How To Create A Content Plan From Scratch

Suddenly I realised that I needed to create my content plan from scratch. It hit me after I finished editing and uploading the interviews on content marketing for the WP Summit.

Let me back up a bit.

I started to blog in March 2013, and in the training program I was in I learned that I needed to blog twice a week. So I did exactly that for a few months, and I saw a reasonable amount of traffic.

But over time I lost track, I didn’t blog that regularly. I started to only write when I felt inspired to, and in the end I wrote less and less posts.

My publishing frequency was down to one or two posts a month.

It took me more than a year and doing the interviews for the WP Summit to understand the reason why I fell off the wagon.

I didn’t create a content plan for my blog.

Not creating a content plan was a big mistake, because of several reasons:

  • I didn’t know what to write about when I didn’t feel inspired
  • I didn’t create content upfront, which made it easy to not publish for a week or two
  • My blog visitors didn’t see new content on my blog very often, which is the reason for a massive drop in traffic
  • I had barely any engagement on my blog, which felt frustrating

Especially the interview with Dan Norris and Andy Crestodina helped me to figure out the importance of a content plan. Thank you Dan & Andy!

Now, here’s how I created my content plan for the time after WP Summit.

The Foundation To Create A Content Plan

Coming up with a content marketing plan isn’t easy, and it took me probably two hours of only focusing on this one task.

I closed my MacBook, which happens very rarely, and I got myself pen and paper, which is even more rare. However I knew that to be fully creative with my content plan I needed to sketch, write, draw, and be more flexible than a text editor on my Mac could get.

What I love about working with pen and paper is this feeling of freedom, of truly creating something from nothing.

Here’s the first sheet of paper I ended up with:

list of business goals for my content plan

Before you start outlining the content plan, build a rock-solid foundation for it.

As you can see I didn’t start with the contents itself, but with the goals I wanted my content plan to lead to.

You need to take one step after another. How will you create a content plan that lets you achieve your goals if you didn’t define the goals?

Before I even started of thinking of topics I could write about, I wrote down:

  • The business objectives I wanted my content plan to achieve
  • What makes me stand out (according to what others told me!)
  • What others are already saying about me
  • What advice others ask me for

Why is it important to know these information when you’re creating your content plan?

Because only creating a content plan from scratch includes the essence of your brand positioning.

If you know these branding aspects already, still include them in your content plan. They’ll help you come up with targeted content, tailored to your brand and the needs of your audience.

Topics And Content Categories

The first step was building a baseline to start content creation from.

Now it’s time to start thinking about topics you can include in your content plan, and why these topics should make it into your plan.

There’s two sides of this medal, your own opinion and the desires of the readers you want to reach with your content.

Both are important and I think you should value them equally. Here’s what I wrote down for topics and content categories.

list of topics for my content plan

Everything is related to WordPress of course, which just makes sense for my personal situation.

I don’t see myself as expert in all topics related to WordPress. That’s because WordPress is such a broad platform, powering 75+ million websites. I doubt there’s anybody knowing all details about WP – even WP creator Matt Mullenweg concentrates on attending WordCamps and the strategy of turning WordPress into a real company.

Thanks to the WP Summit I had really clear insights on the topics my audience is interested in.

If you don’t know what your audience is interested in, or don’t have an audience yet, you’ll have to assume what they might be interested in.

Don’t get stuck in not knowing what your audience wants. Create a variety of contents and over time you’ll see what sticks and what gets the most engagement.

There’s no shortcut to success in content marketing. But create a content plan and you’ll see results over the long-term.

It’s like Alex Moss said: contents over time start to rank for keywords you never thought possible.

The difference between good and bad content plans is, that the good ones know WHY people are interested in the topics you wrote down.

This is psychology here. You have to understand the desires and problems of your audience better than they do themselves.

Most often your readers won’t be able to articulate what they’re looking for when coming to your blog.

For example:

Someone might say that she wants a beautiful looking blog. But in fact the design doesn’t matter. She assumes a beautiful blog gets more optins, more traffic, and more engagement of the readers (which is partly true).

So the wish for a beautiful design is just covering the real problem: not having an impactful website yet.

And building an impactful website requires more than just a beautiful design.

Dive deep into the reasons people have to consume your content. Ask your audience. Do surveys. Get in touch with them in any way possible.

If you don’t have an audience? Again, assume and see what works best.

What Challenges And Goals Can You Hook Your Content To?

The best content solves problems, helps people overcome challenges, and makes them achieve their goals. Period.

My goal with this post is to help you create a content plan from scratch, even (and especially) if you never had one before.

Knowing what challenges your audience is facing has more power than you might realise right now. But you will over time, trust me.

List of challenges and demographics

These challenges will let you never run out of topics to write about.

I see them as set boundaries for my blog, ensuring I’m only writing relevant blog posts and don’t get lost in the freedom WordPress gives me.

Examining these challenges is actually a technique I learned in Internet Business Mastery, the online business training that got me started as online entrepreneur. Without IBMA I would have never been able to quit my job.

Yet I followed that technique for the first few months of blogging, but fell off the wagon as web design projects became more and more the essence of my business and my blog lost it’s relevance.

Now it’s time to focus on blogging again and that’s why creating a content plan comes back to my attention. And I hope by now you already got convinced that having a content plan actually can be a real game changer.

Does A Tagline Belong Into Your Content Plan?

You only have a few seconds to convince a new reader that your blog delivers what he’s searching for.

Thus having a tagline on your website that conveys what exactly your blog is about is extremely important. And that tagline needs to go hand-in-hand with your content.

The best way to ruin the relationship to your audience is to promise more than you deliver.

That’s why I believe a tagline should be a part of your content plan, especially when you’re creating that content plan from zero.

It’s hard to come up with a good tagline though, and they’re never set in stone. Here’s my approach:

List of taglines in my content plan

Writing these taglines was the hardest part in creating the content plan, because they really need to nail what my blog is all about.

I wrote down various versions and finally decided to test these three:

  • I help entrepreneurs use WordPress and teach what I do in plain English
  • I use WordPress to run my online business and teach what I do in plain English
  • Learn proven WordPress strategies for online business – in plain English

I know that most of my readers have no background in tech, which is the reason I added “in plain English” to all of them.

Would love to know which one you like best, if you have something to say please leave a comment below!

The tagline goes right onto the homepage, and with split-testing tools I’ll test which ones convert best. But that’s another blog post coming later 🙂

So far we have already created a pretty comprehensive content plan that includes:

  • A rough branding concept of how you want to be perceived by your audience
  • A clear overview on those people you’re creating content for, defining their challenges, desires, and topics they’re interested in
  • An overview of the reasons why they are interested in the topics they are
  • A list of topics you see yourself an expert in (no worries if that list is empty for now!)
  • A set of tagline you can test for their impact on your conversion rates

Integrating A Funnel Into Your Content Plan

Let’s take a step back and think about the reason WHY we’re creating content.

Content always solves a purpose, for our audience but also for ourselves.

I already stated that your content should deliver value to your audience, by solving their challenges, educating them, entertaining them, and all the other ways you can deliver value.

But what purpose does the content serve your YOU?

Most likely you’ll want your visitors to take a certain action.

If you’re selling digital goods or services, you’ll want to get them onto your list of email subscribers.

If you’re making revenue through ads, they should read several articles on your website, increasing your page views – and ideally leave your site by clicking on an ad.

Also, in almost all cases, your content should attract organic traffic from sources like search engines and social networks.

As my goal is to build an email list, I’m going to show you how I’m integrating a funnel into my content marketing plan:

How content plans and funnels work together

A funnel basically starts with the topics your audience consumes.

In my specific case that are WordPress related blog posts (and soon more videos), on the topics I outlined in my content plan.

These topics can be divided into four specific areas, that somewhat stand alone for themselves:

  • WordPress themes
  • WordPress plugins
  • WordPress security
  • Online Business

A visitor interested in WordPress themes might not be interested in the other three. So I need to present a lead magnet that covers WordPress themes specifically.

That’s why I’ll create a dedicated lead magnet for each area, that I’ll offer my readers as optin bonus when signing up to my list. Remember, you have to deliver VALUE (whatever that is in your case).

Getting subscribers is the first step in my funnel.

Then in the next step the subscribers will receive a WP Glossary, explaining the most common terms they should know.

That WP Glossary will sell for $7, a very reasonable price compared with the work I’ll put into it. All existing subscribers will get the WP Glossary for free.

This glossary targets online entrepreneurs specifically, people who use WordPress to generate revenue online. I’m not targeting the casual blogger here, even though those bloggers would get a lot out of that glossary too.

Getting the first sale is the second step in my funnel.

From the first sale I’ll be delivering more value and offer a free video series with strategies to fully leverage WordPress. That video series itself will be so good that I could sell it.

After that video series my subscribers will get an offer to get a more comprehensive video course on WordPress, selling for $47 or so – somewhere around that pricing point.

The psychological principle here is that to this time they already bought from me once (the WP Glossary for $7). So buying a second product at a slightly higher price is easier for them as if they hadn’t bought the WP Glossary.

In the end of that funnel I’ll offer the WP Summit.

So basically it’s a 4-step funnel that is waiting to be created.

This just is a quick run-down, I’ll explain how I set it up in another blog post (that already is on my content plan).

What you’re publishing sets the foundation for your funnel!

If there’s a break in between, your conversion rates will always stay low.

The Contents In Your Content Plan

Now it’s finally time to dive into what most people consider the meat of content plans: the content itself.

I think by now the topic ideas almost present themselves without much thinking about them.

Here’s my content plan for April, May, and June 2015:

The content plan

I decided to go with a weekly posting schedule because of several reasons:

  • I most likely wouldn’t sustain publishing twice a week
  • My posts will always be 2,000+ words, so it would be tough for my readers to keep up if I publish more often
  • I’d rather spend more hours on a really good post, than less hours for two mediocre posts

I also defined monthly goals I want to achieve with content marketing.

These goals currently focus on sales of The WP Summit, which obviously becomes my flagship product now.

I would be stupid to not market 28 expert-interviews that got 25,000+ page views and 15,000+ video loads from 110+ countries in 10 days…

As you can see already, I’m integrating the WP Summit into all my contents – in places where it makes sense and helps my readers.

I’m confident that with the funnel I’m building I’ll be able to reach my goals. And of course I’ll keep you posted on the progress!

WordPress Plugins For Content Plans

WordPress has this great feature of scheduling posts instead of publishing them directly.

That means you can write a post a post and then have WordPress publish it at a given time in the future.

For example I’m writing this post on April 3rd, while it’s going live on April 13th.

Post schedule

That means I’m already 2 weeks ahead of content creation. I can afford to not write content over the next week, because it’s already done.

In fact, I plan to write a post daily until I have all posts until May 25th scheduled in WordPress.

That will free me to focus on other things and still ensure that my blog is updated regularly.

To manage the content plan in my WordPress I use WordPress Editorial Calendar.

It gives me this nice calendar view inside the WP Admin area, making it extremely easy to organise my content according to the content plan I created.

My content plan in the editorial calendar

Now you know the exact process I used to create a content plan from scratch.

I had one in the past, but I never invested so much effort into content plan creation like I did this time.

I’ll keep this content plan for one year, and on April 1st 2016 I will publish a review post of this content strategy. It’s already scheduled in my WordPress 🙂

Now leave your computer and create your content plan if you haven’t already. I promise it’ll be a game changer!

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How To Create A Content Plan From Scratch