Few buyer journeys start and end with clicking a giant “buy now” button at the top of a homepage or product page. A great blog alone won’t be enough to turn subscribers into buyers if the benefits of what is being sold aren’t crystal clear.
The average user spends most of their journey in the messy middle of the consideration stage, making it the trickiest stage to get right and often the most neglected.
Follow the tips below to create and execute a symmetrical buyer journey-based content strategy.
What makes a winning content strategy?
A winning content strategy relies on an honest assessment and comprehensive understanding of four interdependent components:
- Your end goal
- Your audience
- Your product
- Your resources
Your editorial and content calendars should combine these four components to guide users through all stages of their decision-making process.
Know your end goal
You might be writing into the void without knowing what you hope to achieve. Up to 80% of successful content marketers say they have a documented content strategy.
You may have several goals, but setting a single overarching SMART goal linked to a specific buyer journey stage will pull your ideas together during the keyword research phase and prevent your team from writing in circles.
Keep your smaller goals close at hand, though, because they will often ladder up to your larger goal. Content marketing is one of the best investments your business can make because a successful content hub is a gift that keeps giving.
Some content goals you might want to consider include:
- Increasing online visibility (awareness)
- Driving more organic traffic (awareness)
- Increasing engagement rate (consideration)
- Improving lead quality (consideration)
- Increasing conversion rate (decision)
- Generating more revenue (decision)
The goals outlined above are Specific, Measurable, and Attainable. How Realistic they are depends on your target result (i.e., the percent or number you’re using to define success) and your Timeline.
Your timeline will vary based on your initiative (goals related to product launches and seasonal trends will have shorter timelines), but always remember that content marketing – especially SEO – is a long-term strategy, not a short-term sprint.
Quarterly goals might be appropriate for paid advertising, but 6-12 months is a more realistic timeline for SEO.
Know your audience
The most important qualifier of your content’s popularity will always be your audience, which is why creating buyer personas is essential to any marketing strategy.
A well-crafted buyer persona should include:
- Basic demographic information like profession, age range, location, and gender.
- Personal values and sociopolitical motivators.
- Hobbies, interests, and lifestyle choices.
- Research habits and preferred sources of information.
- Motivations and pain points.
- Paths to purchase and potential deterrents.
Basic demographic information can probably be gleaned from your sales data, but connecting all the puzzle pieces that make up your buyer personas will likely require additional research.
Look for trends in customer survey answers, social media replies, industry forum discussions, and comments left on review aggregator websites.
Resist the urge to use competitor data in this stage. Tools like Semrush or Ahrefs provide valuable insight into user search behavior but make it too easy to overlook the user needs your competitors aren’t meeting.
Don’t assume your competitors have all the answers. You might notice some overlap between your target audience and your nearest rival’s, but your buyer personas should never be exact replicas of a competitor’s.
Know your product
Connecting the unique features of your brand, product or service to your audience’s unique challenges, goals, and values is the crux of a successful content marketing strategy.
Theoretically, knowing your product should be the easiest part of the equation, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to leave an important stone or two unturned, such as how your product aligns with your audience’s values.
In a market where 50% of Gen-Zers and 40% of millennials say they’re more likely to purchase from companies who take a stance on social issues like racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, gender inequality, and climate change.
Something as small as how you package your product or the causes you support on social media can influence buyers to choose you over your competitors.
To ensure you realize your brand’s full potential, collaborate with your team on a “features and benefits” list.
Highlight any features that set your solution or brand apart from other potential solutions or brands. This exercise might uncover previously unconsidered aspects of your buyer persona.
Your keyword research process will run a lot smoother if you approach it with a firm grasp of what makes your product special.
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Keyword research tips for connecting your product with your audience
If you’re using a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs for keyword research, you might find the list of suggested keywords overwhelming and struggle with keyword mapping.
The majority of digital marketing teams work from a single source of truth via a giant keyword master list.
This method is great for topic ideation and brainstorming, but I find doing separate keyword research for each stage of the buyer journey makes it easier to eliminate irrelevant keywords and narrow the strategic focus.
Alternatively, you can filter your existing master list using the suggestions outlined below.
Awareness stage: ‘I want to learn’
Awareness stage user behavior and research needs
In the awareness stage, users are seeking educational content. They have a question, and if you provide the best, most relevant answer, they’ll consider you and your business a potential solution.
To reach users in the awareness stage, speak to their pain points, help them understand their experiences, and connect your brand story to their values.
Using your chosen keyword research tool, filter your keywords by informational intent for a broad overview of potential user issues and questions.
If you have a hefty keyword list and simply filtering by informational intent isn’t getting you the results you’re hoping for, try narrowing your keywords based on the type of solution-seeking language you’ve assigned to the buyer persona you want to target.
Keyword research for the awareness stage
Some popular user queries in this stage might include words like:
- How to
Best content formats for the awareness stage
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Thought leadership content
- Any format likely to be shared on social media
KPIs for an awareness stage strategy
- Referral traffic
CTAs for the awareness stage
- Social media share requests
- Invitations to subscribe
Consideration stage: ‘I want to solve’
Consideration stage user behavior and research needs
By the time a user reaches your consideration stage, they’ve already identified their problem but are weighing the pros and cons of various solutions, yours being a potential option.
In this stage, your objective is to leverage what you’ve already learned about your users during the awareness stage to simplify their research process with personalized, brand-specific content proving your solution is the best.
The consideration stage is often the make-or-break stage for brands. Hopefully, you’ve already convinced your audience of your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
Now, you need to convince them your product best fits their budget, needs, and values.
Filtering your keywords by commercial intent will help you identify consideration stage keyword themes and topics.
Looking into navigational intent keywords, or keywords related to your brand name or specific pages of your site, might also uncover some truths about what users think they know about you as well as pages they’d like to see that may not exist yet.
Keyword research for the consideration stage
Queries in this stage might include modifiers like:
- Pros and cons
- Strengths and weaknesses
Best content formats for the consideration stage
- Case studies
- Product reviews
- Comparison guides
- Video tutorials
- Any data-based proof or live demonstration of product features and benefits
KPIs for a consideration stage strategy
- Pricing page clicks
- Demo requests
CTAs for the consideration stage
- Sign up for a free trial or request a demo
- Any CTA that exchanges valuable content for customer information (e.g., “Fill out this form to get your free eBook”)
Decision stage: ‘I want to buy’
Decision stage user behavior and research needs
Users in this stage are aware of their problem, have researched potential solutions, and have (hopefully) added your product to their short list of options. Thus, your objective is to seal the deal.
You might notice a slight overlap between consideration and decision-stage content. This overlap is normal as, technically, users in the decision stage are still considering a few different products or service providers.
To find decision-stage keywords, you’ll want to filter by transactional intent.
Keyword research for the decision stage
Some queries to try for this stage might include words like:
- Shipping cost
- Specific product and model numbers
- Near me
Best content formats for the decision stage
- Vendor comparisons
- Customer ratings and reviews
- Case studies
- Product FAQs
- Pricing pages
- Buyer guides and how-tos
- Promotional offers
KPIs for a decision stage strategy
CTAs for the decision stage
- Get a coupon or discount code
- Get an estimate or quote
Know your resources
As you can see, your content options are endless. However, assessing your options, choosing the right formats and distribution channels for your audience, and assigning responsible parties for each step in your workflow are all vital parts of content strategy.
Realistically, a small content team might not have the required skills, time, and resources to successfully cover every format on the list. No matter how big your team is, you should look to your buyer personas for answers about what distribution channels to focus your energy on.
Once you’ve picked your channels, a winning formula for your editorial calendar might look something like this:
- Daily: Share something on your social media platform of choice – customer testimonials, upcoming events, industry news, photos from a company event, etc.
- Weekly: Create a new short- to medium-length blog post, video, or other type of low-lift content. Alternatively, you can recycle evergreen content.
- Monthly: Create a longer blog post, webinar, or podcast.
- Quarterly: Add a whitepaper, case study, research paper, or ebook to your website.
- Annually: Share a broadcast of an industry conference, a roundtable discussion with your executives, a longer video about product or subscription benefits, or a “state of the industry” report.
Your content strategy may be on the leaner side than what I’ve outlined above. Regardless of how you approach creating a content calendar, you should always try to plan your content at least a month in advance.
Be open to making changes based on performance or current events, and publish on a regular cadence so users know what to expect.
Putting it all together: A content calendar for the buyer journey
Lopsided content strategies are common in both the B2B and B2C verticals.
B2B brands tend to focus too much on decision-stage content without letting users get to know their story and values.
B2C brands tend to rely heavily on reaching users in the awareness stage but struggle to keep their audience interested as they move from researching answers to researching solutions.
Consistency is the easiest way to streamline your content calendar and ensure you hit users at each touchpoint in their journeys.
For example, maybe you decide to focus on blog posts, videos, and podcasts. You’ll want to write a new blog post every Monday, launch a new podcast every Tuesday, and upload a new video every Friday.
You know your primary user base exists on LinkedIn and Facebook, but you’ve also had some success reaching them on Instagram and YouTube. You figure Instagram and YouTube might be good places to share coupons and promo codes with the potential to also grow your user base.
To keep users engaged, you should plan to share different content formats tailored to different buyer journey stages on different distribution channels around the same time each week.
Following this format, a business week in your content calendar might look something like this:
- Monday: Share awareness stage blog post on LinkedIn.
- Tuesday: Share consideration stage podcast on Facebook.
- Wednesday: Share decision stage promo code on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
- Thursday: Share awareness stage blog post on Facebook and consideration stage podcast on LinkedIn.
- Friday: Share awareness stage video (with included decision stage promo code) on YouTube and Facebook.
Content strategy isn’t an exact science. Monitoring and tweaking yours over time will ultimately be the key to growing your brand.
For more tips and tricks on crafting a balanced content strategy, check out this content mapping guide.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.