How to Develop a Content Strategy for Your Blog
Blogs need a content strategy plan. Learn how to develop a content strategy that will help you publish with purpose using these 5 simple steps.
So you’ve decided your business needs a blog to help with your marketing efforts. Nice! But before you write your first post, there’s something you really should do first: put together a content strategy.
Having a solid content strategy can be the difference between a good blog and a great blog – one that pulls in search traffic and converts. Not only will having a strategy help you work out what to publish, but it will also help you establish goals, better understand your audience, and produce articles that resonate with your readers and build your reputation.
CONSIDER THIS: Organizations that have a documented strategy are more effective and less challenged with every aspect of content marketing when compared with those who only have a verbal strategy or no strategy at all, according to the Content Marketing Institute. Of those who have a written strategy, 60% consider their business to be effective, while only 32% of those with a verbal strategy say they are effective.
Personally, these stats ring true for me. I’ve been blogging professionally since 2012 and it was only when I took the time to research and put together a content strategy that I started to achieve solid results. Now, I no longer waste time writing the wrong posts because I understand my audience, I have an organized and consistent editorial calendar and – most importantly – I write with purpose because I’ve set clear goals.
5 Key Steps for Developing a Content Strategy
In this article, I’ll share with you the five key steps I’ve gleaned from managing blogs. By the end of this post, you’ll have the knowledge and tools you need to get your write your own plan for creating an effective blog content strategy.
1. Set SMART Goals & Understand Your Blog's Purpose
We’ve established that you want to start a blog, but what is the purpose of your blog?
The first step in creating your content strategy is setting goals. Having clear goals will give your blog purpose and help you prioritize tasks that set it up for success.
When it comes to goal setting, I’m a big fan of SMART goals. SMART goals bring structure and trackability into goal setting, ensuring your goals are more likely to be achievable.
In order for a goal to be SMART, it must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Here’s a great example from The Balance:
Broad goal: I want to grow my business.
Measurable: I will measure my progress by how many new clients I bring on, while maintaining my current client base.
Attainable: I will ask current clients for referrals, launch a social media marketing campaign and network with local businesses.
Relevant: Adding additional clients to my business will allow me to grow my business and increase my revenue.
Time-Based: I will have three new clients within two months.
I will acquire three new clients for my consulting business within two months by asking for referrals, launching a social media marketing campaign and networking with local businesses. This will allow me to grow my business and increase my revenue.
Now, think about what you want to achieve with your blog. Maybe you want to attract organic traffic, generate leads and increase conversions? Or you want to educate or keep your customers up-to-date with the latest new features in your product or service? Or even build your brand’s reputation and credibly?
Whatever your overall goal may be, write it down as a broad goal like above and then re-write it as a SMART goal. Not only will writing your goals down give you clarity, but it also gives you something to jot down on a note and stick to your computer for those long nights when you’re suffering writer’s block and wondering why they heck you started a blog in the first place!
QUICK BLOGGING TIP: Titles with 6-13 words and 60 characters or less attract the highest and most consistent amount of traffic.
2. Understand Who Your Audience Is
The next step is figuring out your audience and understanding who the target audience is for your blog. Things like:
- Demographic? Age, gender, location etc.
- What do they do? Developers, designers, marketers etc.
- What websites do they visit? Who are your potential competitors?
- What social channels do they use? Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.
- Who do they respect and listen to? Why are their influencers?
- What are their pain points? What problems do they have that you could help solve?
With this list in mind, you need to create user personas. User personas are fictional, generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and behavioral patterns of your ideal blog readers.
Why create personas? If you want people to read your content, you need to create content that is useful for your potential readers. It’s important to always keep in mind, “Will my audience benefit from this article and solve their pain points?”
In order to define your personas, think about the type of person you imagine reading your blog. What kind of work do they do? What kind of company do they work for? What are their goals and challenges? What kind of content is going to help their achieve their goals?
As a general rule, it’s best to come up with at least three personas. For more on how to create personas, especially if you want to establish a blog for a large business, check out this in-depth guide by the folks at Buffer.
3. Do Your Keyword Research
If you want people to find your blog organically via search, you need to cover topics that your niche is searching for.
So first up, you need to get to know your niche. Intimately. For example, if you want to blog about support and knowledge base products, start by searching for those terms in Google AdWords Keyword Planner. The more knowledge you can gather about what your potential audience is searching for, the more effective you will be at creating content that your audience will discover in search.
Next, create a list of seed keywords that are popular with your audience. These keywords should be specific, so something like “Support” isn’t going to work. Instead, “WordPress support” is more specific, and within that niche, you could have “WordPress support plugin” or “WordPress support knowledge base”.
Using these seed keywords, you can then come up with a list of blog articles to get you started and boost your SEO. For example:
- Top 10 WordPress Support Plugins
- 12 Best Knowledge Base Plugins for WordPress
- How to Set Up a Knowledge Base on Your WordPress Site
4. Write Amazing Content
With your keywords in place and some post ideas in your pocket, you can now use this to write amazing content.
Everyone tackles writing differently. Some people like to just start writing and see what happens. Personally, I like structure. I like to have a firm idea and overview of what I want to write in mind before I get started. Here's my process:
- Come up with a post idea: The idea should resonate with your target audience. Try searching for your idea and check out what your competitors have published. If you can improve what they have written, great! If not, come up with another idea.
- Do your research: Research your topic inside-out. I usually open lots of tabs and create a list of links, and always attribute any information you use – never copy.
- Write a great headline: Your headlines should address a key pain point for your readers. Ensure it’s under 60 characters long and includes your most important keywords.
- Plan out the structure of your post: Create a bullet point list of the different sections you want to include in your post.
- Write your introduction: The first line of your post should include the most important information in your post. For example, if your post is about the best knowledge base plugins for WordPress, you could write: “Looking for a great knowledge base plugin for WordPress? We’ve done the hard work for you and put together this list of the best free plugins.” The rest of the introduction should summarize what you will be addressing in the rest of your post.
- Write your post: Using the structure you created above, write the rest of your post. I find writing bullet point lists for each section helps me get my thoughts in order so I can then expand them into full sentences.
QUICK TIP: 43% of people admit to skimming blog posts. So make your blog stand out with well-designed headings, videos, and other visual tools to make the most important pieces of your article get noticed and remembered.
5. Set Up An Editorial Calendar
There’s nothing like a calendar to help you stay you on track – not to mention the fact Google loves consistency.
I love writing lists and having a calendar – especially an editorial calendar – is a natural extension of that. Not only does having a calendar allow you to get a nice bird’s eye view of what’s coming up and what you’ve already published, but it quickly shows you where there are gaps in your publishing schedule.
There are some excellent free tools like Trello and the Editorial Calendar plugin for WordPress (both of which I personally use). If you’re after a tool with a bit more oomph, try CoSchedule. It includes some cool advanced features like social media integration, team workflows, and analytics.
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge you need to create a blog content strategy, all you need to do is start your blog and begin writing! Remember, organizations that have a blog strategy are more effective at content marketing than those that have a verbal strategy or no strategy at all.
Good luck launching your new blog!