One of the biggest challenges I’ve had in my 8 years of business is trying to find time to plan and create content! I know how important it is — I’ve seen the results of how blogging & podcasting has brought leads & subscribers into my own business and into countless of my clients’ businesses — but it used to take me for.ev.er to come up with a content plan and turn that into a published post.
But a few years ago, I hired a fabulous operations consultant who helped me structure my content creation into a standardized process, and it’s made me both more prolific AND more efficient when it comes to blogging and recording videos.
My 8-step process to Effectively Creating SEO Content
1. Start a content idea bank
I have been known among my friends and my students for saying, “That’s a blog post, that’s a blog post, that’s a blog post,” a couple of them have even told me that I shouldn’t make a hashtag out of it (#thatsablogpost) because I said so often.
Anytime somebody asks you a question, anytime you do an Instagram story about something, anytime you get an email from somebody, and you’re explaining it and thinking to yourself, “Hey that might be a really good blog post” … put it in your idea bank.
it doesn’t matter where your idea bank lives, I used to keep mine in a Google spreadsheet, then it moved to Airtable. Now it’s a Notion document, and sometimes in a pinch I use the Notes app on my phone and transfer it over.
You want to keep it in one consolidated place so that when it comes time to move to step two, you have a bunch of ideas that you can move with.
2. Find some content themes
Review your idea bank and try to find some themes that you could pull together for two, three, maybe four posts at a time. Is there a specific audience that has a series of questions that you can answer? Is there a way that one topic can work for multiple audiences? Are there ways that you can compare one option against another and then do a review of each of those options?
Try to come up with a theme that you can talk about for a couple different blog posts in a row! I find that it’s much easier to write a series of blog posts that sort of fit together like puzzle pieces, and have a narrative that you can bring people along on instead of just having separate things that kind of don’t go together and feel stilted together. That way when I’m doing any research about a specific topic, it’ll apply to multiple blog posts and I can kind of have them all fit together in one place.
So last month, I talked all about WordPress plugins for SEO. This month, I’m talking all about content creation habits. Next month, I’m going to be looking at SEO for podcasts. So they don’t all have to be one super long theme that fits together. But I like to have clusters of ideas.
3. Do your keyword research
If you haven’t done keyword research yet, check out my 5-minute guide to Keyword Research. You want to figure out what are people already searching for about the topic that you want to write about.
If you know that you have a theme that you have a couple different blog posts that are related to each other here. You can go do some keyword research for each of them, find different keyword clusters for each of them, and then start creating a plan of which keywords you want each blog post to rank for so that you can keep those in the back of your mind as you are creating content.
Now it’s time to double down on to one blog post, spend your time fleshing that out.
4. Create an outline
And number four, create an outline. You can actually use some of that keyword information to build out your outline and think about what are the questions that people have about this specific topic. So let’s say that you are a Pinterest manager and you want to write a blog post about five questions that people should ask before they hire a Pinterest manager.
And when you see those specific keywords showing up, you can kind of even assign those to specific sections of the blog post and let the keywords drive the content. Let the keywords drive an outline of the blog post that will help you answer all of the questions about that topic in a way that makes sense to Google.
5. Write a (very rough!) first draft
Once you have your outline, it’s time to get the information out of your head and into your computer.
For some of you who are writers, you may just sit down and close your eyes and just write whatever comes to mind about this topic. For those of you who are more verbal processors, you may want to open up the voice memo app on your phone and talk through everything that you know you need to talk about and then get a transcriptions that week sounds like you and you don’t feel stuck. I’m like, oh, what’s the spelling for that word.
For those of us who are on YouTube, here’s what I do: use your outline to structure what you’ll say, record the video, have your video editor slice it up for you, and then get a transcription of that and turn it into the blog post.
But the idea is that you can work off the outline, get the information out of your head in a way that sounds like you. This is not a time for proofreading or editing. This is a time just to get the information out in a way that is salvageable. That sounds like a human being talking.
I think sometimes people get a little bit stuck at this phase because they feel like they need to stick the keywords in in all the right places as they’re writing. And that is really effing hard. Instead, I want you to get the information out of your brain in whatever format makes the most sense for you, and then turn it into a Google doc or a Word doc that you can then go through and edit. That’s the way that works for me. And it also seems to work really well for a lot of my clients and students take the system and make it work for you.
6. Make it easy (& fun!) to read
Number six, take whatever that first draft was and start to edit it. So instead of just whatever came out of your fingers or out of your mouth or onto the screen, now we need to take some time to break it up into a blog post. So thinking about what are the sections trying to write it in a way that people want to read, which means that it’s skimmable, which means that it has section breaks in it, which means that the paragraphs are short, the sentences aren’t too long, we only want maybe two to five sentences in every paragraph. So that way as people are skimming it, it makes sense to them.
Remember that most people don’t read every single word in your blog post, they’re going to skim through the sections, read the ones that they’re most interested in. And you want to make it as easy as possible for them to understand what they they are going to get there. So having clear section headings, bullet points when it makes sense, short paragraphs, this isn’t the way that you were taught to write in eighth grade English class, I am so sorry, Mr. Burruto. I am breaking English. But this is the way that people read now on the internet.
So don’t worry about all those rules that used to exist. Instead, I want you to think in short paragraphs, really clear about what is in every section. This is also the time that you may want to pull any supporting screenshots or images that you already have to support this. You know, when I’m creating a tutorial video, this is the point where I go through and add in the screenshot of here’s what the Yoast plugin looks like create the narrative of the blog post at this point, we’re not yet worrying about SEO, we’re just thinking about what is something that people actually want to read.
And if it makes sense, you can also include some visual content throughout your post — an infographic, a screenshot, heck even a GIF or meme is good to squeeze in to break things up!
At the end of that blog post, you want to include a call to action! Maybe you want the reader to book a call with you, maybe you’re talking about a specific product you have in your shop, and you want to make sure to link to that product. And maybe you want people to join your email list and you want to include a couple boxes around your website where people can sign up to join your email list and get your freebies.
So thinking while you’re creating the narrative about ways that you can work those calls to action into your blog post, not just as a box along the bottom or the sidebar, but make sure that you’re leading them to whatever the next step is for them and thinking about any other blog posts that you’ve written on this topic or any other assets that you have that you might want to link to let them go deeper into the content that you’ve created before.
7. SEO Optimize the post
We are finally going to optimize this blog post! I know you’ve been waiting for me to get here because I’m the SEO person … but the most important part of creating a blog post is that people actually want to read it not just that it shows up in search results … not just that it has keywords everywhere, but that it’s useful to the clients who are looking for the services that you’re providing.
So this is now the point where we start to think about that keyword placement. Hopefully, you had it kind of in the back of your head while you were writing that first draft. But now is the point where we really bring it in and structure the blog post.
I have a whole SEO Blog Checklist to learn every place on your blog that you can add keywords that you can optimize. But basically, this is the time where you want to do that after the blog post has been written. After you know that it’s something that people want to read, then you can go through and sprinkle in those keywords that you found in step three.
So maybe writing a headline that has a keyword in it, maybe writing an SEO title that would have a keyword in it that people would then see it when it shows up in the search results, or the SEO meta description that shows up below it in the search results trying to get a keyword into that space, making sure your permalinks in there. This is also the time when I like to make images, because I like to wait until I know what my SEO title is, in order to create the images that go into the blog post to promote it. And so I’ll create those and upload them with keywords in my file names and keywords in my alt text. So this is the point where we’re doing that on site optimization.
8. Publish your blog post!
Hooray! 🎉 Don’t let this just sit in your draft folder, don’t get to the 90% point and then go, “It’s not quite ready, I’ll come back and finish it later.” I have done that so many times I never go back and finish it. So my goal is always to get it to the finish line.
Right after I do the SEO optimization, I usually hit publish or it’s scheduled to go out at a specific time. If I don’t publish it right away, I have that little piece of imposter complex come in.
The way to become prolific and efficient in creating content is to publish before you’re ready, get feedback from people on it, share it broadly. And then you can always go in and update it later.
And this is also a great way to get that Google feedback loop running where once you hit publish, you wait a month or two, you go in and look at your Google Search Console. And you’ll start to get some feedback on there about keywords that you’re showing up for that maybe you didn’t even know existed. And you can go back in and re-optimize those posts. But if you don’t publish, you can’t get that feedback loop started.
So to recap, here’s my eight step process for blogging effectively:
- Create an idea bank for every great idea that you have along the way that you can dip into when it’s time to start planning this.
- Find a theme that might work for two or three blog posts.
- Do the keyword research for them all at once by batching your keyword research, you’re going to be spending less time on it and have a chance to go a little bit deeper into it in that time.
- Create your outlines so that you know exactly what you want to get across by the end of that blog post.
- Get it out of your head whatever way make sense into a first draft format.
- Structure it so it’s really easy for people to read It’s skimmable. It’s broken up into sections.
- Optimize your blog post
- Publish. Even if you feel like it isn’t quite there yet, it’s more important to get it out than it is to get it perfect.
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