Content, the meat of our blogs, you can’t be without it. Unless you regularly hire it out, it probably fills a good chunk of your day, every few days. That’s fine– you enjoy it. But streamlining your content creation process not only saves you time, but it encompasses a checklist of everything you SHOULD do to ensure every post’s success. You can check that out here: The Ultimate Recipe for An Incredible Blog Post.
Streamlining Your Content Creation Process
The answer in two words: editorial calendar. Once every month, sit down and churn out blog post titles for the next month or two. It’s proactive. It’s like sitting down to a chess game with a particular attack (offense) in mind, instead of simply reacting (defense) to your opponent’s moves.
The rest of this guide goes into refining and creating what you put in your editorial calendar with as much time saved as possible!
Step 1: Create and finalize your editorial calendar.
This includes everything from research, headlines to the angle and format of each post.
Step 2: Collaborate and/or create.
If you have a team, you need tools where everyone can find and report on every assigned task, etc. As you create, you continue research and working together, if not with a team, then with influencers, other bloggers, etc.
Step 3: Polish.
You finalize the post, you refine the style of the text and images, and you add links.
Step 4: Promotion.
You write/schedule the social media posts and outreach leading to, and after, the publication. You distribute and promote.
If you do it right with your content calendar and tools, every step can have a day each, with no more than an hour for their assigned day, and you’d still have a great blog post at the end of the process. The goal is to stay ahead, so you gain time for other things, including “hot” topics you need to cover asap.
Why editorial calendars rock:
Aside from buying you time for perfection, that is.
- You end up with content that flows smoothly one after the other. For example, I planned this series in one sitting. The internal links between these posts are so natural. Later in this post, I’ll mention Twitter and Pinterest management– which ties into the promotion part of content creation.
- Planning = strategy. You get to create, edit, polish (text and images) and publish according to your goal target, and/or seasonal events.
- That includes outreach. “Right, I’ll be doing that post week after next, I can email Big Influencer and he can take his time getting back to me; he’s busy.”
- And social media. You can offer teasers, or ask questions, or reach out to other pages. When your post is out, you’ve already built an audience for it!
Step 1: Creating and finalizing your editorial calendar.
Ideation and research
Ideation is a fancy way of ‘generating ideas’. At this point, that’s all you want to do. The first step is to generate ideas, not to edit each headline.
As you generate ideas, think: What’s your goal? What’s the purpose of this calendar, or this week, or that day’s post? What’s your content strategy?
Once you have the answer to that, your search for ideas would have focus and a united theme.
- relevant/popular content
- aim for your audience’s pain points, and popular and current content
Analyze your existing content. If you have none or not much yet, what area do you want to concentrate on? It goes back to content strategy here.
Reuse the hits and redo the misses. Go into Analytics and find your most successful posts. You could get spin-offs, and you can revamp and remake those posts with updates and content upgrades. Same for the ones that got too little love.
Now that you’ve generated possible posts, the critiquing comes in. Analyze your ideas. If you have a team, you might bring them in for a huddle.
- What’s your unique angle, or your addition? See a need, fill a need. Good writers always think, “This is being written” but what’s being written could always be improved. Do that.
- What are your keywords?
- What’s your format? An article? Or could you make an infographic of this instead? A slideshow or a review? If you pick article/blog post, what type? Check out these 7 Blog Post Templates That Work for quick, no-fail formula.
Idea and Research Tools:
You don’t have to sit there twiddling your thumbs waiting for the titles to come. Tools are our best friend.
- Webmaster Tools – for keyword research
- Trello – Each of your themes can have its own board, and inside each board, each of your content templates can have a list, and your ideas could go in the cards under each list. The best bit about Trello– easily shareable to your team, and if you add Due Dates to cards, they’re instantly added to your calendar. THERE’s your editorial calendar!
- Social Mention – all seven aggregate the latest and best. Once you have your keywords, enter them and search them. Paper.li goes to the papers, not just the web. Everything at your fingertips for inspiration and information.
- Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator – Enter a keyword and it would roll out possible angles you can either take as is, or remake for your purposes.
- Headline Generator – Kickass headline generator– true to its name.
- Google Search with a Twist (As Neil Patel calls it. Do a site search so you’ll know what you haven’t covered yet, and what you can link to!)
- Google Tools: Some also use Google Sheets for their calendar. It’s easy. Google Docs has a Research tool so that while you fire away your ideas, you can use Google at the same time, without having to leave Docs!
Step 2: Content Creation/Collaboration and Step 3: Polishing and branding
Templates and tools make it fast and easy, not to mention it gives you more ideas what to do in that particular topic and that particular template. You don’t always have to do templates of course, but the tools are lifesavers.
After creation comes the next step: perfecting what you’ve created. Creation and perfection tools are often one and the same.
But polishing a blog post takes more than just editing–it’s about branding, and you begin your outreach by adding links and mentioning influencers.
This one happens first before and during the creation.
- Trello – As I already mentioned above, you and your team need only sign into Trello and your entire editorial calendar, it’s assignments and tasks, are at hand for everybody.
- Asana and Basecamp – If you have a large team, or if you have a lot to keep track of, these two are the go-to project management places. Transforms into a calendar, too.
- Google Sheets and Docs – The comments and the chat section are a good spots for extra notes and quick consultations.
Writing is a lonely job. We want it pretty and functional as much as possible. When we like our space, it inspires us to write with personality, too! Of course, here are your image generator tools. Your designer can produce blog images in a snap. Your designer can even be YOU.
- Evernote – Write in 10 minutes by speaking aloud and editing the transcript!
- Hemingway – Hemingway highlights your verbose, complicated and passive sentences so you can fix them. High-falutin’ words, too. The simplest is best.
- Grammarly – Your friendly neighborhood grammarian.
- Google Docs – Writing, editing, and collaborating in one. And with the Research tool, you don’t have to be distracted by a ton of tabs.
- Zenpen – When you need a clean slate.
Hubspot has an Ultimate List of Content Creation Tools and Resources.
Polishing and branding tools:
- Headline Analyzer – Polish your headlines to the best it can be. Evoke emotion and make every headline irresistible.
- Embedded Tweets – Quotes are great, Tweets are better!
- Google Search – keyword + statistics for content backed up with hard-hitting numbers, and you get to give credit to the experts.
Enrich the blog post with visuals. Brand your content with images.
- Haiku Deck – for simple and gorgeous slides. They’ve got great photos and great fonts.
- Thinglink – Impress your audience with interactive images. Two, three, four spots clickable in ONE image.
- Quickmeme – Because people love wit and humor.
Step 4: Promotion and Distribution
Technically, this should also be Step #2– you should do outreach early, as early as conception. Guest posting has myriad benefits for you and your brand, and you should definitely include guest posts on your editorial calendar.
In this step, you’re creating and scheduling the social media posts. You have the social media management platforms like Buffer and Hootsuite for that.
But social media is a special beast. You don’t plan, create and publish and hope for the best. You go out there and make sure your content gets read and linked to.
Promotion tools and techniques:
- Create multiple versions of the post for various audiences: slides, a video, a downloadable PDF with a Pinterest-worthy image…
- Create multiple snippets for multiple posting on Twitter. As much as 20! Quotes, stats, name-dropping, questions, separate posts for each of your subheadings, the works.
- Share on social media and schmooze on social media so the pages that matter share your content.
- Don’t forget your newsletters. Ready your irresistible lead-in that would make your subscribers head over to your new post.
- Buzzstream – Find your fellows, and the big fish. Get in touch for win-win collaboration/cross-promotion.
- Open Site Explorer – 99% of the time, there’s at least one post already out there similar to yours. Find out who has linked to that blog post, and reach out to them. You can find their contacts in Buzzstream or do a bit of snooping through their online presence. Do a little schmoozing and ask them to include yours too (especially as yours is better/an update/a deeper look).
Kissmetrics has 17 advanced methods on content promotion. Don’t let the name intimidate you, they’re simple techniques. They may just take some time.
That’s why you need to stay ahead and lay out your content strategy and editorial calendar!
How do you go about your content creation? What tools do you use? What takes the most time for you?