How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy from Scratch

The not-so-secret sauce on how to create a content plan.

So, you’re producing a ton of content. But when you Google your key terms, you’re still falling outside of the top 10 organic results—or lower. 

Or maybe you have some traffic, but the conversion and engagement rates for your content are frustratingly low.

What gives?

Truth is, content marketing is a strange beast. But the process of creating content—and the results it generates from a performance and brand perspective—are worth it. And we can’t stress this enough. ​​

Be forewarned: if you’re looking for pure SEO gains from your content—i.e., those sweet, high-ranking search results—these are never instantaneous. And with impending changes to the search landscape, such as more AI-generated results, the search engine results page (SERP) figures to look majorly different, soon. 

An example of Google’s AI-driven SGE (Search Generative Experience), March 2024. For some topics, AI summaries will dominate positions previously claimed by paid and organic results.

To be sure, organic traffic growth can be an important measure of content success. But in 2024, it shouldn’t be the only goal you’re tracking against. KPIs like conversions, bounce rate, and time-on-site are also important metrics. That’s why, before you even write a single word, it’s critical to determine your goals. And to be able to draw a line from content-specific goals back to bigger-picture business growth. 

At Tuff, we’re transparent about how we achieve success, and we’d love to get you on the right track. Here’s our take on creating a content marketing strategy from scratch. 

What Is a Content Marketing Strategy?

A content marketing strategy is a plan for creating content for a target audience. Content marketing can be used to educate, entertain, or otherwise leave an impression on an audience in support of brand or business goals. 

When crafting a content strategy, distribution is one of the most important things to consider. That’s because content can take many forms. Understanding how and where content will reach your audience is crucial for evaluating the success of the content you’re creating. All of the following examples would fall under the larger umbrella of content marketing:

  • A blog post on topics of interest to your target audience. Hubspot, for example, creates informational blog content that educates its target audience on core concepts related to its suite of products for integrated sales, marketing, and customer support. This article on how to write a blog post is one of its top performing pages in terms of the organic traffic it brings to the site. 

  • Video content. Organizations can leverage videos to reach their target audience in a similar way to written content. For companies with digital products, video is also a great way to show off its tools in action. Ahrefs, the martech platform, is one company that does this well. Its most popular video on Youtube to date is a 2-hour complete guide to SEO for beginners, which has racked up nearly 2.5 million views in 2 years. 
  • Newsletters. Both organizations and personal brands rely on newsletters to grow and nurture audiences interested in what they have to say. Morning Brew, for example, blossomed into a $75 million dollar media brand on the strength of its daily newsletter. On the personal brand side? There’s no shortage of marketers leveraging email newsletters to build an audience. One more-recent example would be Ramli John’s Marketing Powerups newsletter, which promises to help readers become “smarter marketers in 10 minutes or less.” 

Other examples of content marketing include ebooks and whitepapers, podcasts, and social media posts. There’s no shortage of examples of content formats and ways to distribute them. When creating a content strategy, you’ll want to consider the formats and channels most likely to resonate with your target audience. Then, work backward from these to decide on publishing cadence, engagement, performance, and conversion metrics, and other markers you’ll rely on to evaluate the success of your content efforts. 

Why Is Having a Content Marketing Strategy Important?

Nowadays, nearly every brand is a publisher. But just because you’re creating content doesn’t mean you have a content strategy. 

When the content you’re creating doesn’t ladder up to larger business goals, it can’t be fairly described as strategic. A clearly defined content strategy is the difference between brands leveraging content to track against its goals versus brands shifting aimlessly from tactic to tactic in random acts of marketing. 

The best way to know if you’re executing a content strategy or not is to connect the dots between your content and business goals. Let’s say your business operates in a well-known space, but doesn’t have the resources to heavily invest in a paid media strategy. You still need to attract new users to increase revenue. So you decide to publish blog content that brings organic visitors to your site via an SEO content strategy. You measure growth in metrics like organic sessions, session duration, and organic conversions. Your strategy draws a direct line from SEO content to the larger business goal of increasing conversions. That’s strategic.  

How Content Marketing and SEO Interplay

Content marketing and SEO are often grouped together, but they’re not the same thing. 

Why? Because not all content is created for the purpose of ranking highly in search engines. In fact, a lot of the best content isn’t—such as in-depth thought leadership on a niche topic of extreme importance to your target persona. There might not be a high potential keyword with tons of monthly search volume associated with your topic. But that doesn’t mean you pass on the opportunity to show off your brand’s hard-earned perspective or expertise on the subject. You might instead create a 4000-word white paper that you work to distribute via document ads on LinkedIn among an audience of qualified B2B buyers. Again, it all boils down to understanding your business goals. 

SEO refers to the process of improving the visibility and performance of your site content in search engines. SEO encompasses tactics like technical SEO and off-page SEO, which go beyond the scope of just creating content. 

One thing to remember—helpful, useful content is often a growth lever for progress against SEO goals. In fact, Google’s recent algorithm updates all seek to lift up this type of content while deprioritizing content made for the express purpose of ranking highly. 

The bottom line? Content marketing touches on a lot more than just SEO. But taken together, any organization with a blog can combine SEO and content marketing best practices to drive organic growth while comprehensively answering their audience’s most fundamental questions. 

Creating a Content Marketing Strategy from Scratch

Let’s say you know your business goals and understand your audience. You’re ready to stand up a content marketing strategy. How do you get started?

For this example, we’re going to walk you through the necessary steps to create a content strategy for organic growth on Google. Again, content can be distributed in a myriad of ways. So it’s important to assess the viability of SEO as a main distribution channel against others like paid media, video, or organic social. 

Let’s dive in.

1. Conduct foundational research to create a holistic SEO content strategy

Research is the foundation of a holistic content strategy for SEO. 

Before getting started, you need to answer a few crucial questions:

  • Who are my competitors? 
  • Who is my target audience? 
  • What tools should I use?

Looking at your competitors can give you a sense of the types of content and topics that garner attention in your niche. Once you’ve got a grasp on the basics, you can get to defining target keywords, setting traffic goals, and establishing a cadence for reporting.

2. Conduct an on-page analysis

On-page SEO refers to the process of optimizing the content visitors find when they land on your site. This includes product pages, landing pages, and content pages like blogs or other goodies tucked away in your resource folder. 

When looking at on-page SEO, it’s all about maximizing the visibility of that content in search engines like Google. In addition to ensuring your content is generally as comprehensive and helpful as possible, you’ll also need to consider elements like:

  • Keyword density
  • Internal and external links
  • Meta information, such as meta descriptions and image alt text

3. Identify your competitors

If you’re crafting an SEO content strategy, it’s essential to understand there are two types of competitors: business competitors who sell competing products and services to your business, and organic competitors. 

Organic competitors are those who compete to rank highly for the same set of target keywords you do. These competitors might not always be the same as those who sell the same products or services you do. 

Understanding your organic competitors isn’t just important for keyword planning. By honing in on your competitors strengths and weaknesses with your content strategy, you can generate more organic traffic and channel internal expertise to become the go-to content resource in your unique problem space. 

4. Run a keyword gap analysis

A keyword gap analysis looks at your organic competitors to find high-performing keywords you can incorporate into your SEO content strategy. 

SEO is long-term play. When you’re creating content, you want to ensure you’re targeting the highest-intent, most valuable keywords to move the needle. And a keyword gap analysis helps you do just that. 

There are a few tools you can use to run a keyword gap analysis. One of our favorites is Semrush, whose Keyword Gap tool lets you quickly identify relevant keywords for your business that you can incorporate into your SEO content strategy. 

5. Review the sources of competitor traffic

If you’re taking the time to compete against other sites for organic keywords, it’s crucial to understand the role of organic acquisition versus other channels in their repertoire. 

Conducting competitor traffic analysis lets you do just that. What portion of your competitor’s traffic comes from organic channels display, paid search, and direct? By understanding the breakdown, you can prioritize areas to exploit for growth.

6. Build a quarterly growth content strategy

You’re done with research and it’s time to get publishing. You need a quarterly content plan. 

Why break your content strategy down into quarters? Basically, it’s a timeframe that allows you to get your initial content topics down on paper without marrying your team to an inflexible, long-term publishing calendar. 

Content Marketing Best Practices for 2024

Google routinely updates its search quality evaluator guidelines. This is the rubric human search evaluators use to evaluate whether ranking content is helpful or not in response to a given query. They’re also a good place to start when benchmarking whether the content you’re creating is quality. 

Whether you’re creating content for primary distribution via search engines or not, here are a few other best practices to keep in mind: 

Incorporate your internal expertise 

Your team are experts in your business. You also have opinions and knowledge on core topics of importance to your readers that they’d love to know. 

If you’re creating a blog post, ebook, or any other piece of content, make sure to build this expertise into the final product. Conduct SME interviews with your product, sales, or customer success teams to align on framing, include direct quotes, and provide an overall layer of quality that you otherwise wouldn’t provide. 

Share cool data

Obviously, any insights you can glean from product or user data that speak to some fundamental trend in your industry is awesome to have. But even if you don’t have access to advanced product analytics, you can distribute a survey or collect open-source information to package up statistics that intrigue readers. 

Aim for information gain

One of the main complaints against SEO content in recent years? That it’s all the same. This is the inevitable result of too many “ultimate guides to X” that fail to provide insightful or novel information. 

When creating content, lean on internal expertise, data, or other sources of information to provide something new to readers that they wouldn’t find elsewhere on the search engine results page. 

Be judicious in your use of AI

We’re not saying you can’t use ChatGPT for help with ideation, organizing your thoughts, or creating content briefs. But you should be extra careful about using AI-generated content directly in site copy. 

Recent Google updates, such as the March 2024 Core Update, have proved punishing on sites with unoriginal content—a lot of which is AI-generated. In 2024, the bar for content quality is too high to risk mass publishing blogs without taking the time to add distinctive elements reflective of your business’ internal knowledge or POV.

Launch a Content Marketing Strategy that Works for You

Even after reading all the content marketing posts above, you may have more questions. You may determine that your conversion rate from organic is better than paid, and it’s time to invest more resources there, or that you need a fresh set of eyes on your business. If that is the case, then feel free to reach out to us. We can share our expertise with you as a consultant or as a plug-in team that can help with content strategy, PPC strategy, social strategy, technical SEO, and anything else you need to grow your business. After all, we are a growth marketing agency designed to help your company achieve quick wins and long-term growth.

We also love directing people to other kick-ass agencies and sites specializing in content strategy. You’ll find a wealth of content marketing strategy topics. We hope you found this post helpful, and if so, feel free to share it. Don’t be a stranger.

What does a holistic SEO content strategy look like?

© 2024 Tuff | We're a division of Goodway Group!