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Understanding the Content Marketing Process

Date published: December 15, 2023
Last updated: February 20, 2024

Content is clearly an important part of modern marketing. As we wrap up the first quarter of the 21st century, though, the issue that marketers face isn’t about creating content.  

That’s the easy part. It’s also part of the problem. 

If anything, the fact that content is so easy to produce is precisely why there is such a massive quantity of it out there on the interweb. The sheer volume of content available to consumers has become one of the primary challenges that content creation in 2024 presents: the need to cut through the clutter. 

Content marketers face the uphill battle of trying to cut through the white noise so that their content can reach its intended audience. This requires following a thoughtful, purposeful, and comprehensive content marketing process, something that starts with understanding the importance of content in business in the first place.

Why Is Content Important?

Before digging into the detailed aspects of how content marketing takes place, it’s important to answer one key question: what is the importance of a content marketing strategy?  

This is ground zero of the content process. It’s the foundation, the genesis, the necessary beginning of any successful piece of marketing content. 

Why? Because if you don’t have a satisfying answer to the question, it undermines the entire point of creating content in the first place. Why make content if it doesn’t really matter? Even if you think content has value, if you don’t see it as a powerful and effective marketing tool, it will never function as such for your business. 

So, why is content important, then? The short answer is that it is a multi-faceted marketing tool with countless potential benefits, including: 

  • Improving visibility and brand awareness for your company.
  • Growing search engine traffic through search engine optimization.
  • Building trust with your target audience.
  • Cultivating your brand’s position as an industry expert and thought leader.
  • Bolstering bottom-funnel conversions through thoughtful, informed CTAs.
  • Taking pressure off customer service through self-help libraries. 

These are just a few of the biggest positives good content offers.  

Of course, to be considered “good,” content needs to be effective, and a successful content marketing strategy doesn’t exist simply because it’s well-made or addresses a topic with authority. For effective content to stand out in the crowded modern online landscape, it must have the synergy of being part of a larger, overarching content plan and strategy.

Why Do You Need a Process for Your Content Marketing Strategy?

Content strategy is important because it gives you a chance to articulate “the why” behind your content marketing. A good strategy serves as a roadmap, tying specific goals with correlating marketing tactics, such as educating your audience with blog content or building a community using a social media platform. 

A strategy can be complex, especially with so many forms of digital marketing out there. Digital marketers must consider an ever-growing variety of content formats that include text, image, and video. Email, social media, blogs, podcasts, and countless other channels are available. Length and complexity are also factors. Short, simple content has just as valuable of a role as longer, information-heavy exposition. 

The overwhelming nature of content marketing makes a formal process essential. This can impact every part of your content plan, paving the way to turn basic ideas into high-performing pieces of content.

What Is a Content Plan?

With so many terms flying around, it’s worth taking a minute to differentiate a “content plan” from content strategy and other content-related marketing terms. 

A content marketing plan is the overarching plan that contains all of your content marketing efforts. It considers everything from broader strategies and long-term goals to the specific resources, tactics, and techniques you’ll use to accomplish those goals.  

In comparison, as already mentioned, a content strategy functions as the roadmap to guide your content creation. In addition, a content marketing framework creates a specific, document-driven infrastructure that explains how you’ll put your content into motion. Finally, content strategy templates detail repeatable formulas that you can use to create marketing assets that are consistently in sync with the rest of your strategy.

What Are the Stages of a Content Marketing Plan?

Even if it is just one part of the massive digital marketing world, content creation is a vast and complex discipline. Trying to understand the process behind it can be overwhelming.  

The best way is to approach it in a systematic, timeline-driven approach. With that in mind, here is the entire content marketing process boiled down into four key stages:

1. Research and Set the Stage

This is the earliest stage of content marketing. Before you start typing, forming images, or otherwise creating, you want to lay the foundation for each piece of content to be an effective part of your larger content plan. 

This stage starts with building out content marketing strategies. Review existing objectives and set new goals that you can later use as metrics to measure the impact of each piece of content. In addition, you want to review things like your target audience, the buyer’s journey, keyword research, and your conversion funnels.  

SEMrush example showing what data is needed to understand the content marketing process

Assess the resources, manpower, skills, tools, and partners that you have available to help you create content, as well. As you conduct this audit, look for what you already have and what you’re missing to generate great content on a high level.

2. Create the Content Itself

Once you’ve set the stage, it’s time to create. The content creation process can take on countless forms, from text-based articles to image-driven social posts, audible podcasts, and engaging videos. 

This is where you put theory into practice. It’s the part of the content marketing process that benefits the most from having things like a content marketing framework and templates in place. 

The former guides you and helps you stay focused on key KPIs. At the same time, the latter provides a straightforward and repeatable way to provide consistent relevant content that focuses on the correct objectives and end goals.

3. Get the Content in Front of Your Audience

Once you’ve created thoughtful, engaging marketing content infused with the right promotional messages, it’s time to publish it. The way you do this will depend on the kind of content you’ve created. Try creating a content calendar to help you stay consistent with your content distribution. 

A blog post typically lives on your company website. However, you can also do outreach to third-party sites and may be mentioned as a form of digital PR designed to build brand credibility. 

A social media post goes on their respective social media platform. Emails shoot directly into your customers’ inboxes. Videos are either embedded on your site or on a site like YouTube. Podcasts are similarly hosted on third-party platforms where individuals can directly download them to their devices. 

As you publish content, it’s important to amplify it. This is the process of spreading awareness about content across a variety of platforms. Semrush lists several common amplification techniques, including:

Content amplification techniques to support the content marketing process

Amplification is an important step in getting the greatest bang for your buck out of every piece of content.

4. Analyze the Results and Optimize

Once you’ve created, published, and amplified your content, there is one more critical phase to tend to in the content marketing process: gauging the effectiveness of your existing content. This starts with tracking key metrics based on your goals from phase one.

For instance, if you are trying to grow your audience, getting more email subscribers might be a good metric. Improving organic traffic from search engines would be important, as well.

As you analyze the results of your content’s performance, you must use that information to optimize your content. If a piece of content is delivering great results, leave it alone. If, however, it isn’t performing well, you may want to tweak and adjust things. Once that’s done, continue to monitor the content to ensure it is contributing to your content marketing strategy.

What Is the Content Marketing Process? An Easy-Reference Checklist.

Okay, so we’ve seen the larger sweeping concepts and stages behind a content plan. But what do these look like in detail when they’re put into action? 

As we’ve already made abundantly clear, the content process is an intricate, multi-step dance. This starts with finding the right team members to contribute to holistic content. This obviously includes individuals like writers, illustrators, and videographers. But it doesn’t stop there. 

You also want to get content managers, SEO experts, and marketers involved in your content creation team. Together, this group can contribute to a complex and nuanced process that starts with a resource audit and proceeds through ideation, content creation, editorial, publication, and follow-up. 

Here are seven content marketing steps that help break down what it looks like to fully engage in the content marketing process. Use it as an easy-reference checklist to ensure that you’re covering every step as you generate content related to each growth marketing initiative you engage in.

  1. Research: Determine your content marketing goals and the metrics that they provide. Also, conduct an audit of your team as well as your tools and other content marketing resources to see where you stand and what you need to create content effectively.
  2. Ideate: Brainstorm both broad and detailed topic ideas. Each content idea should focus on your strategy and reinforce reaching your KPIs.
  3. Create: Make content based on your ideation and use the resources you have available. Make sure these stay focused on your larger strategy and incorporate related and effective CTAs designed to create conversions.
  4. Publish: Process your content through editorial steps and then get it live on the internet. This may be on your site, on a social media site, or even on a third-party site. Make sure it is live and accessible to your target audience, regardless of where it resides.
  5. Amplify: Once live, improve each content’s initial performance through other channels. Use emails, social posts, guest posts, and even PPC (pay-per-click) ads to drive traffic and boost your content’s initial results.
  6. Analyze: Gauge the impact of each piece of content based on metrics related to your initial goals and KPIs (see step 1). These will vary depending on the nature of each content asset.
  7. Optimize: When you detect that a piece of content is underperforming (or not performing at all), take steps to address the issue. Tweak and adjust where necessary. Then, watch for improvement or the need to adjust again. 

This seven-step guide is the best way to shepherd content through the creation process. It leaves no stone unturned and ensures that every piece of marketing collateral that you create is effectively working toward the same goal.

What Is the First Step in Your Content Marketing Strategy?

Okay, so how does all of this relate to your current strategy? Where are you in the content marketing process right now? 

If you’re just getting started, the first step is easy. You need to do your research, establish your strategy, build out your framework, and otherwise set the stage for high-quality content creation.

If you’re already partway into the process, use the checklist above to assess where you are. Here are a few questions to help: 

  • Do you know what resources you have available to create content?
  • Do you have ideas to craft content around?
  • Have you created your content yet?
  • Do you need to publish or amplify your content?
  • Do you know what metrics you’re tracking to gauge content performance? 

Use these questions to identify what part of the checklist you’re on and then work from there.

Using the Process to Perfect Your Content

As you consider your content marketing campaign for 2024, remember to keep process and procedure in mind. Particularly with something like content creation, it’s easy to approach things in a haphazard or laissez-faire manner. Partner with a content marketing agency if you need help staying on top of things. 

By adopting a content marketing process like that outlined above, you provide a clear path towards content marketing success every time you create a piece of content. This gives you the ability to keep everything working toward the same end goal as you ideate, create, and follow up on each content marketing initiative over time.

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