15-step guide to building an advanced content marketing strategy using AI

What’s the ROI on that!? Sniggers the try-hard who always tries to sound insightful. This is a common problem for anyone who has decided to mention content marketing as a way to grow in a corporate meeting. Such is the scepticism anyone would think you have just suggested forming an NSYNC tribute band to attract new clients (it doesn’t work).  Yet, companies who create content have 7.8x more traffic than their competitors. So, it’s critical to develop an effective content marketing strategy.

Despite content marketing sounding like a buzzword that will disappear like the mini disk player, it’s actually been around for years. Have you ever wondered why Michelin restaurants carry the same name as Michelin the global tyre manufacturer? In 1889, when two brothers set up a tyre company, they had a problem. How do you sell tyres when there are fewer than 3000 cars on the road? They had an idea. They would create free Michelin guides to the local hospitality industry. This free information was not only valuable and therefore created brand loyalty, it also encouraged people to buy cars to visit these restaurants. Today Michelin has a global revenue of over $23 billion. I think it worked. Oh, and the restaurant stuff seems to have caught on.

Yet, creating content for the sake of it won’t work. You need to be strategic. You also need to stay ahead of the curve. Understanding how AI will disrupt content marketing, how it can help and where to avoid it is critical. Otherwise, you will be singing “Bye Bye Bye” to growing online.

What is a content marketing strategy?

A content marketing strategy is a plan that outlines how content will be used to attract and retain customers. It involves the creation and sharing of valuable and relevant content on a consistent basis to a specific audience.

The plan recognises that the best content marketing is different to typical ads. At the core of the plan is the flywheel principles of attract, delight and engage. Therefore, you are looking to inform customers of your expertise and to build trust and loyalty.

At the heart of the plan is a simple concept. People who are seen as thought leaders are more likely to attract customers when they are looking to buy. For example, imagine you are looking for a health optimisation clinic. On one side of the road is a clinic run by a doctor who you have seen discussing her thoughts previously. They resonate with you and you like her gentle yet clear approach. On the other side of the road is a clinic that you have never heard of. Which are you most likely to pick?

For most people, it’s the clinic that shares their views that resonate with you. This is because they are seen as a thought leader and are therefore trusted. So, your content marketing strategy must set out what you want to be famous for, the types of customers you want to engage and how.

What is the future of content marketing?

Content marketing will continue to thrive. Every major development in marketing over the last 25 years has seen content marketing becoming more important. From the emergence of search engines to social media, each brings people and information closer together. 

To put the effectiveness of content marketing in perspective, studies show it costs 62% less than conventional marketing methods whilst yielding approximately three times the number of leads. The key reason for this is that content marketing can generate brand loyalty. After all are you more likely to buy from a company who you perceive to be an expert or a company who show you a quick ad?

However, how companies do content marketing is being disrupted. The emergence of AI is leading many people to think they can take shortcuts whilst getting all the benefits. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

How does AI fit into content marketing?

The emergence of AI chatbots like ChatGPT has led people to create significant volumes of content quickly and easily. This is especially true for blog-style content as an AI can write a reasonably informative article with only a few prompts. This has disrupted the SEO industry. Yet, this is a problem. Whilst, it can be tempting to auto-generate articles at mass, AI in SEO needs to be managed carefully. As discussed previously, auto-generating articles can lead to a decline in your organic traffic and hinder your ability to be seen as a thought leader. The same is true when using AI for social media content.

However, that does not mean you cannot leverage AI. In fact, you should embrace AI when crafting your content marketing strategy because it can help you to better understand your audience and remove basic administrative tasks. By ensuring it is part of your strategy it can help save you time in the long run.

How do you build a content marketing strategy?

There is a difference between a content marketing strategy and an effective strategy. If you are unsure, it’s the effective strategy that you are looking for.

However, if you are looking for a bulletproof strategy by reading one article, it will fail. This article can guide you but for your strategy to be effective, you need to spend time, money and resources to understand how everything works. Moreover, if you want to make your content marketing strategy effective, it will need to be an evolving document which is constantly updated. 

The below steps outline what you need to do, where AI can help and where it should be avoided. 

Step 1: Your content marketing strategy should be aligned to your overall strategy

The most basic yet overlooked step is aligning your content marketing strategy with your overall business strategy. For instance, imagine you provide DNA testing. Your overall strategy is to become the platform of choice for employers who want to help their employees become healthier. However, your content strategy is focused on runners. It will make no sense. Therefore, ensure you align your content marketing strategy with the following:

  • Overall business strategy
  • Your marketing strategy

Each strategy should have a red thread with clear objectives under each. You can use AI to help clarify your thoughts. For example, consider using Gemini or ChatGPT to analyse the overall strategy and identify where you should focus your content strategy.  

Step 2: Without objectives your content strategy will be aimless

Why are you creating a strategy? This may sound like an easy question, but surprisingly it’s not. We have spoken to many different companies and many of them create content just for the sake of it. It sounds cool and someone has heard they should do it on some random podcast. But they really have no sense of direction.

So, outline what you want and how you will measure it. This may also impact step 3 when it comes to selecting a platform. If you are selling a fitness wearable, your objective may include:

  • Obtaining backlinks to grow your Domain Authority
  • Be seen as the alternative of choice for trail runners and therefore be viewed as a thought leader
  • Get more website traffic
  • Retain existing customers

Whatever your goals be clear and ensure you can measure them. 

Step 3: Platform-specific content marketing strategies are critical

Based on your objectives, consider how you can achieve them. Content marketing covers everything from websites to social media. Therefore, you need to be clear about which platforms you want to target.

For most companies, your website is your core platform to do business. If someone is landing on your website there is an increased chance that they are looking for your products and services. On the other hand, social media is typically a platform to raise awareness and engage your customers.

Each platform requires special attention. Therefore, consider creating platform-specific content marketing strategies.  For instance, you may want to create an overall social media strategy followed by a specific Instagram strategy if that’s your platform of choice. This means you can dig deeper into each respective area.

For your website, you will need to understand how SEO works. Aside from content, this includes how search engines are changing due to AI, how off-page SEO will impact your content and why technical SEO is important to get right. Without these fundamentals, your content marketing strategy for your website will fail. Regardless of what people say, just sticking up a blog post will not get you thousands of new customers without understanding the rest.

From a social media perspective, a specific social media strategy is important to develop. This will include understanding each social media platform and how to make it work for you.

Step 4: You need to know your customer if you want your content marketing to resonate

While many companies claim to have a solid grasp on their customer base, the reality is that only a handful truly understand their audience. To really understand your audience, you should perform a psychographic analysis. This means you look at who your target customers are as people rather than what they are. This means analysing how they think and behave rather than outlining simple demographic behaviour like age and gender. After all, Macaulay Culkin, Channing Tatum and Rishi Sunak are all male and born in 1980. Yet, I doubt anyone would suggest they are all similar people. Sorry, Rishi, I can’t imagine you in Magic Mike!

This doesn’t mean harvesting people’s personal data like Cambridge Analytica. Rather, it includes using all the data you have ethically collected to obtain a better understanding. This can include:

  • CRM data
  • Google Analytics
  • Surveys
  • Event information
  • External marketing data

Combining all this information can provide you with a better understanding of what type of content you need to create. For instance, in the US, there are approximately 2.5m Ozempic-related searches and it’s trending. Yet, not everyone who is over 40 wants to use Ozempic to help them lose weight. By performing a psychographic analysis, you can laser focus on what motivates people to use it and write content tailored to it.

Using AI to help perform a psychographic analysis can be powerful as it can help you identify trends. However, your ability to maximise its potential will largely depend on the quality and consistency of the data you have.

Step 5: A competitor analysis can help you find content gaps

The best place to start is to understand how others in your niche are getting traffic. However, doing this is not as simple as picking the largest competitor you can find. For example, if you sell running shoes you do not want to analyse Nike. They play by different rules to your start-up. Therefore, do the following:

  • Find a high-performing competitor that is of a similar size to you and analyse how they get traffic. This does not have to be a direct competitor but rather a competitor for your content marketing. For example, if you sell running shoes your content will likely be about running. This means your competitors for attention will include running websites and influencers not just running shoe companies.
  • Use an SEO analysis and/ or social media tool. This is because simply looking at another company’s website or social media account won’t necessarily help you understand how and where traffic is coming from. Moreover, when it comes to social media many accounts are inflated with fake followers and engagement. Therefore, it is easy to assume their content is working when it’s not.
  • Identify their strengths and weaknesses. You will want to exploit the opportunities they are missing.

You could try to use AI to help you perform your analysis but it’s unlikely to help. Using Gemini, you can provide it with a website link and ask it to analyse the website. However, the results are not insightful.

Step 6: The types of content will depend on your platform

The types of content you choose will depend on your platform. However, this may include:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Images
  • Podcasts

What’s important is to identify the style of your content. For example, a video on your website will likely differ vastly from what you post on Instagram. Moreover, even the style of the type of content on your chosen platform needs to be considered. For instance, if you want to create blogs you may decide they should opinion opinion-based or guides on how people can do something. Using AI to help you brainstorm this process can be highly beneficial and help you come up with ideas.

Step 7: Don’t make cutbacks. An effective content marketing strategy needs resources

A big mistake most companies make is thinking their existing marketing person can do everything on top of their current role. If you want to have an effective content marketing strategy you will need to invest in the right people. Digital marketing covers a vast array of platforms meaning different skills are required. It’s not enough to have someone that is great at creating videos and thinking it will go viral. SEO and social media do not work that way.

Moreover, don’t expect AI to help you cut corners. Just because ChatGPT can create content, doesn’t mean it will work. The best content is one that is unique and adds value. So, either expand your team or hire an agency. 

Step 8: Your content frequency is dependent on your resource profile

This will depend on the number of resources you have. However, you will need to ensure you are creating content regularly. On social media, you will most likely need to create content on a daily basis at the start. On your website, it is slightly different as your content is likely to be more long form. However, you will still need to commit to doing it frequently.

Create a content marketing plan and schedule how often you will create content for your chosen platforms.

Step 9: Trend analysis can help accelerate your content strategy

It’s important to understand if the content you are thinking about writing is trending or not. For example, imagine you have a health clinic. One of your key services is cold exposure therapy and you want to be seen as the next Wim Hof. Just randomly talking about cold exposure won’t necessarily work because you need to get into the details of what people want to hear. 

For example, at Antlerzz, we are a specialist digital marketing agency for health brands. This includes monitoring and analysing vast amounts of online data. We can tell you what is trending and what is not. We can see that interest in cryotherapy has declined by 37.5% in the US. So, does that mean content marketing is pointless?

No. You can still write about cryotherapy if you choose. However, a better option would be writing about ice baths. Interest in ice baths has risen 500% in the US. Since this is an emerging topic, you can also establish yourself as a thought leader early. 

Step 10: Content for every stage of the customer journey

When devising a content marketing strategy, it’s crucial to consider the different stages of consumer intent: awareness, interest, and buying. By understanding that people are at different stages of the marketing funnel you can create more diverse content targeted to each.

In the awareness stage, content should address audience concerns and questions, focusing on education. For example, a nutrition platform may create content discussing personalised nutrition plans, aligning with the interests of health-conscious individuals.

However, in the interest stage, content should blend information with marketing, emphasising how your offerings meet their needs. For example, a health testing company might outline common mistakes when picking tests. 

In contrast, the closing stage is more sales-focused. Here your content should highlight the unique benefits of using your service or product. For instance, a longevity clinic may wish to write content about how their users feel after undergoing NAD IV therapy or outline the results of their latest research.  

Step 11: Relevant keywords can help identify what people actually want 

This step is predominately for SEO of your website blogs but can also help when considering social media content. To do this you will either need an SEO tool or access to Google Keyword Planner.

The key here is to consider:

  • How many people are searching for a specific keyword
  • How difficult is it to rank based on where you are today
  • What is the user intent when searching for that keyword

So, for example, if you are a glucose monitoring company you will be delighted to know one of the fastest-growing CGM markets is the UK where interest has increased 200% over two years. Yet, simply optimising an article for “CGM” is unlikely to help if you want to write about how CGM can be used to optimise your gut health. This is because a quick Google search shows the user intent for “CGM” is to understand what it is.

Therefore, it’s important to spend time considering what people actually want to read and what you should write about.

It’s tempting to use AI to do keyword research. However, when we tested Gemini, the outcome was less than satisfactory. It could not accurately provide the volume size of keywords and constantly underestimated the difficulty. Therefore, it’s best to leave AI alone unless you want it to help you think about some keyword ideas which you can then look up in your SEO tool.

Step 12: Content clusters should form a central part of your strategy for content marketing

Content clusters can help establish authority on a specific subject for search engines and enhance your search rankings. They entail using a core article on a specific topic and supporting articles that deep dive into that topic. This is a great way of helping you come up with new content as well.

For instance, a holistic health clinic may be struggling to get seen online as interest in holistic health has remained relatively flat over 10 years. However, by breaking out specific topics you can leverage emerging trends. For example, gut health is trending and has approximately 50,000 monthly searches in the US. An article about what gut health is followed by several supporting articles such as foods, wearables and exercise could be highly beneficial. Each of these articles should have internal links to each other, meaning readers can go deeper into understanding the topic.

Following this approach also helps you meet Google’s content guidelines of Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). This should be central to your content marketing strategy.

To help speed up your brainstorming, use AI such as ChatGPT to help you come up with content cluster ideas. It will likely suggest some content ideas that you have missed and could be of high value.

Step 13: Avoid AI when creating content

When creating content, it is advisable to avoid using AI. Google has already begun updating its search algorithms to de-index AI-generated content. Therefore using AI will likely cause your website traffic to drop, impacting your ability to grow online.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use AI as an assistant. You can ask it to help you come up with ideas, structure your article or check your grammar. The key however to great content is to make it unique. This will also be critical for AI search engines.

Step 14: Amplify your content so your strategy becomes a reality

You may want to consider how you will get the most views on your content. By optimising content for your website, the ultimate goal is to get organic traffic. However, this can take time. Therefore, you may wish to try and push your content out in the beginning. 

If you have an existing customer base, consider sharing your content with them. Newsletters are often an effective way to generate traffic. If you have a large social following, you could also use that to share your blogs. This is why it’s important to understand how to get more followers on social media platforms like Instagram.

However, there are AI tools that claim they can help amplify your content on several channels. These are the best to avoid. Many of these violate platform rules or are not advanced enough to help deliver results. 

Step 15: Encourage engagement to enhance loyalty and trust

Engagement regardless of whether it’s on your social media feed or on your blog posts can help strike up debate. It’s a good way of getting people engaged and building up brand loyalty. Moreover, it is an effective way of amplifying your content if people share it.

However, don’t expect this part of your strategy to be straightforward. 

How you get engagement and how much will depend very much on your platform, where you are in your journey and the connections you have. For instance, if you are a small, self-funded online start-up selling infrared lamps, you will unlikely have an audience that will engage. Building up engagement will take time and will likely need you to focus on creating a social media following.

However, a health clinic that already has customers is in a different position. In this instance, you could try and leverage those customers by encouraging them to share your content through giveaways.

However, it’s again advisable to avoid using AI platforms that promise engagement. These will likely send you spammy traffic or bot followers. In both instances, it could negatively impact your online presence.

How Content Marketing will change

Content marketing will continue to be a key part of any organisation’s growth, regardless of advancements in AI. While AI tools may enhance efficiency and offer valuable insights, they cannot replace the human touch and creativity required for effective content creation. People want to buy from people and this trend has only accelerated in recent years. Studies show that 69% of customers already trust influencers over brands. However, if AI is used to write all content, then that number will likely increase. If you want people to buy from your brand, then you must find a way for them to feel a connection with you. Using AI to generate content will not help you do that.

However, by building an authentic content marketing strategy, you can put in place the start of your organic growth. Spend time mastering each step rather than skipping through and creating a strategy document like it’s an administrative exercise. If you don’t spend the time caring about your content strategy, then don’t expect your customers to care about your content.

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