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The 3 Components of a Successful Content Strategy (+1 Bonus)

How the top 1% of content marketers build content strategies that lead to real business growth. See our full breakdown today.

How Do You Create a Great Content Strategy?

Our team builds content strategies that drive results for clients daily. Towards the end of 2019, we stepped back and defined what a top-tier content strategy looks like.

But first …

How do most content marketing services build content strategies?

There are a lot of great content marketing agencies out there. From our experience, most of these agencies take a very similar approach to building content strategies.

Their content strategist:

  • finds topics about the client’s industry
  • conducts keyword research to see which topics have strong search volumes
  • runs a content audit to see which topics already exist on the client’s site
  • removes keywords with high keyword difficulty scores
  • adds all remaining topics to the editorial calendar

And BOOM! Their 12-month content calendar is done.

So what’s the issue here?

We have two issues with this approach. This strategy assumes that:

  1. All keywords have equal value.
  2. Search terms with low search volume aren’t worth writing about.

How Do You Build a Top 1% Content Marketing Strategy?

Over the past 20 months, we’ve written 932 articles, averaging out to 47, 1,000+ word articles/month.

In that time, we’ve learned a lot about what makes a great content strategy.

Successful content marketing strategies consist of a mixture of three types of content creation:

  1. Viral Content

Viral, or top of the funnel, content pieces focus on awareness. These articles drive visitors to your site who are searching for themes that are no more than one degree removed from what you do as a business.

These topics won’t directly drive sales. However, these articles become valuable resources that other blogs link to as resources for their readers. These backlinks steer search authority back to your article, as well as each page that your article links to.

Content marketing services specialize in publishing content about viral topics.

Topics are defined by data-driven keyword research. These topics put search engine optimization (SEO) first to drive your target audience to your website when they search online to educate themselves about their pain points. When well written, these articles rank in the top 10 positions on Google for dozens of keywords that drive traffic to your site.

Great content services understand that they can hire talented writers, train them to be grade-A researchers, and coach those writers to deliver a great version of these types of articles.

The goal of these articles is to educate your readers, build site authority, and build brand awareness.

A great content marketing agency will recognize that they are best suited to help your team write these types of articles.

Some examples of viral content from our blog:

  1. What is a Backlink [And Why Do They Matter]?
  2. What is Brand Marketing? [And Why Does it Matter?]

More on how these articles indirectly drive sales here

2. Thought Leadership Content

Thought leadership content positions you as an expert in your industry.

These content pieces offer a unique perspective based on your experience spending many years on your trade.

Thought leadership content could come in the form of:

  1. A step-by-step process
  2. A prediction about where your industry is going
  3. An in-depth breakdown of an advanced concept in your industry, etc.

These content pieces position you and your company as leaders in what you do.

When written effectively, your competitors will share these posts on social media and bookmark them for future reference, helping build your credibility as an influencer.

Many of these topics won’t have any search volume behind them. They fall into the category of “unknown, unknowns” — topics that people don’t know that they don’t know.

As a result, you’ll have to get creative with finding ways to push this content out to your readers.

A few tactics that we’ve found effective in boosting the visibility of these content pieces:

  1. Invest in Facebook Ads and other forms of paid promotion to increase visibility
  2. Link to these articles in your viral content pieces that you write
  3. Answer questions on Quora that relate to the topic and include a link to your article
  4. Share it on your social media channels

Thought leadership content increases the trust that others have in you as an expert and the perceived value that each piece of content on your site holds.

While Viral Content increases your visibility, Thought Leadership Content proves that you know what you’re talking about.

Thought Leadership Content, therefore, increases the likelihood that others will pay for your products/services.

Examples of Thought Leadership Content from our blog:

  1. How to Build a Strategic Marketing Plan
  2. Preparing for the Freelance Economy

3. Sales Content

Sales Content converts leads into customers.

These content pieces answer questions that come up in sales discussions with prospects to:

  1. Provide well-constructed resources that empower your sales team to answer difficult questions more effectively.
  2. Are optimized for SEO and placed throughout your blog to increase the ease of access for prospects when they research your business.
  3. [Bonus] These can also serve as customer service-centric articles that help current customers to overcome common issues (and increase the likelihood that they’ll continue working with you over time)

Some businesses share sales content as a form of gated content on their site. Gated content requires prospects to share their name and email to access the resource.

Our personal preference is to leave this content ungated and publicly visible.

However, both options have pros and cons.

Sales content is unlikely to drive new visitors to your site. Search volumes are often minimal for these types of topics.

Instead, sales content helps convert those who are interested in your services to decide if you’re the right solution for their needs.

Effective sales content is as much about turning away prospects as it is about converting prospects into customers.

One of our favorite types of sales content is Comparison Content.

Comparison Content

This content includes a clear positioning of what your team is best at and who should work with you. This content also identifies other potential solutions and which prospects would benefit from those solutions.

Another common type of sales content is Success Stories (or case studies).

Success Stories

These could be as simple as including customer reviews on your website to show proof of the quality of your products/services. Success stories could also come in the form of a full case study identifying the problems that a customer was dealing with and exactly what your team did to solve that problem.

For example: How we helped Ridester grow 487.1% (in 20 months)

A few other examples of sales content:

    1. 13 Proven Benefits of Content Marketing
    2. What’s the ROI of SEO?

4. Bonus: Pillar Content

Pillar content is the definitive resource on a broad subject matter.

This type of content provides a broad overview of every facet that falls under the parent category. Each of these facets can be converted into their own separate, full-length article, that is nestled under the content pillar.

For example, our team published an article about lead generation in 2019. This article delves into the core facets of lead generation.

Over time, we’ll write a separate article about content upgrades, one of the facets highlighted in this article, and publish it with the following URL structure:

/lead-generation/content-upgrade/

This lead generation guide would then link out to our content upgrades resource for those looking for more in-depth information about content upgrades than the 3-5 sentence overview that we share in the lead generation article. The content upgrades article would link back to our lead generation guide for those looking for a broader overview of lead generation.

The depth of subject relevancy enables these pillar pages to rank for broad, high-value search queries that serve as the “pillars” of your business.

A secondary benefit of pillar pages is that they provide a hub to link out to the thought leadership content that website visitors would otherwise miss on your website.


Who Should Be Responsible for Each Content Type?

We break this down into four ownership groups:

1. Viral Content

This should be written by content marketers who specialize in writing effective content.

2. Thought Leadership Content

Your internal team should write this content, specifically those who work with the products/services that you sell to customers.

3. Sales Content

This content can be written by your sales team, customer service team, or marketing team. However, if putting your marketing team in charge of this content, make sure that they work closely with your sales and customer service team to understand which topics to focus on first and how to position the answers to those topics.

4. Pillar Content

Your content team should write this. However, your marketing team must receive feedback about the core facets that each pillar should delve into. Our standard approach is to have our team construct an outline of what we plan to cover and send that outline to clients before starting the writing process.

Ready to get serious about scaling your business through content marketing? Contact us to see how we can help you scale your business today.

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