Blog content planner: your ultimate 10-minute guide
A blog content planner is an extremely useful tool for content marketers. It helps keep your blog content aligned with your commercial goals. It ensures blogs are ready in time for other marketing activity they need to support. And it provides a means for stakeholders to keep track of what you’re doing.
In this essential guide we’ll share our tips for creating a really effective blog content planner for your business. This is based on our extensive experience creating and writing blogs for hundreds of clients. We publish more than 250,000 words every month and blogs remain our most popular editorial product.
Your blog content planner: 6 super-useful elements
We’ve organised our essential guide to blog content planners around 6 elements. We believe each one can help you create a more user-friendly, results-focussed planner for your company blog.
#1: Tying your blog planning to your business goals
Every content marketing strategy should start with goals.
What are the tangible, measurable actions you want your marketing activities to drive?
We would recommend tagging every post in your blog content planner with a goal.
That means before you write each post you think clearly about what user action you want it to support. This ensures that your writers are clear on why they’re doing what they’re doing.
A goal doesn’t need to be a sale.
But it should be something you can easily measure and ideally something that identifies the user. Here are some examples of goals we regularly promote on clients’ blogs:
- Social media follow or share
- Newsletter sign up
- Gated download (case study, whitepaper, ebook)
- Webinar registration
- Free consultation / free trial / speak to sales
You’ll notice that these goals apply to different stages of the sales funnel.
Often blogging is incorrectly pigeon-holed as a top-of-funnel activity.
But you have total control over what you put on your blog. In our view, your blog can support your business at every funnel stage.
Posts that answer questions your audience asks when they’re researching topics related to your products or services are great for introducing your brand to new users (top-of-funnel).
But blogs can also re-engage users who already know you and help push them towards mid-commitment goals, such as a download or a webinar (mid-funnel).
And blogs that dig into the details of how your products work or highlight your USPs can help build trust and win deals (bottom-of-funnel).
If your blog content planner prominently displays your goals you’ll easily be able to see where your focus is. If part of your sales funnel is being neglected, you’ll have the option to adjust your plan.
#2: Connect your blog content plan to your social media
One of the biggest challenges in content marketing is all the moving parts. Respondents to last year’s Content Marketing in Australia by the CMI said they used, on average, 5.5 content types as part of their strategies.
Gone are the days when content marketing started and stopped on the blog.
Now it’s likely your blog is part of an integrated strategy that needs to line up with your website, social media channels and email, as well as offline activities, such as events, trade shows and product launches.
Let’s look a bit closer at social media.
According to Buffer’s State of Social Media 2019, almost 60 per cent of marketers rated social media as a “very important” part of their overall marketing strategy. And two thirds said they planned to increase their social media spend.
A big share of that budget will be going to influencer marketing and creating dedicated content for their preferred social media sites.
But social media is also an excellent platform for blog distribution.
We always recommend at least two channels to promote your content. When you publish a new blog post you shouldn’t rely just on SEO to get it seen.
Promoting your blogs on social media and supporting them with ad spend opens up another front in your battle for attention.
If your blog content planner includes social distribution you can set out which social media site or sites you want to send each post to. And you can decide how to allocate your ad spend.
According to Gartner, brands spend up to 25 per cent of their marketing budgets on promotion. So if social media is your primary distribution channel for your blog, you might spend $1 on promoted social media posts for every $3 on writing blogs.
#3: Use your blog content planner to feed your emails
According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018, c-level execs rate email as the best way to connect with sales prospects. And email is the most popular form of business communication.
Email is the OG of digital marketing
One of the first digital marketing tactics.
And still one of the most effective.
That’s especially true when email is powered by marketing automation. And when it is fed with regular blog content.
A key deliverable for your blog content planner should be to spit out enough of the right content to support your email strategy.
If you send a newsletter and run regular drip email campaigns you need content.
That content needs to be ready on time. And it needs to be on the right topics.
We use Google Ads, SEO and email to drive our inbound marketing. Email remains our most effective channel for generating warm leads.
Including email distribution or structuring your whole blog content planner around email will ensure you can maintain an active email strategy. You won’t send an empty newsletter. And you’ll always have the material you need for your next drip email campaign.
#4: Keyword rankings and other KPIs to monitor success
We push a hub and spoke strategy for blogs.
HubSpot calls this Pillar and Cluster.
It works like this:
- Take a particular topic that’s important to your business
- Identify the most valuable keyword for that topic
- Research and plan an in-depth, extended blog post targeting your keyword (we call this “Cornerstone” content)
- Then research and write a series of shorter posts on related subjects and stories
- Link between your Cornerstone content and your related, follow-up posts
This strategy is a really effective way to organise your blog. It makes it much easier for users and search engines to navigate your content and find more information on a particular topic.
Your blog content planner should identify the target keyword for each blog post. And you should link out to a planning document that shows your writers how to beat the competition, what topics to cover and what questions to answer.
You can then track how your blog posts are performing in organic search. We use SEMrush, other similar services are available.
SEMrush allows you to track how your blogs rank for their target keywords. This is a KPI if your blog is there to drive organic search traffic to your site. And your blog should really do that as well as whatever else you use it for.
#5: Using your blog content planner to engage and win over stakeholders
Why does content marketing fail?
The answer is not because it doesn’t work. Our sales would grind to a halt without our content marketing strategy. Content, promoted through SEO, SEM and email, drives the warm leads that powers our business.
Content marketing fails when you stop doing it.
You don’t create enough content. You don’t promote it properly. And you give up before you start to see results.
Your blog content planner is an excellent way to keep stakeholders focussed on the long-term.
It will map out your blog posts, what you want them to achieve and how they support the rest of your marketing activity.
Your marketing team, your agencies and your bosses can see the bigger picture. They can see the roadmap to success. Your blog content planner shows them that there is a lot more to it than the next post.
This can really help you – as a committed content marketer – to keep decision makers onside.
Buy-in and support from c-level execs are essential for success. The people deciding your budget need to be convinced of the goals and timeframe of your content marketing strategy. Without them, none of your cool ideas will ever see the light of day.
#6: Managing workflows for more complex blog posts
Some blogs are easier to create than others.
In some cases, it’s mostly text created by a single contributor.
But often times blogs are more complex than that.
They might include different types of content that each need specialist creative talent (infographics, video, custom widgets).
You might be trying to incorporate user generated content or curated social media posts that cut across more than one internal team.
Or your next blog post might be part of a workflow with dependencies at each stage.
Your blog content planner is the place to organise not just what you’re doing, but who’s doing it and when each bit needs to be ready.
Here’s a simple example:
When we plan content for this blog, we have to have enough new content ready for the newsletter (weekly), an asset launch (also weekly) and various drip campaigns (usually monthly).
Before writing can start, the cornerstone blogs (longer, more in-depth pieces, each targeting a valuable keyword) need what we call a Search Performance Brief.
A Search Performance Brief (or SPB) is the result of dedicated research by our strategy team to identify what users want from the ultimate piece of content on a given topic.
Without the SPB, the writing can’t start. If the writing starts late, the writer might have another article that needs their attention first. All the while the next newsletter deadline is looming.
Our blog content planner is where we organise these steps and ensure that – as much as possible – each part happens when it’s supposed to.
If this article got published on June 17th, then it at least worked on this occasion.