If you’ve been tasked with the marketing for your company and/or own the company, you’ve probably felt the pressure to blog (or delegate this task to someone else) and feel guilty when there are long periods of time in between posts. You understand that Google likes websites that constantly generate new content. You also understand that blogging can potentially set you apart as an industry expert. But what do you write about each time? And how do you know if what you’re writing has any effect on your readers? If you’re not strategically writing content with your Customer Avatars/target audience in mind, organic search, and next steps for your readers to take (aka follow-up lead magnets), you’re really just throwing spaghetti against a wall hoping it sticks. And for all that time it takes to make your gourmet spaghetti, that’s a huge shame. I’m going to share with you below step by step instructions on how to write a content marketing plan for the year based on strategy and impact marketing. This planned content will engage your readers and drive them one step closer to becoming a lead for your business. I’m also going to walk you through our Content Calendar Template. You can download it here if you want to follow along and fill it in as you go along.
1. List Out Your Main Service or Product Offerings.
Ideally, to keep it manageable, I would start with your top 4 services or product offerings. As an example, ours are Brand Positioning, Organic SEO, Web Design/Development, and Social Media. If you have one main service offering, you could break down that offering into the different parts of your process within that offering. If you only sell one product, consider listing the 4 different types of people that buy your product. If your company sells more than 4 products, you could list your top product categories. Also, potentially phrase this category according to keywords that you’re already trying to rank for. Below shows the first row of our Content Calendar Template. You would enter each service/product category into its own light blue cell as shown below in the Content Calendar Template. These would also be great categories to have in your blog:
2. Choose Your Long Tail Keywords to Rank For.
Long tail keywords are phrases that people type into the search bar, typically with a specific intent to act. For example, if I were to type “website design” into the search bar, I would maybe just be looking up how to spell it or what the definition is (yes, I know how to spell “website design”—but in general, I use Google as my spell checker at least 20 times per day). Now if I type “How to design a website” in the search bar, I obviously am looking for very specific content to help me design a website. This is important to consider when writing blog posts because of user intent. When people Google that long tail keyword, and your post comes up in the top 1-3 search results, someone will click it. And if your post satisfies their inquiry, they’re likely to share it via social media, read more content from you, and download your follow-up lead magnet (discussed in the next step). Please note that though long tail keywords typically have less search volume, they’ll also have less competition ranking for them. So even though fewer people are searching for specific long tail keywords, if they are searching for yours, they’re more likely to engage with your content and eventually become a lead and customer.
To come up with your long tail keywords, list a bunch of possible phrases that people might search for regarding your category above, and think about how they might type it (or say it) if they’re intending to look for your content and/or service/product offerings. Also, think about the pain points of your Customer Avatars (made-up characters based on real attributes of your target audience). What are the top questions and concerns of your Customer Avatars or target market? What specific words and phrasing do they use when talking about these concerns? Insert these phrases into free tools like SEMrush.com to see how many people are searching for these phrases/long tail keywords and also how competitive these phrases are to rank for. Get creative and try a bunch of phrases/long tail keywords. Pick some that have lower search volume but may be easier to rank for, and also pick some that have higher search volume and may be more difficult to rank for. The more competitive phrases may take some more work to rank for (i.e. you may have to blog multiple times using the same long tail keyword, add phases to the post, and/or get some good backlinks that link to that post). Per category, list all of your long tail keywords in the tabs per category in the Content Calendar Template. From this list, pick 4-6 that you feel are the most relevant to your brand and that you have a good chance of ranking for with a little work. List each group of 4-6 long tail keywords per category in each of the green cells of the Content Calendar Template as shown below:
3. Create Your Lead Magnet.
A lead magnet is a valuable piece of downloadable content or an online event that can be signed up for—i.e. a cheat sheet, template, ebook, webinar, etc. that you give access to in exchange for someone’s email address and potentially additional contact info. It’s best to have 2 lead magnets per category so that you can test which one converts better. To start out, however, just focus on creating one to get you up and running. This lead magnet should be relevant to the category listed above and be the next logical step to take after reading your blog post. The next logical step after downloading or signing up for the lead magnet is whatever your first step in your sales process is—a free or paid assessment, demo, trial, discount code, etc. So all of these progressive touch-points with your prospect (a blog post to a lead magnet to an assessment) NEED to relate to each other and progressively give your prospect more value at every step of the way.
For example, let’s say your company sells piano lessons. As an introductory offer or first step in your sales process, you give away your first piano lesson with one of your instructors for free. So as a lead magnet, you host a webinar that teaches people how to play a really simple, popular song. Maybe the webinar is called “Learn how to play XYZ song in under 60 minutes”. You then create a blog post that relates to this lead magnet called “How to Play the Popular Radio Songs on the Piano with These 5 Chords.”
So let’s break this down. Someone searches for your long tail keyword “How to Play the Popular Radio Songs on the Piano”. Your blog post comes up in search rankings, and someone clicks on it. As they’re reading through it, there’s a link in it that says “Learn how to play XYZ song in under 60 minutes”. Well if someone is interested in playing popular songs on the piano and clicked on your blog post, they’re probably going to be willing to leave their email address to then join a webinar and learn how to actually play a real song in under an hour. Then at the end of the webinar, they’re offered to learn even more songs with a free, introductory piano lesson. Why wouldn’t they take you up on this? Then during that lesson, your instructor has their attention and can offer paid lessons as a next step. Notice how the blog post to the lead magnet to the introductory offer ALL feed into each other as logical next steps. Also, notice how each step (even the blog post that doesn’t yet ask for an email address or anything in return for reading it) offers a tremendous amount of value with more value depending on the commitment being asked of them. So craft your lead magnet as a super valuable piece of content per each category listed in the top row of the Content Calendar Template that then naturally transitions someone into your introductory offer. This lead magnet will sit on its own landing page with a form to leave their email address in exchange for the download or webinar sign-up.
Within your blog post, you will include links or call-to-actions to this landing page that describe the lead magnet where it naturally makes sense. These links can be placed throughout the post and also with a button/link at the end of the blog post or to the side.
Put the titles of your Lead Magnets in the purple cells as shown below in the Content Calendar Template per each category:
4. Write Your Blog Post Titles.
Now that you have your long tail keywords and your lead magnet(s) per each category, you’re finally ready to create your blog post titles. Again, these blog posts should be crafted as valuable, un-gated pieces of content that naturally guide the reader into downloading your lead magnet. They should also incorporate one of the long tail keywords that you’ve determined per its category. The long tail keyword should be incorporated into this title as one continuous phrase, and the title should be no more than 70 characters. We suggest using each long tail keyword that you’ve chosen at least twice per year in a blog post and possibly more if that long tail keyword is very competitive (that’s why we initially had you pick 4-6 long tail keywords and not twelve). You can also plan on adding to posts with new updates and phases via more copy, video, and/or infographics. Google search engines love to see updated, valuable content.
Once you get to writing the post, be sure to include the long tail keyword in the blog post title, in the URL structure, meta description, alt tags on images, and a couple of times throughout the post itself. And again, be sure to include links or call-to-actions throughout this post to the landing page that your lead magnet sits on. This will help progress readers of your content to a potential lead by raising their hand for more valuable content from you—content in which they leave their contact info for.
Write one blog post title per each of the white cells as shown below in the Content Calendar Template next to each month (again, you will be duplicating all titles at least once and note that the duplicate posts are an add-on to their previous posts):
Keep in mind that crafting your Content Marketing Plan will take some work and effort. But by following these steps and the downloadable template, you will walk away with a coherent plan of action for your blog posts that will help your content come up in search rankings and naturally progress your readers into leads—adding tremendous value to them each step of the way.
Would you like someone to do this for you? Well, you’re in luck because that’s what we do. Reach out to us here, and we’ll schedule a call to chat.