The Ultimate Guide to Beautiful & Successful Content

Okay. Does anyone remember those heady days of "desktop publishing" where everything became possible?

Desktop Publishing Content Plan

You could own your very own desktop printer! You could buy software and install it on your very own home computer (!) and create your own brochures. You could write your own sales copy and create your own graphics! At home!

As I read through a huge amount of posts this week on the state of content marketing for 2016, the analogy to the desktop publishing revolution kept returning.

I came across quite a few lamentations on the state of content.

Okay. For the haters:

I get it. Sometimes you're a genius and sometimes you just know inherently what you should say, when, to whom, and in what font. Sometimes you don't need anyone's help. Sometimes templates don't work for you and sometimes creative people at agencies seem to create too much creative and not enough strategy.

Small Business Content Planning

And now for the vast majority of small business people:

Look, I know you are busy and planning a content strategy might be the last thing on your mind. You know your "audience" intimately because you engage with them literally all day long, six or seven days a week. 

So, for you, here is a perfect content guide for 2016. 

It's expandable, with links to incredible resources that will cover every single facet of what you need to create beautiful content in 2016.

But it's also concise, so that you can easily skim to what you need and not get bogged down in details that only the CMO of Pepsi might need.

Content: What's New & Hot for 2016

Content Starts With Definitions

This part might be really really easy. For a typical small business owner without large departments and levels of approval, this is a quick exercise to make sure you know:

  • Who you are
  • What you want
  • Where you are 
  • Who your competitors are

Write down, even just in point form, quick notes answering how you feel your brand is perceived, goals you want to achieve in 2016,  where your brand is located, both physically and online, and who your competitors are.

Content Continues With Research

Again, for some small business owners, you may or may not need to spend hours on this. If you are a sole proprietorship and you literally live and breathe your business, you may know who your audience is and what your editorial calendar should look like intimately.

Still, spend the time to convince yourself that this is true. If your answer to "Who is your audience?" is "Everyone" you need this research. Badly.

At a basic level, you need personas. These are only as good as you are willing to make them. If you don't know your audience, you need to spend time to find out who these people are, what language they use, what bothers them, what delights them.

Persona development

  • Interview clients and listen to what they tell you about their experience with your brand.
  • Read Tripadvisor reviews about your brand or related brands.
  • Read Yelp, etc...reviews.
  • Brainstorm the kinds of books they read and read Amazon reviews that they could have written.
  • Think of other ways to figure out who these people are. Look for actual language used, quotes, things that delight them or upset them a lot. Taken together, you'll begin to see a complete profile of a client you can create content for. 
  • Check out this intense guide from Moz. (Includes Smurfs!)

competitor analysis

I really really like Ian Lurie's take on this. Really deeply spying on your competitors is probably a bad idea. But spending some time looking at your competitors to see what is working well and also finding gaps that you might be able to fill in and win are both good reasons to check them out.

If you want to really go deep, though, here are some tools:

Content Audit

Get to know what you have already put out there, and make sure you know how well it's done. Visits, shares, engagement, the whole she-bang. Find out what works so you can do more of it. Find out where the gaps are. Find out what didn't work at all.

At the very basic level, simply look through your analytics data and get a feel for what your most popular content is.

Or you can go a bit deeper:

When trying to find out what content worked and what did not, really look at how people engaged with it. Did they comment? Did they share it...or better yet, did they like it? 

Now look at your content and just assess it for readability. Reading level, paragraph density, etc. 

Content Rules & Guidelines

Next up is to set the tone. You've got a lot of information now, so you can decide definitively what style works for your perfect audience. What colours do they like? What social media platforms do they most engage with? What words do they use and respond to?

Now, again, depending on who you are, you may or may not need to write all this down in meticulous detail. A few notes jotted on paper may be enough. You may decide to set down a style guide, though. This is not a bad idea.

If you ever choose to hire a writer, they will greatly appreciate this.

Content on Your Site

Looking at all you have done so far, it's time to make some changes for 2016. Specifically, think about the following:

  • Match colour, tone, font, and voice throughout the site. Fix any weirdnesses :)
  • Plan to add video.
  • Flesh out weak areas: About Us page, Contact page, Error page, FAQ page.
  • Plan to add fresh imagery. Plan to get rid of stock images on your site.
  • Plan to expand content. Think of ways you can integrate video (duh), infographics, slideshares, and other types of content to break up your site and appeal to a more diverse audience range.

I highly suggest making this into an actual dated plan for 2016, but again, depending on your needs, this might just be chicken scratch on the back of an envelope. Do it, though.

Content on Your Blog/Microsite

Bloggers see an ROI 13x higher than those who do not. Microsites are gaining popularity, so I am including them here. Remember, educate first, then sell.

Bring in the ideal client, convince them, convert them, then delight them and turn them into raving fans. In any case...here is where your editorial calendar comes in handy.

You need one. You don't need to follow it to a fault. You can (and should!) change it and add to it. But without a plan, you will most likely fail at one of the pillars of success in blogging: consistency.


editorial calendar

Get yourself a template and fill in the details

By the way, a fun new way to create an editorial calendar that I just heard about involves Trello.

Make sure you include major holidays, milestones for your business, and themes for distinct chunks of time. Consider including social in this calendar. Add in areas for tracking success, too. Beyond that, really, this is your tool to use as you think best. I get that sticking to something that feels constricting can be a bad idea.

Blog Post Topics

We have arrived. Last week, Matt Banner wrote and shared a link to his updated list of blog post ideas.

Honestly. It is...comprehensive. I had that moment, going through it, where I just kept thinking, "Ah! I'll do that! And that! And that!!"

If you really like winging it, you could just kind of go through his list and forgo the editorial calendar. But don't tell anyone I said that.

So, including Matt's updated list, here are a new slew of blog post ideas:

Add the perfect headline

Quickly, you need this: Coschedule plus, maybe the Moz tool will give you everything you need for a perfect blog post headline. Here are the resources you need:

By the way, the reason you may need both is that the Moz tool will highlight your keywords to see if that bolded text bumps your headline beyond the 152 pixel length and into ... range.

On Page SEO

A quick link to my informative booklet on SEO (which you can receive after you've signed up for our equally informative newsletter.

Honestly, the more time wears on, the more important it becomes to simply write well.

Define your brand, and send out brand signals. No matter how small your brand is, this is important. I had a colleague debate me on this, and, frankly, he's wrong.

You need a brand, and you need to send out brand signals. Google likes them, people like them. If you don't believe me, ask Neil Patel.

You need to write/create content that adds to the conversation. Stuff that gets shared, read, and engaged with. It goes without saying that this is the stuff that people link to, which...yes, is important.


Amplification is even more important in 2016 than it is now. And it is important now. Once you hit publish, you have just begun. Send your blog posts out on all your social media channels, and do this regularly. Use sites like Viral Content Buzz and Triberr  to send your awesome post into the world, and share other people's great stuff, too.

Consider using sites like Medium and LinkedIn Pulse to help gain a following.

Network, and don't be afraid to tell people that you are publishing great content.

Content Off-Site

Last, don't forget social media and email newsletters. You want and need to be creating content off your website as well.

Brainstorm all the different places you can get the word out about your brand and connect with your ideal audience.

Podcasts are definitely on many people's minds right now, and many are considering them to be the next big "must have".

It's all important.

What Will You Do in 2016?

Best #Content Marketing Guide for 2016

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Any great creative plans? Will you start a podcast? Redesign your website? Start blogging more often?

Whatever you do, make sure you remember to create content that is meaningful, adds to the conversation, and is fun - You're going to want to educate and delight your ideal audience, so you better be having fun while you do it!

Wendy Kelly
Nov 10, 2015
From the Custom Fit Online team

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