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What is content strategy?

Updated: Jan 30

Content strategy is the development of a plan, so that you can then create content that meets specific business goals.

Think of it like the ingredients and recipe for a smoothie, but not the smoothie itself.

Of course, there's a bit more to it than that.

As an award-winning entrepreneur and content strategist, people often ask me what I do. So in order to make it super easy for you to understand, I've answered some common questions around content strategy so you can better understand what one is, and when and why you might need to hire one.

So let's get straight to it!

1) How do you define content strategy?

A content strategy is any plan whereby you use content to achieve your business goals, whatever they may be.

Content within a strategy can be in any form: it is not limited to website content, written word, images, or video. It can, and should, be a mixture of different types of content.

A successful content strategy will achieve business goals at every stage of the customer journey, and the end result will be an increase in customers and revenue for your business.

2) What are the 3 components of content strategy?

At the heart of content strategy is the customer. In order to develop a strong content strategy, the first thing you need to do is make sure you understand who your customer is, and their intentions when they come across your content.

As with most marketing these days, there are generally three stages to content marketing. These are:

  • Top of funnel, or cold audiences These are generally people who are new to your brand. At this stage, it's fairly uncommon for them to convert to sales. At this stage, you want to introduce them to your brand, and pique their interest sufficiently that they move to the next stage. This won't be everyone.

  • Middle funnel, or warm audiences. This group may be aware of your brand but aren't yet ready to purchase or convert to a sale. They become your warm leads.

  • Bottom of funnel, or hot audience. These are the audiences who have expressed most interest in your brand, and who are most likely to convert to customers.

Your content strategy should contain content for audiences at each step of the user journey, and your message should be adjusted for each different level of interest.

3) What are the 4 steps of content strategy?

Every content strategist will have developed their own process for creating and delivering a content strategy.

These are the steps I take my clients through when working on a content strategy project:

  1. Understand the brand. What is already in place? What is the message?

  2. Development and clarification of the message.

  3. Build wireframes and generate copy.

  4. Create marketing funnel to convert customers to consume your content.

You will see a similar pattern with almost any content strategy project, although the stages may have different names.

The first two steps are where a content strategist adds the most value. It's in the design of your customer journey and messaging.

I personally generally work with people building websites, but that isn't always the case. Content strategy applies in all forms of marketing, and is usually one of the very first pieces of the puzzle you need to put in place when developing a brand.

4) What is the purpose of content strategy?

The purpose of having a content strategy will be different depending on your goals.

Some content strategy projects aim to generate brand awareness. Others might be to generate leads, e.g. getting someone from your social media pages to your website (so that you can then retarget them with ads).

All content strategy has the ultimate goal of increasing sales, but in the same way that an advertising campaign in isolation won't generate sales, a content strategy on its own will need appropriate support in order to generate sales.

All businesses need a robust marketing funnel in order to ensure any 'hot' leads are handled appropriately. This might be in the form of a sales call, or social media presence, paid advertising, or email marketing funnel. Your content strategy can line up the leads for you, but you need to be sure the rest of your business can convert the hot leads to sales.

5) Why do content strategies fail?

Not all content strategies work. When that happens, the most common reason is because you haven't properly understood your target audience's intent or interests when they're consuming your content.

You have to approach people in a very different way when they're browsing on social media, vs. LinkedIn, vs searching for something in Google.

You also have to bear in mind where someone is in their journey with your company and experience of your content. What works well with hot audiences will often not work well with cold audiences.

An experienced content strategist can help ensure that you place the appropriate level of content in front of your audience at the right moment, but there should always been room for experimentation, and learning within any content strategy, and there should always be a plan in place to implement incremental improvements.

6) Is content strategy part of SEO?

In the online world, SEO and Content Strategy exist hand in hand. You shouldn't develop a content strategy without considering SEO impact, and you shouldn't develop a content strategy without ensuring it is optimized for SEO.

It isn't always easy to balance the two, but with a bit of creative thinking, there is always a way! (I've never had a situation where a bit of ingenuity couldn't solve a problem.)

If you are optimizing your website for SEO, before you start making any changes to your content, you should ensure you have a robust content strategy in place. Your SEO strategy will certainly influence your content strategy, but just targeting keywords without reference to the brand voice and business goals of the content will deliver unsatisfactory results both for the business and the end user, so it's very important to consider these two things alongside one another at all times.

7) What is content strategy vs content marketing?

As a general rule, you can't do any content marketing until you have a content strategy. And the stronger your content strategy, the stronger your content marketing will be.

Content Strategy is the thought and planning that goes into delivering a campaign. It's the piece of work that sets the specific goals, boundaries, and guidance in order to brief another part of the team to generate content that will meet those goals.

Think of this as the smoothie ingredients and the recipe.

Content Marketing is the implementation and execution of the content strategy. A good content marketer should be able to take instruction from a set of content strategy documents provided by a content strategist, and turn this into a meaningful marketing campaign, across as many platforms as necessary, in order to deliver the business results required of the overall project.

Think of this as the making of the smoothie. Content Marketing delivers your end result (the smoothie).

Content Strategy and Content Marketing go hand in hand. In large businesses or agencies, you'll often find separate job roles or teams for each of these functions, but you also often find freelancers who do both content strategy and content marketing. This often works well as it ensures faithfulness to a content strategy (who better to implement it than the person who wrote it?), it just depends on the needs of your business.

8) How do I hire a content strategist?

There are lots of places to look for content strategists. A good place to start is LinkedIn. You will find lots of highly qualified Content Strategists on there.

Lots of creative agencies hire Content Strategists, so if you want to speak to someone, the best thing to do is to find someone who you feel understands your brand, your target customer, and the customer journey, and who has experience generating sales for similar audiences, and/or experience and expertise in your field.

The single most important thing when hiring a content strategist is to figure out how well they understand your target customer. And the really good ones? They'll understand them almost as well as you do (sometimes even better!).

9) How do we work together?

Thanks for taking the time to stop by my site! If you liked this article, here's how you can get lots more free SEO and content stuff from me...


My name's Claire and I’m an SEO and content strategy expert. I help startups and ambitious businesses improve their content, so that customers can find your website in search, and so that when they do, they convert.

I’m a former startup CEO, and I’ve worked for some of the world’s biggest publishers (Penguin Random House, Oxford University Press), as well as training with Google's in-house SEO team. I even built a website to attract 45k in organic search visitors/month. Drop me a line if you need help of any kind with SEO and content.


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