Having a written blog content strategy is what separates the good blogs from the truly great ones.
You basically double your chance of success with a written blog strategy. According to Content Marketing Institute, 60% of organizations with a written content strategy are effective, compared to only 32% of those with a purely verbal content strategy being effective.
(Chart by Visualizer Lite.)
I’ve been blogging professionally since 2013, and if it’s taught me anything, it’s that a blog content strategy is a necessity if you want to see true results.
Not only does a written plan increase your chances of success, it also saves you hours of time you would have wasted on the wrong promotion strategies, writing about the wrong topics, and working with the wrong influencers.
Are you ready to save time, drive more traffic, and see more blogging success? Then, keep reading! Here are the five steps to a great blog content strategy:
Five Steps to Craft a Blog Content Strategy
This guide will be divided into five steps:
- Define your goals.
- Perform some target market research.
- Come up with topic ideas and keywords to target.
- Create a content calendar.
- Build amazing content.
Quick preface: A good blog content strategy should answer three questions:
- Why are we making content in the first place?
- What content do we need?
- How do we get that content to accomplish our goals?
Let’s start with why.
Step 1: Define your goals.
If you don’t take anything else away from this article, take away goal-setting. Having a clearly defined goal will set you up to push through all the other steps, all the hours of writing, and all the obstacles bound to show up.
Your goal is your why, and the stronger it is the more success you’ll have.
Just take a look at Simon Sinek’s TED talk about the power of “why”. It’s 20 minutes of pure gold (seriously, go watch it) about why we need to lead from a place of “why” we’re doing something, not how we’re doing it or what we’re doing. His diagram looks like this:
So, how do you define your why… your blog goal? Answer these questions. Do you want to…
- drive foot traffic to your shop or office?
- increase sales or generate leads?
- educate prospects and customers on what you do?
- update your customers on what’s going on with your business?
- attract prospects from outside of your local area, such as clients from overseas?
- build a brand?
Choose no more than two or three of these objectives for your blog content strategy. Any more and your blog will become unfocused and won’t succeed at anything.
For example, I have a blog for my freelance work. My primary goal is to generate leads for my services, with secondary goals of educating prospects on what I do and building a brand around my name.
Be specific with your goals. Simply saying “get more traffic” isn’t enough. You need to include how much traffic you want and in what timeframe. A better goal would be “Increase sales by 15% in three months”. Very specific.
Once you have your why, it’s time to figure out what kind of content you need. In order to do that, you must go through:
Step 2: Perform some target market research.
Let me ask you something; Have you ever taken a shower and you just couldn’t quite get the water to the right temperature? It was lukewarm, so you turned it juuuust a hair, then it was scalding hot?
While frustrating, it shows you how a very small amount of effort can cause something to go from lukewarm to hot. You’ve heard this before – it’s called the extra mile.
This step is that small centimeter tweak that will take your blog from mediocre to great.
So, how do you do target market research?
For starters, ask yourself a few good questions:
- Where does my audience hang out online? (Certain blogs, social media platforms, forums, Facebook groups, etc.)
- What is their biggest gripe at work? (Maybe they hate their commute or their boss, or they’re bored, or they aren’t getting enough traffic to their website.)
- What sort of content or articles do they most enjoy reading? (Look at your Google analytics for your blog, if you have it. Which posts did the best? You can also use BuzzSumo to see what your competitor’s most shared articles are.)
To give you more clarity, I asked Brad Smith, the content expert behind Codeless, his thoughts on target market research. Here’s his advice:
Successful blog posts follow the old Problem Agitate Solution (PAS) copywriting principle. They begin by introducing the root problem reader’s are facing. Then they agitate those problems by digging into the symptoms and pain points. Finally, they present a solution (whether that’s an idea, tip, hack, or simply positioning their product/service as the solution).
But, you can’t do that effectively without understanding (1) what you’re readers are trying to achieve, (2) what’s preventing them from doing it, and (3) what’s going to happen to them if they don’t achieve it.
Find the answers to those three questions (using surveys, interviews, etc.) and you’ll be able to create blog content that does a hell of a lot more than just rack up social shares.Brad Smith
There you have it – the secret is to find out the underlying motivations of your target readers, then helping them achieve those goals.
Once you have an idea of who you’re writing for, next up is:
Step 3: Come up with topic ideas and keywords to target.
Let’s start with keywords:
Keywords are the bread and butter to an effective blog content strategy. Without them, you’re going to be hard-pressed to rank well on search engines. Without ranking on search engines, you’ll have an even harder time getting a lot of consistent traffic.
Despite the overload of information from alleged “SEO experts”, keyword research and SEO (search engine optimization) isn’t all that difficult.
Let me break it down for you in three simple steps:
- Find some keywords you want to rank for that have high search volume and low-ish competition.
- Write mind-blowingly good blog content that includes your main keywords in the title, body, headers, and image alt text (don’t overdo it, though. 3-7 times in an article is plenty, depending on the length).
- Work on getting backlinks to that article with your main keywords as the anchor text (i.e. if your main keyword is “marketing strategies”, you want the link to your site to be connected with the text “marketing strategies”). But be careful not to overdo this either. Too many optimized anchors might trigger Google in a wrong way.
Of course, there are plenty of other complications like page load speed, time spent on page, and (for Bing, at least) the number of shares the article received. But, if you master the three things above, you’ll be on your way to the first page of Google.
That said, you don’t need to base all your topics on keyword research. I asked Cara Hogan, a content strategist and consultant, her take on coming up with topics. Here’s what she said:
I didn’t let her leave it at that. Instead, I pressed for an example. Here’s what she told me:
However, that post was hugely successful and garnered a lot of traffic simply because it gave practical and real-world examples for startup leaders to understand a specific concept within the book. So, when you google “crossing the chasm” the book is always going to be first, but if you google “startup crossing the chasm”, my post ranks #3.Cara Hogan
The takeaway? Always try to target keywords, but don’t let them stop you from writing on a great topic.
Step 4: Create a blog content calendar.
A content calendar keeps you on track and creates a system to ensure your content is always top-notch and published on time. The best calendars also have social sharing and email marketing info baked in to make things organized and easy.
To help explain the importance of this step and how it plays into your overall blog content strategy, I asked Cameron Conaway, an investigative journalist and content marketing manager at Klipfolio, his thoughts on creating a content calendar. Here’s what he told me:
It allows us to make real-time updates, organize all content assets, and have end-to-end visibility into who is working on what, when each piece is due, and which persona and stage of the funnel each piece of content is for.
This allows us to go from half-baked idea to pitch to “Yo Editor”—a column we created where a writer can @ their editor if they’re stuck or ready for an edit on their first draft.Cameron Conaway
To help you understand the whole “yo editor” thing, here’s what their spreadsheet in Airtable looks like:
You can also use a free tool like Trello or Google Calendar to create your blog content calendar, but if you’re looking for a fully dedicated calendar with extra features to help you grow your blog, a tool like CoSchedule may be more helpful.
It’s your choice, though. For instance, here at ThemeIsle, we’ve been using Trello quite successfully since the blog’s birth. Our main board:
Step 5: Build amazing content.
You’ve got your keywords, you’ve created a content calendar, you know who you’re writing for. Now it’s time to actually build your content.
I say build, not write, because great content isn’t just written – it’s assembled.
An amazing piece of content needs to be…
- Well-written (meaning proper spelling and grammar, and doesn’t use unnecessarily complex language or terminology.)
- Researched (meaning uses stats, case studies, and examples to show you’ve done your homework.)
- Media rich (meaning plenty of high-quality and highly relevant images.)
- Formatted for skimming (meaning use plenty of headers, subheaders, bulleted lists, block quotes, bolding, and italics.)
Pro tip: You can get free high-quality images from MyStock.Photos or even make your own images with tools like Canva and others.
While it may be tempting to fire off your blog posts as they come to mind, having a written blog content strategy will save you hours of headaches. Plus, you’ll see way more success.
It only takes a few hours to put together an awesome blog content strategy. As the old adage goes, if you have four hours to chop down a tree, you stand a better chance if you take one of those hours to sharpen your axe. Or something like that.
This blog content strategy is the equivalent of sharpening your axe. You’ll be far more prepared and probably have more fun if you take the time to put it together.
Have any questions about crafting a content strategy for your blog? Feel free to speak up in the comments section below.