With most content marketing campaigns I have come across, there’s one thing in common: Lack of planning.
I admit, I am a control freak. I have to plan and schedule everything months ahead.
But that’s also the reason why I’ve been able to accomplish so much and remain in the spotlight.
Thorough content marketing planning has lots of benefits, including:
Here’s how to create a well-informed content marketing plan for as long as one year ahead:
Any content marketing planning process always starts with keyword research, and that research is not just for search engine optimization purposes.
“One thing many marketers seem to forget about keywords is that there’s a human being typing each query in the search box.”
This means keyword research allows to:
Both of these help you build brand loyalty, links and, yes, search visibility- all of which bring more conversions and sales.
“Keyword extension” tools are usually the first tools I turn to for content marketing planning. There are lots of great keyword research tools out there to choose from, including SEMrush, Ahrefs, Spyfu, Kparser and Serpstat, to name a few. All of them allow you to run a few searches for free.
All of the premium keyword research tools collect more important data on each query on the list including the monthly search volume (i.e. how many people tend to search for this keyword every month). Most of them also have “keyword difficulty” metric that reflects how difficult it would be to rank in 10 ten for each query organically. Both of these numbers allow you to make more informed content marketing planning decisions about whether to include any of the keywords in your content plan.
To quickly illustrate the process, here’s the filter I am using at Serpstat to find keywords with low competition:
[Serpstat has its own estimation of how competitive each keyword is with 0-20 keyword difficulty reflecting the lowest competition. These keywords are “the easiest”. Export results into an Excel file to create an action-ready spreadsheet to plan one-year worth of content]
Another great way to collect useful content ideas is to use question research. It’s like keyword research, only it focuses on interrogative queries. I did a detailed overview of all the tools you can use for question research. Here are the takeaways:
Further reading for content marketing planning with questions:
Another – often overlooked – way to collect content ideas is to research related and neighboring terms. Not only will that allow you to find more interesting angles, this research will prompt your writers to enrich the content by using synonymous and associated concepts.
Text Optimizer is the perfect tool for this stage of content marketing planning: It uses Google SERPs for your given query to retrieve search snippets and then it analyzes them to identify related and neighboring terms.
The idea is simple: Google generates search snippets based on what it believes answers each query best. So those search snippets represent the best possible summary answering the given query. Now, all you need to do is to retrieve important data from that summary to come up with more ways to write content and more angles to branch out.
Another great way to come up with lots of content ideas is BuzzSumo’s own Topic Explorer. The Topic Explorer adds a layer of artificial intelligence to the platform, allowing content creators to expand their reach (and their blog post ideas) to new subject areas.
Use it when you are looking for new ideas for your content marketing planning. The Topic Explorer helps you to dig deeper into smaller niche areas, or expand to related terms.
After using the tools above, you’ll come up with a big list of keywords (possibly hundreds of those). How to make sense of those keyword lists and turn them into an actionable content plan? Here are two steps:
Serpstat has a nice keyword grouping feature that helps one better understand their keyword data and put it into action. Import your good long keyword list and give it some time. Serpstat will actually check search results for each query on the list, find overlapping URLs and, based on that, determine how closely related those queries are.
You can tweak your Serpstat clustering settings based on how closely related you want those keyword groups to be.
Once you have come up with topics behind your keywords (by doing the clustering exercise above), you can organize them a little bit further by:
This will help your team to better streamline their efforts and prepare all the planned content assets far in advance.
Furthermore, I use two more labels that help with planning:
Not all seasonality is so obvious, so I use Google Trends to spot some patterns to time my content better. For example, I have just recently discovered that the peak interest in [teacher]-related content falls on April, rather than September (as I had previously thought):
Finally, you have enough data to start working on your schedule. The easiest way to put quick ideas down is to use Google Spreadsheets. They are free and have collaborative features. Plus spreadsheets can totally be used as calendars:
Overall, spreadsheets provide for the most flexible and customizable environment for higher-level content marketing planning. I’ve shared my own content planning roadmap template here. There are also many more tools to keep and organized your content ideas and important dates.
Whenever I do content marketing planning, I tend to focus on seasonal content and how I can time it better. Seasonality, along with trend spotting, directs and informs my content marketing plan because being part of a trend is very powerful when it comes to content visibility and user engagement. With seasonal content you are able to use all those trending hashtags and catch the peak of interest in the topic.
The three tools I am using to schedule and market seasonal content effectively are ContentCal, Finteza and Alter:
ContentCal is a calendar app that makes planning seasonal content easier. Once you have your spreadsheet / content roadmap, use ContentCal’s “Campaigns” feature to put everything together.
ContentCal’s Campaigns section is an effective collaborative tool for higher-level planning. Start adding your seasonal content campaigns in there:
Once your campaign is created, your team will see the campaign ribbon across the dates you specified:
You can schedule your campaigns as far as one year ahead (which is usually what I do).
One problem I have always struggled with – both for my own sites and my clients’ sites – is the ability to efficiently showcase seasonal content on the site.
Finteza is the free analytics suite that solves that problem with its “Advertising zones” feature. Create your on-site zones where you want to announce your seasonal content (for me it’s the sidebar and the footer) and schedule your seasonal content banners to show up there to drive more engagement:
Once your campaign is scheduled, you don’t have to remember to add or remove those banners. You can schedule your campaigns to show up far in advance and rest assured that Finteza will handle the rest.
The beauty of scheduling everything is advance is that you are making sure that even smaller campaigns enjoy some spotlight when it’s their time. On top of that, showing seasonal content in prominent places of your website will improve engagement and prompt visitors to hang around (instead of bounding back), so you may see lower bounce rate thanks to Finteza.
Alter for Personalizing Seasonal Content
Finally, another tool for properly marketing your seasonal content is Alter which is the newer personalization platform that allows you to bring your content forward based on an infinite combination of criteria.
For example, you can encourage your site users to check specific content assets (or products) based on:
Once your audience is created, you can use Alter’s page editor to set-up your personalized call-to-action and increase on-page engagement:
[Use Alter to bring your seasonal content forward based on the marketing campaign you are using to promote it]
And how are you planning content? Let us know on Twitter.
Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com as well as co-founder of Viral Content Bee. Ann has been into Internet Marketing for 10 years, she is the former Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Journal and contributor to prominent search and social blogs including Small Biz Trends and Mashable. Ann is also the frequent speaker at Pubcon and the host of the regular Twitter chats #vcbuzz.
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