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Amanda Milligan

How To Develop a Content Strategy Workflow

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Amanda Milligan
How To Develop a Content Strategy

You’ll never realize the full benefit of your digital marketing strategy without high-caliber content to attract (and keep) potential customers on your website or social media platform. Your goal should be to develop a comprehensive content plan that elevates your SEO strategy and increases your bottom line. 

Developing this kind of content takes time, collaborative thought, and the right kind of direction. This is where a content strategy workflow comes into play. At its root, a content strategy workflow is a defined method by which content is researched, structured, revised, and dispatched. Such a workflow can help you generate new content that serves your company’s needs and make the most of the content you’ve created.

This guide offers a step-by-step plan for developing an effective content strategy workflow. 

What Is a Content Strategy Workflow?

Beyond providing a recurrent template for how great content travels from request to return, a content strategy workflow establishes team members’ roles and responsibilities. It also defines each step in the content creation process. Ultimately, the quality of your company’s content is only as strong as your team’s cooperative understanding of how it should get made. As content creation is always a cyclical event, everyone needs to know how to feed ideas into results.

Great ideas in a brainstorming session don’t mean much to SEO returns if they never make it into viable content. This can easily happen when no set structure for guiding those great ideas to full realization is in place. From the research stage to content delivery, your content strategy workflow aligns each team member with their respective roles in every project. It provides a simple, repeatable process by which all future ideas can reach fruition.

The following list represents the basic steps in the cycle of any good content strategy workflow:

  • Define your goal

  • Run a content audit

  • Research and ideate

  • Outline content

  • Create and optimize content

  • Publish and promote content 

  • Measure results

  • Refine the process and begin again 

Analyze Top-Performing Content

with SEO Content Template

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

Step 1: Define Your Goal

All successful stories, in business or otherwise, begin with a goal. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can hardly know what’s the best way to get there. It’s crucial to establish your team’s explicit goals as a first step in developing your content strategy workflow. 

It’s also important to remember that goals are fluid, as are the methods your team may develop to reach them. Every business has variant ideas of success, and every project will not aim toward the same outcome. It may be that you start with the basic goal of driving brand awareness, and later that goal morphs into increasing conversions. 

How you develop content around these two goals will shift with the goal, and it’s a good idea to condition your team toward versatility early on. A few of the more common starting line goals that businesses might use at the top of their content strategy workflow include:

  • Increase conversions

  • Drive brand awareness

  • Educate customers on products and services

  • Gain more social media followers

  • Scale your current content strategy

  • Recruit talent

  • Generate brand loyalty

Maybe your business is concentrating on the sales funnel right now and wants to build content goals around various stages of that process. That could look like anything from creating personalized tutorials and value-driven stories to pushing product suggestions that filter seamlessly into existing content. The takeaway here is that the more specific you can make your goals and the more clear the route to attaining them, the more unique and memorable your content becomes.

Step 2: Run a Content Audit

As you clarify your team’s goals, you will need to know what you have in terms of content that might help you reach them. Running a qualitative content audit annually can lend you an invaluable understanding of what needs attention and performs well. 

It’s vital for businesses to recognize that content is never finished, never outside of susceptible changes, and never a static entity. Even the very best content and that which brings your website its heaviest traffic should be routinely reviewed, enhanced, and evaluated. Returning to content periodically to assess its strengths and weaknesses should be an inherent part of your content strategy workflow.

A content audit will also help you identify where you could potentially repurpose existing content to hit new goals. Using traffic analytic tools like SEMrush’s audience insights can help you shape key performance indicators (KPIs) and refine content to habits, dwell times, considered competitors, and even future co-marketers.

Step 3: Research and Ideate

Coming up with great ideas is not always as easy or fun as the idea might imply. The research and ideation phase of your content strategy workflow should be tailored to the kind of creativity that is fluid and allows for the integration of imagery, approaches, and technologies. The myriad ways you can ideate topics should be an ever-expanding list of possibilities that any team member is comfortable contributing to, changing, or suggesting alterations. 

Here are a few ways to produce inspiring topics for your content strategy workflow:

  • Employ lateral thinking to approach old topics in fresh ways.

  • Utilize a keyword gap analysis tool to see what works for competitors.

  • Brainstorm with parameters so that no good ideas get lost or frightened out of the room by criticism.

  • Do a bit of newsjacking to see which content might do better at a given time due to its relation to what’s going on in the world.

  • Turn questions and curiosities about your industry into designable ideas.

Step 4: Outline Content

Once you have a set of content ideas that your team agrees is ideal, you need a guideline in your content strategy workflow that addresses how those ideas get properly fleshed out. The need for your content ideas to appear in the format that best suits their unique features is paramount. You may wish to use our SEO Content Template if you are starting from scratch or looking to save time on achieving high readability scores.

Add in the keyword or search query you’re trying to rank for, and we’ll offer helpful feedback based on the top 10 ranking pages on Google. For instance, you’ll know semantically related keywords to include and backlinks you’ll want to target in case you promote the content. You’ll also get the average readability score and recommended text length. 

SEMrush SEO Content Template screenshot

Do you already have content? We also offer a real-time content checker where you add your content, and we’ll provide a content score based on readability, SEO, and originality. 

It may be necessary to “try out” several possible outlining techniques to ascertain the type of content you need to produce. Some ideas might need to be outlined via a pillar/cluster topic map if they are headed for multiple blog posts. It can help produce a sales funnel visual and slot in the exact places where your new content will live. Another approach is to construct an editorial calendar that details what needs to be produced and when. 

You can also create a bullet list of the different types of content available to produce so that possible fits can be more clearly deduced. A few to consider include:

  • Blog posts

  • E-books

  • Infographics

  • Webinars

  • Interactive elements

Step 5: Create and Optimize Content

Once the outlining portion of your content strategy workflow is set up, it’s time to figure out how to optimize the content styles you have decided on. Optimizing your content is every bit as important, if not more so, as its timely and original creation because this is the determining factor in how much gain that piece of content will represent to your business. Also, don’t forget that this step applies to existing content in the form of the “content refresh” and that any tactics you practice in creating your new content should be retroactively maneuvered into what is already working on your website.

Making use of popular optimization tools, such as an SEO Writing Assistant, can reduce the tedium (and great swaths of time) it would otherwise take to bend your content’s tone of voice, originality, and competitiveness with rivals to perfection. There are likewise time-tested design tips you can use to fine-tune your content for maximum results. A few of those include:

  • Keywords in opening paragraphs: Your keyword or keyword phrase should appear within the first 100 words of your content piece but make sure to use it naturally and without gimmicky self-promotion.

  • Adopt a mobile-first mentality: As service to mobile users is of prime interest to Google and other search engines, be mindful of how your content will translate across mobile devices.

  • Use imagery and video: Even something as simple as a chart, infographic, or timeline can make your content easier to digest and, thus, more effective.

Step 6: Publish and Promote Content

The world’s best content doesn’t mean much if the right people don’t see it. Targeting your audience should be a goal worked into the fundamental structure of your content strategy workflow, no matter the project. Depending on your industry, company culture, age of business, and goals, your distribution and promotion may look differently for each new project cycle.

Here are a few actionable examples of how to publish and promote your newly created content:

  • Utilize your readers with easy retweet/repost options.

  • Post to social media more than once.

  • Share new content with your company’s email list.

  • Syndicate as much as possible.

Step 7: Measure Results

Keeping active tabs on the success of your content needs to become second nature. You will want your content strategy workflow to address the direct and constant monitoring of your latest creations. Content marketing ROI allows you to visualize what you spent on your content versus what it has brought in as a revenue return. 

Starting with a clear understanding of what constitutes success allows you to know whether you’ve met your initial goals for this content and what may need adjustment if not. Some of the more common metrics that your content marketing ROI will measure include:

  • Organic traffic

  • Leads

  • Conversion rate

  • Time on page

  • Social shares

  • Engagement

  • ROI 

  • Backlinks

Say you want to measure the success of a specific page you’ve just launched. Our Backlink Analytics Tool can help you identify the number of backlinks generated over time and how many referring domains the page has. We also break down your backlink portfolio by link attributes — specifically, follows or nofollows.

SEMrush Backlink Analytics

Step 8: Refine the Process and Begin Again

The beauty of a strong content strategy workflow is that it refines itself if you pay attention to what you learn each time you use it. Make detailed notes of the results when applying the steps to different content or take familiar content in new directions. The goal is to learn from what did and didn’t work and apply what you gleaned from the last cycle to future strategies.

Did you find content that converts better than others in a given format or snag an idea from a publisher that might help you generate a needed backlink? Apply those learnings when you begin again, and remember that your content strategy workflow is meant to function a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure novel: You will get different outcomes each time, depending on when and how you choose paths forward in the cycle.

Start Outlining an Effective Content Workflow Today

Whether your company is newly transitioning to the digital marketplace or is an old hand looking to outdo a big competitor, the need to invest in powerful content is now mandatory across the board. Making happy marriages between brands and SEO-smart social media is the new normal in successful marketing. Having a content strategy workflow that learns from itself is essential for your business to stay on top.

Finding out where your content gaps are and polishing your existing content doesn’t have to be laborious. Seasoned content marketers and those just starting can benefit from using a content marketing toolkit that takes the guesswork out of everything from the audit to the delegation of tasks. 

Remember that your content workflow should be designed to save you time and money. The overall aim is to get lively, original content up and running as efficiently as possible so that you can focus on doing it even better next time.

Analyze Top-Performing Content

with SEO Content Template

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

Amanda Milligan
Master

A veteran community member.

Amanda Milligan is the Marketing Director at Fractl, a growth marketing agency that’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and boutique businesses alike. Throughout her content marketing career, she's managed the creation of 200+ content campaigns and led the strategy for 20+ clients. She spoke at 2019 SMX Advanced and 2019 Pubcon Pro Las Vegas. Her content marketing advice has appeared in Forbes, Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs’ Marketing Smarts Podcast, CMO and more. She also currently hosts the Fractl podcast Cashing In On Content Marketing.
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