Have you ever had a personal blog?
You know, the diary type, where you write life stories and interesting opinions whenever the muse hits you and tickles you into writing.
But a niche or business blog is different.
Here you are not seeking relaxation and hobby readers looking to chit-chat with a fellow Internet user.
When it comes to niche or business, you have goals and you need to bring results to the table with your blogging activity.
That planning will work to bring in organic traffic from search engines only if you include SEO considerations in the steps you’re going to take, so that search engines can serve your content to users in a timely manner.
Neil Patel is right when he says that SEO and content marketing are like “two personalities of the same person”, with content marketing being the more holistic one and SEO the more technical side.
And Andrew Dennis at Search Engine Land demonstrates how an SEO content strategy is the only way to grow organic traffic by 300% in a year — because creating content for the sake of it (like you would do in personal blogging) won’t do it.
Your content has to drive clicks and links (and conversions) to bring results!
This post aims to help you get things on the right track so that you can make the best out of the mix of content production and SEO.
Step 1: Start with Keyword Research (Use SEO Difficulty)
Keyword research provides the topics to write about.
However, it would be simplistic to say that that suffices to fill your editorial calendar with content that will attract the organic traffic you’re looking for.
Before you start using a keyword research tool and copy all keywords that relate to your main topic into a list, please read the two steps below:
1. Keyword research should be topical research
You start with your main topic and your audience before you proceed to brainstorm what else your audience may search online.
Let’s see an example:
Say that you write a blog for content managers.
You know content management methods and issues, maybe you’re an insider, so you can start to work with what you know.
But that is not enough. You have to go to forums where fellow professionals and other content hobbyists ask questions and discuss trending topics.
What is it that your audience is concerned about?
Because your blog will have to answer those questions with not only input from your experience but also from research and interviews with experts.
So you find topics to write about on the places where content managers hang out.
Here’s an example from WebmasterWorld’s Content Management board:
Now you can take these topics to a keyword research tool of your choice to give you suggestions that you may use to build a list of keywords for your editorial calendar.
Remember: when it comes to writing, keep the Q&A approach to tackling topics.
2. Use SEO difficulty to decide which keywords are worth pursuing
SEO difficulty, scored on a 0-100 range, tells you how hard it is to rank for a specific keyword or key phrase and search volume tells you how many searches are performed monthly, on average, for that keyword.
Ideally, it’s easier to rank if the difficulty is lower than 50.
I use a plethora of tools to evaluate keywords for SEO content planning: Mangools’ KWFinder and Small SEO Tools’ Keyword Difficulty Tool help me with SEO difficulty, while SearchVolume.io and the browser addon Keywords Everywhere are what I use to retrieve the average monthly search volume of a given keyword.
On the basis of these indicators, you can choose the keywords that you know will bring the most immediate traffic and will give you results in without having to wait too long or having to compete with a lot of other big good websites.
That doesn’t mean that you have to disregard high difficulty, high search volume keywords, but you have to incorporate these big keywords within the content that you write to respond to the smaller user queries.
Because that is the only way to rank for most terms and grab the most traffic and attract readers with your answers to their questions.
Remember: search terms are user questions.
Step 2: Combine No-Volume Keywords with Low-to-Medium Volume Keywords
If your brand wants to stand out, it needs to do it not only with content and topics everybody already talks about, but with an angle, a vision and a core message that are uniquely yours.
Some of the keywords you will generate for that “unique content” might have no search volume today – but what about tomorrow?
They might start being searched once your vision becomes widespread.
Until then, it’s a smart move to combine these unique keywords with low and medium search volume keywords that actually get searched today and that can help your content (and its unique factor) get found.
As an example, I run a sub-blog of my The Pen Thinker blog called Character Blogging for Business.
Is there anyone searching Google for “character blogging for business”?
Sounds like a big nope!
However, people are searching for “blogging for business” (210 searches/mo) and “business blogging” (110 searches/mo):
So I can develop my editorial calendar around character blogging topics that “piggyback” on these existing keywords for more generic business blogging.
Not too hard to put into practice, right?
Step 3: Include Branded and Original Content in the Mix
Why should you include branded and original content in the mix rather than just go with the most searched queries?
I can hear the question.
But the answer is simple: It’s because — like I just did with you — you want to answer the readers’ questions, but you also want to give them something new, something unique that’s still unheard of.
And this is something you’ll want to schedule into your calendar right away, so that you have a balanced mix of topics: the ones that everyone knows about, and the unique ones you came up with.
For example, your monthly calendar could look like this:
- The whole first week of each month is devoted to answering big content marketing questions
- The second week you include branded, original content that contains your unique message
- The third week you include some guides or tutorials on the most common questions that your readers may have
- The fourth week you mix all original and search-based content
You might be surprised when you witness how well this kind of SEO- and brand-based planning works!
Step 4: Publish At Least One 2,000+ Word Post per Content Planning Cycle
This could be one post a month or every 3 months.
What matters is that you strive to serve readers awesome, cornerstone content on a regular basis.
Your other posts could be listicles or interviews, for example, but this one must be an ultimate guide or a how-to on a very important, difficult topic in your niche, for which your piece provides go-to insight that’s hard to find elsewhere.
So the goal for this big post is to lay the foundations of trust in your readers and in search engines.
That’s quite an endeavor, isn’t it?
Make sure that you give this post your absolute best and that you include feedback or quotes from experts in your industry, because unlike the regular interview or roundup post, this one has to show that you’ve done your homework, your research — and you can’t do that with a post that is based only on your experience.
Unless you are writing a case study.
But that is the only case when relying on your experience does count.
Tools for Content Planning for SEO
Asana is a nicely featured project management tool that works for teams but you can also use it as a lone blogger.
However, if you can rely on a small team, Asana is definitely a good choice for content planning and management, because the calendar also comes with a task list and you can assign tasks to multiple members.
Trello is another friendly and easy-to-use planning tool that you can use for yourself or with a team.
And it’s awesome even without paying! Most of the features are included and you can upgrade anytime.
I recommend Trello especially if you are on a shoestring budget, since it’s the most complete in its free version.
Mintent is designed for content marketing teams and you can also use it on your own and it’s free up to 10 projects per month.
It’s pretty, friendly and colorful to use. Probably a little too complex for solo use, but perfect for a blogging team.
Google’s free solution comes with every account and it’s a simple calendar with extensible over the whole Google suite.
This is literally my favorite content planning tool: Kanboard, the free Kanban board to add your tasks and plan your calendar without having to spend a dime and that you can install and host directly on your site in a subfolder or a subdomain.
Kanboard is user-friendly, extensible with plugins, and it comes with plenty of features (productivity charts, timer, etc.) and a neat board where you can rearrange tasks.
For each task, you can add subtasks and set a time estimate for it that you can actually monitor and compare to the actual time spent if you activate the timer tool.
Conclusion: Content Planning for SEO Makes Life Easier
You really can’t make a blog grow without well-thought-out content plan coupled SEO insight.
If you don’t do this, you wouldn’t know the next step and what to track, and you won’t achieve your goals (you don’t want to leave everything in the hands of the capricious wind of the SERPs and topic trends, do you?)
So it’s important that you lay out a plan every month or every six months.
Maybe even every year if your SEO goals ask for the extra effort.
Plan good and make your content shine.
To your success!
By Luana Spinetti, 10+ years B2B Copywriter and Consultant for the Marketing and Tech industry. Also a cartoonist for hire since 2004.