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Content Creation: The Essential Guide

Content Creation: The Essential Guide

18 minute read

Content Creation: The Essential Guide

18 minute read

Content Creation: The Essential Guide

Robert Mills

Founder, Fourth Wall Content
Creating content is no easy feat. Creating content that people actually want to read can be downright challenging. That's exactly why we've put together this essential guide to content creation.

Inside, you'll find everything you need to know about the content creation process, including how to estimate costs, best practices for creating different types of content, and how to develop a content strategy and plan. You'll also discover who you need on your team to help create content and some tips for developing great content.

Follow along step-by-step or jump to the sections you want to level up immediately. You can use the actionable advice and tips in this guide and adapt it to create your own playbook for creating content.

How much content are you exposed to every day?

Digital marketing experts estimate that the average American is exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day — and these are just the ads. This doesn't take into account the other types of content we consume.

It shouldn't be too surprising. Content is all around us. From websites and social media channels to newspapers and magazines, TV, radio, and emails ... it’s a long list.

Some of that content isn’t relevant, and some of it we are exposed to without choice (i.e., all those billboards on the morning commute). But when we do seek information, especially when looking to make a purchase, we expect the content we consume to be accurate, helpful, and timely.

It’s easy to create and publish a single piece of content these days, but the challenge is in creating content that's meaningful and accessible. Content helps you build trust with your audience, so the more useful it is, the more likely customers are to trust you. (It's no wonder why 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing as part of their digital marketing strategies.)

Brands must provide their users and customers with the information they need or else they'll find it elsewhere, likely from a competitor.

What steps are involved in content creation?

Content creation is the process of planning and creating content that is useful, accessible, and effective for an audience. While this guide will focus on written content, it's important to consider that content also includes videos, infographics, podcasts, and more.

A written definition of content creation: Content creation is the process of planning and creating content that is useful, accessible and effective for an audience, and is created in relevant formats for specific channels.

The key requirements for creating successful content are:

  • A plan for what kind of content to create
  • A specific purpose and goal(s)
  • Content creators who know best practices for creating good content
  • Creation with a focus on readability and accessibility
  • Creation that begins with a specific digital marketing channel in mind

These requirements ensure content will be effective in helping the customer and the business achieve their goals.

Download a free 44 page essential guide to content creation.

Why is content so important?

Content is an asset for your business, and it is what will allow your customers, prospects, readers, and users to get the information they need to make an informed buying decision. Here are some reasons content is essential to your business:

Provides value to audiences

If you’re creating content such as educational resources, guides, and articles, this provides value to your audience and can help them level up. Value is also offered through content that helps people achieve specific tasks.

The value you provide will depend on the piece of content and the topic. However, the basic ways you can provide value with your digital content are through education, inspiration, and entertainment.

Builds your brand (and trust)

What people think about your brand (and its content) is so important as it will determine whether or not they will recommend your brand to friends, family, and colleagues. Content helps your customers build their opinion of your brand. Consistently creating high-quality content that is useful will help build trust with your audience.

Attracts and engages prospects

The best content is not only useful to your target audience but also useful to your business. Use content to start to establish your reputation with potential customers and users. When you educate them, rather than just sell to them, you are providing value in a way that shows potential customers you know your stuff.

Delights existing customers

There's a lot of focus on creating content to get new customers. But you can and should still serve your existing customers and audience through content too. Identify opportunities to add greater value through pieces of content as part of retention and growth strategies.

Positions your brand as an industry thought leader

Remember, we mentioned how much content is out there already? It can be difficult for people to find what they need amongst all that noise. When you create content that is unique and truly provides value to your readers, you're able to cut through that noise and position your brand as a subject matter expert.

People trust and follow thought leaders, so if you want people to return to your content, again and again, work on building that thought leadership.

Quantifiably grows your business

Growing your business through content is a long-term strategy, but creating content that is true to your brand, helpful to your audience, and has a measurable business goal behind it, can improve the ROI you get from the content. Quality content can drive more traffic, leads, and conversions.

Helps you meet (and exceed) audience expectations

When we talk about content marketing, it always comes back to your target audience. Your content should meet their expectations and even surpass them if possible. Living in a world that offers an endless amount of information at your fingertips, it shouldn't surprise anyone that people expect brands to create content.

Graphic showing the stat that 84% of audience expect content.

When we also consider that the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision, suddenly the expectation is higher.

Graphic showing the stat that people consume 11.4 pieces of content before purchasing.

So we’re expected to create lots of content for our audience? Yes! But it isn’t a case of creating something quickly and moving onto the next campaign; it still has to be high quality.

In our article, "Measuring the effectiveness of quality content", we discuss how 60% of marketers are creating content every day to attract more business.

Creating content takes a lot of effort, which is why it’s so important to be confident that the content created is effective, and you haven’t wasted lots of time and money creating content that isn’t fit for purpose.

What is the cost of creating content?

The cost of creating content depends on a number of different factors, including the content creation process that you follow and who is involved in creating the content. But in our Content Strategy and Delivery Masterclass, we try to answer this question in relation to effort.

We present all attendees with a typical content process for creating content (more on process and workflow later). The stages include:

  • Brief/page table
  • Research
  • Write
  • User test (and iterate)
  • Review
  • Revise
  • Upload to CMS
  • Review in HTML
  • Publish
  • Govern/maintain
Typical content creation workflow stages: Brief, research, write, user test, review, revise, upload to CMS, review in HTML, publish, govern.

Then we ask attendees to estimate how much time each stage would take when creating a simple web page of around 750 words (no images, additional formats, etc, so a relatively straightforward website content creation process).

Across dozens of masterclasses, with thousands of attendees in the last 4 years, the average number of hours to get this example web copy through the typical workflow is 15 hours for one short page of content for a website.

Imagine scaling that up to all of the content you need to create for all your audiences, channels, and needs.

A formula to calculate the cost of creating content

To calculate the cost of content production, you might have a spreadsheet with some variables and formulas that helps determine the scale. Any insight will allow you to make smarter recommendations around timescales, resource gaps, expectation setting, and approach, e.g. phased content rollouts.

A good starting point is to answer these questions:

  • When does the content need to be delivered?
  • When are you able to start creating content?
  • How many writers are assigned to work on the content?
  • How much effort (in hours) do you expect each page or piece of content to take to create?

Getting started creating content without knowing these answers is a risky business.

Content cost estimation triangle showing the three facets of scope, time, and cost.
You can begin to calculate the cost of your content creation by using a similar approach to the project management triangle of: 1) Scope 2) Time 3) Cost/Resource.

Depending on the project, you will adjust the Scope (the amount of content), Schedule (available working days), and Cost / Resource (amount of writers) to affect the others.

Reducing the number of writers means the number of working days must increase to create the same amount of content without impacting on quality. Or if a hard deadline means no extra working days can be added, it means reducing the number of pages.

Things do speed up with practice and there are efficiencies of scale but never underestimate the effort needed to create and deliver quality content.

What's your annual budget for content creation?

According to Content Science Review, 53% of organisations don’t know their annual content budget. If the content they’re creating isn’t effective and is of poor quality, they might be wasting lots of money on content that isn’t even working for them. But they don’t know what they’re spending, so can’t know what they’re wasting.

Annual content budget stat: 53% of organisations don't know their annual content budget.

Considering scope, time and resources will give an idea of how many hours, people, and dollars creating quality content will cost for your organization. It will vary for each piece of content, but even a ballpark is useful for planning future content budgets.

Download a free 44 page essential guide to content creation.

How to develop a content strategy

There are lots of elements to creating a content strategy, and you should adopt those to your own organisation, teams, and clients as needed. All the content you create should be informed by a strategy that strives to achieve the principles of good content, as highlighted in Erin Kissane’s book, The Elements of Content Strategy.

Erin states that good content is:

  • Useful
  • User-centered
  • Clear
  • Consistent
  • Concise
  • Supported

As part of your strategy, you may want to:

The list of potential tasks you could complete is long, but the above list is a good starting point! There are some key considerations you need to make in order to ensure any content your brand creates is effective.

"One of the most important things you can do for your Content Producers is to help them understand your strategy, from what business goals you’re trying to achieve to what your users want and expect from you to why you decided to create the content you’re asking them to produce."
Meghan Casey
Author and Content Strategist Owner, Do Better Content Consulting

Creating content with a purpose

All of your content needs to have a purpose, or else why are you spending time creating it? Whether for the business, user, or both, content must be purposeful. Deciding on the purpose will be driven by different goals and needs but if you can't answer 'why are we creating this content?' with a detailed answer then perhaps that content isn't actually needed or necessary.

Example: The purpose of this eBook is to educate our audience on the requirements and considerations for creating content.

Creating content with a measurable goal

When you know your purpose, you can consider what goal can be assigned to the content to measure the ROI and its effectiveness. All goals must be measurable.

Example: Update help center content to increase self-service and reduce call volumes to the call center. Or, we want a 30% increase in registrants to our Q3 webinars.

"As you plan your production process, be sure to build in a way to establish goals for each piece of content. You can use a template for this or even a simple questionnaire. If you set goals before the research and writing start, the rest of the process will be much faster. Clearly articulated goals help your Writer know what questions to ask and what to write. They give your approvers and Subject Experts a framework for evaluating the content. They even give your Copy Editor a better idea of what changes should be made."
Michael Metts
Writer, Speaker, Director of Content Design, Upwork

💡 See also: Watch our webinar: Maximising your return on content.

Creating content with your audience in mind

It's important to know and understand the people you are creating content for. You may have personas to drive this, data to inform, and customer research to refer to.

An iceberg illustration. Above the surface it states 33,000 email subscribers and below the surface on the iceberg are individual stats and insights about that large audience in more detail such as 46% are customers and they prefer how to content.
Example: It is one thing to know you have 33,000 newsletter subscribers or 320 attendees to a webinar, but what are their motivations, what content challenges are they facing, where are they in your buyer journey, etc? Try to move from knowing to understanding.

Creating content for specific channels

You need to know what channels your audience is using and create content specifically with those channels in mind, rather than create once and share everywhere (unless that works for your audience!)

Understand what content types perform best on each channel. Then, make sure you have guidelines for how you format, sound, and write content for different channels.

Example: When you're creating white papers or case studies, there will be a different set of processes and best practices than if you are blogging.

How to develop a plan for creating content

Once you have a content strategy, it’s time to think about tactics and draw up a plan for creating the content.

Here are some key elements you'll need to consider based on your strategy work:

These apply to website content creation, all digital content creation, marketing content creation, social content creation, and all other content types, formats, and channels. Wherever you’re serving information to your audience, having a plan in place will help you operationalise your content creation, especially important for the ongoing day-to-day content creation and for scaling content creation efforts.

Let’s look at these elements of a content creation plan in more detail.

Creating different content types

When you know what you are saying and who you are saying it to, you can start to make informed decisions around what types of content you need to create. The list here is long, as you’d expect, but some core rules are:

  • You don’t need to create content for every possible digital marketing channel.
  • You don’t need the same content type for all your audiences.
  • You don't need to create every type of content.

Think about where your customers, prospects, readers, champions, and influencers are. Maybe an interactive piece of content would be better for them than an infographic. Perhaps they prefer consuming video content to sound bites on social. Maybe they spend most of their time on LinkedIn instead of Instagram. A long-form eBook might resonate more with them than a short and snappy cheat sheet.

You'll want to determine what types of content and content topics resonate with your target audience and which of those will help you reach your marketing goals. Identifying and structuring different content types can help you adapt your content to a multi-device and multi-channel reality.

Creating content for different channels

By now you know what your message is, who it is for, and what format it needs to take. From here, you can think about where this content will be published and distributed.

Channels you may create content for include:

  • Blog
  • Social media platforms
  • Website
  • Podcast
  • Printed collateral
  • App
  • Email marketing

Perhaps you need to change your tone to suit different channels; your content style guide can advise on this.

Deciding what topics to create content for

There are plenty of methods for generating ideas for what content to create. Ideation is an important part of any content creation plan.

Here are just a few ideas for brainstorming content ideas:

  • Subject Matter Experts: Involve subject matter experts on your team or within the industry.
  • Your Audience: Ask your audience what they want to know more about.
  • Past Performance: Look at what content is performing well for you.
  • Industry Performance: Identify trends and what content is performing well in your industry.
  • Competitor Performance: Keep an eye on what content your competitors are creating and succeeding with.
  • Thought Leadership: Create content on topics you want to be considered a thought leader in.
  • Search Intent & Keywords: Perform an SEO audit and keyword research to determine which keywords and topics your audience is searching for.
  • Content Gaps: Perform an audit of existing content to identify gaps in topics you want to cover or areas of opportunity to expand on topics.

Whatever topics you commit to, they have to be relevant and useful for your audience and the business. Remember, content is an asset. It should never be a case of churning out ill-considered content and then moving on to the next creation task.

An editorial calendar to keep content creation on track

An editorial calendar is only one part of the content creation plan and toolbox. It’s useful to create a content calendar to schedule content and define the cadence in which you will publish your content.

Editorial calendars can help you keep track of:

  • What you are publishing
  • When it needs to be published
  • Who will publish it
  • Where it should be published

Establishing an editorial calendar with your team is an important process and can involve them more closely in content planning and creation.

A style guide for content creation

Your content style guide will help content creators know your organisation’s rules around format, style, voice, and tone. This is important for achieving consistency across all content that is created and is even more important if you use third-party writers or have a decentralized publishing model.

You will need to disseminate your style guide effectively for others to use it as intended, and you need to be proactive in maintaining the guide. Get some top tips from the University of Dundee and Mailchimp as to how they manage this.

Creating a content brief

One way to start off on the right track, and help others understand what’s needed from them is to write a content brief. This will outline the precise requirements and ensure the content that is created is what’s needed. It's easier for the creators, there is less time wasted making edits and amends, and it’s always handy to have a reference for what was asked for… just in case.

If you want to learn from more of our experts on a range of content strategy topics, including content creation, check out our library of upcoming events and on-demand webinars.

Download a free 4 page essential guide to content creation.

How to design your content creation process

How you get content from brief to published (and beyond into governance) is dictated by your process or workflow.

💡 See also: A Guide to Content Production Planning

As Nic Evans notes in our article, Who, When, and Why of the Content Creation Process, the content production process should be agile and nimble while also having good definition.

"Great content isn’t stumbled upon; it’s carefully designed for a specific goal."
Nic Evans
Product Content Design Manager, Shopify

This design takes place during the content production process – a series of stages all geared towards producing content that performs. This process is a workflow firmly rooted in project goals and audience needs.

That said, the content production process isn’t set in stone. Every content project and client is different so why should the process be one size fits all? Your content production process is just that, yours.

A workflow brings order to processes, connecting all those involved in content creation to ensure content is delivered on time.

A typical content creation workflow

A typical content creation process could look like this:

  • Create a content brief.
  • Research the topic.
  • Write the piece of content.
  • User test and iterate.
  • Review the draft.
  • Revise the draft.
  • Upload to the CMS.
  • Review the HTML.
  • Publish the piece of content.
  • Govern/maintain in content inventory.
Content creation workflow stages: Brief, research, write, user test, review, revise, upload to CMS, review in HTML, publish, govern.

Whatever your stages, it’s important those involved are part of designing the content creation process. You can either focus purely on the creation part of the process or expand on this to include publishing, governance, and maintenance. Creation is one small part of the entire content lifecycle.

The earlier you design your own content creation process, the better. The more time you invest upfront in your content, the fewer obstacles and challenges you will face after you kick off production and move towards delivery. A clear and agreed-upon workflow should be in place as a standard part of operations for all content initiatives.

There are six steps to creating a robust content creation process:

1. Goals

2. Tasks

3. Roles

4. Order

5. Timeline and due dates

6. Content inventory


Run a workshop to design your content creation process

Running a workshop is a great way to design your process while engaging key stakeholders. The workshop will need a facilitator. (If you’re reading this, it may well be you.) Follow our handy steps here to co-design your content creation workflow for an upcoming redesign, content initiative, campaign, or just for how you’ll deliver content on an ongoing basis.

Content creation process workshop goals

  1. Design an appropriate workflow for the project (it certainly won't be perfect)
  2. Identify content delivery gaps and red flags early
  3. Inform content governance

Prepare the content creation process workshop

  • Give it the time it deserves: Book a meeting room/virtual call for 2 hours
  • Invite all stakeholders: Senior Editor, Writers, CMS Editor, Subject Matter Experts, Content Strategists and Designers, UX/Design, etc

Content creation process workshop activities

Introduce the workshop participants:

  • Two teams: Split the room into two teams with a mix of roles in each team. If you're doing this virtually, give one team a second meeting link to go to while the first team stays on the primary.
  • Generic mental starter: Handout/share a generic workflow diagram (like the one at the end of this guide) to give them a mental model of what such a process looks like.
  • Specific problem to solve: Give them a specific example of a content item (like a blog article or staff profile) relevant to the organisation that needs to go through the workflow (they are about to design)
  • Specific content: Share printouts of that content and/or the latest sketches and prototypes of that content type

Task 1: Map your content workflow

Content creation process workshop – Task 1: Map your content workflow.

Ask both teams to capture the appropriate workflow steps for producing the example content item you’ve decided to focus on.

Use post-it notes for in-person workshops or a tool like Mural for virtual sessions.

Ask them to use a post-it note for each stage (to move them around).

Task 2: Add people with roles to the content workflow

Content creation process workshop – Task 2: Add people.

Assign and label a person or role to each stage in their workflow.

💡 Look out for:

  • Are all the assigned roles already filled?
  • Is the same person or role appearing time and again?
  • Are the named people aware of the content requirements and their responsibilities on it?

Tip: Use colour-coded stick-men or post-its to quickly visualise recurring roles.

Task 3: Identify risks and pain points

Content creation process workshop – Task 3: Identify risks and pain points.

Highlight and annotate potential pain points in your workflow.

  • Consider bottlenecks, known issues, lack of skills, internal politics
  • Give the teams red dots for visual impact

Ask these questions:

  • Are there lots of people with a say in the content?
  • Is an unfair workload falling on one person?
  • Do we have the required skills? Where might things get political and contentious?

Task 4: Design solutions to mitigate risk

Content creation process workshop – Task 4: Design solutions.

Develop ideas that could help mitigate or smooth out potential pain points.

  • Consider the use of software, systems, and tools
  • What are the current techniques and coping strategies for producing content?

Task 5: Estimate time needed for each stage

Content creation process workshop – Task 5: Estimate time.

Attempt to estimate how much Effort (as fractions of hours) each stage could realistically take to perform – write the agreed number against each stage.

Remember to be realistic and go with previous experience. Better to be conservative until proven otherwise.

Calculate the actual person-hours of work (effort) required to complete the stage rather than the span of time (the duration) it takes for the stage to be completed, although both are important when planning to resource.

  • Total up all the stages at the end of the process
  • Multiply the total with the anticipated pages on the new site to get an estimate of total effort for all your content

Task 6: Pitch and critique the workflows

Content creation process workshop – Task 6: Pitch and critique the workflows.

Present your workflow for the rest of the team to critique. Allow ten minutes per team.

Each group walks the whole room through its workflow and invites discussion.

Video or record the presentations to watch back later, take lots of high-res pics of the outputs and back up ASAP.

After the content creation process workshop

After you've completed the content creation process workshop, digitize the draft workflow plans from the workshop, refine them into version 1.0, and share them with the team for feedback.

This can be a simple Powerpoint, Google Doc, or diagram that you can easily iterate with the team’s feedback and the inevitable insights you will get once you actually start to move content items through the workflow.

You may need to do some more thinking at this point about how you are going to address the gaps and pain points that emerged from the tasks.

For example: Make a recommendation that you need to hire a dedicated copywriter for some of the projects or recommend the CEO does not get to review every item of content in the workflow.

This can be a good time to circulate and present to senior managers to get their buy-in. It will help to set their expectations about:

  • Who is involved in delivering content
  • How much effort it will take per content item
  • Where the pain points are expected to be (and your solutions)

You can also use the diagram to communicate to subject matter experts where they fit into the process.

If you want to learn from more of our experts on a range of content strategy topics, including content creation, check out our library of upcoming events and on-demand webinars.

Who should create content for your business?

When it comes to creating content, knowing what needs to be done and when it is crucial. But who needs to do each task and where do responsibilities lie? There will be a lot of people involved in your content process. There is a lot of cross-over between job titles and with multidisciplinary individuals and teams, the narrow swim lane process is not always viable.

Instead, focus on roles and organise your content team with clear responsibilities. Roles and tasks in your content process may include:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Reviewing
  • Approving

These roles and tasks might be assigned to any of the following people within your content team and organisation:

  • Content designer
  • UX Writer
  • Copywriter
  • Editor
  • Proofreader
  • Marketing manager
  • Content strategist
  • Subject matter expert

How prescriptive you need to be will vary but clarity is essential when defining your content creation roles.

For example, if you’re asking someone to review content, make it clear what they need to review; voice and tone, accuracy, spelling, and grammar, etc.

The main thing is to stop guessing who’s responsible in your content creation process by having clearly defined roles and tasks allocated to each role. This increases accountability and reduces wasted time and effort as it removes overlaps in responsibilities, and avoids duplicate content being created.

"The faster you can all forget your job title, the better. If you have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve for your audience, the goal is to bring all your expertise to solve that one problem. Work as one team, no matter who you report to or what building you sit in, and you'll get to that goal a lot faster."
Sarah Winters
Founder, Content Design London

Creating effective content for different digital marketing channels

Your content strategy, plan, process, and people will vary depending on what content you are creating. There may be some similarities and overlaps, but consider each type of content in its own right, to make sure you are creating effective content every time.

Here’s a rundown of some of the common types of content organisations need to create:

Website content creation

Who doesn’t have a website these days? It can be your 24/7 shop, the first port of call to provide help to customers, and a hook to attract prospective customers. Everything covered in this guide is applicable to website content creation.

↳What your website content needs to do:

Meet a user need, inform your audience, be specific to your personas. Your website content will need to sell, educate and serve your customers and prospects. Be specific, have a clear message around your services and solutions.

"It’s tempting to complete easier sections of content first so things get ‘ticked off the list’. But be realistic — more complex sections of content will take longer to produce. Make sure the sections you focus on are important to the success of the site."
Sally Bagshaw
Senior Content Strategist, Canva

Digital content creation

Digital content is more than a website. It is your entire content ecosystem and digital footprint. As well as a website, you may have content on properties you don’t own like YouTube and other social media channels.

↳What your digital content needs to do:

All of your content should serve a purpose and be undoubtedly your content, on-brand, in an authentic voice and tone, and consistent in style.

UX copy creation

UX content and microcopy can be some of the most difficult to craft due to the need for brevity and clarity. Whether copy within a product such as onboarding, call to actions on blogs and websites, or error copy, it must be clear, correct, and specific.

↳What your UX copy needs to do:

Be precise and concise. Make it crystal clear what the action is so expectations are managed, dead ends aren’t reached and the overall content and user experience are considered.

Marketing content creation

Marketing content is a broad term that can include websites, blogs, social, email newsletters, campaign content, webinars, eBooks, podcasts, and much more.

↳What your marketing content needs to do:

It needs to sell, inform, engage, empower and educate. Not all marketing content will need to do all things but be clear on the purpose of all your marketing content and ensure it is created in the appropriate format and published and distributed via relevant channels.

Social media content creation

You don’t need to have accounts on all social media channels because they are ‘emerging’, ‘on the rise’, or because your competitor does. Have social media accounts if that’s where your audience is and you can communicate with them via meaningful content.

↳What your social media content needs to do:

Social media is a chance for you to create and share content that is engaging and part of a conversation. Your website may be more of a broadcasting platform, but your social media channels are a chance for you to listen, engage and chat with your audience.

Content repurposing: Refining, repurposing, and optimising your content

Once you understand what content you have and need, you can make decisions around what you need to create, but it isn’t always a case of creating brand new content every time. You could:

Refine your content

If you have existing content that can be refined to suit a new goal or meet a new purpose, make it so. This could be a change in phrasing or vocabulary, updating with new references, stats, or thinking, or just having a read-through to identify low-touch and quick areas for improvement.

Repurpose your content

You may not need to write a brand new eBook. Perhaps a blog post or series of blog posts could be turned into an eBook. It may be a good idea to get a webinar recording transcribed. Look through your content inventory and identify opportunities for repurposing existing content for different channels and new audiences.

Optimise your content

If any of your existing content is fine as it is, there may still be opportunities for optimising. This could be through linking to other related content, amending the title, adding a call to action, adding share to social buttons, ensuring all headers are correct, including a meta title and meta description, and adding alt text to all images.

Archive your content

Look at every piece of content you have and ask what purpose it serves for either your audience, your business, or both. If it doesn’t serve any purpose, why is it published, or why does it exist? It’s so easy to slip into habits of creating more content and adding to your inventory but a content declutter is a good opportunity to archive any content that is no longer useful or needed.

Best practices for content creation

Creating content is more than writing walls of text for a page. It goes beyond body copy. Here’s a little list of all areas to consider during your content creation:

  • Headings
  • Descriptions, summaries, excerpts, and other component copy
  • Images and captions
  • Call to action labels
  • Links

If you have a content style guide you can include rules and guidelines for all of these different content creation requirements. You could also have a checklist with all of these elements listed to ensure nothing is forgotten.

The information and advice in this guide will form the basis of a solid content playbook, but there are many facets to content creation. There could be a separate guide listing all the best practices alone, but here are a few of the best to start with, including links to additional resources and further information.

Don’t forget SEO

Don’t forget to include the information needed to help your content get noticed by search engines and make it more findable for your audience. For example, you'll want to have an optimisation process that ensures you're including a meta title and meta description to your content while also adding alt text to all images.

💡 See also: SEO for copywriters.

Ensure your content has a measurable goal

It takes a lot of effort to create content so you need to be able to find out if it is effective. The key to this is to set a measurable goal for all of your content. You could ask:

  • What do we want to achieve?
  • What would success for the content look like?
  • What is our expected ROI?

💡 See also: Get started with measuring the performance of your content.

Create content for a specific audience

All the content you create must have an audience in mind. You may have personas to write for, content for different stages of a buyer journey, or be writing to existing customers for retention and upselling. Whoever you’re writing for, make sure you understand your audience so the content you create is relevant, helpful, and resonates. Never underestimate the feeling of ‘this is for me’ that your content can create.

💡 See also: How to make informed content decisions by understanding your audience.

5 tips for creating more effective content

There is a lot of work to be done before you start creating content. You need a clear process, the right people involved, and an understanding of what content you need, who you need to create it for, and where it will be published.

Getting those fundamentals in place will help you build the foundation for your content creation playbook as part of your content operations.

Here are some final tips and practical advice to help you get started with creating your content:

1. Make your content accessible

It seems unfair to pass over such an important aspect of content in a final tips list, but making sure your content is accessible is imperative to ensure good content and digital experiences for all.

A great place to start is checking out the Readability Guidelines project which is an ongoing and collaborative initiative to create a universal style guide that is based on evidence and ensures content is accessible.

2. Proofread your content

This sounds obvious, but how many times have you read something and noticed a formatting issue, grammatical error, or typo? Mistakes happen, of course, but making proofreading part of your content process is a sensible step to avoid unnecessary mistakes.

3. Write in plain English

Clarity is an important goal when creating content. Writing in plain English is good practice and far from dumbing down. As stated in our article, 10 plain English principles for writing better web content, plain English isn’t ‘about simplifying your work or heavy-handed editing. It’s not about stifling creativity. Plain English is about understanding who your reader is, what they want, then writing in a way that speaks to them clearly and concisely.’

4. Read your content aloud

Yes, this will feel uncomfortable, but when you read your content out loud, you hear how it really sounds. It may be that your written style and tone are more formal than you wanted. When you read your content out loud, if it doesn’t sound like how you would speak to someone, perhaps it needs some refinement.

5. Train writers on your content style guide

Having a content style guide is one obstacle. You need to get people to use it. That way, they understand the rules for creating content that will be in the organisation’s style. GOV.UK train their writers on the content style guide and Mailchimp also have effective dissemination techniques in place.

Further content creation resources

Content creation is a broad topic that links to lots of other content-related activities and processes. Whilst this guide aims to share the essentials, here's a handy list of further resources related to content creation and broader areas, that you may also find useful:

It's not easy to create meaningful, purposeful, and effective content

It takes time, effort, and real investment in your content process. Content has to be seen as an asset in your organization. Only then can it be given the attention it deserves.

Use this guide as a starting point to understand the content creation process. When you're ready, start creating your own content playbook so you can have confidence that the content you create will meet your audience’s needs and grow your business.

Inside, you'll find everything you need to know about the content creation process, including how to estimate costs, best practices for creating different types of content, and how to develop a content strategy and plan. You'll also discover who you need on your team to help create content and some tips for developing great content.

Follow along step-by-step or jump to the sections you want to level up immediately. You can use the actionable advice and tips in this guide and adapt it to create your own playbook for creating content.

How much content are you exposed to every day?

Digital marketing experts estimate that the average American is exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day — and these are just the ads. This doesn't take into account the other types of content we consume.

It shouldn't be too surprising. Content is all around us. From websites and social media channels to newspapers and magazines, TV, radio, and emails ... it’s a long list.

Some of that content isn’t relevant, and some of it we are exposed to without choice (i.e., all those billboards on the morning commute). But when we do seek information, especially when looking to make a purchase, we expect the content we consume to be accurate, helpful, and timely.

It’s easy to create and publish a single piece of content these days, but the challenge is in creating content that's meaningful and accessible. Content helps you build trust with your audience, so the more useful it is, the more likely customers are to trust you. (It's no wonder why 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing as part of their digital marketing strategies.)

Brands must provide their users and customers with the information they need or else they'll find it elsewhere, likely from a competitor.

What steps are involved in content creation?

Content creation is the process of planning and creating content that is useful, accessible, and effective for an audience. While this guide will focus on written content, it's important to consider that content also includes videos, infographics, podcasts, and more.

A written definition of content creation: Content creation is the process of planning and creating content that is useful, accessible and effective for an audience, and is created in relevant formats for specific channels.

The key requirements for creating successful content are:

  • A plan for what kind of content to create
  • A specific purpose and goal(s)
  • Content creators who know best practices for creating good content
  • Creation with a focus on readability and accessibility
  • Creation that begins with a specific digital marketing channel in mind

These requirements ensure content will be effective in helping the customer and the business achieve their goals.

Download a free 44 page essential guide to content creation.

Why is content so important?

Content is an asset for your business, and it is what will allow your customers, prospects, readers, and users to get the information they need to make an informed buying decision. Here are some reasons content is essential to your business:

Provides value to audiences

If you’re creating content such as educational resources, guides, and articles, this provides value to your audience and can help them level up. Value is also offered through content that helps people achieve specific tasks.

The value you provide will depend on the piece of content and the topic. However, the basic ways you can provide value with your digital content are through education, inspiration, and entertainment.

Builds your brand (and trust)

What people think about your brand (and its content) is so important as it will determine whether or not they will recommend your brand to friends, family, and colleagues. Content helps your customers build their opinion of your brand. Consistently creating high-quality content that is useful will help build trust with your audience.

Attracts and engages prospects

The best content is not only useful to your target audience but also useful to your business. Use content to start to establish your reputation with potential customers and users. When you educate them, rather than just sell to them, you are providing value in a way that shows potential customers you know your stuff.

Delights existing customers

There's a lot of focus on creating content to get new customers. But you can and should still serve your existing customers and audience through content too. Identify opportunities to add greater value through pieces of content as part of retention and growth strategies.

Positions your brand as an industry thought leader

Remember, we mentioned how much content is out there already? It can be difficult for people to find what they need amongst all that noise. When you create content that is unique and truly provides value to your readers, you're able to cut through that noise and position your brand as a subject matter expert.

People trust and follow thought leaders, so if you want people to return to your content, again and again, work on building that thought leadership.

Quantifiably grows your business

Growing your business through content is a long-term strategy, but creating content that is true to your brand, helpful to your audience, and has a measurable business goal behind it, can improve the ROI you get from the content. Quality content can drive more traffic, leads, and conversions.

Helps you meet (and exceed) audience expectations

When we talk about content marketing, it always comes back to your target audience. Your content should meet their expectations and even surpass them if possible. Living in a world that offers an endless amount of information at your fingertips, it shouldn't surprise anyone that people expect brands to create content.

Graphic showing the stat that 84% of audience expect content.

When we also consider that the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision, suddenly the expectation is higher.

Graphic showing the stat that people consume 11.4 pieces of content before purchasing.

So we’re expected to create lots of content for our audience? Yes! But it isn’t a case of creating something quickly and moving onto the next campaign; it still has to be high quality.

In our article, "Measuring the effectiveness of quality content", we discuss how 60% of marketers are creating content every day to attract more business.

Creating content takes a lot of effort, which is why it’s so important to be confident that the content created is effective, and you haven’t wasted lots of time and money creating content that isn’t fit for purpose.

What is the cost of creating content?

The cost of creating content depends on a number of different factors, including the content creation process that you follow and who is involved in creating the content. But in our Content Strategy and Delivery Masterclass, we try to answer this question in relation to effort.

We present all attendees with a typical content process for creating content (more on process and workflow later). The stages include:

  • Brief/page table
  • Research
  • Write
  • User test (and iterate)
  • Review
  • Revise
  • Upload to CMS
  • Review in HTML
  • Publish
  • Govern/maintain
Typical content creation workflow stages: Brief, research, write, user test, review, revise, upload to CMS, review in HTML, publish, govern.

Then we ask attendees to estimate how much time each stage would take when creating a simple web page of around 750 words (no images, additional formats, etc, so a relatively straightforward website content creation process).

Across dozens of masterclasses, with thousands of attendees in the last 4 years, the average number of hours to get this example web copy through the typical workflow is 15 hours for one short page of content for a website.

Imagine scaling that up to all of the content you need to create for all your audiences, channels, and needs.

A formula to calculate the cost of creating content

To calculate the cost of content production, you might have a spreadsheet with some variables and formulas that helps determine the scale. Any insight will allow you to make smarter recommendations around timescales, resource gaps, expectation setting, and approach, e.g. phased content rollouts.

A good starting point is to answer these questions:

  • When does the content need to be delivered?
  • When are you able to start creating content?
  • How many writers are assigned to work on the content?
  • How much effort (in hours) do you expect each page or piece of content to take to create?

Getting started creating content without knowing these answers is a risky business.

Content cost estimation triangle showing the three facets of scope, time, and cost.
You can begin to calculate the cost of your content creation by using a similar approach to the project management triangle of: 1) Scope 2) Time 3) Cost/Resource.

Depending on the project, you will adjust the Scope (the amount of content), Schedule (available working days), and Cost / Resource (amount of writers) to affect the others.

Reducing the number of writers means the number of working days must increase to create the same amount of content without impacting on quality. Or if a hard deadline means no extra working days can be added, it means reducing the number of pages.

Things do speed up with practice and there are efficiencies of scale but never underestimate the effort needed to create and deliver quality content.

What's your annual budget for content creation?

According to Content Science Review, 53% of organisations don’t know their annual content budget. If the content they’re creating isn’t effective and is of poor quality, they might be wasting lots of money on content that isn’t even working for them. But they don’t know what they’re spending, so can’t know what they’re wasting.

Annual content budget stat: 53% of organisations don't know their annual content budget.

Considering scope, time and resources will give an idea of how many hours, people, and dollars creating quality content will cost for your organization. It will vary for each piece of content, but even a ballpark is useful for planning future content budgets.

Download a free 44 page essential guide to content creation.

How to develop a content strategy

There are lots of elements to creating a content strategy, and you should adopt those to your own organisation, teams, and clients as needed. All the content you create should be informed by a strategy that strives to achieve the principles of good content, as highlighted in Erin Kissane’s book, The Elements of Content Strategy.

Erin states that good content is:

  • Useful
  • User-centered
  • Clear
  • Consistent
  • Concise
  • Supported

As part of your strategy, you may want to:

The list of potential tasks you could complete is long, but the above list is a good starting point! There are some key considerations you need to make in order to ensure any content your brand creates is effective.

"One of the most important things you can do for your Content Producers is to help them understand your strategy, from what business goals you’re trying to achieve to what your users want and expect from you to why you decided to create the content you’re asking them to produce."
Meghan Casey
Author and Content Strategist Owner, Do Better Content Consulting

Creating content with a purpose

All of your content needs to have a purpose, or else why are you spending time creating it? Whether for the business, user, or both, content must be purposeful. Deciding on the purpose will be driven by different goals and needs but if you can't answer 'why are we creating this content?' with a detailed answer then perhaps that content isn't actually needed or necessary.

Example: The purpose of this eBook is to educate our audience on the requirements and considerations for creating content.

Creating content with a measurable goal

When you know your purpose, you can consider what goal can be assigned to the content to measure the ROI and its effectiveness. All goals must be measurable.

Example: Update help center content to increase self-service and reduce call volumes to the call center. Or, we want a 30% increase in registrants to our Q3 webinars.

"As you plan your production process, be sure to build in a way to establish goals for each piece of content. You can use a template for this or even a simple questionnaire. If you set goals before the research and writing start, the rest of the process will be much faster. Clearly articulated goals help your Writer know what questions to ask and what to write. They give your approvers and Subject Experts a framework for evaluating the content. They even give your Copy Editor a better idea of what changes should be made."
Michael Metts
Writer, Speaker, Director of Content Design, Upwork

💡 See also: Watch our webinar: Maximising your return on content.

Creating content with your audience in mind

It's important to know and understand the people you are creating content for. You may have personas to drive this, data to inform, and customer research to refer to.

An iceberg illustration. Above the surface it states 33,000 email subscribers and below the surface on the iceberg are individual stats and insights about that large audience in more detail such as 46% are customers and they prefer how to content.
Example: It is one thing to know you have 33,000 newsletter subscribers or 320 attendees to a webinar, but what are their motivations, what content challenges are they facing, where are they in your buyer journey, etc? Try to move from knowing to understanding.

Creating content for specific channels

You need to know what channels your audience is using and create content specifically with those channels in mind, rather than create once and share everywhere (unless that works for your audience!)

Understand what content types perform best on each channel. Then, make sure you have guidelines for how you format, sound, and write content for different channels.

Example: When you're creating white papers or case studies, there will be a different set of processes and best practices than if you are blogging.

How to develop a plan for creating content

Once you have a content strategy, it’s time to think about tactics and draw up a plan for creating the content.

Here are some key elements you'll need to consider based on your strategy work:

These apply to website content creation, all digital content creation, marketing content creation, social content creation, and all other content types, formats, and channels. Wherever you’re serving information to your audience, having a plan in place will help you operationalise your content creation, especially important for the ongoing day-to-day content creation and for scaling content creation efforts.

Let’s look at these elements of a content creation plan in more detail.

Creating different content types

When you know what you are saying and who you are saying it to, you can start to make informed decisions around what types of content you need to create. The list here is long, as you’d expect, but some core rules are:

  • You don’t need to create content for every possible digital marketing channel.
  • You don’t need the same content type for all your audiences.
  • You don't need to create every type of content.

Think about where your customers, prospects, readers, champions, and influencers are. Maybe an interactive piece of content would be better for them than an infographic. Perhaps they prefer consuming video content to sound bites on social. Maybe they spend most of their time on LinkedIn instead of Instagram. A long-form eBook might resonate more with them than a short and snappy cheat sheet.

You'll want to determine what types of content and content topics resonate with your target audience and which of those will help you reach your marketing goals. Identifying and structuring different content types can help you adapt your content to a multi-device and multi-channel reality.

Creating content for different channels

By now you know what your message is, who it is for, and what format it needs to take. From here, you can think about where this content will be published and distributed.

Channels you may create content for include:

  • Blog
  • Social media platforms
  • Website
  • Podcast
  • Printed collateral
  • App
  • Email marketing

Perhaps you need to change your tone to suit different channels; your content style guide can advise on this.

Deciding what topics to create content for

There are plenty of methods for generating ideas for what content to create. Ideation is an important part of any content creation plan.

Here are just a few ideas for brainstorming content ideas:

  • Subject Matter Experts: Involve subject matter experts on your team or within the industry.
  • Your Audience: Ask your audience what they want to know more about.
  • Past Performance: Look at what content is performing well for you.
  • Industry Performance: Identify trends and what content is performing well in your industry.
  • Competitor Performance: Keep an eye on what content your competitors are creating and succeeding with.
  • Thought Leadership: Create content on topics you want to be considered a thought leader in.
  • Search Intent & Keywords: Perform an SEO audit and keyword research to determine which keywords and topics your audience is searching for.
  • Content Gaps: Perform an audit of existing content to identify gaps in topics you want to cover or areas of opportunity to expand on topics.

Whatever topics you commit to, they have to be relevant and useful for your audience and the business. Remember, content is an asset. It should never be a case of churning out ill-considered content and then moving on to the next creation task.

An editorial calendar to keep content creation on track

An editorial calendar is only one part of the content creation plan and toolbox. It’s useful to create a content calendar to schedule content and define the cadence in which you will publish your content.

Editorial calendars can help you keep track of:

  • What you are publishing
  • When it needs to be published
  • Who will publish it
  • Where it should be published

Establishing an editorial calendar with your team is an important process and can involve them more closely in content planning and creation.

A style guide for content creation

Your content style guide will help content creators know your organisation’s rules around format, style, voice, and tone. This is important for achieving consistency across all content that is created and is even more important if you use third-party writers or have a decentralized publishing model.

You will need to disseminate your style guide effectively for others to use it as intended, and you need to be proactive in maintaining the guide. Get some top tips from the University of Dundee and Mailchimp as to how they manage this.

Creating a content brief

One way to start off on the right track, and help others understand what’s needed from them is to write a content brief. This will outline the precise requirements and ensure the content that is created is what’s needed. It's easier for the creators, there is less time wasted making edits and amends, and it’s always handy to have a reference for what was asked for… just in case.

If you want to learn from more of our experts on a range of content strategy topics, including content creation, check out our library of upcoming events and on-demand webinars.

Download a free 4 page essential guide to content creation.

How to design your content creation process

How you get content from brief to published (and beyond into governance) is dictated by your process or workflow.

💡 See also: A Guide to Content Production Planning

As Nic Evans notes in our article, Who, When, and Why of the Content Creation Process, the content production process should be agile and nimble while also having good definition.

"Great content isn’t stumbled upon; it’s carefully designed for a specific goal."
Nic Evans
Product Content Design Manager, Shopify

This design takes place during the content production process – a series of stages all geared towards producing content that performs. This process is a workflow firmly rooted in project goals and audience needs.

That said, the content production process isn’t set in stone. Every content project and client is different so why should the process be one size fits all? Your content production process is just that, yours.

A workflow brings order to processes, connecting all those involved in content creation to ensure content is delivered on time.

A typical content creation workflow

A typical content creation process could look like this:

  • Create a content brief.
  • Research the topic.
  • Write the piece of content.
  • User test and iterate.
  • Review the draft.
  • Revise the draft.
  • Upload to the CMS.
  • Review the HTML.
  • Publish the piece of content.
  • Govern/maintain in content inventory.
Content creation workflow stages: Brief, research, write, user test, review, revise, upload to CMS, review in HTML, publish, govern.

Whatever your stages, it’s important those involved are part of designing the content creation process. You can either focus purely on the creation part of the process or expand on this to include publishing, governance, and maintenance. Creation is one small part of the entire content lifecycle.

The earlier you design your own content creation process, the better. The more time you invest upfront in your content, the fewer obstacles and challenges you will face after you kick off production and move towards delivery. A clear and agreed-upon workflow should be in place as a standard part of operations for all content initiatives.

There are six steps to creating a robust content creation process:

1. Goals

2. Tasks

3. Roles

4. Order

5. Timeline and due dates

6. Content inventory


Run a workshop to design your content creation process

Running a workshop is a great way to design your process while engaging key stakeholders. The workshop will need a facilitator. (If you’re reading this, it may well be you.) Follow our handy steps here to co-design your content creation workflow for an upcoming redesign, content initiative, campaign, or just for how you’ll deliver content on an ongoing basis.

Content creation process workshop goals

  1. Design an appropriate workflow for the project (it certainly won't be perfect)
  2. Identify content delivery gaps and red flags early
  3. Inform content governance

Prepare the content creation process workshop

  • Give it the time it deserves: Book a meeting room/virtual call for 2 hours
  • Invite all stakeholders: Senior Editor, Writers, CMS Editor, Subject Matter Experts, Content Strategists and Designers, UX/Design, etc

Content creation process workshop activities

Introduce the workshop participants:

  • Two teams: Split the room into two teams with a mix of roles in each team. If you're doing this virtually, give one team a second meeting link to go to while the first team stays on the primary.
  • Generic mental starter: Handout/share a generic workflow diagram (like the one at the end of this guide) to give them a mental model of what such a process looks like.
  • Specific problem to solve: Give them a specific example of a content item (like a blog article or staff profile) relevant to the organisation that needs to go through the workflow (they are about to design)
  • Specific content: Share printouts of that content and/or the latest sketches and prototypes of that content type

Task 1: Map your content workflow

Content creation process workshop – Task 1: Map your content workflow.

Ask both teams to capture the appropriate workflow steps for producing the example content item you’ve decided to focus on.

Use post-it notes for in-person workshops or a tool like Mural for virtual sessions.

Ask them to use a post-it note for each stage (to move them around).

Task 2: Add people with roles to the content workflow

Content creation process workshop – Task 2: Add people.

Assign and label a person or role to each stage in their workflow.

💡 Look out for:

  • Are all the assigned roles already filled?
  • Is the same person or role appearing time and again?
  • Are the named people aware of the content requirements and their responsibilities on it?

Tip: Use colour-coded stick-men or post-its to quickly visualise recurring roles.

Task 3: Identify risks and pain points

Content creation process workshop – Task 3: Identify risks and pain points.

Highlight and annotate potential pain points in your workflow.

  • Consider bottlenecks, known issues, lack of skills, internal politics
  • Give the teams red dots for visual impact

Ask these questions:

  • Are there lots of people with a say in the content?
  • Is an unfair workload falling on one person?
  • Do we have the required skills? Where might things get political and contentious?

Task 4: Design solutions to mitigate risk

Content creation process workshop – Task 4: Design solutions.

Develop ideas that could help mitigate or smooth out potential pain points.

  • Consider the use of software, systems, and tools
  • What are the current techniques and coping strategies for producing content?

Task 5: Estimate time needed for each stage

Content creation process workshop – Task 5: Estimate time.

Attempt to estimate how much Effort (as fractions of hours) each stage could realistically take to perform – write the agreed number against each stage.

Remember to be realistic and go with previous experience. Better to be conservative until proven otherwise.

Calculate the actual person-hours of work (effort) required to complete the stage rather than the span of time (the duration) it takes for the stage to be completed, although both are important when planning to resource.

  • Total up all the stages at the end of the process
  • Multiply the total with the anticipated pages on the new site to get an estimate of total effort for all your content

Task 6: Pitch and critique the workflows

Content creation process workshop – Task 6: Pitch and critique the workflows.

Present your workflow for the rest of the team to critique. Allow ten minutes per team.

Each group walks the whole room through its workflow and invites discussion.

Video or record the presentations to watch back later, take lots of high-res pics of the outputs and back up ASAP.

After the content creation process workshop

After you've completed the content creation process workshop, digitize the draft workflow plans from the workshop, refine them into version 1.0, and share them with the team for feedback.

This can be a simple Powerpoint, Google Doc, or diagram that you can easily iterate with the team’s feedback and the inevitable insights you will get once you actually start to move content items through the workflow.

You may need to do some more thinking at this point about how you are going to address the gaps and pain points that emerged from the tasks.

For example: Make a recommendation that you need to hire a dedicated copywriter for some of the projects or recommend the CEO does not get to review every item of content in the workflow.

This can be a good time to circulate and present to senior managers to get their buy-in. It will help to set their expectations about:

  • Who is involved in delivering content
  • How much effort it will take per content item
  • Where the pain points are expected to be (and your solutions)

You can also use the diagram to communicate to subject matter experts where they fit into the process.

If you want to learn from more of our experts on a range of content strategy topics, including content creation, check out our library of upcoming events and on-demand webinars.

Who should create content for your business?

When it comes to creating content, knowing what needs to be done and when it is crucial. But who needs to do each task and where do responsibilities lie? There will be a lot of people involved in your content process. There is a lot of cross-over between job titles and with multidisciplinary individuals and teams, the narrow swim lane process is not always viable.

Instead, focus on roles and organise your content team with clear responsibilities. Roles and tasks in your content process may include:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Reviewing
  • Approving

These roles and tasks might be assigned to any of the following people within your content team and organisation:

  • Content designer
  • UX Writer
  • Copywriter
  • Editor
  • Proofreader
  • Marketing manager
  • Content strategist
  • Subject matter expert

How prescriptive you need to be will vary but clarity is essential when defining your content creation roles.

For example, if you’re asking someone to review content, make it clear what they need to review; voice and tone, accuracy, spelling, and grammar, etc.

The main thing is to stop guessing who’s responsible in your content creation process by having clearly defined roles and tasks allocated to each role. This increases accountability and reduces wasted time and effort as it removes overlaps in responsibilities, and avoids duplicate content being created.

"The faster you can all forget your job title, the better. If you have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve for your audience, the goal is to bring all your expertise to solve that one problem. Work as one team, no matter who you report to or what building you sit in, and you'll get to that goal a lot faster."
Sarah Winters
Founder, Content Design London

Creating effective content for different digital marketing channels

Your content strategy, plan, process, and people will vary depending on what content you are creating. There may be some similarities and overlaps, but consider each type of content in its own right, to make sure you are creating effective content every time.

Here’s a rundown of some of the common types of content organisations need to create:

Website content creation

Who doesn’t have a website these days? It can be your 24/7 shop, the first port of call to provide help to customers, and a hook to attract prospective customers. Everything covered in this guide is applicable to website content creation.

↳What your website content needs to do:

Meet a user need, inform your audience, be specific to your personas. Your website content will need to sell, educate and serve your customers and prospects. Be specific, have a clear message around your services and solutions.

"It’s tempting to complete easier sections of content first so things get ‘ticked off the list’. But be realistic — more complex sections of content will take longer to produce. Make sure the sections you focus on are important to the success of the site."
Sally Bagshaw
Senior Content Strategist, Canva

Digital content creation

Digital content is more than a website. It is your entire content ecosystem and digital footprint. As well as a website, you may have content on properties you don’t own like YouTube and other social media channels.

↳What your digital content needs to do:

All of your content should serve a purpose and be undoubtedly your content, on-brand, in an authentic voice and tone, and consistent in style.

UX copy creation

UX content and microcopy can be some of the most difficult to craft due to the need for brevity and clarity. Whether copy within a product such as onboarding, call to actions on blogs and websites, or error copy, it must be clear, correct, and specific.

↳What your UX copy needs to do:

Be precise and concise. Make it crystal clear what the action is so expectations are managed, dead ends aren’t reached and the overall content and user experience are considered.

Marketing content creation

Marketing content is a broad term that can include websites, blogs, social, email newsletters, campaign content, webinars, eBooks, podcasts, and much more.

↳What your marketing content needs to do:

It needs to sell, inform, engage, empower and educate. Not all marketing content will need to do all things but be clear on the purpose of all your marketing content and ensure it is created in the appropriate format and published and distributed via relevant channels.

Social media content creation

You don’t need to have accounts on all social media channels because they are ‘emerging’, ‘on the rise’, or because your competitor does. Have social media accounts if that’s where your audience is and you can communicate with them via meaningful content.

↳What your social media content needs to do:

Social media is a chance for you to create and share content that is engaging and part of a conversation. Your website may be more of a broadcasting platform, but your social media channels are a chance for you to listen, engage and chat with your audience.

Content repurposing: Refining, repurposing, and optimising your content

Once you understand what content you have and need, you can make decisions around what you need to create, but it isn’t always a case of creating brand new content every time. You could:

Refine your content

If you have existing content that can be refined to suit a new goal or meet a new purpose, make it so. This could be a change in phrasing or vocabulary, updating with new references, stats, or thinking, or just having a read-through to identify low-touch and quick areas for improvement.

Repurpose your content

You may not need to write a brand new eBook. Perhaps a blog post or series of blog posts could be turned into an eBook. It may be a good idea to get a webinar recording transcribed. Look through your content inventory and identify opportunities for repurposing existing content for different channels and new audiences.

Optimise your content

If any of your existing content is fine as it is, there may still be opportunities for optimising. This could be through linking to other related content, amending the title, adding a call to action, adding share to social buttons, ensuring all headers are correct, including a meta title and meta description, and adding alt text to all images.

Archive your content

Look at every piece of content you have and ask what purpose it serves for either your audience, your business, or both. If it doesn’t serve any purpose, why is it published, or why does it exist? It’s so easy to slip into habits of creating more content and adding to your inventory but a content declutter is a good opportunity to archive any content that is no longer useful or needed.

Best practices for content creation

Creating content is more than writing walls of text for a page. It goes beyond body copy. Here’s a little list of all areas to consider during your content creation:

  • Headings
  • Descriptions, summaries, excerpts, and other component copy
  • Images and captions
  • Call to action labels
  • Links

If you have a content style guide you can include rules and guidelines for all of these different content creation requirements. You could also have a checklist with all of these elements listed to ensure nothing is forgotten.

The information and advice in this guide will form the basis of a solid content playbook, but there are many facets to content creation. There could be a separate guide listing all the best practices alone, but here are a few of the best to start with, including links to additional resources and further information.

Don’t forget SEO

Don’t forget to include the information needed to help your content get noticed by search engines and make it more findable for your audience. For example, you'll want to have an optimisation process that ensures you're including a meta title and meta description to your content while also adding alt text to all images.

💡 See also: SEO for copywriters.

Ensure your content has a measurable goal

It takes a lot of effort to create content so you need to be able to find out if it is effective. The key to this is to set a measurable goal for all of your content. You could ask:

  • What do we want to achieve?
  • What would success for the content look like?
  • What is our expected ROI?

💡 See also: Get started with measuring the performance of your content.

Create content for a specific audience

All the content you create must have an audience in mind. You may have personas to write for, content for different stages of a buyer journey, or be writing to existing customers for retention and upselling. Whoever you’re writing for, make sure you understand your audience so the content you create is relevant, helpful, and resonates. Never underestimate the feeling of ‘this is for me’ that your content can create.

💡 See also: How to make informed content decisions by understanding your audience.

5 tips for creating more effective content

There is a lot of work to be done before you start creating content. You need a clear process, the right people involved, and an understanding of what content you need, who you need to create it for, and where it will be published.

Getting those fundamentals in place will help you build the foundation for your content creation playbook as part of your content operations.

Here are some final tips and practical advice to help you get started with creating your content:

1. Make your content accessible

It seems unfair to pass over such an important aspect of content in a final tips list, but making sure your content is accessible is imperative to ensure good content and digital experiences for all.

A great place to start is checking out the Readability Guidelines project which is an ongoing and collaborative initiative to create a universal style guide that is based on evidence and ensures content is accessible.

2. Proofread your content

This sounds obvious, but how many times have you read something and noticed a formatting issue, grammatical error, or typo? Mistakes happen, of course, but making proofreading part of your content process is a sensible step to avoid unnecessary mistakes.

3. Write in plain English

Clarity is an important goal when creating content. Writing in plain English is good practice and far from dumbing down. As stated in our article, 10 plain English principles for writing better web content, plain English isn’t ‘about simplifying your work or heavy-handed editing. It’s not about stifling creativity. Plain English is about understanding who your reader is, what they want, then writing in a way that speaks to them clearly and concisely.’

4. Read your content aloud

Yes, this will feel uncomfortable, but when you read your content out loud, you hear how it really sounds. It may be that your written style and tone are more formal than you wanted. When you read your content out loud, if it doesn’t sound like how you would speak to someone, perhaps it needs some refinement.

5. Train writers on your content style guide

Having a content style guide is one obstacle. You need to get people to use it. That way, they understand the rules for creating content that will be in the organisation’s style. GOV.UK train their writers on the content style guide and Mailchimp also have effective dissemination techniques in place.

Further content creation resources

Content creation is a broad topic that links to lots of other content-related activities and processes. Whilst this guide aims to share the essentials, here's a handy list of further resources related to content creation and broader areas, that you may also find useful:

It's not easy to create meaningful, purposeful, and effective content

It takes time, effort, and real investment in your content process. Content has to be seen as an asset in your organization. Only then can it be given the attention it deserves.

Use this guide as a starting point to understand the content creation process. When you're ready, start creating your own content playbook so you can have confidence that the content you create will meet your audience’s needs and grow your business.

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About the author

Robert Mills

Rob is Founder of Fourth Wall Content working with clients on content strategy, creation and marketing. Previously, in his role as Head of Content at GatherContent he managed all of the organisation's content output and content operations.

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