How to Develop a Comprehensive Content Strategy in 7 Steps

Content marketing has exploded in popularity for good reason – it works. Consider these compelling statistics:

  • Content marketing generates 3X as many leads as traditional marketing and costs 62% less. (Demand Metric)
  • 72% of marketers say content marketing increases engagement and leads. (Hubspot)
  • Per dollar spent, content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as paid search ads. (Kapost)

In short, content is one of the most effective tools for attracting an audience, building brand affinity, and driving profitable action. But to reap the full benefits, you can‘t just create content willy-nilly and hope for the best. You need a plan.

Enter the content strategy. A comprehensive content strategy acts as your roadmap, aligning every piece of content with specific marketing and business goals. It defines your target audience, brand voice, content mix, distribution channels, and performance metrics.

Without this North Star to guide you, it‘s all too easy for your content efforts to get off track, burning through resources without delivering real ROI.

Ready to build a winning content strategy that gets results? Follow these seven steps.

1. Set Clear, Measurable Content Marketing Goals

All good marketing starts with clear goals, and content is no exception. To set yourself up for success, define specific objectives you want your content to achieve.

Most content goals will map to stages of the marketing funnel:

Funnel Stage Content Goals Sample KPIs
Top Attract visitors, build brand awareness Website traffic, social followers, video views
Middle Generate leads, nurture prospects Email signups, content downloads, demo requests
Bottom Convert leads into customers, drive sales Purchases, revenue, upsells/repeat buys
Post-purchase Build customer loyalty, reduce churn, increase advocacy Repeat purchases, referrals, product usage, retention

For example, a top-of-funnel goal might be to grow your organic blog traffic by 25% in the next quarter. For the middle of the funnel, you may aim to increase marketing qualified leads from content by 15% this year. And for the bottom, your goal could be to increase sales from your product demos by 10% this month.

"Setting clear, measurable goals is critical for proving the value of your content program," advises Meghan Casey, Lead Content Strategist at Brain Traffic. "Aligning your content goals with key business objectives ensures your efforts drive real impact."

2. Develop Detailed Buyer Personas

To create content that resonates, you need to know your audience inside and out. What are their key demographics and psychographics? What are their biggest pain points and aspirations? Where do they hang out online?

Buyer personas bring your target audience to life. These semi-fictional archetypes paint a detailed picture of your ideal customers, going beyond surface-level demographics.

Here‘s a sample buyer persona template to build from:

Persona Name: [name that captures their essence, e.g. "Marketing Maven Marissa"]

Background:

  • Job title, company
  • Age, gender, education, family
  • Goals, challenges
  • Hobbies, interests

Online Behavior:

  • Favorite websites
  • Social media habits
  • Content preferences (format, channels, topics)
  • Search behavior

Objections & Concerns:

  • Hesitations or barriers to buying
  • Common questions & misconceptions

Aim to develop 3-5 detailed personas representing key segments of your audience. Refer back to these personas any time you brainstorm content ideas to keep your team focused on your audience‘s needs.

3. Audit Your Existing Content

Before you race off to create new content, take stock of what you already have. A content audit helps reveal your top performers, uncover gaps, and identify outdated or irrelevant assets dragging down your SEO.

Follow these steps to conduct your audit:

  1. Take an inventory of all content assets, including blog posts, landing pages, ebooks, videos, etc.
  2. Organize content in a spreadsheet by title, format, funnel stage, target persona, and publish date.
  3. Analyze performance metrics for each piece (traffic, engagement, conversions, etc.).
  4. Assess content quality and relevancy. Is it still accurate? On-brand? Valuable to your personas?
  5. Identify content to update, repurpose, or retire. Note any topic gaps to fill.

"A content audit can be tedious, but it‘s an essential step before developing your go-forward strategy," says Alli Berry, Content Director at The Petal Group. "You have to know where you‘ve been to chart the best path forward."

4. Determine Your Core Content Marketing Tactics

Now the fun part – deciding what types of content to create! With your goals and personas in mind, determine which formats and channels will be most effective for reaching and engaging your audience.

Common content marketing tactics include:

  • Blogs
  • Ebooks & whitepapers
  • Case studies
  • Webinars
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Social media posts
  • Email newsletters

Your strategy should include a mix of content mapped to different funnel stages. Top-of-funnel content like blog posts, infographics, and social content is great for building awareness and trust. Middle and bottom-of-funnel assets like ebooks, webinars, and case studies help nurture leads and drive conversions.

Consider which tactics play to your team‘s strengths and resources. If you have a gifted writer, lean into blogging. Compelling video testimonials from happy customers could be your secret weapon. If your audience loves podcasts, consider launching one.

Ultimately, quality trumps quantity. Pick a few core tactics you can execute extremely well rather than spreading yourself thin.

5. Create an Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar is your best friend for keeping your content production on track. This living document plots out your content schedule, ensuring you maintain a steady cadence and cover key topics and personas.

Your calendar should capture:

  • Content title or topic
  • Format/tactic
  • Target keyword(s)
  • Target persona(s)
  • Funnel stage
  • Author or owner
  • Publish date
  • Distribution channels
  • Promotional swipe copy & assets

Plan at least 1-2 months in advance, aligning your schedule with key events, launches, and campaigns. Leave some flexibility to capitalize on timely opportunities.

"An editorial calendar is a must for keeping your team organized and accountable," notes Rachel Haberman, Content Marketing Manager at Skyword. "It ensures you maintain a balanced mix of content that ladders up to your goals."

6. Focus on Creating Compelling, Actionable Content

You‘ve set your goals, know your audience, and have a plan – now it‘s time to execute. As you craft each piece of content, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Focus on providing value. Resist the urge to talk solely about your product and brand. Instead, offer genuine insights, advice, and utility that helps your audience solve their problems.
  • Optimize for search and discovery. Do your keyword research and incorporate target terms naturally. Use descriptive, compelling headlines and meta descriptions.
  • Make it scannable and engaging. Break up long blocks of text with subheaders, bullets, visuals, and plenty of white space. Adopt a conversational tone.
  • Always include a relevant call-to-action. What‘s the next step you want the reader to take after consuming your content?
  • Prioritize quality over quantity. It‘s better to create fewer pieces of truly remarkable content than to churn out tons of mediocre posts. Strive to be the best answer on the internet for your topic.
  • Craft compelling, share-worthy headlines. Your headline is your content‘s first impression. Make sure it clearly conveys the piece‘s unique value while piquing curiosity.

7. Distribute, Promote & Repurpose Your Content

Creating amazing content is only half the battle. To get eyes on it, you need a solid promotion plan. A good rule of thumb is to spend at least as much time promoting content as you did creating it.

Some effective organic and paid promotion tactics:

  • Share on your brand‘s social channels (repeatedly)
  • Promote to your email list
  • Run paid ads on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Share in relevant forums and online communities
  • Do targeted outreach to influencers and publishers for backlinks and mentions
  • Leverage employees and brand advocates to amplify content
  • Slice and dice content into new formats (turn a webinar into a series of video clips, a how-to post into an infographic, etc.)

"The beauty of investing in quality content is that you can extend its shelf life almost indefinitely," shares Ross Simmonds, Founder of Foundation Marketing. "Be creative in finding new channels and angles to resurface your best content again and again."

Bonus: Analyze, Iterate & Optimize

No content strategy is complete without a plan for ongoing measurement and optimization. Track key metrics like organic traffic, time on page, social shares, email signups, and lead-to-customer conversion rates.

Some helpful tools for measuring your content‘s impact:

  • Google Analytics
  • HubSpot
  • SEMrush
  • Buzzsumo
  • HotJar

Use these insights to double down on what‘s working and ditch what‘s not. Do more of the types of content generating the most engagement, leads, and customers. Continuously improve and update high-performing evergreen pieces.

Run A/B tests on headlines, visuals, CTAs, and other elements to optimize performance. Stay on top of SEO algorithm changes and emerging content trends.

A content strategy is a living thing – revisit and refine it regularly as your goals and audience evolve. With focus and consistency, your investment in content will pay dividends for years to come in the form of organic traffic, leads, sales, and raving fans.

"The key to content marketing success is committing for the long haul," advises Michele Linn, Co-founder of Mantis Research. "Content is not a campaign, it‘s a commitment. Stick with it, measure what matters, and keep optimizing – that‘s how you maximize ROI."