Publishing well-performing content regularly is a struggle for many B2B companies. Coming up with enough topics, finding the suitable topics to cover, and then actually making time to produce all that content isn’t easy.
Even worse, all that time can go to waste if your content fails to gain traction.
In recent months, I’ve worked on several content advisory programs, where our team makes recommendations for our clients’ content marketing teams – and then they execute. Among other things, I’ve learned that content marketing development looks different for every organization, and there’s no set blueprint for getting the job done right.
That said, there are several best practices to keep in mind when developing effective content marketing programs.
But first, let’s talk about what we mean by content development and how it fits into your overall content marketing strategy.
What Is Content Marketing Development?
At its core, content marketing development is the process of researching, writing, gathering, organizing, and editing information for publication on websites.
But any content marketer knows it’s more than just that.
Content marketing development is mainly tied to a content marketing strategy – as in, content is (or should be) developed with a specific goal in mind.
Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing strategy as “drawing and developing the larger story that an organization tells. [It involves] focusing on ways to engage an audience, using content to drive profitable behaviors.”
In a nutshell, content marketing development is about developing content tied to a specific goal (organic traffic, conversions, lead generation, brand awareness, etc.) – or else it’s just a waste of everyone’s time.
The question is, how do you get started? As I said, there’s no one way to develop content – but I like to think about it in the following two phases.
Content Development Strategy Phase 1: Analysis
Before you begin a content development plan, you need to know what you’re working with already. In other words, you need to know how your existing content is performing to identify any gaps and areas of opportunity on your blog.
This is where you need to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Whether you’re starting with a client and doing an official content analysis to create a content development plan (where one may not have existed previously) or you’re doing a content audit of a site you’ve been working on for some time to revise or improve your plan for the future, you need to get comfortable with content measurement.
I’ve done several content analyses over the past year (for both scenarios outlined above), and these are the key elements I typically look at:
- Blog traffic (total & organic): How has the blog performed over a set timeframe? What are peak traffic periods, and what may have accounted for them (this is where it’s helpful to have annotations in Analytics)? I like to look at a rolling year and the last 30 days. Keep in mind that holidays and other factors may impact traffic.
- Organic search visibility: What keywords does the blog rank for? What are the broad keyword categories/subject areas (this is helpful for blog post ideation)? Semrush can give you a good idea of top rankings by keyword and the pages ranking for those keywords; it can also monitor keyword ranking performance over time.
- Top landing pages: Which blog posts drive the highest traffic (organic and total)? What categories do they relate to?
- Top-converting blog posts: Which blog posts drive the highest conversions? Pay close attention to conversions related to revenue.
- Blog post frequency: How many posts/week is the blog averaging? How does this compare to competitors’ blogs?
- Blog topic analysis: What blog topics/categories tend to drive the most visits? The most social shares? How can you use these insights to help guide future posts?
- Content length: What is the average length of blog posts? What’s the content that’s received the most social shares? How does the average length of posts compare to the top-ranking post in Google?
- Top linked content: Which blog posts drive the most links? What (broadly speaking) topics/categories drive the most links? Are any blog posts losing links at a high rate?
- Top blog posts driving internal traffic: Which blog posts drive the most internal traffic? What categories do they relate to?
- Top blog conversion paths: What blog posts are driving conversions that may not be credited for driving conversions?
There are many different ways to get at the data you need to analyze. The key is to leverage content measurement tools (Google Analytics, BuzzSumo, Semrush, Search Console, Moz, etc.) to gather the data needed to inform your content development and strategy moving forward.
Content Development Strategy Phase 2: Planning & Scheduling
Ideally, your content analysis will tell you which topics and formats will fill your editorial calendar with the types of blog posts you know will lead to results. But, as with most things in life, content marketing development involves a good deal of trial and error.
Let’s say you recommend a client produce X blog posts on XYZ topics because you’re confident those posts will drive organic traffic. (You know this because it was part of your earlier analysis.)
But, after developing and publishing said pieces of content, you discover they don’t drive results. This could be for any number of reasons: seasonality, failure to properly promote posts across social media, posts not being published at the optimal time, etc.
I recommend clients develop their editorial calendar quarterly, giving them enough time to build out posts predicted to drive results – and time to evaluate the performance of those posts before scheduling out the next quarter’s content.
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind during the scheduling and planning phase of content marketing development:
Keyword-Based Content Recommendations
A critical part of the planning and scheduling phase is making sure you’re targeting the right keywords in your blog post content. In other words, you need to revisit your keyword strategy regularly – instead of simply relying on the keyword set you’d identified when first starting with your content program.
At KoMarketing, we send out monthly keyword-based content recommendations to our team of blog writers – and many of our clients as well. The idea is to give blog contributors topic ideas based on Search Console data from the previous month and social media insights and monthly blog performance.
If you’re developing posts on behalf of clients, schedule in time to run content interviews with subject matter experts across the organization. This allows you to capture the tone of voice and perspective of the client you’re writing for, resulting in a more authoritative, quality piece of thought leadership.
Editorial scheduling can get messy – especially if multiple authors are contributing to the blog. To streamline the process, try coming up with monthly themes for the blog and align topics for that month in particular around those themes.
One of our clients, for example, structures their monthly blog themes around webinar topics they’re featuring for the month. Another client integrates their blog and events calendars to align posts with the topics being discussed at that month’s conferences, tradeshows, etc.
Pay attention to seasonality, as well. For example, a client in e-commerce might want to post about holiday sales strategies. If there is a new product launch coming up, you’d want to address those topics as well.
Final Thoughts on Content Development
It may seem strange that actual content writing isn’t a part of this list. Obviously, a big part of content marketing development is developing actual content and seeing how it performs.
The tricky part is there is no one-size-fits-all content development strategy. You have to do your research, try out a strategy, see how it works, and shift gears if necessary.
The question “What is content marketing development?” should really be “What is content marketing development [for your organization in particular]?”.
The above tactics and strategies are what I’ve seen lead to results, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. What content development strategies work for you or your clients? Let us know what you think on Twitter!