Developing a Content Strategy like a Fortune 500 Brand

By on May 19, 2014 in Content | 28 comments

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This entry is a guest post by Glen Dimaandal, the Online Marketing Manager at Emerson Network Power, a business platform of Emerson Electric Co. He is also the founder and CEO of GlenDemands Inc, a Philippine-based SEO and Content Consulting firm.

By now, we’ve all come to terms with the fact  that it’s practically impossible to succeed in SEO without having great content. After the Panda, Penguin, and anti-guest blogging initiatives from Google depleted the proverbial SEO bag of tricks, a lot of us were compelled to take a hard look at the campaigns we were running and the tactics that we were using.

Moving up on the SERPs has become a lot more complex than just publishing keyword-laced pages and boosting them with backlinks. I believe we’ve entered the age when SEO has become a “battle of the creative,” as SEO master Benj Arriola puts it.

At some point, you realize that doing SEO without legitimate and compelling content is a battle you just can’t win. For every unnatural link scheme that you can come up with, there’s a room full of smart people in the Googleplex thinking of ways to counter it.

This is the reason that every reasonable mind in the SEO industry has decided that it makes more long-term sense to play by Google’s rules than to try and game the system. If you want to succeed in Google and you plan on doing it the right way, everything starts with developing the appropriate content strategy for the audience that you want to reach.

Keywords or Intent? What’s Your Content Strategy’s Basis?

Like all other human actions in the physical world, the behavior of traffic in the Internet is driven by needs and wants. When we start acting on ways to go after those needs and wants, we start showing intent. The concept of intent is very important when you’re trying to develop attractive, shareable and linkable content assets for your website.

Without understanding what your target audience’s intents are, it will be very hard to develop targeted content that boosts your ultimate performance indicator: revenue. The solution, of course, is to make audience intent the primary consideration when developing a content strategy.

This sounds like a fairly straightforward idea and I know everyone likes to think they’re creating content for the benefit of their audience. Here’s a reality check, though: how many of us are using keywords as the main basis for the content we produce? Does the diagram below look like something that you’re currently doing?



Are you still following keyword-driven content strategies?

Now, I’m not going to say that this traditional approach to content creation and optimization doesn’t work. It worked well several years ago and there are still cases where it still works today.

However, building content based on hot keywords doesn’t necessarily mean that the end product (content assets) respond directly to your audience’s intent. If you’re still using keywords to guide content development efforts, consider the following points:

If you can’t deliver definitive answers off the top of your head as you read the questions above, it’s probably time to take a long, hard look at your content strategy. Engagement and sharing signals have become important synergies to a site’s performance in Google’s SERPs.

As such, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll have better and more sustainable SEO success if you develop content with audience intent as the main consideration.

Developing Your Content Strategy

During the past five years, I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some really smart people who knew how to create content the right way.

Like other SEOs, I was initially focused on keywords, rankings and traffic figures because those were the areas I thought I could help the business best. Of course, I was only half-right. It was fortunate that I had mentors who educated me on the value of seeing the bigger picture and matching the content we created with the actual intent of our customers.

I was taught a fairly simple model that allowed us to create great content assets that performed well on Google and even better in the minds of our audience. The cool thing about this approach is that you don’t need to have Fortune 500-type of resources to pull it off.

A content strategy that engages users, attracts links and converts traffic into business leads can be crafted by just one person who has a good understanding of his or her market. Outlined below are the exact steps that my team and I have used to serve top-tier US enterprises such as Emerson Electric Co. and the Brady Corporation:

1. Understand the Website’s Brand Identity 

According to Brick Marketing, a brand is the idea or image of a specific product or service that consumers connect with by identifying the name, logo, slogan, or design of the company who owns the idea or image.

In short, it’s the persona that a business sets for its offerings so it can differentiate them from generic or competing products or services in the market.

It’s very important for you, as an SEO or a content creator to fully understand the branding of your employer or your client. The brand’s spirit should be palpable in every asset you create for public consumption.

The writing style, the visual design and the themes of your content are all important elements where branding can be infused. When trying to understand a website’s business and brand identity, you can look at the following areas to get a quick feel of what you have on your hands:


A high-level view of your brand identity

If you’re not familiar with the terms, here are some quick definitions:

Usually, you’ll be able to get this information from your client or the most senior members of the marketing team. As an exercise, let’s analyze an example of great branding at work:


King of Branding: Apple’s brand is unique, consistent and oozing with personality

Apple has the world’s strongest brand and it’s very easy to see how the four elements described above constitute their brand identity. Their value proposition is top-level quality consumer electronics at premium prices. The price count deters the low-income consumers but it creates a sense of exclusivity and rarity that most people seek.

The revenue model they follow is broad: you can go to a shop or you can buy online. The brand’s personality is omnipresent in their product designs, the look and feel of their website, and even their market messaging.

Everything is chic, slick, smart and upscale.

Finally, Apple knows that the people who can afford their products come from the middle class and up. They bank on making their prospects feel smart and stylish because they know that it’s how people from those backgrounds want to be perceived.

2. Get to Know Your Target Audience

Getting as vivid a profile as possible on your target audience is essential in putting together the kind of content that will resonate best with them. The information you have will help you predict their interests, behavior and buying motives. When we try to profile our target audience, we often use the following qualifiers:

Of course, you don’t have to use all of these all the time. Just plug them in as filters whenever appropriate to zero in on the right people. Doing so allows you to map and limit the topics that you need to cover. It also makes your spending on ads and promotions that much more efficient.

When identifying the appropriate target audience qualifiers, it helps to have the right people do it with you. Larger organizations may want product managers, sales agents and marketing team members to collaborate on this. In smaller businesses, having the site owner discuss this with you will help you a lot.

The key is having the people closest to the prototypical customer paint an image of their ideal prospects with as much detail as possible.


Alienware isn’t the biggest PC brand, but its audience selection is laser-targeted

A nice example of a brand that really understands its target audience is Dell’s gaming PC division, Alienware. Dell knows that the largest section of the laptop and desktop market is made up of users who just need basic functionality and a little versatility from their hardware.

Dell also knows that there’s a much smaller, but much more dedicated sector of the market that’s hooked to  gaming. This market is made up mostly of males aged 18-35 who are passionate about technology and the performance of software on their gaming rigs.

Dell is aware that this audience buys hardware and accessories on a more rapid basis than the average consumer does. Hardcore PC gamers are also very willing to pay top dollar to stay on the bleeding edge of their hobby.

As a response, Alienware produces sleek, high-powered gaming PCs in low quantities, then sells them at premium prices. The design of the products is consistent with the look of the official website.

The tone of the copywriting has an attitude to it that gamers can’t help but gravitate to. Dell knows who its prospective buyers are and gives them exactly what they want in a way that they want it.

3. Understand Audience Pleasures and Pains

Marketing can be about a lot of things, but it’s mainly about two things: taking away the pains and increasing the pleasure of your customers. Pains come from unfulfilled needs while pleasure comes from the fulfillment of wants.

Every consumer action on the Web is fueled by the pursuit to satisfy needs and wants. Logically, making a convincing case that you can provide the answers for these pursuits will put you in a position to sell your products and services.

If you already have a product or service to sell, it’s probably safe to assume that your business has figured this part of the equation out. It’s your job as the SEO to fully grasp what your customer’s problems are and what the things are that make them happy.

From there, you can put yourself in their shoes, figure out what can address their needs and wants, then develop content that says it in a way that your audience can relate to.


Dan Sharp understood the pains of on-site optimization. He developed the Screaming frog SEO Spider to make the process faster and easier.

Take the Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool, for example. Creator Dan Sharp recognized that a common pain among SEOs was retrieving vital SEO-related information from the pages in the websites that they’re trying to optimize.

While Xenu’s Link Sleuth existed, it was prone to errors and limited in terms of functionality. There was a genuine demand to quickly and effectively diagnose a website’s SEO health and Screaming Frog addressed the need by being fast, reliable and comprehensive with the set of information that it delivers.

Screaming Frog doesn’t do heavy marketing nor does it engage in typical product hype jobs. Still, it’s an extremely popular product because it does two things right: it made our jobs easier and it delivered on every promise that it made.

As a result, it became one of the most highly recommended tools in the SEO market and it continuously earns valuable links and engagement signals for its website.

4. Map the Topics You Need to Cover 

Scope and taxonomy are underrated qualities of well-optimized websites. How your pages are arranged and how topics flow cohesively from one page to another matters to both human readers and search engine algorithms.

Ideally, the pages of your website should be interrelated while staying close to a central theme. To that end, you should be very selective with the topics that you create content from and how you make them fit into your site’s overall strategy.

Does that sound complex? It’s really a lot easier when you actually do it. Here’s a real-life example: one of my clients offers guided tours of Italy to Americans who want to visit the lovely southern European country.

Every three months, we run a different content marketing campaign to promote the site. To that end, we use whitepapers, blog posts, videos and slide decks..

The first step is to find a theme for the three-month period. In this case, summer is fast approaching and we wanted to capture leads in the form of people who want to visit Italy from June to early September.

We decide to make summertime in Italy the central theme and we decided to develop a whitepaper called “Italy’s 12 Hottest Summer Secrets Revealed.” The whitepaper addresses the need to know more about the country’s lesser-known tourist attractions. It also features rare tips on how American tourists can save on expenses, avoid incidents and make best use of their time while they’re in the country.


The thematic content marketing campaign model

We’re aware that the whitepaper won’t promote itself and we don’t expect every visitor to download it in exchange for email addresses. We address the promotional requirements by publishing 18 blog posts, six SlideShare decks and six videos over the three-month campaign period.

All of these assets talk about topics related to the central theme and they all have calls to action that try to direct the audience towards our whitepaper landing page. In the case of the summertime campaign, the blogs, decks and videos were all about places, people, events, food and traditions that Americans should experience in Italy during the warm months.

At the end of the campaign period, we expect to build a solid mailing list that can be leveraged for several purposes. The list can be offered more content and occasionally, we can send them offers that they might be interested in.

There are a lot of ways to map and structure topics that you need to cover. The key is tailor-fitting the structure to the intent of the people that you want to attract.

5. Write the Content

Well-researched, grammatically correct and stylistically sound writing are skills that we’ve come to expect from copywriters and editors.

A good writer can read facts, structure them into a clever piece and use a hook to help the composition provoke reader attention. A great writer does all of this and takes the time and initiative to understand what the audience’s intent is so he or she caters to it while staying true to your branding and intended messaging.

When choosing a writer who’ll put in the legwork into content development, go with someone who exerts emotional labor into what he does. I’ve learned through experience that in-house writers generally work better because they have a sense of ownership on the things they write about.

They’re more aware of a company’s culture and they usually have a deeper understanding of the target audience’s nature. In-house writers also tend to grow as the business grows. They usually carry the things they learned from one project to the next.

This may also be the reason why it’s hard to capture magical work from freelancers; the one-and-done nature of contractual labor diminishes the need for the writer to put his soul into the piece he’s composing.

Last tip: big companies tend to use two writers at most to write key content pieces that will be used in high-profile campaigns. Fewer heads increases consistency in messaging and minimizes stylistic disparity between content assets. The end product is usually content that has a uniform voice and a clear message delivered to the reader.

6. Plan the User Experience 

Human behavior is an unpredictable thing. Even when people are looking for closely-related information, their intents can vary widely. This results in a wide range of possible outcomes that may not necessarily end with the fulfilment of your call to action.

As a marketer, you’ll want to engage the user, address his intent and streamline his experience towards your conversion goals.

That’s easier said than done, though. In order to meet a user at his point of intent, you’ll have to anticipate how he thinks and what he plans to do. Being aware of the possible intents and browsing habits of your audience allows you to set up an intuitive environment that helps them find your content with ease.

Toys R Us is a nice example of a site that anticipates the intents of its visitors. The site offers a “Shop By” feature where you can navigate toys according to the child’s gender, the age range, characters, brands, etc. Toys R Us recognizes that its products may be for children but its shoppers are mostly adults trying to figure out what to get their kids.


Toys R Us has a handy navigation that anticipates most shopper intents

In EmersonNetworkPower.com, the site for Emerson Electric’s IT manufacturing business, we implemented a similar strategy. We recognize that we have a diverse set of visitors with varying intents. We are regularly visited by Chief Information Officers (CIOs), IT managers, data center managers, computer engineers, IT consultants and more.

Though our product portfolio hasn’t changed much in the past two years, our content constantly evolves to accommodate the intents of these members of our audience.

We recognize that CIOs are more interested in thought leadership-type of content and not so much on product specifications. We also know that IT managers and engineers tend to be more interested in technical details, so we tailor product and support pages for them.

In the screenshot below, you’ll see the different sections that we’ve built to accommodate people who work in the same facilities but expect different content types from us:


For CIOs and other senior IT decision makers, our support section was populated by thought leadership content 


IT engineers and technicians will find content they’ll appreciate in our product pages

7. Use Analytics to refine the Campaign 

It takes a lot of time, effort and resources to put together and execute a content strategy. You owe it to yourself (and your client) to find out whether it was a monumental success or a monumental failure. Analytics and other signals allow you to do that. You not only get to know whether you won or lost; you also get important clues on where you can do better next time.

When assessing how well your content assets performed, there’s no single, definitive metric that will tell you everything you need to know about your content’s effectiveness.

In the big organizations that I’ve worked for, we like to keep our metrics simple but multi-faceted. Listed below are the things that we track to get evaluate the performance of our content strategy:


Egad! Pinterest may be this site’s leading traffic referrer but if most of it are bounces, it’s not a very good source.


As legit as they come: Kaiserthesage.com’s comment sections are never dull

In the end, building a successful content strategy is not rocket science. More than anything, it’s an exercise in sincerity, market familiarity and common sense. As long as you keep your audience’s best interest in mind and organize your efforts in a neat process, there’s no reason why you can’t produce content like a premiere brand.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow Glen on Google+.

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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  1. Sunday

    May 21, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Surely, a successful content strategy it’s an exercise in sincerity, market familiarity and common sense. There could be no truer fact than this.

    Developing content strategy like Fortune 500 brand needs effective research and the delivery of value to the reader. This is what makes the best companies stand out!

    I have left this comment in kingged.com – the content syndication and social marketing platform for Internet marketers, where this post was shared.

    Sunday – kingged.com contributor


  2. Glen D.

    May 21, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Thanks for the kind words, guys.

    Sean – thanks. I think looking back at LWS, my foundations in SEO and content were correct but if you let the industry’s grind and pressures tempt you, you get off track and you fall into the shady SEO pit. I did for a bit. As you get a little older and wiser, you rise above it. Credit to people like you and Jason who showed us all that good guys don’t have to finish last in SEO.

  3. Wyatt Hunter

    May 21, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hi Glen D,

    Thanks for sharing superb information about fortune 500 content strategy. This is very useful information for online review readers. Keep it up such a nice posting like this.

    Wyatt Hunter,
    Billing Gurus.

  4. Kevin Stokes

    May 21, 2014

    Post a Reply

    I think that it will be some time before links and keywords become extinct, but Google does want you to create content that excites your customers and prospects, as well as the other ranking parameters. DON’T go online to get links, DO create content that makes you out to be an expert and you will earn links.

  5. Glen D.

    May 22, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Wyatt – Happy to hear that you liked the post. With any luck, I’ll be able to guest post again with Kaiserthesage at some point in the future.

    Kevin – I completely agree. Keywords and links are still at the core of how Google works but the effort to integrate more hard-to-fake signals is palpable. You’re right that it will take some time and I do believe it’s inevitable. When it breaks, it should be a lovely day for legit content creators.

  6. Martha

    May 22, 2014

    Post a Reply

    OH MY GOD!!!
    What a post. It is really awesome. It contains everything for building a content strategy. Full of information. HATS OFF!

  7. John Dizon

    May 22, 2014

    Post a Reply

    As expected from an SEO Master.
    This article is just mind-blowing. Glen tackled almost everything that you need to know in Content Marketing. From ideas, to content creation, value of user-experience, and how to track them out.

    However, I just want to add that analyzing your target market could be a little tricky sometimes. In some cases like in e-commerce websites, you may want consider the time of the year as this affects people on what to buy or when to buy things. Doing this will help you prepare the kind of content you will be creating.
    But anyway, this is really a great article to read. I’ll be reading this from time to time for sure.

    Kudos to you Glen!


    • Glen D.

      May 23, 2014

      Post a Reply


      You make a very good point about the fact that some niches are seasonal. Analytics will also tell you which times of the day and which days of the week your target audience is most active. Profiling your audience is an ever-evolving process because market demands are subject to change at any given time.

  8. Fraser

    May 23, 2014

    Post a Reply

    This post really does get into the nitty gritty of marketing a brand. I think for me, the hardest part is trying to figure out where my viewers are going to go on the site. I always have to take a step back and forget about how I would do it and see how an outside client would do it. Your section on planning the user experience was great for fielding those issues, thanks for the great example with the ‘toys r us’ site.

    • Glen D.

      May 24, 2014

      Post a Reply

      I’m glad that example helped you, Fraser. Matching intent and UX is a really tricky thing that requires tyrial and error. In my experiece, having analytics show the traffic flowis good bt it’s not always enough. A lot of times, having an expert in a niche tell you how the target customer’s mind works is a big boost in figuring out what your audience wants to see mire of.

      You’ll also want to try and do some surveys to get direct visitor feedback.

  9. Jessica

    May 26, 2014

    Post a Reply

    You have shared a very informative article and decscribe this in very simple and easy ways that how to create content like 500 fortune Company.

  10. Strategy and execution run hand in hand. Too often we come up with great plans and do the necessary research, but then we do not actually consistently do what needs to be done. We must be consistent in doing what needs to be done and then we can really see the fruits of our strategy.

    • Glen D.

      May 30, 2014

      Post a Reply


      I agree 100%. As Seth Godin puts it in his book Linchpin, great ideas are useless when we don’t “ship” them.


  11. Meghan

    July 2, 2014

    Post a Reply

    i was just reading the the book 21 global brands and i came across your article.
    Thanks for sharing fantastic information about fortune 500 content strategy.

  12. Alex Taylor

    July 3, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hi Jason,
    Good post,
    I think when people respond to a blog emotionally, they will more likely to share it. I personally go against the trend, but it is just a personal preference. Not looking for fame, just to express myself. This blog of yours, however, is something to save and reference in the future over and over again.

    • Glen D.

      July 5, 2014

      Post a Reply


      Actually, this is my post on Jason’s blog. 😀 But it flatters me that my writing could be confused as Jason’s.

      I agree with going against the curve and expressing yourself. Authenticity trumps perfection more times than not in marketing. As Einstein said, great ideas are often met with strong opposition by mediocre minds.” If you really feel strongly about something, it’s always wiser to do things your way.

      Thank you for the kind words and more power.


  13. mike

    September 1, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Good for reference and learning. I personally love reading online blogs on internet marketing. I relate this post to public relations. In order to do effective public relations, we need to understand the public. Sames goes to content marketing. In order to make your content asset converts, we need to understand the audience of the website. Like addressing the needs and wants of the audience and understanding the pain and pleasure of the audience.

    What makes people share it is because it is easy enough to understand, and the there is level of maturity in the content and people can relate to your post easily.



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