10 Steps for Creating a Content Marketing Workflow
Part of an ongoing blogging strategy is developing a content workflow that can consistently and effectively produce high-quality content under deadlines. Everyone who runs a successful blog has a similar process in place. As a company, you can hire a good content marketing agency like mine, but we still have that process implemented on our end.
So, how can you set one up yourself?
Here are the ten steps involved in my content marketing workflow. This guide can serve as a solid workflow template for your process:
Step 1: Performing Topic Research
The first part of the process is performing research.
I will assume that you're not starting from scratch with a new site and that your core research is already done. Things like:
- Who your audience is
- What are your primary keywords
- What your brand perspective and image is
These are just a few examples of things you should already have nailed down. I'm talking about brainstorming and research for a particular topic and blog post. This content marketing strategy is a surprisingly deep topic, though, so most of what I'm writing here will be linking to other sources.
1. Find your narrow, long-tail target keyword.
You've already done your primary keyword research, but when it comes time to develop an individual blog post, you need to identify the specific keywords to target. Sometimes you have a content idea and need to find relevant keywords.
Sometimes you identify keywords and need to pick an appropriate topic. Either way, you need to nail this down first to understand the core of the content you're going to create.
2. Research how the topic can fit your brand.
Once you've identified a specific topic, you need to figure out your brand perspective on it. The same issue can be covered by different brands and have entirely different content, different views, and different conclusions. Find this alignment.
For example, I'm a content marketer; I'll typically discuss the role blogging fits into a process, how blogging can help the process, or why blogging is valuable. A PPC company might do the same thing with PPC instead of blogging.
3. Look into keyword metrics, like competition and volume.
With your keywords in hand, you need to look into the metrics and see if it's worth targeting. Competition is a big one; who else is writing about the topic? Do you have a unique spin that sets you apart, or would you just be writing the same thing but worse? Can you write the same thing, but better?
Volume is also significant. A keyword with too much volume might have too much competition to be worthwhile. A keyword with too little volume might not be worth the effort, even if you rank #1 for it. It's a balance, and every brand has different thresholds for these metrics.
4. Identify the buyer intent behind the keyword.
Your blog post needs to have a purpose. That's because every user has a reason for searching for a topic, and your content needs to align with their purpose. Purposes include:
- The user wants to get somewhere and is using Google to get there. For example, someone who types "maps" into Google is likely intending to visit Google Maps; writing a blog post about maps isn't likely to garner much traffic.
- The user wants to learn something about the topic. If you write educational content, you can capture this intent.
- The user wants to follow instructions to do something. By providing those instructions, you capture them.
These are just a few examples. You can read my complete guide to this here.
5. Pick which kind of content will work best for the topic.
By my reckoning, there are 12 types of content. Different types of content work best to capture different kinds of buyer intent for various keywords.
In fact, by combining one keyword with visitors with multiple goals and scattered content types, you can produce various pieces of content on the same subject. For example, let's say there's a keyword about iPhone batteries.
- iPhone Battery + DIY + Evergreen = A tutorial on how to replace an iPhone batter.
- iPhone Battery + Informational + News = A post about recent battery issues and recalls.
- iPhone Battery + Commercial + Announcements = An announcement of how users can now buy replacement batteries from your store.
One keyword forms three (or more) blog posts, all with distinct purposes, audiences, and focuses.
6. Pick your general conclusion.
Most posts will have a specific conclusion you want to reach. Maybe it's the successful completion of the task. Perhaps it's "all of that sucks to do, so just buy a replacement from us." Maybe it's purely informational. Whatever it is, knowing it in advance can be very useful.
Step 2: Creating a Brief
This step is optional if you're writing your content on your own. If you have a writer on staff or outsourcing to a content mill or freelance writer, giving them a brief can be essential. Why? Brief notes can provide the salient points the writer should consider, the framing, the conclusion, the purpose, the perspective, everything we came up with on the previous step.
What should a brief include?
- Your primary and any relevant secondary keywords.
- A description of the kinds of people you're trying to target with the content.
- Your buyer/user intent and goal for the post.
- The format. Is it a list, is it a tutorial, is it informational or editorial?
- The big overall idea and concept for the post.
- Any key points and salient information you want/need to be included.
- Any links or resources you want to be quoted, mentioned, or linked.
- Related topics to cover.
- Include anything that should be explicitly not covered or mentioned.
- The general call to action or action you want users to take next.
- A target word count.
How much of this you include depends on your situation. In some situations, briefs are entire blog post outlines.
Other times, many of my writers are familiar enough with about half of this list that I don't need to specify it and are proactive enough to research some of the other points on their own. The briefs I send those writes are often much shorter. On the other hand, if you're posting an assignment on a content mill, I would go deep and explicit on every one of them to maximize the chances you get a usable piece of writing out the other end.
The brief should be included in your editorial calendar by your digital marketing team. A content calendar helps you optimize your content management process and give your content marketing team members a greater amount of time for research and content planning. An editorial calendar can also streamline your process and alleviate bottlenecks to make sure you're never missing your due date. Who knows - you may even replace a topic and brief for a better one.
Step 3: Producing Content
This step is critical, yet there's not much to say about the content creation process. Writing the content is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Some content creators are very good at it, some have to struggle through every paragraph, and some prefer to outsource it. Some people start with detailed outlines; some write by the seat of their pants and rearrange and optimize later.
Everyone has a unique writing process. As long as the content that comes out the other end matches the brief template, and the content passes Copyscape and the smell test, it can be improved and perfected with your editorial process (listed below).
Step 4: Creating Media
Once the content is produced, it's time to make any associated media.
We create blog content that converts - not just for ourselves, but for our clients, too.
We pick blog topics like hedge funds pick stocks. Then, we create articles that are 10x better to earn the top spot.
Content marketing has two ingredients - content and marketing. We've earned our black belts in both.
What do I mean by media?
- Images to go in the blog post. Whether you're going with stock photos or you're fetching specific images or pictures of a process in action, this is high-priority media.
- Any videos you want to create for or embed in the post.
- Design infographics to promote your article and provide additional value.
- Include audio versions or podcast iterations of the post.
You can't create most of this until at least the rough draft of the post is ready to go. It can also take quite a bit of time to process, so you should get started early, especially if you have a lag from back-and-forth communication with a freelance media creator.
Step 5: Editing and Optimization
While media is being created, it's time to do your read-throughs and edit, optimize, and improve the content. There is often a significant difference between the first draft and the final optimized form. Polishing it up and implementing revisions is a critical step that, surprisingly, many businesses gloss over.
I tend to use many different tools for this, plus my expertise. (Every piece of content produced by Content Powered goes through me at some point.)
- Copyscape. I trust my writers to produce unique content, but it's still worth verifying, especially with new content writers. I also make sure block quotes and other passages don't trip plagiarism flags.
- Grammarly. I have a love/hate relationship with Grammarly. It's the best grammar and spelling checker on the market, but it has a lot of very dull, derivative, and samey style suggestions, and it's frequently just wrong with what it recommends. I'd say about 65-75% of what is recommended is worth at least addressing, though, so it can improve the content and assist with proofreading.
- Clearscope/Marketmuse. These are some powerful tools for SEO and keyword optimization. At the very least, they may recommend an angle or talking point that you forgot to touch on. Since I started using them, I've seen a pretty stark increase in post traffic and ranking.
I also do a simple read-through and check for things that only an experienced content producer can look for. For example:
- Logical flow. Does the post start with a premise, offer support and arguments, and conclude? Is it disjointed or lacking in a progression a user can follow?
- Does the content make the same points throughout the post, or does it contradict itself? Does it argue the same points and perspectives as other content on your blog, or does it contradict other posts you've written? Do simple things like brand names receive consistent and brand-appropriate capitalization and formatting?
Giving the post a read-through or three helps verify all of these aspects and ensure the content is as compelling as it can be.
Step 6: Uploading and CMS Management
At this point, you should be receiving the media you've ordered, and it's time to put everything together.
- Upload the content to your CMS (content management system like WordPress).
- Add your images.
- Add formatting, like using
H3tags, bold, underline, and lists.
- Add meta information to the images, like your alt text.
- Add links, both internal and external. Make sure you add any relevant
rel="sponsored"attributes where necessary.
Once you're done with this step, your post should be almost entirely ready to publish. You're not quite there yet, though.
Step 7: Meta and SEO Details
This final pass-through adds in any additional SEO, widget, plugin, or other details.
- Specify your meta title and description for the post.
- Specify any OG Graph Attributes for Facebook and Twitter cards/previews.
- Make sure keywords are peppered in where they should be. The previous optimization steps should cover this, but a final once-over is never a bad idea.
- Implement any in-content widgets like call-to-action boxes or embeds.
- Add and format any Schema.org rich metadata.
Again, how much you add to this and what exact step of the process you cover each one depends on your workflow. These steps are roughly listed in the order that I optimize them, but I've talked to people with very different (but equally effective) processes.
Step 8: Scheduling
Ideally, you should be clicking "schedule" to schedule the post for publication in the future. Nine times out of ten, you won't be clicking "publish" at the end of this process. I generally prefer at minimum two weeks of leeway, but often as much as a month or more. In some cases, I would even argue that building up to a six-month backlog is a good idea. At the very least, your core content, skyscraper content, and flagship content can be developed and scheduled ahead of time, leaving gaps for more timely content along the way.
Scheduling also involves creating social media posts. Create and schedule Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Medium, Reddit, and other posts on various social media platforms. These will go live with the content once it's published.
In some cases, particularly with larger websites, scheduling the final draft of the article calls for another editorial pass and an approval process. When an article is finalized and ready to go live, and when it's scheduled for a specific date, your team has one last chance to review it and make sure it's polished and ready to go.
Step 9: Promotion
Once the content is live, it has to be promoted. Some of this you can even do before it goes live, but most of it happens once publication arrives.
Here are a few examples:
- Send out the link in your following regularly-scheduled newsletter.
- Continue to share and promote the content on social media.
- Respond to people commenting on social media.
- Reach out to relevant bloggers and promote the content.
- Work on building links to the content.
Your exact promotion engine will vary as well. I skip some of these steps because I'm producing content for other brands, and they have other professionals managing their social media and newsletter. If you're doing it all for your blog, you may want to invest more into it.
Step 10: Maintenance
The final step is maintenance. Content ages. You have to decide how to let it age and how often you want to update your blog posts.
First, determine if the blog posts you're creating will be maintained or not. Generally, content falls into three categories:
- Timely content that isn't worth looking at later, like news posts.
- Tutorial content that won't change, like repairing a piece of electronic equipment.
- Evergreen content - the category that most of my articles fall under on this blog. It would help if you kept these detailed guides up to date. They are the highest maintenance and require ongoing effort to stay relevant to rank well.
You should also monitor comments and other engagement and respond appropriately. Remove spam, respond to good remarks, reply to outreach, and so on.
You should also keep an eye on the topic in general and see if it comes up in the news or in trends, which you can capitalize on by sending it through your promotion engine again. This process is a large part of the ongoing work of running an online business.
Some parts of the maintenance process can be achieved with automation. For example, the Ahrefs WordPress plugin will give you real-time notifications in your dashboard if a blog post needs an edit or rewrite. This can save time by pulling traffic figures from Google and Ahrefs to spot inefficiencies. You may even find content that you want to prune.
So, there you have it, as comprehensive a rundown of the content production pipeline as I can make based on my own experience. Do you have anything to add? If so, let me know in the comments below.