A good content marketing strategy is more than a calendar mapping out your publication dates. It's an entire strategy built on goals, production plans and analysis.

Here’s something that I’ve noticed recently: Every time I drop the term “content strategy” within the world of digital marketing, a lot of people automatically think I’m talking about a content calendar:

  • What articles are we writing next week?
  • Which videos are we sharing on Facebook?

Of course, having a well thought out calendar is integral to the success of any content marketing efforts, but we need to think big! A content calendar is but a small piece of an overall strategy. We need to think beyond fancy color-coded spreadsheets and have an all-encompassing action plan that includes creation and delivery, integration, measurement and follow-through.

Element 1: Creation & Delivery

So you think content marketing is right for you – where do you begin?

Whether you’re doing it internally or hiring a content marketing agency like Brafton, you need to have a plan of attack for the whys, whats and hows.

 Your needs will be the jumping-off point in creating an actual strategy with regards to the types of content you will be using.

First, think about why it’s necessary for your company – what’s your goal? Is it because your competitors are doing it? Is it because you made it an objective to increase your leads this year? Your needs will be the jumping-off point in creating an actual strategy with regards to the types of content you will be using.

With a goal in mind, lay your strategy out and pinpoint what content types will help achieve your objectives:

  • Is it a quarterly eBook or white paper to nurture leads?

  • How about weekly in-depth thought leadership posts on your blog that can be shared on social media channels to drive traffic back to the site?

Once you’ve curated your thoughts, how are your content pieces going to be developed and then delivered to their predestined homes?

Creating a – wait for it – content calendar will be crucial during this process to track progress, mapping deliverables and providing context to your overall strategy.

You also need to address the delivery aspect. Over here at Brafton, we provide a unique XML to ensure content is automatically distributed to our clients. How will you be posting your content to your site and to your social channels? Create a process around this to help you organize and save time. Look for tools that you can use such as Trello – for project management – or Sprout Social – for social media management and automation.

Element 2: Integration

The success of a content strategy goes beyond the creation. If no one sees your content, then what’s the point?

You need to properly integrate these pieces on your site and your social channels to get the most value from them. Of course, different content types will require different integration practices depending on your goals and objectives.

When consulting with my clients, I typically start with four crucial integration points. Content must be: 

4 elements of a content strategy1. Discoverable 

2. Visually engaging

3. Easily promoted

4. On a path to conversion

 

Discoverable: This refers to two things: How your content is found, not only by readers on your site but also by search engine crawlers. Most SEO best practices come into play here to ensure sites like Google and Bing are properly indexing your pages, but also consider how readers find your content on the site.

I’ve worked with companies that are upset that no one is reading their articles, but when I go to their sites, I see that the only way to get to the articles is by clicking on a tiny “Blog” link in the footer. Like, I can’t even.

How do you expect people to get there? Promote internally! Display headlines on the homepage! Link to related articles! Let me make it easy on you…

Visually engaging: In relation to ensuring that the content is seen is the idea that people will actually want to read it. This is where design and user experience come into play – your article may be number one on Google, but if your bounce rates are tremendously high, then there might be a readability issue. Beyond what your article is about, how does it look? Is it just a block of text? Do you use pull quotes and inline images? Are there links to related articles?

Easily promoted: Make your content easy to share. Although a social media strategy might not be suitable for every business niche, you must not underestimate your readers’ reach within their own social channels. Whether it’s through your social promotion or social sharing buttons on your blog or resource center, give your readers an option to share the knowledge you’re providing.

On a path to conversion: When visitors land on your article, what do you want them to do after they’re done reading? Whether it’s to fill out a form or actually purchase something, you need to have the right kinds of calls to action on the page to direct them toward those actions.

Element 3: Measurement

Okay, we’re almost done – are you still with me?! So you now have a plan for the content types that will be created for your campaign and how it’s going to be posted on the site, then what? How will you know if your awesome strategy is going to work? You need to measure it, of course! 

Measuring content ROI

As marketing professionals reading this article, I assume you have certain KPIs that you need to reach, whether it’s a 30 percent increase in leads for the year or a 10 percent reduction in bounce rate. This element might seem like a “duh” moment. However, the main differentiator here is that you are segmenting your data specifically for your campaign and creating goals to track within Google Analytics . Here’s a great article on how to do that from my friend and colleague Sara Berke.

Having Analytics enables you to track the progress of your campaign:

  • Which blog posts are being read the most?
  • Where are your readers coming from?

By analyzing the data, you see what’s working and what’s not working. Of course, it’s a more complicated than a yes or a no answer, but the idea here is that with data, you can re-calibrate your strategy moving forward to make it leaner and more effective.

Element 4: Follow-through

Lastly, there’s this little thing called following through! The three previous elements are integral to any content marketing strategy, but they would be nothing more than ideas if there are no actionable next steps. Planning is difficult, but you need to be able to execute. If you know the answers to the questions below, then you should be set with your follow-through:

  • Who is creating the content?
  • When will the content be created?
  • How will the content be delivered?
  • How will the content be integrated into the site?
  • How is the success of the content being measured?

Remember that a successful content strategy is an organized one that’s built to support your goals. Make sure you have a process in place from ideation to execution to guarantee you can turn your great ideas into marketing assets. Having a plan in place will keep you from getting too overwhelmed as you bring your strategy to life.

Mike Bratschi is a Content Marketing Manager at Brafton, providing support and helping his clients implement SEO best practices. Mike's interests include magnets, ghouls and milk steaks.