How’s your content strategy coming along?
Are you working on one? Or is it still just a distant task on your to-do list?
…Maybe think about prioritizing it.
Overwhelmingly, brands and marketers with a documented content strategy outperform those without one.
How much do they outperform their peers? An astonishing amount – they’re 414% more likely to report success.
That’s a great motivator to get going on your strategy.
One caveat: Whether you’re brand-new to content strategy, revising an existing strategy, or completely overhauling your content marketing, you need a solid framework to lean on.
And if you need help setting up the building blocks of that framework, this guide will show you what you must include.
What is a content strategy framework?
A content strategy framework is a plan that guides all of your content marketing actions. It details how you’ll create, manage, publish, promote, and maintain content to meet your brand goals.
You create a living reference point for executing your strategy when you document this framework – in a Google Doc, a spreadsheet, or even just jotted down on a notepad. It’s a plan you can return to again and again to guide all of your content marketing actions.
That distinction is essential, by the way. Your content strategy isn’t static at all. Instead, it should evolve with your brand as you discover what works and what doesn’t. You should be tweaking the strategy as necessary to account for what you learn. (That includes your goals, too.)
Finally, remember that the strategy guides that process and is meant to be repeated. You will never create just one piece of content and call it a day. You’ll create dozens to hundreds of pieces of content using this framework you’re working with.
And, at any given moment, you’ll be knee-deep in a handful of different stages. But you won’t get lost if you have a strategy.
What elements should you include in a content strategy framework?
Every content strategy should provide direction on key points. Here’s a quick breakdown.
- Set goals.
- Define your audience.
- Choose a content platform.
- Choose content topics and formats.
- Identify your team and roles.
- Set a posting schedule.
- Plan how you’ll promote.
- Get the tools you need to execute content.
- Determine how you’ll track and measure results.
- Set a budget.
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How to create your content strategy framework: 10 building blocks
Goal-setting is one of the most important parts of creating a content strategy. Without goals, you’ll have no destination to aim toward with your content marketing and, thus, no focus for your efforts.
Marketers who set goals are 377% more successful than those who don’t set goals, according to CoSchedule.
So, ask yourself what you’re hoping to achieve with content. What do you want your content to do? Here are some common goals to get you started:
- Build brand awareness: Increase your online visibility and become known in your industry.
- Nurture your audience: Provide helpful content that educates your audience and builds trust to create more leads.
- Drive more traffic: Bring more of your target audience to your virtual doorstep.
- Earn more subscribers and leads: Use great content to encourage email sign-ups and convert visitors into prospects.
When you choose a goal, don’t keep it at this broad, vague level. Think about exactly what you want to accomplish underneath that particular goal umbrella. Get specific and use numbers.
For example, if my goal is to drive more traffic, I’d phrase it like this in my strategy: “Increase total website traffic by 20% in 6 months.”
With your goals defined, you can move on to defining your target audience.
This stage is about discovering who needs the expertise and solutions the brand offers and who you should be talking to via its content. To do that, you’ll have to conduct audience research.
This part is vital to get right. You need a deep understanding of your audience, including what they care about and their challenges, so your content will hit home.
If you don’t understand your audience fully, your content topics won’t always resonate. And content that doesn’t resonate doesn’t get results.
One of the best ways to get to know your audience is to interview them directly. To do this, you must start with a few assumptions about who needs what you sell. Then, when you talk to your prospects, you’ll learn whether those assumptions were right.
One of my favorite questions to ask my potential audience is, “If you had a magic wand that could instantly solve one of your current problems regarding X, which one would you choose?”
Next up: Where will you post content?
You can maintain different channels online for content publication and distribution, but you need to choose where you’ll focus the brunt of your efforts.
In other words, where do you want to focus on building your brand online? What platform will be your home base on the web?
I always recommend focusing on your website first – specifically, posting content on your blog. Why?
Your website is real estate you own. Social media accounts are not. Your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts reside on borrowed land.
You also have little control over your visibility on social media. Your followers may or may not see all of your posts – and if you don’t post daily, your visibility will take an even bigger nosedive.
That’s why your website is such a powerful platform:
- You own the content you post there.
- You control that content’s visibility.
- You can build your online authority with SEO and organic rankings.
- Your other content posted to other platforms can point back to your website.
- You completely control your website’s look and feel, including the user experience.
Whatever platform you choose, document the one you want to focus on growing the most with content.
It’s finally time to talk about content in your strategy. You need to nail down two things:
What topic areas will you focus on in your content?
To answer this question, lean on the intersection of your industry expertise/what you sell, and what your audience wants. Your best topic areas will be relevant to both.
For example, if you sell running shoes, you won’t exclusively write about running shoes. You’ll write about related topics your audience cares about, like training, knee health, running events, etc. However, you probably won’t write about sports and hobbies unrelated to running, like football, yoga, or tennis.
What content types and formats will you publish?
Look at your resources and the types of content your audience prefers. If you’re a small brand, you probably won’t have the means to create slick, highly-produced video content. However, you will have the means to create high-quality blogs regularly – and that’s where most brands start.
Who’s in charge of each aspect of your content marketing?
While considering this, know that content should not be a “when I have time” activity.
It needs dedication to work. It needs someone on it who can spare it their full attention. That means, as soon as you can, you should invest in help (or seek buy-in to hire additional experts).
As you’re setting up your content team, these are the most necessary roles you might need to fill (and one person might fill multiple roles depending on your resources):
- Content writer/creator: At a base level, you need someone comfortable creating written content in most formats, including blogs, ebooks, whitepapers, webpages, and social media posts. Alternately, if you decide to invest in video or infographics, you need people with those skill sets.
- Content manager: Who will be in charge of managing blog posts, including formatting, scheduling, and publishing?
- Social media manager: Who will cover posting to social media and interacting with your audience?
- Content/SEO strategist: Who will do keyword research and blog topic research? Who will ideate content topics? Who will track metrics and measure results?
Yes, you need a content calendar for content marketing. But before you set one up, you first need to know your strategy for scheduling and posting content.
Remember: Consistency matters – not necessarily how much you post, but whether your audience can count on your posts and whether they’re always high-quality.
- How often will you post content on your main platform?
- How often will you post content on your secondary platform(s)?
- How often will you promote content on social media?
- What days/times are best for posting content for your audience?
Base your answers on research and your brand’s resources. What are your content team’s capabilities? What output can the business support?
With all of these questions answered, setting up your content calendar should be easy.
Next, choose your avenues for promoting content.
Promotion is how you get extra eyes on your content – especially when you’re new and don’t have an audience established yet.
However, you don’t have to spend much money on promotion. It can be as simple as cross-posting the link to the new blog you just published on social media. It can be as quick as sending out an email to your subscribers alerting them to a new blog.
If you don’t have a list of email subscribers yet, you might choose that as a major goal for your content marketing and instead promote posts on social for the time being.
Most of the steps in your content strategy will probably require at least one tool to help make the process easier and faster. Plus, some tools provide data you cannot skip by any means if you expect to compete in search engine rankings.
Here are the must-have tools:
- Keyword research or SEO tools (Semrush, Ahrefs, KWFinder by Mangools, etc.)
- Web analytics tool (like Google Analytics)
- Content management system (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.)
- Content calendar (Airtable, Trello, CoSchedule, Google or Excel spreadsheets, etc.)
An example of a content calendar using Airtable
Here are the nice-to-have tools:
- Editing software (like Grammarly).
- SEO checker (like Yoast).
- Conversion rate optimization (CRO) tool (like Hotjar).
- Image editing tool (like Canva or Photoshop).
9. Progress tracking
As you work toward your content marketing goals, you must also track your progress.
Document how you plan to do that in your content strategy. Determine:
- The key performance indicators (KPIs) you can attach to your goals. For instance, if one of my goals is to build brand authority and reputation, I could track Google keyword rankings over time to show how my online authority grows.
- The tools you need to track those KPIs. For example, I need an SEO tool to track Google rankings for my website.
- How often you’ll check in. Will you look at metrics monthly? Quarterly? Keep in mind that content marketing results tend to be slow but steady.
Last but not least, iron out the budget for your content marketing. Based on your strategy, what will it cost to run? Figure in the people, tools, and processes you must invest in to make it happen.
Weigh the cost against your resources, and remember to tweak your strategy as needed to keep it in line with your budget constraints. Remember: Great content can help grow a brand. And as the brand grows, your content investment can also increase.
A content strategy framework leads to solid content marketing
You need a content strategy framework if you want your content marketing to work.
Luckily, you’re already well on your way.
Use the framework to build your brand’s plan for content success, but remember the strategy isn’t set in stone. Instead, consider it a living document you’ll use daily to stay focused, stay on track, and reach your goals.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.