We get approached quite a lot these days by companies aiming at building a team and the necessary processes to get a content machine started, in order to leverage the value of a consistent, targeted, optimized content creation process.
There might be other approaches, here is mine:
(1) Target research
Whatever content you produce should be aimed at somebody.
This article, for example, is targeting business owners who want to grow their client + revenue base and create an organic audience consistently that is going to discover their brand on search engines.
Did I get my targeting right?
Is that you?
The better you know your target audience, the better you will be able to address their doubts, questions and problems. (Spoiler alert: their questions about your industry are kind of important here)
(2) Keyword research
Once you know your target group well, first: research again, you can probably find out more about them.
Once you are done, use a tool like ahrefs to perform a first, generic keyword research about your industry. The keyword research is going to tell you how your audience is using Google to research things about your industry they want to know. Those things are going to be the foundational pieces of your content creation.
(3) Design your content structure
If there is one thing I see time and again when performing a site audit, it’s websites that have been adding articles every week or month to their website over years, without ever considering how the different articles are related to each other.
I strongly advise every client to map out the content before you create it, and make sure you define what is going to be a pillar content, and what is going to be a supporting content.
In my agency we use a Google spreadsheet template for this, reach out to me and I’ll happily share it with you for free.
(4) Specific topic research
Once you know the topic you would like to write about, you can do more research: check Google, forums, facebook groups, reddit – find out whatever you can about what users would like to know about that topic. Your findings might make you come up with future sub-topics which is fine, add them to your content map and make notes where necessary.
(5) Top 10 analysis
You know your audience, you have learned how they search on Google, you know where the piece of content you are about to write is going to go in the overall structure, and you have researched the topic more closely.
Now, let’s get one thing crystal clear:
In order to rank high on Google, your content needs to match what Google wants to show.
There is a misconception, most businesses believe they know what users want to read – but that’s not necessarily true, and not necessarily what could be interesting for your target audience corresponds to what Google wants to rank on page 1.
Before our clients write a piece of content they consider important to drive traffic to their site, we create a content brief for them. A content brief is essentially a research of the top 10 pages that rank on Google for the search query they want to get traffic from.
A content brief is going to give you all the details, your main competitors, NLP based topic (entity) extraction, and more information about what is it that Google needs to see on your article in order to even consider it for a page 1 ranking.
(6) Content creation
After the 5 previous steps, you are now ready to create your content, based on your findings from the content brief or the top 10 research on Google. Aim at matching what’s ranking right now, and then figure out how to make it better. SEO / inbound marketing is a “+1” game: everybody needs to be just a little bit better than the currently ranking competition.
Do competitors have videos embedded? Maybe you will also need a video.
Do they explain their point with infographics? Have your designer create one.
Do they offer a PDF summary download? Why shouldn’t you do the same.
You get the point.
One of the easiest way to outrank a page 1 ranking piece of content is to add some illustration to your article if they don’t have any.
There are still many niches where page 1 ranking pages are just plain text with maybe a small initial header image on top. If you can make your content more engaging and “fun to read”, you might have the necessary tools to rank.
The best content is not going to help you if it isn’t consumed by your target audience. Content promotion deserves its own article and should cover both, ads and outreach based promotion. In this summary, I just want you to know that your content machine doesn’t stop with content creation – you will need to promote it.
For every consistent process, constant evaluation is key. You don’t want to keep doing the same things without evaluating how your content performs. Make sure you gather KPIs like organic visitors, bounce rates, opt-in rates, dwell time, scrolling metrics, etc. to learn how different pieces of content perform among your target audience. Those details will help you craft even better performing content in the future.
(10) Rinse and repeat
If you nail the process until this step, you are ready to scale: bring in more team members, train them on the process, get better writers and especially, try to get external consulting at least once a month to make sure your process is on track with current SEO best practices.