How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy

Want to create a content marketing strategy that actually works? This guide outlines the 7 simple steps that will get you scalable results for your content efforts.

Content marketing is something about which people have an endless amount of questions.

These are the most common ones I’ve heard:

Everyone says that my business needs content marketing. I hired some people to create content for me, so why am I not getting any leads?

I’ve been producing much more content than before, so why am still not seeing any results?

If this sounds familiar, here’s the main thing you’re lacking: strategy.

Blindly churning out non-targeted content, no matter how much of it you produce, isn’t going to magically get you leads.

The concept is pretty simple: in non-marketing terms, think of it as playing basketball.

If you don’t know where the basket is, you’re shooting completely blind. Even though your goal is to get the ball into the basket, you’re going to miss the basket 99 out of 100 times… and I was being generous with that one lucky throw.

 

What exactly is a content marketing strategy?

Here’s a fantastic definition by Copyblogger:

A content marketing strategy is a plan for building an audience by publishing, maintaining, and spreading frequent and consistent content that educates, entertains, or inspires to turn strangers into fans and fans into customers.

It’s quite a mouthful, so let’s condense that a little.

Content marketing is about consistently creating high-quality content that’s designed to turn strangers into customers.

Note that second bit: “designed to turn strangers into customers.” This is where strategy comes in.

And don’t worry: you don’t need a vast amount of resources to pull this off. You can succeed at content marketing even as a solopreneur or with a small team.

 

Our marketing team of ~8 people has grown our blog traffic exponentially over the last four years and beat out most of our competitors.

How We Grew Traffic to Ahrefs Blog by 1136 and Got Thousands of Paying Customers

As proof that content marketing actually does work, notice how our blog growth coincides with our ARR growth as a company:

How We Grew Traffic to Ahrefs Blog by 1136 and Got Thousands of Paying Customers 2

Our strategy is simple.

Since we’re a small team, we only create educational blog posts and YouTube videos that also teach people how our tools work and why they are crucial. 

During the content creation process, we focus on search engine optimization (using our own tools, no less) so that this content appears whenever relevant topics come up.

seo tutorial results

This way, whenever strangers interested in our niche search for information, they naturally end up interested in our tools, and many become our customers.

Sounds interesting?

Here’s our step by step process.

Step 1: Keyword research

Remember the screenshot above? Ranking for keywords like “SEO tutorial” makes sense for us because we’re an SEO toolset. This way, we’re able to naturally present our product as a solution in the content itself.

If we ranked for a term like “wooden sculpture” instead, I’d be pretty surprised if we managed to win over any customers.

So: how do we know which topics and phrases to create content around?

We do keyword research.

This is far from being the sexiest part of content creation, but it’s arguably the most critical step.

Before we do anything else, we want to figure out which informational keywords and questions interest our target customer. This step will inform all content creation moving forward.

For us, these are keywords like “what is SEO,” “how to get backlinks” etc. See how we have content created for these keywords?

Time to find out what yours are.

Start by thinking of a keyword that’s relevant to your niche.

 

You’ll end up with a giant list of keyword ideas to start with.

PRO TIP

You can also use Keywords Explorer for YouTube research if you’re creating videos: just make sure you set the search engine to “YouTube” before pulling your report.

 

Another way to get a list of keyword ideas is by looking at what’s already working for your competitors.

 

This report ranks the pages of a website based on how much organic search traffic they attract.

In other words, you now have a list of your competitors’ top-performing articles—and the keywords that send them the most traffic.

Step 2: Narrow down topics with the most potential

The next step is to filter this list of keyword topics so that only the best ones remain.

Ideally, you want to zoom in on topics that have: traffic potential, business value, and that are low-competition.

 

Let’s talk about these things one by one, starting with the simplest to tackle: low competition.

This is especially important if you don’t already own a website with high authority, because your chances of getting your content to rank will be exponentially lower.

SIDENOTE.

Want to check your own website’s authority? Use our free tool.

In basketball terms, think of this as having to face off against Michael Jordan. Definitely a scenario you’d want to avoid.

 

This filters the list to keywords that are easy to rank for. Feel free to adjust this number if you’re more experienced.

 

Traffic potential is the next thing to consider.

Even if a keyword is low-competition and thus relatively easy to rank for, if it doesn’t have many searches in the first place, it’s probably not a good option to target.

Let’s put things into perspective. Which would you rather spend your resources creating content for: a topic that 10,000 people are interested in, or for a topic that 10 people are interested in?

 

 

This tells you how much estimated monthly organic traffic the top‐ranking pages have—you can expect to achieve these numbers yourself if you’re able to rank in the top 10.

Rinse and repeat this step, weeding out the topics with low traffic potential along the way.

Now, all that’s left is one final step.

This step is often where people go wrong. No matter how amazing your content is and how much of it you produce, if you aren’t managing to showcase your product or value in your content, you aren’t doing content marketing. You’re just doing content.

So: look at the remaining list of keyword phrases and think about business value, or how crucial your product is when it comes to solving each particular problem.

We assign potential topics numbers based on this scale.

  • 3”— our product is an irreplaceable solution for the problem;
  • 2” — our product helps quite a bit, but it’s not essential to solving the problem;
  • 1” — our product can only be mentioned fleetingly (mostly for “brand awareness,” rather than “sales pitch”);
  • 0” — there’s absolutely no way to mention our product.

We focus on covering topics that score 2–3, and never publish anything that scores a zero.

Feel free to follow this scale or create your own, but make sure you finalize your topics based on whether you can naturally mention how your product or service helps to solve an overarching problem.

Note: this process remains largely the same for video content.

Step 3: Create your content

You’ve already narrowed down a list of high-potential topics to create content around—now for the content creation itself.

When it comes down to it, consistent content creation is all about finding the balance between quality of content and speed of content production.

Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do to help you on this point—you’ll have to experiment on your own and discover your own “sweet spot.”

 

(I’ve actually heard this tool described as “magic” by our own team members.)

Let’s say that we want to write a review of coffee bean grinders.

 

content gap keywords

SIDENOTE.

Make sure to choose the prefix or URL mode when doing this for pages.

Going down the list, some of the terms that stand out to me are “manual coffee grinder,” “electric coffee grinder,” “burr grinder” and “budget coffee grinder.”

These are all great subtopics to cover in your content.

It also pays to remember that not every piece of content has to be a blog post.

For example, imagine that you’re an accountant. You realize that a lot of people are searching for “how much will I make after taxes.”

 

Could you write a blog post about this? Sure. But some kind of tax calculator would probably be more helpful for your target audience.

How do we know? Because all of the current top-ranking results are precisely that.

tax calculators

 

 

Note: since the topic of content creation itself is incredibly nuanced, we discuss this in-depth in our separate posts about how to write a blog post and how to do YouTube SEO.

Step 4: Promote your content

Promotion is an important part of any content marketing strategy.

Think of it this way: if nobody sees your content, nobody will become your customer. The more eyes you get on your content, the higher the chances are of your content doing its job and turning a stranger into a fan.

Search engine optimization

In our opinion, this is by far the best form of content promotion (did you expect anything else?) If you’ve been following this tutorial, you’re already employing this strategy to an extent.

Here’s why it’s so great: ironically, it removes some of the need for “traditional” promotion.

Remember that our goal is to get more eyes on our content. With SEO-optimized content, you don’t have to promote your content to people—they naturally search for, and find, your content in search results. As a bonus, these people are already interested in your topic and likely to understand your business value.

This also means that SEO is both a scalable and long-term tactic since you get leads passively with each piece of content, rather than having to invest resources into one-off promotional tactics.

Here’s what your traffic might look like if you’re publishing post after post without SEO in mind:

 

And here’s what your traffic would look like if your content is optimized for SEO:

 

But wait—where does that initial traffic come from?

Well, as you wait for your content to start ranking in search engines, there’s plenty you can do to increase its visibility. In fact, this too has a compounding effect.

When more people enjoy your content and share it, even more people have the chance to consume and share it in turn. Some people might even link to your content, increasing its chances of ranking—and so the cycle continues.

 

Smart repurposing

Sharing your content on social media is not a new concept.

On the other hand, there are tons of ways you can promote your content without doing a mindless copy+paste of your content title and URL.

Try experimenting with different categories of posts and discovering what works best for your business. Some areas you can explore:

The vast majority of Google searches are very specific and unpopular (i.e., long‐tail).

A whopping 92.42% of them get ten searches per month or fewer!

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Paid ads

As much as we all hate to admit it, if we already have a target audience in mind, this is probably still the fastest way to get your content in front of new prospects.

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or even Pinterest, when you put some money into paid ads, you’re paying for trackable results: from impressions down to link clicks and even conversions.

 

We also regularly sponsor podcasts and do the odd experiment with Twitter and Quora ads.

Email list

This one is the oldest trick in the book for a reason: it works.

We still send out a dedicated blast every time we produce new content and average a 6–7% clickthrough rate across a segment of ~50k engaged subscribers.

It might sound low, but that’s an average of 1–2k interested people who might forward our content to their own social network per post.

 

Want more tactics and inspiration? Check out our posts on website promotion and blog promotion.

Step 5: Monitor the results

The bad news: it’s not enough to simply create content. Since things change all the time, we also have to make sure that our content stays relevant in order to rank years down the road.

The good news: That’s where monitoring our content comes in handy, and there are plenty of ways to keep track of how our content is doing.

The first thing that most people think of is, of course, Google Analytics—this is the industry-standard when it comes to manually checking actual traffic numbers.

On the other hand, it’s not a requirement for tracking content performance.

 

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