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When you think of an online content marketing strategy, what comes to mind? If you’re like many people, you might think about blogs, online video channels and infographics. But content marketing isn’t exclusively based on the web.

For one thing, content marketing predates the internet. The earliest examples of content marketing date back to the 18th or 19th century and include efforts by Johnson & Johnson and John Deere. Some credit Ben Franklin as one of the earliest users of content marketing.

Even today, with the web alive and well, not all forms of content marketing take place online. Web-based brands such as Away Luggage and AirBnB have tried their hands at producing high-quality, glossy magazines.

All this is to say that if you’re interested in content marketing online, you should come up with an online content marketing strategy. That strategy should ideally be separate from other types of content marketing strategy.

Let’s look at an online content marketing strategy to discuss its benefits and how you can get to work creating a strategy for your company.

What Is an Online Content Marketing Strategy?

Before jumping into what an online content marketing strategy is, it helps to understand what people mean by the word “strategy.” Back in the mid-1990s, Harvard Business Review defined a strategy as the following:

  • Carving out an ideal competitive position in a field or industry
  • Identifying and adopting best practices
  • Partnering and outsourcing to improve efficiency
  • Focus on core competencies and success factors
  • Adapting and responding to changes in the market

Moreover, if you apply the above definition to online content marketing, you get:

Carving out a competitive position

Creating content that’s unique and that’s targeted to your audience.

Adopting best practices

Using marketing tactics such as influencer marketing, SEO, and other forms of content promotion/distribution to ensure your online content finds the widest audience.

Partnering and outsourcing

Hiring writers or outsourcing the creation of blog posts, working with influencers on promotion, or hiring an agency to handle the ins and outs of content marketing.

Focus on core competencies

What makes your brand unique and what you do best.

Adapting and responding

How you adjust your online content marketing to get better results and respond to changes in online behavior, search, and social algorithm changes.

What the HBR definition of strategy leaves out, and what’s very important for an online content marketing strategy, is this: a goal. When you have a goal, you know what you’re working towards. This can make it easier to develop a strategy and plan for online content marketing.

Why Care About an Online Content Marketing Strategy?

Why should you bother to put together an online content marketing strategy? Isn’t content marketing something you can just do?

It’s true that you can just jump in and “do” online content marketing. However, it’s also true that having a strategy helps pave the way to success. Research from the Content Marketing Institute found 38 percent of B2C respondents have a documented content strategy, as do 37 percent of B2B respondents.

There appears to be a direct connection between having a documented strategy and enjoying content marketing success. 59 percent of most successful B2C companies and 62 percent of the most successful B2B companies have a strategy written down. Meanwhile, the least successful companies are usually those that have no documented strategy.

An online content marketing can help keep your company on track. In fact, if something isn’t working the way you had expected, you can pull the strategy and reassess. It could be you’ve diverged from the original strategy. It could also be that you need to find a way to bring your reality in line with the strategy.

What You Need to Do to Put Together an Online Content Marketing Strategy

You’ve got the basics on what an online content marketing strategy is and the benefits of putting one together. However, how can you go about creating your own strategy? All you need to do is follow these simple steps:

Define your goal or objective.

Why are you pursuing online content marketing? Your goal can take many shapes, from wanting to increase website traffic to wanting to boost online sales. For best results, have a concrete, measurable goal. “Increase traffic” is too vague, while “Increase website visits by 10 percent over the course of a month” is something you can track and measure.

Define your brand.

Knowing what your brand is and what it wants can help you as you put together the rest of your strategy. Additionally, this is where you want to think about what makes your company unique or your competitive advantage.

Identify your audience.

You need to know who your audience is to develop content that’s going to make a big splash with it. For instance, dig deeper and look beyond things like age, gender identity, and family size. Also, consider income, your audience’s needs, the challenges people face in their everyday lives, and how your brand can help them work through those challenges.

Identify your content channels.

Knowing your audience and brand will help you identify the content channels that are going to work best for you. If you’re a relatively young, hip brand and you’re courting a Gen Z audience, then content for Snapchat is going to be just the thing. If you’re a B2B brand and you’re trying to communicate with other businesses, a blog or long-form content options, such as heavily researched white papers and ebooks, can be the way to go. When you identify where you’ll publish content and the type of content you’ll publish, also think about who’s going to create it, and whether you’ll have to outsource it or use an in-house team.

Decide how you’ll track results and adjust as needed.

It’s likely you’ll need to make some changes along the way. This way, your online content marketing helps you achieve your goals. One channel might not work out for you as expected, or a freelancer might not provide the type of quality you expected. Being able to adapt, often on the fly, is critical to the success of your content marketing.

Additionally, an online content marketing strategy doesn’t only help your brand. It can also help you convince others in your organization that online content marketing is the way to go. Your strategy can make the case for online content marketing and, after a few months, the results you get from content marketing can prove that it pays off.