In the modern digital age, we all inherently know that content is important, with almost 90% of businesses investing in content generation. Customers demand content about your business or organisation through a variety of channels (website, blog, EDM, social media, etc.) and the relevance and quality of that content can often be the make or break between converting a customer or losing them forever.
But has your organisation struggled to develop and implement it’s content strategy?
You are not alone. Creating and implementing a large-scale content strategy, especially in organisations with a lot of moving parts and different departments, can be a logistical nightmare.
Management teams set the goals, digital marketing teams set up the strategy and then subject matter experts are often left to create the content (regardless of their content writing capabilities). On top of all of that, content production is often mistakenly seen as a low priority task and as a result, deadlines often get pushed out in favour of more pressing items, derailing the project and causing seemingly unending delays.
To overcome all of this you need to maintain a strong focus on the end goals, ensure you invest in good internal planning and quarantine time to dedicate to ongoing project management – this will ensure the strategy doesn’t go off-course and doesn’t get watered down into the occasional blog post with no strategy or direction behind it.
Defining Content Creation Goals
Why are you electing to develop content? What is its purpose? Is it to increasingly engage a current audience, prove your thought leadership, to drive search engine rankings and organic traffic up?
Make sure you begin with a clear goal that is fixed in the minds of all stakeholders - from management through to the creators of the content. All too often the goals for content creation are not set and resources are wasted on creating content for content’s sake.
Content strategies are designed to:
- Generate conversions (big and small) – they may be increasing page views per session, filling out contact forms or downloading a resource, requesting to be contacted about a service or product or making a purchase or booking.
- Develop or grow an audience.
- Increase recognition of niche expertise with an audience.
- Attract links to grow domain authority and SEO rankings.
- Attract talent.
Whilst it may seem obvious, having clearly defined goals for your content strategy from the get go will ensure that the content produced will fulfil the intended purpose and prevent investment in content generation being wasted.
Scaling the Content Development Process
Your goals should set the kind of tactics that you will use around content marketing. Developing an audience may lead an organisation to focus on content that assists them with using their product or service, while for those focused on increasing organic traffic may look at developing content based around long-tail keywords.
Before You Start Writing
Define Your Audience
Who are you writing for? Knowing who you are writing for keeps focus on the content and gives those audiences relevant insights or actionable takeaways. Writing a piece of content that is too generic and doesn’t have a focus is a quick way to create content that no-one will ever read.
You should also consider who you aren’t writing for. Before a content transformation the gov.uk website had whole section dedicated to keeping bees – not the kind of information they needed to be curating as the UK government…
Defining your audience ensures that when producing content, you will be writing about their interests and problems and using their language when you do so. This is the perfect mix to create an engaged reader.
Complete Keyword Research
Keyword research needs to be ground zero for audience identification. Developing a large-scale content strategy means identifying keywords for that content that your audience may use when searching Google.
What are the top-level keywords that are the holy grail for your business within each niche? List these out in a spreadsheet so you have your top-level goals.
Whilst these tend to be more competitive as they drive more conversions (eg: ‘buy red men’s running shoes online’ VS ‘what are the benefits of buying shoes online’) you will find that long tail keywords that drive brand awareness and rankings will form the topics for most of your content creation.
Audit Existing Content
Thin content should be the first port of call for content audits. Look at which pages aren’t offering value, are significantly out of date, have had no traffic within the last 6-12 months, are not relevant to your defined audiences or do not have relevant keywords and consider deleting them (with a 301 redirect if they are on your website) or consolidating that content as a part of other relevant pages.
More content isn’t necessarily better, especially when the content is largely the same. More clicking around for your users definitely isn’t a bonus where your UX is concerned. Content scaling is about quality – our goal is to have more quality content so taking a step back on the volume may be required first.
Put all of your content in a spreadsheet by URL and then add a column to list the keywords that page covers off as well as a rating column to give the content a quality score. Once done, you can filter by keyword and quickly identify which areas are over/under represented as well as identifying what content is of good quality and what is below par so you can start to prioritise your content creation plans.
Repurpose Old Content
Scaling content creation can mean moving sideways and leveraging what is already there. Re-purposing or updating old content can be a great way to get additional benefits from a content piece.
- Use they now infamous “skyscraper technique” to find content that is performing well, but could do better with a bit of TLC. Use this to claim top spots in search results.
- Look at repurposing content. Turn a blog into an infographic or a team education session into a video presentation.
- Optimise for position zero results. Featured snippets are on the rise so claim them before your competitors do.
Utilise Editorial Calendars
Editorial calendars will be essential to ensure you maintain a regular content publication schedule. Keeping it simple is a good idea at this step, create a calendar that will be easily shareable and accessible by all team members (Google Sheets for example) and list out all of the due dates for each topic that will be covered and the author or SMEs involved.
You can see the editorial calendar format we use to track what is being written and when in this Google Docs editorial calendar template we have created. It has notes on what we use each element for but is mostly self explanatory.
Knowing what is being created, when it’s being done and the keywords being targeted means:
- Everyone in the organisation involved can see clearly the roadmap for creation
- Topics and keywords can be seen and filtered in one place, so reviewing gaps (or areas of over-creation) can be done quickly.
- The purpose of each piece (be it awareness, consideration or conversion) can be listed out. Again, so that gaps or overlaps can be identified with a quick filter of the spreadsheet.
Workflows Are Critical
The content calendar sets a schedule that means that all teams involved can quickly find out information about a piece but also supports the process within the larger organisation.
Getting buy in from senior management that allows the content strategy to be run like a client project is essential. This will ensure that space can be created in the SMEs timetables to be put aside for getting all that experience out of the grey matter and into a document.
After the content has been created and the draft is ready for review make sure you have allocated time for a review with a staff member that has a great eye for detail and excellent writing skills as a final check. Getting fresh eyes and insight on a piece always helps with quality control. This person (or people) need this review time resourced into their weekly tasks as well.
Once the content has passed ‘quality control’ it’s ready to upload. Think about who needs to be notified once this happens – does the SME who wrote it want to share it on their social networks? Will the social media managers of the organisation need to promote this? Is the SEO team going to be performing outreach to amplify the content’s reach?
Utilise Your SMEs to Write the Content
There are very few copywriters who are skilled enough to cater for all the needs of your business. Unless you have a single, narrow niche that you are trying to target you will likely need to involve subject matter experts who have ‘boots on the ground’ experience in your business.
There may be some resistance from SMEs when tasked with creating this content. It might not fit into their job description; they may not be comfortable with their writing skills or they may just feel like they are too busy. Support your SMEs by allocating time in their weekly resource plan specifically for the content creation task and make them aware they don’t need to be Shakespeare.
Detailed dot points around each talking point can be passed on to another staff member or a copywriter to refine the flow and layout, but all the important E.A.T stuff that Google and readers love is done by the expert.
Bringing It All Together
When scaling your content development set your goals first - have these reinforced across teams so that individual writers through to senior management understand the purpose of the content and how it fits into the organisation’s goals.
Steer clear of the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach. Knowing via your content audit what you have already and where you can improve will enable you to reach your business goals and not just load the internet up with another webpage that no-one will read.
Create a structured workflow across everyone that is involved with a central hub where contributors, content planners and project managers can see when, who and what is being created. “Running this like a client project” is a cliché, but structuring the content strategy like you would for a client and holding contributors to deadlines prevents the project fizzling out.