Content Production Process: How to Scale Content Creation
Aug 9, 2019|Read time: 13 min.
- Fortune 1000 and large ecommerce sites need scalable content strategies to 10X SEO results.
- Before you begin producing content, define your goals and place as much importance on the planning process as the actual content production process.
- Develop a content strategy based on keyword research and the customer journey. Then, create a content calendar and style guides.
- Implement workflows and use project management software to streamline your content production process.
- 10X your content production with half the work by atomizing your content.
- Continually optimize your content production by looking at organic search traffic, conducting audits, measuring engagement, tracking conversions, and utilizing behavioral analytics.
We all know that a great content strategy is essential to SEO. But when you’re operating at scale, both your content and SEO strategy have a lot of heavy lifting to do before they can move the needle. In fact, digital content production alone won’t cut it.
Fortune 1000 sites like Intel or major ecommerce sites like Macy’s, for example, can’t rely solely on a strong blog strategy or on-page optimization if they want to see organic returns. Sites with thousands of product pages and millions of visitors must approach content differently.
So, how can you move toward 10X content production – without putting in 10X the work? Build a process for every part of the strategy and implement content atomization to create multiple iterations of core content pieces.
Here’s how to make sure your content marketing efforts all comes together:
Before content production begins
With all the benefits of content marketing, it’s easy to want to jump the gun. But to extract 10X the ROI, you’ve got to have a plan before you begin.
In a full-scale content strategy, the amount of time you’ll spend on content production may be less than the time you’ll spend planning. It’s a little like throwing a big event: sure, the way the event runs the day-of is arguably everything. But the months of content planning and coordination beforehand are what determine the event’s success.
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Define content goals
What are the goals of your content? Consider the audience segment you are targeting and tie in hard numbers. How many new visitors will the content attract? What overall impact will the content strategy have on brand recognition, organic traffic, mailing list opt-ins, and revenue?
Consider how your goals should be different based on your different audience segments. For example, if you’re running a financial services SEO campaign for a global company like M&T Bank, you would have very different content goals for home-buying millennials vs parents of college-bound students.
Then think about the things that would signify a “conversion” for various content types. Sometimes your conversions will be sales. Other times they’ll look like a new site visitor reading an article and exploring the rest of the site. In other instances they’ll be comments or other indicators of an engaged audience. And yet other times you’ll want them to sign up for a related webinar, download a related ebook, or use an interactive tool.
Your goals will change as you move from the “awareness” stage of the purchase funnel all the way down to the “purchase” phase. Read more about funnels in this post about ToFu, MoFu and BoFu.
Assign team member roles
Define roles for each content team member beforehand. This isn’t just about role-setting and expectations, but also about setting up a seamless, efficient communication and process flow. Designate individual point-people for each part of the production process and establish a system of strategizing, brainstorming, creating, editing, publishing, and sharing that doesn’t change from content cycle to content cycle.
Conduct keyword research
SEO should underpin your content strategy. Data you’ll glean from keyword research won’t just ensure that your content sees an organic return; it will also teach you about your audience. What do your customers care about? Which topics are they interested in? What solutions are they looking for?
Remember to include long-tail keyword research in your content plan, mixing in short-tail keywords where they make sense.
Map keywords to the customer journey
Map the customer journey stages (awareness, consideration, and purchase) to your goals. Then, use the map you created as a cross-reference for your keyword research. This will ensure that each target audience member gets the exact content they need at precisely the right moment in the conversion funnel.
Develop your content strategy
By now you should have a good content strategy framework, so it’s time to build it out. What initiatives will inform your strategy each year and each quarter? How often will the content marketing team get together to brainstorm? Where does keyword research fall in the process? How will you allocate resources to produce content for each audience type and persona? What outcomes are you looking for when your audience consumes your content, and how will you measure success? For instance, your ultimate goal may be to improve your customer lifetime value by keeping people engaged after a purchase.
Building out your content strategy template should include additional research, like performing content audits on your own site and competing websites. And once they’re complete, determine the regularity with which recurring competitor research will make it into your content process.
Choose the types of content marketing
What kind of content marketing formats are well-suited for each topic and audience segment? How many content marketing examples will you brainstorm and produce each month per format? What additional resources will you need to make sure these types of content are executed? This is the part where you will start to see your logistical approach take shape.
Define your publication frequency for blog posts, articles, resources, videos, infographics, white papers, social media posts, podcasts, and guest posts. Do you have enough people in-house to handle the editorial flow. If not, perhaps you will need to hire/outsource to freelance content writers?
Digital content production companies vs freelancers
A digital content production agency can easily help you scale output. However, you’ll need to weigh the benefits against the costs.
On the other hand, freelance writers are a much cheaper alternative to a full service branded content production company, but they also come with challenges of their own. For example, will you work with an outsourcing agency, or find individual writers? How will you retain those writers or manage their projects if they have multiple clients? Will you get deliverables when you need them?
In addition to cost, you’ll also need to determine who will be in charge of coordinating the micro-processes that are involved in communicating with outside team members. For instance, who will edit the content for brand voice and check for grammar mistakes and plagiarism?
Create a content calendar
When it’s time to task out your content production pushes, the editorial calendar provides a vital roadmap. Allow key dates and initiatives to anchor your calendar first. Schedule out the content leading up to holidays, product releases and major digital marketing initiatives. Then fill in the gaps with engaging content that’s more evergreen. Your calendar will also help you atomize your content creation, since each topic can be executed in different formats that flow into each other.
Many brands choose to integrate their content calendar into their project management software, assigning each task as it’s created. CoSchedule is a marketing project management tool that makes content calendar integration a breeze (read more about this below).
Create style guides
Beginning with your existing brand style guides, create a style guide that will cover all the additional information that your content team needs to know. What voice and tone should the content use? How will this voice and tone change to meet the different needs of each format and buyer persona? Address each format and audience separately, linking to examples whenever possible.
Still need to define your audience? Use these stellar buyer persona examples to map your customer interests.
Your style guide is also the place to address any nitty gritty subjective stuff your team may encounter, like when multiple forms of a word are correct but you want to create brand-wide consistency. For example, is your company pro- or anti-Oxford comma? You may also encounter industry terms with multiple spelling variations, like SEO for ecommerce vs “e-commerce” or link building vs link-building. Pick a favorite and set the standard to reduce inconsistencies and editorial confusion across your company’s whole content landscape.
Implement a content production process
In order to scale your output, you need to establish a content production process, including workflows, technology, and team structure.
Deploy content workflows and processes
And now the fun begins! During the strategy portion you built your engine, but now it’s time to tweak it and make sure everything is a) connected and b) communicating as efficiently as possible. Create a standard timeline for each type of content and build its editorial flow, making sure that deadlines and handoffs are clear and there’s a system in place for identifying and addressing roadblocks.
The more that you establish detailed workflows and processes, the easier it will be to scale your enterprise SEO efforts and achieve 10X content production gains. Put another way, without defined workflows and processes, your brand will find it extremely difficult to scale your content production sustainably.
Use project management software to produce content efficiently
Project management software is your best friend for producing high quality content at scale. Use the software your company has already onboarded with, and add a supplemental content management system if your current software isn’t ideal for creative work. Here’s a quick run-down of some popular project management platforms and content production tools:
The only tool on our list built specifically for editorial production and management, CoSchedule is part content calendar, part workflow framework, and part task management system. While calendar integrations do exist in the other platforms, this system is driven by the content calendar. That means you have all the tools you need to operate your entire production and task management process from your calendar.
If your team clashes over how the workflow is organized and presented, AirTable is a great answer. The platform moves seamlessly between several different organizational formats, including calendar, spreadsheet, kanban board, gallery, and form. The diversity of options is enough to satisfy many different working styles.
Basecamp is one of the oldest project management tools on our list, but it’s not showing its age. In fact, the company is quick to adapt to new interfaces and customer needs. The platform continues to shine when it comes to detailed, project-based conversations. Its age and ubiquity makes it an asset in the project management world. You’re unlikely to encounter new employees who have never used Basecamp before, which means they’ll be able to get their feet wet right away instead of having to learn a new platform.
Asana is the only tool on our list that offers a timeline view, which can be used to provide your team with an intuitive visual of content flow. And like AirTable, it lets you switch views easily.
Another platform geared toward visual learners, Trello polishes up the kanban format until it’s feature-rich and beautiful. The moveable cards are a great way to illustrate where various pieces of content are in the production cycle, so it’s easier for team members to know when the ball is in their court.
When you need to build processes into your content marketing strategy, Process Street’s ability to templatize makes it a breeze. You should have a system in place for every standard type of content, campaign, and product release. With Process Street you’ll be able to replicate and build on those systems instead of reinventing the wheel with every new content cycle.
Atomize your content
It’s difficult to create great content at scale. However, you can overcome that hurdle through content atomization. Simply put, content atomization is the process of creating different content pieces from a single source base piece.
Create iterative content pieces
For example, if you have one white paper about student loans that is 70% applicable to other verticals like auto loans, home loans, bad credit loans, and personal loans (not to mention other potential sub-topics such as secured vs. unsecured personal loans, fixed-rate vs. variable rate personal loans, debt consolidation loans, etc.), you could templatize the base white paper and then customize the other 30% as needed in producing an individual white paper for each vertical and sub-topic.
Boom! You’ve got dozens of hyper-specific white papers for half the work.
Produce content in different formats
After you create all those white papers, repurpose that same content into other formats. You’ll expand your coverage, reach more people, and deliver content to new users in the specific format that they prefer. After all, some people prefer reading, while others are visual learners, and others still are auditory learners, etc.
Take a look at all the different types of visual content marketing formats you can create from a single white paper.
- Blog posts
- Guest posts
- SlideShare presentations
- Board games
- computer games
Create a series of connected content
Another effective method for 10X content production through content atomization is to create a series on a specific topic. Take the student loans white paper example. Don’t simply produce a white paper about student loans and then create similar versions in different formats. Instead, break the content down into stages with a series that helps your audience understand student loans. You can cover all of the critical options involved, how to evaluate student loans, how to effectively compare student loans, the most common mistakes to avoid, strategies for paying off the loans, along with other related topics.
In this way, you can create a highly cohesive blog series out of your white paper. And a video series, podcast series, webinar series, etc.
Multiply this across each vertical and sub-topic, and you have an exponentially greater volume of content from your original single white paper. Imagine the business impact from this tsunami of content compared to one isolated content piece in only one format.
Content atomization expands your marketing strategy reach and envelops your target audience with your content. No matter where they turn, whether it’s Google or YouTube or SlideShare or elsewhere, they keep running into your content. You keep grabbing their attention over and over again. This has the effect of making them feel that you’re an authority on the topic, a leader in the space, and a brand to be trusted.
Use a content production calendar
The secret to a smoothly running content strategy? Deadlines for every stage of the process, not just for the draft and final edit. From brainstorming to checking the links on the final on-site piece, every deadline should be clear not just to the people involved in each stage, but to the people who are receiving the hand-off. For shorter projects like blog posts, it’s helpful to stick to the same day each week for each part of the process. That will help your team get used to the flow of a routine.
It’s all too easy to back-burner non-priority assignments until they, well, become a priority. But rushing from last-minute deadline to last-minute deadline is a quick way to burn out your entire team.
Lots of people (content creators especially) say they work best under pressure. But the fact is, it only takes a little bit of stress to push people beyond their optimal stress level. And when they’re beyond their optimal level, they can’t do their best work.
Give everybody some breathing room and set each deadline well in advance of the target publication date. It’s also important to build in an extra buffer every time the content changes hands. If you notice the team slipping behind, pull a non-priority piece of content or outsource some of the production to a freelancer who can produce content faster. If it happens consistently, bigger changes are in order. Perhaps your target pace wasn’t realistic, or perhaps you need to hire more people.
Measure content marketing ROI
Optimizing your content production isn’t about producing as much content as possible only for the sake of having content. That would be a waste of time and resources. Rather, it’s about creating a scalable process that turns your content into a strategic advantage that drives better ROI on your SEO spend.
So, once all your fantastic content is out in the world, measure the content marketing ROI so you can continually fine-tune your content strategy.
Take note of SEO and engagement: which pieces are producing the highest organic search traffic, time on site, engagement, and conversions? How can you work similar pieces into your content calendar? How can you take 70% of a content piece that has outperformed your other content, and create iterative versions for different audience segments.
Utilize behavioral analytics tools such as Decibel, Clicktale, and Mouseflow to see how (or if) your content is being consumed and if it’s leading buyers through the purchase funnel. If your audience isn’t engaged, test new elements or messaging to drive better results. ensuring that your increased production is leading to a compound effect of tangible benefits for your brand.
Regularly review your content performance to see where you can atomize and get more value from the blog posts you’re already writing. Could they be converted into a white paper? Turned into a webinar? Tied to an ABM campaign? Every improvement can increase your overall marketing ROI.
Then, perform regular content and competitor audits to take stock of where your additional opportunities lie, and replicate and iterate. Before you know it, your company will be a full-scale content powerhouse.