Content marketing was 2014’s biggest buzzword, but 2015 will be all about how brands can make that content strategic and make it start working for them.

As you look at your content strategy this year, take a look at these 5 tips and learn about some of the tools and ideas that will help you supercharge your content in 2015.

1. Identify Your Brand Values

Every piece of content you create doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be about you. By creating a content mission statement, list of brand values, or editorial guideline, you’ll have a solid foundation for which topics fit with your brand.

From there, you can expand beyond just talking about your brand, and start to explore stories that resonate with your audience and show what your company or organization is all about. (To learn more about the brands that are doing this well, check out the “Stop Talking About Yourself” webcast we hosted with AdAge and Contently.)

2. Start Planning

If you’ve started playing around with content marketing but don’t really know where to go next, the best way to kick your content into gear is by establishing an editorial calendar.

Trello can help with your content marketing
In Trello, you can create “cards” that are viewable either by category or in a calendar view, allowing you to plan everything in advance.

We use Trello at Shutterstock to organize and collaborate on upcoming blog posts, and I use Wunderlist to organize my content ideas (and every other aspect of my life). Other options like Google Calendar, Opal, WordPress plugins, or even a basic spreadsheet will work just as well — the idea is just to plan out a few ideas and start to put thought and organization into the work you’re creating.

Wunderlist allows you to make simple lists, assign due dates and priority, tag categories, collaborate and even share files.

Once you have a set strategy, you’ll find that planning and regularly publishing content comes much easier, and the final product is often stronger and more thought-out.

3. Look at the Data

As you begin writing and publishing content in 2015, it’s important to keep an eye on the data, and let the numbers show you what your audience is thinking.

Insights, a tool by Contently, focuses more on engaged users than simply on traffic. It allows you to sort stories by “attention time,” a combination of time on page and number of viewers.

Some key metrics to look at are average session duration and average time on page, both of which let you see how long readers are staying on a story and on your site as a whole.

If you’re getting a lot of traffic to one type of story, but the time on page is low, you may be drawing readers in with an inaccurate headline, or the content might not be strong enough to keep them interested. On the flip side, if your traffic isn’t so high but the time on page is far above average, you may want to tweak your headline or try more social promotion to draw more readers in to what might be your best content.

Google Analytics
Sorting by traffic source in Google Analytics lets you see how much traffic comes from where, and also see behavior patterns based on where the reader came from.

Another valuable area to look in your analytics software is the traffic referral or source/medium section (in Google Analytics), which allows you to see where traffic is coming from. In the example above, we were able to see that most of the views on our 2015 Color Trends infographic were coming from direct traffic, but almost 15% came in from social media. This will help you determine which traffic sources are worth investing your time in, and which could use a little more work. It can also help you see which type of posts perform best with readers coming in from Google, from email, from banner ads, etc.

4. Make It More Visual

Copy is great, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story. With the Internet getting more and more crowded by the minute, you need more than words to make your content really stand out. This year, try making your content more visual with photos, infographics, data visualizations, and even video. Whether or not we writers want to accept it — it’s the visuals that draw a reader into a post, and (hopefully) the copy that makes them stay.

Timeline infographic vector by Neyro
Timeline infographic vector by Neyro

5. Give Distribution a Try

If 2014 was the year of content, 2015 will be the year of content distribution. As more and more companies look to profit from their content marketing, they’ll need to reach audiences and create new opportunities for ROI, many of which will come from investing in their content and different types of distribution. Whether you’re testing advertorials, distribution through a platform like Taboola or Outbrain, or sponsored content, it’s likely that your company will want to explore paid content in the coming months.

Have any other ideas for how to get your 2015 content marketing off to a great start? Tell us about them in the comments or on Twitter @Shutterstock!

Top image: Flat business vectors by theromb