Content, specifically blog content, has become a staple of the SaaS startup go-to-market strategy.
And for good reason.
If you can build up domain authority and rank for a number of high-value, high-intent keywords, you’ll be constantly driving organic traffic (that is, visitors you aren't paying for) to your site each month.
From there, it's a simple formula:
More traffic = more leads = more customers = more revenue.
But that point is a little bit down the track. To get there, you’ve got to invest heavily in content production, which brings with it a number of moving parts.
You’ve got to orchestrate research and planning, brief creation, content writing and editing, and publishing.
To nail that process, you’ve got to build a content factory.
In this five-part series, we’re going to show you exactly how to build your own content factory.
We’ll cover everything from high-level keyword strategy and planning down to the details of optimizing each specific piece you publish and reporting on your content marketing ROI.
Note: In this article, we’re going to be laying the foundations and discussing what a content factory even is, what it involves, and why you should build one. If you’re already set on creating your own content engine and just want to know how, jump forward to part two here: Building A Content Factory (Part 2/5): Website Content Planning.
What Exactly Is A Content Factory?
A content factory is the entire infrastructure built around producing and publishing content on your website.
Specifically, we’re speaking about SEO-focused blog content here, but the term could be applied to the production of other kinds of content (social media posts, ebooks, etc.) as well.
We use the factory analogy here because your content production system shares a lot of parallels with a physical product line.
Each person in the factory has a dedicated role and works at a particular stage. They are (or become) experts in that task, and perform it better than anyone else could.
The content creation process must proceed in a waterfall-like fashion (one task is dependent on the completion of another), and it must do so at scale, just like a real factory.
What Goes On In A Content Factory?
There are three main components that make up a well-oiled content machine:
- Processes (what your people do at each stage)
- People (who perform the specific roles)
- Tech stack (like your factory machinery)
In this article series on building your own content factory, we’ll be covering each in detail.
But for you to quickly grasp how the whole thing works, here’s a high-level breakdown:
- Content strategy and planning
- People: Content manager
- Tech stack: Keyword research tools (Positional), project management solution
- What it involves: Determining what search terms to target, performing keyword and competitor research, building a content calendar
- People: Content writer
- Tech stack: Google Docs, Grammarly, content optimization tool, or my favorite, Letterdrop
- What it involves: Research, drafting, proofreading, and self-editing the article
- People: Content editor
- Tech stack: Google Docs, Grammarly
- What it involves: Reviewing the drafted piece against guidelines and briefs, making copy edits, providing feedback and suggestions to the writer
- People: Virtual assistant
- Tech stack: Your CMS (we use Webflow), Letterdrop
- What it involves: Coordinating with designers, uploading the content to your CMS, ensuring everything is formatted correctly, content syndication.
From there, it's rinse and repeat.
You create a blog brief targeting a specific keyword and pass it to the writer. They draft it, and forward it on to the editor. The editor polishes the pieces and sends them over to publishing, who bring the article live.
Then it's back to the top.
The beauty of this content creation process is that it's highly repeatable and super scalable.
Once you’ve built the processes and tech stack, it's just a matter of bringing on more writers, editors, and VAs to increase your publishing velocity.
Why Build A Content Factory?
Building a content factory isn’t the only way to produce content at scale and drive SEO results.
But for most companies, it's the best way, and there are five key reasons why.
When it comes to SEO content, scale matters.
You’ll need to produce at least 20-30 pieces of content just to get Google to start paying attention to you. You’ll then need to publish 100+ pages over the course of your first year to start seeing results.
That boils down to around 2-3 articles a week, which is almost never going to be achievable by a single marketing person.
Yes, it's realistic for a writer to produce 2-3 articles a week. But many companies looking to invest in SEO have a marketing team of one. That person is responsible for marketing across all channels, not just SEO.
And even if you do have a dedicated content marketer, the actual writing of a blog post is just one of many moving parts.
Building a content factory allows you to bring on role experts to cover each of those tasks, and enables you to scale up production simply by hiring more people into the right roles.
Every person who works in your content factory plays a specialized role.
Content writing is different from editing, which is different again from strategic thinking and planning. Each of these undertakings is not only a different task; it's a different skill set.
Even the best T-shaped marketer is unlikely to be a master of all of them.
By separating these into distinct roles and having your team members focus on only responsibility, you can access skill and role specialization.
This leads to higher quality work (as nobody is doing something they aren’t that good at) that gets delivered faster.
Efficiency and specialization go hand in hand.
If someone develops a given skill because they focus only on that (say, publishing approved content), they’ll generally also become faster at it.
If they’re great at their job, they’ll develop little efficiency hacks along the way, too.
The opposite is true when you have a one-person content marketing team working on everything: your workload is stretched thin, and you’re constantly switching between tasks, preventing you from working as efficiently as you could.
An important component of building your content factory is developing systems and processes for your team to follow, something we’ll dive into in more depth in Part 3: Developing Content Operations.
You’re going to create SOP (standard operating procedure) documentation covering the likes of:
- Your company's tone of voice and style
- Messaging and positioning guidelines
- How to optimize a piece for search
Clearly documenting your content expectations from the get-go helps create consistency across the pieces you publish, as do the quality checks you put in place (e.g., where editors are responsible for holding writers accountable to your style guide).
Finally, building an in-house content factory gives you more control over content creation than does the common alternative of hiring a content creation agency.
Yes, there are several benefits to hiring an agency:
- Quicker to get off the ground
- Only one relationship to manage
- Can be more cost-effective
Plus, hiring an agency gives you access to experience and expertise (for instance, they might have some great hacks for generating free backlinks).
But by keeping the operation in-house, you can develop a team of strategists, writers, and editors who are not only role experts but experts in your product and industry.
Building your own content factory also allows you to retain control of hiring and firing decisions (so you can build your ideal team) and makes you more agile as far as strategic changes are concerned.
How To Get Started Building A Content Factory
In the next four articles in this five-part series, we’ll be diving into the specifics of building a content factory and providing step-by-step details on how to do it.
Here’s how we’re going to break it down:
- Part 2/5: Defining a content strategy, performing keyword research, and building a content calendar.
- Part 3/5: Building a team, creating a content writing tech stack, and writing up the necessary SOP documents.
- Part 4/5: Generating backlinks (for free) and the importance of internal linking.
- Part 5/5: Measuring the impact of your efforts and optimizing for even better results.
Throughout this series, we’ll be drawing on the extensive SEO expertise of Nate Matherson, the Co-founder and CEO of Positional.
Nate has years of experience building successful SEO content factories, and in particular, spent seven years scaling content at LendEDU, an online marketplace for financial products, where he and his team:
- Scaled up to producing 70 articles a month
- Published 2500 articles in total
- Achieved a traffic volume of over 500,000 readers per month
Ready to discover the inside secrets of building an SEO content engine? Head to part two here: