Developing a winning content strategy

A content strategy is really just a plan of action for taking all the work and learnings you’ve already figured out up to this point—and translating them into real content that’ll be published on your blog over the coming weeks and months.

  • If you know the niche you’ll be blogging about and have a compelling reason to cover that topic…
  • If you know your ideal reader and what they’re looking for…
  • If you know the value you want to give them and your unique angle…

Then creating a content strategy is as easy as solving your readers most pressing challenges.

Better yet, having a content strategy will help you when you’re feeling unmotivated, when you don’t know what to write about, or in those difficult moments when you’re thinking about giving up on your blog.

Here are 4 steps to putting together a winning content strategy (that’ll generate traffic)

First up… you’ve gotta know where you want to go before you can ever get there.

1. Define the primary goal for your blog.

What do you want to achieve with your blog?

Remember, if your primary goal is to make a ton of money immediately, blogging isn’t going to be for you. It’ll take time to build a readership, grow with and serve them in a way that eventually creates the right opportunities to monetize that readership.

Back to your primary goal…

  • Is it to drive traffic and start conversations with readers?
  • To get people to sign up for your email newsletter?
  • To get them to download a book you wrote or some other resource?

This goal might (will) change as your blog grows over time, but when you’re just getting started…

Today, your goal should be to drive traffic and start conversations with your early readers.

You want to build relationships with the people who resonate with your writing—even if that’s just 1 or 2 people today.

Still, establishing this first primary goal is crucial. All other decisions you make when it comes to your blog will stem from this one.

Next, you can start to define the mini-wins that will help you get to this greater goal.

2. Get to know your readers (and where they spend their time).

Your readers determine whether or not your blog will be successful.

And to write for them, you need to really understand them—which is why it helps if you’re also writing for yourself. I’m a firm believer that who you write your blog posts for, is equally as important as what you write about.

In a lot of cases, you’re going to be your ideal reader, which makes this whole process easier. But in almost every case, it’s useful to do a bit of research around the audience you’re writing for (plus, you might even learn something about yourself!)

To start, you want to think about the demographics and psychographics of your ideal audience:

  • Demographics: The quantitative traits of your readers. Think, age, gender, location, job title, etc…
  • Psychographics: The more “unmeasurable” traits like values, interests, attitude, and belief systems.

Once you’ve written down these qualities, you can start to come up with an audience persona—a fictionalized version of your ideal reader. So, you might say that you’re starting a cooking blog for Sarah, a 30–40-year-old stay-at-home mom in Portland, Oregon who values organic ingredients and isn’t too worried about food costs.

Now, the next question is: Where does Sarah spend her time online?

  • Is she searching for recipes on Google or Pinterest?
  • Is she a heavy Facebook user or does she prefer niche community sites and forums?
  • Does she comment on other cooking sites or is she consuming content just to read?

The goal of your blog is to create value for your Sarah.

BUT… you can’t do that until you know who your ideal reader is and where they spend their time.

If you’re not totally sure, it’s fine if you have more than one ideal reader. But, it’s important to make sure that your personas aren’t too broad (as your readers might not know that you’re writing for them right away).

3. Decide on your core content categories.

When it comes to deciding what you’ll write about, it’s good to have a few guiding categories that you can refer back to.

I like to call these content pillars, as they’re the foundation that holds up the rest of your blog.

Having a few set pillars like this helps keep your blog focused. It also gives you a lense and a voice that you can write from. For example, if you’re starting a personal finance blog, your pillars might be:

  • Personal finance tips and tricks
  • Interviews and stories from people who’ve found financial independence
  • Your take on important financial industry news
  • The basics of personal finance
  • How to pay off your debt quickly

Each of these pillars can have 10s if not 100s of blog posts to be written under them.

But they also all work together to show that you’re a thought leader in your niche.

4. Brainstorm blog post ideas and do keyword research.

By this point your content strategy will answer who you’re writing for and which topics you’re going to cover.

But what about the actual posts you’re going to write? The good news is you can honestly write whatever you want!

This is your blog after all… and it’s your platform to speak and share with the world.

I’d imagine you probably have a few ideas for posts you want to write about already. However, I can say from experience that those ideas aren’t always there. Sometimes running a blog is harder than it seems, and it can be tough when you run out of ideas, especially when you’re writing about topics you’re passionate about.

This is where I believe a simple editorial calendar is so important. This is just a basic doc to fill out that means you’ll always know what you’re writing next and frees you up to spend more time on the fun of actually putting posts together. Not banging your head against the wall trying to come up with ideas.

Once I’ve got my editorial calendar template open, here’s the simple process I use for coming up with the specific posts I’ll write for my own blog:

  • Brainstorm topics and terms and write them all down: Start by writing down as many ideas or keywords as you can. Aim for things you know your ideal audience would find valuable.
    • What questions are they asking online?
    • What are their biggest challenges and pain points?
    • Where do you have expertise that can be used to help fill in the blanks?
  • Use a keyword research tool to gather even more ideas: We want to build a list with these blog post topics to fill in your editorial calendar template, so let’s use a free version of one of the top keyword explorer tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, or Moz to help us fill it out. These tools basically just show you terms and topics related to the ones you’ve already come up with, as well as how much traffic those terms are getting (to show that your audience cares about them!)
  • Clump similar ideas together: Your list should be pretty big at this point (at least more than 10 post ideas). So take all those terms and start to refine them. Are there duplicates that you can lump together? Do some just not look right for now? Refine and edit it down.
  • Put your ideas into your editorial calendar and prioritize: Ok, let’s get this list a little more organized now. Start filling in your editorial calendar and include a title idea, your main keyword, estimated search volume, and opportunity. Rank them in order of priority based on which ones have the most value to your audience and opportunity for growth.
  • Outline content that hits all three key needs: Take your top priorities and set deadlines for them. Look for topics that hit all three key needs: Fits your content pillars, are genuine needs of your readers, and have traffic potential.

Remember, it’s always better to start small and grow consistently. So if you don’t have a ton of content ideas at this stage, don’t worry.

Focus on the ones you do have.

Do some poking around at what other bloggers or brands in your niche have covered to see what their (similar) audience resonates most with. Draw ideas from those learnings. You’ll learn more about your audience, your process, and what works well as you write and publish more.

And lastly, don’t forget to have fun and be interesting! If you picked a niche that you care about, remember why you care about it. People want to hear your voice and get your unique take on things.

content courtesy to Ryan Robinson

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