Our Totally Flexible Content Strategy Template
14th August 2020
A good content strategy will decide the success or your marketing efforts. Yes, content has become that important to successful marketing.
Content touches every part of your marketing funnel, from the creative you display with ads through to the leads you drive through organic search.
It is often the medium and always the message.
So if you’re not consistently producing excellent and engaging content for your target audience, you’re not going to win more business.
A report from Hubspot concluded that almost 70% of businesses are actively investing in content marketing in 2020.
To do well with content marketing depends on a killer content marketing strategy, and that content strategy needs to start somewhere...
That’s why we’re releasing our Content Strategy Template.
Note: You can now use your content strategy to create great content with us. Sign up for a trial with ContentCal for free.
A good content strategy template (alongside a content marketing calendar) helps you tie together your business strategy and the day-to-day tasks that need to happen to achieve those goals.
So whether you need to boost brand awareness and generate more leads (and let’s face it, most businesses are looking to do both), a content strategy can help you put all the pieces in place to actually make a difference.
In our opinion, actually making a difference is one of the simplest and least achieved goals of marketing departments.
Few marketing departments struggle with lack of campaign ideas or channels to test them on. All marketing departments struggle with building a structure around these ideas that actually make a difference to the organization they’re part of.
Our content strategy template helps put an end to that.
A Coschedule report found that marketers who kept records of their content strategy are 538% more likely to be successful than those who didn’t.
Why? Because they learn from their mistakes. The test & learn methodology is the oldest trick in the book but it still works like nothing else out there.
A content strategy template should continually reinforce who you are and why you exist in the first place.
It’s a way of telling your prospects and customers that you are the experts in your space. That means that any content you create that doesn’t target your key personas, and doesn’t target your space is probably a waste of time.
In a practical sense, a content strategy is a way to meet your company’s marketing needs through creating content (articles, blogs, podcasts, posts etc).
But a content strategy template doesn’t just mean creating the right content – you also need to know the right channels and social media platforms through which to distribute it.
We go along with marketing wisdom, you should spend 20% of your time writing content and 80% of your time promoting it.
A great content strategy will identify how long it takes to research, write and promote content.
Use our content strategy template to build a complete content strategy that works for your business.
From developing your personas to putting everything you’ve planned into a calendar, our content strategy template will take you through everything you need to do to make content work for your business.
We had a good look around at other content strategies on the market and we couldn’t find anything that was as flexible.
We didn’t want to just write into a PDF, we wanted to give you the building blocks to build a content strategy you would feel confident handing to your boss.
To do that we added all the parts of our own successful content strategy.
It’s hosted on a content management tool called Notion, so you can use it there. Or you could copy and paste everything into a Word or Google doc. Or you could just download it as a PDF. It’s up to you.
Instructions are at the top of the page.
The first section is called ‘What do you need your content to do?’
This is where you decide the overall direction of your content. Why does what you’re doing matter to your wider business? We ask you to define a couple of questions:
- What is your business’s overall target?
- How does your content strategy feed into your business’s overall strategy?
Then you add whatever you believe the strengths and weaknesses of your content strategy so far. These are good and bad things that are specific to your content strategy, e.g. great access to imagery.
Then you add in what you think you think your opportunities and threats are. These are those external things that mean your content strategy will go well or struggle, e.g. an emerging market of content creators to use our product.
Then you add in the metrics you need to hit your plan, and in turn, for your business to hit its marketing plan.
We’re suggesting you use something like OKRs, where your content objectives directly funnel up to your business’s wider objectives.
For every main objective, there are a set of key results that we want to hit.
Ideally there’s just one - or a few - target buyers.
Next you’ll need to identify your target buyer (otherwise known as key persona). This is the person that is most likely to benefit from what you’re offering, and is most likely to pay for it.
Identify the demographic and behavioural characteristics of your social media marketing and general audience. Be as specific as you possibly can with these. The more you can learn about your audience’s shared habits, the more you will understand them.
Again, just replace the info that’s already there with your own, using what’s already there as a guide. It’s great to include a mix of market research and qualitative and quantitative customer research.
Quantitative customer data from your CRM and qualitative customer data from customer interviews are how you arrive at your ideal customer profile.
Good content isn’t complicated.
It’s the right content with the right imagery, read by the right people.
We’ve already looked into the people you’d like to target, now we’ll look into the effectiveness of your imagery and your messaging.
First of all, give a quick summary of how effective your current messaging is, then list opportunities to improve your messaging.
Then map your company’s messaging on the graph, along with your competitors. Your brand values, and the opposite of those brand values are plotted onto each axis of the graph.
Then do the same for your imagery.
Thinking about your creative and messaging in this way helps you identify how you can evolve your brand, and create your individual voice and brand as part of the competitive content landscape.
Next we look at how your existing content is performing.
But before you dive into the stats, think about whether this content actually does what you need it to.
We’ve written some questions to help you think through the purpose of your content, and how close to the mark your content is coming to hitting your business objectives.
- Is it clear what someone will get from the content when they click on it?
- Is the promise of what they get before clicking on the content made true by the content?
- Would people be willing to give their email to read this content?
- How does this content help pull prospects down the funnel (towards a purchase)?
Then we recommend a few tools to help you run competitor content analysis across your best social media platforms, lead acquisition channels, and target keywords
Note: See how you content performs using our Analytics tool. Sign up for a trial with ContentCal for free.
Putting together a brand book is an important part of defining the character of your content.
If your content doesn’t have a strong brand, frankly no one’s going to pay that much attention beyond grabbing what they need from your blog and disappearing.
We’ve outlined everything you need to create a very simple brand book.
Your vision, mission and one-liner are all core to communicating what your brand does, so it’s important not to skip these steps, even if you do find them difficult to think of at the time.
When you’ve got your brand book together you’ll waste far less time trying to understand what visual styles and tones of voice you should be using.
All of that is decided in advance so you just need to pull the pieces together.
Your promotion strategy is where your content takes off.
The better your promotion strategy, the more mileage your content gets. And if you’re putting hours into developing a piece of content, why wouldn’t you want to get the most out of it when you promote it?
We split our promotion strategy up into three different channels: owned, earned and paid
You could try promoting all your content through all of these channels, but it wouldn’t work very well.
Instead we’d recommend only promoting content you think is good through your owned channels, content you think is great through owned and earned channels, and content you think is brilliant through owned, earned and paid channels.
That’s because you want to make the most of your efforts. An OK blog isn’t going to excite influencers and certainly isn’t going to convert users to a market of highly competitive paid social ads.
Hit the dropdown arrow for each of the post types to learn more.
In the previous section we identified all the channels we would use, and when we would use them.
Now it’s time to identify what campaigns we want to run on these channels.
We define a campaign loosely as a themed content launch that touches more than one channel.
So if you’re launching a webinar, you’ll want to build a campaign to bring people to that webinar and then as part of the same campaign use the content from the webinar after the date to create new content pieces or bitesize videos.
Good campaigns are like a prism. They take an idea and they turn it into a range of different content types, hopefully with as little as effort as possible.
In our campaigns section you should add the campaign you’re planning, e.g. research into content marketers’ biggest challenges, the campaign’s objective, the campaign plan, and your success measure for the campaign.
Then when you get round to planning the campaign, add info about the channels involved, and the materials and team members needed to make it happen.
Next you’ll need a campaign content calendar. This helps you plan when different parts of your campaign are going live.
Finally you’ll want to summarize the objectives and campaigns of your content strategy template.
We’ve written a quick exec summary you can use as a template.
Campaigns are where you’re most likely to achieve your marketing targets. However, you need to put in the planning to get there first.
A good content strategy creates interesting, relevant content and distributes it through the best channels for your target audience.Brain Traffic have a good model for organising content which includes a four-point strategy:
- Substance. What content is needed?
- Structure. How is content organized?
- Workflow. How is content created?
- Governance. How to decide on what is written.
We think this is a good start, but it doesn’t really show how the different elements work together.
Another model we like comes from Eric Kissaine’s Elements of Content Strategy model. This looks at content itself, which should be:
- Appropriate, because it’s what your audience needs
- Useful, because it has a purpose
- User-centered, because it is focused on your audience
- Clear, because your audience understands it
- Consistent, because it reflects your tone of voice and mission
- Concise, because who wants to read waffle?
- Supported, because there is a promotion engine to support it
A great content strategy:
- will make your business the go-to figure in its field
- makes you memorable in a sea of unmemorable content
- makes people actually read what you’re posting when they see it in their feed
- acquires, warms up and converts leads, then keeps them as customers
- reduces your dependence on paid advertising
Hubspot are famous for their dependence on growing through content.
The team at Hubspot believe in creating what they call ‘topic clustered methodology’ to build their authority in the space.
Lots of it revolves around attracting traffic from search engines and their content marketing plan certainly works well for them.
Reorganising their blog into topic clusters and using a search insights report, they achieved a 25% year-on-year increase in traffic to their blog.
They also improved the search rankings for more than two million keywords. That’s not bad going!
Here’s how they get so much traffic from Google Search.
They explain that in order to achieve a top cluster you should start with a pillar page. This is a large feature-type article on a particular topic with a main keyword.
You can then write more, shorter and more specific articles on that main topic – all the time covering the ways people search for the main topic.
Then internally link between the pillar page and the other sub-pages to demonstrate to Google and other search engines that you’ve built a sizable hub of content on your site to answer all your visitors’ questions.
As an example, here’s how Hubspot became an authority on remote working in 2020.
They created a pillar page to outline stats on those working from home, it also included pros and cons, including trends and definitions.
They then created other shorter articles focused on topics such as ‘staying motivated while home working and negotiating expenses for working from home. Both of these topics were able to link into the main ‘pillar’ guide.
In doing so they covered a number of search queries for the topic, got more of their results on the search engine results page and became experts on working from home.
These articles all have a good dose of multimedia content that improves audience engagement and attracts backlinks.
Having a content strategy template allows you to focus on what’s important to your business.
It means you can build your content strategy in a meaningful way and always refer back to what your content strategy is aiming for.
Whether that’s more sales, more leads or more engagement, the content strategy tells you when you’re going off track.
Having a content strategy template is much more efficient than just winging it. When you plan your content you’re less likely to repeat yourself and overuse resources.
You’ll also have a better process for researching, writing, publishing, promoting and measuring the effectiveness of content.
Let’s look more closely at how we measure content.Neil Patel splits content measurement into four separate areas: consumption metrics, sharing metrics, lead metrics, and sales metrics.
He gives an example of each in this diagram:
These metrics are freely available in Google Analytics. Just click on Behaviour > Site Content > Content Drilldown.
Use these to find out how your content is performing.
To track lead metrics we recommend setting up conversions in Google Analytics. Google Analytics will not automatically know how to do this.
Sales are those leads that you have carried through to a sale. It’s important not to stop at just recording leads that content attracts, because these leads should show the right intent to purchase.
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As part of your content creation strategy you could include topics like:
This is a really important part of any content strategy.
You should highlight a particular issue your target market has and give them the solution to their problem.
The solution to their problem might not be your product - it could be a template like this one, a tool, a how-to guide or a quick wiki - but it will demonstrate that your business could solve their problem too, if they wanted to visit that route.
Being too up-front about your product or service as the only answer is an extremely short-term strategy. Most sales take place over several visits, so you’ll need to figure that out as you go.
Social Media Content Strategy Template
A social media content strategy template is where you plan out how your content strategy feeds into your social media strategy.
We haven’t built one of these for ourselves yet, so we wanted to share some of the other social media content strategy templates out there.
How are your competitors doing?
Competitor analysis is one of the key foundations of a good content strategy.
When you know what your competitors are doing, you know what’s working for them. You also know where the niches are that your brand can grow into.
There are loads of great tools for checking on the success of your competitors’ content.
We’d recommend using SEMRush to check which keywords your competitors are ranking for, SimilarWeb to see the channel mix they use to bring people to their site, and BuzzSumo to see how your competitors’ posts are performing on social.
Hootsuite’s Social Media Content Strategy Template
Hootsuite’s social media content strategy template shows how the company uses Google Sheets to organise its distribution of posts to different channels.
You can access it here.
Their social media content strategy template also consists of a tab devoted to just Pillar content:
The Meistertask editorial content marketing strategy template shows a dateline for each individual piece of content.
This helps you track it from the idea stage through to creation and publishing. It also provides an overview of other content that’s about to go live to prevent duplication.
Another template could show the article, when it’s due to be published, the content pillar it refers to, the funnel stage of the buyer (ie awareness/decision) and what type of content it is ie infographic, blog etc.
There’s also the distribution channel, or in other words, what social media or blogging platform it will go out on.
WebpageFX also offers a blogging template calendar where you can plan your schedule weeks in advance. It includes any further tasks originating from the ‘pillar’ blog content.
We quite like this template because it fits well with our own content marketing workflow.
This social media editorial content from Hallam shows a week to view and features specifically on Twitter. There is even a column which shows how many characters the tweet has.
There is a column of public day holidays and major events for inspiration. It also shows the time the Tweet goes out, what type of content it is (ie visual, infographic) and if it’s part of an overall campaign:
Don’t expect your content strategy to reap instant results. It can take months to build engagement on social and organic traffic.
Having said that, you should check in frequently to make sure the numbers are heading in the right direction.
Don’t go down with your ship. If what you’re doing isn’t working, change your strategy and do something else instead.
Learn from everything that goes wrong, but do it fast enough so you get to what’s right in good time.
The implementation and execution are both part and parcel of creating great content your audience loves. And that your boss loves too, when you get it right.
Note: Ready to get started? Sign up for a trial with ContentCal for free.
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