Content marketing is the leading marketing strategy among today’s digitally savvy businesses. And, as a result, many businesses do it, but few businesses really understand how to do it effectively.

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Instead, they raise countless questions that arise during the process of developing a content marketing strategy: How do we plan for it? How much does it cost? Who should be in charge? What are the KPIs (key performance indicators)? How do we track ROI? And, often, these questions result in paralysis rather than progress.

But I’ve seen the effectiveness of content marketing in action, both in my businesses and in those of my clients. That's why, even if you don’t have a complete understanding of why it works, I can explain how to do it in order to form your own effective content marketing strategy.

Here’s what’s necessary to build a solid content marketing strategy.

1. Set KPIs and project ROIs.

Every business department needs key performance indicators to quantify success and projected return on investment numbers for money spent. But what KPIs should you choose? I suggest the following six:

  • Comments. People comment on content that engages them. Track your comment count from a quantitative standpoint, but also analyze these comments for qualitative data.
  • Page views. This metric provides a solid understanding of the type of reach you’re gaining with your content.
  • Average time on page. One of the goals of content marketing is engagement. Few metrics can track this better than “average time on page.”
  • Bounce rate. Wonky bounce rates can send a signal that your content isn’t quite up to par. Analyze these rates for specific content pieces, and figure out what needs to be optimized.
  • Social sharing. Since most content gets spread via social channels, you should be actively monitoring the share count of every content piece.
  • Keyword ranking. As with any digital strategy, you need to consider the role of keywords and ranking in your content. Tracking your website’s position in the search engine results pages (SERPs) is a crucial KPI to determine content marketing success.

Related: 6 Steps to Your Best Content-Marketing Strategy

2. Schedule around an editorial calendar.

An editorial calendar is a fundamental tool for any content marketing strategy. With it, you can track the overall progress of your company’s brand story. Thematic elements should be shared across all channels, so if next week’s theme is “Ways to Enjoy the Summer,” all social media, blog, and forum posts should reflect this unified voice.

An editorial calendar acts as a dynamic storyboard that can be planned and rearranged, with minimal effort. All major newspaper and magazine publications (as well as new media outlets) use editorial calendars to schedule posts.

You would be wise to do the same.

3. Contract professional writers and designers.

The people you hire for content marketing need to understand how to be professional and courteous at all times while also being creative and innovative.

Writers with journalistic experience have the same skill set as copywriters do; and graphic designers should be familiar with infographics and social media content. Hiring a cross-functional team is smart, but make sure you get people who can specialize in the task you assign them.

Creating a consistent brand voice across all channels can be achieved with the right team in place. Team members should know how to squeeze the most value out of content.

4. Provide content that builds trust.

Trust is important in content marketing (and marketing in general) in that people will only do business with other people and businesses they trust.

Clickbait headlines, especially those meant to be negative or incite fear, are effective only at temporarily increasing traffic. Bounce rates will remain high.

Make sure that part of your editing process involves fact-checking any statistics used before publishing. All information should be 100 percent factually and grammatically correct to sustain trust among today’s audiences.

5. Document processes and track analytics.

It’s vital to document all processes and track analytics, especially when, like me, you take a scientific and data-driven approach to marketing. For me, knowing my analytics is key.

Analytics are what separate an effective content marketer from a less effective one. Knowing how your content is performing on all levels is crucial to knowing how to improve it.

Conclusion

Content marketing is a vital part of any digital marketing effort. Its combination of blogging, social media posts, back-linking and SEO can help a company generate more leads, trust, authority and revenue.

Solid processes on the operational side, backed up with documentation and analytics, ensure that successful marketing projects can be generated proactively.

The content you publish needs to be quality material that's educational or entertaining enough to help you succeed in building customer trust.

Related: Building a Keyword-Driven Content-Marketing Strategy Is Key

By optimizing your content marketing efforts, you can successfully increase your customer conversion rates.