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Content Strategy: The Ultimate Guide to Preparation, Production, Publication & Promotion

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Creating remarkable content (and doing it consistently) is no easy task, which is why so many content creators, marketers, and ecommerce brands get it wrong. In this article, we’re revealing our content strategy that we’ve developed over the last few years as we’ve grown our blog to over 200,000 readers per month.

This guide will take you through every step of the content preparation, production, publication, and promotion process and it includes all the information, best practices, advice, and tips that we have learned, developed and use ourselves. We’ve withheld nothing in this article, so it’s a raw and true representation of what we as a company do to run our successful ecommerce blog.

If you’re interested in developing your own content strategy, learning how to write a blog post, how to manage a blog, the elements of blog writing, content promotion, content marketing, creating a content marketing strategy and developing a content calendar, then this is the article for you.

WARNING: There are no shortcuts. This is a lot of work. Take it one step at a time.

Let’s jump into it.

Bonus: At the end of this post we provide you with access to the Airtable template we’ve created and refined over the last 2 years. This template gives you a complete overview of our entire content strategy. It nicely stores all the information about every piece of content we’ve published, plan to publish as well as all of our content idea topics. Scroll to the bottom of the post to grab yourself a copy of our template, or click here.

Content Strategy Airtable Base

CLICK HERE TO USE OUR TEMPLATE

Content Strategy Step #1: Preparation

Content Preparation

To the untrained eye, writing a blog post may seem like nothing more than just sitting down and writing content, when, in actual fact, there’s a lot more preparation that goes into the process before content production actually begins.

Producing content is one small piece of the process, and first comes preparation. Before creating any kind of content, it’s important to actually prepare for the task ahead so you can smoothly approach the next stages of the process knowing exactly what your intentions for the content are and how you plan to bring the content to life.

Some of the preparation steps we discuss below are tasks you simply have to consider once and then you can apply them to every piece of content you create in the future, while other preparation steps will need to be considered every time you’re about to create a new piece of content.

The ultimate goal of the preparation stage is to ensure that every piece of content you create is consistent with your overall brand, and by taking the steps to prepare you’re able to produce the content more efficiently and effortlessly.

Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail—so let’s get into what it takes to create great content.

What Makes Content Great

First and foremost, to prepare to create great content you must understand what it takes to make great content. After all, what’s the point of creating content at all, if it’s nothing other than great?

Great content can be defined by a variety of parameters, but ultimately, content is great when it provides its audience with value. Great content can be entertaining, it can be useful, it can be informative, it can be funny, it can be serious, it can be short, it can be long, it can be anything—as long as it adds value to those who consume it.

Great content is all about:

  • Understanding what the audience wants
  • Understanding what makes content shareable
  • Understanding how content communicates your message
  • Understanding how to drive the behavior you need, whether it’s a sale, an email opt-in, or a share
  • Most importantly for businesses, however, great content needs to satisfy your business objectives; namely, increasing customer relationships, conversions, and retention

So, your first step in the content strategy process is to prepare to make great content. To do this, consider how your content will provide value to your audience and then execute that every time you create a piece of content.

The Different Types of Content

Next, it’s important to understand the different types of content that exist so you can decide which types best suit your brand. Doing this will help you communicate your message in the best possible way and in the way your audience is most receptive to consume it.

Understanding the different ways you can present content to your audience matters because it will define important features of your content such as how to format your articles, the appropriate length of your article, the best-suited writing style and so forth. It’s so important to consider these details beforehand so you can create your content to suit the style of the article, instead of creating the content and then trying to get it to fit a particular style of article.

This is a preparation step you need to take into consideration every time you’re about to produce a piece of content. First, think about the topic you’re addressing and how it can be best communicated to your audience, then decide which of the following types of content would be the best way to deliver it to your audience and then finally, create the content to suit that style.

These are the most common types of content you can produce for online articles:

  • Call to Action Post: This type of post is designed to get the reader to take a specific action.
  • Case Study: Share someone else’s experience, both the successes and the challenges. Share their journey, their learnings and their findings to help others who are following a similar path.
  • Cautionary Tale Post: Share a story that cautions the reader on what not to do.
  • Checklist or Cheatsheet Post: Present a common or unseen problem and provide step by step solutions to that problem (this could also take the form of a list post).
  • Competition or Giveaway Post: Promote a product or service by enticing the reader to enter a competition.
  • Crowdsourcing Post: Feature user-generated content in a blog post (this could also take the form of a list post).
  • Inspirational or Encouraging Post: Share an inspirational story designed to encourage the reader.
  • Guide Post: Provide a helpful guide to products or services to help the reader make the best possible choice for whatever they’re seeking more information on (this could also take the form of a list post).
  • How-To or Instructional Post: Teach the reader how to do or achieve something (this could also take the form of a list post).
  • Interactive Post: Invite the readers to participate in an activity or campaign and then update the post with their feedback or contribution after having taken part.
  • Interview: Interview someone and feature them on your blog.
  • Launch Post: Launch a new product or service and write a blog post as an announcement.
  • List Post: A list post lists out the content of the article in an easily readable and digestible format so readers can easily skim the article. The titles of list posts often include a number in them, for example: “25 Gorgeous Instagram Templates for Your Online Business” and list the items of discussion throughout the post.
  • Newsjacking Post: Write a blog post that comments on a topical situation in the media.
  • News Report: Write a news report about something relevant to your brand.
  • Personal Story: Tell a personal story that shares a lesson with the reader.
  • Polarising Post: Take a side and share your opinion on an issue within your niche market or on a topic related to your brand.
  • Profile: Profile someone or something, sharing background info and a story about the person or thing.
  • Q&A: Write a post in “Question and Answer” format to help the reader understand a concept better.
  • Research Breakdown: Write about research, surveys, studies or even academic papers in a blog post as it relates to your brand.
  • Review: Share your opinion on something to help the reader decide whether it’s for them.
  • Roundup: Summarize and compare related or competing products, services, events, features, etc. in a blog post (this could possibly take the form of a list post).
  • Satirical Post: Make satire of an issue to make a point in an opinion piece.
  • Suggested Resources: Suggest resources to the reader to help them solve a particular problem (this could also take the form of a list post).
  • Thought Leadership: Lead the conversation about a topic, issue or trend in an opinion piece.
  • Video Show Notes: Share thoughts about a video episode in a blog post or discuss the topic in greater depth.
  • Podcast Show Notes: Share a blog post summarizing or discussing a podcast episode.

Who Writes Your Content?

The answer to this question will be different for every brand. Some people have the time and ability to create all the content for their own brand while others may lack the expertise or skills to create the caliber of content they want featured on their website. “Who” creates the content for your brand is up to you, but it’s important to consider beforehand so you can start reaching out to authors or sourcing content ideas ahead of time, if need be.

When it comes to creating content for your brand, you have options:

  • You can create every piece of content for your website
  • You can feature articles from guest contributors
  • You can hire ghostwriters to create content for you to publish under your own name
  • Any combination of the above options

For example, on A Better Lemonade Stand, we write the majority of our content in-house, but we also feature articles from guest contributors who are leaders in their respective fields to further provide our audience with quality content that we may not have the expertise to provide for them.

When starting out your brand’s blog, as part of your content strategy, determine who will best communicate your message to your audience and how you can best get the content created. If that’s outsourcing the creation of content to third-party writers, ghostwriters, guest writers or yourself, then know how you’re going to start sourcing that content when you need it.

Here are some resources to help you source third-party writers or ghostwriters:

Determining Your Author Voice

In order to maintain consistency across the entirety of your content, it’s important to think about your “author voice.” Your author voice refers to either 1st, 2nd or 3rd person narrative and can be distinguished like so:

  • 1st Person Narrative: Gives advice based on your own experiences and speaks using the pronouns I, me and mine. For example: “When I started my first business the three main factors to my success were…”
  • 2nd Person Narrative: Directly addresses the reader as if they are there and speaks to them using the pronouns you and yours. For example: “When you are starting your first business the three main ways you’ll generate the most success are…”
  • 3rd Person Narrative: Reports to and advises the reader as an objective third party that is all-knowing, but not directly involved, and uses pronouns such as he, she, it and they. For example: “In order to start a first business successfully, it is important for all new entrepreneurs to follow these three steps…”

When determining your overall content strategy, consider how your author voice will play into the effectiveness of your content and how your audience will perceive it. In some cases, it may only be appropriate to speak from your own experience so speaking in 1st person narrative makes the most sense. In other cases, however, it may be best to refer to the audience directly by writing your content in 2nd person narrative, or just speaking as an objective third party providing all the facts in 3rd person narrative.

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer, just the one that works the best for the type of content you create. You may even find that you’ll use a mixture of two, or maybe even all three, styles of narratives in your content! Ideally not in one piece of content, as that can be confusing to your audience, but some articles may be more effective written in one style and others in another style. If you work with guest contributors, ensure that you can feature multiple authors on your site without disrupting the overall voice of the whole site.

The goal here is to maintain enough consistency in your author voice that your audience knows what to expect and never gets confused or thrown off by “who” is speaking to them.

Defining Your Topic Categories

No content strategy is complete without understanding which topics you’ll be covering on your site and how they relate to one another. Topic categories are important because they help you create content that’s directly relevant to your audience and they help keep the content organized on your site so visitors can find the content that’s most relevant to them.

You can have as many or as few topic categories as you like, it entirely depends on what makes the most sense for the type of content you produce. Here at A Better Lemonade Stand, we make sure that every piece of content we produce fits into at least one of the following categories so we know that our content is always on the right track and fits into what our readers expect to learn when they come onto our blog.

Our content categories can be found on our Contribution Page, but we’ll recap them here:

  • Product & Niche Selection
  • Sourcing Suppliers
  • Branding & Design
  • Getting Traffic
  • Conversion Optimization
  • Shipping & Fulfillment
  • Operations & Customer Service
  • Strategy & Analytics
  • Accounting
  • Finance & Legal
  • Interviews & Inspiration
  • Personal Development

In order to determine these categories, we performed an inventory of all the articles that currently existed on our blog and grouped them together until we could define a theme within the groups of posts. If you’re just starting your blog and don’t have an inventory of pre-existing blog posts to draw from, start by defining a small set of topics and work from there. Write articles to fill out those categories and expand your category choices when you need to.

Brainstorming Content Ideas & Getting Inspiration

In order to create great content, you need to start out with some content ideas. This is perhaps one of the most important parts of the preparation process and certainly is not a step you can skip on the way to publication.

We highly recommend having a place—whether it’s a physical or digital notebook, document, notepad or other—where you can write down any and every content idea that comes to mind. Make sure it’s something you can easily update wherever you are so you can capture those ideas that come to you when you least expect it. Come up with a library of content ideas that you can reference when you need a topic to write about.

Some bloggers run into the problem of not knowing what to write about next, so if you ever find that’s the case for you, your content library should be a place where you can go to find content idea inspiration.

If you’re ever low on content ideas and need to build up your content library, have a look at what others are doing in your niche and do it better. Don’t copy them, don’t create “inspired” content that is actually just regurgitating their thoughts and ideas in different words, but actually take a look at what they’ve created and then use that as a launching pad to make better content, and content that’s even so much better that it’s different from what they created in the first place.

There’s nothing more unimaginative in the online space than copied work, so don’t be that kind of creator. Search engines such as Google will actually penalize creators for copying or duplicating content, so don’t bring that upon yourself if you want to succeed online.

How to Find Popular Content Topics

If you’re looking to go beyond just gaining some content idea inspiration and actually want to find content topics that you know are popular, relevant and timely to write about, these are some great sources to get started with:

Reaching Out & Working With Guest Authors

If part of your content strategy includes working with guest authors, take some of these points into consideration:

  • Lay down some ground rules and requirements that apply to ALL guest posters, so they know what you expect. For example, we have an entire list of what we do and do not accept from guest contributors including things such as minimum word count that must be met, formatting requirements, image formatting preferences and more. This helps us get the best quality content from our guest contributors, and it helps them know what we expect from the content they produce for us.
  • Consider whether you will work with guest authors on an ongoing basis who each provide one article for your blog, or if you will work repeatedly with the same guest contributors who will write for your blog over and over again.
  • Think about how you will create a network of guest authors to work with. How will you reach out to guest authors and secure guest contributors to write for your site?
  • How will you make contributions to your site worthwhile for your guest authors? What kind of recognition, traffic or response will your audience give them?

These are just some thoughts to get you started with finding and working with guest authors on your site. If you don’t already have a network of guest authors you can approach for content, start reaching out to authors, content creators or bloggers you admire, and start building a relationship with them.

Researching Keywords

This is a part of the preparation aspect of your content strategy that will take place every time you write a new piece of content. Before you begin creating a piece of content, it’s imperative that you define what the target keyword of that piece of content is going to be.

This is an important step for a few reasons:

  • It helps you define what the article is going to be about so you know what topic you’re writing about, you know what the purpose of your article is and you know what the underlying message is that you’re trying to communicate to your audience. Your keyword is essentially the thesis of your article, so it’s important to define it before you begin writing the article.
  • Your keyword plays a massive role in the SEO of your post, which is one of the main ways your post is going to be discovered organically by readers. If you need an introductory lesson in what keyword research and SEO have to do with one another and how to conduct keyword research, check out our Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research.
  • When you know your keyword ahead of time, you can optimize your article for that keyword while you’re creating the article. This will help you write better content that’s focused around each article’s keyword and it will help you format each article better to optimize it for SEO and more.

To get started with keyword research, we recommend using a tool like KWFinder to help you find relevant keywords for your articles (read our KWFinder Review to learn more about what features and services they offer) and then start organizing a list of keywords including their monthly search volume and difficulty ranking so you can apply it to your library of blog post content ideas when relevant.

Understanding Your Content Objectives

Last, but certainly not least, when it comes to the preparation process of your content strategy, you have to define your content objectives. What this means is understanding what your purpose is for publishing each piece of content to your site.

Like we discussed at the beginning of this section, there’s no point in publishing content that’s not great and doesn’t provide value to your audience, so each time you create a piece of content, ask yourself specifically how your content will be providing value to your audience.

For example, these are some of the purposes, goals or objectives you may have for your content each time you publish it:

  • It provides actionable information that helps your audience understand a topic better.
  • It is “pillar” content that is fundamental & foundational to the core of your brand.
  • It provides thought leadership on a topic to evoke a response from your audience.
  • It aims to inspire your audience to take action.
  • It is resourceful and provides honest recommendations to help your audience.

In addition to the intentions to provide value to your audience, there may also be an additional purpose to your content that adds value to your brand as well, such as:

  • SEO driven content that helps you rank higher in search engines and gain more traffic.
  • Content that features affiliate links to your partners so you can earn a commission.
  • Content that helps gain social shares, attention & traction.
  • Content that builds relationships with featured businesses.
  • Sponsored content that helps fund your brand.

It’s important to note, however, that successful content will always provide value to the audience first and foremost, and any additional value for the brand comes second. Always provide value to your audience first and then, if you can, work in a way for there to also be value for your brand as well, but never at the expense of your audience.

Content Strategy Step #2: Production

Content Production

Once the preparation stage has been completed and you have a good idea of where you stand when it comes to the purpose that your content is trying to achieve, the keywords you’re targeting, who’s writing your content, your author voice, etc. it’s time to move on to actually producing your content.

So how do you just create great content? Let’s dive into it.

How to Write Remarkable Content

One of the first concepts we discussed is that great content provides value to the audience. So ultimately, you create great content by writing remarkable content that’s worthwhile for the audience to read.

These are the fundamentals of writing remarkable content:

  • Remarkable content is really what people want
  • Remarkable content is ideally what people share
  • Remarkable content is all that Google wants to show

You write remarkable content by:

  • Understanding the current landscape for similar articles so you can create better ones
  • Producing a piece of content that will be the best piece of content on that topic
  • Understanding content/market fit and having a strong understanding of who your audience is
  • Giving your audience something that no other piece of content has

A remarkable piece of content (generally) has:

  • A compelling headline
  • A beautiful feature image (also known as a “hero” image)
  • An introduction that states exactly what the article is about and what the audience will learn from it
  • Background information and statistics that set up and support the topic
  • Good formatting that’s organized, clear to follow and easily digestible
  • A well-rounded conclusion
  • A call-to-action to inspire the reader
  • Resources to support the topic and help the reader to learn more or to put the topic into practice
  • A substantial word count that covers the topic thoroughly without being too overwhelming

Proper Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation & Sentence Structure

Never underestimate the importance of proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure when it comes to writing great content. A poor showing on any of these fronts can make your content seem less professional and trustworthy than you likely want it to, which may cause your audience to cast doubts on your skills and abilities.

Not everyone has perfect spelling, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure skills, and while you certainly don’t have to be perfect, you should aim to be at a high standard. If you can’t get to that standard by yourself you need to use tools to help get you there.

Tools like Grammarly and Title Case are two of the best and most frequently used tools for writers and content creators, so if you know you’re going to struggle in this area or you just want to make sure your writing is top-notch, then check these services out.

How to Format Blog Posts

One of the most overlooked aspects of creating written content for an online audience is how to actually present the content in an interesting and easy-to-read format. A wall of text is neither interesting nor engaging for the reader, so when creating your content think of how you can break up the text to make it easier to read and more beautiful to look at.

Here are some formatting elements you can add to your blog posts to make them easier to digest:

  • Use images for each section or heading
  • Using block quotes when quoting authors, speakers or contributors
  • Use stylized buttons instead of simply adding a hyperlink
  • Use the “Horizontal Line” function (an option in WordPress) to break up text or to separate and organize it into coherent sections of text
  • Use call-out-boxes to draw attention to bonuses, additional reading, more information, tips or warnings
  • Use H-tags to formulate headings and subheadings. They also play a role in on-site SEO so use them strategically by including keywords
  • Use bullet points & numbered lists for groups of information
  • Use bolding & italics where appropriate (to highlight certain points & draw emphasis) but take into consideration that too much of both can make the overall article look messy
  • Select appropriate and true-to-brand fonts that are easy to read for both the headings, subheadings & paragraph typefaces. Learn more about selecting the best fonts for your business and other aspects of your brand in our Ecommerce Branding Guide
  • Use short and concise paragraphs to break up text and add variation
  • Use a mix of shorter and longer sentences to avoid becoming monotonous
  • Add takeaways, summaries or conclusions at the end of articles, or throughout articles, as appropriate. These are great ways to emphasize your key points.

By making your content more scannable through strategic formatting, you have a better chance at drawing the reader in. Even a long blog post can go from daunting to tempting when you serve it up in easily digestible morsels. Consider which elements you can make use of to best format your content.

Sourcing Images for Your Articles & Best Practices

As mentioned above, including images in your articles is a great way to draw the reader in and visually demonstrate any particular points you might be making. Sourcing high-quality images can be tricky though, especially as they’re often subject to copyright and licensing requirements.

So, when it comes to adding images to your articles, these are some of the places you can source high-quality images from:

  • You can take screenshots of webpages you see online and use them to illustrate your article. For example, in our Top 10 Best Co-Working & Co-Living Spaces Around the World article, see how we’ve used screenshots of the homepage of each service to illustrate the content? Keep in mind, however, that you should never solely screenshot an image you see online without giving any context as to where it’s sourced from, as that will infringe on copyrighted work.
  • You can create the images yourself whether it’s photographs, digital art or images you create using services like Adobe Photoshop or Canva.
  • You can use image creation services or marketplaces such as Creative Market
  • You can source images from free or premium stock photo sites like the ones we’ve curated in our 200+ Curated Graphic & Brand Design Resources article.
  • You can hire a graphic designer via Fiverr, Upwork or Dribbble to create images for you.

In terms of where to place images in your articles, use one “hero image” as the main image of the article. This image should be featured at the top of the blog post, above “the fold,” and should be the image used for all marketing and social media correspondence. The images you use throughout your article to illustrate the concepts, ideas or resources you discuss, should be used consistently and uniformly and only when and where they make sense.

For example, in most cases, we like to place an image directly underneath their corresponding headline, and we use a unique image to illustrate each headline in an article so they’re consistent and uniformly placed throughout the article.

Images should also be uniformly sized, preferably to fit within the width of your content column, and they should not exceed the width and height of a user’s screen. A user should be able to see the whole image on their screen at one time without having to scroll around to see every part of it, and the image shouldn’t be so small that they can’t make out what the image is actually supposed to be.

In terms of saving and uploading images to your website, there’s lots of information to take into consideration so your images are the right file size. File size plays a role in how fast or slow your site loads so it’s very important to execute properly. For more information on how to save your images properly for your articles, check out our Optimizing Images for Web: A Step-by-Step Practical Guide. This is a must-read article if you’re a novice with all things to do with digital images, file types like JPGs and PNGs and making images high-resolution.

In-Content Traffic Generation Strategies

Search Engine Optimization is one of the best ways to get traction to your posts and to your site, so when you’re in the process of producing content it’s advantageous to keep in-content traffic generation strategies in mind. When you do, you’ll create SEO-friendly content in the production stage rather than trying to do it all after the fact which makes your content better optimized for search engines and more likely to rank.

Most in-content SEO optimization strategies are very simple to implement, just keep a checklist of these tried-and-true methods so you can check them off as you create each article.

For example, these are some of the SEO optimization strategies you can implement within the production stage to help you attract traffic once you publish your article:

  • A Killer Headline: The best headlines are SEO focused (meaning that they include your target keyword) but also appealing to your audience. Finding a happy medium can be tricky, so spend a little bit of time creating different headlines and choose your best option after.
  • Using Your Keyword in Your Title: Using your keyword in your title is hugely important as it’s a way for search engines to recognize what your article is about. Try to use it at the beginning of the title, when possible, rather than the middle or end of the title.
  • List Posts: Not every blog post will work as a list post, but if it does then use it to your advantage. List posts are easily digestible by the readers, they’re shareable on social media platforms and they give you an excuse to use a number in your headline which can help to attract traffic.
  • Write With Your Keyword in Mind: Keywords are your SEO optimization strategy’s bread and butter. They’re the foundation of gaining organic traffic from search engines and they should be the focal point of each blog post. Every time you create content, know what your focus keyword is before you start and have an additional short list of supporting keywords to make use of in your article as well. Write your keyword into your content as often as it makes sense to (but don’t overuse it!) and pepper in the supporting keywords to round out the article.
  • Keyword Density: When writing your posts, use your main keyword as often as possible to make your content keyword dense. Keyword density is important because it’s a way for search engines to make sure your article is relevant to readers and that the topic is discussed in depth in the article. Make sure you use your keyword in the first paragraph of your article so search engines know you address the topic right away, and then continue to use the keyword throughout the body of the article. Keyword density should be around 0.5%–1% of the article’s total word count.
  • Use Keywords in Your Headers (H-Tags): Beyond using keywords throughout the main body of your content and title, make sure to also use your target keywords in the headings and subheadings of your content as well. This helps both readers and search engines to understand what the article is about, and it makes it appear organized and easy to follow.
  • Use Keywords in Your Image Alt-Tags: When adding images into your articles, including your feature images and any images in the body of your articles, you have the option of adding an “Alt-Tag” which is essentially just a text replacement of the image in case it cannot load, and it allows search engines to understand what the image depicts. By integrating keywords into your alt-tag descriptions, where appropriate, you help your articles and images become more discoverable.
  • Setting Up Your Post’s URL Structure: Your article’s URL or “slug” should also include your keyword, and ideally just your keyword if at all possible. This is another way that search engines recognize what the article is about.
  • Optimizing Your Post’s Meta Information: Meta information is the title and snippet of text that’s shown in search engine results. Meta titles and meta descriptions are important to optimize for each one of your articles because it’s the preview of your article that searchers see and it’ll entice them to click through to your article. It’s also a way for search engines to understand what your article is about, so optimize both the meta title and the description with your target keyword.
  • Name Names: This is less of an SEO strategy tip and more of a traffic generation tip. If it’s possible in your articles, reference quotes, opinions or information from relevant sources like authors, academics, bloggers or influencers so you can reach out to them after the post is published and let them know they’ve been featured. People love seeing their name in the spotlight, so they may be inclined to share the article with their audience.
  • Run Giveaways & Contests: The chance of winning something is a great way to get readers to engage with your content, and by formatting your giveaways correctly it can also be an advantageous way to acquire new leads and generate more traffic to your site. One of the best ways for ecommerce stores, entrepreneurs, bloggers and influencers to run giveaways is through ViralSweep, which you can learn more about in our ViralSweep Review.

The Importance of Linking to Internal & External Sources

Another important aspect of the in-content traffic generation strategy, but also something that serves additional purposes as well, is linking to internal and external sources in your articles.

Internal sources include any articles or webpages that exist on your website, and external sources include any other website whether it’s a resource, service, tool, webpage, etc.

Linking to both internal and external sources is important for a few reasons:

  • External Links: When mentioning products or services in your articles, it’s best practice to link the product or service the first time you mention it in the post, but not again after that. Too many links can look messy and be a distraction to the reader, so link to the resource once so the reader can reference it if need be, then leave it at that. External links are also important because they give backlinks to other content creators which helps to boost their SEO, it makes you look like a more reputable source of information in the eyes of search engines and it helps you build relationships with other content creators.
  • Internal Links: Include contextual links that direct readers to other relevant pieces of content that either you’ve published on your blog before or content elsewhere on your site. This helps your audience to discover other useful content on your site that’s relevant to a subject they’re already interested in and it also plays a factor in boosting your SEO. Internal links create a web of related content that search engines can use to help better determine which of your pieces of content is a good fit for their users.

So, where appropriate, make sure you link to any relevant external or internal sources mentioned in your article whether it’s blog posts you’ve previously written that your audience might find useful or outside sources that you mention in your article. Not only does it help your readers, but it helps search engines understand your posts better and it shows search engines that you refer your audience to other credible sources. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!

How to Enhance Your Content

Beyond just creating written text for your blog posts, make them even more engaging for your readers by adding relevant images, videos, and links. By enhancing your content, you’ll entice your readers to stay on your webpages longer, which gives the green light to search engines letting them know that your content is worth reading.

These are some ideas to help you enhance your written content. Add them throughout each article as little surprises for your readers to discover.

  • Images: Images capture and keep the attention of your readers as they read through the article.
  • Links: Links provide additional information and clarification when needed.
  • Videos: Videos are interactive and keep the reader on the page longer.
  • Call-Out-Boxes: These draw attention to important information or bonuses, and help to break up any walls of text.
  • Click-to-Tweet Boxes: They offer the suggestion to your readers to share your content in just a few clicks.
  • Webinars: Webinars help your audience to learn about a topic in a visual and interactive way, and it keeps them engaged and on your site.
  • Surveys: Surveys are an interactive way for your readers to give you feedback.
  • Giveaways & Contests: Giveaways and contests are fun for everyone, and encourage sharing.
  • Slideshows: Slideshows are another way to offer your content in a visual way and also keep readers on your site for longer.
  • Downloadable PDFs: These can feel like bonus content that your reader can get excited about and feel “exclusive” for having.
  • Block Quotes: These help make the post pretty, break up walls of text and draw attention to important or poignant messages.
  • Sharing Buttons: Make it easy for your readers to share your content with sharing buttons.
  • Review Widgets: If you’re reviewing products or services, add a review widget so your readers can get a summary-at-a-glance of your review.
  • Shoppable Widgets: If you’re suggesting products to your readers or reviewing shoppable items, add shoppable widgets to your articles so your readers can shop directly through your links, which can also be affiliate links.
  • Comment Forms: Use a service like Disqus so your readers can comment on each post and share their thoughts.

10% vs. 10x Content

When creating content for your site, take into consideration that there are two very different categories that the majority of content will fall into:

  • 10% Content
  • 10x Content

This is an ideology discussed by Garrett Moon, the Co-founder, and CEO of CoSchedule, in his Skillshare Content Marketing class (which, if you’ve never heard of Skillshare, we highly recommend checking it out. You can learn about many different types of topics by taking virtual classes taught by industry professionals, and it’s one of the most accessible ways to learn industry knowledge online. Check out our roundup of the 40+ Best Business Classes on Skillshare here) and it’s a concept that’s stuck with us as we create content for our own site.

Essentially, what it comes down to is that some content you create will help you grow by 10 percent and some content will help you grow by 10 times the amount you were growing at. Meaning, all content will add value, some of it will just add a little bit of value at a time while others will add an explosive amount of value that will likely last the test of time.

As we’ve interpreted this concept for our own content strategy, we don’t try to create 10x content all the time, we just take into consideration which type of content we’re creating every time we create an article, and then create the article accordingly. 10x content will get more time, energy and effort invested into it, while 10% content will still get the same care and attention just on a much smaller scale.

When we create our own content schedule, as you’ll see first hand in the final section of this article, we categorize each of our articles based on their “Content Type” which includes categories such as “Blog Posts,” “Reviews,” “Super-Posts,” “Roundups,” etc. For the most part, almost everything is 10% content besides super-posts, which are almost always 10x content. We aim to publish one super-post per quarter, so essentially, we aim to publish four 10x posts per year. That’s just about the amount of time and energy we can dedicate to those posts because of how much effort they take to create, but even publishing them just 4 times per year is worth it because they 10x our engagement, pageviews, traffic and essentially are worth 10x every other blog post we’ve published in the meantime.

Looking at this from an ecommerce lens, Brian Dean from Backlinko recently published a great case study on how Emil from SnackNation created a 10x piece of content that led to 41,992 Pageviews, a #1 ranking and $100k in monthly recurring revenue for his companies subscription snack box business (Read the full case study here).

In short, Emil identified the lucrative keyword, “Employee Wellness Programs”, that had significant search volume and which he was confident he could write a more comprehensive piece of content.

By writing a remarkable piece titled “121 Employee Wellness Program Ideas for Your Office”, he was quickly able to rank number one in Google for the term “Employee Wellness Ideas” bringing their site 10,000 visitors per month consistently and translating into $100,000 in monthly reoccurring revenue for Snack Nation.

So, when creating your own content strategy, take into consideration which pieces of content are going to be 10% posts and which will be 10x posts. Both are important and both are necessary aspects of a successful content strategy, but just understanding which articles are which will help you allocate your time, effort and money appropriately.

To help you to determine the difference, in our experience, 10x content is content with high search volume for the target keywords and content that’s “cornerstone content” for the blog, which basically means it’s foundational information for the blog overall.

Word Count & How to Know When a Piece of Content is Done

Word count is often a topic of conversation that comes up when creating content. There is no such thing as an ideal word count, or a perfect word count, for blog posts but there are some best practices to take into consideration when producing your content:

  • Word count helps get your content recognized by search engines like Google, and the more competitive your word count is the more competitive your content will be. There’s really no minimum or maximum word count as all content is indexed by search engines, but in order to get your content on the first page of search results, your word count needs to at least match or exceed the word count of content that already exists on the topic.
  • Speaking from our own experience, we aim for our blog posts to be around 2,000–2,500 words because that’s the best fit for our audience and the type of content they like to read and the in-depth nature in which we cover our topics. We do, however, occasionally publish super-posts (10x) that reach anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 words. It completely depends on the article, the topic and how we want to approach it.
  • We also write 2,000+ word posts because, in our industry, it’s nearly impossible to rank for most keywords if our content’s word count is less than 2,000 words per post. When creating your own content, pay attention to the content in your industry to understand the minimum length of content you should be writing. Generally the longer and more comprehensive the content, the better—provided it’s not just filler content and is actually answering user’s queries on Google.
  • So to be competitive on the first page of Google, oftentimes the word count needs to be at least at par with what’s already ranking or it needs to exceed it. If you’re interested in your blog posts reaching the front page of Google for specific keywords, find out the word count of the current top-ranking articles and then write an even better post that’s more thorough and has a more robust word count.

From our perspective, when you go beyond the minimum word count you have more opportunities to create content that will continue to be useful to the reader for years to come, so we recommend focusing on creating valuable, word count heavy pieces of content. This may not work for your brand, though, so find out what does.

Proofreading Content

A small note to end off the publication section of this article, and also the last step in the publication process: Proofread.

Proofreading is the act of reading through your content at least once, if not a couple of times, before you publish it to the public, so you can correct any errors whether they’re spelling, grammar, punctuation or formatting errors.

Proofreading is hugely underrated and highly important. It’s your last chance to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward and providing the best possible content for your audience, which should always be your ultimate goal.

Some proofreading tips:

  • Have an Incubation Period: This is a well-known technique used in the writing community where you take a break from your content after having written it by either stepping away from your desk for an hour or two, or even leaving your content for a more extended period of time such as overnight or for a full 24 hours. After stepping away from your content for a fair amount of time (usually, anything less than an hour is too short, overnight is best) you then go ahead and proofread your content. This gives you a fresh set of eyes on your content as your brain has somewhat forgotten what you’ve written and you’ll be able to pick out your errors more easily. Without the incubation period you can often miss minor (or major!) errors you would have otherwise caught.
  • Read Your Content Out Loud: When reading written content in our heads it’s easier for us to glaze over any strange sentence structure or awkward wording, so try reading your content out loud as your proofreading. When you come to a section where you’re stumbling over the words, you know the wording is awkward and you should consider correcting it.
  • Get Someone Else to Read Your Content: Sometimes when we write something it makes sense to us, but if anyone else were to read it they wouldn’t necessarily understand what we were trying to say. Someone else can help you find and fix any errors or awkward formatting that you may not have perceived as a problem in the first place.

One last final piece of advice: Proofread. Always proofread before publishing. Even when you don’t think you need to proofread, proofread. Don’t ever neglect proofreading because of the time or effort it takes, it will save you from publishing silly errors that are so correctable before you push your content live to your audience.

Content Strategy Step #3: Publication

Content Publication

The next step in the content strategy process is publication, which basically entails everything to do with publishing content, the process leading up to it and what to do immediately after. There’s actually a lot more that goes into the publication process of the content strategy than just hitting the “Publish” button, so let’s jump into it.

Developing a Posting Schedule & Posting Frequency

First, and absolutely foremost, is planning a posting schedule and determining what your posting frequency is going to be. This is an absolutely imperative step to the success of your blog because it helps keep you accountable and ensures that you’re pushing content out as regularly as you can.

The most important part of your posting schedule is to actually stick to it. Do not create a posting schedule that you can’t keep up with, because you ultimately won’t be able to keep up and you’ll spend most of your time worrying about posts that aren’t getting published and guilting yourself into working on posts just for the sake of your publishing schedule. This is not an effective way to develop a posting schedule.

If you know you can definitely commit to publishing one amazing blog post per month, then set one day per month where your articles must go live by. Once a month is better than never and it’s better to consistently post once per month than inconsistently four times per month.

Other options include publishing a post once every two weeks, once a week or two posts per week; it’s really up to you and how often you can consistently publish high-quality content.

Here are some tips to help you develop your posting schedule:

  • Your best day(s) to post are the days your website has its highest traffic, so create your posting schedule around your highest traffic day(s). This will be different for every website, so look into your analytics to see which days incur the highest amount of visitors. If you’re a new website you may not have this information, so just pick a publishing day and then reevaluate a few months later when you have some data to draw from.
  • Consider publishing every article a day before you promote your post to your email list so that the post can accumulate some organic social shares, thus generating social proof before your email list sees it.
  • When creating your blog post schedule, separate it into the quarters of the year (Q1 being January, February, March; Q2 being April, May, June; Q3 being July, August, September; and Q4 being October, November, December) so you can easily keep track of the articles you want to post and when, and you’ll be able to focus your attention on the right articles at the right time. At the end of this article we break down our posting schedule, and you’ll see that we structure it in quarters.

Conducting a Final Review for Formatting, Structure & Errors

Even though you’ve already proofread your article by this point in the content strategy process, make sure you do one last check to make sure everything is as it should be. Make sure you view your article in “preview” mode so you can clearly see any formatting errors, and double-check your SEO section to make sure everything is optimized as it should be.

This may not seem like a very important step, but just like the proofreading stage it’s where you’re going to catch any silly and easily correctable mistakes, so make sure you take the time to do one last check over before publishing every post.

Including Author Bylines & Headshots

Consider including author bylines and headshots with each article you publish. It’s not a compulsory requirement, however, it gives the readers the ability to learn more about who has written the article, their credentials, and their background.

If you’re working with guest contributors to create content for your site, you’ll most definitely want to include author bylines and headshots with their articles. It helps to put them in the spotlight and gives them credit for their work. It’s also best practice to give guest contributors at least one link to their website, blog or social media platforms in their author byline to help boost their SEO and to give readers an easy way to find them online.

Author bylines and headshots can be added to your article either at the beginning of the article or the end. Typically, most websites name the author of the article somewhere near the beginning of the article and then include the full bio and headshot at the end of it.

Dating Your Publications

When it comes to pushing content live, the date matters. The date that a post was published indicates its relevance, which is all that matters in today’s fast-paced world.

  • Each article should include its publishing date so the reader knows when the information was at its most recent
  • If you want to make your content more evergreen, you could consider not publishing a date or you could remove the year from the date and just include the day and month
  • When content becomes buried on your blog beneath new content, if it’s still up-to-date and relevant information then consider re-publishing the article to bring it back to the top of the pile. All you have to do is change the publish date, you don’t have to change any of the content unless you want to update anything.

Bonus for WordPress Users: More recent content is likely to rank better in search engines because it’s probably the most relevant, so when optimizing your SEO title considering including a phrase such as: “Updated: %%currentmonth%%, %%currentyear%%”. That snippet of information will appear as, “Updated: May 2018” and will automatically update to the most current month and year as appropriate.

Content Strategy Step #4: Promotion

Content Promotion

Finally, after all the effort of preparing, producing and publishing your content, it’s time to promote it! But, don’t underestimate the promotion part of your content strategy—it’s been said by industry veterans that promoting content is just as important as publishing it, and should take just as much time and effort as it does to create the content.

In this section, we’ll discuss the ways in which you can promote your content, how you should approach the promotion process, the necessary elements of promoting content, and more.

Content Promotion Optimization

The first thing you need to do before you start promoting your content is to know what action you’d like your audience to take after engaging with it. For each piece of content the action might be different, so you’ll have to take each article into consideration individually.

The action could be for the reader to share the article with their peers and social following, it could be to subscribe to your email list, it could be to check out a featured resource, it could be to sign up for a webinar, it could be to buy a product, etc. Whatever the action is, identify it first before you start promoting the content so you know which direction you need the promotion strategy for that specific article to be headed. Taking this into consideration will give you a better return on investment (ROI) on the content.

Remember the most important lesson of this content strategy article, though: Give value first, then ask for the sale. In your promotion strategy don’t get so preoccupied with asking for your readers to take a certain action that you forget to give value to them.

Content Promotion Copy

Before you actually start promoting content on the various promotion channels (which we discuss in the next section), it’s helpful to come up with some copy so you have useful, well thought out promotional messages to share with your audience.

Copy is what’s going to sell your content and convince your target market to click on the link and read it, so your copy has to be good. Very good.

Generally speaking, copy needs to capture attention, be short and punchy and give accurate insight into what the reader will find on the other side of the link. Copy that’s not interesting, engaging or truthful will likely deter the audience and be a detriment to your content.

Here are some tips for creating copy for your content promotion strategy:

  • Keep it Short & Sweet: The more concise, the better. Some promotion channels allow for longer word counts than others but in general, it’s best to keep your copy as to-the-point as possible.
  • Make it Interesting: You want your readers to wonder what’s on the other side of that link, so make them want to click on it! Try to stay away from clickbait copy, though, as it’s likely to prevent your readers from engaging with your content in the long run.
  • Brainstorm: Don’t just publish the first sentence of copy that comes to mind. Take the time to write out as many iterations of your copy as you possibly can. Maybe write 20 different copy promos for an article, and then pick the best ones. Likely the first bits of copy you come up with won’t be the best ones.
  • Write Multiples: When promoting your content, you’re likely to promote it more than once, so come up with more than one set of copy for it so you can promote the same piece of content multiple times without the copy becoming repetitive to your audience. They don’t want to read the same copy over and over—it’s not interesting—so have multiple different sets of copy prepared.
  • Proofread: Just like with creating content, creating copy is subject to the same proofreading rule. Always proofread your promotional copy before you schedule or publish it on any of your content promotion channels.

To help you write and create copy for your content promotion, we recommend using resources such as the CopyHackers website or copywriting lessons on Skillshare.

Content Promotion Channels

Next in the content promotion strategy is to actually start promoting your content. This is where the main bulk of your effort is going to be put into, and this is the part of the process that’s going to take the most time. This is where the magic happens, though, so take your time promoting your content through as many channels as you can.

The more channels you promote through, the more exposure your content gets and the more discoverable your content becomes.

These are the different channels you can promote your content through:

  • Create an email list and send out content to your list frequently
  • Publish on Quuu Promote to tap into new but relevant audiences
  • Promote your content to visitors on your own website with an updatable newsfeed by using Beamer
  • Use a service like MissingLettr to create year-long social media campaigns
  • Promote on industry content & resource sharing sites like GrowthHackers
  • Post to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram & Instagram Stories
  • Pin to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and save to your Instagram Highlights
  • Use a scheduling service like Buffer, SmarterQueue or Meet Edgar to push out promos consistently on your social platforms
  • Post your articles to relevant subreddits (but be aware of & abide by Reddit’s rules. Check out the first tip in our How to Get Backlinks to Your Store article to learn how to promote your content successfully on subreddits)
  • Post your articles to your own subreddit (check out the full explanation of this tip in our How to Get Backlinks to Your Store article. It’s tip #10!)
  • Use Facebook Ads to boost your content to your audience or similar (lookalike) audiences on Facebook
  • Create a profile, select posts, and syndicate on Medium (submit to their top publications)
  • Create a profile on Quora and answer questions that are related to your content. In your answer, summarize your post and add a link back to your article. Also, consider doing the same on Yahoo Answers and Stack Exchange.
  • Reach out to influencers in your niche and share your article with them in the hope that they’ll share it with their audience
  • Reach out to individuals or businesses you may have featured or linked in your post and let them know that they’ve been featured. They’ll be more inclined to share your content on their social channels.
  • Do a search for the top 5-10 articles currently ranking for your target keywords. Post a thoughtful comment on each commentable blog post or article with a link back to your post. This will potentially give you a backlink and may make your post discoverable to the author and readers checking out the comments section.

Beyond the more traditional promotion methods listed above, there are other methods you can use to get your content in front of larger or more diverse audiences. These methods take a little more time, effort and consistency to make worthwhile, but when they work they really work.

  • Target Influencers: While traffic may be the main priority, people should be at the center of all your efforts. With this strategy, the aim is to develop high leverage, mutually beneficial relationships with thought leaders in your industry and ultimately, get in front of the audiences they’ve built
    • Create a List of Influencers to Partner With: This can be done using Google (search for relevant thought leader roundups), Instagram (find top influencers in your niche), YouTube (find the top content creators in your market), Amazon (find authors who’ve written about topics similar to yours) and tools (like Buzzsumo).
    • Social Touchpoints: If you want other influencers to share your content with them, you need to share theirs. You can do this by setting up a Feedly account of all your target influencers and sharing all their new posts. You can even automate this process with IFTTT or Zapier.
    • Direct Touchpoints: Comment on your target influencers’ posts, engage with their content by liking and commenting and sign up and reply often to their newsletters. Get their attention and make yourself known. They’ll eventually begin to recognize your name.
    • Provide Value First: Where relevant, add links out to target influencers in blog posts you’ve previously published. These links can either be added within the body of the content itself or at the end of the article in a “Recommended Reading” section. You could also create thought leader roundup blog posts where you mention and link out to the influencer’s content. This is a nice way to open up conversations with influencers and show them you’re willing to promote their content to your audience, too.
    • Make Contact: Reach out to influencers directly over email after having mentioned them a couple of times on your social platforms or in your content. You could be asking them what they think about your new post, or suggesting partnership opportunities (such as featuring each other on-site in ads, co-creating content assets, writing a guest post, sending out messages to each other’s email databases, etc.) This email could also be in response to an email they’ve sent through their newsletter which can come across as a little more natural and less forced.
  • Submit your article to bloggers who do weekly roundups related to your article’s topic.
    • Make yourself known to other creators in your niche who shoutout other brands and share other creator’s content.
  • Find people who are sharing similar content and let them know about an upcoming post
    • Perhaps your content could be relevant for them to link in their content, maybe they’d like to share your content with their audience on social media, or maybe your content could feature in their newsletter.
  • Find out which sites are linking to the posts ranking highest on Google for your topics or keywords and reach out to them
    • You can do this using SEMrush.
    • Let them know that your content is similar and a relevant resource to link out to as well.
  • Find the people who comment the most on your competitors’ sites and tell them about upcoming content.
    • Clearly, these readers are very engaged with online content like yours, so what’s to say they wouldn’t also enjoy reading your content? Let them know you exist!
  • Monitor conversations happening around your article’s topic using Awario and suggest your post.
    • You’ll be sharing your article with people who are already interested, thus reaching out to hot leads.
  • Find and reach out to the most influential people who’ve shared your content in the past and ask for a share or a comment
    • Let them know that you’re still out here making great content and you’d love to have them back to read, share or engage with your latest posts.
  • Find other syndication and guest posting opportunities

Creating a Content Promotion System

The final most important part of the promotion section of your content strategy is to create a content promotion system and methods to track the growth of your system.

Creating a content promotion system is important so you never forget to put the work into promoting your content. It can be tempting to mentally check out of your content strategy after publishing an article, but just because you publish a piece of content doesn’t mean the masses are going to come flocking, so you have to put in the work every time, all the time.

Your content promotion system is simple and it’s going to be the same as every other content creators’ promotion system:

Every time you publish an article, execute each promotion method.

Done. Simple as that.

Establish the content promotion methods you’re going to employ now, and then set up a spreadsheet or something similar (we show you ours in detail down below!) so you can check off each promotion method you’ve completed for each article once it goes live. This way you’ll visually be able to keep track of your promotion strategy and ensure that you never forget a promotion channel for each new article you publish.

The next best thing after establishing the promotion methods you’re going to complete as part of your content promotion strategy is to be consistent. Consistency is the key to gaining traction and building your readership, so even when checking off each step in your content promotion strategy feels futile, keep going. Consistency will bring value to your readers and it will bring success to your content.

Next, don’t forget to follow up with influencers and the people or businesses you feature or link to in your posts. Follow up a few times to make sure they see your post. You want to develop and maintain a relationship with them and seeming eager is the best way to do that (beyond publishing great content that’s relevant and valuable to their audience).

Finally, in order to understand whether your content promotion strategy is working, where it’s working best and what may need some improvement—you need to track your growth.

Data is one of the few ways you can be sure about the success of your promotion strategy, so beyond creating a checklist that keeps track of each promotion method you use for each article, create a spreadsheet or something similar to keep track of the relevant promotion metrics for each post.

Here are a few examples of the metrics you could keep tabs on:

  • Traffic
  • Social Shares
  • Comments
  • Inbound Links
  • Email Subscribers
  • Leads
  • Sales Driven by Promo Channels
  • Article Page Views
  • Email Campaign Open & Click-Through Rates

There will likely be some that are more successful than others, but you won’t know for sure until you track them! It might surprise you which promotion methods work the best for you and which ones don’t work as well as you thought they might.

Our Content Strategy, Schedule & Spreadsheet

This section is going to delve into the system we’ve created at A Better Lemonade Stand to plan, organize and manage our content, and we’re going to be sharing the exact tools and templates we use to manage our content strategy.

But first, a little backstory on our founder Richard Lazazzera’s journey of creating content, not only for A Better Lemonade Stand but also for Shopify when he worked for the Shopify Growth Team. This should hopefully give you some insight into Richard’s perspective when creating content, his goals for A Better Lemonade Stand’s content strategy and why content marketing is so effective.

His first piece of remarkable content was one of the first blog posts he wrote for A Better Lemonade Stand: Reverse Engineering the Perfect Ecommerce Product.

For just over a year, I worked on the Shopify Growth Team. In particular, I drove growth for the company by inspiring and educating entrepreneurs to build and grow their online business. I did this through insightful and insanely practical blog posts.

In my time there, my team and I grew the Shopify blog from 200,000 readers per month to 2 million readers per month (in fact, I believe we hit 2 million just a few days before I left the company). I always try to measure my work by the impact it has on others, however, there are numbers I can’t share, but one thing I can share is that if you’re unsure whether content marketing is important or effective, know that just my top 5 blog posts alone on the Shopify blog (in the 13 months I was with the company) racked up a total of 98,000 hours (10.4 years) of on-site read time.

Now, to be absolutely clear, we were a team and there were many contributors to the blog from several departments that all deserve credit and a standing ovation. While I can’t speak to the contributions of others, I can tell you that over the last few years I have gone from someone who never wrote and barely passed my English classes to an online writer who has millions of pageviews under his belt and hundreds of thousands of hours of on-site read time.

It’s taken time, but I’ve developed a content strategy that enables me to consistently create competitively ranking content that inspires, engages and helps our audience and I’m going to share it with you right now.

Why am I sharing our content strategy with you? I debated this for a while because the fact is, my competition can use this against me. But, there’s a greater cause here: Content marketing is extremely important and so many creators are still doing it wrong. I want to help fix this and make it easier and more accessible for people to create, manage and systemize their own content strategy so they too can create remarkable content and get it in front of the eyes of eager readers.

Let’s jump into A Better Lemonade Stand’s very own tried, tested and true content strategy.

How We Plan, Organize, Manage & Systemize Our Content

Airtable

First things first, and possibly the most integral part of our content strategy, is the spreadsheet tool we use called Airtable (Airtable Review). Before this begins to turn into essentially it’s own blog post describing every tiny detail of why we love Airtable so much, we’ll try to keep it short and sweet by saying we don’t know how we ever created content without Airtable. We would never be able to manage our content strategy without Airtable and when we first discovered Airtable around April of 2017, it’s completely revolutionized our content strategy.

Initially, we just used Google Sheets to organize, plan and manage our content strategy, but once having discovered and used Airtable to its fullest potential we pity the content creator who still uses Google Sheets to organize and manage their content schedule. Airtable completely blows Google Sheets out of the water in every aspect, including functionality, design, and innovation.

Here are just some of the reasons why we love Airtable so much:

  • It Creates Smart Spreadsheets: Airtable spreadsheets can be anything you want them to be. Keep them simple and straightforward or connect them to one another so you have a full-fledged web of spreadsheets that update instantly any time you make an edit.
  • It’s Completely Customizable: With Airtable, your spreadsheets don’t have to just be spreadsheets, they can be checklists, they have single or multiple select options, you can add dates, numbers, links, and emails, or you can group the spreadsheet into categories by column, you can inter-link to other spreadsheets, you can view the sheet by grid, form, calendar or kanban view, you can create separate views of the same spreadsheet for different users, etc. The customization options are limitless.
  • It’s Free: Airtable offers a very generous free plan that even we’ve been able to manage an extensive content strategy without having to upgrade to one of their premium plans. Their premium plans do offer more features, but we’ve never felt limited with the free version. If you are interested in some of their premium features, though, Airtable’s Pricing Plans are very reasonable.
  • It’s Completely Adaptable: You can create any type of spreadsheet you want with Airtable. No matter what you have to manage or organize, Airtable’s features will be able to organize it in the best possible way.
  • There are Free Templates: If creating your own spreadsheet from scratch on Airtable sounds daunting, they offer templates to help get you started. If you want to transfer over any of your Excel or Google spreadsheets too, you can import them as well.
  • Organize By Base, Tabs, and Tables: Organization is much easier on Airtable than any other spreadsheet tool we’ve used. Within Airtable there are “Bases” that house spreadsheets, and within each base you can have as many spreadsheets as you like that are all neatly organized into tabs.
  • You Can Embed Spreadsheets: The Airtable spreadsheets are embeddable so you can add them to blog posts or pages on your site.
  • There’s an Airtable App: Both for mobile and desktop, there’s an Airtable app so you can access everything easily from any device.

Airtable can be a bit of a learning curve to get used to initially, especially when transitioning over from other spreadsheet tools, but trust us when we say that once you’ve used Airtable to its fullest potential you’ll never go back to using any other spreadsheet tool. It’s the Cadillac of spreadsheets and it’s the future of spreadsheet innovation. They also offer lots of helpful videos through their Airtable YouTube channel and other useful guides, videos, and a help center right in the app as well.

Our Content Topics SpreadSheet in Airtable

Our content strategy revolves around two main aspects of our Content Strategy Airtable base: Our Content Topics tab and our Content Schedule & Promotion Strategy tab. These two separate spreadsheets are the foundation of our content strategy as well as our promotion strategy.

Our Content Topics tab is the main hub that our content strategy preparation revolves around. It’s the place where we input any ideas or inspiration we have in regards to content we want to create, guest contributors we want to collaborate with and generally the future of where we want our content to go. This Airtable tab is basically a dumping ground where anything and everything related to content topics goes, and we generally like to keep it fairly unstructured so that we can easily copy and paste title ideas, links, images or anything else that has inspired us.

The main way we organize our Content Topics tab is into various “Content Categories” such as these:

  • To Be Organized
  • Posts to Write Soon
  • Drafts Almost Ready to Be Published
  • How-To/Instructional
  • Longform SEO
  • Reviews
  • List Post
  • Resources Post
  • Opinion/Passion/Inspirational
  • Guest Post
  • Emergency Posts
  • Case Studies

This way we can easily scroll to a category, see the content topic ideas we have for that specific category and then create a post based on the topics we find listed there.

This is our main hub that we refer to when planning our content strategy each quarter so that we can be sure that we’re creating content based on the topics we want to feature on the blog and content that our readers have asked to see on our site.

We like to keep it very open-ended and in a perpetual state of flow as we add new content ideas and remove ones we’ve completed, so there aren’t many rules that we follow within this tab.

Our Content Schedule Base in Airtable

Content Strategy Airtable Base

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The first tab houses, essentially, our day-to-day operations here at A Better Lemonade Stand. Content is key for us here as we help entrepreneurs to build, launch and grow better ecommerce businesses, and the main way we do that is through the free, accessible, actionable, informative and engaging content we create for our audience.

In order to create great content for our audience, we need to consistently be publishing relevant content, so we have a carefully planned and curated content schedule to help us be consistent, timely, organized and prepared to publish content on our blog regularly.

Without this Airtable tab, we would be directionless and unorganized, so it really is very important to us.

Let’s dive into each column of our Content Schedule:

  • Post Title: This column simply lists the title of each post we have in our content schedule.
  • Status: For this column, we’ve chosen to use Airtable’s “single select” feature which gives this column a drop-down menu of choices for us to label the progress of each article with. The 3 options we’ve chosen that any post can be labeled as are: “Published,” Ready to Publish,” or “Not Ready to Publish” which helps us to understand at a glance the status of each article in the schedule.
  • Content Type: This column helps us get an overview of the content we’re putting out on a quarterly basis and includes categories such as just standard blog posts, case studies, roundup posts, reviews, super-posts (lengthy and often SEO focused or very important posts to our overall content strategy), annual campaigns or announcements so we can generally see the type of content we’re putting out regularly.
  • Purpose/Goal: This column helps us to set the intention for each article so we can understand our purpose for publishing it. We discussed the importance of understanding the overall goal of each article earlier on in this article, and that’s what we do with this column.
  • Category: Each article that we publish on our blog falls within our predetermined categories, which we keep track of in this column to see what type of content we’re putting out in which category and how often.
  • Day: In order to keep a sense of which days of the week we’re publishing our articles on, we’ve included this column to help us easily keep track. In some quarters we’ve experimented with publishing on Tuesdays and Thursdays and in other quarters we only publish on Tuesdays, so this column helps keep track.
  • Publish Date: This column keeps tabs on the actual date of publishing. It helps us to plan our content in advance and keep the articles organized in a chronological fashion.
  • Email: This column includes the date that we send out our email newsletter to our audience, featuring the article as our main and newest blog post. As you’ll be able to see in our content schedule, we typically publish our articles on Mondays and then send out the article to our email list on Tuesdays. As we’ve mentioned earlier in this article, it helps to give the article some time to acquire social shares which acts as social proof when we later showcase the article in our email newsletter.
  • Author: This column helps us to keep track of who the author of our content is, whether it’s our founder, regular contributors or guest authors.
  • Keyword: As we discussed thoroughly in this article, keywords are the foundation of well optimized and competitively ranking articles, which is what we strive for, so this column is entirely dedicated to noting down our intended keyword for each article.
  • Search Volume: This column works in conjunction with the Keyword column, and keeps track of the search volume for our target keyword. Keeping tabs on this metric helps us understand the size, volume, and importance of the article.
  • SEO Optimized: This column is just a checkbox reminder for us to ensure that we’ve completed all the necessary SEO optimization requirements for each article, including the meta title, meta description, featured image, alt tags, URL slug, social titles, and descriptions, etc.
  • Add to SERPWatcher: We keep track of all our major keywords in SERPWatcher to keep tabs on how our articles rank, so each time we publish a new article we add the keyword to SERPWatcher so we can keep tabs on it. To learn more about SERPWatcher, check out our SERPWatcher Review.
  • Blog Post Link: To keep track of our articles and to ensure that they’re easily accessible to us, we add the blog post URL for each article into our content schedule.
  • Google Doc: We typically create the draft of every article we write in a Google Doc first, so we also add the link to the Google Doc into the content schedule as well just so it’s easily accessible.
  • Image Assigned?: Every article we publish gets its own unique feature image created by our in-house illustrator, so to ensure that the image is always ready to go for publishing day we have a checkbox in our content schedule to remind us that the feature image for each specific article has been assigned to our illustrator.
  • Feature Images: When we receive the feature images from our illustrator (we have a main feature image that serves as the hero image for the article, and then two social media optimized images for Facebook and Twitter) we add them into our content schedule just to know that we have them, and then the images are easily accessible in case we need to access them again at any time.
  • Images in Blogpost: Each blog post we create includes images within the body of the article, so in this column, we upload all the images used in the article just to make sure they’re accessible again in case we need them in future.
  • Email Header: This is another column dedicated to images, but this time for the image we use as the feature image in our email newsletter for each article. It’ll be the same featured image that was used for the article, just a slightly different size. Again, we include it in our content schedule just for easily accessible reference.
  • Author Bio: Occasionally our articles are written by guest contributors, so to keep track of their information, we have a column dedicated to saving their author bios so we never misplace or mix up an author and a bio.
  • Author Image: In addition, we also keep tabs on their author headshot in our content schedule, again, just to keep track of them and to make sure we have the correct headshot for each contributor.
  • Quarter: The very final column of this Airtable tab is the “Quarter” column. We organize our entire content schedule by quarters which makes planning and organizing content easier. We first started using Airtable for our content strategy in Q2 of 2017, so that’s why our content schedule starts there. We use Airtable’s “Group” feature to group our content schedule by the quarter, so it’s even easier to view and keep track of. When one quarter is done we’ll simply collapse the entire group so we can move on fresh to the next quarter.

Not only do we schedule all of our content in this Airtable tab, but we also have our promotion strategy checklist in this tab as well so we can easily access it and check it off for each blog post when we need to. Having it in this tab helps us to keep on top of it and make sure that the necessary promotion has been completed for each article.

Here are the columns that are dedicated to our promotion strategy:

  • Email Campaign: This column helps us to keep track of our email newsletters for each article, we simply add in the link when we’ve created the campaign.
  • Quuu Promote: Quuu Promote is another service that we frequently use to share our content across other relevant social platforms, so once we’ve added our latest article to Quuu Promote we can check it off in this column. This is a great tool to use to promote content across social platforms via influencers in your industry, no matter your niche.
  • Post to Reddit: Reaching out to the Reddit community and posting content to relevant subreddits can be a great way to promote content. It takes a bit more work than other content promotion methods because it’s generally against the rules of Reddit to post promotional content and the audience there isn’t very receptive to it, but if you find the right niche (or subreddit) on Reddit and give value to the community while finding a way to share a link to your content, it can be a very worthwhile promotion method.
  • IG Post: Posting to Instagram is part of our content promotion strategy, so we upload our Instagram image here for each article once it’s created.
  • IG Story: As well as posting to our Instagram feed, we also publish to our Instagram story as it’s an easily accessible way for our audience to access our content because they can just swipe up on the link.
  • Buffer: To automate our social media posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ we use Buffer. When we’ve scheduled in social posts for each article, we check it off in this column.
  • FB Boost: Facebook ads are a powerful way to get our content in front of our audience, so we post about our content on Facebook and then boost the post.
  • Link Building: For some of our content, in particular, we’ll work on specific link building tactics to help boost the article’s exposure and SEO value, so any of the link building techniques we’ve used we’ll keep track of in this tab.

So that’s our content schedule and promotion strategy explained! It’s something we’ve developed through trial and error over time, and something we adjust to favor our successes and work on the areas we can improve on. It’s likely something we’ll continually adjust as we learn new tactics and discover new tools, but this is what it’s looked like for a while and it’s what we’ve been most consistent with and brought us our current success.

Conclusion

Overall, content is about communicating a message and providing value. As a brand, once you’ve done those two things successfully, you can then ask for the sale.

Bear in mind that our content strategy took us years to develop, so we recommend starting slowly and building up your own content strategy one piece at a time. Use this information to your advantage to help you avoid pitfalls and to prepare for success, but ultimately, pick and choose the parts that work best for your brand and implement the parts of the process that fulfill your ultimate goals as a company.

We hope the information and advice from our content strategy can help you establish your own successful blog so you too can provide remarkable content and value for your audience.

This article was originally published by our friends at A Better Lemonade Stand.

About the author

Steve Hutt

Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. In the early days of online commerce, he achieved Power Seller status at eBay, which then propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens, and eyewear retailer. After a successful exit from his startup, he embarked on his next journey into agency work in e-commerce and digital strategy.

Currently, Steve is part of the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus, where he is a Strategic Advisor helping brands continue to grow and scale with the Shopify Commerce Platform.

To maintain a competitive edge and life of learning mantra, Steve also hosts and produces a top-rated weekly podcast show, eCommerce Fastlane, where he interviews Shopify partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, to help Shopify brands build and scale lifetime customer loyalty.