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Unlocking the Mystery: A Beginner’s Guide to Content Planning

A content plan is comprised of all the marketing assets and data-gathering functions needed to achieve the goals outlined in your content strategy. Everything from SEO research and engagement tracking to blogging and white paper writing, is included in a content plan. Your content plan will align with your content levels and scale as you increase your content marketing budget.

You’ve embraced the value of content marketing for generating hot leads, drumming up audience engagement, and making your brand shine online. Now, how do you keep up? Getting organized with a content plan (this should be a complementary document piggybacking your content strategy, FYI) will allow you to be consistent with your marketing efforts and put focus on your strategy’s needs and projected outcomes.

What is a content plan?

A content plan is comprised of all the marketing assets and data-gathering functions needed to achieve the goals outlined in your content strategy. Everything from SEO research and engagement tracking to blogging and white paper writing is included in a content plan. Your content plan will align with your content levels and scale as you increase your content marketing budget.

When it comes to assets, what resonates with your audience can be found via detailed audience analysis and through identifying your content levels, or how your content supports your branding. One approach has risen to the top, creating ample water cooler chatter in the content marketing community. In SEMRush’s The State of Content Marketing 2019 Global Report, an analysis of over 700,000 articles revealed long pillar-style blog posts of 3,000 words or more tend to get triple the traffic and quadruple the shares of a more standard 901-1200 word blog post. Note to you: Embrace long-form content. Now, back to that plan.

A content plan is aligned with your inbound marketing funnel with the following core stages: awareness, consideration, conversion, and decision. The end goal for the majority of marketers? Lead generation.

Everyone on your marketing team — in-house and outsourced — should have access to your content plan, content strategy, and customer journey so they can see how these key documents work together to form your overall content marketing initiative.

What is the difference between a content plan and a content strategy?

Wait, aren’t a content marketing strategy and a content plan essentially the same thing? It’s a common misconception, and honestly, we see the terms used interchangeably way too often.

The content strategy lays the groundwork for what you need to include in your content plan, which is then followed by content production. These are three foundational stair-step layers that lead to content publishing and distribution at the top of your content marketing approach.

Think of it this way: Your content plan is made of building blocks (assets, reports, outreach) chosen based on the goals outlined in your content strategy. If your goals feel a little wishy-washy, do your brand a favor and get clear on why you’re doing what you do.

What questions should you ask when executing a content plan to fulfill a content strategy?

As you document your content plan based on the objectives detailed in your strategy, work with your team to think beyond the tangible creation phase of your content plan, and understand how and why you’re doing this at all.

How does SEO factor into the greater picture?

You probably have a document that lists the top 10 or so keywords and long-tail keyword phrases you want your overall website to rank for. Perfect. When you create a content plan, however, it’s time to go a level deeper and optimize each piece of content individually for search and intent-based queries.

What types of questions are people asking about and around your product or service? Is your content optimized to address those concerns?

Does your content plan fit your current needs?

It’s imperative to conduct a keyword audit of your website every six months to a year to flow with shifts in content marketing trends and audience engagement methods. Have you considered integrating trending peripheral keywords that offer opportunities to speak to a niche audience? Have you examined your current competitors and their keywording? Regular monitoring and updating keep your content plan in alignment with your goals.

How are you approaching on-site and off-site content?

Writing for your company blog isn’t enough. Have you included opportunities to create content for partner websites, and other branded websites under the umbrella of your parent company, or for industry-leading publications with killer domain authority (DA) and organic search engine traffic? When you want greater visibility online, you have to branch out and secure bylines and press mentions beyond your home domain.

Is the content segmented in a way that aligns with your strategy?

As you brainstorm what you’ll create, have you mapped it to a specific stage in your customer journey? Have you identified the keywords you want your content to rank for? Did you share the specific buyer persona to keep in mind during the content creation phase with the writers?

Here’s how to create and budget your content plan (with sample scenarios).

Let’s talk about dollars and deliverables. The more you invest in your marketing budget, the more outreach, lead generation, consumer engagement, and profits you’re going to intrinsically generate. Feed the fire, as they say.

Scenario 1: $5K per month

A great starting point for SMB is budgeting $5k per month for an outsourced agency, such as Socialgenix.

Although content marketing needs vary from business to business, this is a sample of a content plan you could expect to receive over a year with a $5K monthly budget:

  • Technical and keyword audit (once annually)
  • Ongoing SERP reporting
  • 12 pieces of off-site content (one per month)
  • 2 white papers (one every 6 months)
  • 30 SEO standard blog posts (2-3 per month)
  • 2 SEO long-form pillar blog posts or landing pages (one every 6 months)

The types of content produced would shift to meet your needs. Do your consumers thrive on YouTube tutorials rather than white papers? Cool. Funnel those dollars into video production. Every content plan is malleable and ready to pivot based on incoming audience and SERP data.

To keep everything organized and consistent, you’ll need an editorial calendar specific to your content plan. This is a day-by-day map of the creative workflow to produce each of the content assets in the content plan. We offer an editorial calendar internally to Socialgenix clients who use our platform, but you could also work with a cloud-based system like Google Docs or Google Calendar.

Be sure your editorial calendar offers monthly, quarterly, and annual snapshots to assist with long-range reporting and visual check-ins.

Scenario 2: $10K per month

As you build up your publishing cadence and audience, consider bumping your budget up to $10K. For the added investment, you gain more content assets, assistance with nurturing direct relationships (think email drip campaigns to stay top-of-mind with prospects in a specific vertical or the opportunity to draw satisfied customers back into the funnel at the repeat stage), and an increase in data gathering to further inform your content strategy.

In addition to the foundation elements listed in the $5k per month content plan above, you might consider increasing your pieces of off-site content to 16 per year, working up four additional white papers, and bumping your standard blog post output to 44 and pillar posts to four. Your budget would also have room for four mentions in the press, four infographics, a quarterly newsletter, and four industry-specific drip campaigns. You could also toss in three months of paid amplification testing to learn even more about how your content performs so you can effectively re-target your warm leads.

This boost in attention to your marketing ultimately helps you stay consistent with your publishing cycle, make a name for your brand and climb to the top of those Google results.

Scenario 3: $15k per month

When you’re ready to scale, this content plan delivers volume, consistency, and ongoing search analytics to even further inform your marketing team and get in front of your customers.

A quick breakdown of what you might enjoy for 15K per month based on the samples we’ve been sharing at the previous two pricing tiers include:

  • Everything from the $10k budget
  • 6 additional pieces of off-site content
  • 2 additional press mentions
  • 2 additional white papers
  • 28 additional blog posts
  • 4 additional pillar posts
  • 4 case studies
  • Social media posts and distribution

Here you’ll notice the addition of case studies. These evidence-driven narratives are often seen as the holy grail of content assets since they allow the sales team to understand how marketing worked its magic from start to finish while serving as impactful lead-nurturing devices that stimulate awareness and trigger conversions. Case studies can easily become the workhorses of your content plan. As a bonus, they’re easily repurposed into social media snippets, blog posts, and testimonials.

Creating content: In-house vs. outsourced, which should you choose?

Initially, it makes sense to see what your team can do. If you have a well-rounded internal marketing department complete with a director of marketing, a marketing analyst, content strategists, content creators, and a content director, hit the ground running and do this thing!

But for most businesses, it’s not uncommon to realize that you simply don’t have the employee bandwidth or expertise to roll out the type of marketing campaigns you dream about executing. And, that’s pretty normal.

MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) teamed up to create the 2020 B2C Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends report. In this 10th annual survey, they discovered the majority of respondents outsource at least one content marketing activity. The top task to delegate? Content creation.

The majority of organizations reported having a small or one-person marketing department. So, it’s no surprise that 55 percent of B2C marketers outsource their content marketing planning and execution. And surprisingly, larger businesses with 100+ employees were more likely to outsource than smaller organizations.

Creating content takes time and talent. A basic team of content creators would include a managing editor, writers, copy editor, and designer. As your budget and content plan grow, you’ll also need to expand upon those resources. For example, at the $5k budget, you’ll need approximately 4-8 writers available. At $10k, you should have 6-12 writers working on your projects and for $15k a month, you’ll need 8-16 writers and a dedicated social media manager to get the job done.

If you’re feeling the crunch to “do it all” at your organization, it’s probably time to find a partner content marketing platform, like Socialgenix. Not only can we help you develop your content plan (and strategy if it’s not already in place), but our team of talented freelancers is ready to craft content that aligns with your marketing funnel stages and content levels perfectly. Yep. Content creation is the core competency of our Talent Network, and they’re pretty awesome.

How do you assess success and adjust content creation to meet your goals?

The definition of success varies based on your company’s content strategy goals. Is it donations for a non-profit? Is it follower numbers on Instagram? Is it leads in your sales team members’ inboxes? For most of these scenarios, a general metric of success is volume. We all want more of whatever our goal dictates.

When your content plan includes paid amplification, ongoing SERP reporting, and real-time analytics reports based on your KPIs, you can see if your content plan is indeed moving you toward your goals, thus success. As you move forward in your content marketing initiatives you’ll see daily, weekly, and monthly trends over time and discover if you’re moving at the pace and scale you initially anticipated. If you’re not getting the ROI you need, reassess your content creation efforts.

  • Which assets are driving the results you need?
  • How many leads are you getting? What’s the quality of those leads?
  • Can you shift your budget from lower-performing outreach methods to those that are bringing in the numbers?
  • How are your leads converting? And, at what rate?
  • Are you getting referral traffic from your off-site content and media mentions?
  • How much time are readers spending on each page? Are bounce rates decreasing?
  • How are your current keywords performing? What’s the traffic like around them?
  • Is the content speaking to your buyer personas? Does your customer journey need to be restructured?
  • Are you overlooking a content type that your audience wants to be active with?
  • Have you created custom metrics that pertain specifically to your brand? (For example, sales numbers per store location, rather than as a company overall.)
  • Or maybe everything is working (Hallelujah!) and you need to get approval for an increase in the marketing budget?

Influence & Co. outlines metrics you should focus on based on goals tied to thought leadership, lead generation, and SEO. Read that blog post here for more inspiration.

As you dig into the analytics, know that it’s common for businesses to identify times of the year when their numbers dip and spike. Summer months are often slower for online traffic as summer vacations and outdoor activities draw people away from their devices. Then the holiday season emerges and everyone takes to their favorite search functions to find the perfect gifts, holiday meal plans, and flight deals.

Once you learn how your industry, and specifically your consumers, ebb and flow, you can adjust your content creation needs to meet them not only where, but when they are engaging most with your brand online. And, be patient! It takes, on average, four to five months to start seeing a consistent upward trend in higher-quality, targeted leads.

Content marketing is a long-term effort with lasting results.

If you’re ready to elevate your marketing approach, SocialGenix can help. Let’s get your content plan documented and our team of creative freelancers on board with your content creation needs.

If you’re ready to elevate your marketing approach, SocialGenix can help. Let’s get your content plan documented and our team of creative freelancers on board with your content creation needs.


Written by Genix Bot

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