A strong content marketing strategy is the foundation of your business success.
In fact, over 7 out of 10 content marketers attribute a large part of their success to their strategy. But, not any strategy will do. In the last year, only about half of B2C (Business-to-Consumer) marketers were able to implement their plan successfully to nurture audiences and build loyalty. Incorporating great design elements into your strategy can help you ensure it drives the success of your business.
We’ll look at ten ways that excellent design can translate into increased traffic, engagement and sales for your company or brand. But first, let’s look at the elements of a good content marketing strategy and where exactly design comes into play with it.
Components of a content marketing strategy
Your content marketing strategy is the blueprint for your end-to-end marketing tactics. It helps you plan, create and publish content that aligns with the overall business strategy, audience and that produces results. You should document your strategy for the greatest probability of success.
Here are some key elements to outline in your content marketing strategy:
- Establish your goals and marketing objectives of your content.
- Construct a clear picture of your target market, including customer personas.
- Conduct an audit of your current content to identify gaps and issues.
- Map out the typical customer journey or sales funnel.
- Select the distribution channels for your content.
- Review your internal resources and complete a capability assessment.
- Brainstorm content ideas.
- Create your content plan and calendar including creation and publishing timelines.
- Execute your plan.
- Evaluate your strategy and content performance through audits and tests.
- Update as needed.
How design elements connect to a successful content strategy
The most apparent design element within your content strategy is the design of the content itself, as well as your website experience. Whatever content format you select, design needs to be a large consideration. Poor design kills the user experience and tanks your content, like this:
I’m sure the content was excellent, but the delivery format was boring and the design was intrusive.
Whether it’s a video or an article or an ebook, every type of content requires some design elements. The most significant element is the visual content you incorporate, such as photos, infographics, memes, illustrations and videos.
However, you also need to consider other design elements such as page layout, font selections, color combinations, heading dimensions, delivery and your use of logos.
Your design strategy should be a part of your overall content strategy. After all, this strategy will help you create and document design principles and standards for people to use when creating and publishing content.
Keep in mind that you might not get all of your design elements right the first time. This is why design ideas should be planned and tested before sending them live using a splash page / test page:
Incorporating testing, evaluations and updates into your design strategy will help you achieve the results you’re looking for. If it flops you haven’t wasted time or sent it to the mass market, saving you the need for damage control.
Incorporating great design throughout every aspect of your content marketing takes time and effort. But the investment is well worth it since it will benefit your business in the following ten ways.
1. Clarify your ideal customer
Crafting a detailed persona of your ideal customer is an important step in your content marketing strategy, since 80% of marketers say content created for a persona is more effective.
This persona should encompass and help communicate to your team exactly who you’re creating your content for. If your content isn’t resonating with your ideal audience, engagement and conversions will suffer.
A well-envisioned persona can help determine which topics, ideas and keywords should be incorporated into your content. But in order to build an effective persona, a lot of detail needs to be gathered and compiled, including:
- Audience demographics such as age, gender, ethnicity, income, location and job title.
- Hobbies, interests, beliefs, habits.
- Challenges they commonly face or pain points causing them to search for your product.
- What problem does your product or service solve?
- Where does your ideal customer hang out? Which social platforms do they use? What blogs do they read?
- What content formats do they prefer?
Transforming all this information into a visual persona helps communicate a lot of data quickly and easily while promoting a deeper understanding of your ideal customer. When referencing your persona, you won’t have to sift through piles of text to get core information.
Here’s an example of a great persona design:
2. Build brand awareness
Excellent design elements can significantly improve your brand awareness and help you tell your brand’s story, as long as you create a cohesiveness across all channels and platforms. For example, your font should be consistent throughout your website and other written content such as white papers and case studies.
If your image is a significant part of your brand, you should have a great professional headshot that is used consistently across social media. You should also use the same picture in the bio section of every guest appearance.
Plus, your logo and brand colors should always look the same and your sales funnel should have consistent design elements throughout.
Check out how Promo incorporated similar design features into both it’s Facebook Ad and the linked Landing Page.
Birchbox is another great example of consistent visual content across channels. They use the same modern, feminine aesthetic everywhere from their website to their mobile app and YouTube channel.
If your design is not consistent everywhere, it makes it much more difficult to communicate your brand image and voice.
Imagine a brand with young, hip, funny ads on Facebook, but mature, formal and purely educational content on their blog. It would be pretty difficult to decipher what they stand for and who they’re trying to target.
3. Stand out from the crowd
With such a huge volume of content being created every day, it can feel impossible to stand out from the crowd.
Originality becomes crucial to your success. Interestingly, only 30% of marketers create their own visuals, so unique and creative design elements can be a powerful way to stand out.
Not only can unique designs engage your audience, but they can also drive backlinks and improve your SEO.
If you publish original infographics, charts and visuals that people find useful, chances are that other people will use them on their own sites and link back to you as the contributor.
Since 7 out of 10 marketers use other people’s visuals, creating well-designed images that others want to share will help you build a reputation as an industry leader and influencer. Of course, this only works if your content isn’t plagiarized and any sites that use it credit you as the original creator of the design and finished product.
4. Provide more value
A strong content marketing strategy focuses on how to provide value to your customers and audience.
Focusing on customer success and providing value can increase both brand loyalty and customer retention, which translates to more sales over time. Using visual design elements throughout your content will increase the value you provide.
For example, research shows that people can follow visual instructions 3x easier than written instructions. This means creating a video tutorial or an original infographic to convey product features or instructions is much more useful than a written guide.
Interactive website designs and chatbots can also provide more value to your customers and result in increased conversions. How? By switching up the traditional delivery method. Instead of delivering content on a simple blog interface, they use creative, smooth design:
Landbot increased its conversions by 100% by using a chatbot based website design to deliver content. Using a smooth, simple gradient and matching button colors, the design was sleek and intuitive.
5. Efficiently repurpose content
There are tons of content types, as we discussed in the section on content strategy elements. And while you likely won’t use them all, any strategy should include at least a few types. However, creating 100% original content for every platform and channel is extremely inefficient.
Using powerful design tools, you can easily repurpose one piece of key content into multiple other formats.
For example, let’s assume you have a valuable white paper that includes a lot of relevant industry research. Here are just a few ways you can quickly reformat it:
- Create an infographic of the most interesting research.
- Shoot a video or record a podcast on the content in the paper.
- Pull out information on one company within the industry and turn it into a case study.
- Write a new blog post summarizing the findings of the paper.
- Send out a newsletter with an overview of the paper (and a link to it.)
- Publish social posts sharing tidbits from the paper.
- Develop an online course based on teachings from the white paper.
In all of these examples, very little content needs to be added, updated, or changed. The bulk of the effort is selecting out the appropriate pieces of content and then redesigning another content type around them.
Resurfacing and updating old content can also benefit your business by drawing in new audience members.
In this case, you’re not changing the content type but simply taking an old article or content piece and freshening it up. This can be by updating the stats within it or adding new, valuable design elements such as new high-quality visuals.
6. Increase customer impressions
If your content is hard on the eyes, no one wants to hang around long enough to tell if it provides valuable information. In contrast, innovative web designs can be used to provide a unique customer experience that leaves a lasting impression.
High-quality imagery is an important element of any great design. For example, web pages and articles without any images get 94% fewer views than articles with at least one visual.
Incorporating videos and interactive content into your website design can quickly boost impressions. After all, 4x more people prefer watching a video review than reading a written product review.
Even for standard non-visual content types such as podcasts or interactive elements, (like the calculator below) well-designed marketing materials can help reach more people and drive more impressions.
7. Create lasting impressions
Studies show that people can recall 65% of the visual content that they see even up to three days later. In comparison, after three days people will only remember about 10% of the written content they’ve read.
This means people are more likely to remember the design elements of your content than the actual written information you’ve shared.
Great visual aspects become critically important for fostering positive lasting impressions.
If part of your strategy is to communicate key pieces of information, such as how you outperform the competition, make sure you format that info in a visual way.
Focus on designing key takeaways into a graph, chart, or image rather than just a statistic in written form.
8. Trigger greater engagement
Well-designed content with high-quality visuals experience higher engagement. Including powerful, original images will boost both reader engagement and social shares.
Here are some interesting stats about how well-designed social media posts influence user engagement:
- Facebook posts with images have 37% higher engagement.
- Tweets with a visual element are retweeted 1.5x more.
- Across all social media, infographics average 3x more shares.
- 65% of people prefer emails with images.
- Personalized emails generate 6x higher conversion rates than cold emails.
Designing key images such as your articles’ featured images and thumbnails are worthwhile if you want to increase both awareness and engagement.
Incorporating interactive content into your design can also boost engagement across all mediums and platforms. Even emails perform better with interactive elements.
9. Drive sales subconsciously
95% of purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind. Using design elements that trigger emotions, such as strong color choices and powerful images can encourage the subconscious to make decisions in your favor.
Looking at the guide above, you can see that red is a bold color tied to passion and power. Studies have shown that using this color for purchase buttons on your website or ads can increase your conversions by 34% by tying into these emotions.
Using other colors to create a sense of urgency, a fear of missing out, or a sense of belonging can also trigger subconscious purchasing decisions.
Sometimes less is more. Coupling your color choices with clean layouts and limited options also helps with decision fatigue and can drive more sales. 84.6% of web designers say that crowded web design is the most common web design mistake.
For example, check out these product options on the home page of Doris Sleep, the luxury pillow manufacturer. Their minimalist color scheme, clean three column layout and bold CTA buttons make it easy for users to purchase.
By incorporating smart color choices, clean layouts and quality content, you will drive more sales subconsciously.
10. Improve SERP rankings
Great design of your overall site and of your content will improve your search engine rankings, which in turn leads to more customers.
Design can greatly impact two areas of SEO:
- User experience: How easy is content to find and consume? Is the site clunky? Are page elements interfering with content? This can all determine your bounce rate, a user behavior SEO signal.
- Readability: Since most website visitors scan a page rather than read every word, is your content laid out in an easy to digest fashion? Your content should be broken up with subheadings, short paragraphs, images, semantic keywords and bulleted lists.
- Speed: If your website is too slow from too heavy of design elements, you can kiss your traffic goodbye, they will bounce fast:
So, what are your options to improve SERP rankings by having good design that keeps people engaged without overwhelming them? You have many options here. For example, condensing content with a user-friendly knowledge base software can help you improve your rankings and easily deliver content to users in a simple format where design is clean and never intrusive.
Or, depending on which website platform you use to create a website (or host it), you can pick a simple, yet vibrant design and even extend your site’s functionality with design and ecommerce plugins. For example, this is a free design theme from WordPress:
It includes great design elements that are vibrant enough to capture attention without any intrusive design elements that can sabotage your on-page behavior and SEO strategy.
Quality content is a primary driver to achieve high Google rankings. And if you want great quality content, engaging visual design elements are key.
Excellent, original visuals can also help you rank well in search engine image searches. If your visual designs are popular and create a lot of engagement, Google will move them up higher in its image search results.
Plus, earlier this year Google removed the “view image” button and replaced it with a “visit” button which helps drives users directly from the image search to your website.
Using design to transform your strategy
Design is a key aspect of content marketing. Investing in excellent design elements can help clarify what you stand for and who your ideal customer is.
Consistent design across platforms and content types will build brand awareness and allow you to repurpose content easily.
Unique and creative designs allow you to rank higher in search engines, stand out from the crowd, increase customer impressions and boost engagement.
Plus, quality design is a great way to add value to your audience and drive conversions through subconscious triggers.
How have you incorporated great design into your content marketing strategy? Let us know in the comments.
About the author
Adam Enfroy is a writer, content marketing consultant and manages strategic partnerships for BigCommerce. With 10+ years of digital marketing experience, he’s passionate about leveraging the right strategic partnerships, content and software to scale digital growth. Adam lives in Austin, TX, loves running, backpacking (and beating his little brother in Mario Kart) and writes about scaling your online influence on his blog, adamenfroy.com.