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How can content planning boost your SEO efforts and drive more relevant traffic to your website? This article will teach you everything you need to know to begin your content planning strategy!

What Is Content Planning?

Learn what content planning is

Topical clusters are groups of related articles that help to explain and break down parts of a topic. All topic clusters will have a pillar page they belong to. The pillar page will link to each page in the cluster, and each page will link back to this pillar page. You'll also see various pages in the cluster linking to one another whenever they are relevant or helpful.

Why Is Content Planning So Important?

Content plans are incredibly important for SEO and other online goals

Content planning is incredibly important for being able to quantify the growth of a website. Without a well-thought-out content plan, instead of creating pages based on informed research, you are essentially taking shots in the dark.

Whereas, if you construct a carefully curated content plan with URLs relevant to the focus of your website, you will develop topical authority. Topical authority is the goal of any growing website, whether or not they know it, because with TA, search engines will view your website as an authority in your industry.

This means all of your content will begin to rank higher more quickly. Developing topical authority is just one benefit of content planning.

What Are The Benefits of Content Planning?

These are a few of the benefits of a content plan

Content planning has many benefits, ranging from increased trust in the eyes of both search engines and users alike, many positive signals being sent to search engines for publishing frequencies, linkable assets, increased marketing potential, etc.

  1. Developing topical authority
  2. Creating a reliable audience
  3. Faster indexing times
  4. Positive signals being sent to search engines
  5. Many linkable assets
  6. Ability to monetize traffic
  7. Increased traffic
  8. Increased domain rating (DR)

While this list isn't comprehensive, it does provide some insights into many of the benefits that can be gained by developing and executing a well-thought-out content creation strategy. But, now that you understand the benefits of a content plan, how do you get started creating your own?

How To Develop a Quality Content Plan

The importance of developing a content plan

Developing a quality content plan isn't an overnight process. There is a lot of research you need to carry out, and there is a lot of time you'll have to spend upfront to ensure you have enough content to draw on for the foreseeable future.

Once you dial in your process, however, you will want to continually add prospective pages to your content calendars so you always have content backlogged. Now, let's get into the various steps required to make a quality content plan.

1. Determine The Type of URL Structure Your Content Plan Will Use

The first step you need to determine is whether you will use a hierarchical structure or a flat structure for your URLs. We'll explain both below.

A. Hierarchical URL Structure

Hierarchical URL structures and content planning go hand in hand

Performing thorough research is vital because it will help you to ensure the most complete coverage of the topic. For example, competitive keyword research is a great way to ensure you cover more of the topic than your competitors.

With the above example, both the user and search engines alike can easily understand that any page after "baseball" will likely be related to baseball caps or baseball team memorabilia (Chicago Cubs hats, for example).

Flat structures do provide less data and should be avoided if your goal is to optimize every possible area of your strategy. However, you can still rank just fine with flat URL structures.

B. Flat URL Structure

Flat URL structures are the most common type of URL structure in content plans

Flat structures are more commonly used for blogs. Flat structures typically look like "website/page," but they can also look like "website/blog/blog-post," especially if the majority of your content lives in the blog, as you can have varying topics all living under the same /blog page.

The reason flat structures aren't as favorable as hierarchical structures is that if you have all pages under the same subdirectory, you leave the work of separating and categorizing your pages up to search engines instead of breaking your URLs down for them initially.

The more work you make search engines do to understand your content, the less positive signals you send indicating you should be considered an authority. However, with enough quality backlinks and traffic signals, this can easily be bypassed.

2. Competitive Research

Competitive analysis is crucial for a content plan

Competitive research is arguably the most important step of creating a content plan because it can help you generate content ideas you never would have thought of, and it can also help you better organize your URLs if you are going with a hierarchical structure. It will also help you find content gaps your main competitors have so you can fill in those gaps to create a more comprehensive website in the end.

If you're having a hard time creating your content plan, competitive research will also help you determine what makes the most sense as pillar pages by simply, again, looking at what has worked for your competitors. They have already done this research, so you should be capitalizing on it every chance you get.

3. Determine Your Pillar Pages

Pillar pages are important to a content plan

Once you have determined a rough collection of the pages and topics you will write about, you have to decide what makes the most sense for the primary categories of your content.

If you own a clothing store, good pillar pages would be men, women, and children because those three categories can separate everything. Organizing it further, you could use pillar pages like pants, shirts, shoes, etc. An example would be "website/men/shits/crew." Here, you can easily understand that all articles on that page will be crew-cut t-shirts for men.

4. Create Your URL Structures

Once you have determined the pillar pages you need, creating your URLs is much easier, because you know the boundaries you have to work with. Your goal when creating your URL structures is to make them as short and informative as possible. You also want to avoid repeating any words, phrases, keywords, etc.

In other words, you would want to avoid URL structures like "website/mens/shirts/t-shits/crew-cut-t-shirts" because this can be seen as keyword spamming. Instead, opt for structures more like "website/mens/shirts/crew", because it conveys the necessary information without being redundant and putting you at risk of getting flagged with spam.

5. Flesh Out Topical Clusters

Now that you have your pillar pages, and your URL structures figured out, creating topical clusters is much easier. Topical clusters are groups of closely related pages that help to further flesh out a topic. These groups of pages help take users from a complete beginner on a subject, to a well-informed individual, and ideally, even an expert.

You'll begin by carrying out competitive research to determine all possible page ideas that can be included under your pillar pages, document those URLs, and then get started on your templates.

6. Create Your Templates

When creating your templates you need to make sure that you are creating systems that are easy to follow and implement so you can easily teach them to any writers you may need to hire.

7. Page-Specific Competitive Research

Now that you have your templates in place, you need to do thorough competitive research to ensure each page is targeting the right keywords, has the proper headings, and is more of a comprehensive resource than the top-ranking pages.

You'll want a process for extracting information from competing pages like the types of headings shared across all top-ranking pages, the types of keywords targeted throughout their pages, the amount of images they have on the page, what type of HTML elements they're using (tables, lists,  etc.)

You'll then want to use some method for putting together the outline of your article. You'll want to ensure you have a more comprehensive, logically structured, and informative article than the top ranking pages.

8. Content Creation

Once you're armed with the knowledge required to create a more comprehensive resource than the top-ranking pages, you'll get your hands dirty by fleshing out the article outline you've made.

If possible, you'll want to create custom images, and various assets (infographics, videos, etc.) to include throughout your content. Ensure that these types of assets are branded with your company/website logo, as search engines have the tools required to not only recognize that these assets are unique, but also branded.

Ensure that you are using Semantic HTML tags throughout your website, practicing quality internal linking, and also using the right headings to separate your document.

9. Scheduled Publication

Scheduling your content is important for remaining consistent

Once you've begun creating your content, you should work on a publishing schedule to ensure that your website is continually being updated even when you're not directly involved. This not only lights a fire under you and your writers to ensure you have enough content to remain consistent, but also it will ensure that you will never miss a publish date.

10. Content Monitoring & Analysis

Once you have started publishing content, you need to ensure that you are continually monitoring the progress of your articles, and your website as a whole. Ensure you are disavowing spammy backlinks, making routine improvements to important competitive pages, and that you are making addressing any issues or errors your SEO tools are pointing out.