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Content planning: An easy 4-step process

Content Planning

Content planning doesn’t have to be very hard. Follow this easy 4-step process: Evaluate, Generate, Calculate & Formulate.

There is a content saturation point.

By now, everyone knows that content marketing is important. There are a plethora of resources that go into detail about why content marketing is important, but let’s just say, it is understood as we close out 2017.

9 Stats That Will Make You Want to Invest in Content Marketing

There is a whole organization that is based on the term, the Content Marketing Institute. People specialize in executing content marketing.

In doing so, there is a saturation point. In fact, in 2014 Mark Schaefer called it Content Shock. At this point, if you aren’t executing some kind of content strategy, you are already woefully behind.

Because of this content saturation (I like this term better), we see more content being produced and the noise level is higher making it hard for the average consumer to sift through all the content.

When is the last time you read a blog post that just wasn’t good?

The fundamental issue with content these days is not producing content but making good content. Simply put, if you don’t create good content, you will not be heard.

So, as we get ready for a new year, we need to spend time planning and preparing for our new year of content. This article will help WordPress professionals create a content strategy for the new year.

There are two things I want to discuss before we get to our easy 4-step strategy.

First, we have to define our story. I think to do a good job of setting the context, we need to know the things that matter to us, our brand, and the story that led us there.

Just as important, I believe we have to unpackage our customer’s story. This is what we call the customer journey, or customer cycle, or a customer persona. I believe if we view it as a story, it helps us to put together our thoughts better.

Using a framework such as the Hero’s journey, we can put in place the narrative in an order that makes sense. Donald Miller discusses this in his book Building a Story Brand.

The second thing that I think is important is to ensure you are creating excellent content.

How do you create excellent content for your customers? Well, it starts with knowing what your customers need help with their business.

For more information on writing better content, check out these resources from Enchanted Marketing, Kissmetrics and this article from Impactbnd.

Content Planning an easy 4 step process

Planning
Planning

Here is an easy 4-step process to plan your content.

Evaluate

This is where you spend time evaluating the past year or more. What do you evaluate? Well, you will evaluate past topics, your Google Analytics, and you survey your audience about the topics they want you to address.

One thing you might do is run a simple content audit to see what topics you spent time on last year.  Covering the same topics is fine as long as you don’t do the exact same angle. In this case we aren’t doing a content audit for SEO, however, you can take that time to see what has performed well and from where the traffic came. Neil Patel has a good breakdown of how to run a simple content audit.

Wanna dive deeper into a content audit? Check out this article.

If you tag your articles with keywords, this can help you execute from within the WordPress dashboard. Import the information into our favorite spreadsheet to get a more detailed look.

Take a look at your Google Analytics. From there, you can look at individual posts. What performed better? Which articles had more pageviews? Make a note and drop them into a spreadsheet. Go back and look at the article to see the topic. Which topics performed better? This will give you a clue about what your audience wants to hear.

Finally, ask your audience what they want to read. Create a simple survey using Google Drive, Typeform, or some other form builder, ask a couple or three questions. Send it to your email list asking them to answer your survey. This will give you more insight.

Curate all of this information to create your topics.

Generate

Now that you have the topics that performed well last year and the info from your audience from your survey, it’s time to generate your list of topics for the new year.

Your audience may have mentioned something that you didn’t touch on last year, so you will want to add that to your priority topics. At this point, you should have enough topics to create seed keyword phrases. Most people search by questions these days (Latent Semantic Indexing), so it is important to think in terms of phrases.

Calculate

Now is the time to calculate. Who will be writing the posts? What will they write about and when will they be published. It is time to play matchmaker with your topics and keyword phrases.

Do you need to hire a freelance writer? Maybe you have someone on the team who will create the posts. Will you use guest authors? These are all legitimate tactics.

In addition, you should consider having a workflow to make sure that each article is edited, have images created, and social media posts queued.

Learn more about blog post workflows

How To Boost A Marketing Workflow Process That Will Reduce Work By 30-50%  – CoSchedule

How to Organize and Automate Your Writing Workflow – Zapier

How to optimize your blogging workflow for more productivity MH Themes

This Is The Ultimate Blog Writing Process To Create Killer Posts – CoSchedule

Formulate

Now that you have article topics matched to the creators, it is time to formulate the execution through the year.

You will need a calendar for this. Maybe you can download the templates by CoSchedule or use a calendar in your project management tool. Personally, I like to use the Calendar power up in Trello. I love how adding something to a day adds a card. Then, you can drag the card if you need to adjust your schedule

Consider scheduling by the month and quarter. This allows you to take into account seasons and holidays which can also help you come up with content ideas. You may want to match the first quarter with planning, Spring for Spring cleaning while the last quarter is a summary of the year. There are many ways you can tie topics together with the seasons.

Content Calendar
Content Calendar

Following up

This article is about planning content for blog posts, however, there are many different ways to create content. Use your blog article topics as the core for other content such as social media, email marketing, and interactive content.

Andy McIlwain wrote a fantastic article at the WP Chick about various types of content you can create for your small business. He identifies 10 opportunities to create content including articles.

As McIlwain says, content is the new normal. He counsels,

Look at your content as a portfolio. It’s a long-term investment with compounding interest. Contribute a little bit to your portfolio of content every week, and let the value grow over time.

We should look at our content as an ongoing investment. We will look back in six months, a year, or two and see all of the interest it pays.

Content planning doesn’t have to be very hard. Follow this easy 4-step process: Evaluate, Generate, Calculate & Formulate.

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Todd Jones
Along with being the resident writer for MainWP and content hacker at grafixCat media, I specialize in writing about startups, entrepreneurs, social media, WordPress and inbound marketing topics.
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