How to Create and Manage your Blog’s Content Roadmap
A content roadmap can a useful tool for both new bloggers and established ones. The roadmap will help the blogger strategize their long term plans for the blog and create posts that work towards this ultimate strategy or goal in a systematic and organized manner.
In this article, we will look at 1) what is a content roadmap, 2) why create a content roadmap and 3) how to create a content roadmap.
WHAT IS A CONTENT ROADMAP
A content strategy helps create material that delivers a consistent message and meets the expectations an audience has from a blogger. A content roadmap should include both the strategy and the game plan for content production and publication. This can be for any period but a good time-frame to start with is three months. A reader is interested in engaging stories that a blogger shares and wishes to be a part of the story by interacting with them. A roadmap will help a blogger better achieve this.
One key benefit of a roadmap is that it will take much of the guesswork out of blogging and the generation of leads. The other is that it allows the blogger to work towards specific goals.
A content roadmap should have the following elements:
- Substance – What content is needed by the blogger and their audience and why?
- Structure – How is this content to be organized, prioritized and accessed?
- Workflow – How will this content be actually created and maintained?
- Governance – How will the decisions about content and content strategy be made?
WHY CREATE A CONTENT ROADMAP?
Julie R Neidlinger blogs at Lone Prairie and is a writer, artist and pilot from North Dakota, USA. She makes the case for how a content roadmap helps you get more done for your blog. Often, people feel that unplanned content is more fresh and spontaneous. Though blogging is often random and sporadic in the beginning, a strong case can be made for a roadmap as reader base and expectations grow.
Benefits of Creating a Blog Roadmap
According to Neilinger, a roadmap does the following positive things for your blogging.
Using your Inspiration in Better Ways – At the moment inspiration hits, a blogger can get lots of great things done. But inspiration is not a regular event. It can come at any time and with planning, you can make sustained use of one burst of inspiration. When inspiration hits, it is a good opportunity to plan a series of posts rather than just one. A good way to do this to write down quick notes and ideas for several posts that include things like headlines, post ideas, content themes, series or even e-book titles.
Using your Time to Perfect Posts – If posts are planned in advance, it gives you adequate time to rework, refine and fine tune the post. According to Think Better by Tim Hurson, humans work in thirds. This means that the first try at something is a crude one, the second gets better and the third is where the actual gem lies. Many blog posts are within the first part and are rough and unrefined initial ideas. Given time a blogger can reach the third stage and eliminate lazy writing mistakes, proofread and edit.
Eliminating Rants and Regrets – In spontaneous blogging situations, there are often instances where a blogger is irritated or annoyed and turns this into a rant on a blog. This moment of annoyance can turn to regret later if the rant gets you into any sort of trouble. This could be as basic as a post not aligning with your regular material or angering a potential partner or advertiser. A planned post calendar will mean that the post will have a few days to sit and be considered and you will have the chance to take it off the roster.
Having Opportunity for Research – With a plan in place, you will know in advance what has to be written and what research is needed to make the post a robust one. The post ideas stay in your head and any relevant material on the internet or your daily routine can turn into more ideas for the post.
Using Organized Ideas – A well-organized roadmap will mean that you can find the right ideas when you need them and use them as such. A good tool or system will mean that ideas are noted appropriately and available when needed.
A planned approach to blogging is simply knowing what will be written and when. The roadmap can be as basic as headlines and basic notes or as detailed as outlines, research links and leads. Planning ahead helps ensure that there is regular content being published on the blog and you are less likely to be affected with writer’s block or a lack of ideas.
HOW TO CREATE A CONTENT ROADMAP
There are many ways to get organized and create a content roadmap for your blog. Some important steps to keep in mind are discussed below.
Step 1: Decide how Often to Blog
The first step to creating a blog content roadmap is to decide how often you can and want to blog. At this stage, it is important to consider your schedule realistically and set the right target. It is always better to post new articles regularly and consistently. In the beginning, this can be as less often as two posts a month and later on, it can be as often as one post a day. This regularity is preferred to erratic posting where a blogger may post a series of articles and the go silent for a few months. This behavior leads to lost readers. Successful blogs are not marked by the number of posts in a month but by the consistency with which posts appear.
Step 2: Identify Blog Audience
Bloggers begin by posting to a limited audience and write about what interests them. But the audience grows, it becomes necessary to filter the content to make it more relevant and interesting for this audience. Blogging for customers means writing for existing readers as well as for the readers that a blogger wants to have. Two questions to ask when identifying the audience you want to blog to:
- Who is currently reading the blog?
- Who do you as a blogger enjoy interacting with the most?
Step 3: Identify Blog Categories
In early stages of the blog, categories may be formed based on the posts that have been written already. This means a variety of categories which may or may not be complimentary or properly assigned. When the readership for a blog grows, and a content roadmap is to be created, it is a good idea to revisit the goals of the blog and decide categories to create posts within. These categories should be based on what your audience likes and is in keeping with the blog itself. You can begin by brainstorming between 5 to 10 categories that get the most likes, comments or shares when articles relating to them are posted. Categories can be broad and not necessarily closely linked, but they all need to be of interest to your readers.
Step 4: Brainstorm Blog Post Ideas
Once the categories are decided, it is now time to think of potential post ideas within each category. Initially, the best idea is to come up with at least 10 ideas within each category. Instead of letting this activity linger on, it may be necessary to set a timer on it like most brainstorming activities. Sit with a notepad and pen and start writing whatever comes to mind. If you blog is based on food for example, you could list 10 recipe ideas for each category such as sweet, savory, breakfast, table décor ideas, etc.
At this point, there don’t need to be too many details in the blog ideas, but you can add any that pop up. Blog posts themselves do not all need to be long and detailed but can be based on photos or a small video. Ideas can pop up any time, so it is a good idea to have a system in place to record these and log them into the content roadmap.
Step 5: Keep an Eye on Holidays, Special Events & Trends
Within your categories, determine events and potential trends of interest as well as holidays and how they relate specifically to what you do. Make sure to note any collaborations, craft or trade shows or other events that may be on the horizon and work them into the roadmap. Trends are harder to plan for, but you can build enough leverage in your plan to accommodate any extra posts on current trends or a new concept.
Step 6: Make an Editorial Blog Calendar
Using any tool, whether online, on your desktop or an actual calendar and start entering your roadmap. You can begin with special events that occur at specific times and their related posts, move on to holidays and eventually your other post ideas. The categories should be mixed up so that all of them get highlighted and the blog stays engaging and interesting. Many bloggers will schedule posts as early as two or three months in advance, allowing themselves time to work on the structure and content of the blog posts and adjust as needed. To begin with, a good idea is to schedule at least a month of posts in advance.
Step 7: Begin Writing Posts
All this planning becomes useless if the content roadmap is not followed regularly and without any gaps. Most blogging platforms will allow for posts to be scheduled in advance and these will be published on the specified dates.
Step 8: Keep Reviewing and Updating the Roadmap
Reviews and update ensure that your roadmap remains relevant and on track. This does not mean that the schedule can be changed if you have failed to follow the calendar or if you do not feel like writing a specific set of posts.
Step 9: Measure
A key to staying relevant with your audience is to keep measuring the impact of posts created as a result of your roadmap. This will help you understand what works and what doesn’t and consequently help you prioritize the things you need to be working on. There are many tools that are free to use and can help measure this impact. Some of these are:
- Google Analytics – Helps track visitors and their actions as well as to set goals and track campaigns.
- Social Mention and Topsy – Help identify what people are saying on social media about your website.
TOOLS AND TIPS TO SUPPORT ROADMAPS
Creating and managing the content roadmap is often a daunting task and time intensive as well. In addition to the actual writing and design of the each blog post, there is the planning and research that needs to go into them. Some tools and tips from experienced professionals can help you manage all this work.
Google Docs or Evernote for Brainstorming: Kelsey Jones, Managing Editor at Search Engine Journal, uses google documents and Evernote for her personal clients and content ideas. These are used for brainstorming and keeping track of any ideas and tasks.
Mention for Tracking Topics: Selena Narayanasamy, Digital Strategy & SEO Consultant, uses several tools including Mention to track specific topics and phrases. She then suggests using Zapier to pull that into organized Evernote notes. These can then be reviewed and broken into categories.
Coschedule: She also mentions Coschedule for tying content planning in with social editorial calendar.
Compile Best Content Ideas: Angelica Valentine, Content Marketing Manager at Wiser suggests compiling the best ideas once a month. These can then be prioritized and used to plan for future posts.
Spreadsheets for Tracking Target Audience and Keywords: Andrew Dennis, Content Specialist at PageOnePower suggest the use of spreadsheets to maintain editorial calendars for effective content planning. Along with paid options, Google Docs is a good free tool. The spreadsheet can act as a weekly calendar with rows representing days of the week and columns addressing aspects of content such as target audience, target keywords etc.