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What Is a Content Plan For a Commercial Website and How to Develop It

17 December 2014 Svetlana Kuznetsova
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The year of 2014 began under the sign of content marketing. We are not the only ones who speak about its awesome powers, abilities and horizons, which can be opened by those who work in complex internet marketing. But there is no magic in content creation, it won’t give you incredible results or explosive traffic growth. Content won’t give you anything by itself, only if…

Only if you don’t create professional, super content. The whole magic is in the word “super”. An audience is fed with enough information, so creating interesting and touching material can be a hard task.

But if you take a closer look, then you’ll notice that the real magic is in correct task management and a professional approach to daily work. If you succeed, then your success is the result of routine work and effort put into the correct development of a content marketing strategy – it’s the absolute truth. In the end, those who follow this path get their much deserved reward – brand recognition. They also gain status as an expert and market leader, increased audience loyalty and, of course, sales growth – the only real criteria for a successful content marketing strategy.

Successful development depends on a lot of components. Today we are going to talk about one of them, which is impossible to be not included in successful content marketing strategies. This component is a function of a content marketing strategist. This function is to create both a content creation plan and an editorial portfolio with a schedule of publications. We are going to share our own experience, but it can be used in any company that has a department working on search engine marketing.

Let’s make a small point straight away. You need to understand one simple thing, there are professions (positions that people take) and there are functions performed by people. One person can perform several functions. A content manager can create landing pages, design layouts and the make up in pages; an account manager (speaking about internet marketing agencies) can not only communicate with customers but also create a tailored content plan for them too; a web analyser can work on site audits and contextual advertising; a copywriter can write, search illustrations, edit, correct and perform the function of a content strategist and so on. That’s why we believe that any person, who is professional enough, can become a content strategist. It means that each team member can propose a topic which is interesting for your audience at any moment in time. This is important, because the greater the effort which is put into creating a content plan, the more likely you will produce a killer article. The moral of the story is simple; use the help of all of your teammates when creating a topical portfolio for your site.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that the content strategist’s function is divided between all the team members and is not assigned to a single expert. Following that way will lead you into chaos. At our agency the editor (who leads projects and oversees a work of copywriters) performs a content strategist’s function. Of course you must have at least one person who works on creating editorial portfolios, if you develop your project with help of content marketing. And it is in his or her best interest is to involve all the others who work on creating topics in this project.

Condition of ideas deficit for content creation is as usual, if you have no content plan, as water deficit in a desert
Condition of ideas deficit for content creation is as usual, if you have no content plan, as water deficit in a desert

What’s the purpose of developing a content marketing strategy?

You don’t have to do it if your memory works like a hard drive. If you are able to remember any ideas, learn long blog comments on several pages by heart, remember all the questions about your product that people ask you, to keep in mind all the interesting topical thoughts, to schedule events related to your niche in this or that way (expositions, corporate holidays and so on) and if you know where and when you should publish your articles. Speaking frankly, you don’t need a content marketing plan if you are a computer, not a human being. In all other cases you must have a content marketing plan in place.

The main reason for needing a content plan is a constant shortage of ideas.

The main rule is to create content in patterns of traditional mass media. It means that you must have a scheduled editorial portfolio of topics for at least a quarterly period. However, it doesn’t mean that you will strictly adhere to this plan.

The second (but not the least important) rule is that content planning is a very unstable thing. It must always be adapted according to the audience’s needs. This is the essence – creation of content that arouses your audience’s interest and thinking about how to do that better and better. For example, some shocking ‘hot news’ appears in marketing – you should write articles on these stories in next few hours and put aside all the other topics. An article on a piece of current news/topic can arouse an audience’s interest in your project and increase traffic.

Two-step scheme of developing a content plan

Imagine a funnel with a filter through which your content passes. The content plan is what is left after everything else is filtered out. At the beginning working on topics resembles chaotic movements. Content experts study topics, markets, competitors’ websites and questions interesting to the audience. The more ideas you get from this diversity, the better it’s for you. After that, all the ideas go through sensible screening. Logic and sense of mind play the role of a filter here. For us, the customer’s opinion plays a major role when developing a plan and creating content, because no one knows a market better than those who work in it. The moral here is simple – constantly search for people who are more competent than you and ask for their opinion.

So, on your way to developing a content plan you will go through 2 stages:

  1. Creating a stock of ideas (a funnel which collects all the interesting ideas from everywhere)
  2. Filtration (topics which remain after analysis)

Stage one: “Stock of ideas”. It’s important to never stop working on expanding this stock. All you have to do to get rid of a shortage of ideas is to constantly look for them. Subscribe to all the interesting topical newsletters, read about your market as much as you can, keep up with actual events. Take stock of everything you see, filtering will be done later.

To expand your stock of ideas you must do the following:

  1. Look critically at your own site from the point of view of assessing its content. As a rule, the main task of any commercial site is to sell this or that product. What’s good or bad about your site’s content? At first you have to change everything that doesn’t work and do anything to improve the content.
  2. Study competitors’ sites. What are they writing about? How many articles do they publish every month? Which content on their site collects the most comments? It will help you to understand how much better and faster you should write to not stay behind your competitors.
  3. Communicate tightly with specialists who contact your target audience. Departments working with customers are the best treasure chest for ideas. If you work on implementing your content marketing strategy by yourself, then ask sales and customer support departments to help you to edit your portfolio more often – they can let you know the most frequently asked questions, so you will find out what interests your audience.

Stage two: “Filtration”. We’ll put this succinctly: your filter in developing your content plan is the target audience’s interests. You need to personify its portrait to make your content marketing strategy viable. You should create a clear portrait of an average representative of your target audience in order to find topics in which this person is interested, to ask his questions and to write articles with convincing arguments. What can help you to create this portrait?

  1. Profound knowledge of specificity of your product or service
  2. Understanding of it’s unique selling point
  3. Market research
  4. And the main tool – your brain

When you develop a content plan you are guided by and large by one main criteria, how this or that material is useful to your audience. Of course in time, working on your content and studying your audience’s reaction will provide you with a lot of interesting information. You’ll understand which kind of content arouses more interest and collects more feedback. Not giving feedback and not studying your audience’s activity on your content are the main inexcusable mistakes in internet marketing.

Some other common mistakes in developing a content plan

So, here is the list of what you don’t want to do while developing a content plan:

  1. Give up when it seems that you ran out of ideas. On the contrary, it’s time to make a big leap forward. If you know your market well and work on content for your site by yourself, then eventually you will face a situation when you run out of obvious ideas and a shortage of ideas happens. This situation is familiar to us. After a certain period of time, content strategists and copywriters (who may also be content strategists like in our agency) start thinking that a topic is fully developed and there is nothing more to say. It’s a false feeling, it appears because of lack of professional knowledge in a concrete niche. What should you do? Dive deeper and deeper. For example, at certain moment you realise that it’s not enough to write about choosing CCTV camera. Then write a comparative guide on choosing between two cameras, then, after diving even deeper, about such characteristic as the frost-resistance of different cameras. The deeper you dive, the more you find out about a topic and the more your potential for content creation grows.
    Sometimes you should not dive deeper but into the other “sea”. If you realise that you’ve reached a traffic limit in your niche then you can grow by expanding into more subjects and attracting a new kind of audience. For example, online women clothes shops can “dive into the other sea” and create a blog and email newsletter on fashion trends to attract a wider audience.
  2. Be like everyone else. The temptation to repeat what others have written is great. But believe us, no one needs another article about choosing a vacuum cleaner. This topic is fully developed. Look to develop interesting topics, in which you can share something new or develop old topics in an unusual and unexpected way. For example, you want to create content for a travel agency and you should write an article about traveling to Paris. Is writing about sightseeing worth it? Everyone knows what to see. What can you tell people by publishing another article about Notre-Dame de Paris, Champs de Mars and the Arc de Triomphe on Place Charles de Gaulle? Perhaps, it’s better to write about places that tourists shouldn’t visit without the accompaniment of a local? This article has a much better chance of collecting likes and shares then the article about old sightseeings of Paris.
  3. Forget about being provocative. A good topic is not always a provocative one. You can write a not too bad article without busting myths and giving unusual thoughts. But if you can develop an unexpected idea within your article and present it in a new way that people never thought before, then your chances of succeeding are high. The most important thing here is to write frankly and only about things which correspond to the real world.
  4. Propose a topic without diving deep into it. When you, as a content strategist, create an editorial portfolio, you must create it as if it was targeted to you. Imagine that in a month you will get amnesia, so you won’t remember anything about what are topical materials. You must reflect everything you’ve found on this topic – in headlines, interesting links and annotation (short description). After this month passes, you, suffering from amnesia, should be able to understand yourself. What’s the purpose? It’s in both your professional interest towards the business and to show your respect to the copywriter, who is going to write on these topics. Try to explain your ideas clearly, so that the author will understand you. If there is a creative synergy between a content marketing strategist and a copywriter, then the copywriter will write exactly what a strategist wants. This is what happens in a well-coordinated team. But it doesn’t matter if the copywriter is an independent person who prefers to express his thoughts in his own way rather than using strategist’s abstract. This happens and it’s also ok. The thing is, such copywriters should be content marketing strategists and create topical portfolios by themselves.
  5. Ignore newsjacking. A good approach to content creation is to always write about current topics. Monitor events which happen in a market, track explosive topics that can arouse an audience’s interest and write about them in the first two or three hours. In this way you can attract attention and increase traffic in a very short period of time. For example, two days before Yandex announced that it stopped counting links as a ranking factor, we had published an article on this topic. You know, it happens – it was a professional feeling that this was going to happen. And it happened. After this we have since published a further two articles on this topic. They became the most popular ones in 2013.
  6. Believing that your content’s quality is not a major factor of your content marketing strategy’s success. It’s not true. Your content and its quality are everything. The main reason for content failure is discussed here. Very often a problem is not in the content plan but in its implementation. The same topic can be developed in many different ways. That’s why creation of good content is the most difficult task in content marketing. It’s hard to write one genius article per day, it’s hard even writing one per week. But you should. You should do it at all costs. One week – one brilliant article. Don’t expect any success without at least doing this. People are satiated, today they need only the best.

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Former editor at Texterra online marketing agency. She is a graduate of The Maxim Gorky Literature Institute. Svetalan started working at "glossies", then turned to PR, where she worked for a long time in different structures promoting the "ConsultantPlus" brand.. She has been engaged in online marketing since 2010. Favourite thing to do is to work with copies. Unfavorite thing to do is to do nothing.
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© «TexTerra», At full or partial copying of materials reference to the source is obligatory.
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