Creating a content strategy can be extremely overwhelming but in this article, we want to break down how we think about content and what content to prioritize to grow your online businesses.
Here’s the zoomed-out strategy we use to build our audience, gain organic traffic, and keep our sanity when it comes to content creation:
To even further zoom the lens out on this content strategy and how it relates to building your Content Salad 🥗:
These four priorities will set the tone for the rest of this article, which, you may have already guessed, is an example of a foundation article (Priority #2) for our Wandering Aimfully business! Wow, so meta!? 🤪
The Best Content Strategy Works When You Know Your Audience and Your Product
You could read this entire article, follow every step to a T, only to realize your content strategy isn’t netting you any audience growth or sales of your product/service.
The reason that would happen is very simple: The best content strategy, and the most awesome content in the world, isn’t going to help your business growth if it’s not related to your product and it’s not attracting the kind of person who could pay you.
The best content strategy, and the most awesome content in the world, isn’t going to help your business grow if it’s not related to your product and it’s not attracting the kind of person who could pay you.
If you don’t know who your ideal customer is…
What job do they have? What values do they hold? What are they seeking more of in their life? Get specific!
Where does your ideal customer hang out?
A great content strategy is worthless if it isn’t executed WHERE your customer spends their time. (If your customer doesn’t spend time on Twitter, don’t create content for Twitter!) Figure out where your ideal audience is looking for information online.
What are they searching for?
What is your ideal customer searching for as it relates to the problem your product solves, or the product topic itself? What content would make their life easier or better?
If you aren’t crystal clear on your core product offer…
What is your product’s “two-word tango?”
Your “two-word tango” is just a silly phrase we like to use meaning the two-word description of what you do. Your ideal customer needs to be able to put your business/product offer into a mental bucket they can easily understand. Don’t make them overthink things; keep it really simple. (Examples: Website designer, online course, dating coach, membership program, digital planner, etc.)
Do you have product validation?
Has your product offer been validated and purchased yet? If not, we highly recommend getting beta customers to ensure you want to be working on this specific idea and the product is doing a good job of solving a problem your audience has. Speaking of which…
What outcomes does your product create for your customer?
Your product should fill a gap in your ideal customer’s life! What is the outcome your product provides for them and how does it get them there? Be specific about this.
Hopefully, you’ve already clearly identified your ideal customer and you have a product or service that solves a problem for that person. Having these two things nailed down helps your content strategy work on your behalf.
We’re on the same page with your product and audience, now let’s bring on the salad puns!
Our Proven Content Salad 🥗 Content Strategy
For the rest of this article, we’re going to refer to your content strategy as a Content Salad 🥗.
We’re doing this because metaphors are fun and because it helps build a content creation order of operations that works time and time again.
There are two important caveats to a Content Salad 🥗 we want to highlight before we jump into the salad itself (which, is a very fun Double Dare-esque visual to think about, leaping into an enormous bowl of salad!)
Content strategy caveat #1: We put social media LAST 😳
This may come as a shocker to you and might be the complete opposite of how you’ve thought about your content strategy in the past. And you’re not alone!
Social media is a really EASY thing to jump into. You can create an account, upload a piece of content, and boom, those dopamine hits (in the form of likes, comments, follows) can happen extremely quickly. But, and we’ve seen this time and time again, having a following on a social media website does NOT equal having a profitable business that can sustain your life.
Having a following on a social media website does NOT equal having a profitable business that can sustain your life.
While social media sites/apps are powerful vehicles for word of mouth marketing, they are also time blackholes and can keep you in a content creation loop that you never get out of. Social media content is also ephemeral and not searchable.
- Those beautiful posts/stories on Instagram are almost never viewed again after 24-48 hours
- Those fun TikTok videos vanish into the quick-scrolling feeds of yesteryear
- Your eloquent tweets are gone faster than you can type them
We believe in the power of social media (heck, Jason was very early on it) but we also know our time is valuable and we want our precious hours spent to be planting seeds for future rewards. So, yes, we will talk about using social media, but we wanted to address why it’s last on the list.
Content strategy caveat #2: The majority of us cannot compete with the content strategies of large brands and influencer-types
We’re going to mention the lovely and talented Marie Forleo as an example of someone who nails creating content. But, it’s important to note we are NOT Marie Forleo and neither are you (and that’s okay!)
For the purpose of this article, Marie Forleo is merely an illustration of someone who has an abundance of resources that most of us do not have and may not ever want. As of writing this, Marie has a team of contractors and staff who help her content engine run. This is what gives her the ability to make weekly videos, turn those into blog posts, create videos unique to Facebook, show up on Twitter, and Instagram…and have perfectly Pinterest-tailored images. She can make all of that happen because she’s built up that team. But if you are a solopreneuer or small business and you’re comparing your content creation abilities to her, you’re going to find yourself disappointed.
It’s important to acknowledge the limitations of the resources you have. While it’s amazing that some brands and influencers have big teams, we have to be realistic about what is possible for US.
You do NOT need to create content like Marie Forleo for your business to be successful.
You just have to find what’s DOABLE for you and make sure each piece of content you create is working toward your bigger business vision.
The same principles Marie (and her team) use, are ones we can use for our businesses:
- Knowing exactly who your ideal audience is
- Creating foundational (helpful) content first
- Leveraging one piece of content in many formats/places
- Creating helpful micro-content that’s shareable
- Showing up consistently and authentically
- Building a content schedule that’s sustainable
We’re on the same page with these two caveats? Cool? Cool.
Content Salad 🥗 Part 1: Foundation Articles (Lettuce)
Why do we start our content strategy with foundation articles (like what you’re reading now)? Written content helps build organic long-tail traffic. Over time, these articles should bring your ideal audience to you without much extra effort.
For us, over 70% of our website traffic comes from organic search. Specifically, people searching Google for different words or phrases and finding articles we’ve written on the first page (or two) of results.
This organic traffic reads our articles, signs up for our email list, and a percentage of our email subscribers convert to paying customers of our WAIM Unlimited Program.
😬 We know Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is confusing
Over the years we’ve honed a dead-simple SEO strategy and here’s how that breaks down for all the foundation articles we write:
- Write an article on a specific topic around your product that helps your ideal audience.
- In that article, choose the main keyword or phrase that someone would search to have your article come up as the result.
- Make sure your keyword/phrase is prominently featured in the headings of the articles (H1, H2, H3).
- Continue to tweak and improve (aka optimize) your articles over time.
- Share and promote your articles in places where your ideal audience hangs out.
🎯 You should aim to write 8-10 Foundation Articles
Every foundation article should be solving a key problem for your audience. If you need help figuring out 8-10 article topics, don’t worry, we’ve got your back!
🧠 Article topic brainstorming tip #1: Start writing an article with the words, “I want to help you…”
Finish the statement, “I want to help you…” as it relates to your ideal customer and your product niche.
As an example, if you were a Squarespace designer, you might write statements like:
- I want to help you design unique Squarespace homepages
- I want to help you pick the best Squarespace template
- I want to help you set up a Squarespace blog
- I want to help you use Squarespace blocks effectively
- I want to help you brand your Squarespace site
- I want to help you speed up Squarespace site loading time
- I want to help you learn how to master Squarespace
- I want to help you design better converting Squarespace sales pages
Once you write these ideas out for your audience/product, you can see there’s a list of helpful articles waiting to be expanded upon!
🧠 Article topic brainstorming tip #2: Use Google Autofill
Open up an Incognito (Google Chrome) or Private (Safari/Firefox) browsing window and start typing the keyword or phrase around your topic in Google’s search box. As Google starts to autofill the next words, you’ll be met with a bevy of article ideas based on what people are searching for most 👍👍.
As an example, one of our Wandering Aimfully members named Naomi runs a business where she helps people take their screenplay ideas and turn them into finished screenplays.
When Naomi types “screenplay” into Google, she’s met with a handful of results that can be turned into awesome foundation articles!
We took the liberty to write a few potential article titles based on the Google Autofill results, just to further show you this article topic brainstorming tip in action:
Once you have article topics to write about, do some competitive research
Take one of your keywords or phrases and look through all the articles on the first page of Google. (If you’re fancy, make a spreadsheet!)
Once you’ve read through the top-ranking articles, what do YOU think is missing? What experience or knowledge do YOU have that hasn’t been shared?
It’s important to be thorough with your foundation articles but don’t lose sight of pouring your own stories and uniqueness into your article as well.
Avoid comparison traps when doing research 🙅🙅♀️
It’s really easy to start doing research and then think your articles won’t be as good as articles that are ranking #1 (or even #27) on Google. But, it’s not your job to rank your article, it’s your job to write an awesome set of articles that help your customers!
Give yourself a set amount of time to do research and then move on. You want to avoid comparing a well-written, already ranking article, to the one you haven’t started writing yet.
Create a writing and publishing schedule you can stick to!
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
The same can be said for writing and publishing your foundation articles!
The best time to write and publish a foundation article was 2 years ago. The second best time is now.
It takes time to get organic traffic to a foundation article so the longer you procrastinate and let perfectionism hold you back from publishing, the longer you’ll have to wait to reap the rewards. And trust us, some of our highest ranking articles are cringe-worthy because we wrote them years ago and consider ourselves much improved writers now.
Give yourself permission to hit publish sooner than you’re comfortable with and plan to come back around to update your article 6-12 months from now.
Plan to publish 1-2 articles per month at a minimum
To build a great Content Salad 🥗 you have to get those foundation articles done and published as quickly as possible. A good goal is 1-2 articles published per month, which means in 4-5 months all your articles should be published and starting to do work on your behalf!
Remember, you can’t eat a salad without lettuce, just like you can’t have a good content strategy if you don’t have helpful foundation articles to lean on.
Content Salad 🥗 Part 2: Consistent Email Newsletter, Podcast, or Video (Fixins)
Do you know why most people don’t enjoy salad? Because they aren’t adding the right fixins to it!
Listen, we don’t want to eat a plate or bowl of lettuce either (salads go in bowls though, just so we’re clear on that). A delicious salad only becomes delicious because the lettuce is accompanied by some wonderful additional items (aka fixins).
The same can be said for your content strategy. Just writing helpful articles isn’t enough. Articles are great at establishing authority but your customer needs to trust you, and trust takes TIME.
The three examples of fixins we’ll share below all have the same things in common:
- You publish them consistently
- They continue to help you ideal customer
- They are focused on your product niche
- You publish them CONSISTENTLY 😂😝
We’re not saying you have to do all three of our fixin examples below, but we would vote for fixin #1 as a bare minimum.
Salad fixin #1: 📬 Email Newsletter
We’ve been writing and sending a weekly email newsletter since 2014. This is THE BEST thing we’ve ever done for our online businesses and we believe email marketing is alive and well.
We’ve been able to track that 80% of our customers come from our email newsletter. This makes us feel in control of our business because we manage and run our email list.
Why does an email newsletter still work?
By collecting someone’s email address, you have a bit more control in making sure your content reaches them.
People don’t swipe as quickly through email like they do other types of content (ahem, social media feeds). If they’re interested in what you have to say, they might spend a few minutes with you vs just a few seconds and a scroll.
Writing and publishing email newsletters takes less technical know-how and you can be yourself without much effort.
Think of your email newsletter as your ongoing conversation with your ideal customer around your product niche
Whether you send a newsletter weekly or bi-weekly, think of your newsletter as a way for you to engage with your audience around their topic.
- What problems have you run into in your niche?
- What stories can you share with good lessons to be learned?
- What new discoveries have you made that can help others?
- How can you connect on an emotional level and bring your personality out?
Where your foundation articles should be evergreen pieces of content that don’t change too often, you may write an email newsletter that’s “out of date” after 3 months. That’s okay! If it’s content worth sharing and can help your audience now, go for it.
Salad fixin #2: 🎙 Podcast
Podcasting is a great fixin because it can create an emotional connection to your audience. They can hear you and they can get more context with the topic you’re discussing than if they were simply reading an email/article from you.
We also love podcasting because there’s a ton of room for imperfection in the production of this type of content. Plus, you can always record your podcast in your comfy sweatpants! 😉
Why does podcasting work as a consistent content medium?
We’ve all seen the rise of podcasting over the years! It feels like just yesterday we were tuning into new episodes of Serial, with no other podcasts in our subscription inbox. But, if you’re anything like us, you probably subscribe to a handful of podcasts and listen to them while going about different parts of your life.
It’s never been easier to record and share a podcast episode. Microphones are incredibly affordable and podcast hosting platforms make it really easy to get your show distributed to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc.
A podcast allows you to be in someone’s ear sharing a genuine passion for something you both enjoy, sometimes in otherwise quiet moments of their life that can feel intimate (road trips, folding laundry, on a walk…) This direct connection is crucial to building trust.
(Isn’t this a lovely posed photo of us pretending to be podcasting? We totally were NOT recording, but it looks nice!)
Salad fixin #3: 🎬 YouTube Channel
We’ll be 100% honest with you, creating videos is one of the most difficult fixins to keep up within the Content Salad 🥗. We’ve had years of experience and created thousands of videos, it’s a lot of work.
BUT… having a YouTube channel is not only a great way to publish consistent helpful content that’s very engaging, but it’s also a smart strategy because YouTube is the second largest search engine. Your videos can also be a form of long-tail content that brings organic traffic to your business! HUZZAH!
Why is YouTube a good consistent content opportunity?
Videos are the perfect way to share your personality and create a deeper connection with your audience. For us, nearly 25% of our WAIM Unlimited members have come from YouTube. That’s a sizable amount!
Building your own YouTube channel and growing subscribers there is a great way to diversify your audience landscape. Having a second group of people who you can reach is always helpful.
And, as we already mentioned but it bears repeating, YouTube is the second largest search engine. There’s an amazing opportunity to build organic search traffic via video content using a similar strategy to writing foundation articles.
With YouTube, specifically, don’t fall into the trappings of chasing big subscriber numbers or views per video. Our videos average ~500 views and we have ~5,000 subscribers. This is enough for us and for our business.
Your content fixins can be used in tandem together based around the same initial piece of content
If we go back to our friend Naomi’s screenplay writing example, let’s pluck out ONE content idea: The Most Important Screenplay Formatting Guidelines You Need To Know
📬 Email newsletter fixin: Naomi could share three of the most recent screenplay formatting trends she’s seeing and how her subscribers can apply them.
🎙 Podcast episode fixin: Naomi could talk in-depth about screenplay formatting and share anecdotes and examples (maybe even pluck out audio clips from movies that reinforce the formatting).
🎬 YouTube video fixin: Naomi could put a video together that share 10 screenplay formatting guidelines in a fun, but informational way.
In these examples, it’s all the same starting piece of content, but that one topic can be leveraged across multiple platforms to deliver value where people are spending their time.
To get better at creating content consistently…
Embrace that you can’t do everything
You do NOT have to have an email newsletter, a podcast, AND a YouTube channel, etc. What is the fixin you can be the most consistent with? Start there.
Avoid perfectionism like the plague
What’s going to be more beneficial to your business: One “perfect” email newsletter every three months, or one “good enough” email per week? The answer is every week. 😉
Pick a fixin YOU can stick to
Your content fixins should be produced as often as you can consistently produce them and not feel overwhelmed or burned out (not based on what other people are doing!)
What type of content do you actually WANT to create?
What ongoing content do YOU actually want to be producing? It’s more important to be consistent and authentic with a content type that YOU can crank out often and without too much resistance.
Build a simple process you can stick to
Pick your fixins (email newsletter at a minimum). Establish your formula and your publishing schedule. Create a content calendar and plan a few months in advance so you aren’t constantly creating content the day of (or minutes before publishing). And batch the creation of your fixins if you can!
Content Salad 🥗 Part 3: Social Media (Dressing)
A content strategy that starts with social media is like building a salad by pouring dressing on the plate.
You’d never put lettuce and fixins on TOP of dressing and try to eat it that way. You need the foundation of your salad first, then your fixins, then your dressing goes on top.
A content strategy that starts with social media is like a building a salad by pouring dressing on the plate.
The two types of social media content you should create
Micro-content is something plucked from a larger piece of content (like a foundation article, email newsletter, podcast episode, video, etc) and shared in a bite-sized format for social media.
These could be things like:
- A tweetstorm that teaches part of a bigger idea
- A pull quote from an article that inspires someone formatted for Instagram
- An Intagram slider that walks someone through a process
- An audio clip for Instagram Stories or TikTok that gives quick practical advice
Too often we see people saying things like, “check out my new podcast episode!” with a link to the episode and maybe the cover art of the podcast. This is NOT compelling or interesting. Instead, pull out one 30-second useful clip from the podcast episode that can actually help someone learn something. Then, give them the opportunity to listen to more by clicking through to the full episode.
🎨 Brand content
Brand content is a type of content that doesn’t point back to any bigger piece of content but lives on its own and reinforces your brand.
For our @wanderingaimfully IG account, these are little graphics, sayings, or thoughts that we come up with and share in our feed (they don’t come from a podcast, email, or video, they’re often one-off ideas or thoughts).
You can come up with brand content ideas by answering some of these prompts:
- What is the question you answer most often?
- What is the process you repeat over and over?
- What is the lesson you’ve had to learn more than once?
- What mindset shift finally helped you make a big leap?
- What do your competitors believe that you don’t?
- What industry “standards” do you think are worth ignoring?
- What unique idea have you tried that worked?
Social media content should…
Reinforce your brand values/messaging: There’s a reason you follow the people you follow and it’s because they continually talk about something you enjoy or align with.
Be useful in the environment: Aim to solve problems, share ideas, or be a source of inspiration IN THE FEED. Don’t force people to leave the social media platform to get value from you, make your content valuable where people are spending their time/attention.
Be a springboard to other content/marketing bridges: Once you deliver value inside the platform, use social content as a bridge to your email newsletter or even directly to your product you sell. Remind people where they can go deeper with your brand. Your social content isn’t always going to do this (read: be promotional) but it’s good practice to put it in rotation so you can see the results of your effort on social.
Connect with your audience: Remember the “social” part of this. It’s not just about posting and being a one-way street of communication. Make time to answer comments, DMs, etc.
We absolutely believe in the power of social media. Having an engaged audience on Instagram, Twitter, etc, is definitely a great business move. The mistake many people make is that their social media profiles aren’t actually helping them grow their business (they’re just accruing eyeballs and vanity metrics in a social media app).
Just make sure you’re spending time on social media AFTER you’ve nailed down your foundation articles and you have a good system in place to churn out your fixin consistent content!
Content Salad 🥗 Wrap-Up, Your Content Strategy Next Steps
If you scrolled all the way to the bottom of this article or you’ve just read every word we wrote and your brain is spinning, here’s your recap…
STEP 1️⃣: Write 8-10 Foundation Articles
These should be focused on helping your ideal customer and should be directly related to your product niche. They should be optimized for SEO and building long-tail organic search traffic.
STEP 2️⃣: Consistent Content (Fixins)
Grow your audience and build trust over time by showing up consistently for them. Become a regular part of your potential customer’s life through their email inbox, podcast app, etc.
STEP 3️⃣: Social Media (Dressing)
Meet your customer where they are and use these powerful platforms to lead back to your product or a marketing bridge to get further value from you.
Build the Content Salad 🥗 that works best for you!
Be realistic about what YOU can create with the resources you have. Choose the content platforms and types that you are excited to spend time and effort on.
No one creates “perfect” content right out of the gates. The goal is simply to create helpful content that you can get better at creating over time!