Content is the backbone of marketing—traditional and digital. As such, it takes a fair bit of work and resources to create content that isn’t just “well-written” but that drives measurable business outcomes. Enter content development.
What is content development?
Content development is content marketing. It’s the whole process of creating and distributing content. That includes:
As a marketer, this probably isn’t news to you. But the question is: How solid is your content development process or strategy? Do you find yourself:
- Winging it?
- Rushing through the foundational steps to get to writing and publishing as fast as possible?
- Spending 10 hours creating a piece of content but only 10 minutes distributing it?
- Rarely ever revisiting published pieces?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, it’s worth looking into ways to tighten up your process, especially if you’re trying to scale content production.
What is the best approach to content development?
We’re going to look at the eight steps a successful content development process includes. As we do, see how many boxes you’re ticking with your current process and look for areas where you could improve.
1. Gather and confirm info
To start, confirm what you know about your goals, performance, and audience. And research what you don’t know. Outline:
- Specific marketing goals you’re working towards
- Current marketing performance including strengths and opportunities for growth and improvement
- Larger business goals that your marketing efforts contribute to
- Direct and indirect competitors, as well as their strengths and weaknesses
- Buyer personas for the key individuals you’re looking to reach with information on:
- Audience demographics such as age range, location, education, and job title
- Audience psychographics such as interests and fears, uncertainties, and doubts surrounding your business, offerings or industry
And notice that we didn’t say “compile what you know about your audience.” Even if you’ve done some customer research and have a general idea of the outcomes you want to achieve, it’s smart to start from square one.
Challenge what you think you know about your audience and competitors to make sure it’s accurate. Gather some more recent data and intel. Revisit your goals and readjust them if necessary. This will set you up for success in the following steps.
2. Generate topic ideas
Next, decide what topics your content marketing will center on. Or re-evaluate and readjust your focus if you have an existing content marketing strategy. Some top-notch sources for idea gen are:
- FAQs: Learn and generate ideas from the questions your target audience asks.
- Competitor analysis: The topics your strongest competitors are covering can give you a great indication of what’s of interest to your shared audience, and where you can stand out by covering something they’ve missed.
- Influencer content analysis: Besides direct competitors, research the topics industry influencers are covering and, more importantly, the ones your target audience engages with most.
- Solution-focused keywords: While informational keywords are important, you should look for terms that would make for good mid to bottom-of-the-funnel content when doing keyword research. After all, getting conversions is probably an important goal of yours so you’ll need keywords that attract and convert potential customers.
With a general idea of the core topics you want to be known for, you can (finally!) put together your official content development strategy.
3. Outline your content development strategy
Pull in the info you gathered in step one. It needs to be clear what your content marketing strategy is looking to accomplish, who you’re creating content for, and who you’re up against.
Beyond that, you’ll need to lay out a plan for reaching your objectives. That includes defining:
- Roles and processes related to content creation
- Deliverables and content formats
- Messaging and style guidelines
- Publishing frequency
- Distribution channels (e.g. the social media platforms where your potential customers hang out most)
But that’s a lot of info, so how do you make it usable for everyone collaborating on content development? Your main strategy doc should be comprehensive but concise; it shouldn’t take an hour to sift through the info every time it's needed. However, you and your content team should have easy access to supplementary info such as a catch-all research doc from step one. That way, additional context is available if needed.
4. Write high-quality content
With your strategy in mind, begin drafting the content. Emphasis on “with your strategy in mind,” since it can be easy to stray from your plans if you don’t revisit them often. Make sure to give the content creators you‘re collaborating with (e.g. content writers) enough visibility into the strategy.
Your strategy is research-based; it’s set up to help you achieve your goals with as few road bumps and as little trial and error as possible. Forgetting about it (or convincing yourself that you remember it “well enough”) is like trying to drive cross country with no map. You may get to where you wanted to go but it’ll probably take you longer than necessary. And cause you some frustration along the way.
And, in the case of content, you also risk frustrating your audience. Not surprisingly, that can directly impact your conversion rates and ability to generate the kind of ROI you need from content marketing.
5. Edit and optimize
Next, take a step back from being “in the weeds” of creating your piece, and look at it with a critical, strategic eye. Some essential questions to ask include:
- Is the content laser-focused on only the most relevant aspects of the topic?
- Will it accomplish the goal and get readers to take the desired next step?
- Is it tailored closely to the audience you intended to write for? Does it match their current knowledge level, needs, stage of the marketing funnel, etc?
- Are the headline, hook, and introduction attention-grabbers and, more importantly, attention-holders?
- Are any concepts overexplained or underexplained?
- Have you provided credible evidence or experiences to back up your arguments?
- Is the ordering of your main points logical so that readers can easily follow your train of thought?
- Are there areas where readability could be improved (e.g. long paragraphs, sticky sentences, etc.)?
After working your way through these and similar questions, you can also do an optimization check on pieces that require it. For example, if you use a tool like Surfer, you can pop your content into the Content Editor to see how well you’ve covered closely related topics and how yours stacks up to existing content.
P.S. If you’re in the market for a killer content optimization tool, we’ve got a great deal for you. Thanks to our partnership with Surfer, you can get your first month for just $1. It’s a no-risk way to try out the software and observe early improvements in your outcomes from SEO.
6. Create visual assets
If the written content is easy-to-read and packed with value, that’s good enough, right? Not always. You’ve got to remember:
- Different people learn differently. Some prefer to read, and others prefer visuals.
- Even people who don’t mind reading will likely appreciate visuals to explain or simplify complex concepts.
- Many people are short on time these days and expect to get the main points just by skimming content.
- Visuals play an important role in improving readability and user experience (as well as in improving brand recall and awareness).
So, even if you don’t have a design team at your fingertips, add images, infographics, videos, and other visual assets to your content wherever possible. These assets don’t have to be anything fancy, but they should be meaningful (i.e. reinforce key points) and branded (i.e. not the same 10 stock photos everyone in your industry uses).
7. Publish and promote
At this stage, you can press publish. But just remember that’s not where the process ends. It’s all too common for content marketers to publish a piece, send out a single email newsletter with a link, schedule a few social media posts, and call distribution done.
But content development is a huge investment on the part of your business. And your content has the potential to be a huge asset to your target audience. Milk your content for all it’s worth, and make it as widely available to your audience as possible.
Build ongoing distribution into your editorial calendar. Don’t just schedule all-new content. At a regular cadence, plan to re-distribute content you’ve already poured your blood, sweat, and tears into. And especially your best content—the pieces your audience responded well to, previously.
8. Evaluate performance and optimize as needed
You’d be surprised at how many marketers don’t keep a close eye on how their content performs. Or on how their performance metrics change over time. As recently as 2020, CMOs who responded to one survey said only 37.7% of their projects use marketing analytics to make decisions.
Who knows how much time and resources they would save—and how much money they would make—if that percentage were closer to 100? But that’s unimportant. What’s important is that you have the opportunity to:
- Save time and resources as a result of having the data to make informed content strategy decisions
- Make money from your well-thought-out, effective content strategy
- Make even more money since you’ll have a leg up on the many marketers who aren’t making data-driven decisions
But, again, this all starts with being interested in content performance. And improving pieces that could be performing better and driving more meaningful results for your business. That means learning how to use and make the most of tools like Google Analytics.
How to scale your content development efforts with AI
Creating and marketing even one piece of high-quality content using the method above takes a fair amount of time, effort, and other resources. Now, multiply that several times over and you’ve got a lot of work on your hands. Content development at scale can be a handful. Thankfully, artificial intelligence can help you handle it (without burning yourself out).
For instance, our AI content generator can help with four of the eight steps we covered: topic generation, writing, optimization, and promotion. Want to see how?
Using Jasper for fast blog topic generation
Jasper has more than 50 content-related templates, many of which are great for generating topic ideas. Engaging Questions, Poll Questions & Multiple Choice Answers, and Marketing Angles are all good options. And so is the Blog Post Topic Ideas template.
To use any of these templates, just fill them out—usually with your company name, topic, and a brief description—and click “Generate AI Content.” Jasper will take care of the idea gen; all you have to do is pick out the ideas you like. You can easily generate dozens of ideas in minutes…literally!
How Jasper can help with writing
As for writing, Jasper’s templates come in handy there too. One of the most popular is the Paragraph Generator, which makes it easy to write focused paragraphs that incorporate relevant keywords for SEO.
All you have to do is give a brief description of your talking points for a paragraph, provide your target keyword(s), and fill in a tone of voice. Jasper will generate a few paragraphs for you to choose from based on those inputs. You can then combine paragraphs you like, make edits as needed, fact-check Jasper’s work, and quickly move on to the next section.
And Recipes—a repeatable and customizable writing framework—are an even more helpful feature for writing content at scale. On the Boss Mode plan, you’ll have access to a library of recipes made by the Jasper community. There are recipes for dozens of content types from marketing emails and blog posts to ads and video scripts.
Run the one you want to add to a long-form document. For this example, we’ll use the blog post recipe.
Fill in the information for the first command in the curly brackets and execute each command using CTRL/CMD + Shift + Enter.
Executed commands in the Jasper Blog Post recipe (in bold) and Jasper’s outputs
Adjust or add to Jasper’s output as needed and, once you're happy with it, fill in the info for the next commands one by one and execute each. You can save hours per piece this way; thousands of Jasper users do it every day.
Read more: How to run recipes in Jasper
Using Jasper and Surfer for search engine optimization
As you saw with Paragraph Generator, some Jasper templates allow you to input keywords, which is helpful when writing SEO content. But to make optimization even easier, Jasper also integrates with Surfer.
Right within Jasper, you can see how well optimized your content is and what on-page elements you should add or remove to improve it. While Surfer requires a separate subscription, it’s worth the cost if search engine optimization is a core part of your content marketing strategy.
How Jasper can help with content promotion
Last but not least, Jasper can help with promoting the content you’ve work so hard on. For example, you can use the Paragraph Generator to write an email to your subscribers and then use the Email Subject Lines template to ensure a good open rate. Or a template like Quora Answers to summarize a longer piece of content.
You could then link back to the original content to drive traffic and even generate leads. And these are just a handful of the features in Jasper that can help with content development. To check them out for yourself, sign up for a 5-day free trial. Your first 10,000 words are on us!