AdThrive publishers create some of the absolute best content on the internet. From helping readers navigate travel to figuring out their finances, your content helps, entertains, and informs your readers.
Whether or not you’ve clearly outlined it, you likely have some sort of content strategy in place that you use to help direct your content creation process.
Today, we’re going to jump into what a content strategy is, how to structure one, and how having a well-thought-out plan for your content can make a huge difference in your business.
Even if you already feel good about your content workflow, it never hurts to reevaluate if it’s still the best fit for your growing business.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- What a content strategy is, and why it’s critical for your business
- Seven questions to guide your content strategy
- How to define your content strategy goals
- Ways to better understand your audience
- How your competition can make your content stronger
- How to nail down your unique value proposition
- The content audit template that reveals your top priorities for creating and updating content
- Tips for measuring and tracking your content results
AdThrive Publisher-Exclusive content unlocked!
What is a content strategy?
A content strategy is a framework that focuses on how to manage your content to achieve your business goals. It lets you be intentional with and properly prioritize your content output, set up successful workflows for your production process, and make sure every article you publish on your site ladders up to larger goals.
For example, your business goal might be to increase your traffic and drive more visitors to your website. To accomplish, your content strategy might focus on SEO, keyword research, and new content output to increase search rankings, boosting traffic.
Benefits of having a content strategy for your business
While having a content strategy might not seem like a necessity, it’s a non-negotiable for the most successful publishers in the industry.
A content strategy:
- Ensures that your content supports your business goals. After setting your business goals for the next month, 6 months, year, etc., define how your content can help you achieve those goals to get clear about which content and information you need to prioritize.
- Helps you prioritize your time and efforts. Does it feel like you have a long to-do list and no idea where to start? A content strategy makes it easier to determine where to begin and makes sure you’re prioritizing the right things.
- Helps you consistently produce quality content that drives results. Quality beats quantity in content generation. It’s the surest way to get results. By figuring out which elements have been successful in the past and incorporating them into your content strategy, you can ensure a more consistent, high-quality output.
- Keeps your team on the same page and increases efficiency. As your business and team grow, your content strategy makes sure everyone is putting out consistent, on-brand content. When hiring out freelance writing work, your content strategy helps you easily communicate your brand and goals.
- Helps you track and audit your content. Your strategy can help learn from past successes and mistakes so you can set up a stronger success path for your future output. It’s key to make sure measurement and tracking are part of your content process — when you’re learning and failing fast, you can grow even faster.
- Increases your ROI on time, energy, and money. Taking the time to put together a content strategy upfront can help make sure you’re optimally allocating your valuable time, energy, and money.
How do you create a content strategy?
There are seven questions to address when you develop your content marketing strategy:
- What are the goals of your content? What do you want to accomplish with each content piece on your site?
- What content formats will you focus on? What kind of templates can you use to reach your goals?
- Who will be reading your content? Who is the intended audience and how will you appeal to them?
- What problem will you be solving for your readers? What issues does your target audience deal with and how are you able to uniquely address them?
- What makes your site unique? How will you differentiate yourself from other websites and platforms in your niche and area of expertise?
- What channels will you use to publish? How will you deliver and promote your content to reach your desired audience?
- How will you manage content creation and publication? What processes will you put in place to ensure consistent quality and effective results?
Meet Concocted Confections
Let’s use a fake example to create our content strategy. Our example site is called Concocted Confections.
Concocted Confections is the site of a classically-trained, retired baker focused on recipes for gluten-free baked goods. Annie, our baker, is the main force behind Concocted Confections’ rise in the last few years from a brand new site to one that sees thousands of daily visitors.
Her site mostly makes its money from advertising, with a small amount of affiliate revenue from product promotions and monthly round-ups. She would love to grow her team and really push the envelope when it comes to increasing her daily reader traffic.
Annie gets 55% of her traffic from search so she takes a look at her search traffic to assess where she currently stands to find opportunities for growth. After reviewing the data, Annie sees that her site is currently averaging about 200,000 organic search pageviews a month, translating to $5,000 of monthly ad revenue from this traffic source.
Step 1: Define your goals
The first step in developing a content strategy is to define your goals. You essentially want to ask yourself why you are creating content, what action steps you hope your audience will take after reading your content, and how those action steps lead to value for your business.
A few examples of some goals you might have for your content:
- Awareness — getting your brand in front of new eyes
- Engagement — building a relationship with your readers
- Traffic — driving pageviews, specifically
- Purchase — selling things to your readers
- Customer acquisition — including getting email addresses and other subscription strategies
- Ad revenue — making more money from ads on a piece of content or overall
Concocted Confections: setting content goals
Annie would like to hire a new junior content editor to oversee her virtual assistants and update content. This would allow her to create more new recipes and almost double her content output each month.
She knows she needs to create more content. But first, she will need to increase how much traffic her posts are bringing to justify the extra costs.
It’s time to crunch some numbers!
Knowing that search makes up the bulk of her traffic and that she’d like to work on improving SEO, Annie looks for opportunities to grow her organic search traffic.
Focusing on organic search traffic, Annie sets some goals:
- Double the average search pageviews from post updates (from averaging 4,000 pageviews per refreshed/updated post to 8,000 pageviews per post)
- Increase the average search pageviews for new blog posts by 33% (from an average of 5,000 pageviews per post to 6,667 pageviews per post)
Annie knows that Concocted Confections averages a $25 RPM for search traffic. With those additional pageviews, Concocted Confections would make an extra $1,250 per month or $15,000 per year from her organic search traffic alone!
And it’s likely the improvements she makes in her content to boost her SEO will generate increased traffic from other sources as well.
Annie also knows it costs $125 to create a new post or update an existing post. So hitting her pageview goal is critical because it will allow her to reinvest the money into creating 10 more pieces of content each month.
If Annie’s team crafts the new content strategically and hits the average target pageviews per post, Concocted Confections’ monthly earnings are now suddenly over $6,200 each month just from search traffic — enough to bring on a junior team member to supercharge their efforts!
Step 2: Know your audience
To create a successful strategy, clearly define your intended audience so you can create and develop content specifically tailored to their wants and needs. And as your business grows and expands, routinely reevaluate your target audience because it may change over time — and keep an eye out for new audiences.
Creating loyal fans vs. seeking out new audiences
Your goal may be content quality over quantity, meaning you’re looking to create a deep, loyal fanbase that takes time to develop and grow.
On the other hand, your goal may be to drive traffic more than anything else, so drawing in new audiences might be your primary goal.
Which strategy best fits your brand?
- Brand-driven: My audience is my fans
- By-the-calendar: My audience is a mix between fans and new readers
- Keyword-driven: I’m mostly looking for a new audience
- Trending topics: I’m mostly looking for a new audience
- Breaking news: I’m mostly looking for a new audience
Build out personas to better understand the mind of your audience
Personas help you visualize your audience as you create your content — get into your readers’ psyche, internal motivations, interests, and characteristics so you can make sure your content appeals to them.
Concocted Confections: understanding the audience
To reach her new, higher pageview goal, one of the first things Annie does is try to better understand who her audience is so she can optimize her content for them.
To do this, Annie digs into her Audience reports in her Google Analytics dashboard.
Reviewing the insights for the past 6 months, she starts to create audience personas based on the trends she’s seeing.
Her demographic data indicates that her readership is primarily female, with almost 30% falling between the ages of 25 and 34.
She also uses Google Analytics’ affinity and in-market categories to get a better sense of her readers’ mindset as well as location, favorite day and time to visit her site, and revisit rate. Site behavior might also be a helpful indicator, so she adds actions like completing an article or signing up for an email to further assess and refine which users are most important to her.
Annie sees that 30-minute chefs, value shoppers, and foodies are of high value for Concocted Confections, so she starts to create and flesh out her audience personas.
Here’s one user persona Annie creates:
Kat is 28 years old. She visits Concocted Confections 4 times a month, her average session length is 23% higher than the site average, she is a foodie, budget-conscious, and she loves to make quick meals to stop her fast-food cravings. She really responds well to quick, healthy, gluten-free dessert recipes, overnight oats, and easy-to-make snacks.
Annie then creates a custom segment in Google Analytics with this data to track how this group is discovering and engaging with her content over time.
Step 3: Examine your competition
Your competition is a helpful place to start figuring out how to approach your content. Watch what people who are already successful are doing and mimic it — and look for gaps and opportunities that your content can fill.
For a more robust analysis, keep your scope wide. Look at direct competitors and indirect competitors, as well as brands and influencers in your niche.
Some helpful strategies to scope out your competition:
- Google search: Look up various topics and keywords that fit your business. See what results pop up, what similar searches Google suggests, and check out the websites and content that rank for those terms.
- Keyword research: Use a keyword research tool to look at your niche and check out specific keywords and the sites doing well with those terms. SEMrush has a cool tool called Market Explorer which can help you see who is succeeding in your space, traffic trends for similar sites, and more! The SEMrush Domain Overview page can also help you understand your competitive positioning.
- Social media: Check out your niche’s influencers on various social media platforms and look at the types of content they’re sharing.
What to look for:
- What is your competitors’ unique value proposition? What makes them different? What is their mission, how do they serve their audience, what is their philosophy? Figure out what this is and write it down in one sentence.
- What is the tone of their messaging? What sort of voice does their content use? Is it formal and technical, is it friendly and approachable, is it simple to understand, or is it complex and targeted towards people with more knowledge on the subject?
- What types of content are they producing? Are they doing primarily long-form content on their blogs? Are they producing infographics, listicles, white papers, roundup posts? Are they doing other media like video content or podcasts?
- What is their visual strategy? Do they have supportive imagery? What is the tone of their photos? Do they use custom or stock images?
- What are the gaps in their content? What content do you think is missing that you can help provide on your site? What unique knowledge do you have that you can include in your content?
- What platforms and distribution channels do they use? Are they big on email or do they push more content out on social media? What is their newsletter cadence? What is their email strategy? How often are they posting new content on their site?
Concocted Confections: checking out the competition
After learning a bit about her audience, Annie wants to take a better look at who her competition in the space is.
She starts on Google with the search phrase “healthy gluten-free dessert recipes”.
For best results, she uses her browser’s incognito mode and checks out the mobile results as well (using her browser’s developer tools).
- Recipe results with schema markup are ranking higher.
- Round-ups, as well as individual recipes, are ranking in the carousel results.
- In the “People also ask” section, she’s seeing people are also seeking out the healthiness of gluten-free desserts and specific types of gluten-free desserts like pastries and puddings.
- She should create a list of her competitors’ content that is ranking for these keywords and take a closer look using SEMrush (or a similar keyword research tool).
Step 4: Identify your unique value proposition and resources that address your audience’s needs
Want to sustain and grow your business? Understand your unique value and clearly define the benefits you offer your readers in a concise, straightforward statement to keep you focused as you create more and more content.
- How are you and your website solving your readers’ problems?
- What specific benefits do you hope your site visitors will get from your site?
- Why should a reader visit your site over your competitors?
To provide extra value, think about some of these things:
- Topics: Can you cover more topics or be more comprehensive than your competitors?
- Length of your posts: Can you provide more information and value than your competition?
- Tone: Can you write in a better tone of voice that you think your audience would appreciate more? Can you interject humor and playfulness into complex topics? Can you add a more knowledgeable tone to get your readers to trust your expertise?
- Relevance: Can you help connect the reader to the topic better? Can you make the topic even more relevant to your reader?
Concocted Confections: creating a unique position in market
Annie knows her unique value proposition is that, as a classically-trained pastry chef at a place famous for gluten-free baked goods, she has subject matter expertise in the area.
She loves bringing elevated touches to gluten-free recipes, like specialty spices or tropical fruits, and her readers turn to her for these unique flavors and ingredients. They want gluten-free recipes with a gourmet twist, and Annie knows she can deliver recipes that are more delicious (and more foolproof) than her competition.
The next step is taking a closer look at her existing content (where can she update to accentuate her unique value proposition?) and plan new content that builds out her expertise (for example, a round-up for Top 25 Gluten-free [Dessert Type] based on keyword research).
Step 5: Perform a content audit and identify content to create or update
After you’ve checked the boxes above — assessed your competition and figured out your own unique value proposition — it’s time to take that information and use it as a lens to view your content.
Figure out what content you need to create, which existing content would benefit from some sprucing up, and how to ensure your content is being created right in the future.
- What content gaps do you have?
- Is your unique value coming through in your existing work?
- Do you have outdated posts that need refreshing?
- Would the content be more helpful to your audience in a different format?
- And what are the BIGGEST opportunities for your business?
Get our best tips for auditing your existing content and finding golden opportunities right here!
Determine your content approach
As part of this process, you should consider any adjustments to your content strategy.
- Brand-driven: Your content centers around building your brand awareness and reputation
- By-the-calendar: Your content is structured around the seasons and maintains seasonal-relevance
- Keyword-driven: Your content tactics are focused on building up your SEO and keyword rankings to drive maximum search traffic to your site
- Trending topics: Your content is focused on the hottest trends of the moment and helping your readers stay in the know
- Breaking news: Your content is focused on breaking the latest news stories and keeping your readers up to date with current events
Which approach will best help you reach your business goals, satisfy your readers’ desires, and be most sustainable for your business?
Assess the right content formats to focus on
Which blend of content types will work best for your audience? Think about your goals, audience preferences, and overall messaging, and consider testing new formats.
- Case studies
- Guest posts
- How-to posts
- Research reports
- White papers
Organize and tag your content
This is also a good time to audit how you organize and tag your content — both officially on your site and internally for your content marketing plan.
Take inventory of your content
Take note of each piece’s:
- Topic — the subject of the content. Use a list of broader categories to identify the topics you touched on in the content piece, assigning one or two to each piece. By tagging this now, you can learn about which topics are of greatest interest to your audience later.
- Publication date — including general publication time. This can help you figure out what an optimal posting schedule and frequency might look like moving forward and the time of day your audience responds best.
- Length — the word count for each article. Use this to assess which lengths your audience appreciates the most, and see if you need to add more content and information to your article to beat out the competition in search.
- Audience persona — the intended audience of your content. Pick which of your audience personas are the best match for each piece of content. Then, when you track your content performance, you can hone in on which audiences are most valuable to your business and which types of content appeal to them.
- Tone — the voice of your content piece. Was it informative, playful, persuasive, etc.? You can start to see which tone of voice works best for each audience and the voice you want to use for your content moving forward.
- Update frequency — note if the content piece is meant to be evergreen or if it’s just meant to capture the moment’s trends and events. Some evergreen content may need frequent updates, while other pieces require fewer updates, so make note of that as well.
- SEO optimizations — assess if your content is optimized for search or if anything is missing. What is the targeted keyword of the piece, do you have a meta-description, is there a title tag, are your headings properly optimized, and do you have image alt text? Make note of these so you can fix anything that’s been left out.
- Media strategy — have you included a video to pair with the content piece, how many images are you using, and did you include any other unique visuals like infographics or printable templates?
- Performance metrics — include a space where you can update and add performance metrics for each post. Include metrics like pageviews, time on page, RPM, search ranking, CTR, backlinks, and social shares.
While an audit can be tedious, the more information you capture in your organization and tagging system now, the better able you will be later to pinpoint the factors driving success for your business and make those a routine part of your content development process going forward!
Create a content calendar
Figure out your content cadence and plan ahead by creating a content editorial calendar.
- Put together a list of all your content ideas and topics. Check out this post to learn about five Google insights tools you can use to research and get inspired for your content topics.
- Determine your publication frequency.
- Then, assign your content post ideas to specific dates on your calendar. Check out this post for how you can use Google Trends to figure out and plan the perfect timing for your content and check out AdThrive publishers’ favorite content planning tools!
At a minimum, your content calendar should include these five things:
- Publication date and time
- Platform/distribution channel
- Who will be responsible for managing that specific piece of content (if you work with a team)
- A place to note the project status and progress updates
Carve out time for content creation.
Don’t just schedule out your content — schedule out your own time as well to ensure consistent output. Set aside time for content creation each week in your and your team’s calendars.
Over time, you’ll build a sense of how long it takes to produce each type of content so you can schedule efficiently!
Concocted Confections: a detailed content audit
Check out a full example (and get your own editable version!) of this content audit template here
Annie completes a full audit of her content, and starts asking questions to pinpoint problem areas as well as successes.
From a broad perspective, Annie tries to uncover some general content trends:
- What tone seems to be performing well?
- What topics are doing well?
- What type of content structure and word length is most helpful for her readers?
- Which audience personas are responding best to the content?
- Are there any posts that are really out-of date?
- Which types of posts are seeing a lot of engagement on social media, and are there certain posts that are performing better on specific platforms?
Getting a bit more specific, from an SEO and keyword perspective, she asks:
- What topics have I had success with and am currently ranking in the top 1–3 positions for in search?
- Do I have any existing posts in that same topic category that are ranking outside of those top 3 positions that I can update?
- Looking at my Google Search Console dashboard, what is their current average search ranking over time, CTR over time, share of page clicks and impressions for the topic keyword, and expected vs actual CTR for the current position?
From there, she can look at which posts have the best shot at increased rankings and haven’t been updated recently.
For example, Annie might see that she’s doing well for one of her banana bread recipes so she looks at three other banana bread recipes on her site to see how they’re currently performing.
One of them (an easy gluten-free banana bread recipe) is currently ranking in position 6, has a strong CTR, and decent impressions, but she hasn’t updated the post in about two years. The other banana bread recipes aren’t performing quite as well (appearing on page 2 and 3 of the search results), so while she might want to update them later, Annie decides to focus on the first post for the highest payoff in clicks and pageviews.
Once she’s zeroed in on this recipe to update, she:
- Makes sure the content is targeted towards the right persona
- Determines if she’s structured the post optimally for her audience
- Checks out the post’s competition to look for opportunities to add value and boost the post’s length
- Improves keyword usage in the post headings and titles
- Updates the post’s meta-description
- Researches “banana bread” in Google Trends to see if there are any peak times she should schedule her updated post — ideally coinciding with peak traffic or building up to peak traffic in case it takes multiple updates to achieve her desired ranking position
Step 6: Plan how you’ll measure and track results
As the final piece of your content strategy, put systems in place to track and measure the results of your efforts.
Using Google Analytics, your AdThrive publisher dashboard, Google Search Console, and other tracking tools, you can keep tabs on your content’s performance and figure out which types of content are doing best for your business goals.
Track at least these metrics over time:
- On-page metrics like pageviews and time on page
- SEO metrics like SERP ranking, CTR, authority, backlinks, and internal links
- Engagement metrics like social shares, social likes, post comments
- Revenue metrics like RPM and overall ad revenue
As you track metrics, you’ll start to identify the ingredients of a successful post. See what’s doing well and then look at commonalities among successful content pieces so you can incorporate them into your standard processes moving forward.
Concocted Confections: tracking success
After making updates to her top priority posts, Annie takes another look at the performance metrics from her content audit.
She asks these questions as she reviews the content performance:
- Looking at a 4-week window after and before updating content, are pageviews increasing with each update? If so, are the pageviews increasing at a faster rate than the overall site average?
- Has SERP (search engine results pages) ranking and CTR (click-through rate) increased or decreased? Is there a positive or negative impact on overall search pageviews from the post?
- What keywords should the post target next?
- Do email newsletters include posts with high RPM (ad earnings)?
- Are certain platforms driving increased traffic for certain pieces of content?
Final tips for your content strategy
Once you’ve crafted your content strategy, schedule an annual review to make sure it’s still the right fit for your business. And plan regular content audits, and block off time to track performance, analyze the results, and identify ways to optimize your content output.
Fine-tuning a good content strategy plan is certainly an investment, but can really pay off in long-term results for your business, pushing your growth to the next level!
Your Content Optimization roadmap
Module 1: Building a content plan and content strategy
- Develop a content strategy that drives results [You are here!]
- Identify and understand your target audience with personas
Module 2: SEO best practices
- Find the perfect search keywords for your target audience
- Create a content brief for great SEO
- Craft compelling content for search with SEO copywriting
Module 3: Measuring your success