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Written by Caroline Cox on Nov 6

From ideation to optimization, these steps will help you create a solid process for high-quality content marketing

Here, you’ll find:

  • Methods for sourcing content ideas
  • How to prioritize your content calendar
  • Tips for effective content writing
  • Ways to promote your content to your audience

A site without strong content simply can’t compete with one sporting an extensive blog, an array of case studies, and other helpful written resources. Having quality content on your website is one of the most effective ways to take your SEO from “eh” to “awesome.” 

Whether you write it yourself, leverage a team member, or outsource to an agency, these are the elements you need for content that’ll make your brand an industry thought leader.

HawkSEM blog: 11 Steps to Create Quality Content

After you have your plan written down, you can update and optimize as needed. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Start with a content marketing strategy

Before you put pen to paper (or marker to whiteboard, or fingers to keys), take the time to lay out your content strategy. Ask yourself things like:

  • What are your content marketing goals?
  • Which KPIs will you measure?
  • How often will you publish?
  • What tools will you use to stay organized?
  • Which forms of content will you publish?

Once you’ve worked out the nitty-gritty details, lay them out in a content strategy doc. After you have your plan written down, you can update and optimize it on a quarterly, biannual, or annual basis as needed.

2. Flesh out your personas

When you’re building your plan for creating quality content, it helps to go back to basics. After all, the ultimate aim of content marketing is to:

  • Raise awareness about your company
  • Educate and provide value to your audience
  • Build loyalty and credibility
  • Improve your search engine results page (SERP) rankings
  • Differentiate your company as a thought leader
  • Drive sales

The most effective content marketing speaks directly to a company’s ideal client persona (ICP), in a language they understand. So, if you haven’t already, make sure you’ve fleshed out your personas

Once you can visualize who your content is speaking to, you can then begin to target their needs and wants, buyer’s journey stage, and interests in a more concrete, specific way.

While you can get as detailed as you want, thorough personas often include:

  • Name
  • Photo or graphic representing the person
  • Company type or industry
  • Job title
  • Key responsibilities
  • Pain points
  • Helpful demographic info (like age, salary, city or region, etc.)

3. Define your voice and tone

Your brand’s voice and tone are illustrated through your website, your content marketing, your ad copy, your social media, and more. These things are reflected in how you speak to your audience. Your voice and tone should make sense for your audience as well as the overall ethos of your business.

A good place to start with identifying your voice and tone is by looking at your target personas. How do they talk? How formal or casual are they? How much time do they have to consume your content? All of these elements can factor into your voice and tone. 

Next, revisit your company’s mission and values. Some businesses use bright colors, youthful acronyms (like LOL), and other nontraditional marketing elements in their branding.

Others have an audience that prefers a minimalist design, a serious demeanor, and no-nonsense verbiage. By blending together the right combination of elements, you can define your voice and tone.

Pro tip: You can codify your voice and tone by creating a content and style guide exclusive to your company’s content marketing. This can include goals, guidelines, and any mechanics you want to make clear, along with info on voice and tone.

4. Conduct keyword research

Grab your shovels — it’s time to do some digging. Identifying your best SEO keywords can help inform your content goals and the topics you cover. If you want to improve your SERP rankings, high-quality content informed by proper keyword targeting is one of the most effective SEO tools at your disposal.

Keyword research can tell you what keywords you’re currently ranking for, what keywords bring users to your site, the most popular keywords for your industry, and more. You want to pinpoint what the user would be searching for (what terms and phrases they’d often use) to find your product or service.

Conduct your research by listing out topics relevant to your business. Next, determine the keywords that would fall under those categories. You can then use an SEO tool (like Google Keyword Planner) to find out the monthly search volume. You can also go directly to the SERP to see how you stack up against your competition.

Ideally, you have a mix of long-tail keywords, which are phrases that usually have three or more words, as well as one-word keywords. Just keep in mind that one-word keywords usually aren’t high converters.

It’s not so much about search volume or length of the keyword — the goal is to rank as high as possible on the highest intent keywords. Targeting is how you find the keywords that have the highest buying intent behind them.

Pro tip: While it’s good to check out which keywords your competition is ranking highly on, don’t spend all of your time and effort trying to outrank them. There’s plenty of value in carving out your own niche as well.

HawkSEM blog: 11 Steps to Create Quality Content

Once you’ve determined your goals, done your research, and consulted your team, you should be able to prioritize your content ideas. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Gather and organize your ideas

Keyword research is a solid jumping-off point when you’re creating your quality content plan. But it shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all of your ideation process. This is a great opportunity to leverage people on your team and in other departments to help decide which subjects your content should cover.

Consider hosting a brainstorm session or creating a Slack channel where content ideas can be shared and discussed. This is a great way to leverage colleagues (like the sales team) who are regularly interacting with prospects and clients and hearing about their pain points, needs, and interests. Put all of these ideas onto a cloud-based doc that can be regularly modified, added to, and updated. 

Once you’ve determined your goals, done your research, and consulted your team, you should be in a place where you can properly prioritize your content ideas. Figure out which topics you want to tackle sooner and later, then create a content marketing calendar to keep it all organized. 

While there’s no one way to create your content calendar, it’s a good idea to include elements such as:

  • content title
  • content type
  • writer
  • due date
  • publish date
  • keywords
  • funnel stage or persona

As far as formatting, you can create your own spreadsheet or opt for a pre-made template.

6. Determine your creation process

The creation process for your content will depend on things like your bandwidth, the size of your content team, and the amount of content you want to produce in a certain time, among other things. But laying out a process will make the whole endeavor seem less overwhelming and more manageable. 

A common content marketing creation process looks something like this:

  1. Determine topic
  2. Conduct research
  3. Gather information
  4. Brainstorm headlines
  5. Create outline
  6. Write draft
  7. Edit draft
  8. Finalize draft
  9. Format and upload 
  10. Publish

Again, your process doesn’t need to follow this format exactly. However, by creating a step-by-step checklist for content creation, you can break up tasks into smaller bits to easily stay on track — and on deadline.

7. Let drafts breathe

This step may not seem crucial, but trust us, it is. While it can be tempting to type up a draft, give it a quick once-over, and immediately publish, it’s often not the wisest move. 

Not letting your drafts “breathe” — aka taking a break between writing and publishing — is how errors and incomplete content get published.

Even if you just get out of your desk chair and do a lap around the office, or wait until the next morning to reread your draft, reviewing your content with fresh eyes can make a world of difference. The last thing you want is to publish or send the content to your boss and get a “???” message in response.

Pro tip: No matter how technical your industry or topic is, it’s a good rule of thumb to always write how you speak. By writing in a way that’s conversational, your content comes off more human, authentic, and trustworthy. Plus, with voice search continuing to grow in popularity, content that uses simple, concise language is that much more likely to rise through the search ranks.

8. Have someone else edit (if possible)

Speaking of having a fresh set of eyes (which sounds kind of gross, now that I think about it), those eyes are ideal for another key part of creating quality content: proofreading and editing. Editing is an important step to take to turn a piece of content from good into great.

This editor could be your boss or a colleague, and it doesn’t have to be the same person each time. If you’re on a small team or are a team of one, you can be your own editor. Just make sure you don’t edit your piece directly after finishing the draft.

It’s also a good idea to print out the piece and read it that way — the change of format often helps you spot errors you may not have seen on the screen. 

No matter who edits, make sure they know what to look for. A good editor can see both the forest and the trees. This means that they’re looking for an overall solid piece of content that’s thorough, educational, and covers the topic properly. They also should be on the lookout for grammar and spelling errors, missing words, and an inconsistent tone.

9. Think beyond blog posts

Blog articles can be a huge asset to your website for all the reasons above. But don’t think that blog content is all you need to create. Quality content also comes in the form of social media, guides, case studies, checklists, e-books, white papers, webinars, podcasts — the list goes on.

Once you’ve built a strong content foundation, you can experiment with new formats and see how your audience responds. You can also create complementary content that covers one topic in a variety of ways, with each piece linking to one another.

Pro tip: Don’t rush the headline-writing process. A good headline can be the difference between someone clicking on your link or continuing to scroll. After you’ve written a piece, try to spend at least 10 minutes brainstorming as many headline options as you can before making a final decision.

10. Don’t forget to promote

Like a tree falling in the forest, if a blog article is published and no one knows about it, does it make a sound?

To ensure your content gets the widest reach possible, you’ve got to do what you can to promote it. While you don’t want your social media to be a one-way conversation where you’re constantly shouting about your own company, you should be sharing your content regularly with your audience and followers. 

If you send out a client or prospect newsletter, this is also a great opportunity to include your own content. If you’ve published a new e-book or research findings, you can go so far as to add a banner to your website homepage directing people to the post.

HawkSEM blog: 11 Steps to Create Quality Content

Content marketing is an SEO tool that takes time to cultivate. (Image via Unsplash)

11. Monitor performance

A content strategy is never set in stone. After a few months of publishing, it’s a good time to do a performance check-in. Look into your content traffic and performance metrics, see which pieces are doing well, and see if your rankings have improved.

If you’re not seeing much change, don’t panic. Content marketing is an SEO tool that takes time to cultivate. As long as you’re producing work that’s informative, interesting, digestible, and accurate, you’re on the right track. 

Your content plan should include reminders for optimizing older content as well — ensuring all links are still active, the information is up-to-date, and any new developments are included. When you start to see patterns emerge that show what’s working and what’s not, you can optimize accordingly. 

The takeaway

Content marketing is a great avenue for showing your audience that your business knows how to leverage experts and wants to help them learn more. 

By following these 11 steps, you can build up a top-notch resource library that positions your company as a leader among your competition.

We’ve helped tons of companies big and small take their content marketing to the next level. Want to know more? Let’s chat.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Sep 10

We all live in a world where we’ve become accustomed to instant gratification. “Wait” has become a four-letter word in the business world. When it comes to improving your organic web traffic, you want to see results yesterday. Unfortunately, just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, so too can you not expect to build a better ranking in the same amount of time.

Yet that’s not to say that you can’t see dramatic increases in a relatively short amount of time. Depending upon the amount of work that you’re willing to put into optimizing your content in order to improve your ranking, isn’t unreasonable to think that within as little as three to four months, you can start seeing an upward spike on your organic traffic.

10 Traffic Rules to Live By

The trick is knowing just how to make such increases happen. Here are 10 tips on what to do in order to see your search engine ranking improve:

  • Optimize: Focus on developing meta titles, descriptions, and keywords that are optimized to take advantage of those words and phrases proven to lure in traffic in your industry.
  • Employ analytics: Don’t be afraid to use analytic programs to find those long-tail keywords that are guaranteed to lead to high conversion rates.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity: Don’t simply flood your site with keywords. Focus on creating quality content that will lead to unique ranking improvements such as author rank. Moreover, you must generate relevant content that provides value to your target audience.
  • Utilize blogs: Including too much text on your main landing pages can make it difficult for customers to find exactly what it is that they want. Thus, move some of your keywords and phrases into blogs, allowing you to improve your rankings without inundating every customer with too much information.
  • Rely on the experts: Don’t be afraid to ask an industry expert to post a blog on your site, thus benefiting from his or her insider knowledge.
  • Be authoritative: Customers look to you for expertise. Be willing to answer any all question related to your business and your industry.
  • Watch your bounce rate: Check your content for keywords that will contribute to a high bounce rate, and modify it if needed.
  • Look for long-tail terms: Use long-tail phrases built around specific keywords rather than simply relying on words with the best search traffic. You’ll find that conversion rates with the former are typically higher.
  • Keep it simple: Don’t try to outsmart the search engines. Focus on your own content rather than trying to game their systems.
  • Be patient: Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Remember that the process of improving your ranking is a marathon, not a sprint.

Improving your organic traffic flow isn’t overly complicated. Our team members here at HawkSEM are experts at increasing organic web traffic. When you choose to work with us, you will see increases in web traffic and more importantly a greater ROI from your marketing efforts. If you have questions or would just like to talk strategy with one of our all-star team members, give us call and let us work our digital marketing magic for you.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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