Content marketing strategy isn’t a field of dreams anymore. The era of tech optimism finished when the first wave of Covid-19 started.
With millions of blog and social media posts published daily, the playing field has become overcrowded. It’s a jungle out there, and you have to be a ferocious beast to survive.
Yet, this fact hasn’t made content marketing less valuable to companies. It has raised the bar for what good content looks like. And it also raised the importance of content distribution.
According to Gartner, marketing teams spend roughly 30% of their budgets on content creation to feed a wide range of engagement initiatives, from advertising and content marketing to product marketing and sales collateral.
Still, only about 40% of marketers who use content marketing have a well-defined and documented strategy. It takes the right content marketing strategy to attract, acquire, and retain customers.
The most common challenges that hamper B2B SaaS companies from doing effective content marketing are:
- 60% of the companies studied identified departmental silos as a barrier to content marketing
- 74% of them say it’s difficult to coordinate content marketing across brands and departments.
- 50% of them are unable to use content technologies in the company.
- 49% of the enterprises resist change, even with the rise of Agile methodology
- 45% of the businesses surveyed said they had difficulty keeping their messaging consistent.
We would say that everything, except their resistance to change, stems from the companies’ sheer size and sometimes siloed departments.
Major TV and print ads are often used by enterprise-level businesses to get their message across. The majority of their marketing budget goes to traditional ad agencies.
It leads to one-off ad campaigns that are supported online with references to their TV and print advertisements.
As for digital display ads, statistics tell a “horrifying” story. Not only is the usage of ad blockers on the rise, but statistics show that half of all smartphone ad clicks are accidental.
In fact, readers who don’t click on ads do so on purpose because more than 54% of readers don’t trust them.
Ouch—for those who believe the display ads are using cutting-edge digital technology.
What to do instead, you ask?
Learn how to create some new demand and to challenge the status quo.
Learn how to increase revenue with your content and demand gen strategy.
I’ll describe the content strategy, then go through each of its four elements:
✅ campaign strategy,
✅ keyword strategy
✅ content creation
And I’ll show you how those four elements create a process that’s updated to suit your needs.
Why is it worth understanding content strategy at this level of detail?
Simply put, you have to make educational and conversational content for all stages of the buyer’s journey. For that 98% who’re still not interested in your services.
But hey, don’t forget the rest.
Easy. Split the funnels and let’s get back to strategy.
While content marketing strategy focuses on long-term objectives, content marketing campaign strategy focuses on immediate goals, such as lead generation, brand awareness, and thought leadership.
A content marketing campaign should be measurable and adaptable at the same time. Depending on the campaign’s progress toward meeting its KPIs, you’ll want to proceed, change, or abandon it after each quarterly analysis of the results.
First and foremost, you should define your goals. Here’s a list of all the goals we’ve seen businesses set for themselves when starting a content marketing campaign.
✅ Brand Awareness
Increasing the amount of mental real estate your company has in the minds of your audience. Increase their understanding of the value proposition and services.
✅ Sustaining Engagement
Making informative points, addressing pain points, and keeping the content fun and skimmable are all important elements.
✅ Brand Health
Promoting positive customer attitudes, opinions, and actions in your direction.
✅ Search Visibility
Boosting the website’s SERPs for important keywords.
✅ Thought Leadership
Demonstrate industry leadership. Make yourself a valuable resource and a leader in your field.
✅ Attracting Backlinks
Signaling to search engines that your content is valuable. Other online publishers are voting on that through the links.
✅ Overcoming Competition
Getting ahead of the competition and converting more searchers.
✅ Website Maintenance
Maintaining a fresh, up-to-date website to ensure visibility and appeal.
Creating unique offerings by collaborating with customers and partners.
Providing useful, insightful content that stimulates consideration.
✅ Driving Conversions
Actively helping prospects in overcoming challenges and moving down the funnel.
✅ Organizational Efficiency
Answering questions to reduce the amount of time spent on customer service.
✅ Omnichannel Promotion
Getting customers to go from online to offline and back again.
✅ Sales Tools
Creating training materials such as detailed product explanations and case studies.
✅ Client Onboarding
Creating materials to help potential customers in getting the best out of your product.
✅ Social Sharing
Participating in trending topics to increase brand awareness and brand health.
Specific and measurable KPIs come from the best goals.
Establish more quantitative benchmarks for a broad goal like “generate leads.” For example:
– improve leads by the quality and shorten the sales cycle,
– increase leads by 10% over the next three months
– boost eCommerce revenue by 5% this year
– increase client retention by 10% in Q3
Now that you know what you want to accomplish with your content marketing strategy, it’s time to get tactical.
The next move is to choose campaign keywords. Support the goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) established during the initial campaign strategic planning.
A keyword strategy will help you attract the right people to your website.
A specific word or phrase acts like a magnet.
It will bring existing intent via Google searchers to your site.
When choosing keywords, try to be optimistic. Again, prepare to play the long game.
Keep in mind that every keyword in your industry has already been targeted by competitors or news sites.
Google’s algorithm is quite meritocratic. It searches for the page which is the best match for that specific keyword to place at the top of the results. The best content, with the best links and other SEO signals.
Simple as that. You will take their place if you can outperform them.
Skyscraper technique in the new age is still valid, still worlds like a charm. But, not all the time, for all keywords.
It doesn’t matter how great your content is. Google is unlikely to enable your site to rank for keywords that are too large or competitive. It’s pointless to waste the team’s time attempting to rank for them.
The solution is again very simple.
Focus on specific, transactional keywords when possible.
Choose keywords that have a good balance of medium to high traffic volume and low search competition.
But, above all, each keyword must reveal the real intent.
To demonstrate that the searcher is likely to achieve one of the campaign goals.
Here are some questions to ask about a keyword to help you figure out what a searcher’s intent is:
- What do you think the keyword means?
- What is the identity of the seeker? Will they be more interested in a conversational blog or a well-cited white paper?
- Is the buyer ready to make a decision, or are they still weighing their options?
- When they’ve finished reading the page that popped up in response to their search question, what’s the next logical step for them to take?
Choosing Transactional Keywords
When choosing the keywords for a campaign, we usually start by determining the general words that members of the target audience are looking for online. These are what we call container keywords.
Then, using Google autofill and research tools including Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, and Moz, we create a list of long-tail, more specific keywords inside that keyword container.
Long-tail keywords are the ones we end up focusing on in our content.
The long-tail keyword is much more useful because the person searching for it has a buying intent, while the container word will only be searched by a general researcher, which would be of no use to your business.
The power of the long tail is well-known, as long-tail keywords bring in 70% of all new business to the clients’ pages.
After you’ve decided which keywords to target, you’ll need to match the search intent of those keywords with the appropriate page type.
Choosing the Right Page for your Keyword
Mapping the right page to the right keyword is the process of understanding the problem that brought the searcher to Google in the first place, and then select a page style that will better satisfy them.
Here are some examples of the types of pages I usually pick from:
- Keywords that are direct questions or indications of a problem that needs to be addressed are ideal for blog posts.
- Landing pages are best for transactional keywords that express a desire to buy.
- Super landing pages are similar to blog posts in that they cater to research-oriented keywords, but they are only used when the query indicates a likelihood of transacting.
- Specialized content like white papers, case studies, and research studies suit deeper research keywords that don’t indicate a closeness to transacting but a seriousness as a longer-term sales prospect nonetheless
- Pillar pages suit container keywords
The next logical step is to determine which page type better serves each keyword, based on its search intent, and then place the keyword on a transactionality scale.
To put it another way, searchers at the top of the sales funnel are still figuring out what they want and aren’t ready to buy; as a result, they’ll need educational content that isn’t salesy.
Bottom-of-the-funnel searchers are still doing research, so practical, sales-oriented pages will be more effective.
Once you’ve figured out which keywords go on which pages, it’s time to bring everything together.
A Simple Keyword Strategy Formula
Here’s how the whole keyword strategy works in practice:
- Select the most suitable container keyword.
- Inside that container, identify 20 ideal long-tail keywords (considering qualities like transactionality and competition), and make sure those long-tail keywords have enough traffic.
- Evaluate each long-tail keyword’s search intent and map it to the relevant page type.
Once you’ve decided which keywords to target and which pages to write, you’ll need to come up with compelling content.
Let’s now take a look at how to do that.
In order to create content that targets your ideal long-tail keywords, these six key principles must be kept in mind:
- Simplicity. Use the most straightforward style you can without offending the intelligence of your reader. Your readers are looking for a solution to a particular problem; demonstrate that you value their time and attention by getting straight to the point. This helps your audience to find what they’re looking for without being bored or confused, increasing the likelihood that they’ll contact you or make a purchase before leaving your page.
- Exclusion. Even if it means excluding others, write in a language and structure that your target audience can understand. A marketer doesn’t need “customer acquisition costs” or “lifetime value” explained to them, and if another searcher is confused by CAC or LTV, that’s fine. That shows they aren’t interested in what you are offering.
- Specificity. Use examples of situations your reader will recognize. This not only establishes your authority but also assists you in making a connection with your reader. A reader who sees themselves in your content and recognizes their problems and frustrations now knows you understand them and can help them solve their problems.
- Originality. Bear in mind that the decision-makers you’re after are busy people, so you’ll need to grab their attention and keep them on your page right away. Also, make sure your writing is unique so that your audience won’t be able to find your unique perspective and insights anywhere else. Not only can you get more views, time on the website, and rankings, but you’ll also get conversions and new leads from readers who want to hear more about what you have to say—this time on a sales call.
- Availability. Make sure to include a simple call-to-action (CTA) that tells your reader what to do next. With a CTA on the sidebar for general inquiries and a tailored call-to-action woven into the conclusion of your content, make it as simple and natural as possible.
- Consistency. At least once a week, post new content on your company’s blog. Republish it on social media, especially Linkedin. People buy from those they trust. The combined reach of your employees’ and C-personal suite’s profiles exceeds the reach of your own page. Make use of that fact.
This can be the most difficult part of the process for many companies. One article a month might be simple to write, publish, and re-distribute, but 8-10 is a much greater commitment.
It takes a lot of effort to put all of this together, but if the content is one of your key services, in-house content marketing makes sense. For others, outsourcing may be the better choice.
By doing so, your team can focus on higher-level activities.
Content can be evergreen, generating demand for years to come. However, you can only trust the content to work for you if you know how it is performing. That’s why, once you’ve developed a daily publishing schedule, you’ll want to devote some time to the analytics.
Content Measurement and Analytics
The effectiveness of a content campaign is assessed in relation to the KPIs established at the start. However, there are a few KPIs that are commonly used.
Search Traffic Results: Unbranded vs. Branded
Unbranded search term traffic is a good starting point for determining the effectiveness of a content campaign.
Google visitors who did not search for your business or its products are referred to as unbranded search traffic. People who are already familiar with your company, who may have purchased from you in the past, and who are coming to you for a very specific reason are represented by a branded keyword phrase that uses your name directly.
There’s no point in analyzing this traffic because you should already be #1 for a keyword phrase that includes your name.
Unbranded search queries are usually generated by visitors conducting research who aren’t looking for (or even familiar with) your company.
While search traffic is the SEO community’s favorite KPI, it is only a leading indicator. The KPIs mentioned below are the more direct ones.
Must-Hit KPIs for Content Marketing
Quality content benefits the business in a variety of ways. From brand awareness to social visibility to new demand generation and sales growth, we’ve got you covered. Most brands, however, use one or more of the following KPIs to assess the success of a content campaign:
- Number of blog visits – for example, about 10,000 per month, with a 5% month-over-month increase
- Organic traffic – for example, “70% of total traffic converts to new leads”
- Average views per post – e.g. “10% increase, increasing another 15% over the course of a year”
- Search Engine Ranking Position – e.g. “main blog ranks top 3 for 5+ transactional keywords”
- Conversion rates –for example, “more than 10 conversions per month at a conversion rate of more than 3%”
- Social media engagement – 3 or more comments per post; 3 or more weekly shares
- Returning visitors – for example, “18% returning visitors, with 16% of return traffic converting”
- Average inbound links per post – for example. “2+ per month, with 40% from authoritative sites”
It’s best to begin monitoring these KPIs as early as possible in the content strategy process. You should be monitoring all of the KPIs mentioned above and more from the moment the first article, page, or post goes live. This enables us to track campaigns and plan goals and fine-tune your strategy based on real-time tracking data.
Refine Your Campaign Strategy
After you’ve gathered your data, it’s time to figure out what it all means. You’ll be able to take specific steps to bring the data to good use. When it comes to fine-tuning a campaign strategy, I use a two-pronged approach: identifying problems and doubling down on successes.
Don’t expect miracles at the beginning. As I said above, be prepared to play a long game.
Before the needle starts moving, it takes 4-6 months of consistent content publishing and distribution.
However, if you aren’t getting the results you want despite these leading indicators rising, the goal is to spot the fact early on. This method works well, and if results aren’t coming, it’s typically a sign of something more serious.
Here are the 3 most common problems in B2B SaaS content campaigns and solutions for them:
Problem – Traffic isn’t rising
Solution – Content isn’t engaging enough (look at the average time spent on the site); content hasn’t been posted at least twice a week over the past 4-6 months; article titles don’t provide searched keywords.
Problem – Although traffic is increasing, click-throughs and conversions are still low.
Solution – The user interface is disorganized, and the CTAs are ineffective.; Page speed is low
Problem – The bounce rate is high, and the time spent on the page is short.
Solution – Inconsistency between the search intent of the targeted keyword and the page type and/or content on the page (i.e. the user is looking for something different from what they found)
Double-Down on Success
Are you ready for another truth bomb?
Not so obvious one to every decision-maker.
If your campaign is succeeding, keep it going.
That’s it. So, obviously, but for some reason, it’s common to see businesses run good content campaigns and then believe they’ve checked the box and can now pivot to social media, e-mail, or another sector of MarCom that hasn’t seen as much success.
If it’s working, consider either:
(a) increasing the number of articles you’re publishing each week or
(b) repurposing your best-performing content for new audiences or to fit new channels.
For example, you can create multiple offshoot blogs, a social media infographic, and a video from a single super landing page.
Getting the Most Out of Your Content Strategy
After you’ve created the content, you’ll need to choose the right distribution channels and develop a promotion strategy.
Naturally, the choice is influenced by the type of content, the audience profile, and the strategy’s goals.
For example, if your target audience often uses LinkedIn and your company to clarify a complicated subject, posting stories on Instagram would likely be less successful than publishing a written piece of content on LinkedIn.
Be there where your perfect audience is hanging out.
Be prepared to react to the latest trends, don’t resist the changes in the market.
Marketing campaigns are slower to test, slower to produce results, and it takes longer to fine-tune a content strategy to meet the needs of consumers if Agile methodology is not used. Agile principles emphasize early customer testing, acting on their feedback, and changing direction as needed.
An agile content strategy will respond faster to market-moving news. Content marketing that is agile will respond to new technologies and use them to their advantage.
When Agile principles are combined with a company’s large number of resources, effective campaigns can be scaled more easily.
Not only that, but teams can innovate more quickly than ever before—without the need for top-down bureaucracy to approve every sneeze from the marketing team. Both the innovators and the end-user, in this case, potential customers, benefit from agile methodology.
Most importantly, adopting Agile in both marketing and product development will give you an advantage over scrappy upstarts who threaten to corner the market on whatever you sell.
As you can see from all the above, content strategy takes a lot of upfront work. It would consume more time and energy in the first three months than in the next three, and far less in Year Two than in Year One.
The end result? Well worth it.