Content is quickly becoming one of the most influential and impactful tools for digital marketers. Good content educates, appeals to, and ultimately influences your customers. The Content Marketing Institute reported that in 2015 an astounding 86% of B2Bs (business-to-business) used content marketing, and of this percentage only 38% believed their content was effective.
How is it that only 38% feel their content was effective? One major issue that we see on a constant basis is businesses don’t have a clear content strategy. In order to make content marketing work you need to have some kind of strategy in place so that you can measure what is or isn’t working and then adjust accordingly.
We help clients build a strategy utilizing a content audit process, which takes a detailed and holistic look into your business from the ground up. We create content based on our audit results to make sure we are effectively creating content that will impact your market. This process includes:
- Developing Personas
- Understanding Buying Stages
- Content Audit
- Content Inventory
- Content Calendar
Going through the process above has been useful to setting up an effective content marketing strategy. Here is what we do for each step in the process.
Step 1: Develop the Personas
What is a buyer persona? It’s a breakdown of the different types of buyers who are looking at your product. Developing and then marketing to your buyer personas will lead to stronger messages, maximization of successful advertising, and overcoming buyer objections. Each buying persona includes demographic information, problems they’ll encounter, and values they hold.
A buyer persona will reflect the types of customers you currently have or the types of customers you are hoping to gain. A buyer persona defines the audience your content will be created for.
For help creating a buyer persona, feel free to check out some of these resources:
- Buyer Persona Profile from Epic Content Marketing
- This quick one-page worksheet from Epic Content Marketing allows you to create a snapshot of a buyer persona, their job description, priorities, and challenges.
- 5 Rings of Buying Insights Template from the Book Epic Content Marketing
- When used in conjunction with the worksheet above, the 5 Rings of Buying Insights template will help you glean additional insights around the journey of each buyer persona.
- How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business from Hubspot
- Hubspot provides a great step-by-step post and downloadable template to support your buyer persona creation initiatives.
While the buyer persona is a great start, the true gold is found in the buying stage/cycle for each persona. It is vital to understand the questions being asked in each stage for the buyer’s journey so that you can effectively answer those questions on your website, through blog posts and videos or other forms of content.
This should be your top-priority focus once you have established your buyer personas.
Step Two: Understand Buying Stages
There are three basic stages for buyers based on each persona. The early, middle, and late stages, or as some in the content marketing world refer to them: the awareness, consideration, and decision stages.
Early (Awareness) Stage
In the early stage, customers are unaware of problems they currently have and need education on what solutions you can offer. They are gaining awareness of their problems and their need for a solution.
Middle (Consideration) Stage
In the middle stage, customers need a demonstration of expertise or differentiators between you and your competitors. The middle stage is also known as the consideration stage, where customers understand their problem and want to find a solution through consideration of your product. They are spending their time researching various solutions to find the option that fits their needs.
Late (Decision) Stage
In the late stage, customers are looking to validate the product or the company; they are in the decision-making stage. They have a good idea of what they want, now they just need to compare their top choices, maybe review each company’s costs and look into any references they can find, to ensure they make the right decision.
Content is created specifically for each persona in these different stages to target what questions or answers they need the most. It is important to understand the types of content that can be used at each stage of your buyer’s journey as well. Understanding the buying journey for each persona along with the types of content they consume along their journey is key to effective content marketing.
For B2C, an example of mapping content to the buying journey is provided below:
Step Three: Current Audit Process
After developing buyer personas and understanding the journey buyers take, it is necessary to take an audit of your site’s current content. To do this we recommend using Screaming Frog.
Crawl Your Entire Website for Content
Screaming Frog is able to ‘crawl’ an entire website (crawling is a fancy term for ‘pulling all data e.g. – meta data, URLs, word count of a page, CSS and other data from a website). Once you’ve crawled your whole site, simply filter the data by HTML pages. Example below:
Then export the data. The exported CSV file will give you a TON of data for each URL. We suggest only worrying about the URL and Title tag , which will be used for further analysis.
Separate and Filter Your Data
Next, you can separate/filter these URLs into different groups. Some suggested groups could include:
- Key landing pages (home page, services, about us, etc.)
- Blogs, articles
- eBooks, white papers, resources
By separating the URLs into various groups you can start to analyze each group.
Analyze Your Current Content
Once these groups are separated out you can start to understand the social media impacts of each URL. To do this, you can use a tools such as Social Tally, SharedCount or SocialTally that allows you to identify social shares on all types of media platforms and analyze each URL’s social activity.
After you’ve analyzed each URL’s social activity, you should map it to one of your buyer personas. Finally, map out how your content influences potential customers at each stage of the journey – e.g. – Top of the Funnel, Middle of the Funnel and Bottom of the Funnel. This will be extremely useful when taking an inventory of all of your content.
Useful information to include in your Content Audit is:
- Type – what kind of content is this – e.g. – Blog Post, Landing Page, eBook, Category or Product Page etc.
- Title Tag
- Social Shares – Tweets, FB Shares, Pins, etc.
- Buyer Stage
- Call to Action
Once you have all of this data you should have a massive content audit spreadsheet that looks something like this –
You might want to also add any relevant notes about pages, styles, social trends, page view patterns, etc., that come up during the audit process.
Step Four: Content Inventory Process
Once you’ve organized all the current content, you should do an inventory based on the buying personas and stages in relation to the number of resources that correlate. Filter your large content audit spreadsheet by persona first and then by each buyer stage to get an idea of how much content you have for each individual.
As you work your way through each persona you should build out an additional spreadsheet to connect the number of content pieces you have to the stages of the buyers journey. This will give you a quick snapshot of where you are. Here is an example of what that might look like:
You can quickly tell which parts of the buyer’s journey are not being addressed. By creating content for these holes we can create a more fluid journey and eventually give customers all the information they need to choose your product or service.
Step Five: Competition Content Audit
The competition audit is a key step in understanding your company or product’s place in the market. An audit of the competition’s content is twofold. First, it helps you understand how many other people are competing within your market. Second, it gives you ideas for content that have performed well in the past.
The competition audit is similar to the original content audit—you use Screaming Frog to crawl the competition’s sites, and then use Social Tally or Social Count to see their activity on social media.
After using Social Tally you should be able to identify the top 5-7 posts that are performing on social media platforms.
Finally, you should identify why these pages are performing well on social media platforms then analyze if the content was written well, hit a target persona, answered questions, etc. Mostly, you need to identify what need it is filling within the buying cycle. This is perhaps the most important step in the competition audit because it helps you understand how and why the competition is successful.
Step Six: Content Editorial Calendar
The last step is creating an editorial calendar based on all of the data you have collected. The editorial calendar allows you to plan content initiatives moving forward. You need to identify what content is needed based on holes in your buyer personas and buying stages. After identifying these holes you should generate content ideas and modify what has worked for the competition.
An editorial calendar is a way to focus on your content marketing efforts, and measure, monitor, and modify the content within one document to ensure you meet your content marketing goals. It provides detailed content plans, anywhere from 1-3 months in advance, keeping everyone up-to-date on past, present, and future content.
Here’s a sample of how weekly content can be planned and recorded:
The content audit process is vital to your success. By taking the time to really research owned and competitive content, you can develop a holistic content strategy. Content marketing is one of the most useful tactics to leverage for a successful online presence. Your customers are looking for information online, usually via blogs and other content resources, to help them make an educated decision on what products or services to buy.
By utilizing a content audit process you can develop content ideas that will add to your current visibility and truly make an impact on your potential customers.