Creating a Content Plan for your business is a crucial step towards digital marketing success.
You’ve likely heard it for years:
“Content is king” – and to some extent, we agree.
Creating great content is a step in the right direction for any business looking to make more effort with digital marketing.
However, just throwing out any old content isn’t going to do it.
You have to have a strategic, well thought out Content Plan for your business.
Nobody wants to read insignificant news updates from your business. It’s just not engaging. Content creation has moved way beyond that.
We’re living in an age where some of the greatest content on earth is available either free of charge, or for a low monthly price.
In today’s world, your content needs to engage and entertain your audience, as well as serve a purpose and solve a problem.
It’s too easy for them to hit the back button and find something else to read or tune out entirely and binge watch more episodes of Queer Eye.
So, how do you create a winning Content Plan for your business?
Before we dive into that, let’s rewind.
What is a Content Plan?
A Content Plan is a document that gives you, as a business owner or marketer, visibility of your content strategy.
It shows you what your going to be creating and distributing, by when.
It’s an all encompassing “master document” that lists out all of the content that you want to put out as a business.
It’s also a place to drop your content ideas and thoughts, rather than having everything scattered across a range of notebooks!
At Canny, we use Google Sheets to manage our Content Plan. We’ll share the template for that later in this post.
We formalise our Content Plan quarterly, but we’re always dipping in and out of our planning document to drop in new ideas, and provide status updates.
Our Content Plan is a working list, and as the Canny team create their blog posts, they’re responsible for going into the document and updating it.
Essentially a Content Plan is the singular document that you can use to run and monitor all of your business’ content creation.
Who Are You Creating Content For?
One of the earliest decisions you’ll have to make when creating your Content Plan is deciding who your content is aimed at.
And depending on what your goals are (more on that later), you’ll want to create highly targeted content that speaks directly to the target audience.
Creating customer personas is no easy task. Check out our handy Customer Persona Worksheet to help get you started.
As a top level overview, you might create your content with a view to:
- Win new customers and leads
- Engage peers with your business
- Attract potential employees
- Use as supporting material for new and existing customers
- Align yourself with suppliers
There are a whole range of ways to utilise content, and your Content Plan plays a big part in that.
What Problem Will It Solve?
Your content should solve a problem for your audience.
Each person you’re targeting with your content will be facing a different set of problems.
It’s easy to get answers to your problems these days.
So you need to make sure your business is coming up first when people are looking for their answers.
It’s not good enough to be posting updates and news about your company. People simply don’t care anymore!
The amount of great content out there, combined with the ease of finding it, has made us selfish.
We want help with our problems. Or we want to be entertained.
Your Content Plan should help you decide which way to take your content.
What’s Unique About Your Content?
Here’s the issue with a phrase like “content is king.”
Everyone is doing it!
A few years ago, having a company blog, podcast, or video show, was new and exciting! But not anymore.
Everybody and their granny has some form of content creation going on.
So what’s unique about your content, and why should people care?
- Coming at it from a different angle
- More experienced than other content creators in your field
- Putting a unique spin on the whole situation
- Offering a viewpoint from a more or less experienced standing
- Creating content in a unique way
You don’t want to be just another voice in the crowd. You want to offer something unique.
By adding your unique voice or take on a situation, you’re positioning yourself as thought leaders when compared to your competition.
You should ask yourself:
“Why should people trust me?” and “Can I add something unique to the conversation?” If the answer is yes, then you’ll be able to create a winning Content Plan.
Where Will It Be Published?
This is a big one that people tend to neglect.
Where exactly do you plan on publishing your content?
There’s a huge range of places that you can publish your content, including:
- Your own website and owned media
- Social networks
- Email list
- Posting directly into forums and groups
- Guest spots on other websites and in magazines
The more places you can get your content the better.
By using a variety of different channels to distribute your content, you’re maximising your chances of reaching your different persona types.
If you’re using your content as a key part of your SEO and digital marketing strategy, then posting it to your own website is the logical place to start.
However, that might take some time to yield the desired results.
So if you’re trying to win new customers in a certain sector, why not go direct to that sectors trade press or dedicated industry websites?
That way you’ll get eyes on the content straight away, rather than waiting for your post to rank organically.
As default at Canny, we post all of our content to our blog and publish it on social networks. This is the bare minimum.
You want to put your content to maximum use, and you can do that by publishing it in as many places as possible.
Who Is Responsible for Content Production?
One of the biggest challenges in a business is deciding who is responsible for content production.
In a smaller, owner operated business, it’ll typically be the business owner.
If you have a small team, you can take turns in creating content. Here at Canny, I write one blog post a week, while team members alternate their weekly post creation schedule.
We all take our fair share in creating video content for our weekly series, The Week Commencing.
In a larger organisation, perhaps it’s the marketing team, or maybe you’re working with a digital marketing agency.
One thing you want to avoid like the plague, is buying cheap blog posts on a website like Fiverr. The posts they create are often riddled with errors and inaccuracies.
There’s nothing wrong with paying for blog writing services.
If you’re going to do that, we recommend posting a brief on a website like Elance or Upwork.
Recently, we’ve been recommended Copify, and have seen good results using it for our clients.
A solid blog post tends to cost between £150 and £250. So keep that in mind if you’re outsourcing blog and content production.
Blogging isn’t the only type of content you should factor into your Content Plan though.
And you might find outsourcing podcasting or video services a little tricky.
So keep that in mind when creating the Content Plan for your business.
Why Do You Need a Content Plan for Your Business?
A Content Plan helps manage the expectations of everyone on your content creation team.
We use it as a living document that is edited and updated on a weekly basis to keep everyone on the same page.
Our Content Plan is used to keep track of progress and fill with ideas.
By keeping our ideas in one place, we’re able to allowing us to discuss everyone’s ideas, and move forward with the best ones.
This stops fretting and worry, and helps us generate enough fresh ideas to keep our content relevant and exciting.
We’re big believers in:
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Content is central to operations for many businesses, so it makes sense to create a plan and schedule your output.
How to Create a Winning Content Plan for Your Business (The Easy 10 Step Guide)
Creating a winning Content Plan for your business isn’t an easy task.
But don’t worry, our easy ten step Content Plan creation guide is designed to help get you on the right track.
Ready to get started?
Let’s dive in.
1. Set Your Goals and Objectives
Just like with any other business marketing activity, setting goals and objectives is the only way to drive success.
Why do anything if you don’t have a desired outcome?
What are you hoping your content plan will do for your business?
- Generating more leads
- Making more sales
- Increasing job applications
- Building your email list
- Driving more traffic to your website
Whatever your goal is, get it written down.
If you have a team, get them clear on the objectives you’re looking to achieve with your content marketing plan.
2. Audit Your Existing Content
Once you have your goals nailed down, you need to audit your existing content and see whether it’s driving you in the right direction.
- What content currently exists?
- What content are we putting out regularly?
- Is what we have good, and is it driving business results?
We have a rule at Canny, if over a 12 month period a blog post doesn’t attract at least one visitor per day, then it gets binned.
Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income hosted a great podcast episode on running a content audit.
When reviewing your existing content, you have three options:
- 1. Leave as it is
- 2. Improve on it
- 3. Remove it
Blogs are easy. You can look up their results in Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Podcast statistics can be viewed on your hosting platform. And the same with video too.
Are they getting listed to or watched? If not, then maybe you need to change up your content strategy.
If blogging is your primary focus for content, then AHREFs have a great post on running a successful content audit.
The idea is, by trimming the fat, you’re making your site more lean, which will help it rank higher.
We’ve tried it, and it works.
For the last year, we’ve ran a content audit every six months, and at first, rankings and traffic dip, but they pull round and end up stronger than before.
Start your content planning with an audit, and you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, which should make creating your plan much easier.
3. Brainstorm Content Ideas
The first thing to do when creating your new Content Plan, is to brainstorm and dump any content ideas that you have rattling around.
Gather your team, gather some coffee (or beer!) and start drafting out any early content ideas you have.
We like to use Google Sheets for this, as it’s then easy to copy over into our Content Plan template.
When dumping ideas, we’re noting down:
- Keywords our visitors might be searching for
- Topics we might want to cover
- Related verticals that might be worth exploring
If you’re struggling to come up with content ideas at this stage, don’t worry. We’re going to come up with more when we start our research.
However, here are our two favourite posts on generating content ideas:
At this stage, it’s really just crystal ball gazing, until you’ve carried out your research.
You’re going for volume, not quality!
4. Research, Research, Research
And now, we’re carrying out keyword research to further our Content Plan.
We’ve already brainstormed a huge range of ideas, but now let’s see if we can validate them, and also use them to come up with new ideas.
We have a range of tools we use at Canny to do this, including:
- Google Ads Keyword Planner
AHREFs is a paid option, and realistically, it’s quite expensive. We pay somewhere in the region of £180 per month, but it’s ridiculously powerful.
Both Google Ads Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest can be used for free.
Ubersuggest is a tool by Neil Patel, that he’s trying to make into the free version of AHREFs. As you can imagine, it has some serious firepower too!
The first thing you want to do is plug in your list of “seed ideas” that you created above.
From there, you’ll be able to validate them. Do they get enough search traffic to warrant creating content around them?
If so, highlight them in green. If not, red. If you’re not sure, use amber.
Then, head over to the Suggestions tab available in all of the above tools, and see what it’s suggesting based on your seed list.
Note down anything else you think might work for you.
Conducting great keyword research is a massive topic that shouldn’t be overlooked.
These articles cover things in more depth than we can here:
You can also dive into other types of research, like competitor research, but keyword research alone is usually enough to help drive your content planning efforts forward.
Afterall, why copy others if you have your own ideas?
Keyword research will help solidify your ideas and cement your Content Plan.
5. Decide What Type of Content You Want to/are Able to Produce
There are three main types of content you can create:
Sure, they can then be broken down into subcategories, but essentially, you need to choose which you’re most comfortable with.
At Canny, we’re mainly producing written content for our blog, and have started increasing our video output too.
We’re comfortable with writing, some people are more comfortable with talking, and others relish being filmed.
The only advice I can give here, is “start where you’re comfortable” and build it from there.
So how can these three main types of content be broken down?
Blog posts are written thought pieces that are typically loaded into your website.
There are several opinions on the ideal length of a blog post, but we’ve found blogging success with posts between 3000 and 5000 words.
Good blog posts encourage search engine traffic, and we advise all of our clients to write blog posts on a regular basis.
Ebooks and Whitepapers
Ebooks and whitepapers are digitally available resources that pull together thoughts and ideas around one key topic.
To encourage downloads of our ebooks, we embed relevant offerings directly into our blog posts. This is called a Content Upgrade and is something you should be considering when creating your Content Plan.
If you have a post about sausages for example, then you should have an ebook called “10 Sizzling Meals to Make with Sausages.”
At Canny, we’ve created ebooks around our three core service areas, but we’re also building out a collection of sub-service ebooks.
Check out our resources here if you’re looking for inspiration.
Case Studies are only relevant for certain sectors, but they’re great pieces of content.
A typical case study shows a client or customer journey, and how your business helped them.
We have a collection of case studies in our portfolio of work, but our industry lends itself well to a visual case studies being put onto our website.
If you’re in an industry like mortgages or finance, why not consider making video case studies, which will be a lot more interesting than a written entry.
Templates and Worksheets
Templates and worksheets are pretty similar to ebooks, but they’re working documents that can be used by your site visitor.
We recently created:
These are designed to help our visitors. By downloading them, they’re entering our lead funnel, meaning we can then market to them.
We embed these into our blog where relevant. However, as they’re standalone offerings, we also share them across our social channels.
Infographics are a visual representation of information.
People love visuals, and as a result, infographics have seen a huge rise in popularity.
Backlinko’s Brian Dean has a great post on utlising infographics as part of your content strategy.
Whilst time consuming to create, they can have a huge impact on your website traffic, especially if you manage to create something that goes viral.
Podcasting is still a fairly untapped resource when it comes to the business world.
However, with the rise of shows like Serial, podcasting has become wildly popular with the average consumer.
A lot of businesses are now putting our a separately branded podcasts that speaks directly to their target audience.
You could hold shorter thought piece type podcasts, or consider bringing in guests to interview.
With it’s popularity on the rise, don’t sleep on creating a podcast for your business.
The world of video is vast. There are hundreds and thousands of different ideas for creating good video content.
You could try:
- A daily vlog
- Sharing top tips
- Creating case studies
- Recording testimonials
- Making short films
Video has exploded in popularity, and every size business is now producing video content on a regular basis.
Check out our favourite business YouTube channels to help get you started.
What Resonates the Most with Your Audience?
As with every single thing you do from a marketing perspective, the question goes back to your audience.
What is it that resonates most with them?
Targeting the teenage market? Then perhaps a TikTok account and a show on IGTV is the right choice for you.
Going for the over 50’s market? Then video is probably a good option.
Earlier, we said execution is the key to success. And this is why.
You need to execute, to find out where you went wrong, what you’ve got right, and how you can make strides going forward.
If you’re creating a podcast that would be better as a video show, you want to find out a few episodes in, rather than in a year’s time.
Our friends over at Hubspot recommend the Content Pillar approach.
What that means is, you should create a landing page around each topic you want to gain ranking for.
Then, link back from all of your relevant content, to that page.
If we want to rank for Branding, we’d create a branding services page, which we have.
Then, in all of our branding blog posts, we’d link out to that branding services page.
When creating videos or podcasts about branding, we’d use that page as our main call to action.
That way, you’re building up content around a topic, with one key focus page that will start to gain rank over time.
When it comes to content, as Gary Vee says, you need to become a media company.
You’re a media company, slash, design agency. Or a media company, slash, sausage manufacturer.
Remember, people are tuning in to find solutions to a problem, or for entertainment. If you can, you need to have content that appeals to both mindsets.
6. Decide on a Publishing Schedule
Creating a publishing schedule is an area that tends to trip people up.
Should you be creating content daily, weekly, or even monthly?
The answer to this question is:
“Create content as often as you can.”
Especially when it comes to things like Facebook updates, and Instagram stories.
For your key content pieces (new blogs, videos, podcasts), you need to decide on a schedule, then stay consistent.
Consistency is key here.
If people tune in on a Tuesday every week for your blog post, then one Tuesday it’s not there, they’re going to wonder why.
Look back at your brainstorm and ideas list, and see how you think that content might play out over a year.
Got fifty ideas? Then maybe it’s once a week to start. That’ll last you a year.
Confident you can come up with more? Then ramp up production.
Again, it’s all in the execution. The sooner you can get your content out there, the sooner you can learn from it, improve on it, and iterate it.
Consistency, and execution. It’s what’ll make your Content Plan a success.
7. Create a Content Planning Document
You need to create a solid Content Plan document to use for your business.
You can use our template as a base, until you start figuring out what works for you.
Here’s what makes up our Content Plan:
This is straightforward, which date will this piece of content be published on?
What will the piece of content be called? This is always the last piece of the puzzle. We’re always changing and improving our titles!
Who’s Creating It
Who within your organisation will be creating the content? We use initials here to depict different members across the Canny team.
Is it a blog post? Video? Podcast? Maybe it’s an infographic or ebook.
Which category does the content fit into? This helps when creating Content Pillars.
Who are you targeting with this piece of content? Use this to make sure you’re creating content that speaks with each of your personas.
Do you have a relevant Content Upgrade that you can give away with this post? Try and create giveaways that encourage people to opt-in to your mailing list.
Which keyword are you targeting? You should only be targeting one keyword per post. This is the primary keyword you want to rank for.
LSIs are “lower semantic index” keywords. These are related to your main keyword, and should be present throughout your post.
Other Content, Same Topic
We post links to other content we’ve seen on the same topic. We then review this to make sure we’re not stepping on any toes, find relevant quotes, or take inspiration.
And finally, a notes column for anything else you need to note down about your content idea.
We then use a key to colour code each line in our Content Plan.
- White (or blank) = not started
- Red = issues, or won’t be finished
- Amber = in progress, going as expected
- Green = launched, and finished
This helps us monitor the progress being made on each piece of content.
We then have multiple additional sheets for certain things:
- Other Blog Ideas – posts we’ve come up with that haven’t factored into the plan yet
- Keyword Ideas – keywords we want to rank for, but haven’t developed content for yet
- Core Services – the key services we offer, with content mapped against them
We’ve also recently created a Video sheet, which highlights which of our blog posts we’ll be turning into Five Minute Friday videos in the near future.
This master sheet Content Plan keeps everything on the straight and narrow.
But you have to tailor it for you.
If you’re not doing video, but doing podcasts, you’ll want to factor that in.
Your Content Plan is a building block, or stepping stone, towards driving digital marketing success for your business.
8. Create Your Content
The next step in the creation of your Content Plan, is to execute it.
You need to create your content, and don’t delay. Once you have the bare bones of your plan in place, start executing.
We create our blogs using Google Docs, then proof check them in Hemingway and Grammarly.
People think videos seem to have a higher barrier to entry, but you can shoot good quality video on your iPhone. Just make sure you invest in a good microphone.
A podcast can be recorded using an plugin USB microphone, which you can pick up on Amazon Prime and it’ll be with you tomorrow.
When creating content, we like to drop everything in, then come back and edit it later.
Get the ideas out of your head, then come back, tweak, and finalise, before queuing for publishing.
9. Schedule and Publish Your Content
Once your content is ready, you need to schedule it for publishing.
Inside WordPress, you can set up your blog to be ready to go. Then, on the right hand side, you can set the publish date and time.
You can also schedule publication of video on YouTube, and audio on iTunes through your RSS feed.
Once our post is “in the hopper” – we head over to Buffer and schedule our social media channels to push out the post for us.
Over the course of one day, we make sure our post goes live on:
- My personal LinkedIn
Being able to publish to those channels with one or two clicks is very powerful.
And don’t just push them out once.
Social media are changing their algorithm constantly, and only a small fraction of your audience gets to see your posts.
So post it early in the day, at lunch, at the end of the working day, and on an evening to give your content the best chance of getting seen.
Don’t be afraid to push it out several days in a row either.
The more eyes on your content, the better!
Neil Patel has a great post which highlights the best times of day to post on social media.
10. Market Your Content
Content marketing is the one area that people tend to forget about the most.
Just putting out cotnent on your own site and social media isn’t going to drive the reulsts you want.
You have to bring your content to market.
So not only should it go out on social media, but consider:
- Paying to run adverts to your new content
- Posting the content into relevant groups
- Sharing to your existing customer base
- Trying to re-engage old clients or customers
- Sharing it with influencers
One thing we like to do at Canny, is reach out to the people and businesses that we mention within our posts.
People like to have their ego stroked, and are usually quite happy to share posts that position them in a positive light.
Another thing you can do is to connect to people who’ve shared similar posts, and hope they’ll do the same for you!
Conclusion: How to Create a Winning Content Plan for Your Business
A great Content Plan can drive huge digital marketing results for your business.
But having a great Content Plan alone isn’t going to do it. You have to execute! Rather than getting stuck in “planning mode” forever.
When it comes to content planning, execution and iteration are the keys to your success.
A great Content Plan only works if you follow it through.
Move fast, get your plan in place, create great content, get it out there and see how people respond to it.
Then you need to iterate, or if what you’re putting out is received well, do more of it!
Have you driven results with content marketing in your business? Let us know in the comments below!