Part I – Get Ready First. You’ll Be Glad You Did.
1. Don’t Shoot for Perfect
It looks like a paradox: plan carefully, but also “jump right in.” The point is some prep work will pay off, but don’t let “perfect” stand in the way of making something really good.
If you “fall uphill” — learn from mistakes, failures, and flat results — you are better off than you would have been with twice the time spent planning. Just start. During the process, get things closer and closer to perfect.
2. Really Understand and Set Your Goals.
Define your purpose
It’s important to establish the core reason why you’re creating content. Are you educating existing customers? Persuading new prospects? Trying to drive signups to your newsletter?
Keep that purpose at the core of your content planning. Everything you create should support that purpose.
Get help from this exercise
People often miss the mark when they’re trying to pinpoint what makes their services (or product) stand apart. This exercise helps you define the objectives of your product or services so that you can support it with the right content.
Try our favorite How & Why exercise.
Set the right goals
- Establish big goals, but break them down into measurable, meaningful goals.
- Don’t just shoot for “more traffic to my site.” Instead, focus on something measurable like “I will get at least 500 new visitors per month.”
- Remember that Conversions > Traffic.
- What are you visitors’ goals? Make your goals and your visitor’s goals intersect.
3. Find Your Baseline
Use tools like SpyFu and Google Search Console to find out where you stand pre-campaign. Get answers to questions like these:
What searches do you currently rank on?
We refer to this in shorthand as the keywords you rank for. These are the phrases people will search where your domain (or page) appears as a result. Learning your keywords helps you start to understand where your existing content already has some footing. You can build on that.
How To> Type your domain into SpyFu.
When you get the results page, scroll down to find your “SEO Keywords.”
Are you generally improving or declining?
Run a special report — we suggest the SEO Dashboard — to get an overall summary of your SEO performance during the past month.
You can always use the SEO Overview on SpyFu, too. It shows historical trends in the number of keywords you rank for and the number of clicks that your site gets from its SEO.
What groups of keywords are your strongest?
The answer will help you leverage your core content. Find out by running an SEO Dashboard report. It will highlight your top keyword groups–the ones where your average rank across keywords is strongest.
- Start with the “Reports” tab on the far right on SpyFu.com
- Select “New SEO Report”
- Type in the domain
- Choose the default “SEO Dashboard” report.
- Make any adjustments in the wizard that fit.
Note: These custom reports require a premium membership to SpyFu
Once you have created an SEO Dashboard Report look at these two sections:
- Keyword Groups with the Biggest Gains
- Keyword Groups with the most Potential
Who links to you? What kind of links do you get?
The Google Search Console answers this in the “Traffic” section under “Links to Me.”
SpyFu helps here, too. Type your domain into the search bar on SpyFu and choose “Backlinks” to see who’s linking to your site and what kind of links they are. We will separate them as news sites, forums and even .gov and .edu links.
Tip> A few tools can help you measure the health of your backlink profile.
- Use SpyFu’s backlink builder to find most valuable inbound links that you are getting.
- Try Moz or Ahrefs to run a backlink audit.
4. Start your Keyword Research
In previous steps, you found your existing keywords. The next step is to branch out so that you can create content that helps you rank on the most important searches in your field.
5. Start tracking your Existing Rankings
Set up automatic tracking so you can see how your new content performs on important searches.
Make sure to track keywords from these categories:
Your biggest traffic generators — Pick your top 10-20 keywords that deliver the bulk of your traffic.
You can find these through Google Analytics (next section) or see our shortcut below.
Biggest opportunities you want to improve — Think of the keywords that have plenty of potential from where you’re standing. Maybe you rank in the top 20 on a high-searched keyword. That would be prime for a solid payoff.
Easiest wins — These are keywords where you’re poised to jump ahead a few spots to a higher ranking thanks to low ranking difficulty and content of yours that is gaining ranks.
Branded keywords — You will likely rank in the top spot for your true branded keywords, but check in on these rankings to make sure that you aren’t losing ground to a savvy competitor.
How To> If you have a SpyFu membership, you can use this shortcut to identify and automatically track your rankings on each of those 4 categories.
- Log in to SpyFu and open the project manager slider to the right.
- Create a new project for your domain.
- Keep the default boxes checked. We will find all of those keyword groups for you.
- You can import your own keywords if you’d like, or just stick with our automatic groups.
- When you are finished, you will have the structure in place to get ranking details on these keywords each week.
Tip> Return to this section of the workflow as you start ranking for more keywords.
6. Get your Systems in Place
Two last goals to cover before you start are:
- Measure your content’s effect.
- Nurture the leads you get.
They might seem like “post production” details, but they fit well in the planning stage. Be ready to respond to the earliest results of publishing your content.
Set up your analytics.
Google Analytics is a solid place to start. They also have the most helpful instructions when it comes to setting up their tools. Here’s where you can get started.
Arrange for split testing.
You won’t necessarily split test your content, but you can (and should) split test ways that you welcome visitors who want to learn more. Or split test the ways that you promote your content.
VWO (Visual Website Optimizer) — Create and A/B test different versions of your website to find the versions that increase your online sales. The simple editor doesn’t require HTML knowledge and offers multivariate testing software, heatmaps, usability testing, etc.
Optimizely — Offers A/B testing, multivariate testing, and basic audience targeting/segmentation with analytics and heatmap options for your website or mobile app. A “pay as you go” plan starts at $49.
Unbounce — Use their built-in mobile responsive templates to create landing pages for testing, and then build on the results. It simplifies the process for those who don’t have the resources to produce multiple landing pages.
Mailchimp — Free for email lists under 2000 people (and 12,000 monthly emails) , MailChimp includes built-in responsive templates to help you email your list.
Constant Contact — Like MailChimp, Constant Contact helps you create custom emails, set up automatic emails, and integrate those into social media.
Tip> Capterra put together this comparison of the two email services.
AWeber — Email service provider that helps small businesses try all of their features in a free trial. Using RSS, it can automatically create emails from your newest blog post.
Consider adding a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform to your process. The benefit is in combining your sales funnel steps into one spot so that your messaging is seamless and your interaction takes their history into account.
Here are some platforms that can help you prepare for an influx of traffic from your content marketing campaign:
Hubspot — A broader customer software platform created to nurture customers through a cycle, starting with leads.
Infusionsoft-– Customize emails and automatically sending different versions to your list contacts based on their actions on your site.
Intercom — Immediate and session-based messages that lets your customer actions trigger the kinds of messages they see.
If you plan your campaign with deliberate attention to this steps, it will show in your execution. Soon, we will have Part 2 with steps on executing your content marketing campaign.