By Erin Ramczyk, Senior Content & Marketing Strategist
Recently, Tuna Traffic relaunched our Brown Bag “lunch and learn” sessions once a month, to fulfill our internal mission of strengthening our well-formed teams. Lucky for you, we decided we couldn’t keep all the new content strategy and tactics to ourselves. Here is the latest installment of our Brown Bag series: Content Planning.
First and Foremost: What Is Content Planning?
According to the MarTech Dictionary, “Content planning refers to the process of determining the subject matter, format, timing and frequency, and delivery channels for information that is intended to help and build rapport with (a) target audience(s). The planning process should identify new content that must be created as well as existing content that can be repurposed.” In this blog, we’ll break down the process of content planning into 4 steps.
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Step 1: Establish Goals & Focus Areas in your Content Strategy
If you already have some goals and focus areas for your content planning, that’s great. But this isn’t always the case. If you don’t have any goals or an easy focus, there are a few ways to identify where to start.
For a well-formed content strategy, you should always review web analytics to see what customers seem to be most interested in and what’s driving the most traffic and conversions. Do some initial keyword research to see what content you’re ranking for and what keyword(s). For example, when we worked with one of our clients, we realized many of their blog posts were ranking well and driving regular traffic, but they didn’t realize this is where some of their traffic was coming from. You can also get a sense for any important keyword phrases you’re NOT ranking well for. Analytics and rankings can provide some clues for goal setting.
"Analytics and rankings can provide some clues for goal setting."
Another way to narrow in is to ask good questions to get things rolling. For example:
- What new products will be launching and/or new areas of the business are you trying to grow?
- What are the biggest sources of revenue for your business? Do you have goals for growing these areas?
- Is there an area of your business that is struggling that you are looking to breathe new life into?
- What is your sales team focusing on? What are their goals?
Step 2: Identifying Gaps & Opportunities
Perform initial keyword research
If you already did some keyword research as part of your goal-setting, you’re already ahead of the game. Keyword research can help uncover content gaps and opportunities for your planning. First, what relevant keywords should you be ranking for but aren’t yet? Pinpointing this will help uncover gaps that may exist.
“If you already did some keyword research as part of your goal-setting, you’re already ahead of the game. Keyword research can help uncover content gaps and opportunities for your planning.”
On the flip side, if you have content that is ranking well, this may present some opportunities for your planning. Content that is ranking well is an indicator that search engines believe it to be relevant to the search term it’s ranking for and is of value to whoever might be using the search term. So, what can we do with content that is already ranking well?
Note any opportunities to enhance existing pages to make them better optimized for SEO, conversion, and user experience overall. For example, when we discovered that our clients’ blog posts were ranking well and driving traffic, we also noted that many of these posts didn’t contain a call to action or links to other pages for additional information. When content is ranking, it is more likely to drive traffic, so it’s important to put your “best foot forward” to maximize the impact of this content. Content planning isn’t just about creating brand new content - in fact, there is a lot of value in trying to find ways to enhance and re-purpose existing content that is already performing well.
"Content planning isn’t just about creating brand new content - in fact, there is a lot of value in trying to find ways to enhance and re-purpose existing content that is already performing well."
Complete a content audit
Review the content on your website, social media accounts, email marketing (including any transactional emails, i.e. confirmation emails, etc.), customer form notifications, and even offline materials.
To help prioritize content, wherever possible, track web traffic, reach, and/or engagement. For example: for a web page or blog post, prioritize pages that are ranking well and/or have higher, regular traffic, low bounce rate, and are converting well. For social content, prioritize posts with high organic reach and/or high engagement (like reactions, comments, and shares).
"To help prioritize content, wherever possible, track web traffic, reach, and/or engagement."
As part of your audit, do your future self a favor and take notes about opportunities to improve SEO, conversion, and user experience. Make note of things like:
- Which topics/keywords are covered and which are not?
- Do key pieces of content have internal links and a strong CTA?
- Where do gaps in content exist?
- How can we improve the content we already have through historical optimization? How can existing content be repurposed into ebooks, checklists, infographics, etc.?
Step 3: Creating a Content Calendar
Identify key dates/times relative to your content strategy
Identify timely holidays/observances that would provide natural opportunities to create content that highlights some aspect of your business. For example, for a healthcare company that sells products to nurses, National Nurses Week in May might be a relevant observance to include in a content calendar. Research what holidays/observances might be relevant to your business and include the ones that make the most sense based on your goals.
Next, you’ll want to include known events (like sales/promotions, trade shows, annual conferences, etc.). These are good to know about because you can build some content efforts like email campaigns, social media posts, and more around these to maximize them.
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Finally, you also want to account for elements of seasonality that may be relevant to your buying cycle and/or other important company milestones, including any important dates or deadlines. Capture any timely goals or product launches so your content can have the greatest impact within those timeframes. You should also account for any elements of seasonality that may impact your business.
Know what your budget is
Once you have the important dates in the calendar to start, you will need to consider the appropriate frequency for publishing and promoting new content. This will also help you determine how much content you will need. Your content scheduling will be based largely on your budget and how frequently you can invest time and resources into different types of content.
"Once you have the important dates in the calendar to start, you will need to consider the appropriate frequency for publishing and promoting new content. This will also help you determine how much content you will need."
With a limited budget, prioritize content based on your goals. And remember: Through the planning process, you can strategically plan content creation at key times throughout the year to make it work. Get creative!
Budget is also important to consider as you brainstorm content ideas. It will help you determine whether you should focus brainstorming on smaller wins like web pages, blog posts, and social media updates, or if you can factor in some more in-depth resources like ebooks or even video, both of which tend to be more costly.
Armed with your target frequency, important dates, and what the budget will allow, you can start to add more specific content ideas to your content calendar.
Content Strategy Tip: Make a plan to improve existing content.
Before you start brainstorming new content, don’t miss the opportunity to enhance content that already exists. Remember those notes you took about opportunities to enhance existing pages and posts? This is when you can put those to good use. Don’t forget to prioritize your content based on ranking and/or traffic so you can have the greatest impact by enhancing your highest performing content first. Things like:
- Adding links to other relevant pages/posts and fixing broken links.
- Updating dated material, including data and graphics.
- Making sure there is a call-to-action and, if so, strengthening those calls to action.
Brainstorm new content
Now that you've accounted for existing content, you can turn your attention to brainstorming new ideas. What came out of plotting important dates? What existing work is impactful enough to be repurposed as an ebook, checklist, video, or another type of resource?
You could also look at what aspect(s) of your business’ story may be missing from your website and social media. For example, if you have a special approach to client care, evaluate your web presence to determine if this is conveyed properly. Would it be helpful to highlight aspects of your approach to client care in a series of blog posts?
For decideing on new content strategy, you’ll also want to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What are the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) through the Buyer’s Journey (awareness, consideration, and decision)? This doesn’t have to be a FAQs page (although that’s not a bad idea, either), but this exercise can inspire content for individual blog posts, a blog series, videos, or even additional web pages or resources.
- Content in the Awareness Stage would be more geared toward informing new customers about a product or service (through FAQs, checklists, helpful tips, etc.).
- Content in the Consideration Stage aims to position your business as the expert (through ebooks, demo videos, expert guides).
- Content in the Decision Stage should provide compelling reasons why customers would choose this product/service over a competitor (through infographics containing key stats, case studies, special offers, etc.).
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Step 4: Measuring Success
You always want to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for your content efforts and tie these to your goals, whenever possible. For example, if you are trying to drive more sales and sales come in as leads, then measuring leads generated by your content efforts will be an important KPI.
"You always want to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for your content efforts and tie these to your goals, whenever possible."
The KPIs you use will vary from different content types. For example, for social media, your KPIs may consist of reach, reactions, comments, and shares. For web content, KPIs may include traffic, engagement (like avg session duration and bounce rate), conversion rate (if there is a form or transaction tied to the content), and ranking (in search engines).
And remember: if you’re making changes to existing content, make sure to capture what these metrics are prior to your updates so you can measure against these to report on how these KPIs improve over time. This will make content strategy and planning easier to do in the future.
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