Content is king, but how do you go about developing a logical content strategy? This is a common conundrum in content marketing. The first step is a content map. If you are confused by the whole idea of a content strategy, take a look at these handy charts.
A content map is a flow chart of all the content you intend to produce, how it relates to each other, who it targets, and what the goal of each piece is. That’s a lot to take in, and hopefully taking it part by part I can convey what is a content map, why it is important to have a content map, and how to create one to support your content marketing plan.
Do I need a content map?
If your content is part of an inbound marketing strategy, then you need a content map. A content map is the best way to organize your content, which helps you maximize its value.
Let’s take a quick look at the purpose of a content map to understand exactly why you need one.
What is a content map’s purpose?
There are two main purposes of a content map:
- A content map keeps all the content you make organized and logical.
- A content map ensures that the content you produce is fulfilling its purpose.
Use a content map to organize your content
Content needs to be generated with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. Any skilled content writer will tell you that one of the biggest factors in SEO is interlinking. Interlinking is connecting different pages on your website together with links. (I did just that in this paragraph.)
However, not all interlinking is created equal. You need to choose which pages to link to and which ones to link from. You should keep a couple rules in mind when doing this:
- Link pages together that are related. You don’t want to send viewers to unrelated content because that might lead them to bounce off your website.
- You should link new and old content to each other in both directions. Your older content is more likely to rank highly on Google, so supporting those pages with new work is a good help. However, since your older pages are probably getting more views, there’s also a lot of value in going back to those old pages and linking forward.
- Understand who you are targeting with each article and use links to direct them to content they will find valuable. If you are writing content for the “awareness” phase of a content funnel, then you should link to both other awareness pages and to “consideration” pages that are on a similar topic. This helps them completed the awareness part of the journey on the one hand and pushes them towards the next phase on the other.
Adding the desired interlinking pages to your content brief allows the content strategist to control the overall content graph.
Use a content map to guarantee your content serves its purpose
What’s the goal of your content? If it is to generate sales or just bring more visitors to your page, then you’ll want to make sure that it is succeeding in this task. Without a content map, it is unlikely that your content will fulfill its purpose because you haven’t taken the time to really understand how content works.
You need content that your visitors consider valuable. You also need content that attracts the right visitors. When I say the right visitors, I mean people who match your buyer persona. That is, people who are likely to buy what you are selling. For me, that means marketing managers looking to hire an editor and/or a writer. For you, if I have attracted the right visitors, that means people who are interested in your B2B SaaS product.
Valuable content that attracts the right visitors is great, but it is only the start of the story. Remember when I mentioned writing with different parts of the sales funnel in mind? That’s definitely true—you want to have articles for each part of the funnel.
Be an expert
You’ll also want enough articles on related topics that Google starts to think you are an expert in the field. That’ll help your website rank higher. However, you want to be sure that each piece of content fulfills a different “search intent” so that your pages don’t “cannibalize” each other.
A search intent is basically what people want to learn on Google when they type a specific phrase. Sometimes two different keywords, e.g. “content map explanation” and “what is a content map,” can be searched with the same goal in mind. In that case, if I write an article titled “what is a content map,” then I should avoid a second one called “content map explanation.” The second article would take some of the views from the first one and I’ll end up with two poorly ranking pages instead of one that (hopefully) can rank well.
Who doesn’t need a content map?
While a good content map is useful, it isn’t always necessary. There are a few cases where you can probably skip a content map.
- If you only use your blog to post updates about your platform, then a content map might not be necessary.
- If your blog has been operational for many years, has hundreds of posts, and Google considers it knowledgeable on dozens or even hundreds of topics, then you probably don’t need a content map for future additions. In this case, simply vetting new keywords and spending some time every few months going through older posts for new interlinking opportunities is a better use of time.
- If you have no financial goals for your blog and just want to post, then forget the content map and have fun!
How do I create a content map?
There are many ways to create a content map, and which one works for you is going to be more about how you think than your company’s niche. However, there are some things that you will want sitting in front of you before you start:
- Sales funnel
- List of keywords your competition is ranking for
- Preferred content organization
- Buyer persona(s)
The sales funnel is the basic flow of how a visitor to your site becomes a paying customer. Some sites will add more sub-levels, but the basic flow is that visitors start at the top of the funnel in the “awareness” phase. Some of them will filter down to the “consideration” phase.
Finally, those that remain reach the “decision” phase.
It’s important to keep these points in mind when creating a content map because you want to have related content on your site focusing on each of these phases.
For example, you sell accounting software and have identified “assets” as a good area for some keywords. You might want “what are assets” for the awareness phase, “how to report assets” for the consideration phase, and “managing assets in accounting software” for the decision phase.
These are all related articles, on assets, and written with the same prospects in mind, but they appeal to a prospect at different points in their buyer journey.
Keywords your competition ranks on
Your competition may have done some of the work for you. They may have already identified keywords that lead to more leads entering their sales funnel. The best thing you can do is utilize that hard work by finding out which keywords your competitors already rank for.
Of course, you also want new and original content including some articles geared towards all new keywords that your competitors haven’t stumbled upon. However, having an article that competes directly with each of your competitors’ articles will help you win their traffic.
Not all content organizations are equal. Unfortunately, many of the people wondering “what is a content map” are in charge or producing a content calendar and do it the wrong way.
Don’t do this
There are many ways to organize content. One of the most common structures I have seen working freelance is the “ad hoc” one. That’s where the content strategist finds useful keywords, sends them on to the content writer in a content brief, and then has them link randomly to other articles.
This is not a good system for several reasons.
- First, it means that not all articles are being supported by interlinking evenly.
- Second, the links are always new articles to older ones, whereas older articles should absolutely be updated to link to new ones too.
- Third, not all keywords are equal. Some are harder to win or more important to your sales funnel. If you just pick 1500 words for every article, you’ll end up winning the easy ones and none of the hard ones.
I prefer the pillar and support structure. In this case, You create content clusters around a topic with a specific buyer persona in mind. You write three, four, or five shorter support articles geared towards different parts of the sales funnel. These are all aimed at easy keywords.
Then, all of these shorter support articles are linked directly to the much longer pillar article. This article is aimed at a much harder keyword or one that is considered particularly beneficial to the company.
Ok, I’m going to stop here for a second to breakdown some key terminology because that was confusing to even me.
- Keyword: The word you are aiming for your article to rank for in Google search results.
- Keyphrase: This is like a keyword on multiple words long. For example, this article is aimed at the keyphrase “what is a content map.”
- Long-tail keyword: This is another way of saying keyphrase. If “content map” is the main keyword, then “what is a content map” is a long-tail version of that keyword. It is easier to win in Google but usually has much lower search volume.
- Keyword difficulty: This is how hard it is to rank on a keyword.
- Support article: This is a short article designed to reinforce a pillar article so that it can better rank on a high keyword difficulty keyword or keyphrase.
- Pillar article: This is the main article in a content cluster. It is usually about as long as all the support articles combined. It should be used to rank on valuable words—those with high traffic or traffic that likely includes many prospects. Note that this is sometimes called “corner content.”
A buyer person is a fictionalized version of your customer. A large SaaS company with multiple pricing tiers likely has several buyer personas. Each buyer persona needs to be nurtured with separate content at each part of the sales funnel.
It’s important to keep the buyer personas in front of you while creating a content map so that you include content for each customer. The last thing you want to do is write hundreds of articles aimed at the buyer personas purchasing your $10/month tier and none that are ordering five-figure enterprise-level tiers.
Conversely, if you only write for enterprise buyers, you won’t do well in Google because there just aren’t that many software procurement officers.
Who should create your content map?
If you have a content manager, then they should create the content map. The content strategist can then maintain and update it after each brainstorming session. If you only have a content strategist, then it will be up to them to create the content map.
If you are lucky enough to have a large team, then they should work together to create, maintain, and expand the content map. In this case, having more people view the map will lead to a better one.
Too many writers can ruin a good piece of content. The same is not true for a content map. Each person will come in with their own knowledge and biases. Adding these together will help you find all the keywords and keyphrases you need to maintain your content calendar.
What is the goal of a content map?
The goal of a content map is to organize the content so that it has maximum effect as an inbound marketing tool. That means having content for every buyer persona at every stage of their buyer journey that ranks well on Google. This will help the inbound marketing strategy support the sales team.
So, what is a content map?
A content map is your best tool for creating and updating content with your customers in mind.