If your content development is an afterthought, you’re doing it wrong.
That is, unless you don’t mind volatile traffic and results that wouldn’t hold up during a slight algorithm shift.
92% of marketers reported their company views content as a business asset. However, content without strategy simply adds to the noise and does little for tangible marketing results.
Content development is the process of ideation, validation, execution, promotion and optimization in regards to a site’s content.
Successful content development drives significant traffic. Just ask BigRentz how their traffic increased by 138% with this strategy.
If you’re hard to impress, maybe the 413% traffic growth seen here will make you sit up a little straighter.
Both sites utilized a content marketing strategy employing these five steps for content development: finding, validating, creating, promoting and optimizing an idea.
What is Content Development?
Content development is the sequence of analyzing opportunities and strategizing content to create, promote and optimize in order to drive traffic to a website or blog.
Most content development strategies whose content marketing ROI is reflected through traffic aim to create content specifically to rank or content meant to build links back to the site.
The best, do both.
The traffic value of posts that generates links and dominates the SERP is priceless.
Notably, creating both SEO and promotable pieces isn’t always the most advantageous or realistic strategy. Beginning with easy wins by targeting keywords with low search volume and low competition can help lay the groundwork for future content.
Our Content Development Process
At Siege, our content development process consists of five primary steps.
These process development steps give direction to capture traffic opportunities and act as a framework to create something that outranks competition long term.
- Analyze: Performing an internal content audit helps reveal where direct competitors and SERP competitors rank to then discover target keywords and topics with the best traffic acquisition opportunities.
- Strategize: Taking the analysis from the initial stage prompts brainstorming to validate the idea and further directs the content format.
- Create: Content creation aims to create better content than what exists—whether that be the shareability aspect, answering searcher intent, or building a more complete piece of information.
- Promote: Backlinks for promotable posts are the fruits of your labor. Content development must flow into a promotion strategy to build links and generate ROI.
- Optimize: Continually optimizing evergreen content by adding new information, updating outdated statistics, or improving on-page SEO can build passive links over time.
Analyze: Reviewing Website Content
Content audits take on a number of forms. In the spirit of this post, we’ll discuss these audits for the purpose of content development.
Reviewing existing website content is critical to finding traffic opportunities.
When analyzing content take note of:
- Posts that generated the most links.
- Posts with keywords that rank in the top three organic results of the SERP.
- Posts that rank on page two or greater.
- Existing content gaps between you and your competitors.
Segmenting into these groups helps visualize potential content and uncover existing posts that can be optimized to boost rankings.
Ideally, you’ll marry the easy-win gaps in competitor content with a proven promotable concept in a receptive outreach market.
Beyond the marriage of content gaps for promotable pieces, this analysis gives a useful nod to what SEO content you can create to rank organically.
Strategize: Validating Content Opportunities
You’ve analyzed your potential opportunities, and now it’s time to vet those ideas.
Similar to when you have the perfect outfit in your head, but you try it on and low and behold, it looks like you were dressed by a toddler.
We’re trying to avoid any toddler fashion-fiascos by strategizing early in the content development process.
Essentially, you’re looking for proof that an initial idea is worth the investment. You can do this in a few ways—but we’ll talk specifically about social proof.
Of course, validating linkable content comes with plenty of caveats, but generally, social proof is when a comparable website, whether that be domain authority or its offering, has created a similar piece of content and seen success.
Social proof can be repins, retweets, upvotes, linking root domains (LRDs) and everything in between. What to avoid here is validating an idea with something that looks like social proof, but isn’t.
Let’s say we’re a consumer-facing website that helps find apartments and we’re trying to validate an idea for a post about apartment decorating ideas.
Even though the SERP looks great in terms of LRDs, you can see that the popular posts are from online publications with extremely high domain authorities.
This gives us a hint that it may not be realistic to try and create this post as a promotable, seeing as the LRDs are generated on highly credible, highly linkable, sites.
Ideally, a good promotable idea will look like something like this in the SERP:
Here we see websites that have a similar offering, relatively low domain authority and plenty of links that show people are interested in this topic.
Better still, is that one of the posts generating significant links is relatively thin with some stock imagery.
This is a good sign that this topic can be built out to be bigger and better and generate the same, if not more, links.
Create: Building Content That Ranks
You’ve analyzed your current web content strategy and validated content ideas.
Now it’s time to put the legwork in.
To create something that publishers will want to share and Google recognizes as an answer to searcher intent, the content needs to be showstopping.
A strategic marketing process is only as good as the content it generates. This is where the infamous skyscraper technique comes in.
Because web content development has gotten a rap for pumping out mediocre pieces, it’s likely that your post has already been done in some capacity. That doesn’t mean you can’t give value to your readers, though.
By creating content that answers more questions, is more visually appealing or more user friendly—you’re adding value to what already exists.
Promote: Generating Quality Links
You’ve successfully identified and validated topics worth creating and subsequently built a beautiful piece of content.
So the hard part’s over, right?
Unfortunately, without promotion, much of that time and effort creating content is wasted on an incomplete content development strategy.
Everyone wants links these days, which makes link building extremely competitive.
So much so that people pay good money for them. Not only is that an unsustainable strategy for content development, but it will nearly always get you penalized in some capacity.
Instead, you want to generate natural links on quality sites that are relevant to the topic of the post you’re sharing.
It’s time to throw out those mass-sent, cold outreach emails that leave us with the same aura as leaving a car dealership.
If we’ve learned anything as the Internet has evolved, it’s that people want interaction with people.
May I present to you, being human:
Believe it or not, 50 personalized emails will go much further than 150 mass-sent emails. That’s because most people on the internet have been around and see through link-building schemes.
Instead, you need to bring them relevant and useful content that they recognize as helpful to their audience. Not every piece of content needs to be promoted, nor should it. Top-funnel assets are more linkable than bottom-funnel ones, and the value of those links continue to accrue long-term.
Optimize: Maintaining Relevant Web Content
Optimization is key to a content development strategy that builds passive links and maintains your traffic.
Updating content to continue to remain relevant, and improving SEO when applicable, can generate continuous traffic long after the original posting date.
Example A. This interactive statistics post by Nextiva generates passive links year after year (at the time of writing, it boasts 323 LRDs.)
Perform a content audit to find opportunities to improve on-page SEO for existing posts. For example, the statistics post above should be revisited annually to update the data (delete stale data points or add new ones) to remain relevant.
You can refurbish this strategy with evergreen content by making sure the information is up to date.
Generally, you should aim to avoid being *that guy* on the SERP that searchers scroll past after seeing the aged date of the post.
Content development done successfully consists of ideation, validation, execution, promotion and optimization of top-funnel content.
Sound like a lot of work? I’m not going to lie to you—it is. But we do it time and time again because we know that this content marketing strategy, works.
These research and development process steps have doubled our client’s traffic (more than once), and that’s being modest. We’ll be the first to admit that content development is not for the faint of heart, but it’s always worth it.
May the best user-focused content development strategy, win!