How to Decide What Content to Create

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Often, figuring out what content to create falls on the shoulders of content strategists, editors, and managers. While some see the responsibility as simply picking a topic and running with it, prioritizing content to create is much more nuanced and complex. The decision must consider business goals, overall strategy, team bandwidth, and more. 

To help lighten the load, we’ve put together a guide for large-scale content teams looking to refine their strategy. In this article, you’ll find:

    • A five-step guide to deciding what content to create.
    • A case for why your brand needs a clear content strategy and tips for evaluating its success.
    • A guided exercise to transform your content calendar in just one hour.

How to Decide What Content To Create 

Step 1: Establish Priorities and Goals

Creating quality content starts with the why. Before planning, writing, or promoting a piece of content, it’s imperative to understand what the business priorities and goals are.

Priorities and goals are different but may overlap in some ways. There may be a priority on holiday-themed content around the winter months and the accompanying goal may be to drive someone to take advantage of a holiday promotion. Or, political-leaning content may take priority around election time, but the business goal is still driving contact form submissions.

The best way to figure out each is to self-reflect, fall back on overall content strategy, and ask yourself questions. 

When establishing priorities, ask questions like:

    • Can the content alone achieve the objective?
    • What does my audience care about?
    • What information does someone searching my primary keyword expect to find on this page?

In addition, leaders can formulate goals using the SMART acronym to ensure they’re fully fleshed out.

When establishing goals, ensure they are:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Based

Deciding what content to create also comes down to SEO strategy. With an established SEO strategy, a piece of content’s primary keyword (and the seasonality of that keyword) can help inform where it should be on the priority list. The intent of that primary keyword can help inform the goal.

Step 2: Review Your Baseline

Once business priorities and goals are established, it’s important to review benchmark metrics. 

Where are you currently? How far are you from accomplishing the goal you established? What do you need to do to reach that goal? 

Why do benchmark metrics matter? Well, 61% of businesses say competitive intelligence has made a direct impact on revenue. Knowing where you are, where your competitors are, and where you need to be offers a guide map for content creation. 

Not sure which metrics to focus on? Here are a few benchmarking metrics (or KPIs) we think are helpful in content creation and analysis.

[Note: we’re focusing on performance metrics in this blog post, but there are also practice, internal, and external benchmarking metrics.]

Keyword rank: Using a tool like SEMRush, Moz, or Ahrefs, keep track of your keywords’ positions and the URLs that rank. This metric is especially useful for pieces that are specifically optimized to improve keyword rankings. 

Organic sessions: Along with tracking keyword rankings, it’s important to watch the organic traffic sessions of your blog to understand both traffic source share and if your SEO strategy is working. 

New vs. returning visitors: The longer you blog, the higher you want your return visitor percentage to be. Not only does this metric help content decision-makers better understand their audience; it’s a good insight into a brand’s authority and trustworthiness. People don’t return to a blog they don’t like or trust. 

Time on page and bounce rate: The target “time on page” will vary by company and industry. If your blog usually publishes 400 – 800 word pieces, a shorter time on page is expected than the target time on page for a blog that consistently publishes 2,000+ word pieces. Regardless, it’s important to keep track of any pages that have a very low (20 seconds or less) time on page and a very high (70% or more) bounce rate. These metrics signal engagement and can help guide future content decisions.

Conversions: Conversions marry together metrics and goals. Tracking conversions, especially those completed on blog pages, can assign values to pieces of content and inform future content strategies for how and where to place interactive elements to drive more conversions. 

Step 3: Organize Your Assets

Once you answer why you’re creating a piece of content and how that content will add to the business’s overall content strategy, it’s time to organize assets to make that piece of content happen. There are dozens of questions to ask yourself when organizing assets for content creation, including:

    • Have you created a content calendar
    • Do you know the seasonality of the keyword(s) in the blog piece? 
    • From inception, how long do you have to outline, write, and edit the piece before you’d like to post and promote it? 
    • Who will outline this piece?
    • Who will write this piece?
    • Does this piece need additional resources like graphics, an interview, first-party research, or something else? 
    • Who will edit this piece? 
    • How many edits will this piece go through?
    • How is messaging going to change when promoting on different channels? 

With solid answers for each of the above questions, you’ll have a foolproof plan to create the content without a hitch. If you realize that this process is too time-consuming for your team, that’s okay — it’s time to turn to an editorial agency like Lightning Media Partners to take care of creating a strategy and content for you.

Related article: 7 Reasons To Hire A Content Marketing Agency 

Step 4: Write the Content

It’s finally time to write, after establishing goals, familiarizing yourself with metrics, and concocting an editorial plan.

When writing content, keep these best practices and content marketing trends in mind:

Provide value

Ensure that the content you create answers questions, provides a solution, or introduces a new concept that helps the reader. Nothing plummets engagement and organic traffic like unhelpful, fluffy content.

Let your personality shine through

Companies that operate virtually don’t get a chance to speak face-to-face with their customers 90% of the time. Instead, infuse your brand’s personality in the writing. Whether it’s formal, sarcastic, informational, or friendly, keep the personality you want the brand to exude in mind as you write.

Understand who you’re talking to

Know your audience and their needs! Anticipate where they will find your content, what they’re looking to get out of it, and their knowledge of the topic (to avoid speaking with industrial jargon or talking down to already-establishing experts).

Step 5: Analyze your Results

The job isn’t over after posting a piece. After the piece has been out for four to six months, evaluate its metrics. Ask yourself, “Are they what you expected?” and “Did you reach your goal?”

How many unique page views did you get? Did visitors click to more pages after entering through that blog post? What sort of engagement did the piece get on social channels — and did the piece get any comments on the website? Which channel offered the best ROI for this piece? Did the piece drive any conversions?

Evaluate what worked and what didn’t, and file the piece at the bottom of a priority list for future updating.

Why Content Strategy Is Important

At its foundation, a content strategy is important to every business because it offers a roadmap to accomplish specific business goals through meaningful, unique written content. Content strategy affords strategists and their teams the ability to define goals and priorities.

Without a clear content strategy, a team’s hard work that brainstorms, researches, outlines, writes, edits, and produces an article goes to waste. An informed content strategy ensures each piece created serves a business purpose, speaks to the right audience, and offers readers value.

Once a team creates its content strategy (see below for the interactive exercise), a content calendar helps to keep everyone on track toward production goals. Content calendars include topics, publish dates, and more to give teams the ability to “work backward” — plotting out when pieces should post to maximize clicks and engagement and assigning out work to ensure the production date can be hit.

Guided Exercise: Deciding What Content To Create

Try this hour-long exercise to prioritize what your next handful of produced content should be. We’ll do it with you.

Write down your goal.

Estimated time: 15 minutes.

As stated above, every strategy starts with a goal. Remember, a goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

For this exercise, LMP’s goal is to publish one article on the topic of SEO tips for digital publishing companies in early March. Based on seasonality research, we know this will be the best time to post the article to gain a little traction before the keyword’s peak search month.

A formula for creating a content goal like LMP’s looks like this:

I want to publish {the piece’s topic or keyphrase} for {this audience} by {deadline for publication}. 

Or, content goals can look like this:

I want to rank for {specific keyword} by publishing {X number of pieces} about {X topic} by {deadline for publication}.

If you’re still stuck, here are several questions to ask yourself. Write out your answers (we’ll do the same). 

What is the objective this content needs to accomplish?

LMP’s objective is to position ourselves as an expert in SEO for digital publishing clients.

Who am I talking to with this content?

We’re talking to editors in chief, managing editors, and other mid-level decision-makers who work for digital publishing companies. 

Where does my audience congregate?

Using SparkToro data, we know our audience tends to congregate on LinkedIn and finds answers in long-tail keywords on organic search.

What do I want my audience to do after reading this piece?

We want them to try the tips we’re putting forth. Additional micro-goals include the reader remembering LMP’s name after the tips bring success, coming back to our blog for more educational information, and/or filling out a form on our site.

How can I differentiate my content from what’s already ranking in the top spots?

Thanks to information pulled from SEMRush, we know the primary keyword we’re optimizing this piece for has a low keyword difficulty score and the currently-ranking pieces have low page authority scores. We know we’ll want to include actionable tips with real-world examples, screenshots, statistics, dynamic images, and more.

Can the content alone achieve the objective?

No. This piece of content is just one small tactic toward our larger objective of establishing LMP as an expert in SEO for digital publishing clients.

What does my audience care about?

Our audience cares about their own success, so the easier we make it for them to become successful, the better.

What information does someone searching my primary keyword expect to find on this page?

Our readers want actionable tips that the layman can understand and even accomplish on their own.

Establish a baseline.

Estimated time: 10 minutes.

Establishing a baseline can be done in a few ways, depending on the goal. For us, we’ve done an internal quantitative and qualitative analysis of both the keyword we want to rank for and our blogs. 

Qualitative metrics to gather include influence, awareness, the current state of a blog, and more. Think of qualitative metrics as the illustrations and tone of a story.  

Quantitative metrics to gather include the number of leads, backlinks, organic traffic, bounce rates, and more. Think of quantitative metrics as the numbers that tell the story.

Our findings showed that we have less than 10 SEO-centric articles on our blog of 60+ articles (at the time of posting this article). Because our objective is to be an expert, we know we want to add more articles with our unique insights to this category on our blog. In addition, the keyword is rated at a 24/100 scale for difficulty, meaning it’s a relatively easy keyword to rank for. The currently ranking pages have low authority scores that we can overtake and a small number of backlinks.

Organize assets.

Estimated time: 15 minutes.

For companies with an established process, this step may take less than 10 minutes. Content calendars are also vital to the success of this step.

When organizing assets, strategists need to consider both time and manpower. Ways to organize include:

    • Having a handy list of researchers, outliners, writers, and editors at your disposal.
    • Establishing a production date and working backward to plot out due dates for edits, writing, research, and more.
    • Knowing what additional resources will be needed to make the piece shine (like interviews and quotes, graphics, video, or other interactive media).

LMP organizes its assets in a unique way. Quarterly, we conduct keyword and seasonality research for a rough plot of what topics we’ll cover in a three-month period. We also work on a point-based system and have an established content production process. For a 2000-word article, it will take approximately 15 points to complete SEO research, outline, write, edit, create graphics, and produce the piece. Since we know what topics to cover in a given period and roughly how many points each is worth, it becomes a strategic puzzle of placing production dates at the best time for keyword seasonality and balancing internal writing with client-facing projects. 

Write, publish, and promote the content.

Estimated time: varies.

Once assets are organized and a plan is in place, the concrete work begins to produce the piece. From primary research to writing to editing, each team has its own process of how to create content. LMP breaks our process into SEO research, outlining, writing, two rounds of revisions, and production.

The job isn’t complete after hitting publish, though! There are many ways to promote your blog post after publishing it. Share it on all your social media accounts, send it in newsletters, email to contacts, and more to maximize the impact of your writing and to send quality traffic to the new piece.

Related article: 6 Things To Know When Starting Content Marketing 

Analyze the results of your content.

Estimated time: 20 minutes. 

After four to six months, evaluate the performance of the content. Ensure the content lives online long enough for Google to index it, for traffic to go to it, and for your team to promote. Otherwise, when evaluating metrics, there won’t be a large enough sample from which to glean insights.

Quantitative metrics are helpful in this step of the process as well:

    • Number of sessions.
    • Source of sessions.
    • Average time on page.
    • New vs. returning viewers.
    • Social shares.
    • Backlinks.
    • Rank of the target keyword in the piece.

The list above contains only a few of the many metrics strategists can track and analyze to evaluate success. Depending on the content’s objective and business KPIs, evaluation metrics may change from article to article. 

Building and executing a content strategy for each article is an involved process — and one Lightning Media Partners loves to do! If your business is looking for help to scale your content marketing efforts, shoot us a message to discover how our team can support yours.

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