Content is king.
It’s a statement that is as true as much as it is a cliché.
Consumers are demanding more and more content from businesses of all sizes to help them understand their products and services, show them thought leadership and connect with them in search engines when they are at the discovery phase of the marketing funnel.
Organisations must develop more content than ever to get more leads through content marketing and search engine optimisation. And it better be damn good if you want it to have a chance of ranking in Google or being clicked on in a social media feed.
The problem with creating good content is that it takes time. Lots of time. So, it can be daunting for organisations looking to start creating content, especially in smaller businesses where budgets and resources are often tighter.
Even the best-intentioned teams with the capacity to create content can get side-tracked by client work or other internal tasks that they deem more important.
Setting goals, a solid workflow and getting all stakeholders on board are critical to the long-term success of your content creation. This will help businesses of all sizes and internal marketing teams keep on track to hitting goals and keeping content campaigns within defined budgets.
Before You Start
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
~ David Beckham (probably…)
Ad hoc content creation will result in a flurry of activity early on, which slowly falls away as stakeholders need to remember why they began this journey in the first place and are still determining what the end goal is.
The process described here can be undertaken by organisations of any size. Whether you have a single person driving the strategy or a team of 10, it is a scalable process.
Define Your Goals
Why are you undertaking a content strategy in the first place? Who is going to read it, and what is its purpose? Are you looking to use it as the basis of an SEO campaign to increase rankings and drive leads through Google? Is it for your current blog readers or referral prospects coming to your website to see what your business does and how they do it?
What are the end goals of the campaign in the long run, and how will it contribute to your bottom line or lead generation? Are you trying to use content to improve SEO for an online store to increase sales, get users to take a free trial or leave an enquiry on an online form?
Whatever the goal (or combination of goals) is, get all stakeholders on board. All too often, content is created for content’s sake, and resources are wasted on its production.
Identify Your Target Audience
When creating content, who are you creating it for?
Content should have valuable takeaways that speak to a specific need. Take the “Five W’s” approach to your content pieces.
DEFINE Target Audience
Who are we targeting, what are their roles or jobs, and where do they work?
What are their interests or pain points?
How will we convey an interest/pain point fix (with information, research, statistics, a guide, or a downloadable document)?
Why Why are we creating this post? Why does your organisation want to have this content made?
When What frequency will content be created, and when will it be released?
Take this post. It is aimed at business owners and marketers struggling to get their content creation off the ground meaningfully and looking for advice on how to go about this.
The answers to these questions can set the guide rails when creating an overarching content plan. The same approach can be taken to each piece of content created in the campaign so that when the writer or creator sets out to complete the task, they understand the point of the work is not just ‘content for content’s sake’.
Set Out Your Keywords
Even if you aren’t doing a deep dive into SEO, you can maximise the value of each content piece by aligning it with keywords on the off chance that you may appear in search results or decide to undertake a campaign later on.
Identify your ‘head terms’ – which keywords, if you could rank at the top of page 1 of Google, would drive the most value to your business regarding leads, enquiries and sales.
Stemming off this, create a comprehensive list of the keywords that would interest your target audience that feed into the head terms. These “longtail keywords” are the basis of your blog topics and can generate many interesting topic ideas.
These longtail keyword blog topics are critical to eCommerce SEO. Often, product pages are limited to facts about the product itself and may need to rank better off the back of that. So using content marketing to boost eCommerce rankings for head terms is necessary.
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Example of blog topics based around longtail keywords
Undertake a Content Review
Suppose your website has thin content that isn’t contributing to your business goals, or there is irrelevant content now that your organisation has developed. In that case, it’s time to take a knife to your website.
Content with low engagement (low organic traffic, doesn’t rank for any keywords, pages that haven’t had traffic in the last 6-12 months) are good candidates for removal or consolidation into more significant posts. Use Google Analytics to identify these pages and, in a spreadsheet, mark them for consolidation into a longer post, a re-work to make them up to date, or for removal.
More content isn’t necessarily better, so pruning the content can help your site align with your overall goals by more clearly defining the topics your site covers to readers and search engines.
Review the rest of your content, put them all into a spreadsheet and give those pieces similar treatment – mark them as pages to be updated slightly, re-written entirely or left as is.
Get stakeholders on board.
Get all stakeholders on board. In some organisations, that may be only a few people, but it could be an entire company.
Senior management, by necessity, will need to approve the workflow and strategy itself, but there are other stakeholders to consider. Buy-in and enthusiasm from the content creators are necessary for their passion for their subject matter to come out and for them to prioritise its development in addition to their other tasks.
At times, subject matter experts (SMEs) who are not content creators’ day-to-day may:
- I do not like to write
- Be uncomfortable putting down their opinion
- I do not understand why they are being asked to contribute
- Understand how creation affects them
Short meetings with each subject matter expert being asked to contribute will enable the team overseeing the strategy to understand the creator’s concerns. This team should be prepared to assist the SME by accepting dot-pointed content, explaining how good marketing means more and better work for all staff, and that they aren’t expected to be able to write like Ernest Hemmingway.
Be sure from the outset that workflows are in place, well documented, and democratised. Like any business process, adhering to a workflow will determine its long-term success and efficiency.
Once the groundwork has been done, setting the workflow is relatively straightforward. Consistency is vital; it must be treated like a client project, <insert other business clichés here>. A consistent approach with real deadlines will fit the process into your organisation just like any other you have.
Workflow for content creation.
- Research topics for blogs using keyword research tools like SEMRush or Answer the public. There are about 1 million (give or take) available online.
- Live and die by your editorial calendar. Add blog topics based on your keyword research, due dates and responsible stakeholders. The more content produced, the easier it is for deadlines to be missed. An example of a content calendar is here.
- When the time comes for an SME to start writing, the team overseeing content creation should meet with them to discuss the topic, understand their proposed angle on the topics and address any of the concerns they may have around creating content. This meeting is also a great time to get them invested and excited about the campaign’s goals and link them to their role.
- Follow up with the SMEs halfway through their allotted time to see if they have any roadblocks. Proactively reaching out prompts them and ensures they are appropriately supported.
- After the SME or content creator has finished their draft, assign your local wordsmith to edit the content for readability and tone of voice. Having an editor that didn’t create the content to review with a fresh set of eyes will pick up some mistakes.
- Before going live, the content creator should check it for accuracy – sometimes writers can make assumptions or take artistic license (accidentally, of course…), which may be factually inaccurate, especially if working off dot points when putting everything together. This last step catches any potential errors before going live.
- Publish to your website. Celebrate. One down, X number to go…
Content creation can be a daunting task. It’s a practically un-ending process that will take up time and resources. Getting all stakeholders aligned to the goals that your strategy is designed to achieve is the most critical part of the whole process.
Without buy-in, the best workflows in the world will not help you get the content you need to create on time and with the quality content marketing demands. But if done correctly, with a streamlined plan, it can contribute monumentally to your organic traffic leads and customer satisfaction.