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This post was originally published in November, 2019 and updated in June, 2020.

Content is king, which makes your content strategy the parliamentary system. 👑

Developing a content strategy is the way to keep your kingdom running smoothly.

Consider this: As of January 2020, there are between 1.6 and 2 billion websites online. (You can see the live stats right here.) Fewer than 400 million of them are active, but those 400 million sites serve about 4.6 billion people.

That means if your site is active, there’s a really good chance more than a few people clicking around are going to bump into it today.

What do you want them to see when they do? You can provide:

1. Confusing, haphazard, boring content on pages that haven’t been updated in a year.


2. Structured, interesting, valuable content that was published or updated recently.

Which do you think will keep your site in the active 20 percent of the web?

Turns out, it’s the same answer as the option that will keep your readers coming back for more:

The one that uses a content strategy.

What’s Here: How and Why Developing Your Content Strategy Leads to Success

First Things First: Content Marketing vs Content Strategy

3 Reasons Why a Content Strategy Is VITAL in 2020 (and Beyond)

1. Purpose-Driven Publishing Has Become the Norm

2. You Must Speak TO Your Audience, Not AT Everyone

3. You’ll Get More Done With Less Effort

Developing a Content Strategy in 6 Steps

1. Align Your Business Goals & Content

2. Bridge the Audience and Sales Gap

3. Refresh Your SEO Knowledge Base

4. Build Your Online Authority

5. Craft Purpose-Driven, Engaging Content That Converts

6. Measure, Manage, Maintain

developing a real content strategy

First Things First: Content Marketing vs Content Strategy

Before we dive into the wonderful world of content strategy, let’s clear up one big source of confusion: content marketing and content strategy are not the same. Knowing the difference can make or break both of yours.

Content marketing is the creation, publication, and distribution of your content to your target audience. Most of your interactions with your content will fall under content marketing.

In contrast, content strategy is the planning, governance, and purpose of your content. It lays the foundation for why you’re creating the content that you are.

These two concepts work together to help you create focused, insightful, useful content that your readers LOVE.

To illustrate, think of your content marketing and content strategy like a car. If content marketing is the car itself you drive down the road to success, then content strategy is the engine that makes the whole thing run.

You need a content strategy to have content marketing. Otherwise, you’re just producing content aimlessly, wasting time that you don’t have as a freelancer or entrepreneur.

3 Reasons Why a Content Strategy Is VITAL in 2020 (and Beyond)

Think your product is so amazing that all you need to do is put it on the market and it’ll fly off your shelves? Think again.

According to HubSpot, 70 percent of marketers are actively investing in content marketing. At the same time, around 64 percent of marketers are also actively investing in ways to improve their organic search ranks (where you appear in Google when someone searches a keyword).

These numbers point to a huge push to emphasize valuable, high-quality content designed specifically to attract the desired audience by solving a problem or providing information readers need.

In other words, your content strategy does more than keep your brand fresh in the search engines.

If you aren’t already developing a content strategy, you’re risking falling out of relevance to your market. You’re going to get crowded out of your market by someone with more to offer your readers than simply a shiny product.

Here are three reasons why you need a content strategy ASAP.

how important is content marketing in your strategy

Marketers are taking content marketing seriously. So should you. Source: HubSpot.

1. Purpose-Driven Publishing Has Become the Norm

Remember when brand authenticity was all the rage? Consumers got fed up with brands that existed for the sake of profit. (If your brand doesn’t reflect authenticity now, 88 percent of people will move on to one that does.)

Content strategy is experiencing a similar renaissance.

The rallying cry around content strategy is part of a bigger trend that’s been in the works for years: Brands are increasingly driven towards a more purposeful, meaningful existence.

And what better way to demonstrate such an existence than by publishing purposeful, meaningful content?

2. You Must Speak TO Your Audience, Not AT Everyone

Do you know who your target audience is for your brand? HubSpot notes that most marketers have identified at least three audience segments in their target market before they begin the content creation phase.

Why identify your target audience? Behold these numerous benefits:

  • It lets you concentrate your message, enhancing your brand. What’s the best way to drive off potential customers? Confusion as to what your brand is about. According to one study, 71 percent of customers will flee if they get mixed signals from you.
  • It helps identify your topic clusters (content differentiation factor). If you know your purpose, and you know who you’re talking to, it makes it much easier to pick topics around which you’ll create content.
  • It ensures your content ends up in front of an interested audience. In other words, people who are most likely to consume your content then continue down the sales funnel. Not random readers traipsing around the internet.
  • It provides an opportunity to engage in conversational marketing. The idea of building conversations with customers isn’t a new idea, but one that’s gaining traction. So much so that HubSpot felt it deserved a place in its 2020 marketing report.
target audience and target marketing are not the same

3. You’ll Get More Done With Less Effort

You know that old saying, “failing to plan is planning to fail” … right? It’s also planning to do a LOT more work than you otherwise need.

Imagine having to answer these questions every single time you create a piece of content:

  • What tone, voice, and point of view will you adopt with your content?
  • What goals do you need your content to accomplish?
  • Will you need to outsource some or all of your content activities?
  • Where will your content have the most impact?

Those are deceptively simple questions that take way more than two minutes to answer. But, what if you did it one time … answering them in the context of your entire business … then used those answers over and over? 🤔💡

In essence, developing a content strategy front-loads the hard work of figuring out what your brand’s footprint will look like online. All that’s left for you to do is create your content (or hire a pro to do it for you).

If you already have a content strategy in place, you’ll start out content marketing with a much better idea of where you’re going. It’s like turning on GPS instead of just driving and hoping you find the way.

Developing a Content Strategy in 6 Steps

So, what exactly goes into developing a content strategy?

While you do have a few options when it comes to the types of content strategy out there, don’t fall into the trap of whipping up a calendar and calling it done.

There’s quite a lot that goes into developing a profitable content strategy. Here, I’ve outlined the six steps to building a content strategy that gets results:

1. Align Your Business Goals & Content

To get started with developing a content strategy, you need to know three things:

  • Your content goals. Why are you publishing this content What do you want the outcome to be after someone interacts with it?
  • Your content differentiation factor. It’s like your USP but related to your content. In short, what sets your content apart? Why would a reader choose your content over your competitor’s?
  • Your Topic Area. You’re an expert, that’s why you’re in business. What topics would be useful and relevant to your consumers, that also relate to your products?

Another way to align your business goals and content involves using the Bucket System. I talk about it in the content strategy and marketing course in depth, but here’s the gist. You have three buckets that you need to fill to grow your online presence:

three bucket topic strategy

Source: Content Strategy & Marketing Course

If your content topic doesn’t fill one of those three buckets, it’s not going to benefit you or help you reach your goals. Pick a new topic!

2. Bridge the Audience and Sales Gap

Did you know that 42 percent of all businesses will fail because there’s no market for their product? Other major reasons include getting out-competed (19 percent), poor marketing (14 percent of all failures), and having a user-unfriendly product (17 percent).

What do all those have in common? Simple: those businesses failed to understand their audience.

That can happen in a lot of ways, but mostly it comes down to research. Before you jump blithely into the world of content creation, spend some time researching:

  • Who your audience is and how they think. You want to know what makes them tick, their pain points, their passions – as much as you can learn about them.
  • What content your audience consumes. Do they seem to prefer video content over blogs? Or Facebook communities over following an Instagram?
  • How they’re most likely to find your product. What questions are they punching into Google? Where will you stumble across them online?
  • What the buyer’s journey looks like for your product. A smart way to structure your content strategy involves using the buyer’s journey.

3. Refresh Your SEO Knowledge Base

The days of writing articles for the sole purpose of ranking highly in Google may be long gone, but you still need SEO to make your content strategy effective. In the 2020s, that means a lot more than simply choosing keywords (although those are still important).

Here are the most common SEO tactics that companies are currently using. If you don’t recognize any of these, it’s time to get up to speed.

what SEO tactics is your company using

Here’s what HubSpot reports marketers are using when it comes to SEO in 2020. Source: HubSpot.

4. Build Your Online Authority

You must know what to focus on to get the results you want from your website. To build online authority and grow your brand through your content marketing strategy, first determine your core content, then build a house around it.

Yes, really. A house. 🏠

It looks like this:

  • Foundation: Lay the groundwork for your content house with research. That includes knowing your audience, identifying your topic areas, creating a content persona, and discovering the best SEO tactics for you.
  • Walls: Build your house with original, insightful content optimized with keywords, and a content schedule that producing high-quality, long-form content constantly.
  • Roof: Protect your foundation and structure with content tracking, updates, and other maintenance activities that keep your content effective.

5. Craft Purpose-Driven, Engaging Content That Converts

Phew! We’re FINALLY at the content creation phase.

If you’ve followed the steps above to the letter, then you should have a solid idea of what content you need to create.

All that’s left is to create it. Check out these tips to help you create awesome content that inspires, educates, and converts.

Remember: useful content is in demand. The quickest way to get yours in front of eyeballs is to cater to that demand.

6. Measure, Manage, Maintain

Content isn’t a “set it and forget it” sort of thing. Google cares about the timeliness of your content, calling it the freshness factor. If you leave content up that’s outdated or otherwise no longer relevant, it can drop your page rank.

Get in the habit early of managing and maintaining your content. Do things like:

  • Audit your content a few times a year to keep everything up to date.
  • Check your site for broken links every so often.
  • Use metrics to track your content’s performance – and if something isn’t performing well, revisit it.
  • Remove stale, outdated content or content that has been rendered irrelevant by new information.
How do you measure your content strategy's success

You have options with the metrics! Total sales is the most common one, but your mileage may vary. Source: HubSpot.

Develop Your Content Strategy From the Ground Up With Expert Advice

Still here? Phenomenal.

As you see, developing a content strategy is a ton of work – but it’s work you must do if you want to create a successful brand.

Not only that, but you must get it right, too. Your content strategy lays the groundwork for everything you do to improve page rank, brand awareness, and your product’s reach. Kind of crazy high stakes when you think about it.

Bookmark this article.

When you’re ready to commit to developing an effective content strategy, refer to the steps outlined above, and you’ll set yourself — and your site — up for success.

Want more expert advice? My six-week Content Strategy and Marketing Course is a great place to start. In 45 days, I’ll walk you through each step to build your content strategy from the ground up.