16 must-follow tactics for blog planning the right way

16 must-follow tactics for blog planning the right way

16 must-follow tactics for blog planning the right way

16 must-follow tactics for blog planning the right way

Masooma Memon

GatherContent Contributor, Writer
Annual blog planning is never an easy task. It takes a lot of thorough planning, getting familiar with your target audience’s pain points, and deciding on which content formats to package content into.

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To top that, updating previous posts and properly distributing content isn’t something to put on the backburner.

This, however, is only the primer. There’s a lot more that goes into planning blog content.

To make things easy for you, we’ve put together a list of 16 don’t-miss best practices for blog planning.

Without further delay, let’s dig in.

1. Start with goal setting

First things first, set SMART goals. These goals are:

  • Specific. Identify exactly what you want to achieve. Example: Grow our email list.
  • Measurable. The goal is backed by a growth metric. Example: Grow our email subscribers by 10%.
  • Actionable. Outline tactical steps to achieve the goal. Example: Grow our email subscribers by creating and offering simple templates to download.
  • Relevant. The goal supports your overarching growth plan. Example: Growing our email subscribers will feel more qualified leads to our sales team.
  • Time-based. You’ve to achieve the goal in a specific time frame. Example: Grow our email subscribers 10% in six months.

2. Divide your blog goal(s) into actionable plans for the year’s quarters

Take the time to write down how you will achieve your goals. In the example above, you see that the SMART goal was anchored by the action of 'creating downloadable assets'.

Since planning for the entire year can be overwhelming, create quarterly to-do lists. Then, chop each quarterly to-do list into monthly to-do lists, e.g., quarterly downloadable ebooks that would help boost email subscribers.

3. Make a list of tools and resources you need

Create a list of tools that you need for optimizing your content production.

Need a new plugin or keyword research tool, for example? Add it to your resource list. Will you need to outsource content production to meet your content goals for the year? Add ‘find new freelancers’ to your list.

You’ll also want to add a blog content planner to this list—or, invest in a content operations platform such as GatherContent. This tool can double-down as your blog post planner while providing you a place to:

  • Coordinate all content activities including creation, refreshing, and distribution in one platform.
  • Manage all content production in one place so all your content is accessible in a central resource hub.
  • Create your blog calendar, content workflow, and quality-control and SEO-optimizing checklists. Plus, create template-based briefs, style guides, and more.
Use GatherContent to manage all your content operations in one place.
GatherContent helps manage all your content production in one place and makes coordination with writers easy.

💡 Learn more: Document collaboration tools: Features to look for and our top 5 recommendations

4. Establish how you’ll make your content unique

It's pointless to plan high-ranking content that simply regurgitates what’s already out there. It’s also a surefire way to provide more value to your readers.

Ask yourself: how can we take a unique angle? Some ways to do so include:

  • Creating step-by-step guides on the topic – complete with custom images and annotated screenshots.
  • Interviewing experts to write more authoritative content. You can also create a roundup post on the topic.
  • Covering what’s not done before. For instance, sharing mistakes to avoid on a topic or highlight growth tactics your company has leveraged.

5. Take on a content mix

Ensure your blog plan includes a healthy mix of content types, including:

  • Listicles
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Infographics
  • Guest posts
  • Case studies
  • How-to guides
  • Video content
  • Interactive content, such as quizzes
  • Gated content such as templates and checklists
Good to Know: Don’t forget to include repurposed content and content refreshes to your blogging goals.

Refresh your buyer persona and customer journey map

6. Pool content ideas from different sources

Never stick with one source for your content ideas. Diversify your search for winning ideas.

Try the following:

  • Read books and other blogs to identify potential ideas to try, including competitor blogs and publications.
  • Use social listening to identify what your target audience is discussing.
  • Surf Q&A platforms such as Reddit and Quora to look for questions your audience is asking.
  • Brainstorm content ideas with other customer-facing teams such as members from Sales and Customer Support.

7. Validate and shortlist ideas

Not all the ideas in your blog content plan are going to be home runs—every writer and content manager can agree with this. So, how do you spot the needles in your haystack of ideas?

For each idea, ask yourself two questions:

  • Is it relevant to your brand?
  • Does it solve one of your readers’ pain points or answer a question they have?

A good content topic idea aligns with both your readers’ and brand’s interests. (This is another reason why it's wise to collaborate with your customer-facing teams—so you can ensure the content you create is relevant to prospects and customers.)

💡Learn more: Planning contextual content for users

8. Plan content for all content funnel stages

As you source ideas and sift through your ideas list, make sure you’re finalizing content ideas for all funnel stages.

This way, your content marketing plan will be able to:

  • Attract new folks by creating content that educates them by answering their questions and by spreading awareness of your brand.
  • Nurture and engage interested leads by providing them content that talks about how your product/service can help.
  • Convert readers by answering questions they have on how your product can solve their problem specifically.

9. Work out a publishing frequency

If you don’t already have a plan for publishing content, create one. Decide on:

  • How many downloadable assets (e.g., ebooks, guides, webinars, etc.) you'll publish in a quarter
  • How many blog posts you’ll publish in a week or month
  • How many times you’ll email your subscribers
  • How many social media posts you’ll make daily or weekly (for each platform you are on)

Creating this schedule will help you identify gaps in your blog planning as well as opportunities to repurpose content for content distribution and promotion.

10. Put together blog editorial guidelines and style guide

If you already don’t have these essential documents for creating high-quality content, it’s time you get started today.

Create a style guide and a checklist of ways to write great content. Share this with any agencies or freelancers you work with, too.

You’ll also need an editorial guide for editing pieces to meet your blog’s standards.

In GatherContent, you can also create a template for briefs to speed up creating briefs at the start of each month.

Use GatherContent to create all your content briefs.
Template-based briefs in GatherContent make it easy to work with writers by providing clear instructions of what's required from the content.

Finally, if driving organic traffic is your goal, consider creating a checklist for SEO-optimizing your content.

11. Identify posts in need of updates and refreshes

Look at Google Analytics and pinpoint pieces that have been previously doing well but may have a reduced inflow of traffic lately, otherwise known as 'content decay.' This happens naturally as content ages or becomes dated or irrelevant.

Create a list of these posts and add them to your content refresh list. From there, follow these steps to freshen up your content:

  • Add relevant internal links and check that all links are live and accurate
  • Refresh stale statistics—these shouldn't be older than 2-3 years
  • Add any new product or feature information
  • Update the publish date when you publish your refresh

12. Interview blog readers

Not only is interviewing your readership essential for sourcing content ideas, but it’s also a great way to understand:

  • The content formats your readers prefer to consume
  • The language or key phrases readers use to describe your product
  • Your target audience’s pain points and how they make their buying decisions

13. Create a content distribution plan

If you don’t already have a content workflow or a list of steps to take from ideation to production, create one.

Make sure you add content distribution to this workflow as well. Why? Because that’s the only way you can schedule it in your calendar – making it an integral part of your content marketing.

Additionally, enlist all steps you need to take to distribute content.

💡Learn more: Content Distribution: What it is and how you can improve your strategy in 3 easy steps [Including proven tips from the pros]

14. Include content repurposing to the plan

Creating new content shouldn’t be the center of your blog strategy. Pay attention to repurposing content to drive more mileage from it as well.

The best part? Repurposing content will help you:

  • Prepare content for your social media strategy and
  • Dress already published content in a different format for greater accessibility.

💡Learn more: A complete guide to repurposing content [including 9 real-life examples of repurposed content]

15. Lay out deadlines for the first quarter’s content ideas in a content calendar

Now, prepare your content calendar so you can stick by your decided publishing frequency.

But, be sure to set a realistic schedule by factoring in content production, design, and publishing time.

Also, mark important holidays in your calendar. This way, you can plan content for those calendars when the dates are around the corner.

16. Don’t pack your editorial calendar to the brim

If there’s anything that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that you shouldn’t plan everything down to the tee. Leave room for flexibility in your calendar.

A good rule of thumb is to plan 75% of your content for each month or quarter and leave about 25% for ad hoc requests or timely pieces.

Ready to dive into blog planning and beyond?

Tune into this masterclass on designing a content production plan – you’ll be more than ready to welcome the new year with a fresh ROI-delivering content plan.

To top that, updating previous posts and properly distributing content isn’t something to put on the backburner.

This, however, is only the primer. There’s a lot more that goes into planning blog content.

To make things easy for you, we’ve put together a list of 16 don’t-miss best practices for blog planning.

Without further delay, let’s dig in.

1. Start with goal setting

First things first, set SMART goals. These goals are:

  • Specific. Identify exactly what you want to achieve. Example: Grow our email list.
  • Measurable. The goal is backed by a growth metric. Example: Grow our email subscribers by 10%.
  • Actionable. Outline tactical steps to achieve the goal. Example: Grow our email subscribers by creating and offering simple templates to download.
  • Relevant. The goal supports your overarching growth plan. Example: Growing our email subscribers will feel more qualified leads to our sales team.
  • Time-based. You’ve to achieve the goal in a specific time frame. Example: Grow our email subscribers 10% in six months.

2. Divide your blog goal(s) into actionable plans for the year’s quarters

Take the time to write down how you will achieve your goals. In the example above, you see that the SMART goal was anchored by the action of 'creating downloadable assets'.

Since planning for the entire year can be overwhelming, create quarterly to-do lists. Then, chop each quarterly to-do list into monthly to-do lists, e.g., quarterly downloadable ebooks that would help boost email subscribers.

3. Make a list of tools and resources you need

Create a list of tools that you need for optimizing your content production.

Need a new plugin or keyword research tool, for example? Add it to your resource list. Will you need to outsource content production to meet your content goals for the year? Add ‘find new freelancers’ to your list.

You’ll also want to add a blog content planner to this list—or, invest in a content operations platform such as GatherContent. This tool can double-down as your blog post planner while providing you a place to:

  • Coordinate all content activities including creation, refreshing, and distribution in one platform.
  • Manage all content production in one place so all your content is accessible in a central resource hub.
  • Create your blog calendar, content workflow, and quality-control and SEO-optimizing checklists. Plus, create template-based briefs, style guides, and more.
Use GatherContent to manage all your content operations in one place.
GatherContent helps manage all your content production in one place and makes coordination with writers easy.

💡 Learn more: Document collaboration tools: Features to look for and our top 5 recommendations

4. Establish how you’ll make your content unique

It's pointless to plan high-ranking content that simply regurgitates what’s already out there. It’s also a surefire way to provide more value to your readers.

Ask yourself: how can we take a unique angle? Some ways to do so include:

  • Creating step-by-step guides on the topic – complete with custom images and annotated screenshots.
  • Interviewing experts to write more authoritative content. You can also create a roundup post on the topic.
  • Covering what’s not done before. For instance, sharing mistakes to avoid on a topic or highlight growth tactics your company has leveraged.

5. Take on a content mix

Ensure your blog plan includes a healthy mix of content types, including:

  • Listicles
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Infographics
  • Guest posts
  • Case studies
  • How-to guides
  • Video content
  • Interactive content, such as quizzes
  • Gated content such as templates and checklists
Good to Know: Don’t forget to include repurposed content and content refreshes to your blogging goals.

Refresh your buyer persona and customer journey map

6. Pool content ideas from different sources

Never stick with one source for your content ideas. Diversify your search for winning ideas.

Try the following:

  • Read books and other blogs to identify potential ideas to try, including competitor blogs and publications.
  • Use social listening to identify what your target audience is discussing.
  • Surf Q&A platforms such as Reddit and Quora to look for questions your audience is asking.
  • Brainstorm content ideas with other customer-facing teams such as members from Sales and Customer Support.

7. Validate and shortlist ideas

Not all the ideas in your blog content plan are going to be home runs—every writer and content manager can agree with this. So, how do you spot the needles in your haystack of ideas?

For each idea, ask yourself two questions:

  • Is it relevant to your brand?
  • Does it solve one of your readers’ pain points or answer a question they have?

A good content topic idea aligns with both your readers’ and brand’s interests. (This is another reason why it's wise to collaborate with your customer-facing teams—so you can ensure the content you create is relevant to prospects and customers.)

💡Learn more: Planning contextual content for users

8. Plan content for all content funnel stages

As you source ideas and sift through your ideas list, make sure you’re finalizing content ideas for all funnel stages.

This way, your content marketing plan will be able to:

  • Attract new folks by creating content that educates them by answering their questions and by spreading awareness of your brand.
  • Nurture and engage interested leads by providing them content that talks about how your product/service can help.
  • Convert readers by answering questions they have on how your product can solve their problem specifically.

9. Work out a publishing frequency

If you don’t already have a plan for publishing content, create one. Decide on:

  • How many downloadable assets (e.g., ebooks, guides, webinars, etc.) you'll publish in a quarter
  • How many blog posts you’ll publish in a week or month
  • How many times you’ll email your subscribers
  • How many social media posts you’ll make daily or weekly (for each platform you are on)

Creating this schedule will help you identify gaps in your blog planning as well as opportunities to repurpose content for content distribution and promotion.

10. Put together blog editorial guidelines and style guide

If you already don’t have these essential documents for creating high-quality content, it’s time you get started today.

Create a style guide and a checklist of ways to write great content. Share this with any agencies or freelancers you work with, too.

You’ll also need an editorial guide for editing pieces to meet your blog’s standards.

In GatherContent, you can also create a template for briefs to speed up creating briefs at the start of each month.

Use GatherContent to create all your content briefs.
Template-based briefs in GatherContent make it easy to work with writers by providing clear instructions of what's required from the content.

Finally, if driving organic traffic is your goal, consider creating a checklist for SEO-optimizing your content.

11. Identify posts in need of updates and refreshes

Look at Google Analytics and pinpoint pieces that have been previously doing well but may have a reduced inflow of traffic lately, otherwise known as 'content decay.' This happens naturally as content ages or becomes dated or irrelevant.

Create a list of these posts and add them to your content refresh list. From there, follow these steps to freshen up your content:

  • Add relevant internal links and check that all links are live and accurate
  • Refresh stale statistics—these shouldn't be older than 2-3 years
  • Add any new product or feature information
  • Update the publish date when you publish your refresh

12. Interview blog readers

Not only is interviewing your readership essential for sourcing content ideas, but it’s also a great way to understand:

  • The content formats your readers prefer to consume
  • The language or key phrases readers use to describe your product
  • Your target audience’s pain points and how they make their buying decisions

13. Create a content distribution plan

If you don’t already have a content workflow or a list of steps to take from ideation to production, create one.

Make sure you add content distribution to this workflow as well. Why? Because that’s the only way you can schedule it in your calendar – making it an integral part of your content marketing.

Additionally, enlist all steps you need to take to distribute content.

💡Learn more: Content Distribution: What it is and how you can improve your strategy in 3 easy steps [Including proven tips from the pros]

14. Include content repurposing to the plan

Creating new content shouldn’t be the center of your blog strategy. Pay attention to repurposing content to drive more mileage from it as well.

The best part? Repurposing content will help you:

  • Prepare content for your social media strategy and
  • Dress already published content in a different format for greater accessibility.

💡Learn more: A complete guide to repurposing content [including 9 real-life examples of repurposed content]

15. Lay out deadlines for the first quarter’s content ideas in a content calendar

Now, prepare your content calendar so you can stick by your decided publishing frequency.

But, be sure to set a realistic schedule by factoring in content production, design, and publishing time.

Also, mark important holidays in your calendar. This way, you can plan content for those calendars when the dates are around the corner.

16. Don’t pack your editorial calendar to the brim

If there’s anything that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that you shouldn’t plan everything down to the tee. Leave room for flexibility in your calendar.

A good rule of thumb is to plan 75% of your content for each month or quarter and leave about 25% for ad hoc requests or timely pieces.

Ready to dive into blog planning and beyond?

Tune into this masterclass on designing a content production plan – you’ll be more than ready to welcome the new year with a fresh ROI-delivering content plan.

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About the author

Masooma Memon

Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer for SaaS. When she’s not writing actionable blog posts or checking off tasks from her to-do list, she has her head buried in a fantasy novel or business book. Connect with her on Twitter.

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