So you’ve decided to start up a content marketing strategy. You’ve just published your first article, and you sit back in your chair, pleased with how well it went. You planned the topic, and after pouring in so much work, you can’t wait to see it go viral.
And then you freeze. It’s a content marketing strategy, you remember. You’re going to have to write again, and soon. What can you write on? Didn’t you just surmise the entirety of your business in that last post? You open up another word processor document, but the white page just glares intimidatingly back at you. You needed a plan - one that went further than publishing your first blog post.
This article provides a comprehensive look at how I plan content release schedules. It will give you all the information you need to plan a quarterly schedule, and links to the tools I use to make it happen.
Step 1 - Look Back To Go Forward
The first thing I have to do to plan a content release schedule is to check the interaction results of the last three months. I could check further back than three months, but the purpose of checking old data is to understand a basic trend. Three months provides a large enough pool of results to draw from, while giving the flexibility to adjust content trends throughout the year.
Checking the types of interaction our website has with searchers will help with understanding where our readers are coming from, how they’re finding us, and what parts of our content they’re reading. Of course, we want to naturally focus on the content that has brought us the most leads and customers. While getting found is the first part of the process, we need to understand what kinds of content that readers will convert over to see any of that popularity convert into actual business.
Step 2 - Talk To Google
To find out this kind of information, I check Google Analytics.
There’s a whole lot of data that you can use in Analytics, but the information we’re particularly interested in for this is under the acquisitions tab.
The acquisitions tab refers to inbound traffic we’re receiving, so it’s the first place to check. You’ll notice that under acquisitions, I’ve opened up the Search Engine Optimisation tab and have selected Queries.
The amount of data that Google gives us on how searchers are finding our website and on what terms is always limited, but this can help give us an idea of where to start. The queries tab tells us a few really helpful things, once we look at results over a period of time:
It can tell us what people have searched for in the past that we’ve turned up in. It can tell us how many of those searches have been made over the predetermined period of time. It can also tell us how we rank in Google for that term, and how many people have clicked on our link on the results page.
There were two lists I compiled using this table: a list of search terms according to number of impressions, and a list of search terms according to clickthrough rate. I also took note of our rankings for the search terms listed, not because ranking is the number 1 indicator of success, but because it’s a helpful indicator of how hard it’s going to be to get clicks.
These two lists helped me understand what topics people were searching for the most (that we turned up in), and what people were actually clicking on us for. It let us know what content we already had published that was succeeding, but also gave some hints on what kind of content we could write more of.
Step 3 - Check What Was Popular
For this, I went back to HubSpot, which is the software our website is built on and around. Because we use it for inbound marketing, it is able to check and track visitors we’ve had to our website as well as activity that we’ve had on the blog, giving a handy indicator of what content we’re making that works as well as where we could be going.
I checked the page performance of blog posts that had been read over the last three months, as well as how many times those posts had been clicked on. The results were actually quite interesting:
Of the top five performing pieces of content from the last three months, only two of them were written in those three months. This testifies to the strengths of content marketing - unlike a traditional marketing strategy, which dates quickly and is soon made redundant, content that is written for the online market retains its value, adding to the value of your website for months, even years, after publication.
Something else worth mentioning at this point is that HubSpot can also track and list the landing pages that caused conversion for your individual contacts. This is available through the same reporting service that tracks the performance of your web pages.
Taking stock of a statistic like this helps me see which landing pages are the most successful, and will therefore also play a part in determining what content I write, since your content will need to align to some degree with your landing page in order to successfully encourage a conversion.
But back to planning - HubSpot helpfully turned the list of blog posts I’d compiled into a spreadsheet, which was cross-referenced with the reports from Analytics. This allowed us to work out what more general topics had been popular over the last three months.
Step 4 - Split Topics Into Individual Pieces Of Content
We now have a list of content topics that have been shown to perform well, as well as the list of popular searches our content has appeared in. Using these pieces of information and our buyer persona, we were able to start thinking of different content topics and articles, and then plan those out over the next three months.
How you plan and plot content publishing will differ from person to person, so the amount of time you want to invest in developing your content release schedule will differ. For some people, it might be enough to have a single line of prompt that you can come back to in two months time. For others, you may want to start writing simple content briefs for pieces immediately. Whatever your style, I do have a valuable piece of advice to offer:
Step 5 - Be Flexible
When you sit down and plan a content release schedule, be prepared to change your content if you need to. Events that influence our professions happen all the time, and we cannot anticipate all of them. The important thing is that we as content creators need to be able to adapt to those changes.
What was state of art when you started writing your content plan may not be by the time you get to the end of the time period you’ve planned for, so keeping your topics flexible and open to change will help you write content that responds and proves that your expertise on the given subject is valid and authoritative.
Another point that validates the need for flexibility with a schedule is the editorial process of organising multiple content creators. It’s one thing to manage a blog when your business only has one writer, but if your business should have multiple writers (which can be of huge benefit when seeking insights and expertise that will resonate with your audience), you’d probably be familiar with the challenge of getting content submitted on time. Knowing ahead of time what content your blog will be producing will allow your major contributors to write content ahead of release dates that can be used to maintain your schedule should a guest writer suddenly be unable to meet a deadline (it’s not ideal, but it happens).
What Happens If I Don’t Have Three Months Of Data To Study From?
This is a reasonable concern. If you’re just starting out with your content marketing strategy and you don’t have data to draw from, it can be daunting to plan where you should begin. In this circumstance, you still have resources to help: your buyer personas.
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers. You build them by compiling all the best qualities of your existing customers, and they give you someone to market to, instead of at.
Because developing personas helps you understand the needs and concerns of the customer, you can write content that addresses and meets those needs. This is something you should always be aiming to do, regardless of whether you have data to help plan what kinds of content to write or not.
At the end of the day, the extra data helps us understand more of what the buyer persona is after - what they want to learn about, and what they are most likely to convert to a lead over. Once we understand what it is the buyer wants to know, we’re more able to write content for them, and plan content for them, that they’ll eagerly consume, becoming leads and customers in the process.