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The Complete Guide to Developing A Digital Content Marketing Strategy

Sam Underwood 7 years ago

After the release of our first State of Content Marketing Survey, one of the most interesting results to us was that

92% of marketers are unclear as to how best to execute a content marketing strategy

Over the years our survey has thrown up statistics that marketers know the value of using content don't always know how to create and run a strategy - so we think this is an excellent opportunity to give a detailed refresher on the all-important strategy behind your content marketing campaigns and some of the key elements to consider when creating a content marketing strategy.

This in-depth guide will take you through all of the essential steps to undertake to ensure you are creating content that will engage your audience, increase brand awareness and drive organic traffic. Click our contents section to take you to the area you're struggling with, or read the entire guide for a roadmap of how to craft a full strategy.


Purpose of content strategy

The user journey

Hub, Hygiene and Hero content

Managing content flow

Keyword research

Competitor analysis

Content research

Persona research


Content auditing and finding content gaps

Common content questions, we get all the time

What is the purpose of a content strategy?

There are three key goals that a content strategy should be looking to achieve:

  1. Engage your current audience, promoting brand advocacy and loyalty
  2. Reach new users, driving brand awareness
  3. Ensuring your existing content conveys the correct message and aligns with what your personas want to read and see

While these are your primary goals, there are many smaller details and questions that your content strategy should be answering, such as:

  • What do our personas want to know?
    • Are we answering their questions?
    • Do we have the essential content that a user needs before purchasing?
  • What is our tone of voice? Does it work well for the audience and is it consistent throughout the site?
  • What is our plan for making our brand memorable and retaining customers?

There are even more details to consider that you will need to action outside of your content strategy/plan to ensure success, such as:

  • Is the site technically proficient with minimum technical SEO issues?
  • Is our meta data well optimised?
  • How are we going to promote our content?
  • Does the site provide a good user experience?
  • Is the UI good and following modern web design?

The All-Important User Journey

One of the first things you need to consider when planning your content strategy is the user journey, and whether you have a plan to engage potential customers in all the different steps of the funnel.


There are many different ways you can attract users at each stage, above are just some examples of what you could be doing.

Engaging users across all stages of the user journey is essential for both bringing in new users, as well as retaining existing ones. Revolving your content strategy around these different steps is setting you up for a successful campaign.

Whenever we start a content strategy, more often than not we aim to create content that sits within the consideration/purchase stage first. Users within this stage are generally pretty close to actually buying your product or service.

For example, if we were a store selling engagement rings, as an awareness piece we may do a piece of content around the ‘50 Best Love Songs’, there is definitely lots of opportunity for traffic with this topic:


However, we could instead create a piece of content targeting users in the consideration stage titled ‘Palladium vs Platinum Rings: Which is best?’


The time lag between someone buying a ring from our jewellery brand from reading the second post will be much shorter, resulting in a quicker ROI from the content. In most cases, this is what you will want.

The added benefit of creating this content first is that we are also solving potential pain points customers may have before they purchase. What we do not want to do is a big awareness campaign which then loses users in the consideration/purchase stage because we do not have content on the site that will answer their questions.

Without this content, we are giving competitors the opportunity to steal potential customers from us as they answer micro-moments like this when we do not.

Hub/Hygiene/Hero – the first step to driving traffic with content

Often the organic side of a content strategy fails because there is too much focus on one type of content. In reality, if you are going to be successful you need to carefully consider the types of content you are going to create and when.

To ensure we always deliver a mixture of different types of content, we categorise them using three different terms; Hub, Hygiene and Hero. Here it is displayed in a content hierarchy:


Hygiene Content

This type of content usually sits within the consideration stage of the purchase funnel, it is the essential content that an unaware user will or may need to know before they buy your product or service. Hygiene content usually captures users by fulfilling micro-moments they have before they purchase. It is search focused and more often than not will also be an opportunity to win an answer box.

It usually comes in a few forms:

  1. Functional service, category or product page content
  2. Search focused guides on a blog
  3. Education/knowledge centre sections of a site

Without this content, driving awareness will not be as effective as the user will not be aware of your unique selling proposition or even what you are selling.

As previously mentioned, without it, we also give competitors the opportunity to steal potential customers as we cannot answer all their questions before purchase.

Hub Content

Hub content is ongoing content that would interest and engage your target audience.

It is perfect for both awareness, familiarity, loyalty as well as improving the perception of your brand. Some examples of this type of content:

  • Ebooks
  • Competitions
  • Quizzes & surveys
  • Interviews
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Memes
  • Funny content

Ideas for hub content usually come about based upon persona and content research. They are also backed up by keywords where possible.

There can be overlaps between Hygiene and Hub content. For example, a search focused piece of content could include some of the content types mentioned above. The main difference is the approach to finding these ideas.

With Hub content, you are looking to find ideas that are based on the interest you find from content and persona research along with brainstorms. With Hygiene, this is entirely based on search opportunity.

Hero Content

This content is your big-bang content that when done correctly, really drives brand awareness, engagement and hopefully authority back into your site. Some examples of this are:

• The Epic Split feat. Van Damme by Volvo

• Red Bull Stratos

• Skoda’s Cake Advert

Meet Graham
Your life on Earth by the BBC

Content Flow – Don’t Be Boring

You may now be thinking “I’m trying to increase organic traffic, so surely I should go and create a tonne of hygiene content?”. Which would make sense! But is that really going to engage your audience? Is that going to drive brand advocacy? Or do they want compelling, engaging content that does more than pushing them to buy?

This concept of providing a variety of content is something we call content flow, you can read more about it here. The ideology behind content flow is that having a variety of different types of content is key when trying to keep your audience engaged. Variety is the spice of life, and that should reflect in how you plan the content you create.

You can see a visualisation of content flow below, the squares are colour coded to match the colours from the earlier hygiene, hub and hero hierarchy:


To give a bit of context to this graph, you can see the line showing the peaks and troughs of engagement from the content you create. Over time the amount of content being produced increases, which would naturally happen as you see more of an impact.

Eventually, as months go on you may find the hygiene content you create may diminish, and you may focus more on hub, at this point it may also be a good time to go back through hygiene content to optimise and improve.

Now we have explained some of the key things to consider to ensure the content you create resonates, it’s time to explain how to find the right pieces of content to create.

Keyword Research / Strategy

In the very early stage of your content strategy when you begin your research looking at keyword data will be one of the initial things you will need to do. If you do not know what people are asking, you are not going to be able to cater your content to their requirements!

To help you with your keyword research we have created a free resource that helps you quickly organise your keyword data which you can find here:


This is actually a slim lined version of a keyword research resource we will be releasing and covering in more depth in a future post. Due to the scale of it, it really needs its own post to explain how it functions and the true benefits of it.

This smaller version of the bigger resource still has some valuable features, however. Once you have the above resource make a copy of it by going into File > Make a copy…


Use your keyword research tool of choice to find all those long tail informational queries. My favourite tool for keyword research is currently Ahrefs.

There are lots of pieces on keyword research out there, so I will not go into too much detail here. However, I will give a brief overview of how I generally find informational queries that you can target in your content strategy.

Investigating Competitor Keywords using Ahrefs

For this example, let's pretend I own a small shop that is competing in the beard products market. I have found one store I am competing with is Beardoholic. To gain some insights into their content strategy, I simply get their domain name enter it into site explorer and then go to the ‘Top Pages’ report.


I generally use this over the ‘Organic Keywords’ report as when you look at keywords this way, keywords will usually be grouped by the topic the page is targeting. For example, if we take a look at the top pages for Beardoholic you will see the below:


If you check the ‘Top Keyword’ column, we now have some ideas for different topics we should cover in our content strategy. However, we obviously want the individual keywords that page ranks for, not just the top keyword. To get this data, click on the keywords drop-down, once you have that export all the keywords that page ranks for.


I usually at this point scan through the export, remove any weird keywords we would not want to target that the page may rank for and then copy and paste both the keyword and search volume column over to the equivalent column in the keyword research template. Rinse and repeat this until you have a large set of keywords to work from. Once you have done this with one competitor, simply repeat this exercise with a different competitor.

Use a Keyword Research Tool

Once you have enough competitor data, I recommend using a keyword research tool to make sure you have not missed anything. Here are some great keyword explorer tools:

It’s best to use a mixture of tools such as Ahrefs, Moz and Storybase. Storybase is a relatively new tool, but I’ve found it’s great when looking for informational queries. In all of them, they work best by just putting in a seed keyword and seeing what it returns.

For example, in Storybase just enter the term ‘Beard’ and search.


Scroll down to the questions section and a list of common searches will be returned. You can then add these to a list, export them and add them to the keyword research sheet.

In Ahrefs, I usually enter a few broad keywords into their explorer tool:


Go to the ‘Phrase Match’ report on the left, and then start adding different includes and excludes to find different informational queries. For example, in the include box add word operators such as:

  • What
  • Where
  • Why
  • When
  • Which
  • How
  • Ideas
  • Tips
  • Video
  • 2017
  • Trends
  • Best
  • Top
  • For
  • Make
  • Does


You can see from entering the ‘vs’ operator it has highlighted opportunities to capture traffic from users in the consideration stage of the funnel, so just create a list in Ahrefs for these or export and filter them out within Excel. Then, add the keyword and search volume to the keyword research sheet.

Getting Position Data

Once you have the keyword set you are going to be working from, it is best to get ranking data so you can see where your site is ranking for this content already. This will help later when creating your content strategy as being able to see where you currently rank for a keyword lets you know whether you need to optimise an existing page or create a new one.

We have our own in-house tools to gather this position data in bulk, there are however third party tools you could also use, for example:

Whatever rank tracker you decide to use, after it has scraped your position data you will need to export a CSV then use VLOOKUP’s to pull that information into the ‘Keyword Research’ tab in the Google Sheet.

Content Research

Once you have a good set of keyword research, doing additional research into the types of content that are being highly shared and linked to is incredibly useful. There are various tactics you can use to find content that is either working or people are showing interest in. Usually, I begin with making use of tools such as Buzzsumo or Ahrefs’ content explorer.

There are already excellent guides on using Buzzsumo for content research, such as this one on Moz so we won’t go over information that has already been covered in-depth.

The output from content research should really be some solid data on what kind of content we know people like related to a specific industry and niche. You should be able to explain the following things:

  • The types of content that work
    • Videos, infographics, surveys, unique data, etc.
  • Which social networks we should be promoting on
  • What the ideal word count is
    • Are long in-depth guides receiving more shares, links and traffic?
    • Do people prefer heavy imagery and listicles with lower word counts?
  • Any topics that work well
    • For example, you may find when doing content research for a travel site that people love image heavy pieces of content on the wonders of the world

Using Ahrefs for Content Research

At the moment I’m using Ahrefs for content research. So I’ll run you through how we would again do that for a beard brand. This will involve using a free resource that I’ve created, it’s again a thinned down version of a bigger content research resource we use internally. But it will still give you enough data to inform your strategy!

To start with, just head over to Ahrefs Content Explorer and enter the topic you want to investigate, in this case, I’m just going to enter something broad like ‘beard’. I usually also filter the results, so we are looking for pages with the topic in the title rather than the content + title.


Next, export the data.


You won’t need to export all of it, I usually change the number of rows exported depending on how much relevant content I see covering the topic. For this example, I’ve gone with the top 1,000 pieces of beard related content.


Download your export.


Once you have the export, open it up in excel and copy all the data from B2:P.


Now you just need to paste that data into the content research template like so:


Analysing The Data

Now the sheet has the data from Ahrefs, it will start to output some interesting information for you to investigate. Firstly, in the ‘content competitors’ tab, it will tell you which sites on this topic are getting the most traffic, shares and links.

These are not necessarily the competitors you will be competing for on the transactional terms within your search strategy, such as ‘beard products’. But they are the competitors you will be creating content to compete with to try and capture people who are within the awareness/consideration stage of the purchase funnel, hence ‘content competitors’.

We split content competitors out by which ones do well with links, social shares and organic traffic. This allows us to analyse different sites depending on what the primary goals of our strategy are. For example, if we feel links are an important part of the strategy, we will analyse the content competitors who receive a lot of links.

It’s always best to pick content competitors based upon which sites align with what the goal is with your content. There is no point in choosing competitors who perform well with organic traffic if you just want lots of awareness through social.

Now we know our content competitors, head over to the ‘Cornerstone Content’ tab to see which pieces of content competitors are creating that is driving high shares, links or organic traffic. Cornerstone content is simply the content that is the best out there for an individual site or topic.


The sheet pulls through the top URLs driving either organic, social shares or links based upon who your content competitors are in the previous tab. This is great as it makes it easy to quickly see the cornerstone social, organic and linkable content across the topic.

You can then use this information to quickly analyse your competitors' top content and spot trends for what is working well.

For example, I can now see that Bored Panda does so well socially due to funny pieces of content around beards such as their piece on ‘Beard Baubles’. I can now take this and use it to generate ideas for hub content on the site.


It’s best to make a note of all of these different ideas so that you can later bring this information into an idea validation session to see which ones will make it into your strategy (more on idea validation later).

Persona Research

While having data on what your audience is searching and sharing is great, to ensure the content you create is appealing to your target audience we recommend creating personas.

Creating personas for various segments that are part of your target audience makes it easier to get into the mindset of the people you are trying to sell a product or service to. With personas, you can define things for each segment such as:

  • Needs
  • Expectations
  • Goals and values
  • Age
  • Current Job Role
  • Professional background
  • Education

When creating personas, there are various tools and methods you can use to find common interests. It’s generally best to use a mixture of both primary and secondary data to figure out the traits your personas have. Here are some examples tools/exercises you can do to find them:

  • Global Web Index
  • Demographics Pro
  • YouGov Profiles
  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Brainstorms


These can then be used throughout your content strategy to ensure various things such as your brand's tone of voice, as well as what types of hero, hub and hygiene content you should be creating.


Once you have personas and content research, this is the ideal time to have a brainstorm to see what ideas you or a small group can come up with that would engage your audience. We really recommend following the advice you can find here on the Hubspot blog on running a brainstorm.

Idea Validation

Once you have your ideas, it’s now time to run through them and check which ones you think will work well, you do this by going through an idea validation framework like the one you can download for free here.

The first step to doing this is to check that whether the ideas align with the personas that you have previously defined. If the ideas do not seem like something the personas would react well to, then you can remove the ideas.

Once you have done that, try and validate them based on your content research. Can you find any examples of people doing something similar that has worked well? If not, it does not necessarily mean you should remove the idea but if you find something similar that has worked well, it will validate that the idea is something that has a chance of working and driving awareness.

Thirdly, I recommend running through the framework provided in the popular book 'Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck'. If you are a content strategist and have not read this book, I thoroughly recommend it. The characteristics you should look for when finding ideas that will 'stick' as provided in the book are:

  • Simple: Find an uncomplicated, yet profound core message and make sure it comes across directly and memorably.
  • Unexpected: Your message should be counterintuitive, violating expectations to capture and hold attention.
  • Concrete: A compelling level of detail is necessary to ensure your idea is deemed realistic and relatable.
  • Credible: Rely on trustworthy, expert sources that back up your idea and make it believable.
  • Emotional: An emotional connection can be more powerful than a logical one, so include emotional triggers.
  • Story-formatted: Humans are wired to think and communicate in stories, so use this to your advantage

After following these three steps, you should have a good list of validated ideas that you can consider putting into your content plan.

Content Inventory & Audit

Once you have keyword/content/persona research along with ideas from a brainstorm, you will have enough data to begin crafting titles for your content creation plan. However, before you do that, you should always look at the quality of existing content on your site. It is always best to look at opportunities to improve existing content and assets before going off and creating new ones. The best way to find these opportunities is by completing a content audit.


The first part of completing a content audit is finding all existing content on the site. You can easily do this with web crawling tools such as:

The two crawlers I usually make use of is DeepCrawl and Screaming Frog. As DeepCrawl is a bit more of an enterprise tool, I’ll run through how you can quickly and easily do this with Screaming Frog.

Configure The Crawl

1. Setup a crawl with the above settings in the Configuration > Spider menu.


2. Go to the advanced tab and turn on all the respect check boxes.


3. Enter your site's home page, click start and wait for the crawl to finish.


4. Go to the ‘Response Codes’ tab, filter for any redirects, client errors and server errors and delete them all from the crawl.


5. Go back to the ‘Internal’ tab, copy all the URLs in the address field.
6. Next, go back to the keyword research sheet you made a copy of earlier in this guide, go to the ‘Content Audit’ tab and paste the URLs into the ‘URL’ column.
7. You should now have a sheet that looks like this:


Data Collection

Now you have all the URLs on the site, you will need to collect as much data as possible on each one to inform your decision-making process. To do this, I always use URL Profiler.

Once you have installed URL Profiler, follow the below steps:

  1. Copy your URLs from the Content Audit sheet and paste from clipboard into the URL Profiler ‘URL List’.
  2. Check the below boxes in URL Profiler, you will need to setup a few tools to work with URL Profiler to get this working. For Google Analytics and Search Analytics set it to gather 90 days’ worth of data. You will also need to segment Google Analytics data, so it is search/organic data only.


3. Click ‘Run profiler’ and open up your export once it has finished.
4. You will now need to start setting up some VLOOKUPs to bring this valuable data into the content audit sheet. Match up the columns from the export to the columns within the audit sheet.


The next step is to start auditing the content page by page. Based on what the data says and a manual check of the page, specify in the ‘Content Action’ column what should happen with that piece of content. There are five different actions you can choose from:

  • Keep
    • This content is fine as it is, no action required.
  • Merge
    • Merge this piece of content with another page, specify the URL in the ‘Page Strategy’ column.
  • Move
    • Move this content to another section of the site e.g. move a page over to the blog.
  • Improve
    • This piece of content has typos, grammar issues, it’s thin, it doesn’t follow our tone of voice etc. Write a strategy for improving the page in the ‘Page Strategy’ column. You can usually spot these pages that need improving due to them having some traffic already, and/or a high number of impressions.
  • Remove
    • Delete this piece of content from the site, it is irrelevant, and there will be no benefit involved in improving it. Keeping this low-quality content on the site could also be negatively impacting the site due to Google algorithms such as Panda.

Along with filling in the content action and page strategy column, we also specify which user journey stage this piece of content caters to. This allows us to analyse any gaps in the funnel at the end of the analysis.

Once you have completed this task, you should have a large list of tasks for things you could be doing to the site to improve existing content. At this point, we will hand this over to the content and design team and then begin to watch metrics such as engagement, traffic and conversions improve as page strategies are implemented.

Gap Analysis/Content Calendar

Once a plan is in place for updating existing content, you need to look at all your research and begin planning in the pieces of content your site is missing that could help you gain shares, links and traffic.

Within the same spreadsheet you used to complete the content audit, there is a ‘Content Calendar’ tab for that you can fill in. I have added notes to each column/cell that you need to fill in. Filling in each column ensures you know the following things for each piece of content you create:

  • Why you are doing it
    • It targets persona x
    • It has lots of search potential
    • It will improve brand advocacy/loyalty
  • The content it needs to beat
  • Additional requirements
    • How are we making content 10x better than what’s already out there?
    • This could simply be from the depth it goes into the topic, or it could be that we are doing a survey, interview or interactive piece.

There is also a handy ‘Add Month’ button, so you don’t have to mess around with copying and pasting tables. In the first table, just set your start month then begin adding in additional months as you plan in more content.

Planning Search Focused Content (Hygiene)

Start by filtering your keyword research to display content that you do not currently rank well for. For example, go to the position column and apply a filter, so only keywords with a position for your site of greater than 20 are shown, you will then get results like the below:



By doing this, you can very quickly see the gaps of content you need to fill with your strategy so that you own the conversation around your niche.

From the above screenshot, you can see an obvious gap for content around growing a thick beard. We don’t seem to be able to break into the top 20 for that topic. Our example site has some content on growing a beard, but it’s generic and not targeted specifically to growing a full/thick beard.

If you check the search result, you see the following:


All the pieces of content are specific to growing a thick beard, so our generic piece of content on growing a beard just isn’t going to quite cut it.

For that reason, we add it to the content calendar as a topic we want to own, filling in all the columns with relevant information.

Planning Idea Based Content (Hub)

The idea based content is content we think should be created based on our content research, persona research and brainstorm.

Adding these to your calendar is pretty simple, run through your ideas that passed the validation process from the brainstorm and content research and start filling in the columns within the table.

Common Content Questions

As an agency, when we're working with a brand, there are a few common queries that come up when we're consulting or in the initial stages with a client. Here are some content FAQ's to answer any burning questions this post has caused when you're considering the strategy for your brand.

1. How much content do I need?

Although this is a really great question, it is never an easy one to answer because there are a number of variables that need to be considered.

The first is how much content your audience needs on your site in order for it to be effective and assist them throughout the consumer journey. Not only can this depend on your target audience but also your niche. Experience has shown us that some industries require more content than others on-page.

Take the example below. Compare the Market’s business model is so consumer-centric that it relies on content, and the user’s engagement in its content, to ultimately push users down the purchase funnel.

It does this by guiding and educating the reader in the right products for them, while throughout the page and content, providing the user with various call to actions including ‘start a quote,’ links to other informational guides or ‘go to hub’ where all their on-page content for travel insurance is hosted.

This content heavy site is fantastic for the users. Many people, when looking for financial products, such as those that Compare the Market deal with, like to do their research and find the buying process, without this content, rather confusing.


The screenshot above shows the landing page on Compare the Market for travel insurance.

As well as all this great landing page content and the hub linked to on the landing page, there is also a guide section on the Compare the Market site, split into products. There's a lot of content because their users need it.

On the flip side, let’s look at a fashion brand. Now, the typical user journey is entirely different when buying clothes than it is when buying financial products. We will use Topshop for this example.


This is the landing page for the women’s denim category on This page is similar to the Compare the Market travel insurance landing page in the respect that it provides the user with all the information needed to be able to make an informed purchase decision in the quickest and easiest way for them. But the amount of content necessary to guide the user to that final goal is at two opposite ends of the scale.

If your agency has researched your industry and your audience they will be able to tell you how much content you should have on your site, especially for commercial pages. When it comes to what we here at Zazzle Media call hub content (i.e. that engaging, relationship building content that sits on your blog or news section) the general rule is the more the better. Google rewards content that is engaging, authoritative and trustworthy (E-A-T), as well as relevant content.

In the same breath, it is much better to be producing good quality content but less of it, than spamming your blog space with three short pieces of content each day that are irrelevant to your audience and neglect any SEO benefit such as keyword targeting.

When doing research into how much content you should have on your site, do a quick sweep of content and commercial competitors to see how much they are creating. Realistically, to be competitive with your content, you need to be creating the same amount (ideally a little more) than these brands/websites that you are competing with for traffic and conversions.

2. How will the content be measured?

There are a lot of ways that content can be measured but the answer you need to look for from your agency should be in line with the objectives and KPIs that you have set for them. This might be increased engagement, improvement in ranking positions for a specific set of keywords or to increase the authority of your website.

Due to the complex, ever-changing way that Google works, it may be that a combination of different content marketing techniques will be undertaken in order to reach your overall objective. So, do not be alarmed if the measurement and objective of different content pieces within your strategy differ. We would expect to see this.

For example, let’s say that your objective is to improve visibility of your site in SERPs - there a number of ways that this can be achieved using content marking. It may be that your agency has created a small campaign including the creation of an e-book, with the objective of acquiring high-quality, resource links.

This is supported by the creation of a number of supporting blog posts as supplementary content that target long-tail search opportunity and are therefore serving the purpose of driving organic traffic and improving engagement metrics on-page. So, here, the different pieces of content are being created with various objectives but they are both working towards the main contract objective - improving site visibility.

At this early stage of the relationship with your agency it is important to establish how and when you can expect performance updates and reports from them. Here at Zazzle Media we report for all our clients each month, with any additional performance tracking and conversations depending on budget.

It is very important to establish how you want results to be reported to you and ensure that from the onset you and your agency are on the same page when it comes to expectations in communications. It leads to a happier and longer partnership.

If you are keen to learn more about how to measure content yourselves, check out this post on the Zazzle Media blog.

3. How long before we see results?

Everything you read on content marketing and strategy will tell you that content marketing is not a quick fix. It takes time for Google to index new pages, target audiences to be reached and to engage with your content.

Even a content strategy that is prioritised by ‘quick wins’ – improving content on URLs that have the highest conversion rate, or creating content targeting search terms that generate the most incremental traffic – take time to drive results and it is important that there is an understanding of this from the start.

When a new client comes on board with Zazzle Media we create either a six or 12-month digital strategy in order to work towards their objectives. The length of the strategy can depend on factors such as budget, new websites and client preference. When setting objectives for these clients, we tend to set more aggressive projections for 12-month strategies than six months as it allows time for performance to be driven.

When working on a six-month content strategy there are things we can do to help hurry performance along. Where we are able, for example, we like to front weight content creation to get it live on our client’s website as soon as possible. The sooner the content is on the site the sooner you are likely to see results and know if your agency’s approach is working. Ask your agency is this a possibility for your partnership, especially if you are working within a tighter time frame.

As a method, content marketing isn’t a quick win, but is one that should promise consistently good results within a 12-month period, as long as effort and best practice is maintained.

4. Where should the content go?

The answer to this particular question, again, depends on objective and the types of content in question.

All on-page content should be hosted in a place on the site that is logical and easily accessible to users. Whether that be on the blog, in a separate resource or FAQ section or all of the above. A thorough content calendar should include this information and - whether it is at this stage or a later stage - a suggested URL too as well as any horizontal links to and from other content on the page.

For off-page content, it is likely that before the agency puts an idea to you they have thought about sites that might be interested in hosting. So ask them. It is unlikely that they will be able to guarantee placements at this stage – but they should be able to give you an idea of the types of sites they intend to approach if not the specific sites themselves.

At Zazzle Media, knowing where a client's target audience hang out online is something that is essential in understanding where we should be placing content as part of our strategy. Global Web Index data can shed light on where our target audience are online, and therefore the types of sites we should be targeting. Below is an example of where Zazzle Media’s target audience might be.


The data above shows us that Zazzle Media’s example target audience engage with content on vlogs, social media, the digital press, blogger sites and brand websites. This immediately gives us a direction as to where our content efforts should go and your agency should be able to give you similar insights.

5. Why do I need different content types?

Incorporating different content types into your content strategy is what we refer to as content flow – which you can read more about here.


Content flow helps maintain the engagement of users on your site and is most important for a brand’s on-page blog space and social media platforms.

When explaining this to our clients we use the example of a magazine to really encourage the understanding of content flow. If you envisage flicking through your favourite magazine, you'll see a number of different article types, usually starting with some shorter, bite-sized pieces followed by perhaps a four or five page feature including lots of text and imagery. Having this variation of content enables the reader to remain concentrated and engaged in the magazine. The same principle applies online - excellently put in our ebook from earlier this year, here.

In content ‘hubs’ such as social media pages or blog/news sections of your site, this is especially important. Content flow in terms of both content type and topic ensures your content platforms remain organic as opposed to spammy and is going to improve engagement on these platforms significantly.

6. Why doesn’t the content target the personas?

In theory, if your agency is presenting you with content ideas or titles that don’t target your personas, it should definitely be questioned. Despite the objective of the piece, if it is not relevant to your target audience then, arguably, it shouldn’t be created.

There are, as with most things, exceptions to this and mostly with off-page content. Personas only represent a cross section of your target audience and if there is a big HERO campaign that has the potential to go viral then although it might not specifically target the personas you have created, it should reach and resonate with them in some way or another.

Often with off-page content, one of its aims is to broaden reach and awareness for the brand in question which in turn goes further than an existing audience.

A great example of this was done by Fairmont Hotels on The Decline of Bees. This piece is not especially relevant to Fairmont’s target audience who, initiative would tell us, are luxury holiday makers, but rather appeals to a much wider audience. This piece performed well across the web, acquiring 71 backlinks and 29 referring domains, raising brand awareness for the Fairmont brand and reaching out to a much broader audience.

With on-page content, whether the specific pieces are rooted in search or being created with the objective of building links, it should be relevant and of interest to your target audience. On-page content should drive a relevant and qualified audience to your site, whether they are at the top or the bottom of the purchase funnel.

7. What keyword is this targeting?

When creating on-page content that targets keywords, what we are really doing is leveraging the search potential of that term as a promotion tactic for the content.

Any good agency will be able to provide you with an on-page content calendar for both hygiene and hub content that not only includes the primary keywords targeted, but secondary too. It may be, however, that there is a piece of content included in the calendar that isn’t born from search, but rather engagement for your target audience and therefore doesn’t target any particular keywords. This is fine, but there must be an alternative promotion tactic in place, whether that be paid social or acquiring links from sites that they are confident will earn your site referral traffic.


With off-page content, the SEO benefit comes from links and brand mentions, as opposed to targeting keywords. Therefore, you shouldn't be surprised if keywords are not provided to you for off-page content.

8. How do we target keywords in content?

Typically, there are a number of things we would ensure happens within a piece of on-page content to target the correct keywords in the right way. Our checklist is below:

  • Include it in the H1
  • Include it in H2/H3, as and when it fits naturally
  • Include it once within the introduction paragraph as long as it is natural – which it should be if the title is a good one!
  • Include the keyword in any image title names and also in the image alt text
  • It is also a good idea to include it and/or variations of it occasionally through the rest of the blog post. Again, as long as it is natural to do so


The key to success with this is including the keywords naturally. Old, black hat, keyword cramming is not the way forward and you will be penalised for it by Google. There is a fine line between optimised for search and too keyword dense for optimum search results.

With category content, similar rules to the above apply:

  • Mention the key word in the H1
  • Mention the key word once in the body text

Any more that than that and due to the typical short length of category content, the text will be over-optimised for the relevant search term and therefore be penalised by Google. Not only this, but text that crams keywords is poor for user experience as it tends to make little sense and is very repetitive.

If you are keen to read more about how to use keywords in your content, then download The Ultimate Guide To Blogging For Your Brand – Chapter Six should answer all of your questions!

9. Why are these listed as our competitors?

When compiling a content strategy, competitor analysis is essential. When presenting this to clients in the past we have been asked, ‘why have you chosen this competitor?’ or told ‘these brands aren’t our competitors.’

What is important to learn here is that there is a difference between commercial competitors and organic content competitors.

Although both are important when it comes to creating a successful content strategy, it is organic content competitors that we use to have a look at top performing content in the industry and what we need to do for our clients in terms of strategy to be competitive in terms of both search and audience.

It is commercial competitors, however, that we would use to establish the volume of content we need to create as mentioned in the first point of this post.

For more on this, and how to find out who your organic content competitors are, see a previous post I wrote here.

10. How should content look?

This is a great question. Content marketing isn’t just about the words on a page but the way that they are presented. Here we need to be thinking about user experience and engagement.

Long walls of text are not engaging for users, even if what the text is saying is relevant and interesting. There should be clear headers within the text, what we refer to as H1, H2 and so on, which, as mentioned before, are great keyword targeting tools too.

Wherever possible it is great to include lists, bullet points and charts within on-page content. You should always be looking for the clearest possible way to present what it is you are trying to say. This is also a great way to optimise your content for featured snippets or as Moz has previously coined it, ‘position 0’.

Including images within blog posts is also a great way of breaking up walls of text and the same goes for multimedia. Videos and gifs encourage the user to keep reading and engaging with the content as well as appealing to those of your target audience that engage best with varying types of content within the same piece.

Take a recent post on the Zazzle Media blog, for example:


Within this piece not only are there H1s, H2s and H3s, there are also images and videos too. This breaks the 1,800 words of text up into digestible chunks for the reader and the H2s allow the reader to navigate their way through the post, pulling out the points that are most relevant or interesting to them.

Then imagine this piece without any of those elements:


It is an intimidating long wall of text that requires complete and utter concentration from the reader for the whole 10-15 minutes it would take them to get through it. Any distraction - as there often is for our audience as they read in the office, on their commute or in the busy family home - would make it difficult to find their place in the post and as a result they are more than likely going to give up on it, perhaps never to return again.


You should now have a content strategy/plan for your site! As you can see, there are many things to consider but following the above steps will output something that will help you engage with your users in all stages of the user journey.

If you have any questions or you are looking for some advice, feel free to comment below or tweet me at @SamUnderwoodUK.

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