Ever find yourself struggling for ideas? Feel like your content isn’t getting the clicks it deserves? When it comes to blogging, strategic planning is the key to success. Here’s a quick guide to long-term content planning.
Abraham Lincoln once said that, if he had eight hours to chop down a tree, he would spend six of them sharpening his ax. Obviously, Lincoln didn’t work with content creation the way we do now–but planning has always been relevant.
In other words, preparation is everything. Long-term content planning is a crucial element of success in the content creation and content marketing game.
When you have a plan mapped out, it allows you to grow your readership and establish your website as a reliable, consistent source of information.
The words ‘long-term’ may seem daunting at first. But, I can reassure you that putting effort into long-term content planning now will save you time later.
It will also help you to take your blog in the direction you want and prevent future problems before they arise.
You don’t want to be caught scrambling for an article idea when the post is due that day. That’s a blogger’s worst nightmare.
In addition, you don’t want to put out half-baked content you’re not proud of simply because your team is unorganized.
Long-term content planning solves these issues. Having the logistics laid out means you have more time to be creative, work towards your goals, and produce valuable resources that you’re proud to brand as your own.
Here’s a concise guide to long-term content planning for success.
1. Set Content Creation Goals
The first step to successful long-term content planning is setting goals. Before you get into the finer details, you need to decide what you want to achieve. Everything you put on your blog or website should be created with this outcome in mind.
A good place to begin is with your overall business goals. Why did you decide to start a blog in the first place? What do you want your content to bring to the table?
Your goal could be more traffic, increasing brand awareness, or even building loyalty and trust. Don’t be afraid to be as precise as say, aiming to increase traffic by 30% in 2 months.
A little ambition won’t hurt. However, be realistic about your goals.
Teasing out your overall business goals will help you to define the more concrete outcomes you want your blog to achieve.
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The next step in goal-setting for your long-term content plan is pinning down your target audience. If you have already published content, then this will give you a clue.
Take a look at your current traffic statistics to find out who is viewing your website. This is a great starting point, but you need to clearly outline who you want to reach. I always say, if there’s no target, you can’t score.
A good way to do this is to put together audience profiles. Begin with the general things like age bracket and location then turn your attention to details like industry and profession. Obviously, each reader is going to be unique. But, in general, you may find that different groups of people will have similar interests.
By painting a clear picture of your target audience, you can create content that caters to their needs. You can write in a way that they will find easy to understand and enjoyable to read. This way, you can better provide the information they are looking for.
Knowing your audience will also help you to decide what form your content should take. Does your audience enjoy traditional long-form articles, or do they prefer visuals like infographics that they can consume at a glance?
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To summarize, your long-term content plan should tie your company’s goals together with your target audience’s interests.
2. Research Topics, use a Content Creator
Once you’ve established clear goals, the next step is to research topics.
Even if you work well under pressure, article inspiration and ideas are tricky creatures who tend to disappear when you need them in a hurry.
Avoid getting stuck in a rut by researching ideas and topics well in advance. Your long-term content plan should include finding engaging topics and content. Yes, this will take time and effort, but I promise having some go-to ideas will really save you time (and stress!) in the future.
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Research needs to be done in advance. Stuck for ideas? Don’t worry, there are lots of tools that you can use to help you. You should find leads, inspiration, and map out your own ideas and direction. No time spent planning is wasted, but keep in mind that you will probably need to update and refresh this plan right before you write the article.
A shortlist of tools that can be used as idea generation and content creators:
While you are carrying out research, always keep your goals and target audience in mind. Every article you plan to write and every topic you target should be strategic. When you are doing your research, always consider what value a certain article will add to the current conversation.
Ask yourself, for which of your audience’s needs will this cater?
This can be tricky at first, but understanding your audience can be done in two vital steps: first is becoming part of the niche community, and the second is keyword research.
Wondering how to get into your niche community? You simply need to join the conversation members of your audience are having.
With platforms like Reddit, this is easier than ever. Get involved in relevant threads, see how they are interacting, and what they are looking for–just don’t try and manipulate Reddit. You’ll get banned faster than almost any other platform.
You can also reach out to your target audience directly via social media. Instagram is a great way of getting into your niche, and hosting live streams lets you interact on a personal level. Spruce these up with features like polls via Instagram stories. Get on Twitter and see what’s trending in your niche.
What hashtags is your audience using? Who are they following?
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You can also look to other popular blogs and websites in your niche. Think popular bloggers, influencers, and relevant competitors.
Examine the way they are producing and publishing content. Take note of what topics they are covering and what headlines they use. You should also see how their content is structured and what style and tone they use.
Ask yourself these questions about competitor content creation:
- What’s the structure? Listicle, How-to, Video, Interview, or other.
- What’s the audience like? What are their demographics? Engagement rates?
- How do they interact with other businesses? Are there guest posters? External links to relevant businesses?
Get inspired by them! This will help you to create content that gets results. Take a deeper look at your niche to understand what type of content is being shared and what content gets the best results.
Keyword research is also a vital part of long-term content planning. Buzzsumo, Keyword Finder and many other tools are very useful for this. These tools will help you to understand what your viewers are typing into search engines and what keywords they use.
When carrying out keyword research, take note of the following:
- Search volume: how many times do people search for these key phrases in a month?
- Domain authority: what is the DA rating of sites currently ranking for specific terms?
- Difficulty rating: most tools will calculate a difficulty score so that you know which keywords you should go for and of which to steer clear.
When you have a list of good keywords you want to use, then go to your search engine and do a bit of investigating. Take a look at the top ten results that are currently ranking for specific keywords. This will give you clues as to how you should go about creating your content plan. Take note of word count, content type, and language use. Include these insights into each article plan.
If you want to find out more about effective keyword research, take a look at these in-depth articles:
3. Create a Content Creation Calendar
Once you have your amazing ideas backed up with concrete plans, the next step is scheduling. You need to have a content calendar that will help you to keep track of everything in one place.
Certain topics or ideas may be most effective if published at certain times of the year. So take timing into consideration.
If you have a content creation team, this is the time when you should start assigning different articles and deadlines. This will cut down any miscommunication or misunderstandings in the long run. Don’t forget to program any keyword research and topic outlines in the calendar as well for easy reference.
The team will know how long they have to complete assignments ahead of time. It also means that they can carry out the necessary research to create the highest quality content they can.
When creating your calendar, make sure to diversify your content. Make sure to switch up your topics on a daily basis. This is also the time to plan any content series you may want to publish. These are most effective when published at the same time each week consistently. This will mean followers will check back to get the information they can rely on.
Keep in mind that some content by nature is bound to get more traffic than others.
For example, ‘How to’ guides are always crowd pleasers so make the most of them by posting them on optimal days. Take a look at Google Analytics to determine when your audience is most active. You should also consider what types of content will bring the most value to your audience and post these at optimal times.
When it comes to driving traffic and increasing user engagement, timing is everything. Keep this in mind when scheduling content on your calendar.
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It may take a while to perfect, but having a long-term content plan is priceless. It will make sure that everything you publish coincides with your long-term goals. It will also hold you accountable for the tasks you want to complete and will motivate your team.