16 Content Planning Tips to Jumpstart your Content Marketing
The world has never been noisier, and it doesn’t show any signs of quieting down. The internet has given everyone a voice. This makes it difficult for companies to be heard amidst the cacophony. All is not lost though! Careful planning and thoughtful execution can result in a content plan that can meet even the highest of expectations.
1. Planning content for your audience
Developing a content plan doesn’t need expensive consultants or months of effort. It is not some arcane process. It can be as simple as brainstorming content ideas with specific considerations in mind.
2. Plan with “Search Intent” in mind
You should also plan your content with search intent in mind. Search intent, often called user intent, is the main goal the user has in mind when entering a search into Google. You could group most searches into four different buckets:
- Informational – looking for an answer to a specific question
- Commercial – investigating a brand or service
- Navigational – looking for a specific site
- Transactional – looking to buy something or complete an action (signing up for a newsletter)
These won’t all be relevant to your business, but you should identify the ones that are. This will help you brainstorm a list of questions that your customers could ask about you online. Then you can create content answering those questions.
For example, let’s suppose you run a small firm that consults with independent game developers to help them manage their budgets and ship their games on time. You know that your customers will likely be searching for answers about budgets and project management. You can also assume that they will want to learn more about any business partners they might want to work with. These needs coincide with the informational and commercial search intents. Keeping those questions in mind will make it easier to create varied content that will help your customers find you.
3. Plan on being consistent
Consistency is critical. You need to establish a plan and stick with it. One of the easiest ways to do that is to establish an editorial calendar to help keep track of what you are planning to publish, where you will publish it, and when. It doesn’t have to be a literal calendar either. It could be a simple spreadsheet listing all the details. In fact, I’ve found that simpler is often better.
You might be tempted to hit pause when you find setbacks, but you must fight that urge. Making drastic changes to your schedule will make it much harder to gather objective data for your results.
Consistency is also especially important if you are hoping to attract a regular audience for your content. Consumers need to know when they can expect to see your new content.
4. Plan for content diversity
Chances are good that your company doesn’t have to bandwidth to create high-quality content of all available types every day. You will, instead, have to balance all those different forms of content. I wish I could give you a pie chart that shows a tried-and-true industry standard. But there isn’t one to show you. The correct content mix is going to depend on your company’s goals and resources.
5. Who is your audience and what do they want?
This is where you put your audience insights to work. Who are they? What do they need? What are their day-to-day concerns? What problems do they have that only YOU can solve? Making a list of those questions can be incredibly helpful. You can, quite literally, create content that answers those questions.
6. Set clear goals
What do you want your content to do? Are you looking to improve brand awareness? Drive sales to a specific new product? Once you have those goals in mind, you can make sure to create content that addresses those needs. For example, content centered on brand awareness might talk about your company’s history or what it is like to work there.
7. Don’t commit to what you can’t do well
It can be tempting to fill a content calendar with all sorts of big ideas for videos, podcasts, blogs, white papers, etc. You need to be realistic though. You need to consider both your bandwidth and your available talent/resources. If you don’t have access to someone who can edit killer video, then don’t commit to long-form video essays). Likewise, if no one on staff is a very skilled writer, then be prepared to hire a copywriter to help put your information on paper. Where resources are limited, you may also choose to sponsor content by trusted sources, like DZone, where you may leverage the authoritative reporting of a third party while simultaneously including your marketing messaging.
8. Don’t be afraid to try new things
Ok. I get it. I told you not to commit to things you are bad at. But you should definitely experiment with things you have never done. This is especially true when it comes to emerging forms of media. Short-form video (Instagram Reels, TikTok, etc) is HUGE right now and shows no signs of stopping. Carving out time in your content plan to try new things and post on new platforms can lead to huge payoffs.
9. Test, review, and refine
You aren’t likely to nail it on the first attempt so don’t focus your efforts on perfection. Instead, you should take an iterative approach. Publish content, test the results vs your expectations, and then make changes to your plan. Then you repeat that process.
10. Repurpose content when appropriate
You will, undoubtedly, invest a lot of company resources into your content. It only makes sense that you should try to get as much out of each piece of content as you can. The good news is that that process is much simpler than it sounds and can go a long way to building out your content mix to reach different audiences.
Some great examples are:
- Long-form pieces of content can be split into many smaller pieces of content. You can revise subtopics into lower word count blog articles. Pull quotes (especially if they are from customers) can be used to help write captions for social media.
- You can make audio recordings of your written content to help make podcasts and video. As a bonus, this can be a great way to help get started with short-form video content for platforms like Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts.
- It isn’t all about breaking down large content either. You can combine shorter blog posts and social media captions into longer content as well. This can take a bit more editing, but it has the convenience of allowing you to build up your word count slowly over time. It’s a great strategy for teams that want to create longer content but are frequently assigned to other tasks.
11. Leveraging the authority of sources to maximize their impact
Using quotes, interviews, and guest posts from experts in your industry is a great way to improve your content. These things go a long way towards helping you build thought leadership and authority. You can’t do it wildly though. You need to be thoughtful about how you manage your sources as well if you want to maximize the results. It’s a best practice to build relationships with your contributors so that they see your success as their own.
12. Establish the level of authority
The first thing you want to do is ensure that the person you are working with is a subject matter expert (SME) on your chosen topic. The easiest way to do that is to look them up and verify their credentials (you can do this on LinkedIn), and you can see where else they have been cited as a source.
Google prioritizes content that provides high-quality information. They use a standard called “E-A-T – Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness” when doing so. They also call it “page quality.” Your SME and their level of authority will help here, but you should also make sure that the rest of the content contributes positively as well. One passage from even the highest authority won’t fix sloppy, inaccurate content.
14. Keep them in the loop
There is zero value in obfuscating your plans from the experts who will be helping you execute them. Tell them what your goals are and let them know how they can help. If you work with a lot of different SMEs, then it may even be beneficial to create a short onboarding document to let them know your plans and to keep the communication consistent between them.
15. Don’t ask for too much
You don’t want to overwork expert contributors. That is a very fast way to push them away (and people talk). Instead, make sure that your plan includes content with varying levels of effort on their part. For example, you could schedule some pieces that only require a quote, others where the SME is a source on background giving foundational information for the piece, and others where they are guest posting for you.
16. Be of value to your source
SME’s rely on citations to establish and maintain their authority in the eyes of their audience and Google. You should be doing everything you can from a content perspective to provide value as a citation for them. Make sure that your final post is cleanly edited and published on time. It also helps to make sure you credit your sources when you share the piece on social media.
In short, content marketing isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be panic-inducing. Taking a moment and planning before you start publishing content will make every step along the way easier. Give yourself the time to prepare and the grace to iterate on your mistakes when you make them. The rest will fall into place.
Good luck and happy selling!
About the author: Stephen Duetzmann is the Content Manager at DZone.com. He’s responsible for helping develop and implement the content strategy there. He has been creating content (text, audio, and video) for the last 9 years and has been managing teams for most of that time. Some of his favorite things are his family, World of Warcraft, and getting unreasonably excited about content ideas.