A 5-Step Simple Process
Content marketing fuels SEO. It enables search engines to index your business. It’s energizing link building. More than ever, there’s pressure on businesses to publish quality content frequently. If you’re a managing editor or writer, then this content ideation guide is for you.
Personas & Strategy as the First Step
Before you commission a blog post or write a web page, you first need a strategy. To formulate a content marketing strategy that will grow your readership and revenue, I suggest creating customer personas. These are fictionalized representations of your buyers. By outlining their backgrounds, motivations, and needs, you can craft content that educates and converts.
So, here’s the first step of my content ideation guide. Consider answering these questions:
- Related to what your business offers, what are biggest challenges your target audience faces?
- If they were able to solve those challenges, what’s the impact (e.g., ROI, next step)?
- What information would help them do their jobs better? What are their job titles, skill sets, education level?
- What search terms are used to find businesses similar to yours?
- Where does your target audience congregate (online and offline)?
There are probably hundreds — if not thousands — of questions you can ask. Use those answers to write working personas; doing so will help you create more relevant and targeted content.
Tactical Ground Rules
Once you have your strategy and persona(s), gather a team to brainstorm. The next element of my content ideation guide is to set up ground rules related to web pages, blog posts, white papers, etc.
- Establish categories so your content is focused yet allowing room for creativity. Here’s an example. I write for a professional shredding company. While paper shredding is definitely a major category, I created other categories based on who uses those services (e.g. financial firms, lawyers, medical offices, victims of identity theft). I found there were related and newsworthy topics that gave the content greater reach and value.
- Define tone, voice & relevancy so it reflects your brand and the message you want to project. For example, use of jargon and industry terms may be appropriate for some brands as they have an educated or technically oriented audience. However, you may alienate those new to your service. When defining what a good idea is (and not), establish rules on how each will be judged worthy of further work. That way opinion and biases won’t get in the way.
- Research search terms to attract your audience. When you know your search volume for certain terms, their value (e.g., AdWords bid), and how competitive they are, you can strategically pepper them into your content. I teach my clients to use one keyword per page. You want to send a clear signal to search engines: each page should answer one question. Otherwise, it’s confusing and you may be unnecessarily competing with yourself on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Even the most brilliant minds need help. Content ideation is no exception. Armed with a strategy, personas, and ground rules, you’re ready to pull together a collaborative team. I’ve found that by enlisting the help of others — especially those with different skill sets, points of view, and responsibilities — helps keep ideas fresh and relevant. Seek help from:
- Product managers or developers
- Customers where you have great two-way communication
- Writers and/or other content contributors
- Strategic vendors or partners
- Trusted colleagues inside or outside of your organization
Content Ideation Tools
In researching the elements of my content ideation guide, I literally found hundreds of tools available. Here are a few of the sources I use:
- Feedly – Here you can create a list of websites and blogs to follow for content ideas. You can have several different lists to cover each of the topics that you want to write about.
- Google Analytics – The best place to start. You can see which are your best performing content and pages, then work from there.
- Search Console – Additional data to add to Google Analytics, so you have a full picture of how your pages are performing.
- HootSuite for research (hashtags, social listening) – Not just useful for scheduling your own posts, HootSuite lets you follow other social platforms for inspiration. Basically a Feedly for social media profiles.
- Other Google Products:
- AdWords Keyword Planner – You’ll need to be an AdWords user to use this tool, but it allows you to see various details on keywords that can help give you an insight.
- Trends – See which keywords are getting the most traffic around the world. Especially useful at the time of big events like the World Cup.
Organization: The Final Piece of the Content Ideation Guide
Day-to-day management is probably the most challenging aspect of content marketing. You may be great at generating fabulous ideas, Yet if you can’t organize those content ideas into actionable steps where things actually get written, it’s a huge waste of time.
I suggest using an editorial calendar in a format that allows collaboration (e.g., Google docs, Office 365). This is a powerful and nimble way to gather ideas, parse out writing assignments with reference links, and schedule them. View this post for a template and methodology for creating a customized editorial calendar for your business. If you want additional help, just give me a call.
I suggest setting a time every week for the following activities:
- Research ideas
- Update editorial calendar with ideas, reference links, examples
- Create writing assignments with keywords and deadlines
- Editing, polishing, and styling
- Optimizing the content and meta
As you can see creating content isn’t as simple as brainstorming a list of blog post titles. What tips do you have on keeping your content creation process flowing smoothly?
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