5 Things To Do Before You Start Content Marketing

Young woman sits at desk typing on laptop.

Content marketing can be a powerful tool to build brand awareness, drive traffic, and generate leads. However, jumping in without proper preparation can lead to wasted efforts and missed opportunities. Here are six essential steps to take before launching your content marketing strategy.

1. Define Your Goals

Before you create any content, it’s crucial to understand why you’re doing it. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, generate leads, or improve customer retention? Clear goals will guide your strategy and help you measure success.

Content marketing is a powerful strategy, but without clear goals, your efforts can become aimless and ineffective. Defining your goals is the first and most crucial step in creating a successful content marketing plan. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you set clear, achievable goals for your content marketing strategy.

Understand the Purpose of Content Marketing

Before setting specific goals, it’s important to understand the overarching purpose of content marketing. Content marketing aims to attract, engage, and retain an audience by creating and sharing valuable, relevant content. It’s about building trust and establishing your brand as an authority in your industry.

Align Goals with Business Objectives

Your content marketing goals should align with your broader business objectives. Consider what you want to achieve at a high level and how content marketing can support those aims. Common business objectives that content marketing can help with include:

  • Increasing Brand Awareness: Making more people aware of your brand and what it stands for.
  • Driving Traffic: Increasing the number of visitors to your website.
  • Generating Leads: Capturing potential customers’ information to nurture them through the sales funnel.
  • Boosting Sales: Directly increasing sales or conversions.
  • Enhancing Customer Retention: Keeping existing customers engaged and loyal to your brand.
  • Improving SEO: Enhancing your website’s visibility in search engine results.

Set SMART Goals

To make your goals actionable and measurable, use the SMART criteria:

  • Specific: Clearly define what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable: Ensure you can track and measure progress.
  • Achievable: Set realistic goals that are attainable.
  • Relevant: Align goals with your business objectives.
  • Time-bound: Set a deadline for achieving your goals.

For example, instead of setting a vague goal like “increase website traffic,” a SMART goal would be “increase website traffic by 20% over the next six months.”

Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Once you have defined your goals, identify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will help you measure success. KPIs are specific metrics that provide insights into your progress towards your goals. For instance:

  • For increasing brand awareness: Track metrics like social media reach, mentions, and share of voice.
  • For driving traffic: Monitor website visits, page views, and bounce rates.
  • For generating leads: Measure form submissions, sign-ups, and downloads.
  • For boosting sales: Track conversion rates, sales revenue, and average order value.
  • For enhancing customer retention: Monitor repeat purchase rates, customer lifetime value, and churn rates.
  • For improving SEO: Track keyword rankings, organic search traffic, and backlink quality.

Conduct a Benchmark Analysis

Understanding your current performance is essential for setting realistic goals. Conduct a benchmark analysis to assess your starting point. Review your existing content metrics, competitor performance, and industry standards. This analysis will help you set achievable targets and understand the gap between your current state and desired outcomes.

Prioritize Your Goals

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by trying to achieve too many goals at once. Prioritize your goals based on their impact on your business objectives and the resources available. Focus on a few key goals that will drive the most significant results and expand your efforts as you start seeing success.

Document and Communicate Your Goals

Writing down your goals and communicating them to your team is crucial for accountability and alignment. Document your goals, KPIs, and timelines in a clear and accessible format. Ensure that everyone involved in your content marketing efforts understands these goals and how their work contributes to achieving them.

Defining clear, strategic goals is the foundation of successful content marketing. By understanding your business objectives, setting SMART goals, identifying relevant KPIs, conducting a benchmark analysis, prioritizing your efforts, and documenting your goals, you’ll be well on your way to creating a focused and effective content marketing strategy. Remember, regularly review and adjust your goals as needed to stay aligned with your evolving business needs and market conditions.

2. Understand Your Audience

Creating content without knowing who it’s for is like throwing darts in the dark. Conduct thorough research to understand your target audience’s demographics, interests, pain points, and content preferences. Use tools like surveys, social media analytics, and customer feedback to gather insights.

Understanding your audience is the cornerstone of effective content marketing. Without a clear picture of who you are speaking to, your content may miss the mark and fail to engage or convert. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you deeply understand your audience and create content that resonates.

Conduct Demographic Research

Start with the basics by gathering demographic information about your audience. This includes age, gender, location, education level, occupation, and income. Demographic data helps you create a broad profile of your target audience and can be collected through:

  • Google Analytics: Provides insights into the age, gender, and location of your website visitors.
  • Social Media Analytics: Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram offer demographic data on your followers.
  • Surveys and Polls: Directly ask your audience about their demographic background.

Analyze Psychographics

Demographics tell you who your audience is, but psychographics tell you why they act the way they do. Psychographic data includes interests, values, attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyle choices. To gather this information:

  • Customer Surveys: Ask questions about their interests, values, and lifestyle.
  • Social Media Insights: Analyze the types of content your audience engages with and shares.
  • Customer Interviews: Conduct one-on-one interviews to dive deeper into their motivations and challenges.

Create Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on demographic and psychographic data. Creating detailed buyer personas helps you humanize your audience and tailor your content to their needs. To build effective personas:

  • Compile Data: Use the demographic and psychographic information you’ve gathered.
  • Identify Common Traits: Look for patterns and commonalities in the data.
  • Create Profiles: Develop detailed profiles that include a name, age, occupation, background, goals, challenges, and preferred communication channels.

Map the Customer Journey

Understanding the different stages your audience goes through before making a purchase decision is crucial. The customer journey typically includes the following stages:

  • Awareness: The customer realizes they have a problem or need.
  • Consideration: The customer researches and evaluates potential solutions.
  • Decision: The customer decides on a solution and makes a purchase.

Map out this journey for your audience and identify the type of content that will be most valuable at each stage. For example:

  • Awareness Stage: Educational blog posts, infographics, and videos that address their pain points.
  • Consideration Stage: In-depth guides, case studies, and comparison charts that highlight your solution’s benefits.
  • Decision Stage: Product demos, testimonials, and special offers to encourage conversion.

Engage with Your Audience

Direct interaction with your audience provides invaluable insights. Engage with them through various channels to understand their needs and preferences better:

  • Social Media: Participate in conversations, respond to comments, and ask for feedback.
  • Email Newsletters: Include surveys and encourage replies to gather insights.
  • Customer Support: Use feedback from customer service interactions to identify common questions and concerns.

Utilize Analytics Tools

Analytics tools provide a wealth of information about your audience’s behavior and preferences. Some essential tools include:

  • Google Analytics: Offers data on website visitor behavior, including which content is most popular.
  • Social Media Analytics: Provides insights into which posts get the most engagement and why.
  • Heatmaps: Tools like Hotjar show where users click and scroll on your website, indicating what grabs their attention.

Monitor Competitors

Keeping an eye on your competitors can provide insights into what works and what doesn’t in your industry. Analyze their content, social media activity, and audience engagement to identify trends and gaps you can capitalize on.

Understanding your audience is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that evolves with your business and market trends. By conducting demographic and psychographic research, creating detailed buyer personas, mapping the customer journey, engaging directly with your audience, utilizing analytics tools, and monitoring competitors, you can gain deep insights into your audience’s needs and preferences. This understanding will enable you to create targeted, effective content that resonates with your audience and drives your content marketing success.

3. Conduct a Content Audit

A content audit helps you assess the existing content on your website. Identify what’s performing well, what’s outdated, and what gaps need to be filled. This will give you a clearer picture of where to focus your efforts and how to repurpose or improve existing content.

A content audit is an essential process for any content marketing strategy. It involves evaluating your existing content to identify what’s working, what’s not, and where there are opportunities for improvement. Here’s a step-by-step guide to conducting a comprehensive content audit.

Set Clear Objectives

Before you begin, define the goals of your content audit. Are you looking to improve SEO, enhance user engagement, identify content gaps, or repurpose old content? Clear objectives will help you focus your audit and measure its success. Common objectives include:

  • SEO Improvement: Boost search engine rankings by optimizing existing content.
  • Content Quality Enhancement: Ensure content meets high standards of relevance, accuracy, and engagement.
  • Content Gap Identification: Discover missing topics or underrepresented areas.
  • Repurposing Opportunities: Identify content that can be updated or transformed into different formats.

Gather Your Content Inventory

Collect all the content you want to audit. This can include blog posts, articles, landing pages, videos, infographics, and social media posts. Depending on the scope of your audit, you might focus on specific types of content or include everything. Tools like Screaming Frog, SEMrush, or a simple spreadsheet can help you compile your content inventory.

Categorize Your Content

Organize your content into categories based on criteria such as content type, topic, format, and publication date. This will make it easier to analyze and compare different pieces of content. Common categories include:

  • Content Type: Blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, etc.
  • Topic: Group similar topics together to see which areas have the most or least content.
  • Format: Long-form articles, short blog posts, listicles, etc.
  • Publication Date: Group content by when it was published to identify outdated material.

Analyze Content Performance

Evaluate the performance of each piece of content using key metrics. These metrics will depend on your objectives but often include:

  • Traffic: Page views, unique visitors, and time on page.
  • Engagement: Social shares, comments, likes, and overall engagement rate.
  • SEO Metrics: Organic traffic, keyword rankings, backlinks, and click-through rates.
  • Conversion Rates: Leads generated, conversion rate, and goal completions.
  • Content Quality: Readability, relevance, and accuracy.

Tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and social media analytics can provide these insights.

Evaluate Content Quality

Assess the quality of your content by considering factors such as:

  • Relevance: Is the content still relevant to your audience’s needs and interests?
  • Accuracy: Is the information up-to-date and factually correct?
  • Readability: Is the content easy to read and understand?
  • Engagement: Does the content engage and resonate with your audience?

Consider using readability tools like Hemingway or Grammarly to ensure your content is clear and accessible.

Identify Content Gaps and Opportunities

Look for gaps in your content where you can add value. Consider questions like:

  • Are there topics your audience is interested in that you haven’t covered?
  • Are there outdated pieces that need updating?
  • Can existing content be repurposed into new formats, such as turning a blog post into a video or infographic?
  • Are there opportunities to create more in-depth content or series on popular topics?

Develop an Action Plan

Based on your findings, create an action plan to improve your content strategy. This plan should include:

  • Content Updates: Identify which pieces need updating, expanding, or correcting.
  • Content Removal: Remove or consolidate outdated, redundant, or low-performing content.
  • Content Creation: Plan new content to fill identified gaps or capitalize on opportunities.
  • Repurposing: Determine which content can be repurposed into different formats or used across various channels.

Implement and Monitor

Execute your action plan and monitor the results. Use analytics tools to track the impact of your changes and adjust your strategy as needed. Regularly reviewing your content’s performance will help you stay on track and continue improving over time.

Conducting a content audit is a vital process for maintaining a high-quality, effective content marketing strategy. By setting clear objectives, gathering and categorizing your content, analyzing performance, evaluating quality, identifying gaps, and developing an action plan, you can ensure your content remains relevant, engaging, and impactful. Regular audits will help you adapt to changing audience needs and stay ahead in the competitive landscape.

4. Develop a Content Strategy

Your content strategy should outline the types of content you will create, the topics you will cover, and the channels you will use to distribute it. It should also include a content calendar to keep you organized and consistent. A well-defined strategy ensures that your content efforts are aligned with your business goals and audience needs.

Developing a robust content strategy is crucial for achieving your content marketing goals. A well-defined strategy ensures that your content efforts are focused, consistent, and aligned with your business objectives. Here’s a step-by-step guide to developing an effective content strategy.

Understand Your Audience

To create content that resonates, you need to understand your audience. Conduct thorough research to gather insights into their demographics, interests, pain points, and content preferences. Use tools like surveys, social media analytics, and customer feedback to gather this information. Develop detailed buyer personas to represent your ideal customers and guide your content creation.

Conduct Keyword Research

Keyword research is essential for ensuring your content is discoverable through search engines. Identify relevant keywords and phrases that your audience is searching for. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to find keywords with high search volume and low competition. Incorporate these keywords into your content to improve your search engine rankings and drive organic traffic.

Create a Content Plan

Your content plan should outline the types of content you will create, the topics you will cover, and the channels you will use to distribute it. Consider a mix of content types to keep your audience engaged, such as blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts, and social media updates. Map out a content calendar to schedule your content creation and publication, ensuring consistency and alignment with your goals.

Develop a Content Creation Process

Establish a clear process for creating, reviewing, and publishing content. This process should include:

  • Content Ideation: Brainstorming and selecting topics that align with your goals and audience interests.
  • Content Creation: Writing, designing, or producing the content.
  • Editing and Review: Ensuring the content is high-quality, accurate, and aligned with your brand voice.
  • Approval and Publishing: Finalizing and publishing the content on your chosen channels.

Optimize Content for SEO

To improve your content’s visibility in search engine results, optimize it for SEO. This includes:

  • On-Page SEO: Incorporate relevant keywords into your titles, headings, meta descriptions, and content body.
  • Internal Linking: Link to other relevant content on your website to improve navigation and SEO.
  • Mobile Optimization: Ensure your content is mobile-friendly, as more users access content on mobile devices.
  • Page Speed: Optimize your website’s loading speed to improve user experience and SEO rankings.

Promote Your Content

Creating great content is only half the battle; you also need to promote it effectively. Share your content across various channels to reach a wider audience, including:

  • Social Media: Share your content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
  • Email Marketing: Send content updates to your email subscribers.
  • Guest Blogging: Contribute to other blogs or websites to reach new audiences.
  • Influencer Marketing: Collaborate with influencers in your industry to amplify your content’s reach.

Measure and Analyze Performance

Regularly review your content’s performance to understand what’s working and what’s not. Use analytics tools like Google Analytics, social media insights, and email marketing metrics to track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as traffic, engagement, conversions, and ROI. Analyzing this data will help you refine your content strategy and make data-driven decisions.

Iterate and Improve

Content marketing is an ongoing process that requires constant iteration and improvement. Use the insights from your performance analysis to refine your content strategy, update your content plan, and experiment with new ideas. Stay adaptable and responsive to changes in your audience’s preferences and market trends.

Developing a content strategy is essential for creating focused, consistent, and effective content that drives your business goals. By defining clear objectives, understanding your audience, conducting a content audit, performing keyword research, creating a content plan, developing a content creation process, optimizing for SEO, promoting your content, measuring performance, and continuously iterating, you can build a successful content marketing strategy that resonates with your audience and delivers results.

5. Prepare Your Team and Resources

Content marketing requires a team effort. Ensure you have the right people and resources in place, including writers, designers, and marketers. Provide training if necessary and make sure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. Additionally, invest in tools and software that can streamline your content creation and distribution processes.

A successful content marketing strategy requires a well-prepared team and the right resources. By ensuring you have the necessary people, tools, and processes in place, you can execute your content marketing plan efficiently and effectively. Here’s a comprehensive guide to preparing your team and resources for content marketing.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

The first step in preparing your team is to clearly define roles and responsibilities. Content marketing involves various tasks, from content creation to distribution and analysis. Assign specific roles to team members to ensure accountability and streamline processes. Key roles may include:

  • Content Strategist: Develops the content strategy, plans the content calendar, and ensures alignment with business goals.
  • Content Creators: Writers, designers, videographers, and other creators who produce the content.
  • SEO Specialist: Optimizes content for search engines to improve visibility and organic traffic.
  • Social Media Manager: Manages content distribution and engagement on social media platforms.
  • Analytics Specialist: Tracks and analyzes content performance to inform future strategies.
  • Editor/Proofreader: Ensures content quality, accuracy, and consistency.

Provide Training and Development

To keep your team up-to-date with the latest content marketing trends and best practices, invest in ongoing training and development. This can include:

  • Workshops and Webinars: Attend industry workshops and webinars to learn new skills and strategies.
  • Online Courses: Enroll in online courses on content marketing, SEO, social media, and analytics.
  • Industry Conferences: Participate in industry conferences to network and gain insights from experts.
  • Internal Training: Conduct regular internal training sessions to share knowledge and best practices.

Equip Your Team with the Right Tools

The right tools can streamline your content marketing efforts and enhance productivity. Equip your team with tools for content creation, project management, SEO, and analytics. Essential tools include:

  • Content Creation: Grammarly for writing, Canva for design, and Adobe Creative Suite for multimedia content.
  • Project Management: Trello, Asana, or Monday.com to organize tasks, set deadlines, and collaborate efficiently.
  • SEO: SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz for keyword research, backlink analysis, and SEO audits.
  • Analytics: Google Analytics for website performance, Hootsuite or Sprout Social for social media analytics, and HubSpot for comprehensive marketing analytics.

Develop a Content Creation Process

Establish a clear and efficient content creation process to ensure consistency and quality. This process should include:

  • Ideation: Brainstorm and select content topics that align with your goals and audience interests.
  • Research: Gather relevant information, data, and insights to support your content.
  • Creation: Develop the content, whether it’s a blog post, video, infographic, or social media post.
  • Editing and Proofreading: Review the content for accuracy, clarity, and consistency.
  • Approval: Get necessary approvals from stakeholders before publishing.
  • Publishing: Schedule and publish the content on the appropriate platforms.

Foster Collaboration and Communication

Effective collaboration and communication are essential for a cohesive content marketing team. Implement strategies to enhance teamwork, such as:

  • Regular Meetings: Hold regular team meetings to discuss progress, share updates, and address any challenges.
  • Collaboration Tools: Use tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Workspace for seamless communication and collaboration.
  • Feedback Loops: Encourage open feedback and constructive criticism to continuously improve content quality.

Allocate Budget and Resources

Ensure you have a clear understanding of your content marketing budget and allocate resources accordingly. Budget considerations may include:

  • Content Creation Costs: Budget for writers, designers, videographers, and any freelance or agency support.
  • Tool Subscriptions: Account for subscriptions to essential tools and software.
  • Promotion and Distribution: Allocate funds for paid promotions, social media advertising, and influencer collaborations.
  • Training and Development: Budget for team training, courses, and industry events.

Monitor and Adjust

Once your team and resources are in place, continuously monitor your content marketing efforts and adjust as needed. Use analytics to track performance and gather insights. Regularly review your strategy and processes to identify areas for improvement and ensure you’re meeting your goals.

Preparing your team and resources is a critical step in executing a successful content marketing strategy. By defining roles and responsibilities, providing training, equipping your team with the right tools, developing a clear content creation process, fostering collaboration, allocating budget, and continuously monitoring progress, you can ensure your content marketing efforts are efficient, effective, and aligned with your business goals.

By taking these steps before diving into content marketing, you’ll be better prepared to create effective content that resonates with your audience and achieves your business goals. Remember, successful content marketing is not just about producing content; it’s about producing the right content for the right audience at the right time.

About Joe Hall

Joe Hall is a seasoned SEO consultant, web developer, writer, marketer, and artist, with extensive experience at both national and local levels across a diverse range of topics and technologies. His expertise is primarily focused on creating innovative tools that empower small businesses and nonprofits to thrive online. A self-described 'web-head', Joe approaches the internet with a fervent passion and a commitment to driving change and creating new opportunities for his clients and users.

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