome: It makes your project management workflow and content creation a breeze.

This is because your strategy maps out a game plan for creating content, including finding the right keywords, generating topics, and determining content types you should focus on. It also tells you who you’re writing for, and helps you determine where and when to post.

Best of all, the plan is a framework you can follow again and again. No matter what type of content you’re creating, you can repeat the processes your content strategy lays out over and over.

I call each pillar of the framework a content strategy “core.” Once you have these down, you’re golden.

I teach these six pillars, step-by-step, in an intensive 6-week content strategy and marketing course and book. Learn more about the course here.

brand-strategy-six-cores

3. Small Business Content Strategy Makes ROI Not Just Possible, but Probable

Your content strategy isn’t just a plan to use to attack content marketing – it’s also a map to ROI.

According to HubSpot, businesses that blog strategically scoop up leads faster than businesses that don’t blog. Specifically, in a study of 2,300 businesses, those with blogs saw 126% monthly lead growth.

hubspot-Blog_Faster_Lead_Growth

Additionally, according to CMI’s 2018 Benchmarks survey, B2Bs with a documented content strategy reported higher success levels than those without one.

cmi2018-strategy-success

Think about it this way: You wouldn’t attack any big goal and expect to reach it without first putting a plan in place.

If your goal is to see results and ROI with content marketing, you need to approach it with a strategy. It’s just plain common sense.

6 Steps to Start Building Your Small Business’ Content Marketing Strategy

Yep, you agree – you NEED a small business content marketing strategy.

You’re ready and raring to go.

Let’s not waste any more time. Here’s how to dive in headfirst:

1. Define What Makes You Stand Out

In business, your uniqueness is a major selling point, if not THE major selling point.

What do you offer people that no one else does?

Your stand-out factor doesn’t have to be wildly different from your competitors, either. You even can differentiate based on one little detail – the important thing is to figure out what that is.

For example, look at the ice cream brand, Ben & Jerry’s. They started selling their products out of a gas station before hitting the big-time and landing in grocery stores everywhere.

ben__jerrys_ice_cream

Image via CMO

Without a doubt, their main brand differentiator is their crazy, loud, and oft-controversial flavors.

Did you know, in addition to mainstays like Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia, the brand has put out flavors like “Schweddy Balls,” which was inspired by a famous Saturday Night Live skit?

In 2016, they also put out a flavor called “Empower-Mint,” which they described as such:

“This fudge-filled flavor reflects our belief that voting gives everyone a taste of empowerment, & that an election should be more ‘by the people’ and less ‘buy the people!’”

ben_jerrys-empower-mint

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream stands out because of one detail – their flavors – and it informs their content direction and topic areas. Check out their series of posts on their most popular flavor, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:

ben_jerrys-content

Finding your brand differentiator at the outset of your content strategy will similarly inform your own content direction and topic areas.

So, what’s your stand-out factor?

2. Discover Your Audience and Who You’re Helping

After you pin down your brand differentiator (I also like to call this your “content differentiation factor,” or CDF), you can discover who you should be targeting/helping with content marketing.

This can go one of two ways:

  • If you have no existing customer base, you’ll pinpoint your ideal
  • If you already have an established customer base, you’ll look at this pool and quantify their overwhelming similarities, combining them into a persona.

How do you do it? With audience research like surveys and interviews.

Brands with established customers have an obvious group to survey and interview. If, on the other hand, you don’t have a customer pool, you can still get real insights from real people to answer the question “Who is my ideal buyer?”

The following tools will help you on this quest:

Tools to Try for Audience Research

3. Find Fledgling SEO Opportunities

After you pinpoint who you will be helping with your content, you can find the initial SEO opportunities that will bring in your ideal buyer:

Keywords.

Not just any keywords, however.

You need to hit a sweet spot: Keywords that aren’t difficult to rank for, that are relevant to your brand, and for which your ideal buyer is actively searching.

Sweet-Spot-Keywords-1030x647

To begin your search for these profitable, high-ROI keywords, find a good keyword research tool. Then check out our blog on how to find SEO keywords.

4. Establish Your Online Presence

By now, a lot of your small business’ content marketing strategy pieces are in place.

One big question comes next:

Where will you publish your content?

If your answer is “social media,” think again.

You need to build your own brand platform, one that isn’t owned by a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. You need a website/domain.

Why is this important? A few reasons:

  • It’s easier to build authority on your own platform.

If you publish to your own domain, you’ll build up a web of keywords that all point back to YOU, not a social site. This builds your authority overall, too, because when you start ranking for lots of long tail keywords, you’ll also more easily rank for broad keywords.

  • Content published on your platform has better longevity.

The lifespan of content on social media amounts to about 30 minutes for a tweet on Twitter. For a Facebook post, it’s estimated that within 3 hours of posting, you’ll get 65% of the total engagement you’ll ever see from that post.

Here’s a graph of that by WiseMetrics (via Post Planner):

lifespan-of-a-facebook-post

Meanwhile, the lifespan of a blog post published on your domain can last for YEARS as it climbs the search engine rankings. That’s HUGE.

  • Proprietary platforms (ones you don’t own) aren’t guaranteed.

Here’s the deal about proprietary platforms: the people who DO own them could one day decide to randomly shut down. Or, your posts and data could be lost in a major hack or server failure.

While these scenarios aren’t huge likelihoods, they still remain in the realm of possibility. Are you willing to risk staking your content (which cost you an investment of time + money) on borrowed land?

Luckily, these days it’s easy to get your own website and set it up without much overhead.

Do it – not just for peace of mind, but also for the sake of your content marketing.

5. Understand the Worth of High-Quality Content – and How to Create It

Do you know what high-quality content is, and why you should post it?

Here’s the deal:

Mediocre content does not win you any accolades. It doesn’t interest your target audience, it doesn’t climb Google rankings, and it dies a slow death as it sinks into obscurity.

It’s a waste of time to produce rushed, lackluster, inaccurate, weak content.

High-quality content is what wins in every category. It is:

  • Comprehensive
  • Factually accurate and thoroughly researched
  • Well thought-out and logically presented
  • Usually long-form
  • Well-written
  • Engaging/resonates with your audience
  • Written FOR your audience

According to Search Engine Land, quality is one of the most important ranking factors for content. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you have thin content, you’ll take a ranking hit.

searchengineland-ranking-factors

searchengineland-ranking-factors2

Setting your content standards early on in your strategy is essential for consistency. You have to uphold high-quality standards to see the following:

  • Increased SEO rankings
  • Higher customer engagement with your brand (engagement = conversions = leads)
  • Stronger online authority
  • Better brand awareness/visibility

It’s that simple.

6. Set Up an Editorial Calendar for Your Small Business Content Marketing Strategy

The final step for starting your own small business content strategy is setting up your editorial calendar.

An editorial calendar sounds official and kind of scary, but it’s a great tool that can help each piece of your content marketing come together.

Here’s an example of one from NewsCred:

news-cred-editorial-calendar

As you can see, the editorial calendar lines up all of your content pieces, maps them to your goals, and helps you see the big picture of where all this is going.

Most importantly, it will help you organize and track all of those moving parts.

Editorial Calendar Tools Worth Checking Out

Processes to Track/Include in Your Editorial Calendar

  • Team members’ roles and responsibilities
  • Content goals
  • Content topic areas
  • Content on the docket that needs refreshing or updating
  • Publishing schedule
  • Promotion schedule (social media posts/email newsletters tied to content pieces)

The Chess Board Is Set for Your Small Business Content Marketing Strategy

It’s time.

The chess pieces are in place on the board.

If you’ve set up a content strategy, you’re ready to “checkmate.”

If you don’t have a strategy, your game pieces are probably scattered all over the floor.

If that’s you, it’s time to get things in order and win at this content marketing thing.

So, pull your pieces together and restart the game.

game-over

It’s the only way to make that coveted “top high scores” list.

 

 

online content strategy

The 6 Steps You Need to Build a Rock-Solid, Lucrative Online Content Strategy Framework

Want to know the #1 way I grew Express Writers?

Two words, five syllables:

Content marketing.

Or, more specifically, consistent, strategic content marketing.

Online content strategy, a real, firm strategy, became my best friend to get to the “serious growth” phase.

The thing is, it took YEARS to figure out and perfect.

All the pieces had to come together, and I had to test, re-test, and test again to find out what worked (and, what didn’t).

When I figured it out, things snowballed.

Our income from Express Writers boomed to six-figures, and then to seven-figures ARR, inside just two years.

Here’s the story, and how I used my experience to get clear on EXACTLY what I needed to reach bigger, better, bolder success.

After that, I’m going to share the 6 steps I used to hone my online content strategy to a razor-sharp edge: the exact same system you can use to get crystal-clear on your own content and start seeing real results.

(What you’re about to read is a sneak peek into the six pillars of content success that I discuss and teach at length in my intensive content strategy & marketing book and course.)

online content strategy

Online Content Strategy Clarity Equals Success: From Near-Failure to Six-Figures after Getting Strategic

I started my business, Express Writers, from basically nothing – I was a college drop-out with a dream and $75 to invest in my future.

The beginning was hard. Here’s what that looked like, 2 years into the game:

By that time I had published 215 blogs, had 141 keywords ranking on Google, about 500 visitors/day to my site from organic traffic, and was earning around $29K/month.

I was creating content, but the results were lackluster. I was doing a few things wrong:

  • My content quality wasn’t consistently high
  • I often published content just to “get it out there”
  • I was trying to push out TOO MUCH content (at least one blog post a day)
  • I was doing cold outreach to get more clients – and not earning any ROI for my time spent (read: the cold emails I sent out turned up nothing but crickets chirping)
  • I was trying to boost growth on every channel possible

In short, growth from content marketing was slow. I was hustling every day, snatching at leads wherever I could. And, the leads I did get from my content weren’t that good.

And, all of this was happening while I was a wife, a mom of a two-year-old, and had an understandably busy family life.

Bottom line: I was overworked and not seeing the results I dreamed of from my content.

The Turning Point: Enter Content Strategy

The turning point came in 2016. Our low-profit, high-expense months were not sustainable. We were making an average of $65K/month, but were lucky to take home 35% of that total.

Then, in May 2016, I discovered my two managers had been embezzling from the company for months.

I fired them. After that, some reassessing happened. I had to rebuild my business and my team.

It wasn’t until a few months later, while we were still slowly recovering, that I finally started implementing a content strategy.

With the combination of that strategy and better members on the EW team, we started seeing returns, slowly but surely.

We even started setting records for our monthly gross income.

  • Before using content strategy, I was publishing an average of 4 blogs/week. We had about 3,900 keywords indexed on Google, and we were making $65K/month, with some lower months after the embezzling fiasco.
  • One year later, and only a few months after implementing a content strategy, we hit our first $71K month in income. We also reached 6,000 keywords indexed on Google, which was nearly double the amount from the previous year.

And that momentum kept building as I refined my content strategy.

We continued having record months. Our Google presence kept building, and our online visibility skyrocketed. We started ranking #1 for hot keywords, and our traffic jumped to thousands of visitors per day.

Today, our content marketing continues to work and build on itself.

Without the strategy, though, none of it would be possible.

By now, you’re probably dying to know what that strategy looks like.

Listen up, because I’m sharing the 6 steps to my content strategy framework next. These steps build out the foundation of a rock-solid strategy.

6 Steps to Build an Unstoppable Content Strategy Framework

This is how you do content marketing that wins.

1. Understand the Basic Fundamentals of a Content Strategy

Content strategy defines as:

content strategy definition

If you don’t understand what a content strategy is, go back and get clear on this. It’s the only way you’ll also understand how content strategy fits into content marketing, and why the two cannot exist without each other.

Think of it this way: It’s impossible to succeed at any activity without a thorough base knowledge to guide you. Content strategy is no different.

You should also know what you’re talking about, and how to branch out into topics your audience wants to hear about. Finding your topic area is a fundamental first step in a content strategy.

Along with that, know your CDF – your Content Differentiation Factor. What makes you different than all the other content voices out there?

CDF content differentiation factor

2. Know Your Audience and How to Lead Them to a Sale (Bridge the Gap)

Knowing your audience is one thing, but knowing how to turn your audience into customers is another.

If you don’t understand how to bridge that gap, you’re missing out on one of the biggest first steps involved in putting your content strategy in place.

Of course, before you can connect the dots, you must know who your REAL audience is – not your imagined audience (only research and having actual conversations can tell you this!).

Once you know your persona, you can create content that matches the lifecycle stages of awareness, in the sales cycle. Example:

sales cycle content marketing

3. Use SEO (and Understand Its Importance)

Want to get found online? Including SEO in your content strategy is a foolproof way to do it organically, without paying a cent for ads.

Using SEO to get all its associated benefits means:

  • Knowing how to find keywords that will bring you profitable traffic (people with buying intent)
  • Knowing which tools to use to do keyword research
  • Understanding Google’s ranking factors and making sure your content hits them

You need to know the right tools and methodologies to use when you’re working on improving your search engine rankings. Keyword research plays a big part in this.

4. Build Your Gravitas Online (Be an Authority)

Building your authority online can have a few different meanings.

It can mean:

  • Building your brand as a trusted source of information
  • Building your brand as an authority website by Google’s standards

Both are valuable to your content strategy, and you should do things that help boost your gravitas in both scenarios.

Just one way to build your domain as an authority in Google’s eyes is to focus on publishing content on YOUR platform, i.e. a domain that YOU own – not proprietary ones like Facebook, Instagram, or HuffingtonPost (which sadly discontinued their guest blogging platform not too long ago–I, along with many others, lost my content profile and login).

Focus on your 'content house' to get better online results, says @JuliaEMcCoy. #ContentMarketing #SEOContent Click To Tweet

content house julia mccoy

5. Create Content Strategically

When the times comes to create content, guess what?

This is what your content strategy is FOR.

Every previous step should lead you in the right direction for creating the right kind of content for your audience and brand.

Of course, there are a few extra steps involved, like putting a workable process in place for content creation (research, writing, editing, publishing); understanding what kind of formatting, tone of voice, and topics lead to high-ROI; and placing quality above quantity.

6. Maintain + Build Your Content Momentum (Budget, Audit, and Promote)

To maintain your forward progress with content marketing and strategy, you must budget wisely, audit strategically, and promote faithfully.

These three activities will keep your content marketing going. Instead of drifting aimlessly in a boat with no paddles, you’ll be riding the next wave with a motor at your back.

  • Budgeting content is about planning your expenses wisely and knowing where your dollars are going. I.e., know how much outsourcing content costs, and budget for high-quality.
  • Google loves fresh content. Do content audits of old posts and update anything outdated or thin.
  • Content promotion gets more eyes on your content assets, which can result in more leads + sales. Promotion doesn’t have to cost much, either.

Remember, a content strategy needs constant work to keep moving. Update, budget, plan, and promote so your content marketing never goes stale.

This 6-Step Content Strategy Framework Is Just the Beginning (Join My In-Depth 60-Minute Class for More)

Once you have the 6 steps down for building a profitable content strategy framework, your content marketing can grow, and grow, and grow…

But only because you’ve taken the time to lay a rock-solid foundation to stand on.

If you rush these steps or skip one or two, you’ll find yourself back at square one. The whole thing will collapse.

Don’t let that happen.

Know the framework inside-out, build your strategy with steel instead of straw, and you’ll be far more likely to succeed.

In short, make sure you have this stuff down!

Get a deeper explanation of each step, plus tips and advice, when you join my 60-minute 6-Step Framework to a Profitable Content Strategy masterclass that covers this framework from front-to-back. This is a FREE, on-demand webinar that dives into each step to a profitable content strategy in one, information-packed hour. Choose a time that fits your busy schedule, and ask your burning questions live. Don’t miss it!

(And, grab a copy of my book on this topic (each chapter is an in-depth look at the six steps in this framework): Practical Content Strategy & Marketing.)

free masterclass cta

 

content strategist

The Ultimate Guide: How to Start Your Career as a Content Strategist

$73,000. According to The Creative Group, that’s the average salary of a content strategist in today’s market.

And, if you’re working in a bigger market, the map below shows us that this number can climb as high as $100,000.

content strategist salary Creative Jobs

Image Source

But you’re not just getting in this industry because you’re attracted to the high salary potential and strong benefits.

You’re getting in it because you love telling stories. You’re doing it because you understand the power that great content can have on people.

Above all, you’re doing it because you want to build a rewarding career for yourself where you can use your skills to impact the lives of others.

The salary is just the icing on the cake.

And while you’ve wanted to get into this industry for awhile, you’re just not quite sure how to do it.

What do you do if you don’t have any experience? Who hires content strategists? How many jobs are available? Where can I build the skills needed to become a desirable candidate?

The answers to these questions, and more, lie within the sections below.

Let’s dive in.

becoming a content strategist

Content Strategy Career Guide 101: Why You Need a Growth Mindset to Succeed

The first thing you need to understand about starting a career as a content strategist is that it’s essential that you develop a growth mindset from the start.

Stanford professor and renowned psychology expert Carol Dweck defines someone with a growth mindset as:

“An individual who believes their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others).”

Someone with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, would be an individual who believes that their talents are innate gifts and cannot necessarily be improved upon.

The world of content marketing changes frequently. What was considered “great” content in 2010 certainly isn’t the same as what it is today.

For this reason, deciding to become a content strategist means also deciding that you’re willing to improve, grow, innovate, and change as the industry demands.

yoda

While that doesn’t mean that you should simply follow in the footsteps of others in the industry, it does mean that you have to be willing to grow and develop your skills along the way.

Before you move forward, I strongly encourage you to make the decision to develop the growth mindset that will allow you to prosper as you move through your career as a content strategist.

9 Skills and Knowledge Needed to Become a Top Notch Content Strategist

As you begin your career as a content strategist, there are a few main traits that you’ll need to succeed.

brand-strategy-six-cores

In total, these are summed up in the graphic we developed for my online course curriculum above, but include:

  1. Solid Grasp of Content Strategy Fundamentals. The ability to develop a Content Differentiation Factor (CDF), set content goals, and understand how to create high-ROI content are all important foundational pieces.
  2. Understanding of How to Develop Audience Personas. Audience personas form the basis for who content will be written for and about.
  3. Ability to Develop Content Sales Funnels. By understanding which type of content should be created for each type of the sales funnel, you can increase the effectiveness and conversion rates of a content marketing campaign.
  4. Keyword Research and SEO Knowledge. A focus on long-tail keywords and SEO helps ensure that your content marketing strategy maximizes its long term ROI potential.
  5. Ability to Create and/or Manage Creation of Authority Content. With so much content being created today, you need to know how to put together content that separates itself from pack.
  6. Content Promotion Knowledge. Understanding how to successfully promote content is arguably just as important as your ability to help create it.
  7. Ability to Develop an Editorial Calendar. Building a content calendar helps to ensure structure and efficiency throughout a content marketing campaign.
  8. Knowledge of How to Track Content Marketing ROI. The goal of any marketing campaign is to maximize ROI. In order to determine the ROI of your strategy, you need to know which metrics to track and how to track them.
  9. Ability to Setup and Manage a Content Budget. Understanding how to maximize content strategy budget will put you in a position to increase ROI potential for the companies and clients you work with.

If you’re just getting started, the above list might look intimidating.

After all, how are you supposed to find the necessary resources to develop all of the above traits before even starting your career?Keep reading.

How to Develop the Necessary Traits to Start Your Content Strategist Career

If you were to attempt to scour the web to find the resources needed to develop the traits outlined above, you’d likely be looking at a learning period of 12-24 months.

How do I know?

Because, in the past, I was a self-taught content strategist.

And not only did I take over a year to attempt to learn these things on my own, but I had a very minimal understanding of each concept even after that prolonged period.

That all changed after 7 years of day in, day out, learning and applying myself to the field of content marketing and content strategy, and finally making my way to the top of my industry through good content marketing.

And that’s why I’ve developed my Content Strategy & Marketing Certification Course.

Because I want to give everyone the opportunity, inside just three months, to learn more about content strategy than I did in the entire five years prior that I had been working in the content marketing industry.

And the course won’t just take you from having a beginner’s understanding of content strategy to an intermediate understanding. It will take you from beginner to right on the cusp of expert.

That’s because, through the course, I give you a step-by-step look at the exact strategies I’ve used to take Express Writers from an agency that started with a $75 investment to one that has reached $4 million in sales over just a few short years.

The bottom line is this:

If you want an opportunity to enjoy the salary, benefits, and rewarding day-to-day life of a content strategist as soon as possible, this course will help you do it.

But, once you develop the necessary traits, how do you actually go about getting a job in the industry?

Let’s find out.

3 Different Ways to Work as a Content Strategist

One of the most exciting things about working in content strategy is that there are several different ways to build your career.

Let’s take a look at some of the main options at your disposal:

1. Companies Hiring In-House Content Strategists

Take a quick look at job boards like Indeed and Glassdoor and you’ll find that there are thousands of companies looking to hire in-house content strategists.

glassdoor Content Strategist

7,716 Content Strategist jobs are currently posted on Glassdoor

The salaries are great, too – Facebook is hiring for a Strategist and paying $103,000-$148,000/year:

facebook content strategist hiring

And while these companies now understand the importance of having a content strategist on their staff, here’s the truth…

They’re having trouble finding talented strategists to fill these positions.

According to another study by The Creative Group, 45% of advertising and marketing executives claimed that finding creative professionals is a major challenge today.

One of the issues here is that many of these positions require years of relevant experience.

And, since many talented people in content strategy are just getting started in the industry, this presents a problem.

The solution?

The industry needs to find a way to groom more content strategists to develop the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to lead a company’s content strategy.

That’s exactly what I am attempting to do with the release of my Content Strategy & Marketing Certification Course.

How to Become an In-House Content Strategist for a Company

As you’re browsing job boards filled with thousands of content strategist jobs, you’ll notice a trend.

They all want EXPERIENCED content strategists.

And, as you see this over and over, you’re probably thinking:

“How in the world am I supposed to gain relevant experience if every potential job requires experience?”

 If this is what you’re thinking, you’re not alone.

content strategists ExperienceImage Source

It’s a problem that job seekers in every industry face.

But what’s the answer here? How do you gain the necessary experience to become a top candidate for one of the thousands of content strategists jobs on the market?

Well, you have a few options here:

1. Volunteer at a Non-Profit Organization. Employers want proof that you have the ability to create and manage the content strategy of their organization. What better way to show that then by volunteering your skills and managing the content strategy of a non-profit you care about?

2. Complete Projects as a Freelancer/Independent Contractor. Freelancing has the lowest barrier of entry and is a great way to develop your skills and experience. We’ll talk about this option more in the coming sections.

3. Work for a Marketing Agency. Marketing agencies often require at least some experience, and/or a strong educational background, but can be a great opportunity to expand your skills and knowledge while working on a variety of different content strategy projects.

The important thing to realize here is that there is no cookie-cutter solution to gaining experience and putting yourself in a position to get hired by top companies.

And while it will take time to develop experience, the career advancement opportunities make it well worth it.

2. How & Why to Find Work as a Content Strategist in Marketing Agencies

Whether because of budget constraints or apprehension towards going “all-in” on content marketing, many companies work with an agency that can handle content strategy for them.

This opens a lot of opportunities for job seekers like yourself.

And, in my opinion, working for a content marketing agency is the absolute best move you can make if you’re looking to quickly advance your skills and earn valuable experience.

This is especially true if you’re able to find an agency that has a content marketing influencer that you can learn and gain experiences from.

How do I know?

Because it’s the exact route many of my internal agency Content Strategists have taken.

content strategy skills

From the thorough content strategy training to gaining an understanding of how to develop content that earns real ROI, my Strategists say it has been an amazing learning experience.

And it’s an experience that I’m sure could help you have as well.

How to Become a Content Strategist for a Marketing Agency

We’ve already identified that marketing executives are having trouble finding talented creatives to fill roles within their companies. Fortunately for you, the same can be said about executives at marketing agencies.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll simply hire anyone that claims to know what they’re doing.

To get hired, you need to provide proof that you have the skills and knowledge to get the job done.

Doing this starts by developing a strong portfolio of your best work.

Additional resource: 99u put together a great post outlining the 6 Steps to Creating a Knockout Online Portfolio that can help you with this process.

When developing your portfolio, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

They include:

1. Create Your Own Domain & Website. Website builders like Squarespace and Jimdo make it easy and affordable to build an online portfolio regardless of whether you have any tech skills.

2. Show Your Best Work. This may seem obvious, but many potential job candidates flood their portfolio with dozens of projects. Instead, it’s best to narrow it down to the 4-5 projects that you consider to be your best work.

3. Let Your Projects Do the Talking. While you should optimize your website with copy, don’t overdo it. Point out your qualifications, certifications, experience, skills, etc. and let the quality of your projects do the rest of the talking.

Don’t have projects under your belt?

No worries. If you don’t currently have any projects to speak of, you have a few options:

  •  Volunteer to Complete Projects for a Non-Profit. Once again, this is a great option to prove that you have the chops to manage an organization’s content strategy.
  • Start by Taking On Projects as a Freelancer/Independent Contractor. We’ll talk about this more in the next section.
  • Create “Pretend” Projects. Find out the type of clients the marketing agencies you’re looking to target are working with. From there, create a project showing how you would handle content strategy for a client within that niche. You can do this by either creating an imaginary client or doing it for a real business that represents their ideal client.

If you’re looking to find potential marketing agencies to apply to, Curata’s Ultimate List of Content Marketing Agencies is a great place to start.

Clutch, a review site for firms and agencies, also has a list of 900+ content marketing agencies that you can target.

If you’re looking for an agency in your area, a simple Google search should yield plenty of results.

Content Marketing Agencies in pa

My search for ‘content marketing agencies in PA’ led to over a dozen agencies that I could apply to.

Overcoming “Imposter Syndrome” When Applying

When preparing to apply to an agency, it’s natural to feel a sense of “imposter syndrome” because of your perceived lack of experience and skill level.

imposter syndrome

But, as Jeff Sauer, a digital marketing consultant, says, one of the things that often keeps agency applicants from getting jobs is their lack of confidence.

As he mentions:

“The people who are hiring you are just as scared about their lack of knowledge in digital marketing as you are. Digital marketing is new, and new things are scary. Concentrate on how you can make things less scary for both parties, and you will get hired.”

This is a great piece of advice and it applies to applying for a content marketing job just as much as any other digital marketing job.

When creating your cover letter, focus on your strengths and how you can contribute to being a productive employee for the agency.

Don’t get caught up in the skills and knowledge that you don’t have. After all, so long as you maintain a growth mindset, you’ll learn those skills and develop the necessary knowledge as you continue working in the industry.

3. Freelance Content Strategist

When I started freelancing part-time in the summer of 2012, the opportunities for professionals in content marketing were bleak to say the least.

Job sites like Upwork and Freelancer.com were filled with clients that were looking to pay the bare minimum for the skills of freelancers, regardless of their expertise or experience.

Fortunately, the tides have turned. Today, freelancers have more opportunities and are as well-respected as they’ve ever been.

It’s about darn time freelancers got some respect.

The reason for this is two-fold.

For one, the number of skilled professionals that have decided to join the world of freelancing has risen significantly. The initial perception about freelancers was that they were freelancing due to their inability to find a job, and not by choice.

That’s no longer the case. In fact, 63% of freelancers today do so by choice.

And, according to Intuit, the freelance economy – also known as the gig economy – accounts for over 34% of the US workforce. That number is expected to rise to 40% by 2020.

State of Freelancing in 2017

Image Source

Second, businesses have begun to realize that hiring a freelancer, or a team of independent contractors, often produces higher ROI. This is due to just how expensive it can be to hire in-house content specialists.

Even just hiring a single writer, inbound marketer, editor, and community manager will cost the average business $221,000 per year.

Add a seasoned content strategist to the mix and you’re looking at right around $300,000/year.

All of this equates to talented freelancers being in higher demand than ever.=

In the end, the main point being made here is simple:

Freelancing CAN be a career if you want it to be and it’s NOT, by any means, a symbol of failure because you didn’t get a “real job”.

In addition, it’s a great way to develop the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to open up opportunities for the future.

How to Become a Freelance Content Strategist

Before pitching your freelance content strategy services to clients, you’ll need to do three things. They include:

1. Pick a Niche. By determining your niche, you’re immediately putting yourself in a position to maximize your income potential while working with clients in an industry that you actually care and know about.

2. Create a Website. Use website builders like Squarespace or Jimdo to create a website that gives you a platform to market to clients.

3. Build Your Portfolio. Using the strategies outlined in the previous sections, create 4-5 projects that display your ability to provide content strategy services.

From there, the biggest question for most freelancers is simple:

“How do I find clients?”

 Before we move into some of the options for finding work, it’s important to realize that, as a freelancer, it will likely take some time before you earn a steady flow of high-paying clients.

The benefits associated with freelancing, such as freedom, choice of clients, and the ability to set your own rates, come with the sacrifice of what can often be inconsistent income.

So long as you maintain a growth mindset and work towards building your reputation, however, it shouldn’t be long before you put yourself in a position of high demand.

As far as where and how to find clients, you have several options:

  • Cold Emailing Clients in Your Niche. Create a list of 200-300 potential clients within your niche. From there, take the time to write personalized cold emails aimed at bringing them on as clients.
  • Guest Posting. Find out what publications and/or websites the clients within your niche read and start pitching guest posts to get in front of them.
  • Contena. Although it is a fairly new site, Contena features dozens of remote content marketing related projects and even a few full-time job opportunities.

For more options, Search Engine Journal’s article outlining 7 Sites to Find Find Freelance Marketing Jobs is a great resource.

Start Your Career as a Content Strategist Now

It’s an exciting time for content strategists.

If you’re willing to develop a growth-mindset, cultivate your skills, and prove your abilities, a career in content strategy can be both rewarding and lucrative.

Make the decision to get a jump-start on a career you’ll love. Get started with my free Profitable Content Marketer Skill Cheat Sheet here, or go for the all-access, six-week training below. It’s all you’d ever need to get going in content marketing and strategy.

You won’t regret it.

content strategy course cta

content strategist course

Content Strategist: A Hard Knocks Success Story & the Essential Strategy Skills You’ll Learn in Our New Certification Course

I’m a self-taught content strategist, and the CEO of a content creation agency that has sold millions of dollars of worth in content services (blogs, web pages, content planning) – full-time for the past six years now. See the story behind Express Writers.

In my line of work, I’ve heard just about every complaint and frustration you could possibly hear from marketers and SEO practitioners:

  • “I’m not sure this content is worth it.”
  • “Where do you recommend I publish my content?”
  • “I’m not sure I can do more than one month of blogging. I’ll look at the budget and get back to you.”
  • “I can’t afford an industry specialist writer.”

This is a small percentage of the clients that come our way, but I’m still ready to pull my hair out, every time I hear these phrases.

Why?

Because I personally know the value that a great content marketing strategy, and consistent publishing, can bring.

But I also know what it takes to get there: the path isn’t easy. It requires investment, time, and most of all, commitment.

The skills involved in the workload of a content strategist aren’t easy to learn.

But here’s the cool news…

Content can truly bring you 100x what you put into it.

Are you interested in becoming a full-fledged, industry expert Content Strategist?

You can learn these skills! My Content Strategy Certification Course is open, but only for a limited time.

I’ll talk more about that in a moment, but first, here’s a look at what I’ve managed to achieve here at Express Writers solely through high quality, original content creation.

content strategist course skills

A Content Strategist Success Story: Express Writers, Fueled Completely By Organic Content

Today, under my direction and content creation as a self-taught content strategist and CEO, my little self-funded content creation agency and staff of 40 at Express Writers has managed to outrank competitors that have $9+ million in outside funding, by an immense 3%+ higher visibility in Google.

We rank organically for over 11,000 key terms, with a presence worth $57,000+ monthly in organic search.

And we haven’t paid a penny in ads—across six years—to gain the majority of our leads and clientele. They’ve come straight from these rankings.

express writers in semrush 1
express writers in semrush 2

express writers in semrush 3

Question…

How well does this content convert?

Because you can’t just have high-ranking content, right? It has to return.

After optimizing my strategy and increasing my content investment this year, we hit the highest sales month we’ve ever had this January. Now, we’re on track to break our first seven figure year as an agency.

99% of our leads come through organic content marketing.

I’ve never invested a single dollar in PPC.

The secret is all in how you go about it (your strategy), and your commitment. It’s not an overnight game, and it’s a steady, slow, but sure process.

It can feel like hard, low-return work in the beginning, but in the long run, content is the best marketing you’ll have ever done.

Content Strategists & The Proven Worth of Content to Advertisers

Today, SEO has basically merged as a part of the wider picture that is content marketing.

When you do SEO, you’re optimizing your content for high rankings in the search results: in content marketing, you market your product or service through high-value, audience-targeted content campaigns.

Optimizing your content for search (SEO) is a crucial, integrated part of content marketing itself. It’s a big part of the skillset of a great content strategist.

If you have the right strategy, the right SEO and the right content consistency in place, take a look at these success statistics that can happen.

  • Per dollar spent, content marketing generates more than 3x the number of leads than paid search does. (Kapost/Eloqua)
  • Content marketing costs between 31 and 41% less than paid search, depending on the organization’s size. (Kapost/Eloqua)
  • Website conversion rate is nearly 6x higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (2.9% vs. 0.5%). (Aberdeen Group)
  • Content creation ranks as the single most effective SEO technique. (Marketing Sherpa)
  • 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. (FactBrowser)
  • Small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog. (ImpactBnd)

A Content Strategist Skillset Wheelhouse: 7 Keys to Success 

Your content strategy is everything in achieving high-performing, high-ROI content.

Follow these critical steps, in order, for a baseline sense of how to navigate through and set up your strategy so that your content is knocked out of the park and you know you’re getting ROI when you publish content. (PSA: These steps take time. Don’t jump around or rush through them. PSA 2: This takes time. Don’t expect overnight success.)

1. Know your position of authority and differentiation in your field.

It all starts here. Know where your expertise lies, own it, and ten find your Content Differentiation Factor so you can officially stand out in your industry. To get to that, ask yourself, “what would make a customer choose me over my competitor?” Your answer is your CDF. Condense it to one or two key sentences to showcase on your home page (you may need a conversion copywriter to help you express this perfectly).

CDF factor

Brands that have a standout CDF in a variety of niches (scan their home pages—it should, quite literally, stand out there):

  • Uber: ”Get there: Your day belongs to you”
  • Stripe: “The new standard in online payments”
  • Grammarly: “Your writing, at its best”
  • Moz: “5 billion searches are performed every day. Be found.”
  • Zuke’s Dog Blog: “Live life off leash”
  • Better Bites Bakery: “All joy, no worries”
  • My agency: “Better content in your marketing.”

This is the first step of a true content strategy, and this step is a discovery that could take some time. But it’s absolutely worth it. Too many brands starting out don’t take the time to make sure they have a standout factor.

To set yourself up for content success, you have to have a reason for the reader (buyer, audience member, lead) to choose you and your content. Don’t skimp here. Having a CDF will 10x the results you’ll get when leads start finding your content.

2. Know your content goals.

What do you want to get out of content? Bucket in three key areas: 1. SEO rankings (you’ll define your terms later in the strategy), 2. Sales and connections, and 3. Brand awareness.

Direct your efforts in content based on where you’re at in your business. If you have leads and customers, you may be able to afford more time and creativity with brand awareness content. If you’re starting out, focus on finding your keywords and creating comprehensive, awesome SEO content—months down the road, when your leads start coming in, you’ll be glad you did.

Go by goals, and every content idea you have, you should be able to bucket that topic or idea into your goal areas. This heavily narrows down the chances of you creating undirected, low-ROI content.

3. Know your audience and who you’re talking to. 

Get to know your audience, their language, the conferences they attend and the publications they read. Think of it like “friendly-stalking” the people you want to do business with and earn as customers.

A surefire way to find out persona data is to use surveys and get real-time feedback (use and pay for a Google Survey if you don’t have an audience yet). Ask them to fill out a demographic survey in exchange for a reward (gift card, a free service from you). If you have an existing customer list, pick a customer on that list and offer to have coffee with them, on you, in exchange for a few minutes of their time—or pick up the phone and ask to interview them.

Get comfortable with who your ideal customer is, their likes, dislikes, and you’ll be able to create content that is just for them.

4. Build a persona and a style guidelines document for your brand.

Once you have survey results in and have profiled your ideal client, build a persona. Don’t set it in stone—people change, and traits vary so much (we’re all so unique). So, don’t idealize just one person with a persona. Think of it like getting familiar with their likes and interests, so you can create better content that caters to them.

Then, invest time and resources into building a style guidelines for your brand. Keep it simple – include your audience persona, specify how to use (and not use) your company brand name and colors, the preferred style and tone of voice you want to maintain, linking and content rules. You’ll find this document invaluable when you start investing in content creators. Brand style guidelines can stop hired writers and creators from assuming different tones, in their tracks. And it’s crucial in winning leads and building a loyal audience that you adhere to and use your tone throughout every piece of content you publish. Brand familiarity is ROI.

Check out how Skype specifies their tone of voice in their brand book: “If your mum couldn’t understand what is being written, then it’s not the Skype voice. Humour is an important part of the Skype voice. We don’t tell one liners, but employ a gentle wit to engage our users.”

5. Know your keywords, content topics, & investments to make.

Keyword discovery should be a part of every brand’s content strategy. Go for long-tail keywords and use tools like KWFinder and SEMrush to find your best keywords according to how well they’re scored. Avoid high competition keywords on authoritative sites—they will be much harder to write content around and rank for, if you’re competing against someone who has already done an amazing job at writing content for it and Google is ranking that content #1. Look for relevant, low competition keywords.

Be thorough with your keyword discovery. It takes me about an hour to find eight amazing long-tail keywords that have a real chance of ranking, if I create comprehensive content around them. I look for a score of 40 and below in the SEO difficulty scores.

Don’t just rely on keyword tools for content topics: use tools like BuzzSumo and question/answer platforms like Quora to discover trending topics in your industry. Choose a few you can write on with authority, and add your own thoughts on the subject.

Your topics can and should branch outside of SEO terms. For example:

  • SEO-focused post: we found out that the keyword “hiring the best SEO content writers” was a long-tail keyword with slim competition, so we created a 1,500 word post titled “How to Hire Your Best SEO Content Writers: 4 Key Qualities to Look For.”
  • Brand awareness-focused post: Outside of keyword research, I found that a common question on Quora was “how do I create a content marketing plan?” So, one of my blogs was a 2,000 word piece on that topic. The keyword had high competition, but since I have established rankings and leads, I wrote on the topic to focus on high level industry education, which can bring my agency more brand awareness.

Your content investments should be based on your commitment. Remember: it takes 12-24 months of consistent content creation to see results.

Hubspot did a study showing how much the effort of blogging can return 12 months down the road:

hubspot blogging_compounding_returns-1-1

And, they did a study on why more is always better:

hubspot blog_monthly_traffic

If you can’t write a consistent stream of content yourself, invest in an industry copywriter. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to find a writer that knows the industry they’re writing in—inside and out. Your reader is smart, savvy, and attracted to your brand/products because they’re in the same industry you’re in. Don’t leave the important process of writing the content your prospects actually read just up to any writer. Besides knowing the industry, your content writer should also know online optimization (keyword placement, format) and have engaging writing skills.

We’ve seen our clients 10x their rankings and results when they invested in an industry knowledgeable, authoritative copywriter!

6. Build your editorial calendar. 

Keep this part simple so you focus on the other cores more (research, publishing, promoting). Guide your topics by the high-opportunity keywords you find and the brand awareness focused topics you discover from a web topic crawl (trending in Quora, BuzzSumo, etc.). Get creative and tie topics to seasons and dates (see next point). Use Google Sheets or Trello to store your editorial topics in one place, month after month.

7. Promote, maintain, and audit.

A content promotion strategy should be in your mind from the moment you create content.

For example: back in February this year I had the idea to write a list of women in marketing to follow, and tie it to International Women’s Day in March. I categorized that topic based on where I could best promote it, and ended up pitching it to Search Engine Journal, where it received the best reception in promotion and shares, out of all the publications I could have published it on.

Think of where you can place and promote your content, as you create it. Go outside the box and be creative and strategic. Tie topics to holidays, seasonal launches to guest publication feature dates, and more.

Content maintenance and auditing should be part of your strategy on a consistent basis.

Every month, I check my site positions in SEMrush, and ask three of my best agency copywriters to help me update the posts that start to rank. This has brought a serious return in the amount of lead inquiries we get.

The content I wrote back in 2013 that’s ranking #1 today isn’t nearly as good as the content I can write today, so it’s absolutely necessary for me to update content as it ranks. By improving the quality of that content, updating the meta description, etc., I can seriously improve the amount of visitors that turn into leads from finding these high-ranking posts on Google.

Content Strategist Skillsets: Success is In the Details 

Remember: content marketing isn’t something that can be done once, or twice, or even for a few months.

In a podcast I recently recorded with Joe Pulizzi, he recommended 12-24 months as the typical turnaround to expect with a content investment. So, as a content strategist, once you invest in a blog schedule, you need to keep at it at least a year to start seeing return.

I’ve talked to influencers and content strategists that have shared their personal success stories, and it’s always a story about long-term success that translates to long term ROI—combined with a serious investment in “10x style” content (content that is 10x better than anything already out there).

The success is in the commitment, and in the details of how willing you are to get good at your strategy and content itself.

  • Unbounce’ Content Director, Dan Levy: “Blogging was survival for Unbounce in the early days. It was the only way for us to raise awareness of our brand and the need for landing pages in general without spending a ton of money, which we didn’t have.” Unbounce blogged six months before their product launched. Today, they have over 9,800 paying customers—which they’ve acquired mostly through Oli Gardner’s amazing long-form content.
  • Sujan Patel: “Content takes time, and people just see success stories and don’t realize it’s not overnight. It’s taken two and a half years for me. After that length of creating content for my own site consistently, I’m at a point of earning speaking gigs without even seeking them out.”

Yet, it works. At a Content Marketing World conference, the former senior director for data, content and media at Kraft, Julie Fleischer, said that content marketing ROI was 4x greater than their most targeted advertising.

Get a Visualized, Step-for-Step, 6-Week Content Strategist Certification & Training

This 2017, one of my biggest goals was to turn what I know into teachable, easy-to-digest knowledge in a course format.

I’d taken a few courses, and the ones I experienced all lacked one thing—the practical how-to of “what do I do next in my content?”

Personally, I learned content creation ROI the hard way, through trial and error. And after training dozens of writers with content I wrote just for internal education at my agency, I’ve seen firsthand how this industry is lacking in a practical, hands-on, high-ROI education.

The hows, what’s, and when’s of content creation and strategy as it applies to content marketing–where do you go to learn them?

So, over the last three months, I put hundreds of hours (and all the knowledge from my last six years in the industry) into creating an ultimate Content Strategy Certification Course.

It went live last week. The points I laid out in the six keys above are what I teach, step-by-step, visualized in video lesson demos and taught in hands-on exercises throughout six workbooks that accompany my course modules. In the course, my students learn how to build a working brand strategy, complete with personas, keyword reports, editorial calendars, and more: and my team and I personally review and mentor their results before they progress to certification.

Here’s to changing the industry—one complete, high-ROI content strategy at a time!

blog cta 2 course

 

content strategy certification

I Launched a Content Strategy Certification Course! How It Can Help You Succeed In the Industry

Seven years ago, I delved full-force, head-first, neck-deep into the industry of content marketing.

Throughout my seven-year, full-time career as a self-taught expert, I’ve been hands-on in creating, producing, and training on internal content services that have answered a demand and fulfilled a need for our clients, with the help of an amazing remote team I assembled.

To date, my agency (bootstrapped and on zero outside funding) has sold over $4 million worth of content services to over 5,000 clients.

I was born with a natural love for both “writing and the internet” – a writer by 12, and an entrepreneur by 16, writing books, creating companies, and learning how to make money online when I wasn’t in school. But at age 19, I found myself in college trying to get a degree I didn’t even want (R.N.). I think I would have made a terrible nurse – the trade just wasn’t for me. So I dropped out, went and followed my heart, and taught myself online writing. I became a top freelancer fast, and within three months had more work than I could handle. Within 5 minutes of that realization, I created an agency at age 20, and Express Writers was born.

And now, one of my 2017 goals has just happened. After five months of hard work, and over 400 hours of heart, soul, energy and 5 a.m. mornings, my ultimate industry course is finally here.

It’s targeted to the entrepreneur, freelancer, and agency staff member: and within this course, I’ve created an entire curriculum with practical advice on how to build, execute, track and maintain content that worksfrom A to Z. We’re talking all the way from finding your audience and building a persona for any audience, to planning out your keywords, building an editorial calendar, promoting your content, publishing, analyzing, and auditing – from beginner level, all the way to advanced.

I created this course because I believe that with the right strategy and execution knowledge in place, anything is possible through great content marketing.

By itself, content marketing has fueled my business the past 6 years. (Here’s a case study I wrote about that late last year. Neil Patel wrote about my agency as an example of a content creation business that does what they say.) We physically live out what we preach – content drives 95-99% of our agency leads and has brought over 5,000 clients right into our doors.

Beta launch of our Content Strategy Certification Course is complete! The course launched as a school September 1, 2017. Check it out here.

content strategy certification course

Why There’s a Tremendous Industry Need for a Practical Content Strategist Certification Course

In the industry, here’s what I’ve come to realize:

1. Businesses today know they need content marketing more than ever.

Back when I was on the phones in 2011, I had to convince people why they needed it. Today, 89% of B2B marketers now invest in content marketing – and we see it. My staff and I have to “convince” on the “why content” question a lot less.

2. But, businesses don’t know what they need in content, or how to make their content marketing work well for them (read: ROI).

I think of great content marketing like a well-oiled, rotating water wheel. You have to show up daily and consistently put content out to get something back. If you have your process, people and a source of amazing content ideas down pat, success happens. (For me, content marketing produces 90%+ of my business leads.)

But getting there is such a struggle. What do you invest in, how often, where do you put it – and how do you know if it’ll net rankings (or brand awareness/traction – whichever goal you’re going for)? Wait – do you have a goal?

All of that is the meat of content strategy.

And if you don’t know strategy or have a working one implemented, your content marketing return on investment (ROI) is going to be much, much lower that it could be. The cool part: if you do know it, returns can be HUGE.

To date, I’ve created products instead of “knowledge.”

But it’s time to delve in, head first. I believe that knowledge is power.

Personally, my road to success has been self-carved, and self-created.

What I taught myself fuels my expertise.

And since the landing page for the course went out in early May, I’ve gone so much more indepth than I said I would with the course content.

This insane task is, easily, the best thing I’ve ever done in my industry.

I’ve considered renaming my course “Ultimate Content Marketing Certification,” because my students are going to learn everything in the fundamentals of brand content marketing.

I’ve even slated top experts to appear on video with me which will go in certain modules of the course to give my students that much more depth on the subject. While building the course, I put in days that started at 5 a.m. and ended only when I crashed in bed at 10 p.m.

Easily, you could start a content marketing agency after you take my course. Easily, assemble your own content team. Easily, teach your clients (or your boss’ clients) amazing content techniques that result in trackable ROI. Show them who to target, what to create, what to track, how to measure, how to update = for tangible, working, worthwhile content results.

Check out my new course, live at: www.contentstrategycourse.com

content strategist certification course outlining

My office whiteboard got super messy while I planned and worked all the content out.

Exploring the Content Marketing Ecosphere: How Does Content Strategy Fit In as An Integral Part?

Here’s a few crazy stats about this industry of content marketing:

  • It’ll be worth $313 billion by 2019.
  • Billions of funding have been put into content marketing startups by now – VC investors realize the value of the industry and SaaS creators/entrepreneurs within it.
  • And 91% of B2B marketers that are “very committed to content marketing” see success (CMI).

But…

Only 61% of content marketers have a documented content strategy.

Yikes!

And out of the 89% of marketers that actually do content marketing, only 3% rate their content marketing as “very successful.”

Per the CMI study, here are those two stats in contrast. 89% of B2B marketers use content marketing:

cmi content marketing 2017

Yet only 3% rate it as extremely successful:

cmi content success

What causes the drop?

A lack of direction with content strategy.

OK, great – next logical question:

But what the heck is a content strategy?

Ah, great question.

It can be hard to even answer this one.

Because as Michele Linn of CMI said so aptly, your “editorial calendar is not a content strategy.”

The truth: content marketing without a solid content strategy is nothing. And a viable, content strategy is the arena, the action area of your content marketing.

And my course solves these problems.

Strategizing for and creating great content, publishing and managing the content that goes into your content marketing, is all a part of what goes into content strategy.

Here are the other moving parts and tasks that make up the whole of a great content strategy that can be put into action and churn out ROI at the other end (and this is what my course teaches, in whole):

  • Knowing your position of authority and differentiation in the field.
  • Knowing how to define your audience (and customer) persona, and creating a persona for each of your main target audiences.
  • Creating a brand style guidelines that includes your persona so your writers never mess up on brand voice and target audience.
  • Being able to define your exact customer needs, and create content for their defined pain points at all points in the sales cycle.
  • Planning worthwhile topics that attract and hold the attention of your ideal customer.
  • Knowing how to use Quora, BuzzSumo, and online forums to research hot topics that will make it top-read on your publication platforms.
  • Defining and going after your best guest blogging opportunities.
  • Being aware of key directions your content focus should be in for definite return on content investment.
  • Discovering the right keywords for your niche and brand that will result in ROI (finding them CAN be second nature once you know how).
  • Creating a monthly editorial calendar using one of the easiest tools in the market.
  • Focusing, mapping out, and creating content types worth your time.
  • Pre-publication, knowing how to prep and optimize your content for SEO to make sure people Googling your keywords can find your content.
  • If it’s for your clients, you’ll need to know how to set content expectations in terms of measurable ROI.
  • Being able to measure the actual ROI of your content, adjust accordingly, and maintaining and updating your best posts for more results.
  • Knowing content promotion fundamentals, email marketing, and a ground-floor social media marketing strategy.

See the curriculum for the Practical Content Strategy Certification Course here.

Why Should You Listen to Me Teach Content Strategy?

You could go to anyone, right? So why listen to me teach content strategy?

Here’s the thing.

The bones of this course were already written and taught by me three years ago – and have proven results in ROI.

In my agency, internally, I’ve trained effective Content Strategists that today deliver on services like content planning, keyword reports, and consultation.

We have an internal notebook that I created just for this role, and candidates in my team that progress to eligibility for the training (after client satisfaction rates are solidified, successful content writing has happened, editorial training, etc.), receive 1:1 mentoring and real-time critique from me after they take the training. The final step in the training has always been to create a fictional content strategy. If they pass, they’re golden – and clients love their work with the reports they get.

Here’s another thing.

The course is based on the training I wrote three years ago and update seasonally since – but it’s 10x better.

I’ve talked to my Strategists, analyzed the training myself, and realized we needed more. Videos, cheat sheets, shortcuts, and more tactics, knowledge, and strategy lessons.

So, the idea for the certification course was born.

The idea went bigger when I realized the continual need in the industry that I couldn’t just answer easily with a “product:” implementing a working, ROI-focused content strategy.

I think that giving brands and marketers the keys to the success of their own content will result in amazing things.

It is one of the most up-to-date strategy courses in the industry.

You’ll be ready to start implementing immediately once you go through the materials, because I’ve created my course around actionable teaching that translates to skills you can take home today and start earning your customer’s love, trust and business with, or use to build and create amazing content for your own brand.

We’ve sold literally thousands of these products in the past 6 years, and the strategies have resulted in serious brand ROI. Last year, I even built and launched a new content level from the ground up to answer an industry need: and today, people are buying it – and experiencing online results from this level for their brand.

Everything at Express Writers, from products to staff roles, is a result of my “ear to the ground” attitude in the industry. I’m building, teaching, and creating based on real industry needs.

We’ve been our own guinea pigs, too. And what I test on us results in success – we’ve netted top 3 positions in Google for long-tail, low comp keywords by creating in-depth, visual and long-form content strategically around it.

OK, enough convincing.

See the curriculum for the Practical Content Strategy Certification Course here.

Sign up at contentstrategycourse.com!

I’m even partnering up with industry experts and some amazing SEO/content tools to make big things happen for my students!

Get ready, world – REAL, proven and practical content strategy education is comin’ at ya!

– Julia

content strategy course cta

enterprise content strategies

How to Upkeep a Consistent, Productive Enterprise Content Strategy

For large brands that publish a great deal of content to maintain a hefty enterprise content strategy, figuring out how to develop a consistent voice can be difficult.

It’s easy to think of how to direct content creation if you have a blog or two to write, but creating great content gets much harder as your blogs or articles start numbering over 100 each month if you’re doing enterprise level content productive.

Luckily, just because consistency may be difficult, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Massive brands with lots of content can develop a consistent, productive content strategy that returns in huge ROI, fans, readers, and interactions.

Here’s a few that write a lot, and have a great presence:

  • The Huffington Post–back in 2013–was reported to be creating over 1,200 articles per day.
  • BuzzFeed published over 6,100 posts this April 2016.

(More volume content stats from Buzzsumo’s recent study on why the future is more content, not less.)

Let’s explore how enterprise level brands can win at great online content production.

build an enterprise content strategy

Why A Lot of Content Works For The Enterprise Content Brand

If you’re a major brand not creating a great deal of solid online content, you could be significantly missing out.

In 2013, Hubspot found out that 82% of marketers who blog daily won a new customer solely from their blog; as opposed to 57% of marketers who blog per month.

With an average of 54% more leads generated by inbound rather than outbound, and $20,000 saved per year by investing in content marketing instead of outbound, there’s big reasons why brands should favor investing big-time in content creation rather than other marketing methods today.

And Here’s Why Quality Still Matters More Than Quantity

While modern brands understand that posting often is critical to online visibility and success in the search engines, it’s imperative to keep in mind that quality is still more important than quantity.

All too often, the big brands of today get in a hurry to pump out content, and then they get sloppy.

While it’s happened to virtually every company at some point or another, it’s bad form that can ultimately harm the company’s reputation and even cost an enormous amount of money.

Need an example? Consider some of the most expensive spelling and grammar mistakes ever to befall major companies.

While it’s all well and good to pump out a lot of content, the content you publish is only worth as much as its quality, and little things like proofreading and hiring an editor truly make all the difference.

Because of this, enterprise brands that want to excel in the world of online marketing and advertising must take a pointer from their smaller counterparts: quality over quantity.

Rule of thumb, even for the massive brands: you can’t afford to publish sloppy content. A big body of bad content never helped anyone, and a small collection of great content is worth its weight in gold.

5 Tips for Developing a Consistent Enterprise Content Strategy

As the process of living life and running a business gets crazier, creating a consistent content strategy can get even harder.

Luckily, there are several tools enterprise-level companies can use to streamline their content creation and help things run more smoothly from the get-go.

1. Develop an editorial calendar & rely on a content crew to organize efforts

Editorial calendars are some of the most valuable and under-appreciated tools in all of online marketing.

Designed to help companies organize their content efforts and plan content well in advance, editorial calendars are a great way for a company to see, at a glance, what it has going on with various distribution platforms at any given point.

What’s more, a well-planned editorial calendar can also take a significant amount of the daily planning out of a good content strategy.

Good tools for editorial calendar management:

  • Google Docs (don’t underestimate the power of a live, shared Google doc – it’s what I use to keep our consistent content scheduled and topics created)
  • Scheduling & management from CoSchedule can help big content brands efficiently plan, develop, and post their content

Here’s an example of what the Minnesota Business Magazine’s editorial calendar looks like. I love how cleanly everything is divided into months, with a focus, industry watch topics, and it even includes events to cover for the month:

Minnesota Business 2016 Editorial CalendarHand-in-hand with a great tool is a great content crew.

Let’s face it: you can’t create massive amounts of content without massive amounts of content writers!

At our company, we’ve written as many as 300 pages all in a week – if you can count press releases, social media posts, a bio or two, blogs for dozens of companies, web pages, a resume… as “pages.” We write a lot of content that’s consistently varied–and we’ve built a massive, proven team over the past five years who handle every single project with creative care. Our team is relied on by many brands who need a variety of content amounts. If you’re looking for a content backup crew, ours is the one–we’ll prove it! See more about us.

In the long-term, having a great process and a solid crew to rely on helps nail down a consistent, predictable content schedule upon which readers can rely.

2. Conduct relevant keyword research for your brand

Keyword research is not a tool often associated with brand consistency, but it’s a critical piece of the puzzle.

By conducting quality keyword research, brands can target (a lot of) long-tail keywords that are most relevant to their company and their message.

This, in turn, helps the company create consistency by ensuring it’s always on the cutting edge of the industry and that the keywords posts and other content focus on are relevant and interesting to readers.

And, the ranking results are huge when you create lots of consistent long-form keyword focused content (we’re living proof).

For best results, use a powerful keyword research tool like KWFinder or BuzzSumo.

3. Build unique, custom graphics for your content

Custom graphics are essential for any brand that’s serious about creating a consistent content strategy. In addition to doing simple things like perpetuating your company’s branding, design, and color scheme, custom graphics also help you create a predictable online presence across all of your various social and web platforms.

What’s more, custom graphics can help you provide value to readers and make it easier to disseminate information in a useful and digestible way.

Check out this custom graphic one of our team artists drew for this post:

At scale, custom drawings like the above may not be easy to create, unless you have a team helping out.

For best results, create a unique mix of infographics, social graphics, and headers for blogs and other content.

While this may seem like a simple thing, it’s one step that many small enterprise-level businesses forget about.

By taking the time to develop custom graphics, it’s easy to set your content apart from the rest and ensure that all content creation is as consistent and relevant as possible.

4. Make the customer the center of your mission

While it may sound odd that making the customer the center of your content strategy could serve to make it more consistent, it’s true.

kim-kardashian-center-of-attention

This doesn’t matter if you’re small potatoes or if you’re a huge brand like Buzzfeed serving up thousands of articles a day–you can do this.

(If you follow Buzzfeed, they really nail their audience type… check out these topics: “22 God-Awful Freshman Roommates,” “Someone’s Heart was Found in a Ziplock Bag in a Field,” and “23 Tumblr Posts That Make Perfect Sense To Food Network Addicts.”)

When the customer is a company’s primary concern, it has the immediate and widespread effect of making the distribution channels and content creation methods more streamlined.

This, in turn, helps brands create content that resonates with a target audience and fulfills a specific set of purposes or objectives.

What’s more, developing a content strategy in which customers feature prominently is a wonderful way to boost the effectiveness and relevance of online content.

5. Use a management tool to streamline creation and distribution

Without the help of an excellent content management tool, it’s easy for all of your various channels and creation efforts to get away from you.

Luckily, a content management tool can help mitigate this in a big way. By allowing you to keep track of, schedule, and post content across various platforms from a single dashboard, a great content management tool is the one thing that can truly overhaul and streamline your content strategy.

Docurated has a good list of 50 top content management tools for the enterprise creator.

Streamlined Content, Made Simple

While optimized content is something many big brands dream of, few understand how to create it.

Luckily, these simple tips can help facilitate more efficient enterprise-level content that serves not only a company’s customers but the brand as a whole.

By streamlining content as much as possible, companies can easily provide more value to their readers, and offer a more cohesive and individualized continue strategy from beginning to end.

Do you need help creating great content for enterprise needs? Contact our writing team for professional assistance today! 

Small business blog

Your 12-Step Guide to A Small Business Content Strategy

Imagine this: you’re an NFL player headed into the biggest game of the season. Everything is riding on you and your coach’s expectations are high. Your teammates are depending upon you. You’re out on the field now and they all look to you for direction and, guess what? You don’t have any because you never took the time to develop a pre-game strategy.

That would never happen, right? Right. In sports, strategy is everything and it would be crazy to enter a game without knowing how you wanted to play it. Believe it or not, the same goes for content.

When it comes to your small business, developing a content strategy is an important step toward success. From drawing customers to helping you establish yourself as an authority, content strategy is the foundation upon which everything else is built.

You can build yourself upon content, as a business–with a good strategy.

Small business blog

A Guide to Small Business Content Strategy: 12 Essential Tips

Here’s what you need to know about small business content marketing and how you can make yours better.

How Do You Define Content?

First things first – what is content? To put it simply, content is the material you produce to further your company’s goals. In many cases, it acts as the vessel for content marketing, a practice within which companies use content to create and distribute valuable information to their fans, customers, and readers, thus driving profitable customer interaction and helping establish themselves as authorities in the field.

 

According to a recent Content Marketing Institute report, 86% of small businesses are currently using content marketing and 40% say that the approach is effective for their companies.

 

5 Key Types of Must-Have Content: Strategy for the Small Business

When you’re building your small business, one of the most important things you can do is take some time to invest in content. While it may seem more important to jump right into selling, focusing on building content first will produce higher-quality results in the long run.

Here’s are the five main types of content you should build when you start your business:

1. A blog

Blogs are huge right now and they’re not fixing to slow down any time soon. Companies that build and maintain a blog earn more leads, gain visibility, establish themselves as authorities in their industry, and expand their customer base at light-speed. In fact, marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to see a positive ROI than those who don’t.

This is due in large part to the fact that blogs are a great way to help your company get found online. According to HubSpot, customers will undertake 85% of their company relationships without ever talking to a human by 2020. This means that it’s hugely beneficial and important for companies to start blogging as soon as they start functioning.

2. A web page

Think of a web page as your home base: it helps people learn more about your company, gives you a great place to showcase new products, goods, and services, allows customers to locate your contact information, reviews, and purchasing options, and provides a platform that all of your other content can meet on.

There are many different options for building a small business web page, and in most cases, it can be done for only a few bucks in only a few minutes. Most platforms today allow for drag-and-drop website building, which makes designing a beautiful page easy, even if you’re not a pro.

3. Great keywords

If you’re doing anything online, you’ll need to learn about search engine optimization (SEO). Specifically, you’ll need to learn about keyword research and how it can benefit your company. In order to rank well in Google’s indexes and make yourself more visible online, you’ll need to research and target relevant keywords. This helps you appear prominently for relevant search queries and ensures that customers looking for a company like yours can find you easily.

4. Social media

While Google still rules the roost, it’s important to remember that social media platforms are search engines, too. If a customer is attracted to your brand or products, it’s likely that person will search for you using social media. If they can’t find you, it’s likely you’ll miss out on business.

If customers can find you, though, they’re more likely to engage with your company. For this reason, it’s important to focus on building up a social media presence from the get-go. This means selecting 1-2 social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram, for example) and building your presence there. This allows you to expand your reach with your customers and make more connections.

5. A buyer persona

Before any of the above tips can work out well for you, you’ll need to establish your buyer persona. A buyer persona defines who you’re trying to sell a product to and why. It looks at your target demographic and answers questions like: who are these people? How old are they? Where do they live? How much money do they make each year? What are they worried about? Knowing the answers to these questions is a fantastic way to set yourself up for success and to target your content marketing more effectively from the beginning.

Building Your Content Strategy: 7 Actionable Tips

Now that you’ve got some types of content to work with, it’s time to start building out your content strategy into a functional machine that helps you drive sales. Here are seven key steps.

1. Segment your audience

You used buyer personas to identify your audience, but now it’s time to segment them into individual groups. If you’re like most companies, you have several sets of populations you’re trying to target. In fact, Content Marketing Institute reports that the average small business targets four separate segments of customers. Segmenting your customer base will allow you to target each segment more efficiently and to tailor your content accordingly.

2. Decide on your topics

What do you want your content to do? How is it going to achieve that goal? The one true way to ensure that your content is successful is to ensure that the topics of your content are interesting, valuable, and relevant for your customers.

To gain ideas for topics, look at things like your FAQ section – are there repeated questions there that you can turn into a lengthy blog series? You’ll also find a whole host of ideas on question and answer sites like Quora or by using a service like BuzzSumo, which will allow you to find and track the top-performing content in your industry. In the process, you may even find that brainstorming topic ideas helps you come up with new keywords, which paves the way for a SEO and visibility boost.

3. Define your objective

According to QuickSprout, you can define your blogging objectives by asking yourself the following six questions:

  • Do you want to drive physical traffic to your office or retail location?
  • Do you want to increase leads or generate sales?
  • Do you want to entice prospects to visit you from outside of your local area?
  • Do you want to draw in overseas clients?
  • Do you want to educate your readers on your company’s mission?
  • Do you want to provide your customers with business updates?
  • Do you want to build and strengthen your brand?

Now – these are all great questions, but in order to truly define your blogging objectives, you should only be identifying with two or three of these objectives. Any more than that is a recipe for content marketing disaster and a sure way to wind up being disorganized and ineffective. Pick a few objectives and stick to them for the most focused strategy possible.

4. Make the delivery exciting

Content, content everywhere, and not a delivery method in site! Now that you’ve decided on what you’re going to write and for whom you’re going to write it, you’ll have to think about how you’re going to get it to your target audience. The average small business uses 12 different content distribution tactics. Often, these tactics include methods like the following:

  • Social media
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters
  • Videos
  • In-person events
  • Visual content, including infographics and photos
  • Webinars
  • White papers

No matter how you choose to distribute your content, it’s important to ensure that you vary the method. This helps prevent people from becoming bored with your content and, most importantly, ensures that people can find your content because you continue to place it in the places they frequent. Keep in mind that the average small business uses 6 separate social media platforms for content distribution.

5. Create a content calendar

Now that you’ve built the bones of your content strategy, you need to focus on bringing it to life. You can do this by building an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is the ultimate organizational tool for small business bloggers worldwide and when used correctly, can help you plan all of the following details for your content:

  • Date
  • Distribution channel
  • Content type
  • Reader type
  • Seasonal content
  • Trending content
  • Content creators
  • Budget

An editorial calendar is meant to be a fluid thing and will likely change as your business grows and shifts. The important thing, however, is that you develop one and that you keep it going as you continue to hone your content strategy. Doing this will allow you to create real, organized content. In other words: an editorial calendar is one of the single best tools you can use to make your content successful.

6. Create, create, create

It’s tough to have a content strategy without – you guessed it – content. That said, you’ll need to dedicate some time simply to creating content. Write about the topics you’ve brainstormed and put your fresh new content out there for your customers. Keep tabs on your content by monitoring user comments, social shares, and interaction in order to get a feel for what performs best and what seems to get no reaction. While it seems simple, a great deal of constructing an efficient content strategy is simply trial and error. By getting out into the game, you’ll quickly learn what you need to do.

7. Track your results

It’s impossible to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. That’s why it is so important to track the results of your content creation efforts. CMI reports that 87% of small businesses state that lead generation is the priority for their entire content strategy.

If that rings true for your company, you can track the success of your content by metrics like social media activity, web traffic (67% of small businesses report that this is their most important content marketing success metric), and lead sources. Doing this allows you to plan, execute, and measure accordingly, which in turn allows you to adjust your content strategy as you go along, creating a bombproof strategy that promises to serve your company well for all of its days.

It’s Time to Start Rocking Your Small Business Content Strategy

According to the CMI report, 74% of marketers are creating more content this year than they were one year ago. This is likely due to the fact that content has proven time and time again to be one of the most effective forms of marketing material. From providing a way for your customers to interact with your company to offering a platform on which you can provide value and relevance to your readers, content is a hugely important piece of any small business’ success. Fortunately, when you take these 12 tips to heart, you can quickly develop a content strategy that allows you to stand out from the crowd and succeed in small business content marketing.

Need great content to fill your content marketing? Check out our Content Shop.