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.
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:
- 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.
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
- due date
- publish date
- 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:
- Determine topic
- Conduct research
- Gather information
- Brainstorm headlines
- Create outline
- Write draft
- Edit draft
- Finalize draft
- Format and upload
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.
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.
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.