Content Planning: The Do’s and Don’ts

The term “content strategy” has become a buzzword in recent years, but what does it actually mean? A content strategy is simply a plan for how you will create, manage, and publish content. That’s it!

Your content strategy is the basis of your content planning. It can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be, but laying it out clearly will help ensure that your content planning stays organized, manageable, and focused on the right priorities.

To help you get started in putting your plan together, our writers at 1SecondCopy have assembled some of the most important “do’s” and “don’ts” of content strategy and planning.

Do: Make Your Goals Explicit

Before even starting to plan your content, think carefully about what it is you want to achieve with it, making sure there’s a clear link between those objectives and your overarching business goals. After all, without knowing what you’re aiming for, it will be difficult to align your team’s efforts and measure your success.

A good rule of thumb for setting strategic goals is to be as specific and achievable as possible. For example, rather than simply stating you want to "increase website traffic," try setting a goal to "double website traffic from our target audience within six months."

Once you've settled on your goals, planning your content will start to feel much more natural.

Do: Create Audience Personas

Failing to clearly define a target audience is one of the most common content planning mistakes. It’s tempting to rush ahead based on loose assumptions, or to try and be everything to everyone. But knowing who you’re trying to reach is fundamental to any good content strategy.

A popular (and fun) approach to nailing down your audience is to create personas, which are fictional representations of your ideal readers. These should include demographic information such as age, income level, and geographic location, as well as anything you’ve learned about their habits, preferences, goals, and concerns. 

Giving your personas names and avatars will help them feel real, which will encourage you to keep them in mind when creating content.

When you’re just starting out, some aspects of your audience personas may be based on imperfect data or even educated guesses. That’s okay! As you learn more about your target audience over time, you can gradually make the personas more detailed and accurate.

Do: Use an Editorial Calendar

A well-managed editorial calendar should be at the heart of your content planning. By planning and scheduling your content in advance, you’ll ensure a regular stream of high-quality, on-brand content, and maintain oversight on how well your strategy is coming to life.

A solid editorial should include the people responsible for each piece of content, the criteria for the content, links to any drafts or other relevant materials, and each item’s publication date.

If you’re part of a team, make sure everyone uses the same calendar and understands the importance of keeping it updated and accurate. 

Don’t: Sabotage Your SEO Ranking

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the by now well-known practice of making your content more visible to search engines, thereby driving traffic. However, there are some common content strategy mistakes, based on misunderstandings about SEO, that can actually damage your efforts.

One mistake is keyword stuffing. This is the practice of filling your content with so many keywords that it becomes difficult to read. Not only will this irritate your readers, but search engines will also penalize you for it.

Another mistake is duplicating content. This can happen if you have multiple versions of the same page on your site, or if you have copied content from another source. Duplicate content confuses search engines and will damage your ranking.

A third mistake is using thin content. This is unsubstantial content that offers little value to the reader, and is usually just a few sentences long. Thin content will not help your SEO efforts and can even get you penalized by search engines.

To avoid making these mistakes, you should focus on creating high-quality, original content that is keyword-rich (but not over-saturated!) and informative. This will help you to rank higher in search engines and attract more readers to your site.

Take some time to update yourself on best practices for SEO-friendly content planning, such as creating pillar content, and integrate these principles into your content strategy.

Don’t: Value Quantity Over Quality

One of the most common content planning mistakes is thinking that more is always better. This isn’t necessarily true! 

The internet is bursting with content on every topic imaginable, and your readers know they have options. They’ll be quick to switch to a competing site if you can’t show you have something interesting to offer them.

It’s important to publish regularly, but good content takes time to produce. You’ll need to find a balance between producing a steady stream of content and making sure that content is well-written, audience-specific, and really addresses your readers’ needs or pain points. 

Not only will strong content garner repeat visits to your site; readers will also be more likely to share or repost content they think has value.

Don’t: Start with Channels

You might be eager to start building your Instagram following, but your content strategy shouldn’t revolve around channels–that would be putting the cart before the horse! Remember that channels aren’t ends in themselves, but rather tools to hook specific audiences into your world.

Your content strategy should always be led by your content itself, informed by a good understanding of what your audience wants. Once you’ve gotten to know your audience, you can start thinking about the content formats and channels that will be most effective in reaching them.

Social media should be used to amplify strong content and build relationships with customers who are active on those platforms, not as a crutch to prop up subpar content.

Besides, not all social media platforms make sense for every organization and message. Make sure you’re allocating your time and resources where they will have the most impact.

Conclusion

It’s worth putting time and energy into your content strategy before starting to plan out your content. With a solid strategic framework in place, your content planning will flow naturally and be more organized, and your execution will be much more effective. 

Content strategy helps you focus on your goals, connect with your audience, and create content that supports your business objectives. It also allows you to be proactive about the content you create, rather than reactive. 

When done well, a content strategy can save you time and money, improve your efficiency, and increase your chances of success.

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