How to Build a Content Creation Process for Your Marketing Agency

    by Ron Medlin

    Date

    September 25, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    content-is-kingYou’ve heard it time and time again. It’s the mantra for the new world of SEO and inbound marketing: "Content is king!"

    We all understand that content is the foundation on which every successful online marketing plan should be built -- but that doesn’t make it easy.

    Understanding that "content is king" is one thing. Knowing how to build a successful content marketing process? Well, that's an entirely different beast.

    Here at 98toGo, we've chugged the inbound marketing Kool-Aid. We've been a dedicated HubSpot VAR agency since they first offered this opportunity. Thanks to the plethora of resources available through HubSpot’s VAR program, we have been able to build a content marketing process that has resulted in many happy clients and helped us become a Gold VAR agency here at HubSpot.

    In this post, we’re going to pull back the curtain and show you our content process in depth -- so grab a Red Bull (or your inbound marketing Kool-Aid) and enjoy.

    Developing a Keyword Strategy

    The first step in any inbound marketing process should be keyword research. There is more than one way to skin a cat (no offense, cat lovers). In other words, everybody has different tools and strategies for performing keyword research, and none is better than the other, just different.

    The first thing we like to do here at 98toGo is to ask our clients. We talk to the owners, sales reps, and customer service reps in order to first find out what keyword phrases they believe potential customers search for when looking for our client’s products or services online. We then find out what types of questions these potential customers are asking.

    Next, we have the client come up with a list of, say, 25 keywords. Then it’s time to do a little digging on our own. The first place we go is Google Keyword Planner (formerly the Keyword Tool). We paste the list of keywords into the tool and let Google generate more keyword ideas.

    After that, we evaluate this list, only choosing keywords that are relevant and provide the right context for someone researching what our clients have to offer.

    Once this is complete, we’ve got a much bigger list to develop our content strategy with.

    google-keywords-1

    Find Low-Hanging Fruit Keywords

    The next step is to find "low-hanging fruit" keywords. These are terms that have high search volume and are less difficult to achieve first page search engine rankings. Building content around these types of keywords allows our clients to get the quickest return on investment possible. This is where a tool like the HubSpot Keyword Grader comes in handy.

    This tool provides some awesome data to make finding these low-hanging fruit keywords extremely simple. Let’s take a look.

    hubspot-keywords

    As you can see, the HubSpot Keyword Grader gives us the exact info we’re looking for: the number of monthly searches and the ranking difficulty of each keyword in our list. We like to stick with monthly searches above 100 and a difficulty below 35, but feel free to use your own metrics -- it'll be different for everyone.

    Other metrics we analyze are currently ranking position for each keyword, number of website visits generated by each keyword, and number of leads generated by each keyword.

    For easier analysis, we like to download all the data from the tool into an Excel spreadsheet and then color code the keywords that fit our low-hanging fruit guidelines. The keywords that have the most positive signals make our final keyword target list.

    keyword-list

    You should use this research as a jumping off point for topic brainstorms -- if people are searching for certain types of content, you should be creating content around it, right? Most people won't be able to tackle every keyword in the list; it would require too much content that you might not have the bandwidth to support. But select the most important topics from this keyword research to write about that also supports a frequency you can sustain.

    So now you have the list of keywords you’re going to target for the next six months of blog content. The question arises, though: Who’s going to write this content?

    Finding the Best Writer

    One major obstacle to starting any content marketing process is finding the time and talent to create high-value content on a consistent basis. Fortunately, a guy named Steve Lazuka saw this need and created a content marketplace called Zerys.

    Zerys is our preferred tool for matching talented writers with the content needs of our clients. Many companies may have the in-house talent and resources to create content. But if not, let’s quickly walk through our writer matchup process that we use on Zerys.

    How We Find the Right Content Writer Fit

    Once we’ve gone through the process of adding a new client to Zerys, the next step is to perform a writer search. We choose the categories and subcategories that are most appropriate to our client's industry, and look for the best writers only -- 4- and 5-stars. We also look for a low rejection rate (no more than 5%), over 500 pages approved, and native English speakers. 

    The next step is to vet the writers. This part can be very time-consuming, but as we begin to use the writers more and more, we start to figure out which writers are the best match for each client. Eventually we want to have a very small list of writers for each client. Doing this will allow the writers to become content experts and thought leaders in our client’s industry. We like to look at the number of completed pages (the more, the better), their experience in the subject matter about which we need content written, and their ability to hit deadlines.

    Although this can be a huge time-suck at first, the process does get easier as you become more familiar with the skills and styles of the writers. Investing the upfront time to find talented, reliable writers is required for a sustainable blogging program.

    Developing Titles and Topics

    Once we’ve matched writers to our client’s content needs, it’s time to brainstorm titles and order content.

    Before coming up with any title ideas, it’s important to understand what types of titles or headlines drive the most clicks. The title of your content is the first and possibly last opportunity to get someone to click on your post, read your content, and share what you’ve written. We’ve found titles that are "how to" in nature do really well along with titles that have numbers in them -- for instance, "5 Tips for ..." and “7 Excellent Strategies to ..." are ideal.

    Tools for Brainstorming

    There are several great tools we use to help us brainstorm title ideas. We want to know about the latest trends in the industry. What are people talking about?

    Here are a few great places to find this type of information:

    • Alltop - This is a website that aggregates all the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a wide variety of topics. Alltop not only helps you find out what’s being talked about, it also helps you find some great resources to follow news related to a specific topic.

    • Social Mention - This social media search and analysis tool aggregates all the content on any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Q&A sites, and more.

    • Google Suggest and Ubersuggest - Google Suggest is a great tool for finding long-tail keyword ideas from real user queries. These keywords might not show much search data, but if they come up in Google Suggest we know people are searching for them. Meanwhile, Ubersuggest is a keyword tool that scrapes Google Suggest results so you don’t have to go through each letter of the alphabet manually.

    By searching for our target keywords using the above tools, we gain great insight into what’s being talked about, who the influencers are, and which blogs to follow -- all of which can help us come up with some great titles. We also like to scan the article title results to find trends or interesting articles we could build upon. It’s important to note that we never just copy the titles we find in the suggestion tool. These are only meant to get the juices flowing and help us brainstorm better titles.

    Focusing on Content Optimization

    Now for the final step in our content marketing process. It’s been an arduous journey finding the right keywords to target and getting our writing team in place for our client’s content machine. The only things we need to focus on now are content optimization and publishing once your content returns from the writer.

    We have a 27-point optimization checklist that we go through to ensure that each and every piece of content we publish is well optimized for our target keywords. This gives our content the best opportunity to rank in the search engines, drive traffic to our client’s site, and provide content that is easy to absorb. You can download our 27-point optimization checklist by clicking here.

    Once the content is optimized, it’s ready for publication and distribution.

    So there you have it. We’ve just described the exact process we go through with each and every client that purchases our services. It’s not perfect and we’re constantly tweaking and improving, but implementing this process will give you a solid foundation for your content creation going forward.

    Can you think of anyways we could improve any part of our process? We’d love to hear your suggestions, so leave us a comment below.

    This is a guest post by Ron Medlin (@searchdogmarket), Chief Marketing Officer at 98toGo. Visit the 98toGo blog for more content from Ron and the rest of the 98toGo team.

    Image credit: J.D. Hancock

    ve heard it time and time again. It’s the mantra for the new world of SEO and inbound marketing, “Content is King!” We all understand that content is the foundation on which every successful online marketing plan should be built on, but that doesn’t make it easy. Understanding “Content is King!” is one thing. Knowing how to build a successful content marketing process is an entirely different beast.

    Here at 98toGo we have chugged the inbound marketing Kool-Aid, and have been a dedicated HubSpot VAR agency since they first offered this opportunity. Thanks to the plethora of resources available through HubSpot’s VAR program, we have been able to build a content marketing process that has resulted in many happy clients and lead us to becoming a Gold VAR agency here at HubSpot. Today we’re going to pull back the curtain and show you our content marketing process in depth, so grab a Red Bull or your inbound marketing Kool-aid and enjoy.

    Developing A Keyword Strategy

    The first step in any content marketing process should be keyword research. There is more than one way to skin a cat. No offense cat lovers. In other words, everybody has different tools and strategies for performing keyword research and none is better than the other, just different.

    The first thing we like to do here at 98toGo is to ask our clients. We talk to the owners, sales reps, and customer service reps in order to find out first, what keyword phrases they believe potential customers search for when looking for our client’s products or services on line. And secondly, what types of questions these potential customers are asking.

    We then have the client come up with a list of, say, 25 keywords. Then it’s time to do a little digging on our own. The first place we go is the Google Keyword Tool. We paste the list of keywords into the keyword tool and let Google generate more keyword ideas. Next, we evaluate this list, only choosing keywords that are relevant and provide the right context for someone researching what our clients have to offer. Now we’ve got a much bigger list to develop our content strategy with.

    page1image19720
    page2image560

    The next step is to find “low hanging fruit keywords”. These are keywords that have high search volume while being less difficult to achieve first page search engine rankings for. Building content around these types of keywords allows our clients to get the quickest return on investment possible. This is where a tool like the HubSpot Keyword Grader comes in handy. The HubSpot Keyword Grader tool provides some awesome data to make finding these low hanging fruit keywords extremely simple. Let’s take a look.

    page2image5120 page2image5280
    page3image544

    As you can see above, the HubSpot Keyword Grader gives us the exact info we’re looking for, the number of monthly searches and the ranking difficulty of each keyword in our list. We like to stick with monthly searches above 100 and a difficulty below 35, but feel free to use your own metrics.

    Other metrics we analyze are currently ranking position for each keyword, number of website visits generated by each keyword, and number of leads generated by each keyword. All of this data is provided within the HubSpot keyword tool.

    For easier analysis we like to download all the data from the tool into an Excel spreadsheet, and then color code the keywords that fit our low hanging fruit guidelines. The keywords that have the most positive signals make our final keyword target list.

    page4image544

    Our in-house best practices are such that we want to blog at least 3 times for each of our target keywords in a 6 month period. Using this guideline we can determine how many keywords we want to target during this 6 months. Let’s say we are going to publish 3 blogs posts every week, so let’s do the math. 3 blogs per week will give you (12 blogs per month x 6 months) = 72 blog posts in a 6 month period. Dividing that number by 3 blog posts for each keyword gives you 24 target keywords. You’re welcome for the exciting math lesson!

    So now you have the list of keywords you’re going to target for the next 6 month’s blog content, but who’s going to write this content?

    Writer Matching

    One major obstacle to starting any content marketing process, is finding the time and talent to create high value content on a consistent basis. Fortunately, a guy named Steve Lazuka saw this need, and created a content marketplace called Zerys. Zerys is our preferred tool for matching talented writers with the content needs of our clients. Let’s quickly walk through our writer matchup process.

    Once we’ve gone through the process of adding a new client to Zerys, the next step is to perform a writer search, so we navigate to the “Search All” tab underneath “My Writers”.

    First, we want to choose the categories and sub categories that are most appropriate to our clients industry. Next, if there are any keyword phrases that might help us narrow the writer list, we will include those in the “Keyword in Bio” blank.

    To see the rest of our preferred settings please take a look at the screenshot below.

    page5image8976 page5image9136

    We strictly use 4 and 5 star writers only. We also like to use writers who have over 500 pages approved, a 0-5% rejection rate, are located in the U.S., and have English as their native language (mandatory). Content Type Experience is optional, but we don’t worry too much about that. Then for the default rate, aka the cost per word, it really depends on the budget. That being said, we can generally find excellent writers who are relatively inexpensive. That’s the beauty of using Zerys.

    The next step is vetting the writers. This part can be very time consuming, but as we begin to use the writers more and more, we start to figure out which writers are the best match for each client.

    Below you will see a list of writers who meet the search criteria from our previous screenshot. There are 189 writers in total that meet our requirements. The goal here is to narrow each client’s writer list down as much as possible. Eventually we want to have a very small list of writers for each client. Doing this will allow the writers to become content experts and thought leaders in our client’s industry.

    Let’s take a look at the vetting process.

    page7image544

    I’ve highlighted a few columns to help make this vetting process a little easier. We first, like to look at the number of completed pages. The more the better. Next, does their “Standard Price/word” stay within our budget constraints? Finally, does their “About Me” sound compelling? Once we’ve analyzed these sections, we will view the profiles of the writers we think could be good candidates.

    Let’s take a look at Katie-21629. She seems like a good candidate, 2772 completed pages, 2.14 cents/word, and she has been a freelance writer for Associated Content since 2005. Sounds like she’s got chops, but is she a good fit? Let’s see!

    page8image544

    The first thing I notice here is her “My Experience” section. Here she lists some of the subjects she’s most familiar with, none of which are marketing. Not ideal, but let’s keep going. She does have excellent track record by looking at her “Statistics”. Only one missed deadline and .01% rejection, WOW! We know she’s reliable.

    The most important area to focus on here is the “Expert Knowledge Areas”. Looking through Katie’s knowledge area, we see that she has a ton of experience in the areas of entertainment and fashion, but not so much in marketing. If we were looking for a

    writer for a women’s fashion blog, Katie would be a catch, but since we’re looking for someone who knows marketing we might keep looking.

    So we’ve seen what a not so ideal candidate looks like, now let’s see what a better match looks like. Let’s take a look at Stephanie-8155.

    page10image256

    I like what I see. Her experience is exactly what we’re looking for. She says “most of my expertise is in technology, business, Internet/Web trends, online marketing and advertising”. I think I’m smitten already. Her statistics aren’t quite as good as Katie’s but still not bad, only 4 out of 781 missed deadlines and 2.2% rejection rate.

    Now for the big test, what are her expert knowledge areas? After scanning this list I see a lot of marketing and advertising categories. She’s a keeper! I would definitely save Stephanie in my favorites for marketing industry content.

    So that’s how we match up writers with the content needs of our clients. Although this can be a huge time suck at first, the process does get easier as you become more familiar with the skills and styles of the writers.

    Creating Titles and Ordering Content

    Once we’ve matched writers to our client’s content needs, it’s time to brainstorm titles and order content.

    Before coming up with any title ideas, it’s important to understand what types of titles or headlines drive the most clicks. The title of your content is the first and possibly last opportunity to get someone to click on your post, read your content, and share what you’ve written. We’ve found titles that are “How to” in nature do really well along with titles that have numbers in them i.e. “5 Tips For...”, “7 Excellent Strategies To...”. For more on how to write headlines and titles that actually get clicks, checkout this awesome resource by Copyblogger.

    There are several great tools we use to help us brainstorm title ideas.

    We want to know about the latest trends in the industry. What are people talking about? Here are a couple of great places to find this type of information:

    • Alltop - is a website that aggregates all the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a topic. This site not only helps you find out what’s being talked about, it also helps you find some great resources to follow on your topic.

    • Social Mention – is a social media search and analysis tool that aggregates all the content on any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Q&A sites, and more.

    • Google suggest and Ubersuggest – Google suggest is a great tool for finding long-tail keyword ideas from REAL user queries. These keywords might not show much search data, but if they come up in Google suggest we know people are searching for them. Ubersuggest is a keyword tool that scrapes Google Suggest results so you don’t have to go through each letter of the alphabet manually.

    page11image23664 page11image23824 page11image23984 page11image24144 page11image24304

    By searching for our target keywords using the above tools we gain great insight on what’s being talked about, who the influencers are, and which blogs to follow to help us come up with some great titles.

    Another helpful tool we use is the title suggestion tool within the Zerys platform itself. Using your target keywords, you can search sites like EzineArticles, blogs, the web, news, or specific domains for topic ideas while actually ordering content in Zerys.

    We like to scan the article title results to find trends or interesting articles we could build upon. It’s important to note that we NEVER just copy the titles we find in the suggestion tool. These are only meant to get the juices flowing and help us brainstorm BETTER titles.

    These articles can also serve as a resource for your writer. Here’s a screenshot of the Title Suggestion Tool below.

    page12image8352

    Ordering content inside the Zerys platform is really easy. I don’t want to turn this article into a Zerys tutorial so I’ll briefly touch on the important points.

    Before ordering any content, we have to add a client to the portal. This is where we set up the content review process which is an important and necessary step. There are several options here, we need to first determine how involved our client wants to be in the review process. If they’re too busy and don’t have time to review content, we can set it up for agent only review. Otherwise it’s our best practice that the client reviews all content and accepts it before publishing the content on their site.

    After adding the client to the portal, the first step in the order process is to create your project settings. This is where you’ll decide what type of content you would like, written in what category, and how many words.

    Next is the client questionnaire. Here you can create and send a client questionnaire. We use our questionnaires to help us create client buyer personas. The Hubspot “Marketer’s Guide to Creating Buyer Personas” can give you some great questions to guide this process.

    Project guidelines is next. Here you will give the writers instructions to help them create better content. What is the narrative and style you want? Do you have any specific instructions they should follow? This is also a great place to supply the writer with info about client buyer personas. Who is their target audience? What are their pain points, needs, desires, etc.?

    Next we add our keywords. In this part of the ordering process, we can copy and paste the keywords we found from our research or we have the option of using the Zerys keyword suggestion tool, but we typically use the keywords from our research.

    Then we create page titles. Again we can either manually enter our titles or use the Zerys title suggestion tool you saw in the previous screenshot.

    You then have the choice to have the writer optimize your content for SEO purposes. We do all optimization ourselves, so we typically forgo this option.

    Writer Assignment and ordering comes last. We’ve gone through the writer match and vetting process in a previous step, so we should be ready to post our content orders directly to our list of “Favorite” writers. We then choose our budget. Ordering content on Zerys is done like an auction, you select your starting bid offer and your max bid offer. If no writers accept your starting bid offer, the bid price will increase after a time period you designate. We typically increase our bid offers every 6 hours. Once you find the writer that is to become your content expert, you can negotiate with that writer for a set price for each project, another perk to using this system.

    Finally, you add all the titles you’d like to order to the order page, review your order, and place your order. Voila! That’s it. Now we wait on the writer to submit the

    page13image26352 page13image26512

    content for review. Once the client is happy with the content, we’re ready to move on to optimization and publishing.

    Content Optimization

    Now for the final step in our content marketing process. It’s been an arduous journey finding the right keywords to target and getting our writing team in place for our client’s content machine. Now for the final piece of the puzzle, content optimization and publishing.

    As we’ve stated previously, our best practices are to target each keyword 3 times in a six month period. We have a 27 point optimization checklist that we go through to ensure that each and every piece of content we publish is well optimized for these target keywords. This gives our content the best opportunity to rank in the search engines, drive traffic to our client’s site, and provide content that is easy to absorb. You can download our 27 point optimization checklist by clicking here.

    Once the content is optimized, it’s ready for publication and distribution.

    Well there you have it. We’ve just described the exact process we go through with each and every client that purchases our services. It’s not perfect and we’re constantly tweaking and improving, but implementing this process will give you a solid foundation for your content creation going forward.

    Can you think of anyways we could improve any part of our process? We’d love to hear your suggestions, so leave us a comment below.

    And to keep the learning going...

    Download our free guide “How To Create Killer Marketing Content”, where you’ll learn even more ways to create content that gets eyeballs and creates action! Click the image below to get your copy.

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