Whether you’re an SEO novice or an SEO expert, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Content is King”—and for good reason. Developing fresh, new content regularly is a vital part of any SEO strategy.
In fact, Google rolled out an algorithm update in 2011 specifically geared towards prioritizing more recent results. But keeping up with a consistent publishing cadence can be a challenge, especially when it involves regularly finding new topics to write about.
The best way to approach this is by deciding on topics beforehand and establishing a content calendar that supports your overarching content marketing strategy. Here are five steps for developing an SEO content calendar. Follow these tips in order to keep your team organized and running in the right direction.
Step 1: brainstorm topics that matter to your target audience
This first step involves a couple of things: a clear understanding of your target reader, a well-defined goal for your content, and an analysis of what’s worked well for your team in the past.
In essence, you should have an idea of what consumers are looking for when they engage with your brand and anticipate everything from what they already know about your industry, what they have yet to learn, what interests them, and what questions they often ask in relation to your product or service.
This will help you to identify top-level categories to write about. For instance, if you’re a beauty brand, you may observe that your buyers care about the following topics:
- Skin care
After gathering this list, you can then decide what about each topic is important to your customers. Do they care about how to manage dry skin or frizzy hair? Are they environmentally conscious? Are they professionals who are looking for advanced tips on how to service clients or source products?
You can often glean some of the best information from your internal teams that interface with your customers, or by surveying your customers directly. The goal is to understand who, exactly, you should be writing for and what information they’re seeking on a daily basis.
Step 2: perform extensive keyword research
Once you’ve decided the overall purpose and theme of your blog, keyword research is the next critical step. Performing keyword research will help you to understand what words and phrases people are searching in order to find content like yours online.
Without performing keyword research, you could waste your time churning out great content that’s never found or doesn’t address the question that people are looking to solve. When performing keyword research, there are several things to consider:
- Keyword relevance: Analyze how relevant the keyword is to both your audience and site as a whole. You’ll want to choose keywords that are familiar to your audience and also match the content you offer on other parts of your site. Google will want to see that your pages relate to one another to verify that you’re an expert in your space.
- Keyword difficulty: Think about keyword difficulty in terms of competition. You don’t want to choose keywords that are too difficult to rank for, unless you are a very well-known company. Rather, you’ll want to choose keywords that are achievable and realistic. As your website builds trust, authority, and visibility, you can then begin to target more competitive keywords.
- Keyword intent: Choose keywords that attract people who are looking to purchase (or have a need for) a product like yours. You don’t want to target keywords that inadvertently attract people who are bound to leave your site as quickly as they entered, all because they’re not finding what they’re looking for.
- Keyword volume: Although it can be tempting to choose keywords with 100,000 monthly searches, this typically isn’t the best strategy. Prioritize quality over quantity; a long-tail keyword with lower search volume may drive more valuable traffic. Having 20 qualified leads, after all, is better than having thousands of random website visitors that never convert.
Find keywords that align with your topics and are relevant, easier to rank for, and attract the right audience. Note that once an article is published, it will usually rank for multiple keywords—but you’ll want to determine a primary keyword ahead of time, so that you can properly format and deliver your message.
Step 3: analyze competitor content
Competitive analysis is often overlooked, but is key to understanding how to leapfrog other competitors and earn a coveted first-page position on Google. While you never want to copy your competitor’s content, you’ll want to be aware of what they’re publishing so that you can create content that is more thorough and effective.
You can use tools like Semrush or ContentEdge to examine a competitive domain. Both platforms allow you to plug in a URL and see what keywords they’re ranking for and how they stack up against other similar sites. You can alternatively plug in a keyword and see what competitors are already ranking for it. With ContentEdge, you can additionally see the readability level, word count, and other similarities across the top-ranking pages.
Best practice here is to visit these high-ranking pages and see what information you can elaborate on to provide your reader with a better, more enriching experience.
Step 4: create a content schedule
Using the information you’ve collected, you can start to organize specific topics into a schedule. At this stage, you should consider a mix of how-tos, product-related articles, and thought leadership pieces.
More broadly, you should consider leveraging both evergreen and seasonal content.
Evergreen content, put simply, is content that has a long shelf life. This content will never (or rarely) become outdated and can continue to drive traffic to your website for years. For example, if you are a pet supplies website, you might write about “What Every New Pet Owner Needs to Know Before Taking Home a Puppy.” The bulk of these tips and information isn’t likely to change any time soon.
Seasonal content has a shorter shelf life and is relevant to the current time. For example, If you sell running shoes, you might write about “The Top Half Marathons in 2020.” In 2021, this content will no longer be relevant.
Experiment with these two types of content insofar as you can afford. For instance, if your team is small and can only manage to publish a new piece once every two weeks, then you’ll likely want to invest your time into writing evergreen content that will continue adding value for years to come.
As you build out your content calendar, be careful not to bite off more than you chew. While you may want to scale content creation up over time, it’s okay to begin with a lower frequency of blogs to get your team in the habit of writing consistent, high-quality content.
Pro tip: There are various editorial calendar templates that you can leverage online. Many productivity tools like Monday.com offer free content calendar templates. HubSpot also offers downloadable editorial calendar templates. The purpose of any editorial calendar is to help you queue up blog topics, set deadlines, and easily assign writers among your content team.
Step 5: recycle and update existing content
Keep in mind that you can always repurpose information from your existing assets rather than thinking of a million different blog ideas to fill up your content calendar. Some of the best pieces can be spun from previous events, decks, or even blogs that only skim the surface of a particular topic.
An ebook, as an example, can likely be divided into several shorter blogs. You can take each chapter and expand upon them (then link out to your ebook for more exposure).
You should also make it a habit to audit and revive older blog posts. By giving strategic blogs a face lift, you can boost your rankings and avoid writing a blog from scratch when you’ve already done the work once before.
Get cracking on your SEO content calendar today
Hopefully, your calendar will come together naturally as you dig into new keyword opportunities, study your current audience, and evaluate your existing assets. If you’re ever stumped, we invite you to come chat with your team. Let our content creators help you get the juices flowing—and even do the work for you.
Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in March 2020 and has since been updated to include more up-to-date tips and insight.