Not to boast too hard, but we at Brafton know a thing or two about creating awesome content. In fact, I’d venture to say we know at least five things about it.

Okay, we know more, but we’ve condensed the whole world of content marketing into five easy steps just for you.

Recently, I sat down with two of Brafton’s own marketing team, Director of Digital Marketing Strategy Jeff Baker and Creative Manager Lauren Fox. We had an illuminating and in-depth conversation about what, exactly, makes a great content marketing strategy.

Pro-tip: Always refer back to your data. Always.

1. Identify your audience and develop personas

“You can’t start writing anything until you know who you’re writing for,” said Jeff. I’d take his word for it; Jeff literally wrote the (e)book on the subject.

Personas sit at the heart of your content, directing what you write and how you write it. They are, in short, an identity summarizing your audience, characterizing their interests and pain points.

You can’t start writing anything until you know who you’re writing for.

The key to creating effective personas – and a theme you’ll see throughout the world of content marketing – is to use data to define your audience. You need to spot commonalities that segment your readers into different, targetable categories.

To get started, look through your web analytics platform and answer the following questions:

  • What demographic characteristics (age, gender, location, etc.) do you see most often?
  • Which of your posts are read most frequently? What do they have in common?
  • Which of your posts are read least often? What information do these articles focus on, and what subjects do they avoid?

In addition to your web analytics, refer to your social media profiles for additional guidance.

“If you’re looking for posts that get good engagement, use embedded analytics platforms,” advised Lauren. “You can also go to a specific users’ profile for further insight.”

2. Ideate and plan your content

Just as your analytics review helps you define your personas, so too should it dictate the content you write.

You’ll want to target subjects that receive the highest engagement – your audience is telling you what it wants based on clicks, shares and downloads, so why ignore that information?

Keep in mind that your site’s metrics will sometimes point to topics you least expect. That certainly happened to us.

“We expected to write top-of-funnel content, but it’s our mid-funnel stuff that’s most consistently shared,” Jeff said.

Shelve assumptions of your audience and choose content topics based on what performs well.

3. Map and create your content

After choosing a topic, draft your content strategically from top to bottom.

Start with your headline, and choose something that both entices your audience and clues them into the information they’ll find in your content. Personally, I like to use Headline Analyzer to review the strength of my headlines. I’ll refer to this tool multiple times when creating content, as sometimes my subsequent research alters the direction of the piece.

Next, identify key terms that relate to your topic. You want words or phrases your audience is searching for which you can easily rank.

Also, review what other people have written on the subject. In content marketing, depth is often overlooked. Google wants to return the article that provides the most thorough answer, so it’s important to analyze content that already exists and try to improve upon that.

For this particular task, Jeff and Lauren are both fans of MarketMuse, a platform that analyzes top search results and points to both common and differing information within them. MarketMuse also identifies gaps in content, telling you exactly what to include.  

Finally, analyze pieces you’ve already published and look for opportunities to create more content on the same subject. Like turning a blog post into an eBook and launching it via email, or creating an infographic that highlights the top tips from the same blog and sharing on social.

For example, we at Brafton are currently creating videos to accompany some of our top-performing pieces – essentially relaunching content with additional features.

4. Promote and distribute

There are three main ways to get your content in front of your audience:

  1. Your blog and social profiles. Publish your content here first and attract your most regular readers.
  2. Your email newsletter. Start promoting your content elsewhere to improve visibility. Track when your emails receive the most engagement, and schedule your newsletter accordingly.
  3. Organic traffic. By completing the preemptive audience and keyword research, not only do you ensure the content you’ve created is relevant, but you also set the foundation for sustained search traffic. This way, your content doesn’t fall flat but rather continues drawing users in through search.

You should also remarket individual assets for increased brand awareness from time to time. In some cases, you can use your audience’s response to remarketed content to direct additional campaigns.

For example, if you send a specific asset to your newsletter subscribers, create a related drip campaign and target the people who expressed interest initially.

5. Track results and adjust your strategy

Remember how I said earlier that information was a constant theme in content marketing?

I meant it.

Once your content is live, you need to review your data constantly and use your findings to further influence your strategy. Review Google Analytics – or the platform of your choice – on a quarterly basis at minimum. Analyze what topics and assets resonate most with your audience.

Once you see a piece performing noticeably well, you can either:

  • Create more content like that, or
  • Build on the topic further, either by updating and re-releasing the asset or by adding new ones.

Our analysis shows the Brafton audience wants highly specialized, results- and data-driven content. So, instead of writing listicles and tips-and-tricks pieces – what we thought we’d be writing initially – we focus on topics like Facebook ad frequency and session duration.

You’ve shown us what you like, and we aim to deliver. Your content needs to take the same approach.

Remember, data should always influence your marketing strategy, not the other way around. If your audience switches interest to a new topic, adjust your posts accordingly. Similarly, update or revise your personas if your readership changes.

Content marketing is a continuous process, with each piece of information influencing your next move.

Autumn Green is a Brafton writer living in Chicago. She thought she wanted to be an artist growing up, but her time in college taught her that writing is much more fun. On the weekends, you can find her browsing museums or buying cookbooks.