Content strategy: 7 best practices to make you a better content marketer

Content strategy: 7 best practices to make you a better content marketer

8 minute read

Content strategy: 7 best practices to make you a better content marketer

8 minute read

Content strategy: 7 best practices to make you a better content marketer

Afoma Umesi

GatherContent Contributor, Writer
Imagine getting in the car, strapping on your seatbelt, and getting on the road...but having no idea where you’re going. That’s what content marketing without a content strategy feels like, like a bunch of work with no direction—aimless. Some marketers and stakeholders may not fully grasp the value of having a content strategy. This article will discuss content strategy, how it relates to content marketing, and the best tips for nailing it.

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Content marketing strategy vs. content strategy

Another common strategy often confused with content strategy is content marketing strategy. While both are linked, they are not the same.

Content strategy refers to the plan for generating, publishing, distributing, and updating content for any given purpose. Consider websites for government, educational, and healthcare organizations that regularly create content without a marketing goal. Their approach is still content strategy—just not content marketing strategy.

In comparison, content marketing strategy is the plan for creating, publishing, distributing, and updating content specifically for commercial purposes. The goal of content marketing strategy is to drive sales and grow revenue.

Essentially, the main differences between content marketing strategy and content strategy are the content goals. Often, the content development process for both is similar. It’s also not out of place to refer to content marketing strategy as content strategy since it is a form of content strategy.

Understanding the different types of content marketing

Understanding which piece of content you can use in your content strategy framework makes it easier to plan.

Here are a few of the most commonly used types of content in content marketing.

Blog posts

These include search engine optimized (SEO) blog posts and thought-leadership posts written by (or ghostwritten for) company executives. Other blog post ideas include interviews and company-wide updates with useful audience tips.

Checklists and infographics

Printable checklists make for great lead magnets and can reflect highly on your company’s expertise. Infographics are also highly-distributable and can go viral on social media, so be sure to brand them properly if you want traffic from them.

Case studies

Case studies show how quickly and effectively your product or service works. These are especially useful because they can be repurposed as blog content, downloadable assets, or videos.

Ebooks and white papers

Ebooks and white papers represent another type of long-form content. Because of the in-depth research in these content formats, they can quickly cement your position as an industry authority.

Videos

More and more businesses are tapping into the power of video. 99% of marketers who used the format in 2021 say they’ll continue using it in 2022. Can video help you serve your audience better? If you sell software, consider trying explainer videos to help your audience get more out of your software.

Product demos

Sometimes words on a page don’t do enough to show people why they need your product. Share product demos (like we do!) on your site—don’t make users have to email you to see a demo.

Testimonials and customer reviews

There’s no better way to build trust with prospects than asking customers to share how your product has helped them grow revenue or work more efficiently. Add testimonials to your site with photos or videos of happy customers.

Podcasts

Podcasts are catching on fast as a powerful TOFU marketing channel. 55.6% of listeners admit to purchasing something advertised on podcasts. If you need ideas for your own, check out the top marketing podcasts available today.

Best practices from content strategists and experts

Content strategy is best when it's a group effort. We’ve sourced some of the best tips you’ll find from several experienced content strategists and content marketers.

Identify your business goals

Whether your content strategy is geared towards increasing conversions, gaining backlinks, or other metrics, build a content strategy with a goal in mind. Start with your goals, not the editorial calendar.

Tina Donati, content marketing lead at Alloy Automation, explains,

"When building content strategies, I feel like many people skip the step of conducting a thorough audit and outlining their goals with content. I get it—everyone wants to dive into the fun part: writing. But without knowing who you're writing for and why, you're putting hours into creating content that might not actually help your business."
Tina Donati
Content Marketing Lead, Alloy Automation

Only when you know your goals can your content marketing support them. Donati recommends starting with a content audit to see what’s working and outlining some low-hanging opportunities. If your chief goal is driving sales, follow the advice of Tom Bangay, the Director of Content & Community at Juro.

Bangay says,

"All content strategies must start with revenue and work backward. If you can't clearly map out how each activity in your content plan, each channel on which you publish, and every piece of content you write will ultimately influence revenue, then your strategy is flawed, and you need to refocus it."
Tom Bangay
Director of Content & Community, Juro

Know your audience

All marketing advice comes back to this—because it’s true. John Daniel Boone, content strategist at ExaWeb says the best way to create an effective content strategy is to

"Think like your target audience. Put yourselves in their shoes and anticipate their needs. By doing so, you can learn about their pain points and possibly predict the kind of content that will catch and hold their attention."
John Daniel Boone
Content Strategist, ExaWeb

Knowing your audience goes beyond drawing up a fancy buyer persona in isolation. Content writer and SaaS strategist Lily Ugbaja recommends that marketers “focus on who their data says is their best user."

She says,

"To get the best ROI from content and distribution, forget hypothetical or dream buyer personas. Talk to your customer support team, look in your CRM, talk to your sales team; who converts the easiest, stays the longest, spends the most, and gives the least headache? Those are the people you want to create content for."
Lily Ugbaja
Content writer and SaaS strategist

Find your unique selling point

Many search engine results can look dishearteningly alike. If you’re a new brand, it’s intimidating to tussle with experienced players for those first ten spots. But it doesn’t have to be. Part of your content strategy should be finding ways to stand out with your content. Perhaps try a different channel or content format? Consider building stronger topic clusters than the competition?

Whatever you decide to do, document the need to always find a unique angle. Katheriin Liibert Head of Marketing at Woola agrees. She says,

"In my experience (read: based on mistakes I've made), the number 1 most crucial element to include in the strategy is: how is your content unique? Are there unique insights, knowledge, and experiences shared with content or unique data points that only you are well-placed to produce or share with your audiences? Leverage that."
Katheriin Liibert
Head of Marketing, Woola

Have a distribution strategy

You’ve made plans for all the great content you’re going to create, but is there a strategy for getting your audience to find your content? There should be. With millions of blog posts published daily, you’ll need more than search engine optimization (SEO) as a distribution strategy.

Not sure where to distribute your content? Johannes Larsson recommends finding out where your audience hangs out. He says,

"Research your customers’ favorite channels. Find out which platforms they most often use to interact with your brand, and learn how content gets distributed there. This will help you produce good content that fits your audience while getting the most results from your work."
Johannes Larsson
CEO & Founder, Financer.com

Be flexible

Even the best content strategy shouldn’t be set in stone. Markets, trends, and customer preferences change. Have a content strategy that can adapt to common shifts without causing a brand collapse.

According to ExaWeb strategist, Boone content strategists can fall into the trap of planning six months or one year ahead without any room for flexibility. He also notes that strategists may get comfortable sticking to the same formula. He’s learned to guard against this because

"there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. Every client is different, so it’s part of my job to create a tailored content strategy to meet their individual needs."
John Daniel Boone
Content Strategist, ExaWeb

Roberto Popolizio SEO specialist at Supporthost agrees that many companies rely on the same fixed schedule, content templates, and promotion channels. He believes there’s a place for templates,

“as long as they are used at the right time on the right platforms, but this has to be tested every time. Taking things for granted is a huge mistake when it comes to marketing in general.”

Learn from competitors

It’s never a good idea to base your strategy entirely on what others in your industry are doing. However, if a brand is driving revenue in the industry, they’re likely doing something well, and you could probably learn a thing or two from them. You can also learn from the things they’re not doing too well.

This is part of Gosia Hytry’s content strategy. She’s the head of content at Spacelift. Hytry recommends,

"You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when you can customize the wheel. Competitors having high-traffic websites means that they have tested the market and have a huge understanding of the content that attracts the users. Learn from them, be inspired, and make your content a better alternative."
Gosia Hytry
Head of Content, Spacelift

Plan to update content

Never let your content become stale. Before you start strategizing, run a content audit and see what can be updated to serve your audience better. Shayla Price, founder of Primo Stats says,

“Content lifecycle planning is often forgotten in content strategy. Think beyond publication and build guidelines to update and archive content.”

Content marketer and copywriter Bill Gaule says,

"If you've taken the time to create the content, why not maximize its value? One way to get the most out of that investment is by updating older content."
Bill Gaule
Content marketer and copywriter

As you publish, take time to review and update older content periodically. Remember, content is an investment—after all that strategizing, it shouldn’t go to waste.

Content strategy examples

To fully grasp what content strategy looks like in real life, let’s consider some (fictional) examples. Since most of us need content strategy for marketing purposes, this article will focus on content marketing strategy.

Creating and implementing this kind of strategy is vital for successful content marketing. Katheriin Liibert, Head of Marketing at Woola says,

"A content strategy aligns everyone in your team and collaborators on what kind of content you produce and helps make sure you reach your long-term goals. It helps keep you on the right track, as it sets you up for producing content consistently."
Katheriin Liibert
Head of Marketing, Woola

In this section, we’ll look at three imaginary businesses and share their proposed content strategy. Although email marketing and social media marketing are different from content marketing, they sometimes rely (in part) on content produced by content marketing teams.

Content strategy for human resource software

Our first business is in the HR industry, and the company has developed software to help facilitate employee onboarding, application processing, and payroll. They’d like to invest in content marketing. Here’s some of what the strategy could include.

  • Goal: To build brand awareness and get more companies to adopt the software
  • Target Audience: HR leads looking for a better way to manage onboarding, application processing, and payroll
  • Potential Channels: SEO and thought-leadership blog content, social media (LinkedIn), email newsletters
  • Content Ideas: Content leads can perform keyword research to find industry-relevant topics. Related how-to articles, listicles, or even company updates on how they’re handling common HR hiccups will be useful top-of-funnel (TOFU) content. Product demos, case studies, and testimonials will work for bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) content.
  • CTA: “Start your free trial”

Content strategy for educational technology

Let’s assume that this is an ed-tech company with a learning app offering games and resources for learning math and reading.

  • Goal: To get more app downloads and paying subscriber sign-ups.
  • Target Audience: Parents and teachers of kids ages 0-12.
  • Potential Channels: YouTube for video marketing, SEO blog content, social media (influencer marketing and user-generated content), a podcast for kids
  • Content Ideas: A video testimonial or case study (BOFU), blog posts about relevant keywords (TOFU), and influencer campaigns
  • CTA: “Try it free for 30 days”

Build on your content strategy with GatherContent

When you’ve decided on a content strategy framework, it's time for active content creation. You’ll need efficient workflows, content management systems (CMS), and a working content calendar to support your content team as they create high-quality content. That’s where GatherContent comes in.

GatherContent is designed to make planning and writing content easier and more collaborative for content teams. With templates, task assignment systems, and easy exporting to your CMS, you can now take charge of your content.

Need to Know: Start with our content strategy template and watch this recorded webinar to start setting up your content strategy.

Content marketing strategy vs. content strategy

Another common strategy often confused with content strategy is content marketing strategy. While both are linked, they are not the same.

Content strategy refers to the plan for generating, publishing, distributing, and updating content for any given purpose. Consider websites for government, educational, and healthcare organizations that regularly create content without a marketing goal. Their approach is still content strategy—just not content marketing strategy.

In comparison, content marketing strategy is the plan for creating, publishing, distributing, and updating content specifically for commercial purposes. The goal of content marketing strategy is to drive sales and grow revenue.

Essentially, the main differences between content marketing strategy and content strategy are the content goals. Often, the content development process for both is similar. It’s also not out of place to refer to content marketing strategy as content strategy since it is a form of content strategy.

Understanding the different types of content marketing

Understanding which piece of content you can use in your content strategy framework makes it easier to plan.

Here are a few of the most commonly used types of content in content marketing.

Blog posts

These include search engine optimized (SEO) blog posts and thought-leadership posts written by (or ghostwritten for) company executives. Other blog post ideas include interviews and company-wide updates with useful audience tips.

Checklists and infographics

Printable checklists make for great lead magnets and can reflect highly on your company’s expertise. Infographics are also highly-distributable and can go viral on social media, so be sure to brand them properly if you want traffic from them.

Case studies

Case studies show how quickly and effectively your product or service works. These are especially useful because they can be repurposed as blog content, downloadable assets, or videos.

Ebooks and white papers

Ebooks and white papers represent another type of long-form content. Because of the in-depth research in these content formats, they can quickly cement your position as an industry authority.

Videos

More and more businesses are tapping into the power of video. 99% of marketers who used the format in 2021 say they’ll continue using it in 2022. Can video help you serve your audience better? If you sell software, consider trying explainer videos to help your audience get more out of your software.

Product demos

Sometimes words on a page don’t do enough to show people why they need your product. Share product demos (like we do!) on your site—don’t make users have to email you to see a demo.

Testimonials and customer reviews

There’s no better way to build trust with prospects than asking customers to share how your product has helped them grow revenue or work more efficiently. Add testimonials to your site with photos or videos of happy customers.

Podcasts

Podcasts are catching on fast as a powerful TOFU marketing channel. 55.6% of listeners admit to purchasing something advertised on podcasts. If you need ideas for your own, check out the top marketing podcasts available today.

Best practices from content strategists and experts

Content strategy is best when it's a group effort. We’ve sourced some of the best tips you’ll find from several experienced content strategists and content marketers.

Identify your business goals

Whether your content strategy is geared towards increasing conversions, gaining backlinks, or other metrics, build a content strategy with a goal in mind. Start with your goals, not the editorial calendar.

Tina Donati, content marketing lead at Alloy Automation, explains,

"When building content strategies, I feel like many people skip the step of conducting a thorough audit and outlining their goals with content. I get it—everyone wants to dive into the fun part: writing. But without knowing who you're writing for and why, you're putting hours into creating content that might not actually help your business."
Tina Donati
Content Marketing Lead, Alloy Automation

Only when you know your goals can your content marketing support them. Donati recommends starting with a content audit to see what’s working and outlining some low-hanging opportunities. If your chief goal is driving sales, follow the advice of Tom Bangay, the Director of Content & Community at Juro.

Bangay says,

"All content strategies must start with revenue and work backward. If you can't clearly map out how each activity in your content plan, each channel on which you publish, and every piece of content you write will ultimately influence revenue, then your strategy is flawed, and you need to refocus it."
Tom Bangay
Director of Content & Community, Juro

Know your audience

All marketing advice comes back to this—because it’s true. John Daniel Boone, content strategist at ExaWeb says the best way to create an effective content strategy is to

"Think like your target audience. Put yourselves in their shoes and anticipate their needs. By doing so, you can learn about their pain points and possibly predict the kind of content that will catch and hold their attention."
John Daniel Boone
Content Strategist, ExaWeb

Knowing your audience goes beyond drawing up a fancy buyer persona in isolation. Content writer and SaaS strategist Lily Ugbaja recommends that marketers “focus on who their data says is their best user."

She says,

"To get the best ROI from content and distribution, forget hypothetical or dream buyer personas. Talk to your customer support team, look in your CRM, talk to your sales team; who converts the easiest, stays the longest, spends the most, and gives the least headache? Those are the people you want to create content for."
Lily Ugbaja
Content writer and SaaS strategist

Find your unique selling point

Many search engine results can look dishearteningly alike. If you’re a new brand, it’s intimidating to tussle with experienced players for those first ten spots. But it doesn’t have to be. Part of your content strategy should be finding ways to stand out with your content. Perhaps try a different channel or content format? Consider building stronger topic clusters than the competition?

Whatever you decide to do, document the need to always find a unique angle. Katheriin Liibert Head of Marketing at Woola agrees. She says,

"In my experience (read: based on mistakes I've made), the number 1 most crucial element to include in the strategy is: how is your content unique? Are there unique insights, knowledge, and experiences shared with content or unique data points that only you are well-placed to produce or share with your audiences? Leverage that."
Katheriin Liibert
Head of Marketing, Woola

Have a distribution strategy

You’ve made plans for all the great content you’re going to create, but is there a strategy for getting your audience to find your content? There should be. With millions of blog posts published daily, you’ll need more than search engine optimization (SEO) as a distribution strategy.

Not sure where to distribute your content? Johannes Larsson recommends finding out where your audience hangs out. He says,

"Research your customers’ favorite channels. Find out which platforms they most often use to interact with your brand, and learn how content gets distributed there. This will help you produce good content that fits your audience while getting the most results from your work."
Johannes Larsson
CEO & Founder, Financer.com

Be flexible

Even the best content strategy shouldn’t be set in stone. Markets, trends, and customer preferences change. Have a content strategy that can adapt to common shifts without causing a brand collapse.

According to ExaWeb strategist, Boone content strategists can fall into the trap of planning six months or one year ahead without any room for flexibility. He also notes that strategists may get comfortable sticking to the same formula. He’s learned to guard against this because

"there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. Every client is different, so it’s part of my job to create a tailored content strategy to meet their individual needs."
John Daniel Boone
Content Strategist, ExaWeb

Roberto Popolizio SEO specialist at Supporthost agrees that many companies rely on the same fixed schedule, content templates, and promotion channels. He believes there’s a place for templates,

“as long as they are used at the right time on the right platforms, but this has to be tested every time. Taking things for granted is a huge mistake when it comes to marketing in general.”

Learn from competitors

It’s never a good idea to base your strategy entirely on what others in your industry are doing. However, if a brand is driving revenue in the industry, they’re likely doing something well, and you could probably learn a thing or two from them. You can also learn from the things they’re not doing too well.

This is part of Gosia Hytry’s content strategy. She’s the head of content at Spacelift. Hytry recommends,

"You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when you can customize the wheel. Competitors having high-traffic websites means that they have tested the market and have a huge understanding of the content that attracts the users. Learn from them, be inspired, and make your content a better alternative."
Gosia Hytry
Head of Content, Spacelift

Plan to update content

Never let your content become stale. Before you start strategizing, run a content audit and see what can be updated to serve your audience better. Shayla Price, founder of Primo Stats says,

“Content lifecycle planning is often forgotten in content strategy. Think beyond publication and build guidelines to update and archive content.”

Content marketer and copywriter Bill Gaule says,

"If you've taken the time to create the content, why not maximize its value? One way to get the most out of that investment is by updating older content."
Bill Gaule
Content marketer and copywriter

As you publish, take time to review and update older content periodically. Remember, content is an investment—after all that strategizing, it shouldn’t go to waste.

Content strategy examples

To fully grasp what content strategy looks like in real life, let’s consider some (fictional) examples. Since most of us need content strategy for marketing purposes, this article will focus on content marketing strategy.

Creating and implementing this kind of strategy is vital for successful content marketing. Katheriin Liibert, Head of Marketing at Woola says,

"A content strategy aligns everyone in your team and collaborators on what kind of content you produce and helps make sure you reach your long-term goals. It helps keep you on the right track, as it sets you up for producing content consistently."
Katheriin Liibert
Head of Marketing, Woola

In this section, we’ll look at three imaginary businesses and share their proposed content strategy. Although email marketing and social media marketing are different from content marketing, they sometimes rely (in part) on content produced by content marketing teams.

Content strategy for human resource software

Our first business is in the HR industry, and the company has developed software to help facilitate employee onboarding, application processing, and payroll. They’d like to invest in content marketing. Here’s some of what the strategy could include.

  • Goal: To build brand awareness and get more companies to adopt the software
  • Target Audience: HR leads looking for a better way to manage onboarding, application processing, and payroll
  • Potential Channels: SEO and thought-leadership blog content, social media (LinkedIn), email newsletters
  • Content Ideas: Content leads can perform keyword research to find industry-relevant topics. Related how-to articles, listicles, or even company updates on how they’re handling common HR hiccups will be useful top-of-funnel (TOFU) content. Product demos, case studies, and testimonials will work for bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) content.
  • CTA: “Start your free trial”

Content strategy for educational technology

Let’s assume that this is an ed-tech company with a learning app offering games and resources for learning math and reading.

  • Goal: To get more app downloads and paying subscriber sign-ups.
  • Target Audience: Parents and teachers of kids ages 0-12.
  • Potential Channels: YouTube for video marketing, SEO blog content, social media (influencer marketing and user-generated content), a podcast for kids
  • Content Ideas: A video testimonial or case study (BOFU), blog posts about relevant keywords (TOFU), and influencer campaigns
  • CTA: “Try it free for 30 days”

Build on your content strategy with GatherContent

When you’ve decided on a content strategy framework, it's time for active content creation. You’ll need efficient workflows, content management systems (CMS), and a working content calendar to support your content team as they create high-quality content. That’s where GatherContent comes in.

GatherContent is designed to make planning and writing content easier and more collaborative for content teams. With templates, task assignment systems, and easy exporting to your CMS, you can now take charge of your content.

Need to Know: Start with our content strategy template and watch this recorded webinar to start setting up your content strategy.

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