It’s that time of year again.
No, I don’t mean enduring your extended family for a full two weeks or being attacked by a squirrel leaping from your Christmas tree or letting your cousin Eddie crash in his RV in your driveway.
I mean gearing up for the year ahead.
As a content marketer, I look forward to this time of year. As the new year approaches, it gives me time to reflect on the successes (and failures) of the previous 12 months and think about ways to approach things differently in the year to come.
This past year, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of content advisory programs, where our team is making recommendations for our clients’ content marketing teams – and then they execute. Among other things, what it’s taught me is 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 a number of best practices to keep in mind when developing effective content marketing programs.
Let’s have a look:
What Is Content Marketing Development?
First of all, let’s define content marketing development. At its most basic level, “web content 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 tied largely to content marketing strategy – as in, content is (or should be) developed with a specific goal in mind.
According to Content Marketing Institute, content marketing strategy is defined 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.”
So, in a nutshell, content marketing development should be more than developing content for just the sake of it. Each piece of content produced must be tied to a certain goal (organic traffic, conversions, lead generation, brand awareness, etc.) – or else it’s just a waste of everyone’s time.
But, the question is, how do you get started? Like I said, there’s no one way to develop content – but I like to think about it in the following phases.
Before you ever begin with your content development plan, you’ve got to have an idea of what you’re working with already. In other words, you need to know how your existing content is performing in order to identify in any gaps, areas of opportunity, etc. on your blog.
This is the part where you need to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Whether you’re starting out 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 an 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 a number of content analyses over the past year (for both scenarios outlined above) and these are the key elements I’ll typically look at:
- Blog traffic (total & organic): How has the blog performed over a set timeframe? What have been the peak traffic periods and what may have accounted for them (this is where it’s helpful to have annotations in Analytics)?
- Organic search visibility: What keywords rank for the blog? 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, as well as the pages ranking for those keywords; it can also monitor keyword ranking performance over time.
- Top landing pages: Which blog posts in particular drive the highest traffic (organic and total)? What categories do they relate to?
- Top-converting blog posts: Which blog posts are driving the highest conversions?
- 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?
- Top linked content: Which blog posts are currently driving links? What are the (broadly speaking) topics/categories that drive the most links?
- Top blog posts driving internal traffic: Which blog posts are driving the most internal traffic? What categories do they relate to?
- Top blog conversion paths: What blog posts are driving conversions – that may not be getting credit for driving conversions?
This list can go on and on and there are a number of 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 draw conclusions that can help inform your content development and strategy moving forward.
Planning & Scheduling Phase
Ideally, your content analysis would have yielded the kind of insights that allow you to scope out 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, for instance, that you recommend that a client produce X blog posts on XYZ topics because you’re certain 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 that they don’t actually lead to the results you were looking for. 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.
What I like to recommend to clients is that they develop their editorial calendar on a quarterly basis, giving them enough time to build out posts predicted to drive results – and time to evaluate the performance of those posts prior to scheduling out the next quarter’s content.
Here are a few other 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 regularly revisit your keyword strategy – instead of simply relying on the keyword set you’d identified when first starting out 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, of course, to give blog contributors suggestions of what to write about, based on Search Console data from the previous month, in addition to social media insights and monthly blog performance.
If developing posts on behalf of clients, schedule in time to run content interviews with subject matter experts across the organization. Doing so 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 there are multiple authors contributing to the blog. To make things a little less complicated, 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 so that posts are aligned with the types of topics being discussed at that month’s conferences, tradeshows, etc.
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 then seeing how it performs.
But the tricky part about it is that there’s no one way to go about it. You simply have to try out a strategy, see how it works, and shift gears if necessary.
At the end of the day, 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 about what has worked for you in the comments section.