Enterprise Content Strategy: A Framework & Guide
Years ago, content marketing was a field of dreams: if you wrote it, they would come. Today, with millions of blog posts published daily, the playing field has become overcrowded. And yet, this fact hasn’t made content marketing less valuable to enterprises; it has merely raised the bar for what good content looks like.
In this piece, I’ll describe enterprise content strategy, then go through each of its four elements — campaign strategy, keyword strategy, content creation, and measurement — and show you how those four elements create a process that’s constantly updated to suit your needs.
Why is it worth understanding enterprise content strategy at this level of detail? Simply put, content marketing remains an astonishingly high-ROI lead generation activity, yielding 3x as many leads as traditional marketing methods for 62% less.
The framework I’m about to describe is the result of 11 years of working with enterprises. It’s an iterative process, like “the relentless push” of Jim Collins’ flywheel. And it depends heavily on quality, which is why we begin with strategic planning.
Enterprise Campaign Strategy
While overall content marketing strategy focuses on long-term goals, content marketing campaign strategy focuses on immediate objectives—usually, lead generation, brand awareness, and thought leadership.
A content marketing campaign should be both measurable and adaptable. After each quarterly review of the results, you’ll want to either continue, change, or abandon the campaign based on its progress towards hitting its KPIs.
During your initial strategy conversation, you’ll define your goals. Here’s a list of all the goals we’ve seen enterprises set for themselves when embarking on a content marketing campaign.
|Brand Awareness||Increasing the space your company occupies in audience members’ minds, as well as their knowledge of your value proposition and offerings.|
|Sustaining Engagement||Making insightful points, addressing pain points, keeping the content interesting and skimmable.|
|Brand Health||Promoting positive consumer attitudes, opinions, and behaviors toward you.|
|Search Visibility||Increasing your website’s SERPs for valuable keywords.|
|Thought Leadership||Demonstrating industry leadership by being a valuable resource and directing the conversation in your field.|
|Attracting Backlinks||Signaling to search engines that your content is esteemed by other online publishers.|
|Overcoming Competition||Outranking others and converting more searchers.|
|Website Maintenance||Ensuring visibility and appeal by keeping a fresh, updated website.|
|Innovation||Collaborating with customers and partners to create unique offerings.|
|Generating Leads||Delivering helpful, informative content that invites consideration.|
|Driving Conversions||Helping prospects overcome obstacles and move down the funnel.|
|Organizational Efficiency||Answering questions to reduce customer service burdens.|
|Omnichannel Promotion||Driving business from online to offline and vice versa.|
|Sales Tools||Developing training materials like in-depth product explanations or case studies.|
|Client Onboarding||Developing materials to help new users get the most from your product.|
|Social Sharing||Boosting popularity and brand health while participating in trending topics.|
The best goals give way to specific and measurable KPIs. So we might refine a broad goal such as “generate leads” to more quantitative benchmarks like “increase leads by 10% over the next three months,” “boost ecommerce revenue by 5% this year,” or “increase client retention by 10% in Q3.”
Once you know what you hope to achieve from your content marketing campaign, it’s time to get more tactical. Now I’ll explain how my team selects keywords for a campaign that support the goals and KPIs set during the initial campaign strategy discussion.
Keyword strategy is the secret sauce for attracting the right target audience to your website. A particular word or phrase will act as a magnet, bringing Google searchers directly to your site.
When choosing keywords, don’t be discouraged seeing that nearly every keyword has already been targeted by competitors or news sites in your industry. Fortunately, Google’s algorithm is quite meritocratic, always searching for the page with the best possible content for that specific keyword to place at the top of the results. Therefore, if you can do a better job than your competitors, you can take their spot.
However, no matter how great your content is, certain keywords are so broad or competitive that Google is not likely to allow your site to rank for them for years, if ever, and therefore it doesn’t make sense to utilize your team’s effort trying to rank for them. Focus on specific, transactional keywords when possible (which I cover in the next section).
In our work with clients, we always try to choose keywords that are in the sweet spot of having medium or high traffic volume and lower search competition. However, above all, each keyword must reveal an intent that indicates the searcher is likely to fulfill one of your campaign goals.
To help you determine a searcher’s intent, here are a few questions to ask about a given keyword:
- What do you think the keyword really means?
- Who is the searcher? Would they respond better to a conversational blog or would they expect a well-cited white paper?
- Is the searcher ready to commit to a purchase, or are they still considering their options?
- What next step would be natural for them when they’ve finished reading the page that came up for their search query?
Choosing Transactional Keywords
When choosing a campaign’s keywords, we always start by determining the general words target audience members are searching online. These are what we call container keywords. Then, we generate a list of long-tail (i.e. more specific) keywords within that keyword container, using Google autofill as well as research tools like Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, or Moz. The long-tail keywords are the ones we end up targeting in our content pieces.
For example, “cpq” is a simple container word (it is a type of software that helps companies generate quotes for complex products), whereas a long-tail keyword within that container would be “cpq software solutions.” Clearly, the long-tail keyword is far more valuable, as the person searching for it has an intent to purchase (whereas the container word itself, “cpq”, would only be searched by a general researcher, which would not be valuable to your enterprise). The power of the long tail is clear to us, as long-tail keywords bring in 70% of all new business to our clients’ pages.
Once you’ve chosen keywords to target, it’s time to align that keyword’s search intent with the right type of page.
Choosing the Right Page for your Keyword
Mapping the right page to the right keyword is the practice of getting into the searcher’s mind to understand the issue that brought them to Google in the first place, then choosing a style of page that will be able to satisfy them best.
Here are the types of pages we typically choose from:
- Blog posts suit keywords that are direct questions or indications of a problem that needs to be solved
- Landing pages suit keywords that are transactional in nature, directly stating an interest in buying
- Super landing pages suit research-oriented keywords similar to the way blog posts do, but are reserved for those where the query indicates a closeness to transacting
- Specialized content like white papers, case studies, and research studies suit deeper research keywords that don’t indicate a closeness to transacting but a seriousness as a longer-term sales prospect nonetheless
- Pillar pages suit container keywords
We use a rubric similar to the below chart to help us determine which page type best serves each keyword, placing the keyword on a transactionality scale (highest, high, medium, low) based on its search intent.
|Page Type||Landing Page||Super Landing Page||Blog||Special Content|
(case studies, white papers, ebooks, etc.)
|Search Intent||buy||research to buy||research||research||overview|
|Page Design||Sales-oriented, simple, evidence-driven||Graphical, with organized explanations||Specific, focused, with clear sections||Organized, authoritative, evidence-based||Comprehensive, authoritative, and linking to a variety of pages|
|Example||Enterprise SEO Consultants||The 2020 Google Algorithm Ranking Factors||Keyword Strategy for B2B Blog Posts||Q&A with B2B SEO Expert Evan Bailyn||B2B SEO|
To put page type into the language of the sales funnel, searchers at the top of the sales funnel are still sorting out their needs and aren’t ready to buy; thus, they’ll need educational content that isn’t salesy. Searchers at the bottom of the funnel are still doing research so would be better served by practical, sales-oriented pages.
Once you have an idea of which keywords go with which pages, it’s time to put it all together.
A Simple Keyword Strategy Formula
In practice, here’s how our entire keyword strategy works:
- Choose the most relevant container keyword.
- Research 20 ideal long-tail keywords within that container (considering qualities like transactionality and competition), and make sure those long-tail keywords have sufficient traffic.
- Evaluate the search intent behind each long-tail keyword, and map it to the appropriate page type.
Once you’ve planned out the keywords to target and pages to write, you’ll need to create compelling content based on this research.
Creating content targeting your ideal long-tail keywords requires a steady focus on six key principles:
- Simplicity. Use the most straightforward style you can without undermining your reader’s intelligence. Your readers are trying to find the solution to their specific problem; show that you value their time and attention by getting to the point quickly. This allows your audience to find what they’re looking for without getting bored or confused, and makes them that much more likely to decide to reach out or make a purchasing decision before they leave your page.
- Exclusion. Write in the vocabulary and structure your target audience will recognize, even if it means excluding others. An electrical engineer does not need printed circuit boards spelled out for them, and if another searcher is confused by PCBs, so be it—that’s clear evidence that they are not in the market for what you sell.
- Specificity. Use examples of situations your reader will recognize. Doing so not only establishes your authority but also helps you connect with your reader. A reader who recognizes their challenges and frustrations in your content is one who now knows you understand them—and can help them with their problems.
- Originality. Remember that the decision-makers you’re targeting are busy people: you need to hook them early to capture their attention and keep them on your page. Make sure your writing is original as well: your audience can’t get your unique approach and insights anywhere else. You’ll not only earn the clicks, time on page, and rankings but also conversions and potential leads from readers who want to hear more of what you have to say—only this time on a sales call.
- Availability. Make sure to include a clear call-to-action (CTA) so your reader knows how to take the next step. Make it as easy and natural as possible, with a CTA on the sidebar for general inquiries and a targeted call-to-action woven into the conclusion of your content.
- Consistency. Publish content at least twice a week in order to increase your SERPs by getting Google’s news site bonus. For many companies, this can be the hardest part of the process. Writing and publishing one or two articles a month may be easy to find time for, but 8-10 is a much larger commitment.
Putting these all together is a lot of work, but if content is one of your core offerings, in-house content marketing makes sense. For others, outsourcing may be the better option. Doing so can put your online lead generation on autopilot, while your team can focus on higher level activities.
Content can be wonderfully evergreen, providing a stream of demand for years. However, you can only rely on your content to work for you when you know it’s succeeding. That’s why, once you’re publishing regularly, you’ll want to spend some time on the analytics.
Content Measurement and Analytics
A content campaign’s effectiveness is measured in the context of the KPIs defined at the start. However, there are certain KPIs that are common, which I will now explore.
Search Traffic Results: Unbranded vs. Branded
When gauging a content campaign’s success, traffic from unbranded search terms is a good starting point.
Unbranded search traffic refers to Google visitors who did not search the name of your enterprise or its products. A branded keyword phrase that uses your name directly represents people who are already familiar with your enterprise, who may have bought from you in the past, and who are coming to you for a very specific purpose. There is little benefit in evaluating this traffic, as you should already be in the #1 position for a keyword phrase that includes your name. Unbranded search queries typically come from visitors doing research, who aren’t specifically looking for (or even familiar with) your company.
Search traffic may be the favorite KPI of the SEO community, but it is only a leading indicator. The more direct KPIs are the ones listed below.
Must-Hit KPIs for Enterprise Content Marketing
Quality content helps your company in many ways, from brand awareness to social visibility to lead generation. However, most brands measure a content campaign’s effectiveness using some or all of the following KPIs:
- Number of blog visits – e.g. “approximately 10k/month, with 5% month-over-month increases”
- Organic traffic – e.g. “70% of total traffic, with 16% conversion to new leads”
- Average views per post – e.g. “10% increase, increasing another 15% over the course of a year”
- Search Engine Ranking Position – e.g. “main blog ranks top 3 for 5+ transactional keywords”
- Conversion rates – e.g. “more than 10 conversions per month, at a conversion rate of >3%”
- Social media engagement – e.g. “3+ comments per post, over 50% positive; 3+ weekly shares”
- Returning visitors – e.g. “18% returning visitors, with 16% of the return traffic converting”
- Average inbound links per post – e.g. “2+ per month, with 40% from authoritative sites”
It’s best to start tracking these KPIs as early in the content strategy process as possible. Our team creates detailed tracking spreadsheets weeks before publishing content to our clients’ websites. From the moment the first article or page goes live, we’re already tracking all of the KPIs above and more. This allows us to accurately project where we’re headed and refine our strategy based on real time tracking statistics.
Refine Your Campaign Strategy
Once you have the data, it’s time to interpret what it all means so you have actionable steps you can take to put the numbers to good use. I take a two-pronged approach to refining a campaign strategy: identifying problems and doubling down on successes.
Campaigns don’t typically provide massive returns out of the starting gate. It takes 4-6 months of consistent content publishing before you’ll see an increase in SERPs, and by extension, increased site traffic. But if you aren’t seeing the results you want even after these leading indicators are rising, the goal is to identify that fact early. This process works exceptionally well, and if results aren’t coming, it usually means something eminently understandable is happening.
Here are the 3 most common problems in enterprise content campaigns:
Problem – Traffic isn’t rising
Solution – Content isn’t engaging enough (check average time on site); content isn’t posted at least twice per week for 4-6 months; Article titles do not contain searched keywords
Problem – Traffic is rising but click-throughs and conversions are low
Solution – UI is disorganized; CTAs aren’t effective; Page speed is low
Problem – Bounce rates are high and time on page is low
Solution – Lack of a match between the targeted keyword’s search intent and the page type and/or content on the page (i.e. the user is looking for something different from what they found)
Double-Down on Success
I’m going to say something obvious now, but for some reason it’s not obvious to every enterprise decision maker: If your campaign is exceeding your expectations, do more of it. It’s fairly common to see companies run successful content campaigns and then feel they’ve checked that box and should now pivot over to social media, e-mail, or some other area of MarCom that hasn’t seen as much success. So, if it’s working, consider either (a) increasing the number of articles you’re publishing each week or (b) repurposing your best-performing content for new audiences or to fit new channels. For instance, from a single super landing page, you can produce several offshoot blogs, an infographic for social media, and a video.
Getting the Most Out of Your Content Strategy
Enterprise content strategy takes a lot of upfront work, and then thoughtful measurement and iteration throughout. It will use far more time and resources in the first 3 months than in the next 3, and still fewer in Year 2 than Year 1. The result, however, is well worth it: an industry-leading body of work reaching your most valuable stakeholders and influencers.
If you’d like to learn more about how to use this framework, or have us create and execute it in partnership with your company, you can get in touch here. We have over 11 years of experience helping enterprise clients get the most from their content strategy.