In recent years, content marketing has become the go-to strategy for generating a positive ROI. Why? It (usually) requires a modest budget, and yields significant results. But as the sheer volume of online content continues to blow up, businesses are looking for ways to find an edge with their content marketing strategies.

Don’t get us wrong: the demand for quality content remains high and the value of a lead primed for a sale insurmountable. But a robust content marketing strategy should make the most of every piece of content — heck, even every word. Check out seven steps, based on loads of my own successes and failures, to ensure you maximize results and keep readers eager to consume your output.

1. Research Your Audience

Researching your audience is a solid first step, no matter the type of marketing effort. Take a look at the type of people buying products from you. Who’s joining your email list? Reading your blog? Where do they live? How old are they? The most common way to go about this is to develop customer avatars or buyer personas. Using analytics and survey results, you can define  your typical customer — and then move onto how to attract more of them with your content.

2. Analyze What Is Working

It’s 2019. Data is everywhere. Rather than just relying on a gut feeling, look at what your competitors are currently doing. You can utilize a number of tools that will highlight the most popular content in a certain niche, for a particular keyword, or on a specific platform (this Moz, Google Trends, scraping tools, etc.). This research will often signal what content is working, while also indicating areas that don’t get high levels of engagement.

3. Build Your Content Plan

Planning ahead ensures you have a long-term schedule for content creation and distribution — and holds you accountable for hitting firm deadlines. Whether you’re working with a team or with freelancers, a content calendar will keep everyone working in sync.

4. Determine Your Primary Content Channels

With any well thought-out content plan, comes a well thought-out distribution plan. Different types of content will suit different platforms by nature, so some concepts may need to be tweaked and adapted for a particular site. You may, for example, have a concept that can be adapted for text or video and plan to distribute via YouTube and the blog. Your earlier research will also help you decide which platforms will get the best results, using factors like shares, comments, and likes to determine best practices.

5. Create the Content

While you may occasionally have a totally unique piece of content in mind, most niches have a number of broad concepts that are discussed. Thus, your approach is what will make you stand out. If you are trying to rank on Google, start by looking at the top results for your target search terms and brainstorm how to improve on the existing offerings. Search engines generally want to offer the best quality content to users, whether that involves more detail, an engaging point of view, a combination of media types, or an updated take based on current news.

6. Publish and Promote

Content marketing is most effective when you publish the right type of content, in the right place, at the right time. When you hit all three points, consumers should be easily primed to take the next step towards a sale. This requires you to develop a network for promotion, including a number of social media sites and a number of partners to promote your posts.

7. Assess Results and Optimize for Future Campaigns

Content marketing is an ongoing process, with each campaign helping to grow your data and knowledge. Have a number of goals in mind before you even start so you can consistently track results against them as you go. You may consider goals like social likes and shares, website visitors, and new leads or sales.

So why go to all the trouble to launch a content marketing strategy? Engaging potential customers with content gives them the chance to get to know your brand before purchasing, inevitably making them more likely to make that purchase. While many other forms of advertising are struggling, with online consumers reluctant to engage with ads, quality content continues to work. If you can develop a system to ensure your content is top-notch and distributed in places where people pay attention, you can expect a high ROI on your marketing spend.

Need help with your content marketing strategy? StackMedia is your solution. Find out more here.