Content planning is the process of deciding what you’ll publish and when. Its main role is to prioritize content creation based on a marketing and content strategy.
If you regularly create content (as you probably should), you need proper content planning to prioritize the creation based on what makes the most sense for your business at a given time. That’s because the resources required to realize content ideas that you come up with or are thrown at you usually far exceed the resources you have.
In this guide to content planning, we’ll go through five steps.
When you’re done with keyword research, you’ll find that 2 out of 3 metrics we’ll be talking about here are already available to you in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer: Traffic Potential (TP) and Keyword Difficulty (KD). The last metric you need to fill in manually is something we call “business potential.”
Let’s look at each one of them.
Traffic Potential (TP)
Just targeting a keyword with high search volume isn’t enough. You need to look at the overall TP because one piece of content can rank for thousands of different keywords.
For example, the keyword “how to make cold brew coffee” has a search volume of 29K in the U.S. But its TP is estimated to be 93K, and the main keyword responsible for most of that traffic is “cold brew”:
Looking at the box above, you may have already guessed how we calculate the TP metric. It’s the sum of organic traffic that the #1 ranking page for your target keyword receives from all the keywords that it ranks for.
Consider it a search volume on steroids.
Keyword Difficulty (KD)
This metric is an estimate of how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword on a scale from 0 to 100 based on the strength of link profiles of the top-ranking pages. The lower the score, the easier it is to rank at the top for the keyword.
If you were to target the “cold brew” keyword from above, you’d likely need quite a lot of backlinks to have a chance of ranking in the top 10 search results:
Business potential (BP)
To attract the right audience that drives conversions, you need to focus on writing content that highlights your product as a solution. To quantify the degree to which you can pitch your own products, we came up with this BP metric. Here’s how we work with it at Ahrefs:
Now comes the most important part of content planning: prioritization. Unless you’re in a narrow niche, you’ll likely have hundreds, if not thousands, of content ideas if you follow our process.
Generally speaking, the best keywords (topics) to target are those with high traffic, high business potential, and low keyword difficulty. In reality, you’ll almost never find such opportunities, so you’ll have to make compromises.
The easiest compromises are made on the KD metric. This is because, in the long term, you’ll likely want to cover pretty much every topic with solid TP and BP.
Also, the sooner you tackle high-KD topics, the more time you have to accumulate the links you need organically. That’s because the content can rank for long-tail keywords, you point more internal links to it over time, or you get eyeballs on it through content distribution.
As for TP and BP, we can often see an inverse proportionality for these two metrics. Usually, the more search demand there is for a given non-branded topic, the further away those searchers are from making a purchase.
The distance from making a purchase is portrayed in this customer journey illustration:
Someone searching for a high-TP topic like “what are backlinks” isn’t likely ready to become our customer yet. But that person may later search for something like “link building tools,” which has lower TP but much higher BP.
The best solution for this lies in a balance between everything. If you plan your content according to your customers’ journeys, you’ll have a nice mix in the end. We give the highest priority to BP. So if that and all other things are equal, we then select topics based on lower KD and higher TP.
A good approach may also be to focus on one topic at a time, such as the “link building” example from above. We have 42 articles on this topic on our blog as of now, and many of them drive a good amount of search traffic:
This is relevant to creating topic clusters, also known as content hubs, which are sometimes used as an effective SEO tactic:
Now that you’ve picked topics to focus on first, it’s time to put them into a content calendar. It’s a system that organizes, manages, and schedules content production to give you an overview of everything that will be published in a specific time frame. Here’s a sneak peek of our own content calendar:
It’s created in Notion, with each card in the calendar structured like this:
I recommend planning content one to three months ahead. If you’re just starting out with everything, don’t sweat it if you can’t meet your initial plans and deadlines. It takes time to get used to estimates of content production based on your resources (writers, SEOs, designers, etc.).
Here’s one thing to point out. Choosing quality over quantity is usually the right decision, so don’t rush it at all costs. Creating great content takes a lot of time, so adjust accordingly.
Recommended reading: How to Create a Content Calendar That Works for You
Content planning isn’t rocket science and is something you should do at all costs if you’re serious about content marketing. Your prioritization criteria will likely evolve over time; you’ll add more keywords, topics, etc. Content plans aren’t one and done.
As you publish more and more content, you’ll inevitably have to take into account updating older content as well. You’ll get to the point where doing so will give you a higher return than creating new pieces of content.
At Ahrefs, we’re exactly at that stage. And as you can see, 20% of our articles published this year so far (29 out of 144) are republished posts:
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