Annually, or even semi-annually, one expert or another will come out with an article telling us all that content marketing is dead, inbound marketing does not matter, and content is no longer king. This could not be further from the truth. Content is what ranks most in Google searches, and as long as links help determine authority and ranking, content marketing matters a lot.

However, without a cohesive and comprehensive strategy, content marketing can feel like throwing darts blindly at a wall, and that’s because it is. You need to know your target market, have goals that cross departments, and use analytics to figure out what is working and what isn’t. Here are some actionable tips to developing a cohesive content marketing strategy:

Determine Where You Are Now

Fortunately for all of us in the content marketing game, we have more data now than we’ve ever had before. Using analytics goes beyond Google and WordPress data to things like social listening, enterprise data, industry data, and more.

All of this can be fed into models that will inform you and your content strategy. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Search Engine Ranking: Where do you rank in key search engine queries for your business type and niche?
  • Organic Traffic: How many people are visiting your site for the first time each month? How many return visitors do you have?
  • Engagement: Who is engaging with your content on your site and your social media profiles? Where do they live? How old are they? When do they engage most often?
  • Referrals: Where is your traffic for your site coming from? Are they social media referrals? Search? Where is your content most popular?
  • Bounce Rate: What content has the highest bounce rate? Can it be revised or repurposed to reduce those rates?

One of the key questions you can ask yourself and your team is if the people engaging with your content match your marketing persona(s). Are those who are interacting with your content the most the audience you are targeting? If not, there are a couple of potential reasons.

The first is that your persona is wrong. Those who are interested in your product or service may not be who you thought they were. As a result, you may need to revise your marketing persona and reset your targeting.

On the other hand, your targeting could just be wrong. You could be aiming at one audience but actually reaching another. This may mean you need to revise your marketing plan and targeting efforts.

How do you tell which it is? Through analytics. If your bounce rates are high and conversion rates are low, you are reaching the wrong audience. If your bounce rates are low and conversion rates are reasonable or high, you are reaching the right audience and need to revise your persona.

Once you determine where you are now, including your search engine ranking, organic traffic, the engagement and referrals you have, and what your bounce rate is, you can determine where you want to go next

Set Some Goals

Where do you want your site to go from here, and what do you want to rank for? How much business increase would you like to see? How would you like to better engage potential customers? What would you like bounce rates and conversion rates to be?

These are all goals, but setting them the wrong way can put your feet on the wrong path and can also cause extreme disappointment when you don’t reach them. Here are some tips for setting reasonable content marketing goals:

  • Choose an Area of Focus: Don’t try to rank for everything in your niche at one time. Choose the most important keywords and phrases, and work to rank well for those first.
  • Use Your Analytics: Analytics tell you where you are now. Predictive analytics tell you where you might go if you keep doing what you are doing, and they can even predict what may happen if you change tactics. Use all the data you have to determine where you could go and shape that journey.
  • Give Yourself Time: A true content marketing strategy takes time to work if done correctly. Ranking #1 in Google for your keywords in four weeks is not realistic. Be reasonable about what you are going after.
  • Coordinate With Other Departments: What areas does sales have goals in? What kind of volume can production keep up with? Do you have a cornerstone product you need to emphasize? Coordinating with other departments can help enhance their efforts and yours by working toward the same goals.

These things may all sound pretty basic, but they are often forgotten when chasing a Google ranking or an inbound marketing victory. Make sure that the goals you are achieving match the company goals and message. If the message on a landing page does not coordinate with that of your content, a prospective customer may leave and never come back. Content and organic page optimization is vital to driving landing page conversions.

As with any other goal-setting efforts, set milestones along the way and track your progress regularly. Checking your Google ranking every day may not be useful, but charting it weekly can be helpful for determining if your strategy is working.

The purpose of goal setting is to make sure you are hitting what you are aiming for. If your focus shifts, set new goals accordingly. When you do this on a regular basis, your content strategy will be much more effective.

Get Organized

Just like a customer relationship management (CRM) system helps you keep leads organized, you need a way to keep your content marketing strategy organized and on track. Most often this involves setting up a project management software apart from your CRM. That being said, not all project management tools are right for every situation. Here are some things to consider before choosing a new software:

  • Does it meet your goals and needs? What do you want your software to do for you, and what goals do you have? Does the software you are choosing enhance your ability to do those things?
  • Is it scalable? When your content marketing team grows, will the program grow with it, or will you need to replace it? A scalable program enables you to hire and expand without making major changes, and it makes it possible for you to add other department users for collaboration purposes.
  • Is it easy to use? The lower the learning curve, the less time you will spend training employees on how to use your software.
  • Is it flexible? If you are going to add new team members, you may not want them to have access to every aspect of your software or see every project. The more flexible the software is, the more permissions you can control, the better it will work for implementing your content strategy.

Selecting a software is just the first step to getting organized. Within that software, you need an editorial calendar, a content calendar, and a set schedule for creating and sharing content.

While being organized is vital to content marketing success, so is being nimble. Don’t become so entrenched in following your plan that you don’t respond well to changes in Google, shifts in content trends, and more.

Developing a cohesive marketing strategy is a vital part of inbound marketing success. It will take time and effort to determine where you are now, set goals, and get organized, but in the long run all of that effort will be worth it.