How To Create An SEO-Driven Editorial Calendar For Your Blog [PLUS FREE TEMPLATE]

conversational-marketing-featured-light-blue June 16th, 2016 Posted by Marketing No Comment yet

As marketing teams begin to tackle the inbound methodology and step into the world of blogging, one of the most common questions I hear is “how can I make sure we’re targeting the right keywords?”  This is a critical thing to factor into your process, but it needs to be balanced against other considerations as well, including:

  • What topics would be most helpful to our targeted customers?
  • What topics would be most helpful to our current customers?
  • What content contributes to our brand’s story and position on industry topics?
  • How can we create unique value with our content that goes above and beyond the alternatives?

A shared editorial calendar can help you and your team balance all of these considerations while ensuring you’re targeting the keywords and search phrases that matter most.  All you need is a process, the right tools, and a good checklist to keep in mind as you identify and schedule new topics.  Below are a few important steps to include:

Know Which Personas You Wish To Target

Before you begin to blog, you need to determine who you’ll be writing for.  Do you need to reach the CEO, middle-management, or a junior-level employee who is more concerned about tactical execution?  Are there certain industry constraints you should be aware of?  Are their common tools, software or equipment that they use in their day-to-day lives?  Do they prefer text-heavy or more visual content?  We refer to these profiles as personas.

When writing a blog post, it’s important to focus on one particular persona.  The more targeted you are, the more relevant and useful your content will be to the intended reader.

By specifically mentioning the persona you intend to target in your editorial calendar, you’ll avoid the temptation to try to serve everyone.

Identify And List Out Your Personas Most Common Questions

Once you’ve identified your personas, focus in on their most common challenges, concerns, and motivations. Use primary and secondary research to identify the things that are keeping them up at night, the language they use to describe their every day tasks and challenges and some common ways they try to find solutions to their problem.

Interview your customers.  If this isn’t an option, ask your sales or customer support teams to start cc’ng you on replies to the emails they receive, or consider monitoring the conversations your prospects and customers are having online through social channels.

Keep a running list of these questions so you can reference it as you brainstorm future blog topics.

Create A Shared Editorial Calendar

SEO Driven Editorial Calendar

Once you know who you’ll be targeting and have conducted research to identify their most common questions, objections, and informational needs, you’ll want to create an editorial calendar that can be easily shared and accessed by multiple members of your team.

We recommend a simple Google Docs or Excel spreadsheet for this purpose, and have included a free template to get you started:

-Access The Free Content Editorial Calendar Template on Google Spreadsheets

Whether you use our template or create your own, there are some important fields you should include:

  • Targeted Persona – Who do we wish to target with this article?
  • Targeted Funnel Stage – While the majority of your blog articles should typically focus on the awareness stage of the funnel, you may can also want to create content that answers the most common objections in the sales process, or goes into depth on your product or service.
  • Author – Who will create this content?
  • Keyword – What search term or phrase are we optimizing for?
  • Topic – What is a high-level overview of what this article is about?
  • Theme – Think about how this article fits in with your value proposition, common themes in company messaging, or common challenges your targeted personas face.
  • Status – Is the article planned, in progress, or published?
  • CTA or Offer – Every blog post should have a related content offer as a means to identify your readers and progress them further along the buying cycle.  List the related offer here.
  • Publish Date – This will be handy in the future.  Occasionally, you’ll want to revisit and refresh old blog posts with new information.
  • URL – A link to the published blog post.

In addition to these common features of an editorial calendar, you can add columns that meet the specific needs of your organization.  Just try to avoid making the process overly tedious or you may have difficulty keeping up with it.

Prioritize Topics With Keyword Research

With a list of your buyer personas most common questions in hand, it’s time to align those questions with the best opportunities to rank in search results.  This is where keyword research comes in.

When conducting keyword research, many SEO experts will recommend that you start by going into Google’s Keyword Planner tool. While this is a great resource, it withholds some information because it is intended to guide you towards keywords that are worth bidding on for paid search. These aren’t always necessarily the right keywords to be focused on organically.

Instead, I prefer to leverage Moz’s new Keyword Explorer tool or HubSpot’s keyword tool for a more sophisticated approach to keyword research.  Both of which are geared more towards SEO research vs PPC, and offer some important detail about the difficulty to rank, monthly search volume, and potential opportunity to provide traffic. We’ve included columns for this data in the free template.

Rand Fishkin of Moz recently outlined a fantastic keyword research process on Whiteboard Friday. I couldn’t have explained it any better, so here’s the video for your viewing pleasure:

Once you’ve completed your keyword research and prioritized those phrases that present the best potential, look for overlaps between your list of persona questions and keyword list. Those words that overlap should serve as your starting point for the next step in the process: brainstorming blog topics.

Brainstorm Blog Article Topics And Titles

With a keyword or question in mind, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I answer this need in a valuable, insightful way?
  • What does the searcher hope to find by clicking on a search result?
  • What broader goals or needs may have driven the searcher to look for this particular thing?

By asking yourself these questions it will become much easier to draft an effective topic and title for the article.  To illustrate, let’s say you represent a travel destination in Miami, and wanted to target the keyword phrase “top resorts in Miami.” You might come up with a title called “The 5 Best (And Worst) Resorts in the Miami Area” – realizing the searcher might also want to know what resorts they should avoid.

If your targeted persona has a family, you might refine even your topic even further to “The 5 Best (And Worst) Family-Friendly Resorts in Miami.”

Analyze Similar Content In Search Results

Once you’ve identified your personas, their informational needs, priorized relevant keywords and brainstormed your blog topics, you’ll want to do a quick assessment of the competition.

Conduct a search for the keyword or question you’re optimizing for.  What are the titles of the articles that appear?

Click through and read the articles.  What information do they include? What’s missing? How can you improve upon it or provide some unique value not already available?

To increase your odds of rankings, your content should provide some unique value, or present information in a uniquely valuable way.  For example, if the other top listings are simple blog posts, you might want to create a Slideshare deck or video to accompany your post.  Consider adding downloadable tools or templates that will allow your readers to take the information you’ve shared and put it into action.

Identify Influencers Who Can Help Amplify Your Content

Unless you’re from an established company with an authoritative website, creating quality content may not be enough to get your post to rank highly in search results.  Getting other reputable websites or social influencers to link back to your content or share with their own audiences can be a great way to beat these odds and rank faster, while attracting new readers through the influencer’s own audience along the way.

Who are the influencers who typically share and have an interest in this type of content? What are some creative ways that you can reach out and build a relationship with these individuals, so that when you have a new article to share you can get it on their radar?

What sites link to the articles already rankings for the keywords you with to target? How can you get them to link to your article as well?

Tools like Followerwonk, Moz’s Open Site Explorer and BuzzSumo are incredibly helpful for identifying these opportunities.

Once you’ve conducted your research, you may consider contacting them to let them know about your new article.  Below is a simple template to give you inspiration:

Hey [Influencer Name],

I came across your article on [ARTICLE TOPIC HERE], and found it super helpful. I noticed in the article you referenced [link to currently ranking blog post], which I agree is a great resource.

We recently created a similar post that goes into an even greater level of depth by [explain why your article provides greater value than the one they already link to].  If you think it’s helpful, maybe that’s something you could share with your audience or potentially link to in a blog post?

If not – not worries, just thought it might be helpful.  I look forward to reading more of your content!

-Your Name

If you’re lucky, they’ll link to your blog post or possibly share through their social channels.  If you obtain a new link, you’ll be one step closer to getting your post to rank. Congrats! If they do nothing, at least you’ve tried.

Keep The Calendar Fresh With New Topics

On a weekly basis, revisit the calendar to update progress on the posts you’ve identified.  On a monthly or quarterly basis, you’ll want to regroup with the broader team to identify new topics.

Over time, you’ll develop a knack for what type of content will both rank best and resonate well with your readers.

Now go on and get started!

Buyer Persona Powerpoint Templates

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