The increase in the buzz around content marketing is crazy, but do you know how to approach it and succeed?
Content marketing is not new, and it is not a revolutionary tactic that marketers have created. It has been around for a long time, in fact one of my favourite examples of content marketing comes from the Michelin brothers. In 1900 (115 years ago!!) the two founding brothers Edouard and Andre Michelin had a problem with demand for their tyres, cars were not as widely used as they are today which meant the need for new tyres was slow even though their product was great.
But what could they do? Thinking outside the box they created the Michelin Guide.
The guide contained detailed information and reviews on restaurants and told a story around each place to entice you to go and try it out, but why? The brothers thought process was if we can get people to travel further in their cars, they will need more tyres. That is great content marketing.
So how do you create a workflow that enables you to consistently publish great content that not only delivers on quality, but that allows you to scale the success you achieve from your effort exponentially?
We will go through the process step by step and include the tools used to help you achieve your content marketing goals, whether you are working as part of a team or rocking it as a solo writer.
The idea phase is where it all begins whether you are an individual or working as part of a team, you need to create ideas that allow you to craft content that will add value and educate your audience. Establishing subject areas you want to become known as a leader in is a good place to start. For example buffer produce amazing content around how to be better on social media, their content is always full of great takeaways and useful tips. Once you have established the subject you want to cover you can think of ideas for how to provide value to readers, do you have expertise in a specific area? Maybe you have unique data that you can share?
Great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone so make sure you keep all your ideas documented and organised. Trello is my go to tool when it comes to keeping all my content ideas organised, it also works really well for teams as everyone can comment and share ideas all in one place. Create a list called “Article ideas” in Trello and add every idea you have as a new card.
Looking at what other publications and blogs are producing within your vertical is also useful, to gain insight in to who is producing regular content i use Uprise.io
(I am the Co-founder of Uprise.io so i naturally use my tool however, Buzzsumo is pretty awesome too)
Use this data to sense check if you are on the right track with your ideas and also begin to refine your ideas based on the data, so if you are talking about social media you might want to look at doing a “how to” post or a “list” post because those articles are performing really well. Add these thoughts to your Trello cards as comments to make sure you do not lose any iterations you want to include on your ideas.
Build up a good list of potential ideas for posts and once you are happy that you have enough to choose from you can select an idea to begin the next phase.
The research phase of content production is where you start to put some meat on the bones of your ideas, as well as thinking about optimising your content for search so that you can capture as much traffic as possible by including relevant keywords and phrases. You are aiming to provide as much value as you can to your audience, so finding articles that offer good insights into key areas of your content is always a good idea. To give an example, if i was going to create a post called “How to use Facebook videos & why you should be doing video on Facebook” i would go and find relevant posts that received high social engagement, and add them to Trello. To make this process even easier and save you time you can add articles you find to Trello from right within Uprise.io Pro.
Building up your list of resources and adding them to Trello will help you quickly come back to them for reference. Including them within your content will allow your readers to not only see that you have researched what you are writing about, but that they can then go and read about that section of your content in more detail if they want to. (*There is also a tip for outreach related to these articles coming up later)
Content marketing is a long term strategy so you need to consider search as a channel for gaining traffic over a long period of time. You need to not only see what search opportunity there is for the content you are writing but what kind of terms have search volume. You need to think about the types of keywords at this stage, and think about the level of authority your site has (use Moz.com’s Open Site Explorer to see their Domain Authority metric. This will give you a better understanding of your sites authority VS some of your competitors, or other sites in your space).
The higher your sites authority the better chance you have of ranking for higher volume keywords, to increase your domain authority you need to earn links from good quality sites. If you are producing high quality content consistently it is likely that other sites will link to you as a reference in the same way i mentioned above, this is a legitimate and safe way to build your domain authority and inherently increase the ranking potential of your site. Domain authority is calculated on the number of quality links pointing to your site, so if you have a new site that has relatively low domain authority you will need to think about long tail keywords which typically include more than four words. If you have a high domain authority you will be able to think about competing for more competitive terms such as single words related to your topic, these tend to have more search volume associated with them.
To get better understanding of the search volume opportunity around the subject are you are writing about you need create a list of potential keywords and phrases, to do this use the following steps:
1) Enter the your keyword in to Google and scroll straight to the bottom of the results. This will show you related searches suggested by Google around the term you are using, i will stick with the example of “Facebook video”:
2) Take your initial term as well as the related searches suggested by Google and put them into a new spreadsheet, so you have them for quick access as you will be needing them in the next step.
3) Head over to a nifty little tool called Ubersuggest which allows you to enter a keyword and generate a list of related variations to your original term. Start with your original term and enter it into Ubersuggest, hit the suggest button and presto! Not all of the terms Ubersuggest will come back with will be relevant but you will be able to strip out any you do not want once you have grabbed the search volumes.
4) Use the select all button below the suggest button to select all the keywords returned, scroll down to a little and find the “get” button on the right hand side. All the keywords will come up for you to copy them.
5) Paste them into the spreadsheet you put the original keywords in to. Repeat this step with the remaining keywords you took down from Google’s related suggestions and you should end up with a pretty comprehensive list of keywords.
Now that you have your list of keywords you need to head over to Google’s Keyword Planner so that you can get the search volumes for the list of terms you just created. If you do not already have an account for the keyword planner it is really easy to set one up and it is totally free. Once you have logged in the option you are going to use to grab the search volumes is “Get search volume for a list of keywords and group them into ad groups”.
Select the option from the drop down and then paste your keywords from your spreadsheet into the dialog box and hit the get search volume button:
There is a limit of 1000 keywords when you paste them in or if you need more you can upload 3000 from a CSV. You now have a list of keywords related to the content you are producing with the search volumes so you can identify the size of opportunity for your content in terms of traffic. This is really useful for validating the potential return on investment when it comes to selling content marketing into clients or to your boss. Order the keywords by search volume within the keyword planner and then download the list, you will get extra information within the download such as competition and suggested bid for the keyword, but for now all you need is the search volume and the keywords.
You are now in a great position, you have a list of ideas with some references to back them up as well a list of relevant keywords with search volumes, so you know what the size of traffic opportunity looks like and what keywords to think about including in your content. You can go much deeper with your keyword research than the method above, moving in to creating buyer personas to identify and build audiences, Brian Dean of Backlinko.com created this awsome definitive guide to keyword research if you want to dive deeper here, i recommend checking it out!
Everyone has totally different styles when it comes to starting to write so do not take the following as the absolute gospel way that you should be composing your masterpieces, if you have a different process for writing i would love to hear about it in the comments 😉
I like to use two tools when it comes to the writing stage and those are Google Drive (Sheets and Docs) and WordPress, as i mentioned you don’t have to use the same this is just my preferred method however, i am always open to trying something different / better.
First of all i set up a new sheet in Google drive and set up titles and a length check using the =LEN() function, I mark down the possible phases or sections of the post, then i also list out any tools or resources i might want to mention during that section. (example below)
This is just my way of organising my thoughts on how the post should go and serves as a reference point during the writing, i also amend this or add to it as i go so i never lose track of or stray from the purpose of the initial idea i had.
Following the ideas phase and the keyword research i now have completed i try to come up with five variations of a title, i always try to make sure that this comes in as close to 55 characters as i can, which is best practice across all devices for being displayed in the Google results. I also try to include at least two keywords around the subject of my content, so the working title i settled on when composing this post was “How to create a content flow focused on consistent success”.
The next move is to open a new Google Doc and get going! I start by putting in the working title and the first section title, then i will begin on an introduction to the post. It is important to lead in to a post, readers have a short attention span so you need to try and hook them within the first couple of sentences otherwise it is unlikely they will read the full post.
Within the Google Doc i don’t put in any imagery because i think its best to get the copy covered off before building any images to put in, instead i will annotate where i want to put images and what the image should contain. This way if i change my mind on what the images should include i have not wasted any time already creating an image.
Once you have reached the stage where you are happy that all your points are covered and you are happy with the structure of your post, you should give it a read over and make any amends you need as you go. This process could take you a day, or two weeks depending on how quickly you write, how much time you have etc, but once you feel the post is complete save it and sleep on it! Seriously this is something i have learned recently, you cannot rush to publish. Get to the stage where you feel like your post is complete, make the top level amends and then go sleep on it. By doing this it will give you time to see if you are happy with the content, when you sit back down you can then do a final proof of your draft.
You are now ready to move your post into WordPress, just highlight all and copy your post into a new post template in WordPress. The first thing i do now is put WordPress into distraction free writing mode, this will allow you to read through and do the basic formatting such as adding in your headings.
Once you reach this stage save your post as a draft because now we are going to build out the images to sit within your content, images are super important for engaging readers and keeping them interested, as well as breaking up large chunks of copy.
Including engaging imagery within your content is really important for keeping people engaged with what they are reading, as well as breaking up the copy. You are also accommodating people that skim read upon landing on your site, if they land on your content and scroll through it you have a limited amount of time to grab their attention and images are the best way to tackle this. You may think well i am not really fussed about those people if they do not want to read my content then they don’t have to, that is the wrong mindset! Commuters are a prime example for this – if you are travelling and short of time you might skim a post and if it grabs you what are you likely to do? Add it to a read later app like Pocket so that you can come back to it maybe on your lunch break and give it more of your attention.
You may think that you need to have a designer to compete when it comes to creating kick ass images, well you don’t necessarily because there is an app for that, and its awesome. If you have not heard of Canva you are missing a treat! You can create professional standard images really quickly using their drag and drop builder and for free – if you want a more premium look there are also thousands of elements you can buy for $1. You need to think about the size of the image you are making, Canva has pre-defined image sizes for different purposes or you can set a custom pixel dimension. Make sure the image is sized appropriately for where it will be placed, you do not want it to overlap your copy container or on the other hand be too small.
Once you are happy with your image you can save it within Canva and download it or share it straight to social media, for the purpose of adding images to your content you want to download them and save them into a folder. Once you have completed building all your images you need to upload them to WordPress so that you can place them in your post. When uploading an image be sure to add an ALT tag and a title tag to your image, an ALT tag is the text that is displayed if for some reason the image is not shown. The title tag is the tooltip text that appears when you hover over an image, if your image is also a link use the title as a hidden CTA to encourage people to click through if they hover on your image.
If you are covering any kind of tools within your content a picture really does tell a thousand words, using screenshots to illustrate part of the process is a great tactic for engaging readers. The browser plugin Awesome Screenshot is well, awesome! Its free (there is a paid plus version) and it allows you to capture great screenshots and add annotations too so you can highlight key elements, great if you are explaining a specific feature within a tool.
When you are looking at building out images to include in a post you need think about making relevant images that either enhance the post by visualising some information you have covered, or that highlight a keypoint you want to re-enforce. Another point to consider is that if people re-share your content and the image that accompanies their share is not good, you might miss out on more potential clicks or social love. Once you have uploaded and placed all your shiny awesome images you can now save the draft and we can move onto the next phase.
Basic Onsite SEO
There are a LOT of elements that make up SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and it plays an important part in delivering long term traffic success, for the purposes of this post i am going to focus purely on the basic onsite elements. As i am using WordPress there is a fantastic a widely used plugin from Yoast called WordPress SEO, this plugin is great and has a lot of features to it for managing some key elements of your sites SEO.
When you have the plugin installed you will be shown a dialog box within your posts that gives you the options for controlling certain elements of your posts code. The part i am going to highlight is the focus keyword, SEO title and meta description.
The focus keyword section is there to allow you to select your core keyword then you can run a page analysis in the next tab on from general, this will give your content a score based on checking your content for this keyword. This is quite a nifty function of the Yoast plugin but take the score with a pinch of salt and do not become too obsessed with trying to get to 100%.
The main two elements you need to take into account here is the SEO Title and Meta Description. The title tag is still considered a ranking signal by Google when it comes to showing the most relevant pages within its search results, whereas the meta description does not have any direct impact on search rankings but is important from a click through rate perspective.
As i mentioned at the start i try to keep my title around the 55 character mark, this means it will be displayed across all devices and won’t be truncated.
You also want to include a couple of relevant keywords within your title that relate to your content, this will help with the relevancy of your title and count towards your rankings. You can enter your title into the dialog box and the search snippet will show you how it will be displayed to users, think about whether you would click through to read the post?
Next is the Meta Description which you should think of as a call to action, this is your chance to describe your content in a way which not only entices the users to click through, but makes you stand out above the other results being shown. Take an interesting insight from your post and work it into a snippet, include some personality too to help show a human side to the results. You have a character limit here of 156 and if you go over this your description will get truncated, potentially losing you a click through.
These elements although simple in the scale of what SEO is made up of are important and often overlooked, if you can get into a habit of making sure you consistently optimise them you will not regret it.
You are killing it! This is the stage where you take a step back and look at your post from every angle to make sure you have everything correct. The elements you want to include in your final proof check are:
- Spelling – Misspelling words is not cool, its not unforgivable but when you are trying to establish yourself as an authority it is best to avoid it!
- Grammar – Same applies as with spelling here, not unforgivable but best to avoid.
- Images – Are your images relevant? Are they placed in the correct spots? If you have used someone else’s image have you credited them?
- Formatting – Does your post have headings in the right places? Do you have a table of contents, if so are the links correct?
- Have you read it from start to finish? Seriously.
- Have you optimized your title tag?
- Have you optimized your meta description?
- Have you added your post to the appropriate category on your blog?
- Consider including some relevant tags (WordPress)
Once you are confident that all the above points have been covered and you are happy with the final version, hit save draft and take a breath.
We are not going to publish the post at this stage but it should now be completely ready to go live, now we move to the next stage and look at creating a launchpad for when we do hit publish.
In my opinion this is one of the single most undervalued and under practiced techniques when it comes to creating content. You have put so much time and effort into crafting a wonderful piece of valuable content, only to hit publish and be disappointed at the amount of traffic you receive and shares you get.
This disappointment can be avoided! In this example i am going to take you through the process that i go through when publishing a new piece of content. There are three types of people that need to be considered when starting to pre-seed:
Influencers are people that sit within the niche or vertical you are talking about that have large social followings and influence over an audience within that subject.
Sharers are people that have already shared content similar to what you are about to publish, these people already have a higher propensity to share and engage with your content because you know they already have an interest in it.
Authors are the people that may have produced content that you have referenced within your content, you should have a nice list of these from the research phase.
There is also press to consider here but for every piece of content you produce contacting press is not applicable, so i am going to focus on the three highlighted above.
Influencer marketing is something that is becoming a practice all of its own, and for good reason! One thing i will say is that influencers tend to be super busy so do not get disheartened if you don’t see any results from this, be persistent and when you do see success it will make a significant impact.
To find the right influencers to reach out to you will want to look at their sharing habits, this way you can get an idea if they are likely to share or engage with your content. It is also a good idea to engage with their content and share what they are pushing out, go jump in to the comments section of their blog or any guest posts they do. By engaging with their content they may remember you when it comes to asking for them to engage with your stuff. There will also be some crossover with authors here when looking at influencers due to the fact that the reason they are an influencer in the first place, is because they are an expert in a subject and have built up their reputation by producing awesome content.
To create a list of influencers i will stick with the same example theme of “Facebook video” so i perform a search within Uprise.io.
There are lots of categorised influencers returned for the search and all of them have shared an article related to “Facebook video” in the last 4 weeks, score! The best thing to do here is spend some time going through the influencer table, try to find humans rather than brands as humans are more likely to engage with you. To give an example both @socialfresh and @jasonkeath come up, Jason is the CEO of Social Fresh so i would add Jason to my list rather than Social Fresh. Using the pinning function i pin the influencers i want to target which puts them in a list so i can export them later.
I use the same approach with the sharers, sharers are your audience and the ones that come up for a search like with the influencers have shared an article about “Facebook video”. This is already super useful because these people are already interested in what you are producing, so reaching out to these people and making them aware of your post is a no brainer.
Apply the same methodology when saving your sharers, try to select humans as you will see a higher engagement rate from real people. Another tip here is to order the sharers by total shares and work your way down, this means the people you will be reaching out to have shared more than one thing so are more likely to share your content.
*Bonus tip – If you have some budget to put behind your content you can apply the methodology above of building sharer audiences, you can then export the audience and upload it to Twitter as a Tailored Audience. This will allow you to target those specific users with your content, which is super cost effective!
When it comes to authors you have already done most of the work when you were researching. Any blog posts you have linked out to as a reference within your content are authors you want to notify, find their emails or Twitter handles and reach out to them to let them know you linked out to them because they are awesome. There is likely to be some crossover here with the influencers you are looking to contact so keep on top of this and don’t contact the same person twice with two separate angles.
Now that you have your list of influencers and sharers you need to go to your pinned page and export both lists, once you have downloaded them both merge the lists together and place each on their own tab within a spreadsheet. You will also want to create a tab to place the authors information also, save the spreadsheet down as the title of your post and you are ready to go.
I manage these lists in excel because you have a mix of social and email contacts, so excel does the job perfect for me. You know the URL of your post so now is the time to begin emailing the authors of any references you have included, as well as any influencers you can find the contact details for. Here is an example email i sent to Neil Patel about a post i did where i include two of his companies:
Short and sweet, I am not asking Neil to do anything directly and if he reads the email he may share the post, also if he then see’s the post on Twitter he may recognise it and also share it because of that. You don’t want to pester people so be nice and keep things short and to the point when it comes to email, then follow up using Twitter. Remember you will be in a much better position if you have spent some time engaging with the author or influencer before you try to make contact, don’t just go straight for the ask and expect them to share it because that won’t work
Once you have sent out the emails you need to publish your post, do this fairly soon after sending out the emails as you do not want to be in a position where an influencer shares the post and its not live! So go back to WordPress and sense check your post one final time, then hit publish and set it live.
When it comes to contacting the sharers you will want to do this on Twitter, trying to find personal contact information for all those sharers every time you are promoting a post is not scalable. Contacting sharers over Twitter needs to be phased over the time you are promoting your post, don’t go and send out the same tweet to 100 sharers from your list! Reach out to several daily and spread it out over the course of a day, if you want to plan it all in advance use buffer to schedule all your outreach tweets, just make sure you are ready to thank people that do engage.
Social Scheduling And Imagery
Utilising your own social channels is one of the best ways to get your content in front of people, and as you build up your reputation through the content you push out across social your following will increase.
I use buffer to manage my social sharing across Twitter, Facebook and Google+ (they also support Linkedin). You can set up a schedule for any account you add to your buffer account meaning, even when you are asleep you can be posting great content! If you need some insight in to the best time to push out content then check out
for some really great insights. As you share more you will be able to get a better understanding of your audience and when they respond best, this will help you refine your buffer schedules for maximum impact. To give you the best chance of engagement on Twitter i would recommend that you push out your content several times a day, as it moves really quickly so sometimes your post will be overlooked. When posting to Facebook and Google+ i tend to push out my own content once or twice a week with a mix of other content that i have curated, which i feel is relevant to my target audience.
To give your social posts the best chance of success you need to create some beautiful imagery to go with each one. I mentioned Canva earlier and you can use it to create images for your social posts, buffer also recently released Pablo which is a superb image creator allowing you to make beautiful images in under 30 seconds. The reason i am favouring Pablo right now to support my social posts is that it takes so little time to create an image, if you need some inspiration or ideas on this check out:
The other awesome thing about Pablo is that when you build an image you can go straight to buffer with it in one click, so not only do you save time building an image, you save time scheduling it too.
Once you have created imagery to go with your social posts you need to be ready to support your content, this is super important and gives you an opportunity to show some gratitude to anyone that engages with your content.
Social And Comment Support
I really think this is where you can provide an experience along side your content that will resonate with your audience, engaging with the people that are taking time out of their schedule to share or comment on your content. A perfect example of this is the buffer team, their level of commitment, gratitude and engagement to everyone that interacts with their content is outstanding. I strive to reach the same levels and i genuinely am so humbled every time anyone engages with what i produce. It can be a tough one to keep on top of but there are tools out there to support with this, from tracking mentions to managing comments.
If you are working as part of a team and like me use Trello to organise your editorial calendar a really handy trick is to have a list called “Needs social and comment support”. You can then use the subscribe function which will notify you when a card is moved to this list, this means you wont miss an opportunity to support a piece of content.
There are a lot of places people can talk about you or share your content and it is impossible to try to keep on top of all of them, that is where tools like Mention come in allowing you to monitor millions of sources and set up alerts to let you know when to jump in and respond.
When it comes to commenting i use Disqus to manage this, it makes keeping on top of your blog comments super easy and plugs right in to WordPress. It is also widely used across the web so you can comment on other blogs with the same account.
The most important thing you can do in my opinion is be grateful to everyone that gets involved and engages with your content, do not shy away from negative comments too learn from them and try to be as helpful as you can with those people. Follow this system for support and your following will recognise that and relate to you and your brand much better.
Measurement is key to exponential growth when it comes to content, if you do not have analytics in place you cannot refine and iterate your process.
Set out clear goals for your content and aim to achieve them, if you do not hit your goals look at the data and find out why. We use Google Analytics to measure our sites performance we currently have two goals from our content:
- Newsletter signups
- Trial signups
We take these two goals and look at conversions for both on each piece of content we do. We then work out the ROI of our content based on how many people convert to paying customers from each one of those goals.
Collect as much data as you can and regularly assess it to see where you can improve, analytics also make it easier to spot if there is a fundamental issue causing problems for your users.
Its over to you, go out and start crafting wonderful content! I would really love to hear how you approach your content process or if you have any tips please share them in the comments!