Within the first year, approximately 20% of small businesses will fail.
By the end of five years, half will fail. After 10 years, 70% of small business owners will have failed.
If you’re an entrepreneur, how are you going to break free of the small business failure statistic and stay within the 30% success rate?
You might think passion, dedication, plus hard work is the only special formula you need. If you just put in the time and effort, surely you’ll be successful. Right?
But do you honestly believe that only 30% of entrepreneurs had enough drive to make it? Or is there a missing ingredient in that formula beyond the blood, sweat, and tears?
The sad truth is, most of those small business owners who failed in the end had plenty of passion. They invested every spare minute into their work. They were dedicated and ready to succeed, just like you.
So, what went wrong?
Chances are, they didn’t have a successful website content strategy in place.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What content marketing is and why it’s important for businesses
- How to create a winning content marketing strategy
- The 6 must-have pillars that will form the foundation of your content strategy framework
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What Is a Content Strategy & Why Should Businesses Have One?
A content strategy is the marketing technique of setting business goals and then creating a long-term content plan to drive traffic and establish yourself as an expert authority.
For example, maybe one of your business goals is to drive more brand trust. Your content strategy should be focused on search engine optimization (SEO) with content that is well written, authentic, relevant, valuable, and contains credible links.
What do I mean by “content”? Is that just a professional way of saying “blog”?
Yes and no:
Yes – business blogging is the most effective SEO initiative for your website and overall content strategy. An active SEO business blog brings in an average of 434% more indexed pages and 97% more inbound links, so… yeah. It’s an important piece.
No – the content in your content strategy doesn’t have to be 100% focused on blogging. It can also include social media posts, images, videos, infographics, case studies, templates, ebooks, digital presentations, podcasts, etc.
This is where YOU decide what kind of content marketing strategy is going to work best for your business and your audience.
I can’t hand you a carbon-copy blueprint that will work for every single B2B and B2C company on the market. There is no one-size-fits-all. Every business has its own unique market niche and specific audience demographics.
- SEO drives 1,000% more traffic than social media.
- Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing. It also generates approximately 3x as many leads.
- By 2024, the content marketing industry is predicted to be worth more than $600 billion.
- Content creation is already the top outsourced activity among B2C organizations.
The key benefit to a content strategy is that it’s a long-term investment. If you’re going to be in the 30% of successful entrepreneurs 10 years from now, you need to be setting those foundations NOW.
Are you ready to make that investment? Watch my masterclass video for FREE to learn how to leverage content marketing to build your brand.
How to Create a Content Strategy Framework in 6 Steps
I can personally attest that content marketing works. I built my writing agency, Express Writers, from the ground up using content as my base.
You don’t need to pour tons of money into content marketing. I started with less than nothing. I had $75 to my name. At the time, I couldn’t even afford to buy a domain for my website.
I learned a lot of business lessons along the way, and now, my agency is worth more than $5 million.
How did I turn a $75 company into a $5 million company without running a single ad?
Short answer: I published an article on our agency’s Write Blog every week for 10 years.
Long answer: I created a sustainable content marketing strategy based on long-form content that was optimized for search engines, appealed to the base within my market niche, and cemented my agency as an established expert in the industry.
I’ve been in the content game for more than a decade, and I teach an intensive course on this very process.
Here are the 6 pillars I use in my SEO-driven content strategy framework:
1. Know Your Foundations: What Is Your Content Differentiation Factor (CDF)?
Content marketing is a targeted approach, which means you can’t dive in blind.
Before you start creating your first piece of content or even researching keywords, you need to answer some questions first:
What are my business goals?
This answer will drive your entire content strategy based on the goals you want to accomplish. Are you striving to get more leads? Create brand awareness? Publish data, studies, and infographics for backlinks? Educate people?
What is my market niche?
You should already know your home base, or at least have a pretty good idea. A B2B content strategy is going to take a different approach than a B2C strategy. Are you focusing on local SEO, or will you be taking a more widescale approach, such as a SaaS business that services clients all around the country or globe?
Who is my audience?
It may feel like you’ll be sending your content out into the void of the internet, but that doesn’t mean you should be creating generic content for anyone and everyone.
Think about who specifically is going to be seeking out and reading your content. If you’re writing for people over 60, you’ll be using different language than you would be if you’re targeting Gen Z. Think about demographics such as age, gender, income, etc. so you can speak directly to the people you’re trying to connect with.
What problems will I be solving?
Most content is designed to entertain or educate consumers. Ideally, your product or service already exists to solve a problem. Your content should play to that same effect. Not only should it work to help people figure out their challenges, but it should also provide value in the form of a solution – i.e. your product.
What are my qualifications?
Think about your experience and expertise. Why should people trust you? What makes you qualified to speak as an authority figure?
Keep in mind that you don’t need a college degree or bestselling book to be qualified. Simply speaking from your own personal experiences as an entrepreneur can go a long way, as long as you have a valid connection point.
What can I offer that is unique (my CDF)?
Your content differentiation factor is what will set you apart. What can you offer to your consumers that your competitors can’t? What is your unique angle?
2. Audience Discovery & Brand Position: Who Will Be Engaging with Your Content?
By the time you’ve answered the questions from the first step, you should know your:
- Business goals
- Market niche
- Target audience
- Personal qualifications
- Content differentiation factor
Now, we’re going to zero in even further on your audience.
Identifying them is just the first step.
Understanding what they want and how to convert them is a separate matter. This is where creating an audience persona is beneficial.
Let’s look at an example.
Say your business is focused on selling running shoes. If every single piece of content you publish is essentially focused on BUY MY SHOES, THEY’RE GREAT!!!, how engaged do you think your audience is going to be?
Instead, consider relevant topics that could be tied into your expertise, such as health and fitness apps, staying hydrated, warm-up exercises, knee health, marathons, training, etc.
Imagine how many articles you could write, all with highly relevant information your consumers are actively searching for (and all ending with a call-to-action highlighting your shoes in relation to solving a problem presented in the content).
How do you identify the needs and interests of your audience?
- Review online comments
- Research synonymous keywords to see what people are searching for (we’ll examine that closer in the next section.)
- Study your competition
- Send out customer surveys
- Create audience personas
In addition, you should conduct brand awareness research to understand how customers currently perceive your business. Your content marketing strategy can help to change your image if it’s negative or enhance it if you’re on the right track and just need to amplify your reach.
3. Understanding Keywords: Search Intent & Low-Competition Opportunities
Keywords are the bread and butter of an SEO content marketing strategy.
What exactly is a keyword?
Also sometimes referred to as a focus keyword, it’s a word or group of words that describe the topic of your post or page. It’s the search term that Google and other search engines use to rank websites and pages when someone types a query into the search bar and Google finds the best matches.
A long-tail keyword is a highly specific search term that has low search volume (and therefore lower competition). You can see where the name comes from when you see how it’s laid out on the search demand curve:
I know what you’re thinking – why would I want to focus on a keyword that has low search volume? Shouldn’t I be targeting popular keywords instead?
If you go after the high-demand search traffic, you’re going to be competing with hundreds, even thousands of other websites, all fighting for that same keyword. Which means your website, especially if it’s brand new, will end up WAAAAAY in the back of the search results. Do you think anyone is going to click past page two, let alone page 80, and actually find your content?
With a long-tail keyword, you have a much better chance of landing on page one.
People who search for highly specific keywords are also much more likely to convert because they have a clear search intent.
If someone types “how to bake a birthday cake from scratch” into Google, it’s easy to see exactly what kind of information they’re looking for.
Compare that to someone who just typed “birthday cake” into the search bar. Are they looking for a local bakery where they can buy a cake? Searching for ingredients? Instructions? Design ideas? Cake flavors? A picture for an elementary school art project? It’s harder to convert visitors when you don’t know what they need.
In order to find the keyword “sweet spot,” you’ll want to research long-tail keywords that are relevant to your niche.
Keyword research tools are available to help you.
While it’s tempting to go for a free keyword research tool, I personally don’t recommend it. After researching paid and free tools in my SEO content writing course, I discovered the free tools were much less reliable and provided misleading insights.
But here’s a pro tip: You can actually do a lot of keyword research for free with Google to find synonymous keywords.
After you type your primary keyword into the search bar, scroll down to the bottom of the page. Google will provide you with similar keywords that people have been searching for.
4. Building Authority Through Content Cores: Establish Yourself as an Expert
Here’s the thing about content – “fake it ’til you make it” doesn’t work.
If you don’t know what you’re talking about, it won’t take long for your audience to call BS.
This is true now more than ever before. 2020’s misinformation epidemic put consumer trust at an all-time low, according to the Edelman 2021 Trust Barometer.
As people lost faith in their elected officials and traditional media sources, they turned to businesses for information instead. This put companies in a unique content authority position. While consumer trust as a whole is at record lows, confidence in businesses actually increased.
What does all of this mean for building your content marketing strategy?
Content creators are in a fragile position. Your audience is looking to businesses for guidance, but they’re wary of misinformation. You have the chance to win them over with trustworthy content or turn them away for good by failing to meet their expectations.
If your brand is going to be perceived as an authority, it must:
- Provide relevant and accurate information
- Cite sources with links to credible websites
- Speak from a position of experience
- Offer unique insights into your market niche
- Be optimized for search engines (don’t forget to download my free SEO content writer cheat sheet for tips!)
One of many reasons content marketing is successful is its ability to show rather than tell. You aren’t swindling your consumers by saying, “I’m an expert. Take my word for it.”
Instead, you’re showing them. There’s no need to boast you’re an expert because people will understand that all on their own, based on the authority of your content. It makes you authentic, credible, and trustworthy.
You also need to have a home for your content. Think of it as your content house. This is the place where you lay all of your groundwork and build your authority with a bottom-up approach.
You absolutely need to have your own website to do this. If you use a third-party platform such as Facebook for your home base, you run the risk of losing all of your hard work in the blink of an eye if that platform were to pull the plug.
Just like an actual house, you’ll need to keep up with maintenance. That means publishing regularly, updating old content, and staying true to your roots (niche and audience).
5. Practical Content Creation: Delegation & Consistency
A common rookie mistake that many new content creators make is to think that quantity is more important than quality.
It’s easy to fall into that trap, especially when the data seems to back it up. For example, HubSpot surveyed 7,000 businesses and found that companies with 1,000+ pages bring in 9.5x more traffic compared to businesses that had less than 50 pages.
Better start cranking out as much content as possible to get 1,000 pages, right?
Those businesses have been creating content for a long time. They’re doing well not because they have a lot of content (although that is part of it since they’ve built up a large reservoir), but because they have GOOD content.
Search engines and content quality are intimately linked. Google has openly said that content could “likely matter more than any other factor.”
High-quality content is a serious time commitment. Publishing one great article a week is infinitely better than pumping out ten low-quality, poorly researched pieces.
For small business owners, that time needed for research and writing can be a tall order. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to a professional content marketing writer. You can’t be expected to juggle every single task for your business – that’s not sustainable.
Content strategy work you SHOULD delegate:
- Keyword and search intent research (post-ideation)
- The majority of the writing
- Image brainstorming, design, and creation
- Formatting, optimizing, and scheduling the post
- Social media content promotion
Work you should NOT delegate:
- The ideation process
- Your business and content goals
- Key research points
- Proofreading and editing
- Adding personal touches and stories into the content
When you find a good balance for delegating, it will be easier to publish on a consistent basis while still giving your content the time and attention it needs to stand out and perform well.
I know… this is a LOT! Need more resources? These books deserve a shelf spot in your library of references.
6. Editorial Calendar & Post-Publishing: Your Brand Ecosystem
We’re almost there! You know who you’re writing for, what kinds of topics you’re writing about, how to research long-tail keywords, which tasks should be delegated, and where to build your content house.
Now, it’s time to put it all together.
Building a brand is only half of the equation for success. The other half is fostering the right environment to let it flourish. Consistent publishing as well as maintenance is crucial.
You should be:
- Using a calendar: Have your content planned and scheduled ahead of time so you don’t find yourself scrambling for a topic at the last minute.
- Auditing old blog posts: When done correctly, your content should have a long lifespan. Keeping your posts relevant and up-to-date with new links, statistics, and information will ensure that they continue to perform long after they’ve been published.
- Budgeting your time and expenses: Don’t lose track of your outsourcing costs. If you choose to delegate (and you should), make sure every dollar invested is going into high-quality content creation.
- Promoting your content: Share your content across multiple platforms and channels to boost its reach and increase its lead potential.
- Monitoring analytical data: Use tools such as Google Analytics to keep track of how your content is performing. Pay close attention to both your highest performing and lowest performing articles. Why are certain topics doing well while others seem to fall flat? Which types of content are best engaging your audience? How can you use this data when planning your future content?
Content marketing isn’t something you can publish and forget. The ROI is incredible, but only if you invest the time and effort to maximize your content strategy.
Set Up Your Content Strategy Framework for Long-Term Success
How do you know if your content strategy is working?
It all depends on the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you set in your initial business goals.
Two businesses could have the exact same content strategy, but one is a success and the other is a failure. Why? Because their goals were different.
This is what I mean when I say there’s no one single path to take when it comes to building a successful content strategy. If Company A’s goal is to increase their leads, and Company B’s main objective is to improve brand awareness, and Company C wants to reduce their bounce rate, all three content strategies are going to be different.
However, they’ll all have the same basic 6-pillar foundation behind them.
Brand growth isn’t a miraculous stroke of luck. It’s a meticulous, consistent, dedicated effort, but when done correctly, it’s well worth the time and hard work you put into it.
Are you ready to become an expert content marketer? Enroll in my 6-week Content Strategy & Marketing Course to learn all the skills you need.