Content is one of the top three ranking factors in Google — and that shouldn’t be news to you. If you are looking for a post about why content matters, this is not that post. Instead, this post aims to walk you through, step-by-step, how to go from “I really should publish more content for my business” to actually publishing content consistently.
When a project seems too big, I get overwhelmed. I don’t know where to start, and I shut down. Which results in no action at all. I suspect many business owners feel the same when it comes to publishing consistently on their business blogs. They know they should be publishing more, but they don’t know where to start or what to write and end up doing nothing at all.
If that sounds like you, this post is for you.
Instead of just telling you “Write more!” or “Write better content!” or even “Publish once a week!” (which is more specific, but still not helpful), I am going lay out the process I use to publish content on a regular basis.
Here is how to write (and publish) more content for your business.
- Define your resources.
- Outline your goals.
- Find content opportunities.
- Manage the process.
- Create a content calendar.
- Hire a writer.
- Write a brief.
- Promote Your Content.
Define Your Resources
The absolute first step of building a content workflow is defining the resources at your disposal. As you work through the rest of the steps listed below, you may decide to adjust these resources up or down. That is perfectly fine. You don’t need to outline how much time a team member has down to the second. This is more about ensuring you aren’t expecting to create a Ferrari publishing plan with a Honda budget.
Here are a few ways for you to frame your resources. Keep in mind, this may vary if you are outsourcing some or all of the content process.
- How many posts per week/month do you want to publish?
- How much money are you able to spend (particularly if outsourcing)?
- How many hours per week/month can staff members work on content?
- Which staff members will be tasked with content-related work?
The tasks associated with your content process will vary, but you will likely need someone to cover a variety of tasks:
- Project Manager: Someone to take charge and follow up with staff members when deadlines are missed, coordinate with writers when they need internal information, and generally guide the content through to production.
- Writer: This may be done by a current staff member, or you may outsource. I’ll get into how to outsource below.
- Designer: Someone to design featured images, infographics, graphs, charts, etc. If you plan on doing long-form content like e-books, they may also need to do layout work. For basic graphics, the writer or even editor may be able to use a program like Canva.
- Editor: After the writer and designer have done their work, the editor should check for grammar mistakes, fact check, make sure links are working properly, check the slug, make sure the post meets editorial guidelines, etc. They may also optimize the post for SEO by checking meta descriptions, alt tags, headings, and so forth.
- Publisher: Next, someone needs to be responsible for scheduling and publishing the content. This may be the editor or another person entirely.
- Social Media Publisher: Finally, someone needs to be in charge of making sure all content is shared on social media. Depending on your resources, this may be as simple as installing a plugin or using IFTTT to publish on social when a post goes live on WordPress.
- Developer: This person may be optional, it depends upon what type of content you are publishing and the setup of your site.
Outline Your Goals
Before you sink a ton of resources into building a content workflow, you need to take the time to define what you want to accomplish. The goals you set will be unique to your business and will be based on who your clients are, what your purpose is, the age of your business, and the resources you have available.
Here are a three questions to ask to help you outline your content goals:
- What is the main purpose of our content? Are you trying to educate customers about your product, establish thought leadership, create a sales funnel, encourage newsletter or webinar sign ups, encourage readers to ask for a quote, and so forth. Keep in mind, different pieces of content may have different purposes. You will likely have one overarching content goal and smaller goals for each piece of content.
- What types of content will you need to publish to meet that purpose? Publishing regularly on your business blog is important, but will you publish additional pieces of longer or shorter content? What about video? Outline how often you aim to publish.
- What will a successful piece of content do? This question is about outlining how you will track your content. What is important to you? What does success look like? You might look at traffic, time on page, clicks on a link, sales, newsletter sign-ups, etc. The metric may vary for each piece of content. Sometimes you may have to set a goal based on little to no knowledge if you can reach it — that is okay. Once you have more information, you can reset the goal for your next piece of content.
Goal setting still feels a bit vague, doesn’t it? The problem is that goals are very specific to each business. Let’s look at an example.
Business Name: Acme Restaurant Supply Corp.
Main Content Goal for 2018: Increase newsletter sign-ups and brand awareness through regularly published educational content for restaurant owners and managers.
Publishing Goal: 4-6 posts of 1000+ words on the blog, plus 2 long-form guides. “How to Leverage Facebook for Your Restaurant” and “Restaurant Manager’s Guide to Instagram.”
Traffic Goal: Increase current traffic by 15 percent by month six and 25 percent by month 12.
Goal for “How to Leverage Facebook for Your Restaurant”: 300 downloads, 100 NEW newsletter sign-ups.
Goal for “Restaurant Manager’s Guide to Instagram”: 500 downloads, 150 NEW newsletter sign-ups.
Hopefully this example helps make defining your content goals easier.
Find Content Opportunities
The next step is to figure out what you should write about. To do this, look for content opportunities. This will include some competitor research, looking at your own content, and doing a little bit of key term research.
Here are seven steps you can use to find content opportunities. Work through this list and keep a spreadsheet of every idea you come up with.
- Look at your current content. Is there anything that is outdated? Rewrite and republish it. Do you have content that could be better? Consider doing a content renovation on older content to make it better.
- Look at your competitors. What pieces of content have they published that are doing well? Can you create a piece of content that is longer, more in-depth, better illustrated, or better optimized?
- Compile a list of the top 5-10 key terms for your industry. Use SEMrush to find related key terms (KT) you can target. Focus on KT with high traffic and low competition.
- Take that same key term list and head over to Answer the Public. What questions are people asking about those topics that you can answer?
- Google each key term in your list in an incognito window. Do any Google answer boxes show up? They look like this: If so, click through to the site Google selected to include in the answer box. Can you write better content?
- Also look for “related searches” for each of your key terms. Are there any questions or additional key terms you can use for content inspiration? Related searches are located at the bottom of the search page and look like this:
- Add more key terms to the list if it makes sense, and go through this list again for any additional key terms.
Create a Google sheet with all of your ideas. Sort through and decide which ideas are worth pursuing. Keep the sheet bookmarked and add to it as you think of other ideas.
Manage The Content Process
Organization is the key to creating a content process that works. Without accountability, tasks get pushed aside and your content process falls apart. I highly recommend using a tool or platform to create tasks and manage the process.
Below is a list of the most popular content management tools.
This content platform integrates with WordPress and allows you to assign tasks, set due dates, manage different products, write, and edit all in one place. GatherContent is one of the most robust content creation and publication platforms on the market today. It is relatively intuitive to use and has tons of features, but it can be buggy.
WP Project Manager
WP Project Manager is a plugin for WordPress that allows you to create projects, set due dates, see progress, add attachments, and message coworkers right from WordPress.
This is more of a general task management platform than a content-specific platform, but it does help you stay organized; you can create tasks, set due dates, add notes, attach files, track work, and create different projects. It has been around for awhile, so if you’re already using the platform, you can use it to manage your content, as well.
Similar to BaseCamp in that it is more of a general task management tool, Asana makes it easy to create projects, track tasks, create due dates, attach files, and so forth. One of the major benefits is that with a paid account, you can create “dependent” tasks. So, you could create one task for an article, and make the editor’s task dependent on the writer’s, and so forth. This allows for more hands-off project management.
Create a Content Calendar
Your content calendar will outline when each piece of content will be published. Use this to help you stay organized and make sure you meet all your goals.
I find using a calendar view to be the most useful, but you can use or create a calendar that works best for your business.
You can create your own calendar, but I love this amazing editorial content calendar created by Smartsheet. It includes monthly and yearly goals, as well as a place to write down content ideas and a content archive.
I highly recommend using this calendar as a starting point. Add or delete tabs or functions as you see fit, but it is an excellent starting point. This is a view-only template, so copy and paste it into your own Google Sheet to edit and customize the calendar. Check out their other templates, too.
Find or Hire Writers
The next question to answer is, “Who will write the content?” Will you hire an expert writer from outside of your team, or will you task someone already on your team? There are pros and cons for both options. The right choice will depend upon the personnel and financial resources you have available for content production.
For example, outsourcing your content writing may cost more per word, but the value gained in quality is, as they say, priceless. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each option below.
Using an Internal Team Member
Before you decide to use an internal team member for your content production, weigh the following factors.
- Less money per word
- Intimate knowledge of your products/services
- Lower communication barrier with sales team, engineer team, etc.
- Don’t have to go through the hiring process
- May not have a skilled writer on you team
- Possibly lower quality content writing (which may result in missed opportunities that can be immeasurable)
- Writing may be pushed to the side in favor of other job-related tasks
- May not have the time at all
Hiring a Writer
The next option is to hire a freelance writer or use a gig platform like Odesk to find a writer. Here are the factors to weigh before making the decision to outsource to a single writer.
- Higher quality writing, if you are able to find a good fit
- Unlikely to get bogged down with other tasks
- Fresh perspective of your product/service
- Pay only for what you need
- Hiring process can be difficult
- Onboarding process can be a struggle
- More to manage
- Even a writer who specializes in your field will have to learn about your business
Secret Option C
The final option is to outsource the process entirely to a content marketing agency who will take care of everything. Since this post is about how to build your own content workflow, I won’t go into the details.
However, if the process still feels overwhelming, it is important to know this is an option.
Write a Brief
After you hire a writer, you need to provide them with a brief to work from.
A brief is a basic outline you give a writer that serves as instructions for the piece of content to be written. It is important to strike a balance between being detailed but still allowing the writer to be creative and write naturally. This is particularly important if you hire an expert writer.
A good brief should include:
- Working title
- Approximate word count
- Main key term
- Tone to be used
- Purpose (to educate, inform, promote a specific product, etc.)
- General topics to be covered
A great brief might also include:
- Marketing persona
- List of key terms to include
- Outline, including headings and subheadings to use
- Link to editorial guidelines
- Links to similar content from competitors
Here is an example of a content brief, based on the restaurant supply company example above:
Working Title: 10 Facebook Strategies for Your Family Sports Bar/Restaurant
Word Count : 1800-2000
Main Key Term: Facebook for sports bars
Tone: Casual, informative
Purpose: To share useful social media strategies for family sports bars
Audience: Restaurant owners/managers in restaurants with gross revenue of approx. $1 million annually.
Topics: Talk about how Facebook has changed in the last few years and how the newsfeed affects what your audience sees. Cover pros/cons of using paid FB ads. Recommend 30/70 rule when it comes to posting about your business. Create events for big games so they show up in people’s events. Add more strategies as you see fit.
For an expert writer, this style of brief gives them the room do their best work while still covering the topics your research showed were important.
After the content has been written, you will need to edit, add photos, and publish. Review the “Define Resources” section, which breaks down all the tasks you need to have covered, from writing to publishing.
Promote Your Content
The final step in your content process is making sure your content gets seen. The easiest way to do this is to build your content promotion process into your workflow from the beginning.
Exactly what this process will look like depends heavily on your business, but here is an example of what a promotion schedule might look like.
- April 1: Post publishes and auto publishes to Facebook and Twitter with unique blurb
- April 3: Reposts to Twitter
- April 4: Link is included in Friday roundup newsletter
- April 10: Republishes to Facebook
- Follow-up social posts at three, six, and 12 weeks post-publication
More popular content may warrant a boosted post or additional posts. This process can vary greatly. The purpose here is to remind you to build it into your process from the start.
Final Thoughts on Building a Content Workflow
Building any new process can be overwhelming, but I hope this walkthrough helps break the process down into manageable sections and raises questions you might not have thought about. While the process can be long, the results of publishing content regularly can lead to incredible growth.