7-Step Guide to Building a Content Marketing Strategy

A Startup’s Guide to Building a Content Marketing Strategy

March 26th, 2018   |    By: Pat Ahern    |    Tags: Development, Content, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Customer Acquisition

We can all agree that bringing qualified customers to a new website is no easy feat. To add to that, most of your customers won’t be willing to pull out their credit card the first time that they reach your site.

Yeah, we know. It sucks to hear, especially since half of the people who stumble upon your site probably won’t come back for a second visit.

So how do you actually sell to these online customers?

Well, you don’t.

You give them insane amounts of value for free and make it easy for them to buy when they’re ready.

That’s right. The days of bombarding your potential customers with sales tactics and TV commercials are coming to a close. The secret to winning customers is to offer them exactly what they’re looking for when they actively search for it.

Welcome to the world of content marketing.

Content Marketing Funnel

Content marketing focuses on respecting your customers. Content marketing offers your potential customers informative information to help them educate themselves about how to solve problems that they encounter. From there, content marketing helps turn those individuals into customers when they are ready to buy from you.

We’re not going to put together a vague post that tries to teach every single business how to build a successful content marketing strategy. Instead, we’re going to make a few assumptions about the status of your business:

  • You’re starting out with a brand-new website
  • You have a basic understanding of who your target audience is
  • You have a basic understanding of how you’re uniquely different from your competitors

If your business hasn’t hit these milestones, yet — just send me an email and I’ll remind you to check out this post in 3 months.


Your goal for every person who reaches your site should be to find a way to stay in touch with them after they leave.

Most of your visitors won’t buy from you the first time that they reach your site. Your job is to find a way to stay in touch so you can bring them back to your site down the road.

The first step of your marketing plan is to set up conversion touch points.

What are conversion touch points?

Conversion touch points are pieces of contact info that give you a way to stay in touch with your customers. These could be an email address, phone number, LinkedIn URL, Facebook Page, or business address.

So, how do you go about collecting any of these conversion touch points? You start by setting up proper lead generation tools.

Here are few examples of features that you can add to your site to collect conversion data:

As you gather email addresses, add them to your email list so you can start including these contacts in a company newsletter.

We won’t delve into lead nurturing via newsletter in this post. However, you can find more information about setting up lead nurturing campaigns here.

Once you’ve set up a few conversion touch points, you’ll be ready for step 2 – setting up proper conversion tracking.


Sales are good, but data is better.

Collecting data about your customers and top performing marketing channels should be your first priority until you find product-market fit. Collecting data starts with hiring someone who will make it easy for you to collect the right data.

Find a data scientist who knows Google Analytics like the back of their hand and contract them to set up proper conversion tracking. Setting all of this up now will enable you to collect powerful insights about your customers and top performing marketing channels down the road.

So, how do you find a data scientist?

Talk to other business owners and ask them to recommend someone who is an expert at working with Google Analytics. If that doesn’t bring any qualified candidates, use a site like Upwork to find and vet the data scientist who is right for you.

What data is important for us to track?

This answer will vary. A good data scientist will take the time to understand your business and set up conversion tracking based on your needs.

A safe starting point is to set up conversion tracking for each conversion touchpoint on your site and product page purchases. However, each team’s data collection will vary.


The next step is to set up Google AdWords.

Start by identifying a massive list of words and phrases that describe your product and pain points that your products solve.

Group these keywords into themes based on similarities. Our team uses the SKAG approach when building AdWords campaigns. However, there are many ways to group these themes.

Set up ad campaigns centered around each of these themes and invest $500-$1000 in each theme over the course of the next 2 months.

NOTE: make sure to connect your AdWords and Google Analytics accounts so you can track data across the two sources.


Open AdWords and looking at the conversion data for each campaign.

Pay close attention to Click-Through-Rate (CTR), Cost-Per-Click (CPC), and Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA). These three metrics will give you the best sense of how each ad campaign performed.

Search for top performers amongst products and pain points.

  • Did one pain point see a lower CPA than the rest?
  • Did positioning of one product perform better than the rest?

Consider the lifetime value of one of your customers. Given your profit margin (or projected future profit margin), how much profit will one customer generate over their lifetime for your business.

How does this number compare to the CPA that you saw with each AdWords campaign? Keep in mind that leads are not the same as customers (you can expect ~14% of inbound leads to become customers).

Pause any ad campaigns that had a higher CPA than the lifetime profitability of one customer.

Look for keywords in each grouping that outperformed the rest. These keywords will give you the best understanding of what your customers are searching for when they are most likely to buy from you.

These keywords will also be the starting point for your SEO foundation.


AdWords is one of your best tools for driving sales. When properly constructed, you’re directly targeting customers who are actively searching for your products/services.

The only downside to AdWords is that it can get expensive. Assuming each AdWords click costs $2, and 2% of people who reach your site from AdWords will convert to leads, you’ll be paying $100 per lead.

Fortunately, SEO is here to help.

Related link to SEO for Beginners: The Complete Guide

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the marketing tactic that enables your business to show up at the top of search engines like Google when customers are actively searching for you, without spending $2-4 for every person who clicks on your listing.

So, how do you kick off your SEO foundation?

Pull the top-performing keywords from your AdWords campaign. These will serve as the framework for your keyword strategy – the first step of your SEO foundation.

We won’t delve too deep into SEO foundations in this guide. You can read all about setting up a good SEO foundation when you have time.


After solidifying your SEO foundation, the next step is to build out your content marketing plan.

In an ideal world, you would publish multiple 2,000-word guides on a daily basis. But, let’s get real. You don’t have time to do all that writing.

Instead, there are 2 approaches you can take to content creation:

  • Publish short blog posts as frequently as possible
  • Publish comprehensive blog posts on a less frequent basis

Content marketers regularly debate which approach is better for SEO. We’ve historically seen better results from the second approach. That being said, Neil Patel points out that both approaches to publishing content work in the right scenario.

Competitor Analysis

Identifying Your 3 Biggest Online Competitors

Struggling to find your biggest competitors? Describe your business in 2-3 words. Type that phrase into Google and pull the names of 2-3 businesses that outrank you for that phrase (aside from publications who are simply writing about that topic).

Plug these sites into BuzzSumo or Ahrefs. See what content is performing the best on each of their sites.

Add each of these posts to your editorial calendar. This will be the basis of your content strategy for the next 12 months.

Writing Effective Content

Write your first blog article based on this competitive analysis (or contract a talented writer in your industry to create content for you). Research the 3 best articles that you can find about this subject matter, and write an article that tops all 3 of them.

So how do you go about writing a better article? Make yours longer, more actionable, and more easily digestible.

If one article shares the “5 ways to be better at X”, then write about “7 ways to be better at X”.

If a previous reader for one of these posts leaves a comment asking for more information about Y, then write a post that includes more in-depth notes on Y.

Next, make sure it’s easily digestible.

When in doubt, use the skim test. Give yourself 30 seconds to skim through the entire post. Were you able to take away the main points of the post?

If not, think about how you could break your paragraphs into smaller sentences to make it more easily digestible.

Publish this article on your blog with relevant screenshots.

Promoting Your Article

Content promotion is the elephant in the room that marketers don’t want to talk about.

Great content gets lost in the noise without proper promotion. With the frequency in which content is published daily, the only way to make your article stand out is to spend more time promoting it than actually creating it.

So how do you start the promotion process?

Start with social media marketing basics. Promote your article on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Schedule each post to be published to each social network on the day that the article goes live, as well as 2-3 additional times over the course of the upcoming 2 months.

Next, search Google for any authors who have written about similar content in the past.

Start a conversation with those authors. Share feedback on their article; ask them a question.

Share your article with them. If they enjoy it, encourage them to share it with their readers or link to the article in a relevant post.

Next, reach out to any sites that you referenced in your guide. Mention that you gave them a shout-out and encourage them to share your post as well.

Create an account on Quora and other niche social media communities. Answer questions that relate to your article with in-depth, actionable insights. Include a link to your article where relevant, but focus on providing value first.

Keep on promoting your article until you reach 500 unique views on your post. Once your article has received 500 unique views, move on to the next article. Bump up the expectations to 1,000 unique views.

Step 7: Develop Thought Leadership

Developing thought leadership is one of the fastest ways to drive early growth for your startup.

As you and your team increase the frequency of writing, find additional opportunities to share your insights on other channels.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is one of the most impactful ways to promote your business to a new group of potential customers and scale your website traffic.

Guest blogging also allows you to link back to your site from a completely new site. This will help you improve your SEO rankings, which will bring even more new people to your site.

Start by identifying a handful of publications that you could reach out to. Review the existing articles on their site to get a feel for typical content lengths and intended audiences.

How do you find publications to publish on? Type the following into Google:

Google INURL Search Example
Most results that pop up will be guest blog articles. Find the top websites that pop up from this search and reach out to them. These sites have a history of publishing guest blog articles in the past, and are more likely to say yes to your pitch.

Generate a few blog topics for their site and pitch the topics to one of their editors.

If the editor responds positively, then write a badass post about that topic. Make it long-form, highly actionable, and easily digestible.

When the post goes live, promote it to relevant channels to boost its visibility.

Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

Getting mentioned in the New York Times is every company’s dream.

20 years ago, press mentions were hard to come by. Today, they’re much easier to get.

Today, journalists are expected to push out insane amounts of content on a daily basis. The best way for them to accomplish this is to find experts who can share insights about their chosen topics and write portions of the article for them.

And that’s exactly where HARO comes in.

HARO is a tool that allows journalists to request expert quotes on topics of their choosing. HARO also allows experts to subscribe to receive daily emails with these quote requests.

In other words, you can sign up to receive daily emails listing articles that journalists are looking to quote you in.

HARO email outreach example

Ok, that’s cool and all, but how do I actually get experts to choose my topic?

You use this exact format:

  1. Qualify yourself as an expert on the topic
  2. Give a 1-2 paragraph answer (unless a different length is specified)
  3. Share relevant assets that the publisher requests in their email

HARO email response example
This exact format has helped us to see a 50% success rate with every HARO query that we respond to.

We also recommend responding within 10-15 minutes of the query being sent out. However, this isn’t required to drive massive amounts of press mentions.

Each press mention will generate a massive amount of brand awareness, while also helping you to further improve search engine rankings.

Speaking Engagements

Finding speaking engagements used to be difficult.

You would rent out a space, plan out your own event, and invite everyone and their mother in hopes that 5-10 people would show up.

The alternative was to wait around for someone to reach out to you asking for you to speak at their event. Unfortunately, being invited to speak at an event usually required you to have spoken at other events, or to have spent the past 10 years doing something remarkable.

Today, finding speaking opportunities is much easier, thanks to Meetup.com.

Meetup.com enables anyone to create a group and bring together people who share a common interest. Those individuals schedule times to meet in person and talk about their interests.

That being said, organizers like to have some structure to their events. One of the best ways to provide structure is to bring in experts to talk about a particular topic.

So how do you become that speaker?

You offer to be that speaker that they’re looking for.

Search Meetup.com for groups in your area that relate to your business. Attend 1-2 events and meet the organizers.

As you get a feel for the group, offer to present on a particular topic.

Sure, you may only be presenting to 10 or 15 people. However, those 10-15 people will view you as an expert on your particular topic, which will translate back to your business being an expert on that particular topic.

Content marketing takes time to work. Review your marketing metrics regularly to see what works and what needs improvement.

  • Review the overarching progress of your content marketing efforts
  • Review and revamp existing content that doesn’t meet your expectations
  • Experiment with new content formats, whether that be creating an infographic or SlideShare presentation

Start building out your digital marketing machine and leave comments below with anything that we need to elaborate on – we’d love to hear from you.

About the Author

Pat Ahern

Pat Ahern is the Director of Traffic Generation at Junto, the digital marketing agency offers web development, traffic and lead generation for a fraction of the cost of the traditional agency. Click here to learn about SEO services to see what it would look like for the Junto team to help you out. Follow him on Twitter: @PatAhern1@junto_digital

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