4 Building Blocks of a Strong Content Marketing Strategy for 2016

December 22, 2015 | Elizabeth Wellington


content strategy

Do you remember playing with LEGOs as a kid?

In my young career as a LEGO architect, I always wanted to build higher.

I meticulously crafted skyscrapers from LEGO pieces – only to find that they fell over without a strong base. I noticed one day that attaching my tower to a wide foundation kept it upright. From there, my buildings grew and grew in height.

The same is true of your content marketing strategy. You need a strong foundation to reach new heights.

As you steam ahead into 2016, anchor your strategy with these fundamental building blocks:

1. Identify and Rank Your Goals

As content marketers, we want to break precedent with cutting-edge marketing tactics that redefine the field. Reaching higher than your predecessors requires that you set new goals with discernment and an eye for your company’s unique needs.

The Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 B2C and B2B benchmarking reports give us a helpful window into the most common goals for content marketers.

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Do you see your goals reflected here?

These individual goals all flow from a common aim: connecting with people.

However, depending on the maturity of your company’s marketing plan, as well as your specific field, you will want to emphasize certain goals above others.

CMI found, for example, that despite the prevalence of sales in popular B2B and B2C goals, top-performing B2C marketers aim for brand awareness, followed by customer retention/loyalty. On the B2B side, enterprise content marketers aim for engagement first, then sales.

List your specific goals for the new year and rank them in the order of their importance to your company. Organizations new to content, for example, may emphasize engagement with the intention of funneling people to their website. This exercise helps you to develop priorities within your editorial calendar and your budget, making progress where you need it most.

2. Audit Your Content Assets

What content flopped in 2015? You won’t know unless you audit your content.

Neil Patel recommends assessing your blog posts and interactive content every six months to freshen things up.

Your intention with an audit is to confirm that your content is “readable, interesting, helpful, and grammatically impeccable” and analyze ways to strengthen your strategy.

The Content Marketing Institute recommends implementing these nine analytics to fuel your inventory audit:

  1. Unique visitors
  2. New visitors vs. returning visitors
  3. Referrals
  4. Bounce rate
  5. Load time
  6. Keywords and ranking
  7. Outbound links
  8. Conversions
  9. Location

These indicators give you a strong sense of performance, empowering your content strategy with awareness of your content’s strengths and weaknesses.

If you don’t have time for a comprehensive audit, pick the metrics that align with your target goals for 2016. Analyze your content’s success according to those metrics, and spend your energy refurbishing or retiring assets that didn’t hit the mark.

If you are ready to embark on a comprehensive, DIY content audit, set aside blocks of time on your calendar for a few weeks. Start by reading Moz’s detailed how-to guide for content audits and scanning Buffer’s adaptable Content Audit Spreadsheet.

As challenging as it is to inventory and analyze your content, the effort can radically impact your success as a brand. Microsoft, for example, had no idea that 3 million of their 10 million website pages had never been read until a content audit. By investigating their content’s performance, their strategists were able to pull out the weeds, reviewing and removing irrelevant material from their site.

This year, investigate your content sooner rather than later to course correct toward goals.

3. Explore Different Content Platforms

Content shouldn’t live only on your company blog. In 2016, organizations will continue to turn toward new platforms to feature their interactive and static assets.

OfficeMax, for example, went viral with their hit interactive microsite, “Elf Yourself,” which enables users to overlay their own photos on cartoons for a laugh-out-loud holiday card.

Other companies have embraced other publishing platforms. CEOs like Hootsuite’s Ryan Holmes, for example, publish thought leadership articles on Medium to reach a new audience. And King Arthur Flour returned to paper with the recently launched Sift Magazine, a high-end quarterly print magazine appeals to devoted bakers.

Depending on your goals, using a broader range of platforms can help you reach a wider audience.

Here are some underrated sites to promote or publish a wide range of creative content:

Even if you decide to focus on your company’s website, you can integrate interactive elements into traditional content assets like white papers for a radical departure from the same old approach.

4. Build a Style Guide

A style guide transforms your content marketing plan into a scalable endeavor. Having a reference point for your company’s visual, audio, and written characteristics enables you to enlist help from freelancers or in-house experts without diluting or skewing your brand.

Your style guide should differentiate your company’s values, voice, and tone. For examples of stellar style guides, look at McMillan’s and Buffer’s descriptions of their approach to brand voice. Like all content marketing assets, start the building process by considering your audience.

The most effective brand voice is like the best customer service: it is consistent and keeps the customer happy. Link your company’s voice to your target buyers’ personality for an easy fit.

Tone, on the other hand, is fluid, changing with the nature of each interaction. It changes based on the feeling you would like to project: excitement, gratitude, or regret.

When you pull together your guide, include grammatical preferences and a list of industry vocabulary to keep in mind as you craft content. If you create interactive videos or manage a podcast, cover audio and visual elements that contribute to a cohesive brand in these different forms. Canva offers some great tips on developing a visual style guide to compliment voice and tone.

As HubSpot notes, a style guide should be living document that evolves over time. Before you share it with your company, make sure that the marketing team (especially executives) agree with your description of your company’s brand. A candid conversation can help refine understanding across a company.

Conclusion

The start of a new year is a great opportunity to take stock of what’s working and set up a plan to improve.

As you carve out time in your schedule to anchor your content marketing strategy with these four building blocks, think about your next steps.

What tools will help get you where you need to go? Do you need to increase your budget or move some priorities around? Get your ducks in a row now – based on a strong foundation – and you’re set up for success in 2016.

Want more inspiration for 2016? Join our next webinar!

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