Planning your content properly is one of the most important stages of your WordPress project.
If I had my way, all websites would start on a spreadsheet – in fact, I manage most of the sites I look after on spreadsheets – they are content management plans.
This might seem a little odd, but it’s the best way to manage your site’s content creation strategy.
There are two main reasons you have content on your site in the first place. The first is so that visitors can find out about the services or products you offer and the second is to win placement in the search engines so new customers can find you.
Your website is there to win you new business (whether this is from referred or organic traffic) so you need to spend a lot of time planning out the content that will attract visitors.
Think of every single piece of content on your site as an advert.
Let’s jump over into the offline world for one minute and talk about adverts.
All businesses know that they need to advertise in one way or another to get new customers and clients.
The most traditional form of advertising is print adverts in magazines and other publications.
It’s a widely known fact that you need to run a print ad at least 6 times in a publication before anyone even sees it.
If this is a quarter-page ad in a niche monthly publication, you’re going to be looking at a spend of at least £2000 to win new enquiries – and that’s before you’ve paid an agency to design your advert artwork.
That’s six months advertising, with no real way of identifying any return on the investment for £2000.
Your website’s content (pages and posts) are all individual adverts – do you invest £2000 in each of them?
See your website as a series of adverts and you’ll see content differently.
Unlike print adverts in the example above, your website’s pages are available 24/7/365. They are permanently available (if you have good hosting) and can win you new business while you are asleep if they are created as part of a digital content strategy.
Give your content the time and care it needs to be a successful advert for your business.
This is why I like to plan content for websites on spreadsheets – specifically Google sheets so they can be shared and edited easily.
Using this method, with a sheet for pages, a sheet for posts and additional sheets for custom post types (if you are using them, which you should be) allows you to see everything in one place.
Adding columns for page titles, slugs, focus keywords, first paragraph internal links, external links, anchor texts and so on means you also have a clearer overview of the structure of your site.
You can use this spreadsheet to identify gaps, keep track of internal links and more importantly, plan out your content before you ever get near a WordPress install. Having a clear content strategy template makes sure you don’t miss anything.
Planning your site’s pages goes above and beyond your top-level content.
Every website has a homepage. Most sites have an ‘About Us’, ‘What we do’ and so on.
These pages should be optimised as well as they can be for the content. It’s almost pointless to try and make such pages rank for anything other than branded keywords, and really, it’s your homepage that wants to rank for them.
Don’t overthink these pages – for most visitors they’ll simply act as qualifiers, head-hunter fodder and for other salespeople to browse before they try and sell you something.
Think landing pages.
Your site’s landing pages are far more important than the generic stuff. It’s likely these pages will be the ones that outline your services or products, go into more detail and have a higher chance of ranking for niche searches.
These are your adverts. Invest in them.
Landing pages should ideally have a short URL or a meaningful URL.
So, for example:
The first is a short-tail URL designed to rank highly for the term. The second is a long URL, but in this case, we are trying to structure the permalinks to make sense to Google (et al).
I’ve used this longer URL technique to great effect on other sites (it’s also used on this site) – we are setting the context of the URL – this is ‘your service name’ and we’re using the URL to firmly identify it as a service.
Extending this structure.
If your site has services, products, case studies and white papers, you can extend this URL structure to match:
This structure makes sense – some may argue that the shorter URL structure is better, but if we’re trying to inform the search bots about our site and make clear that we have different sections, relating to different types of content about the same thing (your product or service) then I think this makes good sense.
This method of structuring your site also allows for meaningful internal linking that is easy to manage.
You now have a structure of the content that easily links back to your landing page, improving Google’s understanding of your site.
Categories and tags also need the same planning or they can get out of hand.
If you launch a new site with no plan in place for WordPress categories and tags, I can guarantee that three months down the line, your site’s structure is going to be a mess.
As both new categories and tags in WordPress automatically create new archive pages, you need to be careful that you understand these, how they work and what they mean for your search engine optimisation.
Landing pages should be supported by posts. These posts should be categorised at the top level, and then sub-categorised by tags.
Never add categories or tags on the fly as you think a post needs it – always plan your categories and tags first, then write content to fit these.
New additions mean new campaigns.
Again, looking at our content like adverts, each new addition effectively means a new ‘campaign’. We need content and optimisation for the archive page for the category or tag, we need a reason for it to exist in the first place and an idea of what we are trying to accomplish with it.
This takes time and money, but this can be budget well spent if you’ve planned everything out first as it will result in new or improved rankings, more traffic and ultimately new enquiries.
This all takes some doing.
Ok – this is a fairly hefty page on content planning, but I’ve only really touched on the top-level stuff.
Planning your site can sometimes take nearly as long as building it, but it depends on what you want to get out of your content.
Your content needs to be planned and considered far above the generic top-level stuff on your site.
You need to really nail down everything you want to have on your site and why it is there.
Content planning is all about the structure of your site and how it makes sense – this comes before you even start writing it.
What you’ll end up with is a spreadsheet of titles and URLs, some of which you may already rank for, others that you will not – this of course then leads into WordPress SEO.