What Is Content Strategy? + How to Create Yours

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover what goes into a content strategy, why it’s important, and how to start building one for your business.

[Featured image] A marketing team sits at a wooden table discussing content strategy. Some are working on tablets, laptops, and notebooks.

A content strategy is a roadmap guiding all of your content marketing efforts, from the individual pieces of content you create and publish, to how you design content for different stages of the buyer’s journey. Your content strategy can be included in a more comprehensive marketing strategy and should align with your business goals.

A content strategy creates the opportunity to:

  • Organise your library of existing content

  • Produce new content more efficiently

  • Attract target customers and engage them throughout all stages of the buyer’s journey

  • Educate and serve your audience more effectively

  • Become an authority in your niche

  • Spend your marketing budget more effectively

  • Coordinate your paid advertising and organic content

How to create a content strategy

The following instructions offer a step-by-step guide to help you to develop your content strategy.

1. Identify your content goals.

Your content strategy is most effective when it’s based on clear, specific, measurable outcome-oriented goals to guide your team. You can use SMART to help you communicate these goals to your team—Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely.

Here are some examples to draw from:

  • Generate 50 per cent more qualified leads in 90 days.

  • Double the number of social media followers in 60 days.

  • Get 100 new email subscribers in 30 days.

2. Create content marketing personas.

A content marketing persona is similar to a buyer persona in that it’s a fictional representation of a target customer that you can use to guide your content creation process. Developing personas can make it easier to reflect on target customers’ needs and how the specifics of your content can meet those needs.

Here, you’ll review (or begin) your market research and any buyer personas you’ve created, and add details that address how your target customers consume content. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What are the demographics and psychographics of your target customers?

  • How do target customers search for information, including internet searches or scrolling social media?

  • What hashtags, search terms, and keywords do they use to narrow their searches?

  • What sources of information do they trust?

  • Which marketing channels do your target customers use the most, including social media, email, and offline channels?

  • What types of content do they engage with the most? How do they engage?

  • What actions do they take when engaging with content?

  • What’s their preferred method of communication?

3. Refine your SEO practices.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving your website and its content to increase its visibility. SEO includes the strategic development and structuring of content, use of search queries (or keywords), adjustments to your site’s source code, and more for the purpose of ensuring that your site ranks high in a search engine result page (SERP).

Explore the following tactics to optimise your website, create effective content, and generate more organic traffic:

  • Consider using SEO tools such as SEMRush, Ahrefs, or Moz to gather data such as search engine results pages (SERPs), keywords, and high-performing headlines across the web.

  • Discover and analyse high-volume keywords that your target audience would use to find products like yours and that you’ll build content around. For example, if you have an online maths tutoring business, relevant keywords might include “online maths tutors” or “online maths tutoring.” If you sell graphic T-shirts, relevant keywords might include “graphic t-shirts” or “women's graphic t-shirts.”

  • Discover searchers’ intent for each keyword. Are they searching for information in general, to learn more about a brand, to find a specific website, or to make a purchase? When you know searcher intent, you can design content to satisfy that intent and therefore establish your content (and brand) as authoritative, trustworthy, and relevant.

  • Review search engine result page details. What kinds of content do top-ranking articles produce? What do these content creators do well? What opportunities exist to produce better content?

4. Analyse your competitors’ content.

Evaluating your competitors’ content can help reveal industry standards and opportunities to create fresh content that fills gaps and serves customers.

  • Where do competitors publish content, including websites, landing pages, social media platforms, and email newsletters?

  • How do followers and subscribers engage with this content?

  • What topic areas do competitors cover?

  • What type of content do you see, including articles, social media posts, videos, ebooks, reports, and short-form content?

  • What pain points does this content solve?

  • What topics and customer pain points can you cover that your competitors don’t?

  • What fresh approaches can you take to generating content that exceeds industry standards?

5. Audit your content library.

Along with examining competitors’ content and identifying gaps you can fill, review your own library of published, drafted, or planned content for opportunities to improve. Explore the following:

  • What are your highest- and lowest-performing content pieces across platforms?

  • What new pieces of content can you develop from high-performing content?

  • How does your audience engage with content on each of your marketing channels?

  • Of your drafted or planned content, which pieces could you prioritise, delay, or eliminate entirely based on your goals?

6. Design a content-focused customer journey.

In this step, your goal is to create content that will guide customers through each stage of the buyer’s journey. Important questions to consider include:

  • What do customers need at each stage?

  • What are the touchpoints at each stage?

  • What kind of content will best serve customers at each touchpoint?

  • How will each content piece help you achieve your content goals?

The example below offers a guide for laying out your content-focused customer journey: 

Buyer’s journey stagesTouchpointsContent
AwarenessSocial media posts; blog articles in SERPsCommon challenges target audience faces and ways to address them; common pre-purchase concerns; infographics, videos, quizzes
ConsiderationSocial media; landing pages optimised for email capture (lead magnets); emailLead magnets; welcome packs; emails that educate subscribers
Purchase decisionEmail; sales and product pages; social media; in-app checkout; digital and social media adsEmails with promotions, deals, and offers; sales copy that includes benefits of products, testimonials, and how to purchase
RetentionEmail; social media pages; private social media groups; mobile apps; community forums; eventsHow to get the most out of product experience; upsells to other products and subscriptions; invitations to events
LoyaltySocial media pages and private groups; email; customer support desk; mobile app; community forums; eventsInvitations to request new features; invitations to join affiliate, brand ambassador, referral programmes; loyalty rewards offers; customer shout-outs; promotion of customer-generated content

7. Develop a process to generate content.

In order to meet your goals and make your customer journey a success, you’ll need to generate content on a regular basis. A streamlined process can make it easier over time to come up with ideas and build content that serves target customers at all touchpoints.

Here’s an example of a content creation process you could adopt:

  • Track topics that are trending amongst your target customers.

  • Discover relevant, high-volume keywords using your SEO tool.

  • Brainstorm content topics, with the customer’s journey in mind.

  • Determine the types of content you’ll generate for each topic, including blog articles, eBooks, videos, podcasts, polls, quizzes, email campaigns, and more.

  • Fill in a content calendar for each week, month, or quarter.

  • Draft, review, and edit content.

  • Publish and distribute content across channels.

8. Measure the success of your content.

Once your content is published and your audience begins engaging with it, you’ll need to have a plan in place for measuring how well the content performs. Most websites, social media platforms, and email systems report metrics like the number of views or clicks a piece of content gets and how many people are subscribing or following over a span of time. You can also set up a content management system (CMS) such as Salesforce, Hubspot, or Sprout Social to streamline your efforts across all platforms.

  • Determine the metrics you’ll be monitoring on each platform or CMS.

  • Decide how often you’ll take insights from these metrics, such as weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

  • Once you see how your content is performing, this will provide you with a basis for adjusting individual pieces or content or the strategy as a whole.

Content strategy key takeaways and best practices

Remember: Creating a content strategy can improve your marketing efforts so that you serve and educate your audience effectively, lead them through all stages of the buyer’s journey, and become an authority in your niche.

Keep these best practices in mind:

  • Make sure all members of your team have a copy of the strategy and are trained on how to implement it in their respective roles.

  • Update the strategy periodically to account for new products, customer segmentation, efforts to brand or rebrand your business, and other areas of business growth.

Improve your content marketing with Coursera

The Google Digital Marketing & E-Commerce Professional Certificate on Coursera gives an in-depth look at how to create effective marketing campaigns and how content and SEO are an integral part of the process. Taking this course can be a great way to learn about content marketing, build digital marketing skills, and explore career options.

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