Table of Contents
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The Flawed Approach to Content Planning
Let’s start with how a lot of content plans begin. The default is to use a simple, top-down approach to content volume and frequency.
Here’s what that might look like:
- Someone within an organization or an agency they hired says that more content is needed.
- Relatively little thought is put into how that content will directly contribute to the organization’s goals.
- A publishing frequency is proposed. Sometimes it’s arbitrary. Other times, it’s loosely based on available resources. Typically, it’s not tied to goals or their timelines.
- Content is published at that frequency indefinitely until momentum is gained or the plan is abandoned.
This is an okay starting point and it’s certainly better than not investing in content at all. But, it’s not exactly ideal. By starting with business goals and working backward from there, we can map out a plan that gets us from where we are to where we want to be.
An Alternative: Goal-Driven Content Planning
Like all strategic business initiatives, content is ultimately a means to an end. That end will vary from business to business and can change over time. But what’s certain is that it needs to be defined from the outset so that content strategy serves business goals.
Because of the number of unpredictable variables at play when it comes to SEO, the purpose of goals should be to guide strategic direction rather than sit atop a pedestal as make-or-brake metrics. You could experience an algo hole, for example, that would put your initial goal out of reach but would in no way change or invalidate your strategy.
If you’re ever guaranteed a certain outcome in an SEO pitch meeting, go ahead and cross that agency off your list of candidates.
That said, the best content goals will still come in the form of SMART goals. For example:
- Increase organic blog traffic by 200% year/year
- Add 1,000 Email signups in Q4
- Organic market share
- Grow monthly conversions by 500% in the next two years
- Grow brand awareness by increasing organic impressions for non-brand keywords by 50% by year’s end
Gauging The Content Needed to Reach Your Goal
Once a goal has been set, we can start figuring out the inputs we need to get there. We’re now getting closer to something that looks more like a plan. Just as the end goal will vary from business to business, the path to get there will vary as well.
Let’s walk through the process using a simple, made-up example:
- A software company wants to increase monthly organic leads by 25% in the next year
- Their average existing blog post attracts 500 organic users per month at a conversion rate of 0.5% (2.5 leads - can you have half a lead?🤔).
- They currently have 100 blog posts on their website, for a total of 50,000 users and 250 organic leads per month
- In order to reach their goal by year’s end, they’ll need to be bringing in around 313 monthly organic leads, if we round up
- If the conversion rate stays the same, they’ll need about 62,600 organic users to get those 313 leads
- This means they’ll need to increase their traffic by 12,600 organic monthly users
- If we assume each blog post will attract, on average, 500 monthly organic users and convert at the same rate, then our company will need to publish 26 new blog posts by year’s end (without losing any existing traffic).
The team at Siege Media published a nifty equation that condenses this process into a nice and concise formula.
To summarize, here’s a quick rundown of the process:
- Start with an end goal (traffic, leads, links, signups, etc.)
- Assess how much blog content is currently on the site.
- Find the average rate at which each piece of content produces the desired outcome (traffic, conversions, backlinks, email signups, etc.)
- Use the conversion rate to determine how much content will need to be produced in order to achieve the desired outcome.
If this seems like an oversimplification, it is. Of course, traffic won’t be consistent from one blog post to the next. There are no guarantees our conversion rate will stay the same. There are a ton of other factors that can (and often will) come into play that will eventually make our original estimation look way off. These are the slings and arrows of running an SEO content program. At least we have a direction and a timeline that we can use to guide our efforts.
What's the Right Publishing Frequency?
Another advantage of having a goal-driven content plan is that it answers the question of publishing frequency. Publishing frequency has often been framed as a choice between quality and quantity. The received wisdom is that you should focus on quality over quantity (i.e. frequency). While that’s a useful heuristic, it’s not really the right question to ask.
When we have a goal-driven content plan, what we really want to know is how quickly we can move toward our goal while staying within our resource constraints. Two of the main factors to consider here are time, i.e. budget (how money much we have to spend on content production) - and minimum viable content, i.e. the caliber of content needed to actually rank for topics in a given vertical.
Determining Minimum Viable Content, or What it Takes to Rank
Two of the biggest factors that influence the investment you’ll need to make in order to rank your content are the competitiveness of the vertical and the authoritativeness of your domain.
The more crowded, savvy, and competitive the online landscape is in your specific vertical, the more difficult it will generally be to rank for your target keywords and the more of an investment you’ll need to make to do so.
Competitive verticals are usually those that are highly commercialized and appeal to a broad audience - think insurance, medical, retail, legal, etc. Because domain strength is still a pretty big ranking factor, having an authoritative domain can help in this regard.
Flexibility is Key
As Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Flexibility should be a key component of any SEO strategy, including your content plan. There will be times when you miss publishing deadlines and there will be articles that don’t garner the traffic you thought they would.
You may find that you need to increase production in order to get the results you’re aiming for. This doesn’t mean the plan is unworkable but instead emphasizes the need for flexibility. The goal should be to publish, measure results, adjust course as needed, and repeat. With persistence, you’ll find yourself moving toward your end goal.
What if I haven't Started Publishing Blog Content Yet?
If you haven't started publishing, you won't have the historical data we used above to determine blog content needs. That's perfectly fine. However, this will require a mindset shift.
Instead of using a calculated approach to determine content volume over a specified timeline, you'll want to adopt a maximalist approach in order to get your blog off the ground. That means recognizing the ROI of SEO content and investing accordingly. Only through consistent effort will you be able to start ranking for relevant keywords in your first year of publishing.
The great news about SEO is that its returns compound over time. In the beginning, there will be a struggle. This is especially true if you have a young/low-authority domain. But, over time, you'll gain traction. Your blog content will attract links and, more importantly, new business if properly executed.
If you stick to it and your content is uniquely valuable, you could see 200%-400% growth in organic traffic year over year.
Create Your Own Content Plan
Your content strategy, like all SEO strategies, should serve business goals. In order to create a content plan that moves you toward your goals, you need to first identify and clarify those goals. Once you’ve done that, you can use the data at your disposal to roughly estimate how much content it’ll take you to get there and how often you should be publishing. Only then can you be confident in knowing whether or not your content efforts are yielding the kind of ROI you’re hoping for.
Looking to scale your content production? We can help. We’re an experienced team of SEOs with a track record of creating content that drives results. Whether you’re brand new to content marketing or are looking to improve your existing strategy, our research-driven approach can help you grow your business. To learn more, reach out to our team or head to our content strategy service page.