Content marketing has become so huge that it’s predicted to grow by $417 billion between 2021 and 2025.
With such enormous growth, it’s safe to say most organizations have dabbled in producing at least some content by now. But guess what? Only 29% of organizations report being extremely or very successful with content marketing in the last 12 months.
One of the main problems we’ve found is that many companies jump into content marketing without a solid plan, posting things willy-nilly and with no clear purpose.
Not only is this ineffective, but it can also erode your credibility, reputation, and brand trust. But no need to beat yourself up over it because it’s a relatively easy fix — you just need a plan. And we’re going to tell you how to make one.
Guidelines for implementing a content marketing plan:
1. Determine your overall content marketing goals and KPI’s
2. Lay out what you need to achieve your goals
3. Identify topics that’ll attract your audience
4. Factor in topics that can drive search traffic
5. Determine your distribution plan
6. Determine a publishing schedule
7. Assign the right people to each task
8. Determine owners and collaborators for each piece
9. Develop a conversion optimization plan for each piece
Why do you need a content marketing plan?
A content marketing plan takes your overall content goals and lays out a course of action to achieve them — kind of like a game plan or blueprint.
You need to have one so you can create content that’s both useful and relevant to your audience. Otherwise, you’ll just be creating clutter.
Here’s your content marketing plan template
A 10-step guideline to using our template
Now that you’re armed with a content marketing plan template, we’re going to walk through the guidelines step by step. Let’s get started.
Step #1: Determine your overall content marketing goals and KPIs
Like they say at the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), you can’t achieve content marketing success unless you understand what success means to your organization.
That’s why the first step in developing your plan is to determine your overall content marketing strategy and goal(s). Why are you creating content at all? What’s your end-game, so to speak?
Some of the most common content marketing goals include the following:
Driving organic search traffic
Building brand awareness
Increasing audience engagement
Generating new leads
Nurturing leads in the middle of the sales funnel
Fostering customer loyalty
Boosting sales and profitability
Once you’ve identified what you’re trying to get out of your content marketing efforts, you need to figure out how you’re going to measure success. CMI recommends using multiple KPIs, otherwise, you could negatively affect other metrics without realizing it.
That said, you don’t want to track too many KPIs or you’ll just end up with information overload. Digital marketer Neil Patel puts it this way: “KPIs are all about quality—not quantity. They are about what really moves the needle for your business.”
Let’s say your goal is to increase sales using email marketing, for example. Some relevant metrics or KPIs would be open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, and sales growth.
Here’s a list of other KPIs that are often used to evaluate content marketing:
Email: Open rate, conversion rate, unsubscribe rate, click-through rate, delivery rate
SEO and website: Website traffic, unique visitors, time on site or page, bounce rate, page views, traffic sources
Social media: Amplification rate, number of followers, fans, and likes, return on engagement (ROE), post reach
E-commerce: Sales, sales growth, conversion rate, website traffic, average order value, shopping cart or checkout abandonment rate
Step #2: Lay out what you need to achieve your goal(s)
Once you’ve outlined your content marketing strategy, it’s time to figure out what you’ll need to achieve your goals. For example, do you have enough staff (or the right staff) to implement your strategy?
Do you have the budget to pay writers and other content creators? How about the right tools, like project management software or a content marketing platform?
Identify exactly what you need to achieve your goals and then get to work on lining it up. This may mean going to the higher-ups to pitch a budget increase. If that’s the case, having a well thought out plan will go a long way towards getting what you need.
Step #3: Identify the topics that’ll attract your audience
One core purpose of content marketing is to attract your audience by creating useful, relevant content. To figure out exactly what’s useful and relevant, it’s important to identify some key pieces of information:
Who is your target customer?
What problem is your target customer trying to solve?
What are their pain points?
How does your product or service solve this problem?
What kind of information will your target customers find useful?
Where do your customers typically look for information? Do they go to search engines? If yes, what are they searching for? Why are they searching for those things?
Then, start brainstorming topics that would be of interest to your audience. Let’s say you run a meal prep business, for example. You identify that your target audience is high-income parents who are struggling to make healthy meals at home.
This audience is probably dealing with pain points like not having enough time to cook meals or shop for groceries. And they probably look for information on popular recipe websites or healthy living blogs.
With this in mind, your customers would probably be attracted to topics related to healthy eating, time-saving kitchen hacks, meal planning, and family-friendly recipes.
Step #4: Factor in topics that can drive search traffic
Once you’ve come up with a broad list of topics that are relevant to your audience, it’s time to hone in on specific phrases that can drive search traffic.
What kind of questions are your customers asking that relate to the topics you identified in the previous step? You can figure this out by plugging your topics into an SEO tool. This will give you a list of keywords and phrases around each topic, including search volume for each keyword, keyword difficulty, and more.
Going back to the meal prep business, for example, you’ll probably find that customers are using some of the following keyword phrases in search engines:
Topic: family-friendly recipes
Keyword phrases: lunch ideas for kids, kid-friendly casserole, how to make a smoothie, recipes for toddlers, easy dinner recipes, 30-minute meals
Topic: meal planning
Keyword phrases: meal planning template, how to make a weekly meal plan, monthly meal plan with a grocery list, best meal planning apps
Step #5: Determine your distribution plan
Content distribution can be divided into four main buckets — owned, earned, shared, and paid. Here’s a quick recap of what each one includes:
Owned media – Channels that your company owns, like your blog, your website, your email list, and so on.
Earned media – Unpaid mentions by influencers or on channels like podcasts or blogs.
Shared media – Social media channels and other online communities. Examples include user-generated content, product reviews, shares, retweets, and more.
Paid media – Paid advertising for content promotion.
To determine which bucket to focus your marketing efforts on (and you can always do a combination), it’s important to consider both your business type and your audience.
B2B companies, for example, are more likely to find success distributing content like case studies and long-form blog posts on owned channels (like their email lists) and shared media (like LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook) — depending on where their target audience is.
Small B2C startups, on the other hand, will probably have more success distributing short posts or videos on shared media (like Instagram & TikTok) and using paid influencer marketing.
As for your audience, where are they already going to find information? Where are they usually “hanging out” online? B2B customers, for example, are typically found on LinkedIn (with 80% of B2B leads coming from LinkedIn alone).
But even beyond general statistics like this, you’ll still need to do your research and find where your specific or niche target customers spend most of their time online.
Step #6: Determine your publishing schedule
Now that you know what you’re publishing and where you’re publishing it, it’s time to figure out when — which means determining your publishing schedule.
Often referred to as an editorial calendar, publishing schedules are important for keeping your team on track in terms of content creation. Without one, it’s hard to maintain consistency, something that’s key when it comes to content marketing success.
Jon Simpson, the owner of Criterion.B, recently shared in a Forbes article that one of his clients increased new visitor blog traffic by 90% just by posting consistently. Plus, social media followers on Facebook increased by 30%, Twitter by 9%, and Linkedin by 8%, all in the same time period.
When determining your content calendar, it’s particularly useful to have some technology behind you. And while a simple spreadsheet might work for small projects, you’ll want something more powerful if you’re managing a large team.
Welcome’s software, for example, allows you to visualize all work in a single, easy-to-use, and flexible marketing calendar. Here are a few specific perks:
Leverage our marketing calendar software for a single view across all planned and in-flight campaigns, with updates in real-time. Ensure all content marketing efforts roll up to broader strategic initiatives with a comprehensive breakout of sub-campaigns and tasks.
Track the execution of all content activities and provide visibility across teams to encourage collaboration. In our marketing calendar software, you can drag-and-drop projects to shift deadlines, promoting agile planning to ensure a successful overall strategy.
Monitor campaign progress at a glance within the calendar, or drill into supporting activity with one click for a detailed view of who’s working on what, and when, to ensure teams meet necessary deadlines.
Filter the calendar to focus on the work that matters most. Surface relevant activity for specific teams or individual contributors with customized filtering across geography, channel, target audience, or any custom metadata.
Step #7: Assign the right people to each task
Once you have your publishing schedule outlined, it’s time to assign the right person to each job. Before you can do this, though, you need to break each piece of content down into individual tasks.
A blog post, for example, is typically broken down into the following tasks:
Then, you can assign each task to the right person, whether it’s internal staff, an outside agency, or a freelancer. When doing so, it’s important to keep an eye on everyone’s workload to make sure it’s management.
Welcome’s software, for example, allows you to keep an eye on the current commitments (and bandwidth) of everyone on your team. This helps avoid burnout and ensures you have the right people and time allocated to every project.
Step #8: Determine the owner and collaborator(s) for each piece of content
Collaboration has become increasingly vital to content creation over the past few years, especially when you’re dealing with a large organization with lots of stakeholders.
Take the tasks for the blog post that we outlined above, for example. Many of these tasks will need to be assigned to different staff members, from writers to content strategists to SEO experts.
Plus, you’ll often need to gather input from other stakeholders like clients, subject matter experts, and marketing directors, to name a few.
So it’s important to identify the owner and all the collaborators for each piece of content from the very beginning. If you wait until the end to ask for input, it often results in lengthy revisions to the piece.
Step #9: Have a conversion optimization plan for each piece
In content marketing terms, a conversion rate is the percentage of people who visit your website and actually convert into customers or do whatever the desired action is (sign up for your email list, register for a course, download an ebook, etc.).
Let’s say 100 people find your blog post in the search results and then visit your website to read it. If 10 of those people purchase your product while on your website, your conversion rate would be 10%.
(Which would be amazing, by the way — the average conversion rate of online shoppers worldwide was just 2.17% in 2020.)
So, a conversion optimization plan lays out how you’re going to increase that number, or to get more visitors to become customers. When it comes to optimizing blog posts and other content, here are a few solid strategies to include in your plan:
Write strong headlines
Deliver on the promise made in the headline
Solve for search intent
Include case studies as evidence
Create original graphics and/or charts
Design a clean layout
Focus on readability
Drop in as many relevant, internal links as possible
Include a clear, compelling call-to-action (CTA)
Step #10: Launch!
You made it! It’s finally time to put your plan into action. Strategists can start strategizing, writers can start writing, and so on.
If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea during this phase to build automated workflows to manage your content as it moves through various stages of creation and approval. One way to do this is by setting up workflows in your project management system that automatically route content to the next appropriate person. Take the case of Pure Storage, for example.
In early 2020, the Pure Storage content team was struggling with inconsistent workflows and offline docs that created confusion and made approvals difficult.
So they partnered with Welcome to build workflows for all of their most common content and creative tasks — whether it was a blog post, a thought leadership piece, technical web content, or another type of request.
“It was a very data-driven approach,” said Lisa Oda, Content Studio leader at Pure Storage. “We assessed everything: where the work should start; who needs to be involved; who is the final approver; how much time each person needs to complete their part; where the final assets need to go. We now know exactly what needs to be done and can easily forecast when projects will be complete.”
The results? Pretty amazing. Pure Storage now produces 200% more content while spending 50% less time in team meetings.
Content marketing strategy FAQs
How do you lay out a content plan?
Once you’ve developed your content marketing strategy, you can lay out your content plan. Start by listing the following items on a spreadsheet or other organizational tool:
Budget and resources
Then create the following fields plus anything additional that helps you achieve the goals laid out in your content marketing strategy:
Content name or title
What are some elements of a good content plan?
A good content marketing plan is detailed and specific. It identifies the who, what, where, when, and why of content creation:
Who’s consuming your content? Who’s creating your content?
What type of content are you going to create?
Where are you going to distribute your content?
When are you going to publish your content?
Why are you creating content in the first place?
What does a content marketing strategy look like?
A content marketing strategy is similar to a plan but is more broad. For example, a content marketing strategy might be to use email marketing to boost engagement. But a content plan lays out exactly how to do it.
With your content marketing strategy and plan in place, you’re well on your way to joining the 29% of organizations that are extremely or very successful with content marketing! Yay you!
Now it’s time to get down to the business of creating useful and relevant content for your audience. Best of luck!
Local Pack Header Specificity Vanishes while Local Packs Downtrend
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
In July of this year, Dr. Peter J. Meyers and I published a report analyzing an element of Google’s local results we termed “local pack headers”. About a month after publication, members of the local SEO community, like Colan Nielsen, began noticing that the extraordinary diversity of headings we had captured had suddenly diminished:
Today, I’m doing a quick follow-up to the manual portion of our earlier study in an effort to quantify and illustrate this abrupt alteration.
A total sea change in local pack headers
Between July and November of 2022, 83% of our previously-queried local pack headers underwent a complete transformation of nomenclature. Only 17% of the local pack headers were still worded the same way in autumn as they had been in the summertime. Here is a small set of examples:
In our manual analysis of 60 queries in July, we encountered 40 unique local pack headers – a tremendous variety. Now, all specificity is gone. For all of our queries, headings have been reduced to just 3 types: in-store availability, places, and businesses.
Entity relationships remain mysterious
What hasn’t changed is my sense that the logic underpinning which businesses receive which local pack header remains rather odd. In the original study, we noted the mystery of why a query like “karate” fell under the heading of “martial arts school” but a query for “tai chi” got a unique “tai chi heading”, or why “adopt dog” results were headed “animal rescue services” but “adopt bunny” got a pack labeled “adopt bunny”. The curious entity relationships continue on, even in this new, genericized local pack header scenario. For example, why is my search for “tacos” (which formerly brought up a pack labeled “Mexican restaurants”, now labeled this:
But my search for “oil change” gets this header:
Is there something about a Mexican restaurant that makes it more of a “place” and an oil change spot that makes it more of a “business”? I don’t follow the logic. Meanwhile, why are service area businesses, as shown in my search for “high weed mowing” being labeled “places”?
Surely high weed mowing is not a place…unless it is a philosophical one. Yet I saw many SABs labeled this way instead of as “businesses”, which would seem a more rational label, given Google’s historic distinction between physical premises and go-to-client models. There are many instances like this of the labeling not making much horse sense, and with the new absence of more specific wording, it feels like local pack headers are likely to convey less meaning and be more easily overlooked now.
Why has Google done this and does it matter to your local search marketing?
Clearly, Google decided to streamline their classifications. There may be more than three total local pack header types, but I have yet to see them. Hotel packs continue to have their own headings, but they have always been a different animal:
In general, Google experiments with whatever they think will move users about within their system, and perhaps they felt the varied local pack headers were more of a distraction than an aid to interactivity with the local packs. We can’t know for sure, nor can we say how long this change will remain in place, because Google could bring back the diverse headings the day after I publish this column!
As to whether this matters to your local search campaigns, unfortunately, the generic headers do obscure former clues to the mind of Google that might have been useful in your SEO. I previously suggested that local businesses might want to incorporate the varied local pack terms into the optimization of the website tags and text, but in the new scenario, it is likely to be pointless to optimize anything for “places”, “businesses”, or “in-store availability”. It’s a given that your company is some kind of place or business if you’re creating a Google Business Profile for it. And, your best bet for featuring that you carry certain products is to publish them on your listing and consider whether you want to opt into programs like Pointy.
In sum, this change is not a huge deal, but I’m a bit sorry to see the little clues of the diversified headers vanish from sight. Meanwhile, there’s another local pack trend going on right now that you should definitely be paying attention to…
A precipitous drop in overall local pack presence
In our original study, Google did not return a local pack for 18% of our manual July queries. By November, the picture had significantly changed. A startling 42% of our queries suddenly no longer displayed a local pack. This is right in line with Andrew Shotland’s documentation of a 42.3% drop from peak local pack display between August and October. Mozcast, pictured above, captured a drop from 39.6% of queries returning local packs on October 24th to just 25.1% on October 25th. The number has remained in the low-to-mid 20s in the ensuing weeks. It’s enough of a downward slope to give one pause.
Because I’m convinced of the need for economic localism as critical to healing the climate and society, I would personally like Google to return local packs for all commercial queries so that searchers can always see the nearest resource for purchasing whatever they need, but if Google is reducing the number of queries for which they deliver local results, I have to try to understand their thinking.
To do that, I have to remember that the presence of a local pack is a signal that Google believes a query has a local intent. Likely, they often get this right, but I can think of times when a local result has appeared for a search term that doesn’t seem to me to be obviously, inherently local. For example, in the study Dr. Pete and I conducted, we saw Google not just returning a local pack for the keyword “pickles” but even giving it its own local pack header:
If I search for pickles, am I definitely looking for pickles near me, or could I be looking for recipes, articles about the nutritional value of pickles, the history of pickles, something else? How high is Google’s confidence that vague searches like these should be fulfilled with a local result?
After looking at a number of searches like these in the context of intent, my current thinking is this: for some reason unknown to us, Google is dialing back presumed local intent. Ever since Google made the user the centroid of search and began showing us nearby results almost by default for countless queries, we users became trained not to have to add many (or any) modifiers to our search language to prompt Google to lay out our local options for us. We could be quite lazy in our searches and still get local results.
In the new context of a reduced number of searches generating local packs, though, we will have to rehabituate ourselves to writing more detailed queries to get to what we want if Google no longer thinks our simple search for “pickles” implies “pickles near me”. I almost get the feeling that Google wants us to start being more specific again because its confidence level about what constitutes a local search has suffered some kind of unknown challenge.
It’s also worth throwing into our thinking what our friends over at NearMedia.co have pointed out:
It could be that Google’s confidence is being shaken in a variety of ways, including by regulatory rulings, and local SEOs should always expect change. For now, though, local businesses may be experiencing some drop in their local pack traffic and CTR. On the other hand, if Google is getting it right, there may be no significant loss. If your business was formerly showing up in a local pack for a query that didn’t actually have a local intent, you likely weren’t getting those clicks anyway because a local result wasn’t what the searcher was looking for to begin with.
That being said, I am seeing examples in which I feel Google is definitely getting it wrong. For instance, my former searches for articles of furniture all brought up local packs with headings like “accent chairs” or “lamps”. Now, Google is returning no local pack for some of these searches and is instead plugging an enormous display of remote, corporate shopping options. There are still furniture stores near me, but Google is now hiding them, and that disappoints me greatly:
So here’s today’s word to the wise: keep working on the organic optimization of your website and the publication of helpful content. Both will underpin your key local pack rankings, and as we learned from our recent large-scale local business review survey, 51% of consumers are going to end up on your site as their next step after reading reviews on your listings. 2023 will be a good year to invest in the warm and inclusive welcome your site is offering people, and the investment will also stand you in good stead however local pack elements like headers, or even local packs, themselves, wax and wane.