Senior Content Marketer at Codeless. His content has been featured on HubSpot, Shopify Enterprise, Kissmetrics, AdEspresso, BigCommerce, and many others.
Posts are becoming more information dense.
Images are becoming more applicable.
Walkthroughs more intuitive.
Keywords more natural.
No longer are the days of launching your content out into the ether and watching the sheep flock through the gates.
Content needs purpose, optimization, and most importantly, objective and actionable goals.
Without it? Your content is gonna flop. Hard.
Here’s how to develop a unique content strategy framework that doesn’t suck.
Key Components of an Effective Content Marketing Framework Plan
It’s easy to read any number of clickbait headlines proclaiming that content marketing grew a business by 10,000% in a week and start pumping out content.
Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it still serves my point.
Content without direction is merely another page that only Google crawlers will see.
Before blogging was saturated to no end, producing some posts on anything would net you traffic.
Now? Not a chance.
Content needs a laser-like focus to bring success. And that requires a custom content marketing framework.
What exactly is a content strategy framework?
In short, it’s a structured plan of attack on how you will go about creating content, why you’ll be creating it, for whom you will be creating it, and how it factors into the buying process.
Key components of an effective content framework are:
- Clear cut audiences
- Understanding user behavior, touchpoints, and flow
- Funnel stages
- Content to match all of that!
But do you really need a framework plan? Yes. Yes, you do.
Is just putting content ideas on a calendar sufficient? Not even close.
Why You Need a Content Strategy Framework Yesterday
Most businesses that start to create content do it in-house.
They test it out and give this whole content deal the old college try.
I mean, content is king, right? Better get to writing!
They read HubSpot’s benchmarks and see that 16 blog posts a month are a good start.
While that’s higher than most can produce from the ground up or at the startup stages of content creation, they still start to generate content, a definite step in the right direction.
But generic, simple content that most create isn’t going to do anything.
Good content isn’t good enough anymore.
Not when millions of posts get published daily.
Not when top SERP spot holders have thousands more links than you:
Think you’ll get 3.3k inbound links from 1.4k domains to overtake them? Not if your content isn’t 10x better than theirs.
The top organic SERP position holders (1-5) are capturing 90% (or more) of the attention. So if landing a page one SERP spot is your goal, it’s still not “good enough.”
Beyond that, most content usually has no focus.
What’s the goal? The plan? The timeline? Non-existent.
What purpose does each piece serve in the greater goal of growing sales?
How do the pieces connect and serve to drive action from TOFU to BOFU and every micro-moment in between?
A content strategy framework is essential to prepare for these inevitable epiphanies. Unless you want to waste the next six months creating content that nobody sees. Unless you enjoy your boss breathing down your neck asking why he’s paying your salary to generate 10 views a month with a 99% bounce rate.
Now, here is how to do it.
Set Goals, Subgoals, Sub-Sub-Goals, and Then Do It Again.
Content marketing is a pretty diverse landscape.
Depending on your business goals, content can serve countless purposes from brand awareness to closing deals and every step in between.
Everybody wants their content to drive sales, but that’s not an actionable goal.
How do you accomplish that goal now?
You need a subgoal and sub-sub-goals and so-on.
You need goals for your goals for your goals.
Instead of looking at content as a black and white issue of generating traffic or sales, think of goals in terms of inputs and outputs.
Start by listing off specific outputs, or end-goals, for your content. Highly-specific, actionable things like:
- Increasing blog traffic by 10%
- Increase social shares to 50/month
- Decrease bounce rates by 10% next month
- Increase conversions from TOFU blog posts to lead magnets by 5%
These are actionable, specific outputs that you can build a framework around.
Nadya Khoja has written an article on her content strategy that provides an overview of how to figure out what content to write that will achieve a range of different goals.
If your current goal list consists of:
- Increase sales
- Get more traffic
- Post more
Delete that and start listing out actionable items that are realistically achievable in a given time-frame.
The key with content marketing frameworks is placing everything in a real timeline.
If your goal is to increase traffic, that’s overall pretty easy: just post more, and you’ll probably get a bit more traffic.
But if you want to grow 10% in the next month, you need specific inputs to go along with it.
Start breaking down each goal into subgoals, inputs, and outputs:
Goal: Increase blog traffic by 10% in the next 30 days
Input 1: Develop XX more blog posts on XX high volume topics
Output 1: Generate 5% more traffic or 500 more visits in the next 30 days
Input 2: Amplify social sharing strategy with cheap social ads ($10 /day ad spend)
Output 2: XX more social shares generating XX visits/week, an XX% increase
Result: Increased blog traffic by XX% in 30 days
So, how do you figure out what inputs are required to achieve desired outputs?
By doing a bit of research on your current traffic levels. In Google Analytics, look at your current monthly traffic:
Sort your report by organic visits and set the date comparison range to “Last 30 days” (or whatever your timeline goal is).
“Sessions” is the traffic you are currently generating from organic search each month.
Is your goal to increase that by 10%? That means you’ll need 189 more sessions next month, totaling 2,083 visits.
Knowing that, take a look at what content pieces are bringing in the most traffic.
This gives you a clear picture of what a single content piece might do for your traffic in a month.
Only need 189 more visitors? According to the example data above, you probably just need one more kick-ass blog post as each is generating over 200 a month.
Now you know your required input for this month (a kick-ass blog post) and the expected output (189+ visits).
Now get back to the drawing board and do it all over again for each end-goal you listed earlier.
Yep, it’s tedious and brutal. Worth it? You know the answer already.
Content Without the Right Audience Is Just Content
Know your audience!
You’ve probably heard that tiresome marketing/sales phrase thrown around hundreds of times.
Personas, bios, the works.
When it comes to content, the audience is a significant factor.
But it goes way beyond knowing your customer demographics.
That’s child’s play.
If you are looking to scale growth, you need to focus more on content audience.
Getting lost in the weeds of “24-45 years old” and “likes fishing on the weekends” is setting you back.
I mean seriously, that’s great that they like to fish, but that ain’t got squat to do with your list posts.
Don’t get me wrong, demographics and ideal customer profiles are great for selling. But trying to craft every content piece around them is a waste of time.
Instead, you should be focusing on creating content that your audience actually cares to spend their time reading.
Some key questions to ask yourself in development of a content audience are:
- Are you talking to beginners in your space or are they topic experts looking for insanely actionable, high-level posts? I.e., can you blog about simple head terms or does your audience and product level require some in-depth long-tail mega posts?
- Does the content you already produce or want to produce relate to what you sell? I.e., are you blogging about Facebook PPC strategies when you sell organic social tools? Or are you blogging about travel gear while selling travel gear? The latter will be far more impactful.
- Does talking about topic X make users interested in your services? I.e., are you solving all of their problems for free or presenting value and tools to guide them on their journey from awareness to a decision?
For example, take a look at Search Engine Journal. If someone new to SEO stumbled on their site, they’d probably be shakin’ in their boots:
Why? The content isn’t meant for a noob. It’s for well-seasoned experts looking to take their performance to another level or squeeze every last percent of performance from their plan.
Touching on point #2, AdEspresso is a prime example of producing content that actually relates to what they sell:
If their customer segments ain’t interested, they ain’t writing it.
On the last point, does the content you make segue naturally into your services?
Would an SEO guide help you sell your products, or does it just sound nice because it has 300,000 searches a month?
After you’ve listed out your boring demographics and personas, you can dive into the meat and potatoes:
Focus on crucial audience factors like experience level, relation to company products and common pain points (which will differ vastly at experience levels), and more.
Audit Your Existing Content and Analytics First
It’s tempting to jump from “my audience wants information on technical SEO only” to writing dozens of posts on the subject and calling it a content plan.
But you don’t really know what your audience wants. Not unless you’ve spoken to them and directly asked.
And more often than not, they don’t wanna tell you or take the time out of their day.
An easy way to assess what resonates is to audit your current content.
Use Analytics to see which pages produce more and better traffic based on your KPIs:
For instance, carefully look at dwell time metrics like bounce rate and time on site.
While TOFU blog content naturally will have higher bounce rates, average times on page can tell you a lot.
If people are spending nearly 10 minutes on average reading your post, it’s a sign that your content is captivating them.
This data is a good start, but it’s not complete.
You need to know what your loyal readers like. Returning customers. Not just the looky-loos window shopping your tactics.
Use the New vs. Returning report under “Audience” in Google Analytics. Sort your secondary dimension to “Page” to see what pages your returning visitors are browsing:
Now analyze those same dwell time metrics, like:
- Bounce rate
- Session duration
This should shed some light on what specific posts and topics your regular readers enjoy.
But don’t stop there.
If you have on-site search enabled, which you 100% should have for your blog (at least), you can utilize Google’s on-site search keyword report:
This is a goldmine of terms that your readers are actively looking for.
Don’t have existing content for some of the searches shown?
Eureka! You just discovered gold in the form of easy topics to write about that your audience is practically salivating over.
Use on-site search topics to help develop your content plan and even understand the level of technicality that your audience is looking for.
Then Develop User Flows and Touchpoints to Form Your Framework
Auditing is a significant step in the development of a good content framework plan.
Beyond it, you need to start developing a tangible framework with journey-esque steps.
A good start would be analyzing your existing user flow and common touchpoints in the buying process.
For example, when looking at our user flow on Analytics, I noticed we have a pretty common user flow:
And then finally, they engage with our “Get Started” CTA:
This is a prime example of our content marketing framework plan in action.
You can’t expect to land clients, sales, or customers with a single post. Not even two, three, or four.
You have to structure loads of unique, high-quality content that’s structured for multiple stages of a user journey.
Speaking of unique content…
Fill Your Framework Plan With Unique Content
Like I said earlier, content is only improving and exceeding what it did last week, month, and year.
Generic content won’t fly anymore.
Domain authorities of 80+ dominate even your coveted long-tail phrases with peewee league volume.
This ain’t AAA ball. It’s the majors.
For your framework to pan out as planned, you’ll need content that goes above and beyond daily SERP results or even “evergreen listicles.”
It might sound mythical, but this type of content actually exists on dozens of sites in the marketing space right now.
Posts like Brian Dean’s skyscraper….
These are examples of content that can make a huge impact on your business.
Where most go wrong is immediately trying to copy it.
Sure, the skyscraper technique was a massive success for Brian. But that doesn’t mean it will work for you.
And now, years after he first posted it? Probably won’t do much of anything to get you links unless you write in a space with almost zero content.
Content like those examples above made waves at the respective sites because they were unique.
So merely doing them on your own is counterintuitive.
But they touch on some great markers of what stellar content is today:
- Highly engaging: a success story that motivates through storytelling.
- Shareable: clickbait potential while still delivering results.
- Linkbait: studies, insane growth = links, links, and more links.
- Unique: these haven’t been done before like your standard listicle.
So, what’s that piece of unique content for you? Something that shifts the status quo in your niche. A landmark study, an unconventional way to deliver results, a David and Goliath story where you put your own business on the line.
So, where do you start? Where do you find these ideas?
By tapping into funnel stage pain points.
Segment Content Ideas for Funnel Stage Pain Points
Depending on the funnel stage of leads visiting your site, pain points can vary widely.
For example, someone searching for “social scheduling tips” is clearly in the awareness stage, just starting their searching history on the topic.
Their pain points likely center around finding good ways to consistently publish on social media.
On the other hand, someone searching for “social scheduling tool with custom modifiers and segmented audience targeting” is closer to the bottom of the funnel with dramatically different pain points centering around bad tools they’ve used in the past.
To engage prospects at each stage, you’ll need unique content at each step.
Refer back to your user flow that you analyzed in Analytics.
Start from the first point of contact that you notice:
You need lower level, entry content to bring people through the door.
Then you need to layer that in with content that ramps up in skill level to bring your new reader up to speed and continually address pain points as they shift in the buying cycle.
Only then can you include salesy CTAs: when they are on the cusp of buying.
This will drive them to your work and ultimately to engage the onboarding process.
Take your user flow and a good ol’ spreadsheet to establish a realistic journey. Fill out each stage that you want users to hit with content tailored to common pain points:
By segmenting your content like this, you can quickly bring newly aware visitors into deeper funnel stages.
For example, by linking out to more advanced content at the end of each post in a given stage will bring their journey from awareness to consideration faster:
Remember my user flow example? That image above is a screenshot of suggested content at the end of our blogging stats post.
According to the user flow, most people jump straight into stealing content ideas with Link Explorer.
Tailor your suggested content at the end of each post in a given stage to link to content in the proceeding stage.
Now, take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back.
You made it.
You’ve got a unique content framework that:
- Outlines critical steps in the customer journey
- Is tailored to your returning readers and at ramping up new readers
- Has goals, subgoals, and accurate inputs required to achieve their outputs
- Uses keywords, topics, and existing posts to inform your next content breakthrough
- Has a segmented content plan to ultimately convert traffic
Content without a framework plan is like sailing without….well, a sail.
You’re left to end up wherever the current takes you, good or bad.
You may end up on a deserted island or on a white sand beach in Mexico, beer in hand.
Without one, chances are it’s the former. No traffic, no sales, and no growth.
Developing a framework plan can feel tiresome and (honestly) downright boring.
And that’s because it is.
But a few months from now when your content turns thousands of readers into brand supporters and real people giving you real dolla dolla bills, you’ll be thankful that you put in the work.