What Is Content Planning And Why Should You Do It?

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Content planning and content strategy are two terms that often get used for the same thing.  But there’s a big difference and also a whole list of reasons why you need to do both.  Even if strategy isn’t your thing, you need content planning but if you need some convincing, let’s look at what is content planning and why should you do it?

Why content planning is different from content strategy

Let’s start by clearing something up – what’s the difference between a content strategy and a content plan?  As a content marketer (and yes, if you are a blogger, this is what you are) you need both but only if you understand the difference and how to use them.

What is a content strategy?

A content strategy is not the planning nor is it the execution, it is the process you follow before you get to planning that then leads to execution.  Clear?

Nope, but let’s go a bit further.  Content marketing is the broad approach, the idea of creating content to get an audience to take an action.  Within that, there’s the content strategy.  Now there’s lots of deditions out there but we’ll go with the one that says a strategy:

“Plans for the creation, publication and governance of useful and useable content”

Kristina Halvorson http://alistapart.com/article/thedisciplineofcontentstrategy 

Or if you like another one:

“Content strategy defines how and why content will be used to achieve marketing and business goals”

Yvonne Lyons https://www.rightsourcemarketing.com/

The strategy is like race track – horses follow the course laid out to get to the desired goal, the end and winning.  If they leave the track and head off to the field beside to munch the grass, things go wrong and they don’t get to the finish line.

What is a content plan?

So while the content strategy is the high-level overview of why you are creating the content and what goals you have for it, the content planning section is where you decide what to do and when. 

This involves things like choosing the specific type of content you’ll create and what tactics you’ll use to get your audience to take your desired action.  Also, what do they need from the content to get them to do to this.  Once decided, it goes on the editorial calendar to create.

Content plans are usually aligned with an inbound journey or buyer’s journey stages.  But it does also includes those types of content you create that may not be directly about leads or sales and are more about credibility, audience building or brand awareness.

Content plans can factor in things like holidays and seasonal content as well as how to repurpose the content.  Could a blog post become a podcast episode?  Could the data in the white paper become an infographic?  Can you make a content upgrade to go with it and increase value and list signups?

How to use a content plan to fulfil a content strategy

The key thing to understand with a content plan is that it should help fulfil a content strategy – the two work hand in hand.  But there’s a few things to remember when creating a content plan that relates back to that overall strategy.

1. Does the content planned fit into the bigger SEO picture?

Not every post is about the overall SEO plan for your website but it never hurts to have this in mind.  Most bloggers or businesses will have a list of keywords they want to be associated with their business and ideally, would rank for.  Can the planned content help with this?

2. Does the content plan fit your needs?

While a strategy can be done a year ahead, content plans are best kept relatively shorter in period because the needs of the business can change and the content created can reflect this.  For example, has a new competitor come along and grabbed top keywords so you need to enhance the content you have for those terms to get your ranking back?

3. Are on-site and off-site efforts working together?

There’s a good chance you are doing things off-site to increase your audience.  This might be guest blogging, a podcast or video channel, taking part in bundles or promotions.  All of these need to be kept in mind when using a content plan to make sure everything works together.

4. Does the content planned fit with the buyer’s journey?

As I mentioned, not every piece of content is about leads and sales exclusively.  But for those that are, does the planned content line up with the buyer’s journey stages and problems outlined in the strategy?  Is it answering those questions and helping people move along the stages?

How to create a content plan

Now when it comes to making the actual content plan, there’s tons of ways to do it and plenty of apps to help.  A few examples include:

Personally, I use a bit of a mixture.  I like to have a printed calendar to jot down ideas (I use the one from my Easy Content Planning Assistant) and to note in any holidays or big events.  Then I add the plans to CoSchedule for all of my blogs so I can see them in one place and add my -pre-made task template to them to get all the jobs done.

Why you need to create one

But do I really need to go to these lengths, I hear you say?

No, you can make content based on what takes your fancy or what you are in the mood for.  That approach will ensure you have regular content going out.  But if you have things you want to achieve with your business, then you need both a strategy and a content plan.  Here’s a few more reasons to create one:

Hit those holiday content windows 

We’ve all been there where you want to create a Valentine’s post but you want until early February and it doesn’t get out there in enough time.  By having a content plan, you can spot when you need to create content for a holiday or even and give it enough time to be seen.  Remember, things like Pinterest usually run hot for a topic 30-60 before it happens!

Improve your consistency

If you are a ‘blog when you feel like it’ person but want to make a change, a content plan will help with this.  That’s because you’ll have a job to do at a certain date.  You’ll know what content you want to create and why – that’s a great motivator for that consistency!

Get more traffic and leads

Because you are being more strategic about your content and not hoping for something to ‘go viral’ you will steadily increase your traffic and leads, especially from search engines.  Google and co love consistent content creation and new stuff to show people is what Pinterest thrives on now.

Improve brand recognition

When you plan content including repurposing it, graphics, podcast episodes, guest posts and the whole whack, you increase the chances of people running into your stuff.  This helps build and improve brand recognition.  They remember you created that really helpful ‘how to’ post last month and click your new list post to see what’s in there.

How do you know if your content planning works?

The final stage of a content plan is to check out how it is working and measure the impact content has.  This might not be much in the early days but getting in good habits is never a bad thing!

Look at your content strategy and see what metrics you need to measure.  A few examples could be:

  • Are people signing up for your email list from the content?
  • What’s the conversion rate for people going from the post to a sales page for a product you promote in there?
  • Are your getting traffic from Pinterest, Google, Facebook or other sources you’ve focused on?
  • Are you getting any comments, shares or other engagement that shows your audience is reacting to the content?

Over time you can look at what keywords each piece ranks for and how this is changing.  You can see if it gets backlinks and pingbacks notifying you that people are linking to it.  You can create multiple pins for it and see if fresh pins either do better than the original ones or give them a boost.

Successful content planning

Like lots of things with online business and content marketing, there’s no set way to do things.  Content planning is about what works for you but it is an important part of the process.  Paired with a solid content strategy, you can grow your content bank, repurpose more effectively and make money from your blog.

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