During the content creation process, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with ideas and lose focus. This is especially a problem with viral content, where a company puts so much effort into being funny or interesting that they lose direction and fail to meet goals and KPIs.
Follow this road map from ideation to publish to keep a handle on your content and its purpose.
Ideation: What are We Going to Do?
Coming up with ideas can the hardest part of the content marketing process and we’ve spent hours developing processes that seems to work for our team.
Raubi’s ideation guide pairs various hooks (case study, fresh spin, curation, etc.) with emotions (fear, joy, shock, etc.) to create a cohesive shell for what the article looks like. When choosing the two, authors are able to understand the tone and structure of the article that they’re writing. For example, let’s say you wanted to use a new Google algorithm update to build authority in the industry. With the ideation guide, you could decide the tone you wanted to take about the topic:
- Fear of having your rankings punished
- Disgust that seedy SEO practices exist
- Appreciation for your white hat SEO tactics or agency
The emotion topic paired with the structure gives you a complete idea:
- Here’s a list of websites that Google punished, are you next? (curation/fear)
- Black Hat SEO practices are like movie villains. (fresh spin/disgust)
- How our rankings rose when others fell: a company case study. (case study/appreciation)
Make sure you can look at each topic and answer what the purpose is. Do you want it to go viral and get hundreds of shares? Do you want to teach your audience something new? Do you want to bring new traffic to your site? By the end of these questions, the topics should look like this:
- Here’s a list of websites that Google punished, are you next? (Goal: grow our audience, generate leads)
- Black Hat SEO practices are like movie villains. (Goal: increase brand awareness and gain social shares/traction)
- How our rankings rose when others fell: a company case study. (Goal: establish authority to generate leads)
Ideation sessions tend to fizzle off into distractions, which is why it’s important to constantly ask decide what the purpose of each article is. In our own ideation meetings, we tend to stray from our target audience and create content ideas for other CopyPressers or think of articles that are fun, but provide no real value. Before any idea is added to the bank, it’s important to ask yourself if it will help you achieve your original goals, stay on par with your brand voice, and be useful or entertaining to your readership.
It’s hard to measure a piece of content’s success if there is no purpose, and it’s hard for the writer to include a solid call to action – much less meet the editor’s needs – if the idea isn’t completely fleshed out.
Content Creation: Placing Trust in the Writer’s Ability
Everything discussed during ideation should be explained to the writer. Depending on the experience that the writer has and your relationship with them – whether you’re the only person doing this as a one-man band or handing it off as a test to a new freelancer – you may have to go into more detail and provide resources to learn about the subject.
If you need to make sure the content direction is clear, write out and answer all of these questions. This is often needed if you’re outsourcing your content to a new team of writers that are unfamiliar with your brand or objectives.
- Who is the target audience for this article?
- What do we want the reader to do when they finish this?
- How should the reader feel after reading it?
- What is the structure of the article?
Essentially, you’re spelling out the topic in long-form, just to make sure your bases are covered.
Submitting the First Draft
One of the worst phrases that a writer can tell an editor is that they “put their own spin,” on an article. In some cases, this means the article title is unusable despite the fact that the content is different, while in others it means the editor has to evaluate the new content and find a writer to complete the original idea.
Here are a few ways that writers “add their own spin” to content:
- Changing the structure and tone from an informative tutorial to an angry story
- Instead of listing 7 examples of something, choosing one example and going in-depth with it
- Focusing on a totally different aspect of the subject and creating an article on that instead
Writers, I beg you, please don’t surprise your editors. When you go rogue on articles, it’s hard for us to hit our goals. In the above example, the tutorial could have been used to establish authority, which didn’t happen because the article was a glorified rant.
Editing and Publishing: the Home Stretch
Before you can start adding the finishing touches, it’s important to step back and see how far the content has strayed from the original idea. For a short article, there might not be any difference, but larger projects tend to get altered over time – especially when they go through multiple hands making edits and changes.
When the content has made it through the approval process and is ready to go, the editor needs to take a final step back to make sure the article meets original goals. He or she is the last barrier before the content is unleashed into the world.
If need be, add extra calls to action and supplemental links to help meet your KPIs.
- Add an email sign-up banner after a call to action to receive updates about a study or follow a blog series.
- Link to more resources throughout the article with tutorials and explanations to help build authority (and keep people clicking around.)
- Ask questions or introduce a hashtag to engage readers to comment or share.
On top of relevant content, make it easy for your audience to heed your CTA. You don’t want them searching for share buttons or clicking around for a newsletter sign-up.
Evaluation: How Did We Do?
We get so caught up in the publishing process that it’s easy to lose track of content. It’s important to evaluate the effectiveness on both a macro and micro level. On a micro level, did that piece of content meet your needs more than other content forms? If the goal was to increase newsletter sign-ups, how many new addresses came from the post? Did the sharable post have more likes and tweets?
On a macro level, it’s interesting to track success of content types over time. Do lists seem to receive more traffic than stories? Are people drawn to your tutorials? Knowing that people will find you through tutorials but will share a cool image or story will help you create effective content later. You will better be able to predict how audiences will react to a form of content.
The minute you lose focus on why a piece of content is being created and what the goals of the piece are, the minute the whole thing becomes a waste of your time. Website managers need to track all content that gets published and be able to answer for anything that goes out. Content for content’s sake is a waste, but goal-oriented content is effective marketing.