For a lot of marketers, content marketing can be a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there is the undeniable payoff that content can have on your marketing efforts and the business in general.
But, on the other hand, content can represent a heavy workload, with multiple pieces being planned and produced at the same time.
When surveyed, content marketers say by a majority of 70% that they expect to produce more content in the upcoming year than the last.
So optimizing the content marketing workflow should be a priority for marketers looking to expand their content marketing output and generate more results from this increase.
Having a robust system will help you plan more effectively, write better content, improve collaboration, and prioritize your content across various formats and external placements.
In this post, we will walk you through several tips and examples of tools that have helped me create a powerful content marketing workflow.
It’s allowed me to produce better content, stay organized and increase production from internal content to guest posts.
Optimizing your content marketing workflow
Define the stages of your content marketing workflow
Your content marketing workflow should be made up of consistent stages, whether you write the content, another team member, or an external contributor.
These stages must remain consistent, so when planning your content marketing workflow, think about how your content production process will look once you have scaled it in the future.
A big mistake that I see a lot and one that I have made is not planning for multiple people working on a content team. Often I have been the sole contributor to sites, and it’s sometimes hard to see why you need so many stages if you are the only person doing the planning, writing, and editing.
But as you scale and produce more content, it’s beneficial to see what stage each piece of content is at.
In my content marketing workflow, I usually have the following stages:
Backlog: this is the starting point where every piece of content starts its journey. I have vague ideas, suggestions from the team or colleagues, or external requests to guest posts.
Bonus tip – I have this set up so that external guest post requests will automatically be added here when they come in via a form on the website. From there, I can review them from within my workflow and then plan them accordingly.
Ideation: At this stage, I will add links and other high-level notes to keep a more defined idea of each piece of content.
Next: This means I’ve decided that the content is a priority, and it’s from here that I will grab the next pieces and start work on them.
Planning: Here, I will look at researching, setting the skeleton of the post (headers, etc.), and sometimes a few short sentences underneath each header if needed.
Writing: Here’s where the rest of the content is fleshed out. For collaborative teams, you can see what each person is currently working on, which helps to allocate resources effectively.
Editing: If you are a team, it’s essential to have a setup where another team member reviews your work. For external contributors, this stage will often come with many editing as contributors often fail to read guidelines correctly.
To publish: Once everything is signed off, the content will be moved here, where it is given a publication date and notes on if it can be distributed in other formats.
Published: The piece is live, and it’s time to promote, promote, promote!
Where should you set this process up?
Well, there’s a lot of ways of doing this. I’ve seen everything from using a Google sheet through to other tools that specifically help with this process.
You can use Notion (there are even some premade templates specifically for this) or Trello. I find the KANBAN view particularly helpful when looking for a snapshot overview of where everything is.
Another tool that is made specifically for this is Seotagg – it has built-in SEO metrics alongside to help you prioritize content at each stage of the content marketing journey.
For external content requests, make sure you have content guidelines
This is a crucial part of any content marketing operation that wants to accept content from external contributors.
Why would you want to do this? Well, it can provide you with an inbound stream of content that can help establish your blog as a leader in the space. It’s free; usually, the contributor will ask to place a few links in the submitted content.
If you accept these external submissions, content guidelines are a must to keep you from going insane. Writers can get a different understanding of what it is that you want on your site. You might be looking for longer-form content, a specific tone, or type of content, which can cause a big misunderstanding at the start of the collaboration.
Sending this to contributors before they start on a piece of content is a sensible way to manage submissions. Some things that I include in mine are:
- Word count
- Topics we accept
- Style: American v UK spelling
- Number of links they can include
- Things to avoid
- Publication timeline
Having this available in a Google doc ensures that you and your external contributors are on the same page and lead the way to many fruitful collaborations.
Have some way of prioritizing content
When working on a lot of content, it’s crucial to implement a way of prioritizing content. How can you decide which posts are worth producing over others when you have a busy schedule? Not all content is created equal, and your content marketing workflow should consider that.
In my content marketing workflow, I like to prioritize posts based on an SEO score. This isn’t a perfect gauge of the SEO value of a post, but it’s good enough to gauge which pieces of content carry the post potential.
I take each post’s target keywords and use the number of monthly searches and the keyword difficulty from Ahrefs. I can then score each post out of 100. This helps me prioritize and, from the global view, understand which pieces of content will significantly impact my content marketing goals.
I have seen the above functionality in some SEO tools, but you can add custom properties in most productivity tools.
It doesn’t have to be SEO-related. I have previously used a simple 1-3 scale that is manually set when planning the post. The point is that it’s easier for you and your team to optimize the content marketing workflow when you can see the perceived value of each piece of content.
Collaboration is important, especially for sites producing lots of content
Collaboration is critical when looking to scale the content marketing process. Many organizations see the return they are getting from content and want to increase the output, hoping that the return will increase at the same rate.
The truth is that content production can get messy when you have multiple collaborators. Whether you opt for more internal writers, external support, or guest writers, you will need a way to optimize your workflow to include them in the process.
A simple solution such as Google docs allows you to collaborate in the document, manage suggestions and keep up to date with blocked pieces because of another person.
This extends to distribution and promotion – ensuring that each person involved in the content marketing journey understands where they can assist and what their role is can have a significant impact on the success of your content strategy.
Leverage automation and alerts
When you aim to produce a lot of content within a large team, it can be beneficial to implement automation and leverage alerts to improve the content marketing workflow.
When you can automate, you should. Anything that you do over and over can probably be automated, and it will doubtlessly save you quite a lot of time in the process.
Okay, you can automate writing a blog post or the recording of video content, but you can integrate your content marketing workflow into your CMS, for example.
Combining this with a tool like Zapier to keep each team member up to date can have a hugely positive effect on the productivity of your content team.
What about a content calendar?
The aforementioned content workflow is a great start to optimize the content marketing workflow. However, there’s still one thing that can help to take it to the next level.
Having a date element to your content is crucial when planning and producing content. It’s vital that you and your team understand the schedule, especially when content production is scaled up.
It can be great to prioritize and set views based on the target publication date in these situations. For example, in my set up I have two views on my project management tool. One is a stage view, and another is the same pieces of content but on a calendar.
Having a data property allows me to prioritize and even set alerts when a deadline has been missed.
Content calendars are a great view to facilitate collaboration and promote accountability within a content team.
It can also be shared in a view-only mode to external collaborators to remain updated and understand when their contributions will be published. This saves a constant back and forth where time can be better spent on producing great content.
Measure and quantify the effectiveness of your content marketing workflow
Is your content working? Can you answer this question, and are you using this information to inform and improve your content marketing workflow?
Embedding your content marketing workflow into a tool with powerful features can instantly provide valuable data into your content process.
For example, if you adopt stage-defined process tools such as the SEO & Content OS Notion template, you can get a clear idea of how long it takes for content to move from concept to publication.
These insights can help you plan your team’s content effort and strategically accept guest content to fill the gaps where needed.
But there’s another reason you’ll want to include data in the content marketing workflow, and that’s so that you can better understand the ROI of your content.
Did your content work as well as you thought? What was the return on investment? Incorporating this data into your tools can help you to prioritize future content.
Information on inbound customers generated from content can also create a rich knowledge base of content ROI directly where you plan and allocate content.
When engaging on your content marketing journey, you must build a workflow that can support your team and help you reach your goals.
These tips will help you to build a robust systematic approach that will help you produce content more effectively, in a collaborative manner, and with all the data you need at your fingertips.
A more effective content marketing workflow will help improve your ROI from content, save you countless hours of wasted time communicating with team members and contributors, and help you create better content that will rank higher in search.
James is a content marketer and SEO expert who has helped multiple businesses grow and nurture their businesses through content marketing.