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by John Waghorn on 3rd October 2013
Whether you are new to “content marketing” or have been engaging in activities of this nature for some time now, there is plenty to be gained in the digital environment from this form of marketing. Most critically wherever the convergence of SEO and content are becoming more apparent, a content plan is essential in helping to deliver the best results.
To really push for success you need to establish how you will use content to target your audience and how this can be aligned with the goals of your business.
So, before providing guidance on how to actually begin creating your plans, here are some of the reasons as to why you need to have one in place.
Using content in a blind fashion, whereby you are only creating it when you have time and on any topic that pops into your head won’t be as effective as having a clear and defined plan to follow.
Having all of your ideas displayed in a predetermined plan, regardless of whether it’s set out over three, six or twelve months, will allow you to visualise what you are working towards.
This means that you have the opportunity to prepare for any upcoming large forms of content, for example pieces that tie in with an event or that span across multiple marketing channels. Furthermore, it will also provide you with a clearer indication as to the direction of your campaigns.
Without being able to visualise this information, there will be no real structure to the content you create.
Any decrease or disruption in the amount of content you are producing and using can have a negative impact on your rankings. However with a full plan in place, you will have a steady flow of content to use throughout your campaigns.
Producing a consistent flow of content is much better than creating a few pieces one month and then a few additional pieces two months later with no real cohesion.
A more natural flow will be even more effective if your business is able to streamline the approval process and ensure that regular content activity is maintained.
As your plan progresses, all of your existing content has the potential to connect with your audience without a backlog building up and halting your efforts.
Initially, a plan won’t just detail the type of content that you will be creating. It will also state where this specific content is going to be placed.
After a short period of time, this means that you can evaluate which marketing channels are working well and which ones are less successful.
Consequently, you can refine your plans and start using channels that you know are more likely to harness better results.
One of the primary factors of content is to create engagement and drive traffic. Therefore, if you have a greater understanding of how to target your audience, then your plans can be amended with the sole intention of bringing in greater results.
However, another benefit of being able to visualise your plans is the ability to determine when to tie in other marketing channels.
For example, if a technology company is going to create a blog on the best gadgets of 2013, they might decide to use social media to create a buzz around the subject first, before the post is set live. They could also decide to create a poll and promote the results on social media as they are generated to encourage greater audience engagement.
The incorporation of multiple channels is much easier to achieve with a full plan in place, as you can start to view how and when to use other mediums to your advantage.
If you don’t have a plan, you could end up scrambling for ideas and trying to incorporate other marketing platforms at the last minute – which won’t serve your campaigns well.
So now you’ve observed some of the benefits of having a content marketing plan, where do you start when it comes to creating one? The following tips will help you get started, and remember that once your plans come together they can easily be refined at a later date.
First of all think about what you want your content to achieve. Are you aiming to help generate business leads, increase brand mentions, encourage customer engagement, or drive traffic to your blog?
In truth, it’s likely that you will want to encourage a mix of these options within your plans, but understanding your objectives and goals first will allow you to target the right kind of content.
Once you have established the aim of your content, it’s easier to create a more sustainable marketing plan.
Starting with your own efforts, evaluate what you have created in the past and which forms of content have proved to be successful. Google Analytics will provide you with the insights you need to determine this.
Are there areas that you could incorporate into your own plans or any gaps in the market to exploit? Remember that you want to make your content engaging, so steer away from generic ideas that have been created before.
You may also decide to improve a specific marketing channel, such as an on-page blog that hasn’t been maintained or updated in a while.
Looking at the types of content your competitors are creating can also act as inspiration and spawn new ideas to place in your plans too. Once you’ve completed your research you can start to detail which types of content you are going to use in your plans.
Before you gather ideas and create content titles, put yourself in the shoes of your target audience.
Think about the specific types of content they would want to come across that relate to your brand. Although this is a simple tactic, taking an audience perspective can inspire you to create something which you might have otherwise missed.
Content doesn’t always have to be elaborate either. Sometimes simple pieces can work just as well, so it’s worth getting in the mindset of your audience to see if any new ideas are unveiled.
With a solid idea of the purpose of your content and where it’s going to be placed, you can now start to create optimised titles for your plan.
You obviously need to create content around themes that have search demand, but always think of the user’s needs first, before the search engines.
Titles can tie in with upcoming events, key industry dates, seasonality, customer frustrations and problems, and even off the back of market research or a current topic in the public eye.
Tools such as Ubersuggest are also handy for coming up with areas of focus and optimised titles to include in your plans.
Remember to think back to the first point in this section so you can ensure that each piece of content aims to achieve a desired result.
Any titles you think of that don’t make the final cut can be noted in a separate document. These will then be ready to use as a reserve or if you decide that the plans need to be altered at any stage.
With an understanding of what you want your content to achieve, backed up with content research and taking an audience perspective, your plans should start to take off.
Ultimately, you should end up with a full plan to visualise everything which spans across the time frame you have decided upon.
Now get planning
A content plan can make a big difference to your marketing campaigns. If your company has been creating content or you’re looking to engage in these activities soon, make sure that a plan is your number one priority.
Using this plan as your content efforts progress will bring its own benefits and also make your campaigns much easier to manage and visualise too. So all you need to do now is get planning!
If you need any further content marketing advice please check out our whitepaper on Content Marketing strategy, planning and creation.