How to Create a Minimum Viable Content Strategy

Tori Shaffrey

Establishing an online presence and devising a content strategy can seem like a daunting task, expecially if you just started a business or you’re creating content for the first time for your existing business.

Questions like “Where do I start?” and “Is this valuable to spend time on for my business?” start floating around - and we’ll get to those!

In this article, I outline a Minimum Viable Content Strategy for people who are looking to dip their toes into the content creation process by focusing on proven tactics without overanalyzing data or purchasing multiple expensive tools.

What is content strategy?

Content strategy is researching and creating content that supports your company goals, which most commonly aligns with ways to reach and engage your target buyer audience. In the context of this blog post, I’m talking about content you have on your website - copy, blog posts, video, case studies or testimonials.

Why is it important?

87% of folks conduct their own online research before reaching out to buy or speak to someone. This tells us that we as entrepreneurs (and content creators!), need to be prevalent at the earliest stage of the buyer’s journey. In some cases this means before buyers have even realized they have a need for your product or service.

We want to create content that draws our audience in and increases our discoverability online, so when people do have a need they can find us. Tailoring your content strategy to search engine optimization is beneficial to long term sustainability and has compound returns - meaning the sooner you start, the stronger your site will become.

Creating meaningful content separates you as a thought leader in your industry and niche. It showcases your expertise and builds a name that people can trust. As entrepreneurs, having robust content on your website can also be a good signal to investors for all the above reasons and it shows a healthy, modern business.

The steps towards creating a Minimum Viable Content Strategy have the secondary benefits of helping you better understand your audience - a very valuable tool for any entrepreneur. You’ll learn what your potential customers are searching for, what they care about, pain points, and trends in the industry, which can actually influence your entire business and product strategy.

Potential Outcomes

To review, a content strategy can create many meaningful outcomes for your business, but the top ones I’ve mentioned are:

  • Inbound Marketing
  • Stronger SEO
  • Increase Discoverability
  • Thought leadership
  • Increased conversions and sales
  • Robust content on the site is a good signal to investors

Getting started with your website’s content strategy

I realize this is a lot to take in all at once. This is why we should approach our first take through a product development lens and create our Minimum Viable Content Strategy. These six steps should take you from ideation to prototype:

  1. Set objective and vision for content
  2. Do quick audience research
  3. Understand current website strengths and weaknesses (if you have one)
  4. Define specific goals
  5. Execute, Analyze
  6. Rinse, Repeat

1. Set objective and vision for content

High level, what do you want to achieve with your content? Are there any business goals that a content strategy could help support? This thought exercise will help lay the foundation for all the proceeding steps.

Examples of what your objectives might be include:

  • Build a lead funnel - attract potential customers to the site and convert them
  • Thought leadership and brand awareness - be a go-to resource for educational content for potential customers
  • Prove to the industry (and investors) you are building a new category of solution (or disrupting an existing industry)
  • Showcase engineering leadership to attract job candidates (a specific use case)

You’ll notice all of these objectives mention the target audience. The next step is to further define who that audience is, and then research what’s important to them. This will allow you to provide content that’s valuable to them.

2/3. Audience Research and Strengths & Weaknesses Analysis

Let’s say your target audience is potential customers. Hopefully you have some idea of the profile of that person. If not, take this opportunity to do that! Create a persona and then do some quick research to correct assumptions, and build out a more accurate profile.

New company, new site

For example, if your target audience is a CFO but you don’t have an audience or customers you can survey, you can do some online research.

  • Start with researching some of the companies in the financial space who have a large following and are perhaps aspirational for you. You can see the search queries that attract the biggest audience to their site by using free tools like Ubersuggest or SpyFu.
  • Check out CFO conference sites and see what the talks are about
  • Subscribe to competitor newsletters who target the same audience
  • Go to a CFO discussion forum and see what folks are talking about
  • See if there are trending CFO-related hashtags on social media. This can at least give you a starting point of relevant topics for your target.

Existing company, existing site

If your company has been around for a while, hopefully you’ve been collecting some valuable SEO information via Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Moz, or other search engine optimization and analytics tools. If this is the case, I recommend looking through your search queries in Google Search Console. Typically this lives in the search results tab.

  • Identify your strengths

    • What are your keyword strengths? Your highest ranking search phrases (position 10 and better) are the best performing keywords.
    • What are your highest converting pages? You can find this if you have goals set up in Google Analytics under “Behavior → Site Content → Landing Pages”
    • How are people getting to the site, top referrers? Find this in Google Analytics under “Acquisition → All Traffic → Source”. Set the date back for an entire year if possible.
    • Outside top 10 search phrases, what kind of language are people using? Jot down any trends.
  • Now look at your opportunities.

    • Where can your search results improve? These are keywords that have an average position of 11 to about 50. These are key search phrases to invest in, especially if they are high intent phrases like “best financial software” or “buy vintage 60’s clothing”
    • You can also check this by sorting queries by most impressions instead of average position or click through rate. This will tell you the number of times any URL from your site appeared in search results viewed by a user. If you take a look at the highest impression queries and look at the average position, you identified your high impact keywords.

4. Define specific goals

Content strategy takes a long time to realize ROI from, so it can be challenging to attach concrete metrics of success such as revenue. However, you can, and should, set benchmark goals that point you in the right direction. You can revisit these over time and set new content goals that make sense for your next content push or period.

For example, during the research phase, let’s say you identified the following insights:

  • Identified top performing keywords on your site
  • Identified that free templates performed well on competitor sites
  • In the forums, learned that there’s a big regulation change happening next year in the industry
  • A lot of traffic is coming from G2crowd

To start your content plan, create goals for these top insights that are measurable and time-bound:

  • Identified top performing keywords on your site
    • Goal: Increase average position of each keyword by X
    • Method: Create 1 blog post for each keyword by end of Q1
  • Identified that free templates performed well on competitor sites
    • Goal: Create a template that shows page 1 of Google search
    • Method: Create a relevant template for audience by end of Q1
  • In the forums, learned that there’s a big regulation change happening next year in the industry
    • Goal: Rank for this regulation search term
    • Method: Write 1 blogpost by end of Q1
    • Method: Create a how to video hosted on site by end of Q1
  • Traffic is coming from G2crowd
    • Goal: Convert the G2Crowd traffic on site
    • Method: Since we know folks on G2Crowd are evaluating options, create case study landing page for them with conversion option, like a form or chatbot.

I threw in some common method examples above, but I recommend you start with your goal and brainstorm as a team the different kinds of content that might help you achieve it. To get started, it often makes sense to prioritize this brainstorm output by high impact, lower effort methods. But the bonus is that you now have a bunch of great content ideas to keep working on.

5. Execute, Analyze

In the above example we used a quarterly time frame to time-box the content creation. Maybe you want to work even faster than that and set monthly goals. The important thing is to get quality content out that you can reasonably assume will improve your site’s performance and provide value to your target audience.

After the timing in your goals has passed, check out how your team did. How many goals did you hit? Which ones were the most difficult? Which pieces of content performed the best? Do you need a platform in place to help you measure other goals in the future? The first iteration of a content strategy usually means there’s tons of room to grow, take this as a opportunity to learn - keep the goals that make sense and ditch the ones that don’t.

6. Rinse Repeat

Great work! You now have an understanding of your audience, measurable goals, and strategic direction influencing your content. This is a great start, but know that this research should be repeated. Content strategy, like product development, is iterative. Repeat steps 1-5 on a quarterly or semi-annual basis to refresh your buyer personas, create new goals, and get new ideas for great content!