7 Creative E-book Design Examples (B2B + B2C)

In marketing, good e-book design isn’t just about making something pretty; it’s about enhancing your viewer’s experience with your content. When you turn a boring cover into a stunning calling card, or a cluttered layout into a visual treat, or a confusing data set into an elegant visualization, you make it that much easier to grab—and, most importantly, keep—your audience’s attention.

We love it when we see brands from all industries up their e-book game by applying A+ design, and we think seeing others’ good work can inspire you too. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the most standout examples of e-book design we’ve seen lately.  

B2B Marketing Strategy Toolkit CTA

7 Excellent Examples of E-Book Design

If you’re facing an e-book design project and need a little inspiration, we have just what you need. Here are seven great takes on e-book design from both B2B and B2C brands. 

1) The Secret Sauce by LinkedIn

Why we love it: A great cover

Linkedin ebook example

We’re suckers for a bold visual, and this e-book cover hits the mark for several reasons. 

  1. It’s a clever theme, demonstrating that LinkedIn has the literal secret sauce (bonus points for making it the only bottle with a label).
  2. Its clean photography really pops, especially compared to most of the boring covers in the B2B space. 
  3. It reflects LinkedIn’s brand identity via their signature bright blue (a visual differentiator). 

When you’re looking to make an impact, a visually arresting cover is the way to do it in an instant.

Note: While a cover is incredibly important, maintaining a design aesthetic throughout all of your content is equally as important. LinkedIn decided to promote the e-book by creating an infographic, which also carries the same visual theme. A+ all around.

Linkedin ebook example 2

Tip: Make sure your e-book design reflects your brand identity. To make it easier for content creators to replicate, find out how to craft a strong brand’s style guide.

2) Your Field Guide to Foraging Intent Data by Terminus

Why we love it: A clever theme

Gathering data is a crucial part of a marketer’s job, but you can feel like you’re lost in the weeds. Terminus does an excellent job of translating this metaphor into an exciting adventure guide. From the people and animals to the maps and trails, this interactive e-book is a perfect example of how a little creativity can drastically enhance a viewer’s experience. By giving it this unique twist, learning how to gather data feels like an exciting adventure—not a dull chore.

B2b e-book examples 3

Tip: It’s easy to come up with obvious visual metaphors (e.g., lightbulb = idea), but challenge yourself to come up with a visual theme that is both relevant and interesting.

3) Break Free of Boring B2B by Ceros

Why we love it: Unusual imagery

This is a perfect example of super creative e-book design for a subject that can be notoriously, well, boring. This interactive e-book is an explosion of color, pattern, and surprising imagery that is totally unexpected. From a screaming bear to a soda-drinking cat, it takes Internet meme aesthetic to a whole new level while delving into the ins and outs of B2B content marketing. We love an eye-catching interactive, and this brings the best of animation and information together in one easy-to-navigate package.

E-book examples page with bear

Tip: Since you don’t have to be literal in your metaphors, think about the real message you’re trying to deliver. Ceros wanted to prove that B2B doesn’t have to be boring, so they created a totally surprising and whimsical e-book design to prove just that.

4) STFU Already by Unbabel

Why we love it: Bold palette and typography

Not all e-books have to be interactive adventures. Unbabel’s thoroughly entertaining PDF e-book proves you can make a big impression without a ton of bells and whistles. Its bright and bold color palette, playful illustrations, and beautiful typography make the subject matter that much more interesting. Whereas they could have taken the technical route, espousing their software benefits in a boring brochure, this technicolor approach generates excitement and curiosity about their offering. F yeah, Unbabel.

Unbable e-book design example Unbable e-book example 2 Unbable e-book example 2

Tip: Bold colors can help you stand out from your competition, especially when you use them for your cover. If you’re not sure what fits your message, find out how to curate the right color palette for your brand. 

5) How EU Banks Can Ensure EPI’s Success by Feedzai

Why we love it: Pops of personality

Any time a brand can transcend their product offering and show us who they are, it’s a win for brand storytelling. Feedzai is a perfect example of this. For an e-book about financial safety, which may seem rather droll, they do a good job of adding personality via people-centric illustrations (which feature a balance of genders and more than one skin tone—thank you).

Feedzai ebook example 3

Tip: Depicting diversity is crucial. Be mindful of who you’re representing through imagery (be it illustration or photography).

6) How to Successfully Negotiate a Higher Salary in 4 Easy Steps by Her First 100K

Why we love it: Simplicity with style

Good e-book design doesn’t mean you have to design a custom font, create hand-drawn illustrations, or conduct a 5-day photoshoot to get the best images. This guide makes great use of photography, typography, layout, and negative space to deliver the information in a straightforward, cohesive package. If you wanted proof that strong design can elevate even the simplest e-book, this is it.

Her first 100K ebook 2 Her first 100K ebook

Tip: If you don’t have a ton of design resources, simple typography treatments and callouts can do a lot to make content easily digestible.

7) Einstein’s Guide to AI Use Cases by Salesforce

Alright, so this one isn’t technically an e-book, but it is a clever piece of lead generation. You answer a few questions about what type of work you do, and this interactive guides you to the most relevant case study for you. This is a very clever way to create a personalized, guided experience through strong design. The Einstein character animation, the simple and clean navigation, and the brand colors make this a clearly branded experience.

Salesforce einstein e-book design example

Tip: Simple interactivity can make all of your content more engaging, whether it’s an e-book, guide, or questionnaire. If you’re curious to learn more, find out how to brainstorm great interactive content ideas. 

How to Nail Your Own E-book Design

We want to see better e-book design in the world, so we’re always happy to share the tips we’ve learned from our own projects. If you’re looking for more tips to improve your e-books…

And if you need a partner to help bring your next e-book to life, here are 12 tips to find a good content agency. You can always hit us up too.

B2B Marketing Strategy Toolkit CTA

Blend Consumer Banking E-Book

Blend’s digital platform streamlines the journey from application to close—for every banking product. For this project, Blend was specifically interested in a report that would explore the state of the industry as it relates to the application process for deposit accounts, the keys to a good process, and how institutions can best serve their customers.

However, this wasn’t a standard data design project. Before we could bring the data to life, we needed to get it. So we crafted custom criteria to outline the key factors you need to create a successful application experience and audited a list of 100 financial institutions (including banks and credit unions) to score each. Of course, the challenge with all data storytelling is identifying the most relevant information (aka the real story). Because the primary goal of the report was to help readers improve their own application practices, we focused on identifying industry trends and the most interesting insights to turn into relevant takeaways for the reader.

The result was a high-value piece of content that establishes Blend’s authority and expertise in the industry, and positions the brand as a trusted resource to their customers—a content marketing win-win.

5 Easy Ways to Turn Your Old E-Books Into Fresh Infographics

Content takes time, money, and resources to produce, which is why we believe you should get as much mileage as possible from anything you create—especially with cornerstone content like e-books. Unfortunately, marketers are usually sitting on an archive of great content that’s just gathering dust, either because it never had much traffic to begin with or because it’s been forgotten. This is a huge waste.

You can get a lot more from your existing assets by using them to create fresh content. This approach is called a divisible content strategy, and not only is it economical but it expands your reach, takes less work, and helps you promote other content, helping strengthen your entire content ecosystem. 

One of the best ways to breathe new life into old content is to create infographics. Things like e-books, reports, guides, research, and surveys are filled with valuable information and interesting data insights that can be used to tell many different types of stories—and infographics can help bring those stories to life in unique ways.

5 Ways to Create Infographics

If you’re not sure what types of infographics to make from your e-books, here are some of our favorite ways to extract stories and come up with new ideas.

1) Expand on a Topic

E-books and reports are full of valuable information, but they can only cover so much on a given topic. By exploring a related subject or doing a deeper dive into a single topic, you can create an interesting infographic that educates your reader—and encourages them to learn more by checking out the original e-book. Pro tip: Comb through the sidebars or callouts in your e-books or reports—those are often great subjects to explore.

Example: To promote their What DDoS Attacks Really Cost Businesses survey, we helped Incapsula create an infographic on the anatomy of a DDOS attack. While the survey covered how the issue affects businesses, it didn’t precisely explain how these attacks happen. Creating this infographic allowed Incapsula to further educate people while promoting the survey.  

repurpose infographics 1

2) Create a How-To

People are always eager to learn something, and if you can provide them with practical information that makes their lives easier, they will love you for it. Turning your best tips and tutorials from e-books or other cornerstone content into compelling infographics is a great way to provide value—in a highly shareable format.  

Example: We partnered with LinkedIn to create a fun infographic that offered tips on how to create a great marketing machine. The infographic was used to promote the brand’s e-book, The Marketing Skills Handbook, which included many more great tips.

repurpose infographics 2

3) Summarize a Chapter or Topic

Infographics are an effective form of storytelling because they help people process information visually, making them a great way to communicate concepts that may be complex or challenging to explain. Also, not everyone has the time to dive into an e-book or research report. Creating a condensed infographic version that includes the most important, interesting, or relevant information provides a great service.

Example: Education company Course Hero is dedicated to helping people learn online, so we partnered with them to create a series of infographics that summarize famous works of literature. These infographics are useful study materials for busy students, helping them learn in less time.  

repurpose infographics 3

4) Find a News Angle

Newsjacking can be a great tactic to give older content new relevance, as long as it’s done appropriately. (Follow these tips to make sure you do it the right way.) Think about the trending topics in your industry or in the larger media landscape. Do you have data that might shed light on an industry trend? Is there a social tie-in that might make your content more interesting?

Example: To promote their Definitive Guide to Digital Advertising, we helped Marketo create an infographic on the “Mad Men” of the millenium, showing the major trends that define today’s marketing landscape—contrasted with those of the Mad Men era. Thanks to the popularity of the show, it was an interesting, unique, and relevant angle that helped Marketo join the conversation in an organic way. It was also picked up by Ad Week, helping Marketo expand their reach.

repurpose infographics 4

5) Tell a Surprising Story

Data and research often contain interesting, unique, or surprising insights and discoveries that tell a very interesting story. Turning that type of information into a compelling infographic is an easy way to repurpose content and get more attention.

Example: We helped High Five craft an infographic based on their 2015 Workplace Culture and Communication Report. The story revealed the negative effect that tech has on the workplace—a surprising take that is relevant to people in all industries.

repurpose infographics 5

How to Make a Truly Great Infographic

Coming up with a strong infographic idea is just the first step. Once you’re ready to start creating that infographic, you must follow best practices at every stage of the process. To ensure your infographic is as successful as possible, follow these tips to nail everything from copywriting to promotion.

If you need a little help getting everything done, find out what to look for in an infographic design company. Or let us know what you’re struggling with. We’d love to chat.

How to Make E-Book Templates to Create E-books Faster

Providing people with high-quality, comprehensive content is a great way to build relationships, increase leads, improve SEO, and more. That’s why e-books are such a valuable tool for marketers. The problem is they are also one of the more difficult pieces of content to produce. From copywriting to e-book design, it can take a lot of time and energy to create something of quality. But there are always ways to work smarter, not harder. And we’re always on the hunt for the best tools, tips, and tricks to make your life easier. So let’s talk about one of the easiest ways to create quality e-books in less time: e-book templates. If you are a brand that produces a lot of e-books (or wants to), templates will change your life.

The Benefits of Custom E-Book Templates

When some people hear the word “template,” they think of a ‘90s PowerPoint slide. But well-designed templates don’t turn your content into a boring brochure. They are an efficient way to create content that is:

  • On-brand: An e-book design template is designed around your visual language, including fonts, colors, logos, etc. You don’t have to get approval from an art director, and you can be confident that you’re producing something that always reflects your brand.
  • Consistent: If you look through your archive, you will probably notice your e-book design reflects a range of styles and design aesthetics. This is problematic if you’re trying to build an instantly identifiable brand (and who isn’t?). Whether you’re working with a freelancer, an agency, or an in-house designer, templates ensure that everything you do will have a cohesive feel.
  • Easy to replicate: Building an e-book design from scratch takes a ton of time. But you can reduce that time tremendously with a comprehensive template. You just pick and choose the elements you need, then plug your content in. This makes it easy for novice designers (or even marketers) to create something of quality with a quick turnaround.
  • Economical: If you don’t have to create a brand-new design every time, you can reduce costs while increasing your output. That gives you a higher ROI for every e-book you create.

So, how do you create these magical templates?

How to Build E-Book Templates 

We know marketing teams are usually overloaded, especially designers. But remember that a little bit of work up front can save you a ton of time down the road—and make designers’ lives a lot easier. If your team doesn’t have the time, you might consider using a content agency (or baking templates into an engagement you already have). But if you’re going to DIY it, here’s the simple 3-step process to create an intuitive visual design system that anyone can use.

1) Go Through Your Existing E-Books

You might only have a handful of e-books, or you might have a huge archive (in which case you can choose, say, 10). Go through each to identify the common elements that you will need to build into your e-book design template. The goal is to build something that works for any e-book subject, so it should be comprehensive and scalable.

This might include things like:

  • Cover design
  • Data visualization (charts and graphs)
  • Illustrations
  • Diagrams
  • Sidebars
  • Callouts and pullquotes
  • Images/captions
  • Chapter breaks
  • Headers/subheads
  • Iconography
E-book design template

Identify the most common design elements in your e-books. 

Make sure to poll your team about what they might also need. You can also look at brands whose content you admire. (Here are 5 great e-book design examples you can learn from.)

2) Build Your Design System

Once you know what your design should include, start building those elements. At this stage, you’re building your visual system, such as:

  • Grid system
  • Typography (heirarchy, headers, bodycopy, bullets, hyperlink style)
  • Color palettes
  • Graphic elements
  • Data visualization styles
  • Photography style
  • Illustration style
  • Layouts

Everything should adhere to your visual language. Don’t have one? Here’s how to make one, as well as everything it should include.

3) Create Your Template

To turn your visual system into a practical guide, build out your design files, providing mockups of actual pages that reflect best practices. (If you already have an e-book design that works well, you might adapt it to the guidelines.) Examples:

E-book design template

The important thing is to offer clear explanations and visual examples of everything. Whoever picks it up, whether a freelancer or in-house designer, should be able to understand it and replicate it without asking questions.  

You might also include any relevant design tips. (And make sure you avoid these 30 common e-book design mistakes.)

Once you put your e-book design templates to work, you’ll see how much easier they are to produce, and you’ll be grateful you put the work in. 

Remember, too, that you can also make the most of your work by repurposing your e-books after their first run. (Try these 9 tips to do that, and check out this roundup of 101+ resources and tools to make better e-books.)

Look for More Ways Template Can Improve Content Creation

There are always ways to improve how you do things, so think about how templates might help in other areas of content marketing, including:

  • Infographic templates
  • Interactive templates
  • Social templates
  • Reporting templates
  • Ad templates

We know that not everyone has the resources to tackle design templates, though. If you need a little help or someone to help lighten your content load, holler at us.  

Interactive E-book: The Content Marketer’s Guide to Brand Video

If you don’t have video in your content mix, you’re missing out. It’s simpler to make than ever, and people really want to see it. (A 2014 Levels Beyond survey found that 51% of millennials would rather watch a video than read.) Now is definitely the time to dive in.

But we know you might be a little intimidated (or overwhelmed) to start, and you probably have a lot of questions. We’re here to help.

Our new interactive e-book, The Content Marketer’s Guide to Brand Video, covers everything (seriously, everything) you’ve ever wanted to know about brand video but were too shy to ask, including:

  • Why are humans biologically wired for video?
  • How can brands use video to deliver a strong message?
  • What makes a truly great brand video?
  • How do you measure the ROI of video?
  • What does it take to produce video?
  • How should you act on set?

It’s all there, plus great data, pro tips, and great examples of brand video. We also made it interactive so you can skip to the stuff you want to know—and bookmark it when you want to come back. Click below to check it out now. 

brand video

And if there’s anything we didn’t answer, we’d be happy to chat.

6 Easy Fixes to Makeover Your E-book Design

How’s your latest e-book doing? How’s your oldest e-book doing? Have downloads dipped? It’s frustrating, we know, but sometimes a few quick tweaks to your e-book design can really improve your readers’ experience, making them more eager to consume your content and connect with your brand. If the content in your e-book is gold, but people are tapping out before they get to page 2, consider how a makeover might help.

Does Your E-book Design Need a Makeover?

Design integrity has a lot to do with how content quality is perceived. First, print out your latest e-book. Take a critical look at what’s in front of you:

  • What catches your eye?
  • How does it flow?
  • What do you feel when you look at it?

These gut reactions and first impressions are what your reader probably experiences, too. We hate to see you give off the wrong impression, so we’re here to help. All it takes is a little creativity to turn a blah design into something beautiful. Here are 6 ways to do it.

1) Choose a Theme

The problem: Your design is totally generic or all over the place, mixing clashing styles, imagery, and visual metaphors right and left.

The fix: E-books are awesome because they give you a nice creative canvas to tell your story. The best, most effective e-books deliver a single story, and use every element of design to support it. Choose a single theme or concept to ground the design, then use your creativity to bring it to life.

6 ways to makeover e-book design

2) Rehab Your Cover

The problem: The cover is the first thing people see, but too often marketers miss the mark. The most common mistakes: too cluttered, no imagery, irrelevant imagery, boring typography, generic design.

The fix: Let your content be the guide. Use high-quality imagery to catch the reader’s eye and draw them in. The cover should match the content theme and infuse a little brand personality into it. There should also be an intuitive grid-based layout and logical header hierarchy so that everything is clear at a glance.

6 ways to makeover your e-book design3) Add Personality with Imagery

The problem: Your e-book looks like a PowerPoint: generic templates, boring iconography, etc.

The fix: Consider both the tone of the content and your brand personality. The images you use should help cultivate a feeling that supports your message. Is your e-book about employee collaboration? Let’s see people working together. Is it about increasing revenue? Let’s see some tasteful data visualization.

6 ways to makeover e-book design

4) Condense and Trim Down Copy

The problem: Someone got a little carried away in trying to build suspense, so you have to flip through 5 pages of “teaser” content before you get to the meat of a section. Conversely, they packed so much in that you’re facing a cluttered mess on each page.

The fix: Know two things: Negative space is your friend, and pages should be used economically. While chapter breaks may deserve their own page, condense content to deliver the message efficiently. Oftentimes this means trimming down content on a page. Removing an extraneous pullquote or sidebar can make a huge difference. Also look for opportunities to let design do the heavy lifting. A paragraph explaining a process can be visualized in a single diagram. A stat in a callout can be turned into a chart. These are great ways to break up the text. 6 ways to makeover e-book design5) Kill the Visual Junk

The problem: Some designers hear the word “visualize” and go nuts, packing every page with illustrations, photos, charts, or iconography.

The fix: Look critically at every visual element. Ask yourself:

  • Does this enhance the story? Things like illustrations are often added arbitrarily without much thought.
  • Can it be condensed? Data visualization can sometimes make things even more confusing if, say, you’re trying to compare three bar charts when a single grouped bar chart would do it better.
  • Does it make sense? This is especially true for icons, which can be far too abstract to represent anything meaningful.

If the answer isn’t yes, say bye. 6 ways to makeover your e-book

In addition visual elements, colors can sometimes overwhelm. A helpful tip: Use 1-2 main colors and 2-3 accent colors.

6) Tame Your Typography

The problem: There are so many fonts and sizes it looks like a teenager’s notebook.

The fix: Limit the number of type styles (the combination of kerning, leading, point size, etc.) to create consistency and harmony. Also, don’t use more than 2 typefaces, and do follow a grid. 6 ways to makeover e-book designFor more of our tips on great e-book design, here are a few posts you might like:

If you need an expert to help you out, let’s chat.

Free E-Book – How to Maximize Publishing with Microcontent

Content marketing is all about diversity: high-value evergreen content that informs, mixed with high-impact, real-time content to bring awareness to your brand. But content marketers are often pulled in every direction, tasked with creating a high volume of content to fill each bucket while ensuring that every piece feeds long-term brand goals.

With limited resources and ever-increasing demands, how do you create content that is economical and impactful? Enter microcontent—an effective approach to content creation that requires little effort and provides maximum value.


Our sister company, Visage, has teamed up with Kapost to create this wonderful free e-book that aims to provide brands with an actionable strategy for microcontent. In this e-book you’ll learn:

  1. What microcontent is: Learn about the different formats to get an idea of what you might want to experiment with.
  2. Why microcontent supports your content strategy: From long-term goals to day-to-day publishing, learn how microcontent helps support your efforts
  3. How to create effective microcontent: Whether you’re just starting to create content or have an enormous archive, find out how to produce a high volume of content with minimal effort.


Free E-Book: How to Build a Long-Term Content Strategy in a Real-Time World

How do you get the most results from your content marketing? With a killer content marketing strategy. Of course, in a real-time world, it can be hard to plan ahead. When news stories break or a product launch gets postponed, you have to adapt your content while keeping your long-term goals in mind. And no matter what you publish, you also have to keep everyone from your sales team to your social following happy. It often feels like you’re serving two masters—or five or six. But with the right planning, you can create a long-term strategy that saves your energy and your sanity.

A well-crafted, long-term strategy has built-in flexibility and a solid foundation, letting you fill in your content needs as you go—even if (and when) your larger goals change. It means you can stay agile enough to react to the latest trending hashtag while scheduling production for your next evergreen infographic. (Trust us, we did it last week.)

Want to know how? Check out our new e-book, How to Build a Long-Term Content Strategy in a Real-Time World. We cover everything you need to know to create a strategy that works for you, including: 

  • Why a long-term strategy saves you time, energy, and money
  • How to identify your objectives
  • What type of content will serve your objectives
  • How to map content to your objectives
  • How to effectively schedule content

Check out the e-book, and let us know your tips for creating a content strategy.

How to Build a Long-Term Content Strategy in a Real-Time World


Free E-Book Download: The Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution

Though content marketing is the new frontier, marketers are still facing the age-old question: How do you get your brand’s content in front of an audience? Thanks to the proliferation of new media, with the right distribution strategy, you can reach more consumers than ever before.

Still, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Sure, you can create content, but how do you know if it’s serving your marketing goals? Once it’s created, where do you publish? And how do you optimize content for maximum results? Over the last few years, we’ve heard these concerns from all corners of the content marketing globe. And, in many ways, things have only become more confusing as more platforms pop up.

Because we’re in the business of making confusing things easy to understand, we thought it was time to help make sense of it all. At Column Five, we’ve assembled a pro Communications team to help some of the world’s biggest brands reach the right audience. We’ve also made friends over at Onboardly, a PR agency that specializes in content marketing for startups. Our brands have learned plenty over the years (both the easy way and the hard way), so we joined forces to create the new e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution.

Whether you’re a PR pro or DIY content marketer, this e-book covers everything you need to know about content distribution, including all our insider tips and tricks. Want to make the most of your content? Download the e-book to learn about:

Crafting a killer content strategy: Get tips for strategic ideation to make sure your content serves your objectives.

Content formats and types: Curate your content marketing mix to include a variety of formats primed for different platforms.

Tips for making media contacts: Learn how to cultivate relationships with journalists and social influencers to expand your content’s reach.

Choosing the right distribution channels: Learn about how each channel can serve your goals and identify which channels to target.

Measuring your ROI: Find out which metrics help track your content’s success at every stage of the sales funnel.

Good content deserves to be shared. With a little bit of structure, planning and foresight, your content can make a major impact.

UltGuide-ContentDistribution-3 (1)
Want more on creating great content marketing?
Of course, if you need a little help with your content, we’d love to chat

HP 20/20 E-Book

Outlook for the future.

How to Create a Content Strategy (Complete Guide + Free Toolkit)

If you’re a content marketer, you have one job: to create content that wins people’s hearts and minds—and turns them into lifelong supporters of your brand. It isn’t easy, especially when you need to create quality content consistently (and within budget), but it’s a whole lot easier if you have a blueprint to keep you aligned with your long-term goals. This is why all good content marketing starts with a good content strategy. It’s also why so many content marketers struggle. 

56% of marketers do NOT have a documented content strategy.
Content Marketing Institute’s 2023 Enterprise Marketing Report

That means the majority of marketers are working off of some vague strategy—or winging it entirely. Either way, this lack of planning shows in brands whose content isn’t cohesive, whose ideas don’t resonate, and who struggle to gain footing. Why, then, do so many marketers keep flying blind? Because creating a content strategy can be intimidating—and there are plenty of excuses to keep you from doing it. 

  • You’re too busy shipping this week’s content. 
  • You’re too focused on next month’s product launch. 
  • It’s too late in the quarter. 
  • You just don’t have the resources or knowledge to do it correctly. 

We get it. But, ultimately, crafting a content strategy is some of—if not the—most important work you can do, no matter how big or small your brand is. And, hey, you don’t have to do it alone.

We’ve helped brands of all sizes, across all industries, craft the content strategies they need to connect with their audiences and move people along the path to purchase. Along the way, we’ve learned what makes a bad content strategy, what makes a good one, and what makes a freaking great one. And now, we’re ready to pass that knowledge on to you. 

Content Strategy-Callouts-Final-4-04

Here, you’ll find a step-by-step guide containing our best tips, tricks, tools, and templates to create a strong content strategy that will set you up for success. If you’re undertaking this work for the first time (or looking to revise your current strategy), we hope this guide will give you the confidence you need to get your content on the right track. Ready? Let’s go.

Table Of Contents





Of course, before you can create a good content strategy, you need to know exactly what it is you’re creating, why it matters, and how to approach it the right way. So, let’s start with the basics. 

What Is a Content Strategy?

It’s pretty simple. A content strategy is a documented plan that outlines your content marketing goals and helps you identify the stories and experiences that will help you achieve them.

Content strategy faq

Why Do You Need a Content Strategy? 

That’s pretty simple too. Without a content strategy, you’re basically taking shots in the dark, creating piecemeal content that isn’t as effective as it should be, and working off of hunches instead of solid data. At the end of your campaign, quarter, and annual cycles, you can’t even evaluate your success because you never had a strategy to begin with. 

Conversely, with a well-crafted strategy you can…

  • Make better decisions. Being able to actually “see” your strategy lets you spot potential issues, trim the fat, and visualize your entire content ecosystem. It also allows you to record hypotheses and assess them once you have your results.
  • Keep everyone on the same page. Communication is more efficient with a documented content strategy. It helps everyone working on your content—both internally and externally—know exactly what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, how they’re doing it, and why it matters. This empowers your team to take more ownership, contribute better ideas, hesitate less, and produce better work.
  • Stay accountable. With a content strategy, you can test your ideas, plan and schedule deliverables, measure and monitor results, and maintain momentum in a tangible way.
  • Improve your resource and budget allocation. This is one of the biggest benefits of a documented content strategy. You can plan well ahead of time and determine the best way to get the most value from your resources. It can also help you keep a handle on your budget—or justify the need for more budget

In short, with a content strategy, you can work with more clarity and less craziness. 

What Makes a Good Content Strategy?

Just because you have a content strategy on paper doesn’t mean it will help your brand. There are plenty of content marketers who have a content strategy yet struggle to a) bring it to fruition or b) see actual results. 

If you want your content strategy to succeed, make sure it’s…

  • Tailored to your goals. The only thing worse than having no content strategy is having one that isn’t aligned to your larger goals. When that happens, your strategy will be ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. The best strategies use every element of content marketing in service of the larger goal.
  • Comprehensive. The whole point of content marketing is to create a relationship with people through consistent, quality content. But it takes a lot of moving parts to make good content happen on a regular basis. A good strategy is built to keep your editorial calendar full of fresh, interesting ideas—with the infrastructure in place to bring them to life.
  • Flexible. Your strategy is a blueprint, but it isn’t set in stone. If something unexpected happens, or you realize things aren’t working the way they should, you should be able to adapt as necessary.

Remember: The best content strategy is built for your brand, crafted around your capabilities, and designed to help you tell the best stories possible.

What Does a Content Strategy Include?

We break the content strategy process into three main phases: Discovery, Planning, and Creative, with specific tasks assigned to each.

Tackling your strategy in this order lets you build a totally aligned strategy, from your high-level goals to your final execution.

How to Create a Content Strategy

It takes time, focus, and energy to document your strategy, but don’t get overwhelmed. It’s a little effort with a huge reward. Again, we’ve seen brands make every content strategy mistake in the book (and made a few ourselves), so we know what works and what to avoid. 

What we’ve outlined here are the basic steps that any brand can follow to create a solid but flexible content strategy. This process will guide you through three distinct phases, covering both the high-level thinking and practical/tactical elements to consider for each. At the end, you should have a strong and actionable plan you can hit the ground running with.

That said, we know that each brand has unique needs, so you can adapt this framework accordingly. You may even have some of these components documented already, which is fine if they are up to date, but it’s still important to follow the process in sequential order. This ensures that every aspect of your strategy is aligned and optimized to get you the best results possible.  

Before you start, download our free Content Strategy toolkit, which includes the templates you need to work through this process.

Content strategy guide new

Note: Make sure you have the right stakeholders involved from the beginning—and that you get their approval at every phase. Keep in mind that there are many other people involved in the execution of your content strategy as well, including your sales team, technical wizards (Web & CRM), designers, copywriters, etc. While not everyone may need to be involved in every meeting for content strategy, consider how your strategy decisions will affect your team.  

Phase 1: Discovery

Before you start planning for the future, you need to hit the pause button, take a step back, and reassess what you’re currently doing and why.

Step 1: Review Your Business Goals

Purpose: Review your high-level goals to ensure you create a content strategy that helps you achieve them. 

When a content strategy doesn’t work, it’s usually because it’s misaligned to a company’s larger goals. Thus, step one is going back to the basics: who you are, where you play, how you compete, and what you’re trying to achieve. You may think you already know this information, but it’s always helpful to revisit it with fresh eyes. 

How to Do It

Review any documentation related to your business strategy.

  • What are your business goals? 
  • What’s your position in the marketplace? 
  • Who is your competition? 

Note: Understanding your competition is especially important to help you differentiate through content. When you can identify messaging gaps in your industry, and then fill those gaps (or communicate more effectively than your competition), you’ll create the strongest connections with your target personas. (Find out how to complete a competitive analysis if you need to refine your competitive landscape.)

At this stage, you will also want to review the core elements of your brand strategy, which includes your:

  • Brand Heart (purpose, vision, mission, values)
  • Brand Messaging (tagline, value prop, messaging pillars, etc.)
  • Visual Identity (logo, colors, typography, etc.)

All three elements must be reflected in your content strategy if you want to tell stories that effectively communicate who you are. (If you haven’t documented these elements, follow our Guide to Create a Brand Strategy.)


Step 2: Do a Content Audit

Purpose: Identify what your content ecosystem currently looks like, what’s missing, and how you can improve.

A good content strategy is comprehensive, cohesive, and intentional. That means every piece is made for a specific reason and tied to a specific goal. The problem is that most teams worry about quantity over quality, focusing on hitting their day-to-day deadlines more than making a real impact.

This tunnel vision results in content marketing that’s inconsistent, imbalanced, and ultimately ineffective. The first step to remedy this is to take a holistic look at your content with a proper content audit. By looking at the type of content you’re creating, what messages you are or aren’t sending, what’s working, and what isn’t, you get the insights you need to build a cohesive strategy and tell stories that really connect with people. 

how to content strategy callout

How to Do It

To conduct a proper audit, you’ll be reviewing a sample of the content you (and your competitors) put out into the world. In general, that content tends to fall into five main categories. 

Content-Strategy-Visuals-NEW y

To complete this step, use the Content Audit Template and see our Guide to Conduct a Content Audit

Step 3: Review Your Tech Stack

Purpose: Get a snapshot of the tools, technology, and resources you currently use.

Your content marketing operation can be complex, requiring many tools and a solid digital infrastructure. These tools can be very helpful, but they can also be redundant. It’s important to audit your existing tech stack before you build your new strategy for several reasons. 

  1. You may find opportunities to cut costs or consolidate (e.g., you’re paying for something you’re not using, or using one thing for a task that can be performed by something else).  
  2. You can identify ownership, track subscription status, etc. to ensure your team always has what it needs. 
  3. You can identify things you will need (e.g., if you plan to create more videos in the future, you’ll need editing software). 

Additionally, now that AI has arrived on the scene, there are more and more tools to help you tackle just about every part of marketing, including:

  • Customer Segmentation and Targeting
  • Personalization
  • Chatbots and Virtual Assistants
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Marketing Research
  • Brainstorming
  • Content Creation and Optimization
  • Design
  • Email Marketing Automation
  • Social Media Management
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Ad Targeting and Optimization
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Voice Search Optimization
  • A/B Testing and Optimization 
  • Fraud Detection and Security
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

You may want to consider adopting new tools—or research the new AI capabilities your existing tools may have integrated (as many are constantly updating their offerings). This doesn’t mean that these tools have to replace you, but they can help drastically improve your productivity, reduce menial labor, and help your team work more efficiently.

37% of marketers say they aren’t using their technology to its full potential.
Content Marketing Institute’s 2023 Enterprise Marketing Report

How to Do It

Use the Tool & Tech Stack Template to list the technologies and tools you use to create, host, and distribute your content across channels. This includes things like your…

  • Website and web analytics
  • Content scheduling and publishing platforms
  • Blog
  • Social media platforms and tools
  • Content Management System
  • Proprietary data collection and storage
  • Social listening tools
  • Audience profiling tools
  • SEO tools
  • Design and charting tools
  • Marketing automation
  • Email marketing
  • Customer relationship management software
  • Paid media platforms and software
  • Landing page builder

Note: Depending on the tools you use, some of these may overlap. 

Questions to Ask

  • Do your tools cover your needs?
  • Do you have duplicative tools that can be consolidated?
  • Does everything function properly? (Look out for zombie subscription charges from past employees, vendors, etc.)
  • Do you have a good user experience? 
  • Is automation working correctly?
  • Do all the people who need access to platforms have it, and not more than necessary?
  • Does every platform have someone in the organization who’s proficient in using it?

Remember: Supporting your team’s needs is vital to executing your content strategy. That said, although some tools can help you work more efficiently, we know it can be overwhelming to adopt multiple at once. In that case, we recommend having specific people or teams test and experiment with new tools, then share their findings to see if they can benefit the whole team.

Phase 2: Planning

Now is the time for you to examine your content marketing ecosystem and document how you will approach each element. You’ll be detailing the who, what, when, where, and how of your content operation. This will ensure you’re equipped to execute the content strategy and use your resources as efficiently as possible.

Not only will this work make your content more successful but it will make it easier to collaborate with content creators outside your organization, such as a content agency.


Step 4: Document Your Content Strategy Goals

Purpose: Define measurable goals that keep your team accountable.

Your entire content strategy exists to help you achieve your goals. Naturally, you need to clearly articulate what those are—and make sure everyone on your team understands what they are too. This is especially important; every decision your team makes about content, from copywriting, to design, to distribution, will be influenced by these goals.

We often find that weak strategies can be traced back to weak goals that are either too vague or too broad. To be successful, you need clear goals that you can measure. 

How to Do It

In this step, you’ll document three things:

  • Content strategy statement to explain the big picture of what you’re trying to do. 
  • Objectives that clearly define your content strategy goals.
  • Key Results that help you measure your objectives. 

To work through these exercises, use our Content Strategy Goals Template. This document will help you summarize your entire strategy succinctly so that everyone understands what you’re trying to do. (You cannot proceed until you have these goals articulated and agreed upon.) It will also act as your North Star, guiding your decisions and keeping your team aligned in every way. For more details, see our guide to document your marketing goals

how to content strategy callout 2

Questions to Ask

  • What discrete task do you want content to accomplish? How does that break down into objectives and key results?
  • Which objectives take priority?
  • What other important considerations will influence how you approach your goals/solutions?
  • How will you define vital elements, such as a lead?
  • How do your content marketing goals support your larger business goals?

Your goals are truly the foundation of your entire content strategy. Take the time to get them right.

Step 5: Identify Your Personas

Purpose: Understand who your audience is, what they’re interested in, and how you can serve their needs. 

To create compelling content, you need to know who you’re trying to connect with, and how your content can best serve them.

  • What do they care about?
  • What motivates them?
  • What problems do they need solved?
  • What would make their lives easier? 

By identifying your audience’s demographic/psychographic traits and distilling them into unique personas, you can better understand each group’s unique needs and come up with content ideas that will really resonate with them. 


How to Do It

It’s smart to start with 3-5 distinct and detailed personas. Use the Personas Template, and follow the step-by-step details in our Guide to Create Personas

Step 6: Map Your Customer Journey

Purpose: Identify what people need to hear at each stage to make sure your messaging is consistent and effective. 

You need to deliver the right message, in the right place, at the right time so that you can move people along the customer journey. Thus, it’s important to map your customer journey from start to finish. 

Having completed your content audit, you will probably already have spotted some gaps in your messaging. But revisiting your journey will help you ensure that you are telling people what they want to hear at every stage. 

62% of marketers struggle to create content that appeals to different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Content Marketing Institute’s 2023 Enterprise Marketing Report

How to Do It

Use our Customer Journey Template, and follow our Guide to Map Your Customer Journey.

Questions to Ask

  • How will prospects and customers be nudged along the journey?
  • What signals help identify someone in a particular stage of the journey?
  • Where in the journey will your strategy focus?
  • At what point will you bring in the sales team to close the deal?

The more seamless your customer journey is, the more effective you’ll be.

Step 7: Determine Your Measurement Approach 

Purpose: Identify the Key Performance Indicators that will help you quantitatively measure your success. 

Your content strategy is worthless without a way to measure your success. The better you measure, the more you can test, tweak, and readjust your approach. Thus, knowing your success metrics for each stage of the customer journey is crucial. 


How to Do It

You want to get a strong sense of how your content strategy is performing, but you don’t have to track and measure every single metric. To figure out what to measure, refer to your OKRs. Which available metrics are relevant to your key results? Those are the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that will help you identify if you are moving the needle on your objectives. Additional metrics can also provide helpful insight, but KPI matter most. 


Questions to Ask

  • Which available metrics are your KPI?
  • How are they mapped to your objectives and key results?
  • What does each KPI say about the success of your campaign or strategy?
  • What are the benchmarks for your industry? 
  • Should you be comparing your KPI to those, or should you focus on historical data from your company’s performance? 

For more tips, see our Guide to Use Metrics in Your Content Strategy.

Step 8: Choose Your Channel Mix 

Purpose: Identify what channels will help you reach your personas.

Your content can only work if it gets in front of the right people, but with so many options it’s hard to know what will help you make the most impact. There’s a lot that goes into your decision-making here, which is why having very clear goals is so important. 

How to Do It

To choose the best channel mix for your content strategy goals…

  • Think about your personas. Think about where they spend the most time, which publications they read, which social platforms they use, what times they’re most active, etc. 
  • Remember your OKRs. You’ve set your objectives and key results as a form of guidance throughout your strategy work. If your primary objective is around building a pipeline of leads, what channels are best suited to help you do that?
  • Think about your content formats. Different types of content are better suited for different channels. If video tutorials are a big part of your content mix, consider how that may influence the channels you target. 
  • Prepare your media buys. How will you distribute across your earned, owned, and paid channels? This may include anything from internal emails, to out-of-home buys, to influencer outreach. These are important to budget in terms of cost and lead time.

Questions to Ask

  • How are you going to reach people (owned, earned, paid)?
  • What channels will help you meet your determined OKRs? 
  • What media mix will be most effective? 
  • How can you leverage new channels, more channels, or use your existing channels differently? 

For more tips to help your content get maximum exposure, see our Guide to Choosing Your Distribution Channels, and see our steps to build a solid distribution strategy

Step 9: Create Your Content Pipeline

Purpose: Get a high-level view of your content priorities and opportunities.  

Now that you know what you’re trying to do, who you’re trying to reach, and how you’re going to reach them, it’s time to bring your strategy to life. However, before you plan what exact content you’ll make, you need to identify the major goals, milestones, and events you will need to build content around for your next year, based on your OKRs. This helps you plan ahead, anticipate your needs, allocate resources, and work more effectively. 

How to Do It

Remember: A good content strategy is solid enough to guide you but flexible enough to adapt if things change. Use our Content Pipeline Template to build out a year-long view, with important elements broken down by quarter, such as: 

  • Business Milestones
  • Product Launches
  • Priorities
  • Major events/relevant holidays (e.g., annual tradeshow or Hanukkah)

This way you know your biggest priorities are accounted for as you plan your upcoming content, but you can still shift things around if you need to. 


Step 10: Assign Workflow & Governance

Purpose: Clarify roles and responsibilities to make sure your team functions as efficiently as possible.

If you’re working with a large budget, you may have a department full of people to help execute your content strategy. If you’re working for a scrappy startup, it might be you and a few freelancers. The good news is the size of your team doesn’t matter. 

To create good content, you just need a team that is aligned, organized, and focused on the same goal. (This is especially true if you’re working with outside vendors.) Everyone needs to understand the workflow and who’s responsible for what. As long as you’re covering all the right content marketing roles, you’ll be surprised by how much you can get done with a little coordination up top. 


How to Do It

At this stage, you want to assign roles and responsibilities to your team to both empower people to have ownership over their work—and make sure that everyone is working together effectively. For example, if your PR team wants to be involved in brainstorms to steer you toward the most promotable content ideas, you’ll want to make sure they’re in the loop from the jump.

Use the Workflow & Governance Template to identify who will be involved at every stage of content creation and what role they’ll play. This includes both your internal team and external (if you’re working with a freelancer or content agency). 

Questions to Ask

  • Who is involved in these efforts?
  • What responsibilities does each person have?
  • How are people meant to work together?
  • Who owns the project?
  • Who decides who handles new initiatives?
  • What stakeholders need to approve/review initiatives?

Naturally, the more people who are involved, the more likely things will slip through the cracks—especially if you’re working with an outside team. To make sure that doesn’t happen, here are 7 tips to keep everyone inside and outside your company aligned

Step 11: Know Your Tools

Purpose: Equip your team with the tools they need to do their job—and get the most out of those tools.

Content marketing takes work, but it can be a whole lot easier if you have the right tools. If you’ve done a thorough discovery, you probably already have an idea of what tools you want to ditch or what tools you want to experiment with. Remember that different types of content may require different types of tools. If you plan to experiment with something new—say, interactive infographics—you need the capability to execute it. 

How to Do It 

Luckily, there are so many resources to make marketers’ lives easier, and more are coming out each year. Use our Tech Stack & Tools Template to identify what you’ll be using. And if you want more resources to help you work smarter, check out our tool roundups for:

Going forward, review your tools quarterly to make sure you’re using everything you’re actually paying for.

Content Strategy Callouts-02-Final

Phase 3: Creative 

By this point in the process, you should have a clear picture of your goals and your infrastructure. Now it’s time to identify the creative that will help you bring this strategy to life. 

Step 12: Brainstorm Campaigns

Purpose: Create content that tells a cohesive story in support of a specific goal. 

Publishing content is not the same as implementing an effective content strategy. (And if you’ve been getting lackluster results, you know this firsthand.) Naturally, you don’t want to sink your time, energy, and resources into things that don’t really help move the needle. But with the work you’ve done, you now have the information you need to come up with effective creative campaigns that support your goals. 


During this step, you’ll craft campaigns mapped to the content planning work you’ve done so far. While you may prioritize one type of content category over the other (e.b., Educational content vs.Talent content), you need to know how each will play a role in your strategy. 

How to Do It

Use our Marketing Campaign Template to craft campaigns that support your larger goals. A few things to keep in mind as you work through the template:

  • Brainstorm the right concepts. Good content marketing isn’t about creating content; it’s about providing value. Focus on your personas and give them what they want, whether it’s education, entertainment, or inspiration. (Here are 7 ways to know if your ideas provide true value.) If you’re hitting a creative wall, try these 9 content marketing prompts to get your creative wheels turning.
  • Know your messaging. Identify your key talking points to ensure you’re telling a consistent story across all content. (Use our messaging framework if you need to do some work there.)
  • Choose the right format. The medium is just as important as the message. Check out our Guide to Visual Content Marketing to learn more about the benefits of each type of content format. 
  • Identify your keywords. What are your top keyword opportunities? How will you optimize content around keywords? Are your publishing platforms optimized for SEO? For more, see our Guide to Find the Right Keywords for your content strategy. 
  • Identify your budget. To determine how much programs will cost, we typically work with one of two numbers: quarterly or annual budget, or a quantified marketing goal such as “2,000 leads this year.” You can use logic and formulas to work backward from a marketing goal and create an estimated budget.
  • Don’t come on too strong in your content! Know the difference between content marketing and sales material, and make sure you’re sending the right message at the right stage of the customer journey.

For more tips, see our Guide to Run a Successful Marketing Campaign, and find out how to make the most of your content by using a divisible content strategy

Step 13: Build Your Editorial Calendar 

Purpose: Maintain a steady publishing cadence.

Publishing consistency is one of the keys to a successful content strategy, so it’s important to keep your team on track with an organized editorial calendar. Whereas your content pipeline is a larger overview, an editorial calendar is a granular view of your content. Whether you publish daily, weekly, or monthly, using a calendar will ensure you can budget in the right amount of time and, most importantly, stick to your deadlines. 

How to Do It

There are all sorts of tools you can use to create your editorial calendar: Google Sheets, CoSchedule, etc. If you’re just starting, use our Editorial Calendar Template to start scheduling your content. 

  • Identify your publishing cadence. Will you publish daily, weekly, or monthly? We find it helpful to schedule content by month. You don’t have to be overly prescriptive. (Again, a good content strategy is flexible and adaptable based on a brand’s changing needs.) But it helps to understand what your volume and cadence will look like.
  • Include holidays and social events. These are important to note ahead of time as well, as they can interrupt publishing (e.g., Christmas) or inspire content ideas or brand tie-ins (e.g., the Oscars). Bookmark a tool like Forekast, an online calendar that compiles every major holiday and event that may be relevant to your content calendar. If your industry experiences seasonal trends (e.g., retail), make sure those changes are accounted for too.

You always want to brainstorm ideas far ahead of time so you don’t get stuck in reactive mode throughout the year.   

Questions to Ask

  • How often will you publish?
  • How much content will you publish?
  • How will you organize content for campaigns? 
  • How will you determine how to publish and promote each piece of content?
  • Who will own each kind of content?
  • What formats will you create? 
  • Is your calendar aligned to the “life calendar” of your target personas? 

Once you’re ready to start creating your content, use the Content Brief Template to kick every project off. For more tips, see our guide to create an editorial calendar

How to Put Your Content Strategy to Work 

Congrats. Thanks to all the work you’ve done, you can proceed confidently into content creation and do it better than ever. As you put this content strategy to work, there are a few more ways to make sure you succeed from the jump. 

  • Optimize your content creation process. There are a ton of moving parts when it comes to creating stellar content, and it can get more complicated depending on the type of content you’re creating. Follow our Guide to Master Content Creation, which features our best tips on brainstorming, copywriting, designing, publishing, and more.
  • Follow best practices. There’s good content, and then there’s great content. No matter what you’re creating, there are plenty of small things you can do to enhance your viewer’s experience. See our tips to improve your copywriting, design, infographics, and data visualization.
  • Create appropriate timelines. Sticking to your deadlines is crucial to keep your content calendar full. Give yourself enough time, especially if you’re undertaking more labor-intensive content like interactives or video. Most importantly, get approvals at every stage of content production. This prevents you from having to make last-minute edits that will throw things off.
  • Craft an effective distribution strategy. To maximize your reach, follow our Guide to Craft a Distribution Strategy That Works.
  • Find the right vendors. You may need to outsource some work or bring in an extra hand to complete a project. If so, do your due diligence to bring in the right creative partners. Start with our tips to find the right creative agency.

You can also check out our tips to decide whether you should create content in-house or outsource it

Above all, remember that content strategy is part art, part science. The more effectively you track your results and gather insights from your data, the better you can refine your strategy. Even if you’re not as successful as you hope to be off the bat, you’ll learn more, get better, and adapt quicker, improving your results over time. 

The truth is your strategy isn’t set in stone. A good strategy is a blueprint, not a permanent document. Your brand’s goals will shift and change over time, and your content strategy will evolve accordingly. For this reason, we recommend revisiting your strategy quarterly—or when significant events or changes occur that may affect it. 

Content strategy faq

We know, of course, that everyone gets stuck from time to time. If you don’t have the resources, patience, or energy to tackle content strategy on your own, we’re happy to chat about how we can help you dig deep, uncover your most interesting stories, and turn them into a smart content strategy that works.  

How to Do a Marketing Content Audit (Plus FREE Template)

If you want to tell strong stories that reach the right audience (and convert them), you need a cohesive content strategy that is tied to clear goals—and optimized to support them. Essentially, you want to create a holistic content ecosystem that spans your buyer journey and gives your audience exactly what they need to move from one stage to the next. But how do you create that content experience? Do a content audit on your own brand, as well as your competitors, to understand what you’re doing right, where you’re missing out, and how you can improve overall.

What Is a Content Audit? 

A content audit is the process of taking a critical look at your content marketing, as well as your competitors’ content, to gauge how you’re presenting your brand to the world, how you stack up against the competition, opportunities to improve, etc. By reviewing your content as a whole (and comparing it to others in your space), you can get a bird’s eye view to realign your marketing, fill missing gaps, craft a more effective strategy, and gain a competitive edge.

The Biggest Benefits of a Content Audit

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it a hundred more times: When you’re working on your brand day in and day out, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. (We know this because it happens to us too.) We all have blind spots, especially if you’re deeply immersed in your brand, so it’s important to take a step back to see the bigger picture, get a sense of the competitive landscape, and assess whether the content you’re creating connects to your larger goals or not. That’s why a content audit can be so beneficial to spot opportunities to win and work more effectively. 

  1. Identify best-performing content. According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 57% of B2B marketers cite creating the “right” content for their audience as one of their top challenges. What is the “right” content? The content that your audience is most likely to gravitate toward. This is why it’s important to regularly assess your top-performing content, break down why it was so popular, and translate those insights into new content that is just as successful.  
  2. Spot gaps in your content marketing. According to CMI, 54% of B2B marketers say differentiating their content is one of their biggest challenges. With the advent of AI-generated content, differentiation will be harder and more important than ever, and a content audit is one of the most helpful ways to find opportunities to differentiate. Whether it’s filling the content gaps your competitors have missed, tweaking the type of content formats you create, or revising your value prop to stand out, the more you know about how your competitors are positioning themselves through content, the easier it is to stand out. 
  3. Repurpose content. Across the board, marketers are being asked to do more with less. (According to CMI, 58% of B2B marketers cite a lack of resources as their biggest barrier to successful content creation.) Content creation is an investment, so you need to get the most from every piece you create. A content audit helps you get a solid picture of the content you already have—and can inspire you to repurpose, reuse, or remix that content in even more effective ways.
  4. Get more inspiration. Although your competition may be dropping the ball in some areas, they’re likely knocking it out of the park in other areas. A competitor content audit always generates fascinating insights and can even inspire you to adapt some of their tactics. For example, they may have created an impressive tool or a successful series of funny videos that delivered a strong message. You don’t want to copy them, but their creativity can activate your own creativity (and maybe a little competitive streak). 

Trust us, although a content audit takes time, it is an important pursuit that will generate real ROI.

How to Do a Content Audit

Whether you’re a new startup with very little content or a legacy brand with thousands of pieces in your archive, don’t worry. Here, we’ve broken down the step-by-step process—along with a free downloadable template—to get the insights you need without spending days of your life digging through your archives.

You can use the same template and steps for your competitor audit as well. (BTW, as you work through these templates, you don’t have to write a novel for each answer. Keep your answers succinct, simple, and clear.) 

Note: You may be a new startup with very little content, or a legacy brand with thousands of pieces in your archive. Either way, don’t worry. Here, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process to get the insights you need—without spending days of your life digging through your archives:)

Note: You’ll repeat the following steps for both your own content and your competitors’ content. We recommend completing your own audit first, then doing your competitor audit. 

Step 1: Gather your content.

Blog articles, social posts, explainer videos—every brand creates a variety of content across channels and across the buyer journey. This content generally falls into five main categories. 

  1. Brand: This is content about a company specifically (not its product), such as the Brand Heart (purpose, vision, mission, values), events, news, etc. Some of this content may be internal-facing only; some may be external. 
  2. Talent: This is content about a company’s employer brand, company culture, etc. 
  3. Editorial: This is content meant to educate, entertain, inspire, or demonstrate brand expertise or thought leadership, such as articles, guest posts, infographics, blogs, industry-related content, etc.  
  4. Product: This is more informational content related to products or services, such as sales materials, demos, explainer videos, or educational content.
  5. Performance: This is tactical content used to drive a specific KPI, such as landing pages, CTAs, PPC, etc.

The good news is you don’t have to review every single piece of content you or your competition has ever created—just a sample for each category. 


Auditing Your Own Content

Pull a sample batch of 5-10 pieces of your most recent and successful pieces of content per category.

  • Successful = top-performing content per your analytics (e.g., highest traffic, conversions, engagement, etc.).
  • Recent = content from your last year or two. (While you may have a decade-old post that generates tons of traffic, you want to know how your current efforts are working.)

Frankly, you can pull as many samples as you like, but 5-10 is a healthy amount that won’t overwhelm you. If you create a variety of content formats (e.g., infographics, videos, e-books), include a variety of those most successful pieces too. Your goal is to get a representative sample that will give you a sense of how you’re communicating in each category. 

Note: If you don’t have that much content, or don’t have content in every area, that’s OK. Pull what you have. 

Auditing Your Competitor’s Content

Pull a similar batch of content. To figure out their most popular/successful content, look at their most popular content on social, content that outranks you in SEO, etc.

Depending on the focus of your content strategy, you may want to focus on particular categories (e.g., their editorial content vs. their talent content). That’s up to you. Just make sure you have a healthy selection of content from your top three competitors. (Again, you can audit as many competitors as you like, but your top 10 are your most relevant.)  

Step 2: Review one category of content at a time. 

It can be overwhelming to pull insights from 25-50 pieces of content at a time, which is why we recommend focusing on one category at a time and documenting your collective observations. This way you can compare insights from category to category, instead of piece to piece. 

Start with your first category (e.g., Brand). Review those 5-10 pieces, and answer the template questions about your observations.

  • What stage of buyer journey is it made for? Your content strategy should have a healthy mix of content that spans the buyer journey. If you’re overly focused on one stage, you may need to fill in the gaps across the journey.
  • What persona does this content speak to? If one persona is targeted more than others, your content strategy may need to prioritize content for a neglected group.
  • Does content come in a variety of formats? Depending on your channel mix, you may want to expand your strategy to include more types of content (think articles, video, infographics, interactives, etc.).
  • Does the content reflect brand voice/personality/visual identity? Would someone be able to identify your brand’s content at a glance? Remember: Consistency is key.
  • Is there a clear CTA? Do viewers have a clear next step? Is it tailored to the persona?
  • What does the most successful content have in common? Consider things like topic, format, etc.
  • What channels are used to promote? Is this content well-suited for your distribution channels? Are there other channels to consider?
  • Any notable observations? Document anything that stands out to you (good, bad, or interesting).

Step 3: Look for trends across categories. 

As you review each category, look for common threads, inconsistencies, messaging gaps, etc. These will shed light on your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. 

For example, you may create quality content on a variety of interesting subjects but your CTAs are weak. You may find that your copywriting is great but your design is lackluster. Or you may find that your branding is inconsistent across formats.

Step 4: Repeat the process for your competition. 

In reviewing your competitors’ content, you will likely see even more opportunities to fill the gap, outrank, and outshine them. You will also probably notice areas where you’re falling short. For example, they may be publishing much more often than you or creating much more in-depth posts that outrank you. 

It can be frustrating to shine a light on these weak areas, but they can also serve as inspiration. 

Step 5: Craft your takeaways. 

Having reviewed the insights from your own content audit and your competitors’, you should have the information you need to improve your content strategy. 

To make these items actionable, document your biggest opportunities for improvement in…

  • Personas
  • Buyer Journey
  • Messaging
  • Topics
  • Formats
  • Distribution
  • Other

Content strategy guide newHow to Put Your Content Audit to Use

Now that you’ve done all that work, you’re ready to build a content strategy that gets real results. For next steps…

And if you need a partner to help you build a strategy (or execute the one you have), find out more about what we do, and what you’ll get when you work on content strategy with us.