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How to Research and Plan Blog Content for a Year

How to Research and Plan Blog Content for a Year

Creating a blogging strategy can feel like a daunting task.  Even undertaking the planning of new content each week can become tiresome and tedious.  Additionally, while done with the best intentions, a week-by-week content approach can leave your strategy feeling disjointed at best.  

We recommend a strategy that is planned well ahead of time with unmistakable goals, personas and topics, written out in advance to guide you and keep you on track.  For some of you, because a year requires too much planning ahead of time–don’t worry, this guide will help you for one, three, and six month plans as well.

This model not only helps keep you organized, but these steps themselves are designed for customer retention and acquisition, growth, sales goals and more.  Even better, in the spirit of continued collaboration, there’s room for going back to the drawing board and making tweaks as you see fit.

Step 1: Set Goals

Perhaps obvious, setting goals is the one step, the crucial starting point, that individuals and companies often forget.  We like to use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. when making our goals. SMART Goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Action-Oriented
  • Realistic and
  • Time Sensitive

You can read about SMART Goals here in detail to discern comprehensively what each of these stand for, with the intention to eliminate a weak starting position:  if your goals feel arbitrary or not really describable, then you are probably correct.  SMART goals, conversely, will always point you in a specific direction where you can see a clear path, calculate the steps along the way, and get to your objective in a reasonable and desirable amount of time.  

A SMART Goal may be something as simple as growing your email marketing list by 20%, or as lofty as increasing sales by 80%.  Whatever you decide for your goal, filtering it through the S.M.A.R.T acronym will help set you up for success.

Step 2:  Create Audience Personas

Blogging is all about speaking to your target demographics. But, seeing your demographics as a list in a pie chart on your analytics can make it hard to think of them as real people with needs, hobbies, and interests.  In order to make your demographic data more human, we suggest creating audience personas.   

To do this, you will create fictional characters to represent a few groups of your target demographics.  This will not only help you retain the readers your blog already has, but will help you write for the type of future blog readers that you want to have.  

For example, given the demographic information that you have, coupled with the knowledge of who you want your target audience to be, you might create the following persona:

  • Name: Todd
  • Age: 27
  • Gender: Male
  • Job Title: Recruiter
  • Industry: Science and Technology
  • Interests: Outdoor sports, computer technology, family, dogs, and Netflix
  • Needs: Solutions to include family in activities and pairing technology with outdoor adventuring

Creating this persona will help you as you write so you can put a “face to the name” or in this case, a “personality to the data.”  It will shape a more focused and personal narrative that will more effectively engage your reader and hone in on a call to action to take the next step in the buying cycle.  

shutterstock 451168228 How to Research and Plan Blog Content for a Year

Step 3: Brainstorm Posts

Maybe the most fun of all the steps, besides the actual posting and watching and waiting,  this step requires all hands on deck, a few hours set aside, and maybe even a lunch and round of afternoon pastries and coffees. A brainstorming meeting allows you get to let your creative juices flow, and dream up content ideas, media formats, and even high-level integrated social media campaigns.  

Be sure in this session, you brainstorm a bunch of different topics, pay attention to national days that you play a part in, special events your brand is putting on or involved in, and quarterly goals you may be aiming for.  In addition, make a list of the different media types and blog post types and fill in how you can utilize these things to strategically drive results. Some of these on the list may be these:

  • How-to Guides
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Interviews
  • Product Reviews
  • Research Studies

Having a robust and diverse set of posts will keep your content both engaging to write and produce as well as appealing for the reader.

Step 4: Create the Calendar

One of our favorite tools is Google Suite and everything it has to offer.  Creating a Content Calendar in a Google Sheet, specifically, allows you to have the whole team on board and ready to collaborate as they are able.  

This content calendar doesn’t have to be extremely complicated; in fact, we adopt the theory “clean is more.”  Our content calendar consists of the entire month laid in rows depending on the posting cadence we have decided upon, and then the following columns that we fill in for each posting day:

  • Day of the Week
  • Date
  • Media (image, video, link post, etc)
  • Blog Topic and live link
  • Associated Social Media Copy
  • Brands or Influencers
  • Notes

Play around with the format that works best for you and your workflow, mindful to keep the format the same from month to month in order to help eliminate distractions when you sit down and inevitably greet your unwelcome guest: writer’s block.  This calendar additionally will give you a hand to pull out of a writer’s funk by reminding you of where you’ve been and where you are headed, motivating you to think creatively outside of the box for the topic at hand.

Step 5: Implement, Learn, and Grow

Once you’ve done the groundwork and heavy lifting, the rest is fun, engaging, and exciting to watch unfold.  Implement your blog post ideas and types into your content calendar and then set aside a time each week when you will write.  Put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign in your office window, and turn off your notifications. If you have a set time each week, you are more likely to follow your calendar and stick to your schedule.  Posting regularly is a huge part of a blogger’s success, so maintain your vital rhythm.

As you publish your blogs week after week, you’ll want to be sure you are checking your engagement rates, click-throughs and analytics.  What is working and what needs to be tweaked? Does it seem like readers are getting through the entire article or are your blogs too long? Conversely, are they too short and don’t offer enough value?  Asking yourselves these questions, and always coming back to the needs of your Audience Personas will allow you to modify each blog post to discover the best possible scenario for a successful blog.

Finally, growth is key to your success.  As you watch your blogs garner more and more attention, you will find yourself coming up with ideas to make them more creative and engaging, as well as different platforms to continue to build your reader list.  Perhaps you want to consider an email marketing campaign that sends your list an email each time a post is published, or putting some money behind paid advertisements on social media. Whatever route you take, you can look back with pride and confidence at all you produced to get there.

What does your current blogging schedule look like?  What tools do you use to help make it easier for you and your team?  As a digital agency, we actually do these very steps for our clients and help them come up with a blogging strategy that fits their needs, goals and timelines.  Let us know how we can come alongside you and your team and help you succeed online with increased customer retention and acquisition, growth, sales goals and more.

Randy TaylorHow to Research and Plan Blog Content for a Year