If you work with a team of content writers, you know that the going isn’t always easy. Project timelines shrink, priorities shift, and writers go rogue – sometimes all in the course of a day. Any way to save time and set your content creation process to set-it-and-forget-it mode is a godsend to a content marketer.
But there are tons of SEO tools and techniques out there, not all of which are going to be useful to your situation. Whether you’re an enterprise content marketer, freelancer, or agency, there are just four things to remember when thinking about how to streamline your content creation process:
In this post, we’ll dig in and give you specific examples of how to use each of these techniques in your process, no matter the size of your team. Let’s do this:
Of course, the most logical way to streamline any process is to stay organized. You need to know what happens when, and who does what if you want to stay on schedule and hold everyone accountable. Here are some tips on how to organize your workflow, as well as your staff of content writers:
It might seem obvious, but an editorial content calendar is a big time-saver. It eliminates the guesswork for your writers when moving on to the next post, and allows you to plan creative, social, and any other promotion ahead of time. If you need some help planning your editorial calendar, check out our guide.
Consider designating different days of the week for each type of content, as well as a regular distribution plan. For instance, you could aim to post new content every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, release an infographic every other Monday, and do a regular social media post by 10 a.m. every weekday, whether it’s original or curated content.
Platforms like HubSpot keep all your entire digital marketing efforts – including content calendar, email, social media, reporting, and a highly capable CRM – in one place, which makes organization as easy as possible. It also helps all departments see what’s going on, requiring less back-and-forth among your team and better collaboration.
We’re big advocates of HubSpot, but if you’re not quite ready to make the transition and still need a project management platform, Trello is a great option. Subscription options range from Free to Enterprise, so it works for everyone from freelancers to content managers with large teams.
If you have a team of writers, it’s important to have an organizational structure so everyone is clear about their responsibilities and the chain of command. Otherwise, you’ll find that working with creative types is – excuse the cliché – like herding cats.
Even if your team is mostly freelancers, they should know to whom they report, as well as the requirements expected of them. MarketMuse allows you to create detailed content briefs based on the data the platform extracts from pages already ranking for your target topic. This clear, structured guidance makes search engine optimization easy for even the most right-brained writers out there.
Additionally, you should create process documents that can be used to guide your whole content marketing team:
- SOPs for content creation
- Style guides
- Checklists for curating content
- Training documents or video recordings
Providing comprehensive resources helps your team produce better content and alleviates the time you would spend time looking over their shoulders. Even better—it decreases the time you would spend editing (or requesting changes to) first drafts.
This is probably the most over-used word in digital marketing today, so what do we mean by “optimize?” Simply, it entails analyzing your content or process, identifying ways to improve it, and implementing those changes. It’s not a one-and-done task – optimization is something you do continually to make your content marketing strategy efficient and high performing, because you have a lot to learn from your past efforts.
Optimize for your focus topic
Your blog shouldn’t be a scattershot of topics, nor should it be monotonous. Decide what your primary focus topics are, then create pillar pages for each of them. Each smaller post you write should relate to (and link to) one of these pillar pages. This is called topic clustering, and the strategy is known to garner SEO results in this post-Hummingbird world.
But it’s not just another strategy to shoehorn into your current plan, because thinking about your content in terms of topic clusters should help you stay organized and on track in your creation process. For instance, you might write supporting content for your main pillar piece four times per month, and your secondary pillars two times per month. This ensures that each topic is getting its appropriate coverage, signaling to Google that you are an authority in your targeted areas.
If you have a lot of old content that doesn’t neatly fit into one of your current topic clusters, never fear. MarketMuse’s Content Optimizer easily points to subjects related to your focus topic that you need to add or elaborate on in your content to be seen as an authority by search engines. Just enter your focus topic and URL, hit “Analyze,” and get all the data you need to update that post.
Optimizing your content for topical authority, as opposed to keywords, is a more intuitive and logical approach because it makes you focus on what your audience wants to know, which is an easier code to crack than determining how search engines weigh different keywords.
Optimize your process
Optimizing your content can be easy with the right tools, but there isn’t any software out there to help you optimize your process. There are, however, metrics that you can keep track of to help you determine:
- How much time it should take to create content, whether a blog post, graphic, or video
- What resources are generally required to create and promote your content
- Where time is being wasted (flaky writer? inefficient process steps? ineffective channels?)
- When is the best time to distribute content or send emails
- Why certain content does well, while other content does not
- Who is your audience
Time-tracking apps, such as Harvest or Toggl, can give you an idea of how long each piece of content takes to create, from writing to distribution, and can also tell you how many team members worked on that blog, graphic, or video. These apps can also key you into any people or processes that tend to create a bottleneck, but it’s helpful to communicate with your staff to determine this. Their input is invaluable when streamlining your process, so be sure to ask them regularly if anything is holding them up.
Experimenting with things like email send time, time of content distribution, and channels and recording all of your data gives you great insight to optimize all of these areas. A/B testing is also a great way to determine your optimal timing and distribution, as well as most popular topics. To find your best audience, Facebook’s A/B testing capabilities are (currently) unmatched.
What is technology for, if not to save us time? Use your human resources wisely, and automate the rest using platforms that turn daily to-do’s into literal no-brainers.
We’re going to plug HubSpot once again for this, because the platform allows you to schedule your blog content, social media posts, and emails, so you can set up weeks’ or even months’ worth of content in one sitting. (Caveat: Set an alert or reminder when a post is about to go live. This gives you time to review any content that may have become outdated or inappropriate since you first uploaded it.)
Automation is especially helpful when curating social media posts, and programs like Sprout Social were developed specifically for this task. For instance, if your business wants to jump on the #tbt (#ThrowBackThursday) trend, you can find and curate several posts in advance and then throw them in the queue. Time-saving strategies like these help you capitalize on efforts by finding content weeks in advance rather than a day at a time. Just be sure to (forgive the rhyme) review your queue.
Bulk your tasks
While not technically automation, you can take a cue from these programs and take care of your content tasks in bulk.
For example, you’ve decided that part of your content strategy involves highlighting individual employees every month. For each piece, you snap high-quality photos of the employees and then have a short interview with them. Instead of snapping one employee’s photo and then packing up until next month, you send out an email in advance asking several employees to sit for their photo shoots. Between poses, you ask them questions and record their responses, transcribing them later. Months down the road, your employee profiles are ready to deploy with minimal polishing.
Likewise, take a look at the editorial calendar when composing content to see when similar topics are scheduled. If the research you do for the current topic could serve both, there’s no need to duplicate your efforts. Bookmark the research and key takeaways that you need for that future piece and save yourself a few steps in the writing process.
Your writers won’t be hurt if you reach for a little outside help. In fact, they may even appreciate the outside perspective that comes from hosting guest content, writing interview-based posts, and leveraging user-generated content.
With the experts
Incorporating expert guest blog posts into the calendar is another way to generate content without having to create it yourself. Reach out to subject matter experts in the industry and ask them to share their unique perspective with your audience. Many influencers are willing to do this because it promotes cross-pollination—meaning, it has the potential to expand both yours and the influencer’s audiences by reaching both at the same time.
Make sure that any subject matter expert or guest contributor is scheduled far in advance, just in case unexpected circumstances cause them to miss the deadline. Also, always have a few backup items ready for publication.
If you can’t get an expert to write a post (which will probably be common) you can ask them if they’ll participate in a Q&A with someone on your team. This can be quickly transcribed into a blog post, or recorded and turned into a video or podcast. Minimal effort on both ends and a killer piece of content? Can’t lose.
If your site or business is highly visual, you could score some great user-generated content. Thanks to Instagram, everyone is a photographer these days, and sometimes simply offering exposure is enough to attract aspiring visual artists. For example, you could ask that your customers submit photos on social media (“Show us your cute pet!”) and then share a few of the funniest ones. This gives you easily sourced content, but the bigger benefit is user engagement.
You could also pre-source material for your written content by requesting that readers email you their questions, which you’ll then explain in an upcoming post or article. Be careful with this strategy, though. If you request that customers submit written content, such as essays, for example, you could become mired in the act of reading submissions and looking for the right one. Similarly, any kind of content that requires editing or further work before publication should be avoided if you’re short on time.
When thinking about ways to streamline your content marketing process, try not to overthink it. All of the techniques discussed here are intuitive and adaptable, so just remember to organize, optimize, automate, and collaborate to save you time without giving up quality.
Few things will save you more time than a robust software platform that can both analyze your content and provide data-based recommendations. MarketMuse can save you time and help your writers produce reliably high-performing content, so get in touch today to learn more.