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7 Effective Steps for a Robust Content Development Process

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Successfully creating and scaling content is tough without a defined and robust content development process.

Last year, the marketing team at Ahrefs published over 150 articles and 30 videos. While achieving those numbers is challenging for a lean marketing team, they did it without compromising on quality. How? By following a content development process.

In this guide, you’ll learn what content development is, why it’s important, and how to develop a robust content development process in seven steps:

But before diving into the steps, let’s first define what content development is and learn about its importance.

What is content development?

Content development is the combination of the different steps involved in the entire lifecycle of a content piece—right from its conception to distribution. It involves steps like audience research, brainstorming, planning, editing, and more.

While you may confuse content development with content strategy, both are different. The latter focuses on the overall vision and plan for your content.

However, a robust content development process is a critical part of any content strategy.

Flowchart showing "Content Development Process" is one of three key aspects of "Content Strategy"

Why is it important to have a content development process?

I understand that creating and implementing a content development process may feel daunting. So here are three main benefits of why having a content development process is a necessity for anyone serious about content marketing:

  1. Scale content faster – Knowing the exact time and effort required to create different content pieces allows you to allocate resources and budget faster.
  2. Align content with business goals – A content development process ensures each content piece is created with the overall content and business goals in mind.
  3. Increase efficiency – Having a set process minimizes the effort required at each stage in the development process.

Seven steps to a robust content development process

While there’s no one-size-fits-all model, I’ve narrowed the process down to seven important steps that anyone can build upon to create a content development process for themselves. Let’s get into it.

1. Understanding your market

It’s simple. To create content that truly resonates with your target audience, you need to know them well. There’s no other way around it.

If you’ve done any market research before, you should already have a lot of information about your target customers. Here are a few ways you can use it further to generate content ideas:

Analyzing your competitors’ top content

By analyzing the top content of your competitors, you can quickly understand what type of content and topics your target audience is most interested in reading about.

You can use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to find the top pages. Enter a competitor’s blog URL and go to the Top pages report:

Top pages report results for Zendesk's blog Top pages report results for Zendesk's blog

What you now see are the best-performing pages by organic traffic.

Talking to customers

Before working on any content, talk to your existing or potential customers to understand their challenges and how they think your product can add value to their lives.

Nothing beats the insights gained by talking to customers.

For example, at Ahrefs, a lot of our customers are part of a closed Facebook community. Just by analyzing the conversations, the questions being asked, and conducting polls, we get a good understanding of what topics we can write about.

Tim's poll in Ahrefs Insider asking members who they are (in-house marketer, affiliate website owner, etc) Tim's poll in Ahrefs Insider asking members who they are (in-house marketer, affiliate website owner, etc)

Using audience intelligence tools

By leveraging audience intelligence tools like SparkToro, you can easily find the social accounts your target audience members follow, the websites they visit, the hashtags they use, and more.

SparkToro overview of people who fall under the "b2b marketing" audience group SparkToro overview of people who fall under the "b2b marketing" audience group

You can easily use this information to generate new content ideas, find distribution channels, and more.

2. Be clear on the purpose of your content

Every content piece should have a clear purpose. Whether it’s driving organic traffic, building thought leadership, or increasing product usage.

Setting an objective helps you to track the right metrics that define the success of the content. It’s impossible to evaluate the content otherwise.

For example, for this post, one of our goals is to rank in the top three positions for the keyword “content development.” Thus, we’ll be tracking this keyword using Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker.

Here’s an excerpt from another Ahrefs article outline that defines the angle, goal, and unique selling point. This helps us write unique content with the objective in mind.

Ahrefs article outline covering key aspects such as title, article goal, article angle, etcAhrefs article outline covering key aspects such as title, article goal, article angle, etc

3. Content planning

You may have a lot of content ideas to work on. But you should start off with only a few. Here are metrics you should take into account for prioritization:

  • Business potential
  • Traffic Potential (TP)
  • Keyword Difficulty (KD)

Business potential

To attract the right audience and drive engagement, you need to focus on writing content that highlights your product as a solution. For business potential, here’s the scale the Ahrefs team uses:

Business potential: Table with scores 3 to 0. And explanation of criteria to meet each scoreBusiness potential: Table with scores 3 to 0. And explanation of criteria to meet each score

Traffic Potential

Just targeting a keyword with high search volume is not enough. You need to look at the overall TP because one piece of content can rank for thousands of different keywords. For example, the keyword “how to water a snake plant” has a keyword volume of 700, but its TP is almost five times the search volume (at 3,100).

Keyword Explorer overview of "how to water a snake plant"Keyword Explorer overview of "how to water a snake plant"

On the other hand, some keywords may have high search volumes, but the TP can be comparatively low.

Keyword Explorer overview of "dollar to euro" Keyword Explorer overview of "dollar to euro"

Keyword Difficulty

KD gives an estimation of how hard it is to rank a keyword in the top 10 SERP positions on a 100-point scale. Along with difficulty, Ahrefs also estimates the number of backlinks you’ll need to rank for a particular keyword.

KD score for "keyword difficulty"KD score for "keyword difficulty"

The lower the KD score, the easier it should be for you to rank high for the keyword rather quickly.

But generally, it’s best practice to target all the relevant keywords that you hope to rank for in the future—even if the KD is high. This will help you understand where you stand and constantly improve rankings as you update the content or build backlinks to it.

Matching the search intent

Creating content that aligns with search intent is incredibly important.

Search intent is the “why” behind a particular search query. It’s related to the content type, content format, and content angle.

Matching search intent is critical because Google aims to provide users with the most relevant result for each query.

You can understand search intent by going through the top-ranking results for a particular keyword. It’s best if you do it right in the SERP overview section inside Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer because you can see all the relevant metrics there as well. 

For example, the intent of the keyword “content marketing examples” is list posts:

SERP overview for "content marketing examples" SERP overview for "content marketing examples"

Here, the intent for the keyword “install windows 11” is predominantly tutorial videos:

Google SERP of "install windows 11" Google SERP of "install windows 11"

Creating a content calendar

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of planning ahead and tracking content creation. And that’s where a content calendar comes in.

A content calendar gives you a bird’s-eye view of content planning and which content pieces are on track, delayed, and more.

At Ahrefs, the content is typically planned one to two months ahead. But you can choose to plan it according to what suits you best.

If you’re looking for platforms to create a content calendar on, try Notion, Trello, or Airtable. These are the most popular platforms content teams use.

Example of Ahrefs content team's blog calendar on NotionExample of Ahrefs content team's blog calendar on Notion

4. Content creation

Everyone approaches content creation differently. There’s no set process for this. However, there are definitely a few tactics you can implement to streamline the process.

Create a content style guide

A content style guide is a document that illustrates standards for content on a particular website. This helps in enforcing style rules for maintaining consistency and improving communication.

This is especially useful if you outsource your content creation to freelancers and agencies. For example, before writing this article, the Ahrefs team shared with me (as an external contributor) the:

  • Contributor Guidelines (this explains the different steps for writing).
  • Blog Writing Guideline/SOPs (for creating an outline, formatting, etc.).

Recommended reading: How to Create a Content Style Guide

Templates

You don’t need to create every content piece from scratch. Most of the ones you create often fall into a certain type, e.g., list post, video, guide, etc.

For each type, you can create a template to use as the foundation. Then start working on the post. Here are a few blog post templates for your reference. 

SOPs

SOPs (standard operating procedures) are documents explaining how to do specific tasks within your organization for content creation. For example, you can create an SOP for publishing a video on YouTube or writing a blog headline.

Creating SOPs greatly increases the efficiency within the team and is also useful for new employees. It’s also great if you work with many external agencies and freelancers for content creation.

Gif of Ahrefs' "Image naming SOP" Gif of Ahrefs' "Image naming SOP"

PRO TIP

In a recent talk on “scaling content,” our head of content, Joshua Hardwick, spoke about the three S’s of content creation:

  • Systemize – This is setting a defined process for publishing content from the ideation stage. 
  • Standardize – Creating SOPs for different tasks. In Joshua’s own words, “You need SOPs. They are life.” 
  • Streamline – You should figure out a way to do everything better.
PPT slide showing three S's of content creationPPT slide showing three S's of content creation

Feel free to go through his slides of the talk here.

5. Get feedback on your content

To ensure every piece of published content is free of errors and aligns with your content guidelines, getting external feedback and content editing are necessary.

As content creators, it can be difficult to spot mistakes in our own content. And that’s where someone else’s feedback is critical. Your content needs to be subjected to the scrutiny of other experts.

Depending on the frequency of the content being produced, you can hire content editors, outsource editing, or use peer editing.

At Ahrefs, every article is scrutinized by a second person on the team. They point out things like logical loopholes, choppy flow, unclear points, poorly phrased sentences, and so on. They’re also featured as contributors at the end of the article alongside the author.

Bio of Joshua, featuring Sam as contributor in top right-hand cornerBio of Joshua, featuring Sam as contributor in top right-hand corner

In addition to this, at Ahrefs, there’s a dedicated content editor whose responsibility is to proofread every article, align it with the house style, upload it to WordPress, and then update internal links.

You can also share content with people in different functions (e.g., sales, products) or industry leaders and connections to get an outside perspective. Remember, reviewers don’t have to be limited to people within the marketing or content teams.

6. Distribution

To ensure you meet your desired content goals, just creating great content is not enough. You need to have a content distribution strategy in place.

Again, there is no one-size-fits-all model. How you tweak your strategy depends on the objective of a content piece.

For example, if you’ve created a data-driven study with the objective to get links from publications like Forbes and Entrepreneur, your content needs to be seen by journalists or contributors—whether it’s via a cold email, social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, or paid advertisements. 

The distribution channels can be divided into owned, earned, and paid channels.

Examples of owned channels:

  • Website or blog 
  • Email list
  • Your accounts on social media platforms
  • YouTube

Examples of earned channels:

  • Reddit
  • Facebook groups and Slack communities
  • Twitter mentions
  • Forums

Examples of paid channels:

  • Twitter Ads
  • LinkedIn Ads
  • Sponsorships
  • Native advertising via platforms like Outbrain

There are definitely more ways to distribute your content, as these are just a few well-known examples. You don’t need to limit your distribution to these channels. For example, you can leverage email outreach and reach out to influencers in your industry who may be interested in sharing your content. 

Content repurposing

An underrated tactic to get more from your content distribution efforts is by focusing on content repurposing.

Content repurposing is the process of taking a piece of content and turning it into different formats.

By repurposing content, you instantly unlock different distribution channels and audiences to whom you can promote your content. And the best part is that because the content is already created, you don’t need to put in a lot of effort to repurpose it into a different format.

For example, if you repurpose a blog article into a video, you can share it on video-sharing platforms like YouTube or TikTok. An often-used tactic that Ahrefs has leveraged on YouTube is to repurpose popular blog articles as YouTube videos, and it has proven to be effective.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMJQPqG2Uas

7. Monitoring results

The only way to understand whether your content is meeting the set goals is by monitoring it.

For example, for monitoring website traffic, you can use Google Analytics. Similarly, if your objective is to drive organic traffic, then you should use Rank Tracker to monitor keyword rankings, traffic, and search visibility.

Here’s how you can get started:

Rank Tracker page where user can add keywords to trackRank Tracker page where user can add keywords to track
  • Next, specify the location. You can choose one or multiple locations.
  • Finally, you just need to click on “Add keywords” to submit your request.
  • That’s it. Now you’ll be able to track your keywords, as well as metrics like average position, traffic, position distribution, and more.
Rank Tracker overview Rank Tracker overview

Final thoughts

There’s no doubt that creating and implementing a content development process greatly helps in creating and scaling content faster.

Depending on the type of content you produce, a few steps will be more critical than others. However, you shouldn’t skip any step, as each has its own importance.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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Attain Superior Growth & ROI With Organic & Paid Tips

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Holistic Search 2.0: Optimizing and Measuring Organic and Paid Performance

Silos don’t cut it anymore. User journeys are too complex for you to view and track channels separately.

To improve your campaign performance, you need a holistic view of your marketing activities and how they intertwine. This is especially true for organic and paid search strategies. 

You need to be front and center with your ideal customers at multiple touchpoints, including active interactions and passive awareness. An ideal marketing strategy has paid and organic campaigns working in tandem, and it’s becoming harder to succeed without doing both.

If you’re looking to drive quality growth in your own campaigns, iQuanti can help.

Join us live on July 24 as we delve into this intricate relationship between organic and paid search channels. You’ll get actionable insights for measuring success to maximize their combined potential.

You’ll gain a comprehensive, data-driven understanding of how to measure, analyze, and optimize holistic search marketing efforts, ensuring sustainable growth and superior ROI for your business.

You’ll walk away with:

  • Integrated Metrics and KPIs: Learn how to define and track key metrics to capture the performance of your organic and paid search campaigns, so you can make informed strategic decisions that work.
  • Attribution Models: You’ll see firsthand how strong attribution models are crucial to understanding your customers’ journeys, allowing you to identify influential touchpoints and allocate budget effectively for maximum ROI.
  • Optimization Strategies: You’ve gathered data from your campaigns…now what? Take the data and leverage it to further optimize your paid and organic search campaigns, increasing conversions along the way.

Shaubhik Ray, Senior Director of Digital Analytics Solutions at iQuanti is an expert at crafting holistic search strategies to reach more of your ideal audiences at relevant stages in their journeys. Now, he’s ready to share his insights with you.

You’ll walk away equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to execute a combined organic and paid strategy that improves the performance of each channel.  You’ll gain data-driven insights on how to align a combined strategy with business goals and lead your organization to success.

Sign up now and prepare to maximize the potential of combining your organic and paid campaigns.

At the end of the presentation, you’ll get a chance to ask Shaubhik your burning questions in our live Q&A, so be sure to attend.

And if you can’t make it that day, register here and we’ll send you a recording following the webinar. 

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Screaming Frog SEO Spider Version 20.0: AI-Powered Features

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What’s New with Screaming Frog SEO Spider 20.0?

For SEO experts, our toolkit is crucial. It’s how we make sure we can quickly and effectively assess how well our websites are performing. Using the best tools can put you way ahead of other SEOs. One example (and one tool I’ve personally been using for years) is Screaming FrogIt’s a powerful, straightforward, and insightful website crawler tool that’s indispensable for finding technical issues on your website.

And the good news is that it keeps getting better. Screaming Frog just released its 20th major version of the software, which includes new features based on feedback from SEO professionals.

Here are the main updates:

  1. Custom JavaScript Snippets
  2. Mobile Usability
  3. N-Grams Analysis
  4. Aggregated Anchor Text
  5. Carbon Footprint & Rating

Custom JavaScript Snippets

One of the standout features in this release is the ability to execute custom JavaScript snippets during a crawl. This functionality expands the horizons for data manipulation and API communication, offering unprecedented flexibility.

Use Cases:

  • Data Extraction and Manipulation: Gather specific data points or modify the DOM to suit your needs.
  • API Communication: Integrate with APIs like OpenAI’s ChatGPT from within the SEO Spider.

Setting Up Custom JS Snippets:

  • Navigate to `Config > Custom > Custom JavaScript`.
  • Click ‘Add’ to create a new snippet or ‘Add from Library’ to select from preset snippets.

setting up custom JS snippets screamingfrog 20setting up custom JS snippets screamingfrog 20

  • Ensure JavaScript rendering mode is set via `Config > Spider > Rendering`.

Crawl with ChatGPT:

  • Leverage the `(ChatGPT) Template` snippet, add your OpenAI API key and tailor the prompt to your needs.
  • Follow our tutorial on ‘How To Crawl With ChatGPT’ for more detailed guidance.

Sharing Your Snippets:

  • Export/import snippet libraries as JSON files to share with colleagues.
  • Remember to remove sensitive data such as API keys before sharing.

Introducing Custom JavaScript Snippets to Screaming Frog SEO Spider version 20.0 significantly enhances the tool’s flexibility and power. Whether you’re generating dynamic content, interacting with external APIs, or conducting complex page manipulations, these snippets open a world of possibilities. 

Mobile Usability

In today’s mobile-first world, ensuring a seamless mobile user experience is imperative. Version 20.0 introduces extensive mobile usability audits through Lighthouse integration. 

With an ever-increasing number of users accessing websites via mobile devices, ensuring a seamless mobile experience is crucial. Google’s mobile-first indexing highlights the importance of mobile usability, which directly impacts your site’s rankings and user experience.

 Mobile Usability Features:

  • New Mobile Tab: This tab includes filters for regular mobile usability issues such as viewport settings, tap target sizes, content sizing, and more.
  • Granular Issue Details: Detailed data on mobile usability issues can be explored in the ‘Lighthouse Details’ tab.
  • Bulk Export Capability: Export comprehensive mobile usability reports via `Reports > Mobile`.

Setup:

  • Connect to the PSI API through `Config > API Access > PSI` or run Lighthouse locally.

Example Use Cases:

  • Identify pages where content does not fit within the viewport.
  • Flag and correct small tap targets and illegible font sizes.

mobile usability analysis on screamingfrog 20mobile usability analysis on screamingfrog 20

With these new features, Screaming Frog SEO Spider version 20.0 streamlines the process of auditing mobile usability, making it more efficient and comprehensive. By integrating with Google Lighthouse, both via the PSI API and local runs, the tool provides extensive insights into the mobile performance of your website. Addressing these issues not only enhances user experience but also improves your site’s SEO performance.

N-grams Analysis

N-grams analysis is a powerful new feature that allows users to analyze phrase frequency across web pages. This can greatly enhance on-page SEO efforts and internal linking strategies.

Setting Up N-grams:

  • Activate HTML storage by enabling ‘Store HTML’ or ‘Store Rendered HTML’ under `Config > Spider > Extraction`.
  • View the N-grams in the lower N-grams tab.

n-grams analysis on screamingfrog 20n-grams analysis on screamingfrog 20

Example Use Cases:

  • Improving Keyword Usage: Adjust content based on the frequency of targeted N-grams.
  • Optimizing Internal Links: Use N-grams to identify unlinked keywords and create new internal links.

Internal Linking Opportunities:

The N-grams feature provides a nuanced method for discovering internal linking opportunities, which can significantly enhance your SEO strategy and site navigation.

The introduction of N-grams analysis in Screaming Frog SEO Spider version 20 provides a tool for deep content analysis and optimization. By understanding the frequency and distribution of phrases within your content, you can significantly improve your on-page SEO and internal linking strategies.

Aggregated Anchor Text

Effective anchor text management is essential for internal linking and overall SEO performance. The aggregated anchor text feature in version 20.0 provides clear insights into how anchor texts are used across your site.

Using Aggregated Anchor Text:

  • Navigate to the ‘Inlinks’ or ‘Outlinks’ tab.
  • Utilize the new ‘Anchors’ filters to see aggregated views of anchor text usage.

aggregated anchor text report on screamingfrog 20aggregated anchor text report on screamingfrog 20

Practical Benefits:

  • Anchor Text Diversity: Ensure a natural distribution of anchor texts to avoid over-optimization.
  • Descriptive Linking: Replace generic texts like “click here” with keyword-rich alternatives.

The aggregated anchor text feature provides powerful insights into your internal link structure and optimization opportunities. This feature is essential if you are looking to enhance your site’s internal linking strategy for better keyword relevance, user experience, and search engine performance.

Aligning with digital sustainability trends, Screaming Frog SEO Spider version 20.0 includes features to measure and optimize your website’s carbon footprint.

Key Features:

  • Automatic CO2 Calculation: The SEO Spider now calculates carbon emissions for each page using the CO2.js library.
  • Carbon Rating: Each URL receives a rating based on its emissions, derived from the Sustainable Web Design Model.
  • High Carbon Rating Identification: Pages with high emissions are flagged in the ‘Validation’ tab.

Practical Applications:

  • Resource Optimization: Identify and optimize high-emission resources.
  • Sustainable Practices: Implement changes such as compressing images, reducing script sizes, and using green hosting solutions.

The integration of carbon footprint calculations in Screaming Frog SEO Spider signifies a growing recognition of digital sustainability. As more businesses adopt these practices, we can collectively reduce the environmental impact of the web while driving performance and user satisfaction.

Other Updates

In addition to major features, version 20.0 includes numerous smaller updates and bug fixes that enhance functionality and user experience.

Rich Result Validation Enhancements:

  • Split Google Rich Result validation errors from Schema.org.
  • New filters and columns provide detailed insights into rich result triggers and errors.

Enhanced File Types and Filters:

  • Internal and external filters include new file types such as Media, Fonts, and XML.

Website Archiving:

  • A new option to archive entire websites during a crawl is available under `Config > Spider > Rendering > JS`.

Viewport and Screenshot Configuration:

  • Customize viewport and screenshot sizes to fit different audit needs.

API Auto Connect:

  • Automatically connect APIs on start, making the setup process more seamless.

Resource Over 15MB Filter:

  • A new validation filter flags resources over 15MB, which is crucial for performance optimization.

Page Text Export:

  • Export all visible page text through the new `Bulk Export > Web > All Page Text` option.

Lighthouse Details Tab:

  • The ‘PageSpeed Details’ tab has been renamed ‘Lighthouse Details’ to reflect its expanded role.

HTML Content Type Configuration:

  • An ‘Assume Pages are HTML’ option helps accurately classify pages without explicit content types.

Bug Fixes and Performance Improvements:

  • Numerous small updates and fixes enhance stability and reliability. 

Screaming Frog SEO Spider version 20.0 is a comprehensive update packed with innovative features and enhancements that cater to the evolving needs of SEO professionals like us. From advanced data extraction capabilities with Custom JavaScript Snippets to environmental sustainability with Carbon Footprint and Rating, this release sets a new benchmark in SEO auditing tools.

Key Takeaway

Add this to your toolbox, or update to version 20 to explore the rich array of new features from Screaming Frog to optimize your website’s SEO, usability, and sustainability. It’s a no-fuss tool with tons of features that will help you stay ahead of your competitors, and ensure your websites perform optimally in terms of user experience and search engine visibility.

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Google Simplifies Adding Shipping & Return Policies For Online Stores

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woman online shopper affixes a barcode sticker to a cardboard box, marking it for return and refund

Google introduces Search Console feature for online stores to easily manage shipping and return policies.

  • Google now allows online stores to manage shipping and return policies via Search Console.
  • This simplifies providing vital information to customers.
  • The feature can potentially boost sales for retailers.

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