Great content is like building a house. An architect designs the plan, then the builder executes the plan. The homeowner might know what features they want, and the builder is very capable of using their tools to build a house, but without a solid plan, the house will come out sort of wonky.
Deciding what to write about is only the beginning. There is a discipline in the planning process. On the surface may seem counter-intuitive to the creative process. But really, it’s the foundation that allows those creative juices to flow freely.
Last time I checked, there was no lack of information about any topic on Google. If you’re going to produce content for the web, it had better be great!
My Content Planning Checklist
1. Use an editorial calendar
Raise your hand if you think keeping an editorial calendar is smart! Now, keep your hand up if you actually use one (kudos to those of you with your hand still up!). Ok, so this one is often filed under “Take my advice, I’m not using it.” – however, you know it’s the right thing to do. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir on this one.
For me, simple is best, as outlined here.
2. Ask Google
This is a useful tool for a couple of reasons. First, it helps identify if your topic is trending relevant, but it also helps you to identify the best versions of which words to use. For example, when I was writing about minimalism in my bedroom design post, I found that the term “minimalist” was much more relevant than “minimalism.”
It’s also helpful to run story concepts through Google Search to see what content already exists about your topic. Just be careful not to let that overly influence your creative process. Stay in your lane, just be aware of the traffic around you.
3. Write your meta description and headline
I’m a fan of the Yoast WordPress plugin. Knowing Yoast will be asking me for a focus keyword and meta description, I like to work it out as part of my planning the article. It’s like a succinct hypothesis I plan to prove in the execution of my writing, but with keywords.
4. Identify external and internal links that support your story
Google likes when you link to relevant content within your site, and to external sources that support your content. It should never be forced, but when planning your content, think about what additional information would be helpful to your reader.
For example, in tip #1, I referenced a post I had previously written about simple editorial calendar (look, see, i just did it again!). In tip #2 I linked to Google Trends, as well as my blog Your Home Only Better.
5. Select your hashtags and content tags
Hashtags can be helpful or sort of annoying. Depending on the platform you’ll be sharing your content, think ahead about what terms are getting searched – beyond your focus keyword. You should also select keywords to tag the post itself in your content platform. Keep in mind they may be different than your hashtags.
6. Identify categories to include your post in
In most content platforms, you can select multiple categories for a piece of content. Using the Minimalist Bedroom Design article as an example, I filled it under: /Room-by-room/Bedroom, Before and After, and My Homes/My As-is Project House. Don’t overdo it, keep it relevant.
7. Write the story before you take the photos
I’ve been guilty of this. Sometimes an amazing photo(s) can inspire a story, but curb your enthusiasm until you know what the story is! Your instinct may be spot on, but don’t skip the planning discipline or your story will not reach its fullest potential. (I’ll share more detail about my approach to photos in a later post).
I often hear that people only look at the photos and don’t read the words. Depending on your audience and topic, that may be true. However, Google does read. So don’t leave your SEO juice on the cutting room floor because you were swept up by a beautiful photo! Once you’ve planned your story, make a list of the shots you will need to support that story.
Take the time to plan before you write. In time, it will simply become habit, and will improve your ability to select great topics as well. And please, if you have other tips for planning great content, let me know!