It's often said that your website is your most important marketing channel.
That can be true, but only if you’re actually using your site as a marketing channel and investing in website content creation and search engine optimization (SEO).
If you’re not, it's kind of like saying, “TikTok is our most important channel,” and then never producing a single video.
The key to turning your website into a powerful channel for lead acquisition and customer engagement is building a series of web pages that attract relevant traffic.
The first step in that process is website content planning—the process of researching and prioritizing keywords to go after, then building a content calendar that acts as your source of truth for content production.
In this article, we’re going to guide you through the three broad steps involved in website content planning:
- Defining your content strategy
- Performing keyword research
- Building the content calendar
We’ll also provide detailed steps as we progress so you can follow along.
If you haven’t read part one and you’d like to get a bit of background on the whole thing, head here: Building A Content Factory: Part 1 of 5.
1. Define Your Content Strategy
Before you start researching and prioritizing keywords to target, it's a best practice to establish clarity on your overall content strategy.
There are billions of keywords you could go after.
But what you need to know is which search phrases you should go after.
Your content strategy acts as your north star for choosing which keywords are relevant and which aren’t and for determining which are more important or urgent to target.
There are three core inputs to this strategic process:
- Your industry and product: Who you’re competing with and what their website content assets look like, how your product and brand are different, and what sector of the market you’re going after.
- Your target audience: What interests your typical buyer, what information they are likely to be searching for, and where they often are in the buying journey (e.g., problem-aware vs. solution-aware)
- Your marketing and business goals: The metrics you’ve set to measure marketing success (e.g., new customer acquisition, new leads generated, trial to paid conversion rate)
We exist within the broad account-based marketing and sales space, where there are a lot of established companies competing for the same eyeballs.
But most of them are targeting enterprises, and we’re built for SMB B2B companies who are looking to scale personalized sales outreach processes and account-based marketing programs.
Our product is unique in the market (read about that here if you’re interested), which means our customers are somewhere between problem-aware and solution-aware since they know about the industry-standard solutions but may not be aware of our unique take.
Finally, our primary marketing and business objectives are breaking away from the "red ocean" (competition) and making our way into the blue ocean, our own category, where we establish ourselves as the leader.
All of this informs how we choose and prioritize keywords to target as we develop a website content plan. We would be unlikely to target “account-based marketing platforms for enterprise,” for example.
PS. Write this all down in a Google Doc so you can share it with other team members, such as a content creator or social media manager.
Divide Efforts Between Funnel Stages
A quick note here about funnel stages and a piece of advice from our SEO expert, Nate Matheson.
The funnel stage model (TOFU, MOFU, BOFU), is widely used in the world of content planning to divide and prioritize keywords and inform how the content itself is written.
The problem is that many organizations (particularly startups) tend to ignore top and even middle-of-funnel pieces and focus solely on BOFU.
That’s because BOFU topics and customers are closer to conversion. So, it does make sense from the perspective of prioritizing spend on the topics that are most likely to deliver results in the form of customers.
But our goal in website content planning and creation is broader than that.
We need to not only have individual pages rank for their target keywords but more broadly raise the domain authority of our website, which works best when we produce content across the entire funnel.
When we create TOFU and MOFU content as well, this acts as a signal to search engines that our site is a trustworthy and relevant resource on the entire topic space, which has positive impacts on ranking potential across the whole site.
Nate’s recommendation here is to split your efforts broadly across the funnel, with ⅓ of the content you produce targeting each funnel stage.
2. Perform Keyword Research
This is where you jump into the official research and planning stage, starting with keyword research.
Keyword research is the process of identifying which key search phrases you’re going to try to rank for using website content (specifically blog content in the context of this series).
Technically speaking, there are a number of routes you can take here, e.g.
- Speaking to customers about their search behaviors
- Looking at social media posts that perform well and seeking to replicate them with blog content
- Performing a content audit of competitor websites (we’ll look at how to do this soon)
In general, though, most content strategists will use this process to gather initial content ideas and then use dedicated website content planning tools (e.g., Semrush and Ahrefs) to perform the official keyword research.
Here’s how to do it in Semrush.
The steps might look slightly different in your content planning tool of choice, but the process should be largely the same.
Keyword Research in Semrush
Open Semrush and head to the Keyword Magic Tool.
Add a broad topic idea (your industry or product category is a decent place to start).
Semrush then provides a series of related keywords that you might choose to target, most of which can be spun out into different blog posts (for example, “account-based selling system” is going to be different from “account-based selling strategy”).
Select the keywords you want to include in your content marketing plan and add them to your keyword list.
Volume and Keyword Difficulty
There are two additional pieces of data you want to consider here:
- Volume. This is the monthly number of searches for this keyword. A higher number is better, as it means greater potential for organic search traffic from this topic.
- KD% (keyword difficulty). This is an indication of how hard the topic is to rank for. Lower is better.
That said, you don’t need to pay too much attention to those details at this stage in your website content plan.
While a high-volume/low-difficulty keyword is the holy grail you’re seeking, these don’t tend to be all that common. There is most commonly a trade-off between the two (because high-volume keywords have more traffic potential, so they are more competitive.
Nate recommends against being scared off of high-difficulty keywords anyway.
While some content marketing strategists set a hard bar at 60, 70, or 80, Nate believes that even as high as 90% is still worth going after, so long as you have a well-rounded strategy that:
- Includes a mix of keyword difficulties
- Publishes content consistently at scale
- Focuses on activities that build site authority overall (like building backlinks and creating top-of-funnel content)
Rinse and Repeat
Repeat this process for each of the keyword or topic ideas you have (refer back to your content marketing strategy from step one for inspiration) until you have a list of several hundred potential keywords.
This will be a fairly long and iterative process, but you don’t have to finish it all in one go.
Nate recommends running this process every two to three months.
Not only does this split the workload up, but it also allows you to learn from what’s working and integrate this new knowledge into future keyword research.
Competitor Site Research
Looking into competitors’ websites and seeing which pages are doing well can also be a good strategy for identifying keywords to target.
You should be able to do that in the content planning tool you used for the last step.
Here’s how it works in Positional.
Add your website URL and the competitor you want to compare against.
The app then suggests a list of keywords that the competitor is ranking for that would also be relevant for us to target.
In this case, “mql vs sql” looks like a good opportunity. The search volume is decent, and the competition is low, and we have a shot at knocking Rollworks off of page one.
Keyword clustering is the process of looking at a series of search terms and determining whether any of them share SERPs (search engine results pages).
Where this is the case, we can target several keywords with the same piece of content rather than wasting time and resources on multiple pieces that are actually going after the same SERP.
We’ll use Positional to cluster our keywords.
For instance, Positional has identified that the search terms “b2b leads” and “b2b lead generation” are essentially the same thing, and they share search results.
You can also do this manually by just Googling the two search terms.
If the results are different, then you need to target each keyword with a separate piece of content. If they are the same, you can combine them into one.
However, this does drag out the content planning process, especially at the scale we’re talking about, so you’d be wise to use something like Positional or Semrush to automate this.
3. Build The Content Calendar
Step three is to take that prioritized list of keywords and convert it into a content calendar using a project management tool or Excel spreadsheet.
Determining An Appropriate Content Velocity
Here’s where you need to lock in your content or publishing velocity (which is marketing speak for “how many articles are you going to publish each month”?)
Nate’s advice is that 1-2 pieces a week is a good place, 2-3 if you’re really serious.
At the high end, 3-5 pieces weekly can help you run super fast, but this is likely overkill for most brands.
What you need to bear in mind here is that SEO is a long-term game.
It’s a channel that compounds over time and takes a lot of upfront work, with the results being realized further down the track.
You also need to be publishing for a while before you start consistently showing up in search results and seeing any ROI out of content marketing efforts.
You’ll have to publish at least 20-30 pieces before Google starts really paying attention, and it won’t be until the 6-12 month period that you really see promising results.
But while faster might equal better, if you’re launching your first online content creation process, you’ll have some early learnings and hiccups to battle through before you can realistically achieve that scale.
A wiser approach would be to:
- Start in the 1-3 a week range (which translates to 4-12 a month).
- Get your content factory running smoothly
- Validate your assumptions about what SEO and content can bring to your business
- Then ramp up into the 3-5 range.
Choosing The Appropriate Solution
Your content calendar can totally exist in a Google Sheets or Excel spreadsheet like this:
But if you’re serious about building a great content plan and maximizing efficiency, we’d recommend investing in a project management platform.
Compared to spreadsheets, these solutions allow for:
- Better collaboration (things like assigning tasks and tagging other team members)
- Integrations with other tools and stages in your process (like the content promotion solution you would use to share the blog post on social media platforms
- Greater visibility over timelines, milestones, and due dates
Note how much more user-friendly, organized, and collaborative this content calendar is, for example:
You can still use Google Docs for all the drafting and editing tasks and then just drop links to the relevant docs in the project card.
Scheduling Content Production
From there, it's just a matter of deciding which topics will be produced on which dates.
A good practice here is to spread the funnel stage load evenly.
For example, if you’re producing three articles weekly, you might do one TOFU, one MOFU, and one BOFU piece weekly.
The same goes for the monthly traffic/ranking difficulty paradigm, though you might want to skew that a little so you start off tackling some of the easier topics first.
This will help you secure some page-one positions on Google early on, building your site authority before tackling topics with higher keyword difficulties.
Just don’t fall into the trap of only targeting easy topics.
Putting The Plan Into Action
Consistently creating and publishing quality content is a great way to get in front of your target market.
The best practices discussed above will help you create a solid plan for producing new content pieces on a regular basis. But you’re still missing a part:
A well-oiled content creation process.
That’s the topic of discussion in the next installment of our five-part series: Developing Content Operations.