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How to Create a Content Plan in 5 Easy Steps

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How to Create a Content Plan in 5 Easy Steps

Content planning is the process of deciding what you’ll publish and when. Its main role is to prioritize content creation based on a marketing and content strategy.

If you regularly create content (as you probably should), you need proper content planning to prioritize the creation based on what makes the most sense for your business at a given time. That’s because the resources required to realize content ideas that you come up with or are thrown at you usually far exceed the resources you have.

In this guide to content planning, we’ll go through five steps.

1. Plan for each content distribution channel separately

Do you want to create a content plan for your social media accounts, newsletter, YouTube channel, or your own website? You can do that for all of them—but you should do so separately. That’s because each channel has its own objectives, and there are many ways to achieve them.

Some channels also don’t necessarily require their own content plans. For example, it is enough for most businesses to schedule social media posts a few days ahead of time in a tool like MeetEdgar, and there’s rarely a need for high-effort plans.

Generally speaking, the more resources you invest into creating the content, the more you should invest into efforts to plan it properly. This will naturally have the biggest payoff for long-form articles, blog posts, landing pages, and videos.

For this reason, we’ll mainly focus on content planning for websites here. That’s what most people are looking to learn anyway. Let’s dig into it.

2. Create and maintain a list of topics to cover

Having a sizeable list of topics you’ll like to cover someday is essential to content planning. How else will you be able to prioritize what’s best to work on at a given time? We want the list to minimize the opportunity cost of not covering highly valuable pieces of content that you’re not aware of.

This is when keyword research comes into play. It’s the process of understanding the language your target customers use when searching for your products, services, and content. It then involves analyzing, comparing, and prioritizing the best keyword opportunities for your website.

Keyword research is the best method to find out which topics are popular with your audience. It also allows you to later prioritize the list based on provided metrics (more on that later).

For example, we can brainstorm a few seed keywords that characterize the niches we’re in. Then plug the keywords into a keyword research tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Here’s what you’ll be looking at:

Keyword research in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

See the check marks on the left of each keyword? That means the keyword is part of a list that you created. It’s an easy way to keep all relevant keywords in one place. Here’s what expanding on a “coffee” keyword list looks like:

Adding keywords to a keyword list in Keywords Explorer

The process of discovering and selecting relevant keywords will take hours, but it’s well worth it. After you’re done, export your keyword list to Excel or Google Sheets because you’ll have to add your own input besides all the Ahrefs-provided metrics. Here’s an example from a subsection of our own list of topics:

Excerpt from our list of topics

Not everything revolves around getting search traffic that converts into customers, though. Of course, that’s the most common SEO goal. But you can write about topics with no or little search demand that can be highly valuable for SEO too. I’m talking about link baits: content designed to attract backlinks that can pass their link equity to your other pages.

You can find what type of content gets the most backlinks in your niche by looking up any website in the Best by links report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. What works the best in our case is unique data studies:

The Best by links report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This is where you let your creativity shine. You can even plan content pieces that you want to go viral as part of a PR campaign. Those naturally have their SEO benefits in the form of links and mentions too.

Now, you may be thinking that I’m too focused on SEO. Yes—but that’s because search engines are usually the best, constant source of traffic. 

But there are cases where it makes sense to publish content without any SEO goal in mind. Think about important announcements or product updates, for example. We have a separate section on our blog for these, and they’re as important as any other part of the blog:

Our product blog

3. Add important content metrics

When you’re done with keyword research, you’ll find that 2 out of 3 metrics we’ll be talking about here are already available to you in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer: Traffic Potential (TP) and Keyword Difficulty (KD). The last metric you need to fill in manually is something we call “business potential.”

Let’s look at each one of them.

Traffic Potential (TP)

Just targeting a keyword with high search volume isn’t 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 make cold brew coffee” has a search volume of 29K in the U.S. But its TP is estimated to be 93K, and the main keyword responsible for most of that traffic is “cold brew”:

Traffic Potential metric in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Looking at the box above, you may have already guessed how we calculate the TP metric. It’s the sum of organic traffic that the #1 ranking page for your target keyword receives from all the keywords that it ranks for.

Consider it a search volume on steroids.

Keyword Difficulty (KD)

This metric is an estimate of how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword on a scale from 0 to 100 based on the strength of link profiles of the top-ranking pages. The lower the score, the easier it is to rank at the top for the keyword.

If you were to target the “cold brew” keyword from above, you’d likely need quite a lot of backlinks to have a chance of ranking in the top 10 search results:

Keyword Difficulty (KD) metric in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Business potential (BP)

To attract the right audience that drives conversions, you need to focus on writing content that highlights your product as a solution. To quantify the degree to which you can pitch your own products, we came up with this BP metric. Here’s how we work with it at Ahrefs:

How we score topics by their business potential

4. Prioritize the list based on these metrics

Now comes the most important part of content planning: prioritization. Unless you’re in a narrow niche, you’ll likely have hundreds, if not thousands, of content ideas if you follow our process.

Generally speaking, the best keywords (topics) to target are those with high traffic, high business potential, and low keyword difficulty. In reality, you’ll almost never find such opportunities, so you’ll have to make compromises.

The easiest compromises are made on the KD metric. This is because, in the long term, you’ll likely want to cover pretty much every topic with solid TP and BP. 

Also, the sooner you tackle high-KD topics, the more time you have to accumulate the links you need organically. That’s because the content can rank for long-tail keywords, you point more internal links to it over time, or you get eyeballs on it through content distribution.

As for TP and BP, we can often see an inverse proportionality for these two metrics. Usually, the more search demand there is for a given non-branded topic, the further away those searchers are from making a purchase.

The distance from making a purchase is portrayed in this customer journey illustration:

The buyer's journey

Someone searching for a high-TP topic like “what are backlinks” isn’t likely ready to become our customer yet. But that person may later search for something like “link building tools,” which has lower TP but much higher BP.

The best solution for this lies in a balance between everything. If you plan your content according to your customers’ journeys, you’ll have a nice mix in the end. We give the highest priority to BP. So if that and all other things are equal, we then select topics based on lower KD and higher TP.

A good approach may also be to focus on one topic at a time, such as the “link building” example from above. We have 42 articles on this topic on our blog as of now, and many of them drive a good amount of search traffic:

Our posts about link building and the traffic they drive
Screenshot taken from Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis tool.

This is relevant to creating topic clusters, also known as content hubs, which are sometimes used as an effective SEO tactic:

What a content hub looks like

5. Put it into a content calendar

Now that you’ve picked topics to focus on first, it’s time to put them into a content calendar. It’s a system that organizes, manages, and schedules content production to give you an overview of everything that will be published in a specific time frame. Here’s a sneak peek of our own content calendar:

Our content calendar

It’s created in Notion, with each card in the calendar structured like this:

How we structure our content calendar in Notion

I recommend planning content one to three months ahead. If you’re just starting out with everything, don’t sweat it if you can’t meet your initial plans and deadlines. It takes time to get used to estimates of content production based on your resources (writers, SEOs, designers, etc.).

Here’s one thing to point out. Choosing quality over quantity is usually the right decision, so don’t rush it at all costs. Creating great content takes a lot of time, so adjust accordingly.

Recommended reading: How to Create a Content Calendar That Works for You

Final thoughts

Content planning isn’t rocket science and is something you should do at all costs if you’re serious about content marketing. Your prioritization criteria will likely evolve over time; you’ll add more keywords, topics, etc. Content plans aren’t one and done.

As you publish more and more content, you’ll inevitably have to take into account updating older content as well. You’ll get to the point where doing so will give you a higher return than creating new pieces of content.

At Ahrefs, we’re exactly at that stage. And as you can see, 20% of our articles published this year so far (29 out of 144) are republished posts:

Our newly published vs. republished posts on the Ahrefs Blog, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer
Screenshot taken from Ahrefs’ Content Explorer.

Got any questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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AI Content Detection Software: Can They Detect ChatGPT?

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AI Content Detection Software: Can They Detect ChatGPT?

We live in an age when AI technologies are booming, and the world has been taken by storm with the introduction of ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is capable of accomplishing a wide range of tasks, but one that it does particularly well is writing articles. And while there are many obvious benefits to this, it also presents a number of challenges.

In my opinion, the biggest hurdle that AI-generated written content poses for the publishing industry is the spread of misinformation.

ChatGPT, or any other AI tool, may generate articles that may contain factual errors or are just flat-out incorrect.

Imagine someone who has no expertise in medicine starting a medical blog and using ChatGPT to write content for their articles.

Their content may contain errors that can only be identified by professional doctors. And if that blog content starts spreading over social media, or maybe even ranks in Search, it could cause harm to people who read it and take erroneous medical advice.

Another potential challenge ChatGPT poses is how students might leverage it within their written work.

If one can write an essay just by running a prompt (and without having to do any actual work), that greatly diminishes the quality of education – as learning about a subject and expressing your own ideas is key to essay writing.

Even before the introduction of ChatGPT, many publishers were already generating content using AI. And while some honestly disclose it, others may not.

Also, Google recently changed its wording regarding AI-generated content, so that it is not necessarily against the company’s guidelines.

Image from Twitter, November 2022

This is why I decided to try out existing tools to understand where the tech industry is when it comes to detecting content generated by ChatGPT, or AI generally.

I ran the following prompts in ChatGPT to generate written content and then ran those answers through different detection tools.

  • “What is local SEO? Why it is important? Best practices of Local SEO.”
  • “Write an essay about Napoleon Bonaparte invasion of Egypt.”
  • “What are the main differences between iPhone and Samsung galaxy?”

Here is how each tool performed.

1. Writer.com

For the first prompt’s answer, Writer.com fails, identifying ChatGPT’s content as 94% human-generated.

Writer.com resultsScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

For the second prompt, it worked and detected it as AI-written content.

Writer.com test resultScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

For the third prompt, it failed again.

Sample ResultScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

However, when I tested real human-written text, Writer.com did identify it as 100% human-generated very accurately.

2. Copyleaks

Copyleaks did a great job in detecting all three prompts as AI-written.

Sample ResultScreenshot from Copyleaks, January 2023

3. Contentatscale.ai

Contentatscale.ai did a great job in detecting all three prompts as AI-written, even though the first prompt, it gave a 21% human score.

Contentscale.aiScreenshot from Contentscale.ai, January 2023

4. Originality.ai

Originality.ai did a great job on all three prompts, accurately detecting them as AI-written.

Also, when I checked with real human-written text, it did identify it as 100% human-generated, which is essential.

Originality.aiScreenshot from Originality.ai, January 2023

You will notice that Originality.ai doesn’t detect any plagiarism issues. This may change in the future.

Over time, people will use the same prompts to generate AI-written content, likely resulting in a number of very similar answers. When these articles are published, they will then be detected by plagiarism tools.

5. GPTZero

This non-commercial tool was built by Edward Tian, and specifically designed to detect ChatGPT-generated articles. And it did just that for all three prompts, recognizing them as AI-generated.

GPTZeroScreenshot from GPTZero, January 2023

Unlike other tools, it gives a more detailed analysis of detected issues, such as sentence-by-sentence analyses.

sentence by sentence text perplexityScreenshot from GPTZero, January 2023

OpenAI’s AI Text Classifier

And finally, let’s see how OpenAi detects its own generated answers.

For the 1st and 3rd prompts, it detected that there is an AI involved by classifying it as “possibly-AI generated”.

AI Text Classifier. Likely AI-generatedAI Text Classifier. Likely AI-generated

But surprisingly, it failed for the 2nd prompt and classified that as “unlikely AI-generated.” I did play with different prompts and found that, as of the moment, when checking it, few of the above tools detect AI content with higher accuracy than OpenAi’s own tool.

AI Text Classifier. Unlikely AI-generatedAI Text Classifier. Unlikely AI-generated

As of the time of this check, they had released it a day before. I think in the future, they will fine tune it, and it will work much better.

Conclusion

Current AI content generation tools are in good shape and are able to detect ChatGPT-generated content (with varying degrees of success).

It is still possible for someone to generate copy via ChatGPT and then paraphrase that to make it undetectable, but that might require almost as much work as writing from scratch – so the benefits aren’t as immediate.

If you think about ranking an article in Google written by ChatGPT, consider for a moment: If the tools we looked at above were able to recognize them as AI-generated, then for Google, detecting them should be a piece of cake.

On top of that, Google has quality raters who will train their system to recognize AI-written articles even better by manually marking them as they find them.

So, my advice would be not to build your content strategy on ChatGPT-generated content, but use it merely as an assistant tool.

More resources: 


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Five things you need to know about content optimization in 2023

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5 Things You Need To Know About Optimizing Content in 2023

30-second summary:

  • As the content battleground goes through tremendous upheaval, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance
  • ChatGPT can help content marketers get an edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content
  • Making sure your content rank high enough to engage the target audience requires strategic planning and implementation

Google is constantly testing and updating its algorithms in pursuit of the best possible searcher experience. As the search giant explains in its ‘How Search Works’ documentation, that means understanding the intent behind the query and bringing back results that are relevant, high-quality, and accessible for consumers.

As if the constantly shifting search landscape weren’t difficult enough to navigate, content marketers are also contending with an increasingly technology-charged environment. Competitors are upping the stakes with tools and platforms that generate smarter, real-time insights and even make content optimization and personalization on the fly based on audience behavior, location, and data points.

Set-it-and-forget-it content optimization is a thing of the past. Here’s what you need to know to help your content get found, engage your target audience, and convert searchers to customers in 2023.

AI automation going to be integral for content optimization

Technologies-B2B-organizations-use-to-optimize-content

As the content battleground heats up, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance as a key source of intelligence. We’re optimizing content for humans, not search engines, after all – we had better have a solid understanding of what those people need and want.

While I do not advocate automation for full content creation, I believe next year – as resources become stretched automation will have a bigger impact on helping with content optimization of existing content.

CHATGPT

ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a powerful language generation model that leverages the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) architecture to produce realistic human-like text. With Chat GPT’s wide range of capabilities – from completing sentences and answering questions to generating content ideas or powering research initiatives – it can be an invaluable asset for any Natural Language Processing project.

ChatGPT-for-content

The introduction on ChatGPT has caused considerable debate and explosive amounts of content on the web. With ChatGPT, content marketers can achieve an extra edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content. It offers assistance with generating titles for blog posts, summaries of topics or articles, as well as comprehensive campaigns when targeting a specific audience.

However, it is important to remember that this technology should be used to enhance human creativity rather than completely replacing it.

For many years now AI-powered technology has been helping content marketers and SEOs automate repetitive tasks such as data analysis, scanning for technical issues, and reporting, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI also enables real-time analysis of a greater volume of consumer touchpoints and behavioral data points for smarter, more precise predictive analysis, opportunity forecasting, real-time content recommendations, and more.

With so much data in play and recession concerns already impacting 2023 budgets in many organizations, content marketers will have to do more with less this coming year. You’ll need to carefully balance human creative resources with AI assists where they make sense to stay flexible, agile, and ready to respond to the market.

It’s time to look at your body of content as a whole

Google’s Helpful Content update, which rolled out in August, is a sitewide signal targeting a high proportion of thin, unhelpful, low-quality content. That means the exceptional content on your site won’t rank to their greatest potential if they’re lost in a sea of mediocre, outdated assets.

It might be time for a content reboot – but don’t get carried away. Before you start unpublishing and redirecting blog posts, lean on technology for automated site auditing and see what you can fix up first. AI-assisted technology can help sniff out on-page elements, including page titles and H1 tags, and off-page factors like page speed, redirects, and 404 errors that can support your content refreshing strategy.

Focus on your highest trafficked and most visible pages first, i.e.: those linked from the homepage or main menu. Google’s John Mueller confirmed recently that if the important pages on your website are low quality, it’s bad news for the entire site. There’s no percentage by which this is measured, he said, urging content marketers and SEOs to instead think of what the average user would think when they visit your website.

Take advantage of location-based content optimization opportunities

Consumers crave personalized experiences, and location is your low-hanging fruit. Seasonal weather trends, local events, and holidays all impact your search traffic in various ways and present opportunities for location-based optimization.

AI-assisted technology can help you discover these opportunities and evaluate topical keywords at scale so you can plan content campaigns and promotions that tap into this increased demand when it’s happening.

Make the best possible use of content created for locally relevant campaigns by repurposing and promoting it across your website, local landing pages, social media profiles, and Google Business Profiles for each location. Google Posts, for example, are a fantastic and underutilized tool for enhancing your content’s visibility and interactivity right on the search results page.

Optimize content with conversational & high-volume keywords

Look for conversational and trending terms in your keyword research, too. Top-of-funnel keywords that help generate awareness of the topic and spur conversations in social channels offer great opportunities for promotion. Use hashtags organically and target them in paid content promotion campaigns to dramatically expand your audience.

Conversational keywords are a good opportunity for enhancing that content’s visibility in search, too. Check out the ‘People Also Ask’ results and other featured snippets available on the search results page (SERP) for your keyword terms. Incorporate questions and answers in your content to naturally optimize for these and voice search queries.

SEO-and-creating-content-in-2023

It’s important that you utilize SEO insights and real-time data correctly; you don’t want to be targeting what was trending last month and is already over. AI is a great assist here, as well, as an intelligent tool can be scanning and analyzing constantly, sending recommendations for new content opportunities as they arise.

Consider how you optimize content based on intent and experience

The best content comes from a deep, meaningful understanding of the searcher’s intent. What problem were they experiencing or what need did they have that caused them to seek out your content in the first place? And how does your blog post, ebook, or landing page copy enhance their experience?

Look at the search results page as a doorway to your “home”. How’s your curb appeal? What do potential customers see when they encounter one of your pages in search results? What kind of experience do you offer when they step over the threshold and click through to your website?

The best content meets visitors where they are at with relevant, high-quality information presented in a way that is accessible, fast loading, and easy to digest. This is the case for both short and long form SEO content. Ensure your content contains calls to action designed to give people options and help them discover the next step in their journey versus attempting to sell them on something they may not be ready for yet.

2023, the year of SEO: why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

Conclusion

The audience is king, queen, and the entire court as we head into 2023. SEO and content marketing give you countless opportunities to connect with these people but remember they are a means to an end. Keep searcher intent and audience needs at the heart of every piece of content you create and campaign you plan for the coming year.

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Headings With Hierarchical Structure An “Awesome Idea”

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Headings With Hierarchical Structure An "Awesome Idea"

Google’s John Mueller discussed heading elements with a member of the SEO community where he affirmed the usefulness of using hierarchical structure when using heading elements.

Background Context to What Mueller Said

Heading elements <H1> – <H6> are supposed to be used to indicate what a section of a webpage is about.

Furthermore the heading elements have a ranking order, with the <H1> being the highest rank of importance and the <H6> being the lowest level of importance.

The heading element purpose is to label what a section of content is about.

HTML specifications allow the use of multiple <H1> elements. So, technically, using more than one <H1> is perfectly valid.

Section 4.3.11 of the official HTML specifications states:

“h1–h6 elements have a heading level, which is given by the number in the element’s name.

If a document has one or more headings, at least a single heading within the outline should have a heading level of 1.”

Nevertheless, using more than on <H1> is not considered a best practice.

The Mozilla developer reference page about the use of headings recommends:

“The <h1> to <h6> HTML elements represent six levels of section headings. <h1> is the highest section level and <h6> is the lowest.

…Avoid using multiple <h1> elements on one page

While using multiple <h1> elements on one page is allowed by the HTML standard (as long as they are not nested), this is not considered a best practice. A page should generally have a single <h1> element that describes the content of the page (similar to the document’s <title> element).”

John Mueller has previously said that it doesn’t matter if a webpage uses one <H1> or five <H1> headings.

The point of his statement is that the level of the heading isn’t as important as how they are used, with the best practice being the use of  headings for indicating what a section of content is about.

What Mueller Said on Twitter

A member of the SEO community was joking around and gently ribbed Mueller about using more than one H1.

He tweeted:

The SEO followed up by sharing how he preferred using the best practices for heading elements by using only one <H1>, to denote what the page is about and then using the rest of the headings in order of rank, give a webpage a hierarchical structure.

A Hierarchical structure communicates sections of a webpage and any subsections within each section.

He tweeted:

“I’m too traditional with header elements. (HTML 4 for Life! lol)

I’d still recommend using just one H1 element on a page.

I patiently go back to pages to implement header hierarchy for fun.”

John Mueller tweeted his approval in response:

“I think that’s an awesome idea & a great practice.

Header hierarchy is not just useful to Google, it’s also important for accessibility.

(Google still has to deal with whatever weird things people throw up on the web, but being thoughtful in your work always makes sense.)”

Hierarchical Page Structure

In the early days of SEO, <H1> used to be counted as an important ranking factor, one that was more important than an <H2>.

So, back then, one always put their most important keywords in the <H1> in order to signal to Google that the page was relevant for that keyword.

H1 used to have more ranking power so it was essential to use the <H1> to help rankings.

Google’s algorithm was using keywords as a way to “guess” what a webpage was about.

Keywords in the anchor text, keywords in the title tag and keywords in the <H1> helped Google guess what a page was relevant for.

But nowadays, Google doesn’t have to guess.

It is able to understand what sections of a webpage are about, and consequently, what the entire webpage is about.

Despite those advances, many SEOs still believe that using an <H1> is some kind of magic ranking factor.

Headings are no longer about shouting what keyword you want to rank for.

The role of heading elements are now about telling search engines what a section of content is about.

Each section of a content is generally about something specific.

Heading tags make it easier for search engines to know what a page is about.

And that helps them rank the page for the topic.

And according to the official HTML specifications, that’s technically the proper way to use heading elements.

Lastly, Mueller mentioned a quality of the heading element as a way to better communicate for accessibility reasons, like for people who use screen readers.

The official HTML specifications say:

“Descriptive headings are especially helpful for users who have disabilities that make reading slow and for people with limited short-term memory.

These people benefit when section titles make it possible to predict what each section contains.”

So thank you John Mueller for calling attention to the benefits of using headings with a hierarchical structure, for calling attention to how hierarchical structure is useful for Google and for accessibility.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero



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