Starting with a blank document? That’s hard.
Starting with a content marketing template? Much easier!
A good content template will force you to plan for promotion. It pushes you to plan for (or at least consider) the various content promotion channels: SEO, social media, email marketing and influencer collaboration. Promotion needs to be a forethought, not an afterthought.
The best content doesn’t win. The best promoted content wins.
An article is built to perform in a channel or it isn’t. This free Google Doc template will help.
Just click File > Make a Copy.
(You can also download the Word document version)
This is your master content template. Bookmark it. Share it. Customize it. It is yours.
Your new template has some helpful instructions at the top. Eventually, you’ll want to delete those or add your own editorial guidelines.
I’ve written 250+ articles since 2014 using this content marketing template. It’s been updated several times over the years as our content strategy has evolved. Here’s what the latest looks like:
You can see that before the writing section, there are sections for promotion planning.
Consider these things first and every word you write next will be more likely to be read. Do this every time and you’ll never again create content without a plan to drive traffic to it!
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide for using your new content marketing template. Go through each section, planning the promotion by filling in the text between the [brackets].
Note: not every section is relevant to every article. For example, if the article isn’t a guest post, delete that section.
Make a copy of your master template and name it. Then enter the following:
The target publish date:
This is important because you may come back to this document later if you update it later.
Example: The article you’re reading now was first written in September of 2013. Now in May 2021, I am rewriting it. That process started by grabbing the draft of the original, which was written using our content marketing template.
The author and editor’s name:
Bloggers who work with editors are more likely to report success. If you’re a solo blogger, you can delete these from your master template.
Some topics are searched for; some are not.
Some articles have SEO opportunities; some do not.
If you are writing something that does align with a keyphrase, do the keyphrase research upfront. You’ll avoid targeting keyphrases that are too competitive. And if some of the related phrases are within reach, you’re ready to align your writing with these phrases.
We use Moz for keyword research, but there are a lot of options. Here’s what it looks like when we capture search volume and difficulty within the template.
Find some good ones?
If you’re targeting a phrase, your job today will be to write the best piece of content on the web for that topic or you have no right to rank!
These little page attributes make a big difference.
They power the snippets in both search engines and social media. Here’s how the title, description and URL often form the search snippet:
As the template suggests, title tags should be no longer than 60 characters or they’ll be truncated in search results. Meta descriptions should be no longer than 155 characters or they’ll be truncated. These are basic and fundamental SEO best practices.
The URL for your new post is important so we plan it early in our content template. Here are some URL best practices for content marketers.
We want to use a URL that is easy to reuse later. If you write a list post that has the number in the URL, you may regret it if you rewrite the post a few years later.
Suppose I write an article called 3 Best Practices for URLs and publish it at www.orbitmedia.com/blog/3-url-best-practices
Two years later I update the article and it’s now 5 Best Practices for URLs but I want to reuse the same URL because it’s been linked to and ranks well …I’d regret using the number in the URL because now there’s a mismatch with the new title. Oops.
The best SEOs don’t just target a phrase. They target a topic.
That means writing a piece that answers all the related questions, covers many of the related subtopics and incorporates lots of the related words and phrases.
Finding them and listing them early in your writing process will help guide you in writing a detailed, thorough article. This is sometimes called semantic SEO.
Here’s a quick list of free places you can find and capture phrases that are semantically related to your topic:
Capture them in the doc. Include them in your content as you write.
If you have a small software budget, there are tools that make this kind of writing easy.
Great content is connected. Plan those connections in advance and you won’t miss any opportunities to both guide visitors deeper and pass link equity through your site. They help you rank.
Those little links are good for both UX and SEO.
So follow internal linking best practices and plan for these three types of links:
That last type of link is often overlooked. But the best content marketers know, you haven’t finished publishing a new article until you’ve linked to it from an older article.
It’s easy to find old articles that are candidates for linking to the new one. Use your own site search tool or use Google.
Example: I wrote a research piece about bounce rates and I wanted to find older articles to potentially link to it. I can use the site: search operator to search just my own site for “bounce rate” and Google shows me every instance of that phrase on my site.
In this section of the template, you’ll add your plans for the email newsletter that delivers your new post to your subscribers.
Planning guest posts requires one extra step. List the possible host blogs. These are the sites you’ll pitch to. Ideally, you’ve already taken the time to network with the editor. They know you (or at least, know of you) already.
Never send a cold email.
If one of your goals is link building then the domain of the host blog is one of your considerations. The Domain Authority of the host blog is the main factor in the value of the link. Look it up and make a note.
A journalist would never write an article without a source.
Why do content marketers write articles without contributor quotes?
Among the benefits: higher quality content, expands your personal network, improves the social reach of the article (assuming contributors share) Many of us have made collaborative content marketing.
Don’t wait until the last minute or your contributors won’t have time to respond. Watch your content calendar and give yourself at least a week for the outreach part of content creation.
In this section of the template, you should list your collaborators, but also anyone or any brand that was mentioned in the article or who was contacted during the research and writing process.
In the end, you have a list of people to reach out to after the article is live. Let them know that it’s been published, either with 1×1 emails or in social post mentions.
Speaking of collaborators, we reached out to Ross Simmonds to see how he uses templates in his writing.
Ross Simmonds, Founder, Foundation Marketing
“Typically, when I get started with a new article, I don’t start with a template. I’ll start with a blank word doc, craft a headline, and start placing links into the article that I will use for inspiration. I’ll also write down some of my key thoughts and build from there. It’s a very unorganized and nonlinear process but when I’m crafting most of the articles, they don’t take on a templated approach.
That said, when we create content at Foundation for our clients, we start with a content brief and this would be considered a template. Those assets have a different goal than the pieces I create which are typically more along the lines of research-driven or thoughts I’ve been spending a lot of time on over the last few weeks.”
Here’s a place to capture ideas for social media posts.
Because organic reach in social media is low (somewhere around 5%) you’ll need to share this new article several times at least: when the article goes live, the next day, the following week, the following month. Turn that frequency up a bit for Twitter and down a bit for LinkedIn.
When gathering ideas for social posts, consider at least one of each of these:
Now that planning is done, you’re ready to write something that performs well.
Here are a few of our best tips for content development.
What about the call to action?
The classic CTA for articles is newsletter signup. It should be built into the template and use the three P’s of email sign up boxes.
A few notes on the final steps in the process…
Since it’s a Google Doc and not a file, you can share it with the editor easily. Then you can collaborate within the document without emailing attachments around.
Avoiding emailing attachments whenever possible. Attachments lead to version control issues, viruses, bloated hard drives and confusion.
Changes are tracked. Comments added. Together you and the edited hammer out the final details, both for the post and for promotion.
It should move nicely from the template into your content management system.
Here’s a simple and quick trick to get images out of Google Docs. Go to File > Download as Web Page (.html,zipped).
All of the images will be in your zipped file. Rename, resize (if needed) and upload them into your CMS.
If getting content out of a Google Doc and into your content management system is a hassle, try Wordable. That’s exactly what it does.
After the new article is live, it’s time to start promotion. That process begins by referring back to the notes you added to the content template. These steps aren’t possible until you’ve published.
…and maybe a few other items from this 76-point content promotion checklist. Those items will be easier because the content was built for promotion, thanks to your robust content strategy and your new template.
There you have it, another piece in the content strategy puzzle. Your business goals are defined. Your buyer personas in place. Your toolbelt has a content marketing plan, a content marketing matrix, a content calendar, and now your very own content marketing template.
We got a lot of good feedback on this diagram so we’re adding it here. It shows the entire process in one diagram. Our hope is that it will guide your thinking as you consider the options, the topics and the structure of a single blog post.
You can find the post that describes each numbered box here. Enjoy!