Content Marketing

Content Planning: 10 Tools for a Successful Strategy in Action

Every successful content marketing campaign starts with a well-crafted content plan.

Content Planning: 10 Tools for a Successful Strategy in Action

A content plan outlines all the pieces of content aligned to the marketing goal and strategy, to be published within a given timeline and budget. Without it, it’s difficult to churn out consistent quality content, track progress and results, and recalibrate digital marketing strategies moving forward.

As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” 

A content plan is an essential tool to have before launching a campaign. But what exactly is content planning? Put simply, this important step involves brainstorming topics, deciding the types of content and communication channels to use, assigning tasks to team members, and scheduling posts.

While it’s a meticulous process, your team can make content planning more efficient with the help of these online tools recommended by our content marketing team.

  1. MarketMuse
  2. Clearscope
  3. Frase
  4. Surfer SEO
  5. Trello
  6. Gather Content
  7. CoSchedule
  8. Strive Content Calendar
  9. BuzzSumo
  10. Independent Analytics

Content planning tools you need to try today

When maximized, content planning tools can help improve the effectiveness of marketing initiatives. For one, it gives you an overview of the strategy in action. It’s easy to track the campaign’s progress when you have all the pieces of content laid out. Moreover, you get to ensure that every material contributes to achieving your goal.

By design, most content planning tools allow collaboration among team members. This makes work easier and more efficient. With that, work with your team in a streamlined manner with these tools:

1. MarketMuse

This AI-powered content planning solution is best used for exploring relevant topics for your marketing campaign. One of its most notable features is the Research application, which analyzes thousands of web pages and lists down topics a specific business needs to incorporate in their content to establish credibility in the industry. The Compete application, meanwhile, looks at how competitors approach a specific topic. 

Screenshot from MarketMuse

With these pieces of information mined by artificial intelligence, you’ll be able to conduct insightful content planning and make your materials more competitive and relevant to the market.

Pricing: Free ($0 – 15 queries a month), Standard ($7,200 a year – 100 queries a month), and Premium ($12,000 a year – unlimited queries)

2. Clearscope

Another AI-powered platform, Clearscope looks at the keywords relevant to a business to inform marketers the topics they should cover in their key content. But what’s unique about it is that its features help you craft better content briefs and outlines. 

For example, when listing reference resources for a piece of content, you can readily see the top-ranking web pages for a certain keyword when you click on the Competitors tab. If you want to recommend sections to include in a blog, you can click on the web page results and take cues from how competitors structured their content.

Meanwhile, when you click the Research tab, you can see questions people often ask about a certain topic. All these pieces of information lend insight to your topic ideation process.

Photo courtesy of Clearscope

Pricing: Essentials ($170 a month – three user seats), Business ($1,200 a month – unlimited user seats), and Enterprise (Custom pricing – unlimited user seats, as well as custom report, keyword discovery and monitoring credits)

3. Frase

Frase features a wide range of AI writing and SEO tools. The free ones which can help you best in your content planning efforts are the blog outline generator and People Also Ask. The former churns out a list of points you can explore in your content, while the latter enumerates the questions users ask in search engines. Both of these tools can help in brainstorming ideas for your content plan.

Apart from automated content briefs and an outline builder, Frase subscribers get access to Content Analytics. This tool enables marketers to identify key content that would be good to update or refresh, as the tool evaluates content performance and identifies both high-performing and underperforming content.

Screenshot from Frase

Pricing: Basic ($44.99 a month – one user seat, 30 articles a month), Team ($114.99 a month – three user seats, unlimited articles), and Enterprise (Custom pricing – unlimited seats, unlimited articles)

4. Surfer SEO

Surfer SEO’s content planner integrates keyword research in planning content. When you put in a keyword, say, a category of your business or your content focus, the platform will generate topic clusters or groups of closely related content pieces. When you look at all those keywords, you can already pick out topics for your content plan. Aside from giving fresh ideas, it helps you see content gaps for topics you already explored.

Photo courtesy of SurferSEO

Surfer SEO includes search intent in its keyword search filters. This is especially helpful for targeting specific types of audiences in your content.

Pricing: Free ($0 – ideal for starting businesses), Basic ($49 a month – ideal for small businesses), Pro ($99 a month – ideal for medium-sized companies with several websites), and Business ($199 a month – large organizations with ten or more websites)

5. Trello

Essentially, Trello is a web-based Kanban work management tool. For content teams, it’s used as an editorial calendar to manage content planning. Resembling a board with sticky notes, it uses different cards representing the tasks. These cards are lined up based on their work progress, “To-Do,” “Doing,” and “Done” as the default card titles. You can customize these, according to the terms you use as a content team. Most teams would have these card titles in their editorial calendar:

  • Ideation
  • Writing
  • Artwork
  • Editing 
  • Final Edits 
  • Ready to Post
Photo courtesy of Trello

Aside from customizing card titles for easy reference of team members, you can include colored labels on card tasks to categorize them, according to campaign, project, or content category. With these elements ready, your content plan is much more organized and easy to follow. 

Other than the built-in features, take advantage of Trello’s integrations. Doorbell, a customer feedback system, can be connected to the platform, and help you create content ideas and tasks based on the feedback you receive from your website and app. With this, you can cover all the topics in your content plan, which your audience would want to know.

Pricing: Free (0$ – up to 10 boards per workspace), Standard ($5 per user/month – unlimited boards), Premium ($10 per user/month – additional views to calendar, timeline, table, dashboard, and map), and Enterprise ($17.50 per user/month – unlimited workspaces and organization-wide permissions)

6. Gather Content

This content operations platform features a Content Hub, which organizes all the content you’re working on in one single platform. It allows sharing content in different folders making items visible to team members and facilitating collaboration. You can arrange these folders by content campaigns to keep everything organized.

Photo courtesy of Gather Content

Meanwhile, the Content Workflow feature is used for monitoring the progress of content creation. By setting deadlines and assigning tasks, you can create a workflow that has everybody in your team in sync. Gather Content makes content planning more efficient.

Aside from the collaboration features, take advantage of the Gather Content features content templates that make content requirements clear for all team members involved. These templates contain briefs that outline content guidelines and rules, standardizing all the pieces of content your team creates.

Pricing: Start ($1,069 a year – one project), Scale ($3,229 a year – 10 projects), and Transform ($8,629 a year – 30 projects)

7. CoSchedule 

Coschedule’s marketing calendar puts all your marketing efforts in one place. Whether it be a blog, a social media post with a media content, or a product landing page you’re working on, you can easily track progress of each project and see who’s working on what.

Photo courtesy of Coschedule

The platform is especially popular for content writers since it has Headline Studio, a tool that helps marketers write better, traffic-boosting headlines. The algorithm analyzes headlines and provides title recommendations and inspiration. With this tool included in your content planning, you can ensure that your headlines are click-worthy even before the actual content production.

Pricing: Free ($0 – unlimited marketing projects and content and social media publishing up to two profiles) and Pro ($29 per user/month – unlimited calendar views, unlimited social media publishing, and bulk social media scheduling)

8. Strive Content Calendar

“What’s the blog post scheduled on the upcoming holiday the week after next?” With Strive Content Calendar, it’s easy to pin down the exact schedule of your blog posts because this plugin provides a clear, comprehensive view of your editorial calendar right on WordPress. In case you want to reschedule posts, you can simply drag and drop posts on the calendar. It makes content planning easier by removing inconveniences in scheduling content.

Photo courtesy of Strive Content Calendar

One simple, yet highly important feature of this WordPress plugin is that it shows post categories. With this, it’s easy to keep a consistent streak of fresh, new blogs across all content categories on your website. Strive Content Calendar is downloaded and installed like all other WordPress plugins.

Pricing: $7 a month, with free 30-day trial

9. BuzzSumo

This popular content marketing platform provides an extensive, insightful overview of content topics you can cover in your business. Its features are essential to planning content:

  • Discovery helps you generate topic ideas, as the platform displays viral trends, evergreen topics, people’s questions in forums, and high-demand keywords.
  • Research guides your content creation strategies. Buzzsumo analyzes web pages and social media feeds to look for highly engaging content formats, competitors’ top content, and content performance trends.
  • Influencers let you identify key opinion leaders in your industry, which are great models for planning content topics and types.
  • Monitoring sends alerts for keywords you’re monitoring, keeping you in the loop for the latest industry news and updates.
Photo courtesy of BuzzSumo

Maximize these BuzzSumo tools to plan quality content that sticks and sells to your target audience. You may also use the platform’s chrome extension to readily see highly-engaging content while surfing the web.

Pricing: Free ($0 – 10 free searches a month), Pro ($99 a month – unlimited monthly searches and five users), Plus ($179 a month – unlimited monthly searches and 10 users), and Large ($299 a month – unlimited monthly searches and 15 users)

10. Independent Analytics

This WordPress plugin simplifies monitoring views and traffic sources of your website. Typically, marketers have to go to a separate platform like Google Analytics to see figures,  but with this plugin, the numbers can be easily accessed inside your content management system.

Its greatest benefit in content planning is it lets you see which topics and themes resonate most with your audience.

With its user-friendly design, even those who are new to analytics can navigate through Independent Analytics without a hassle. Moreover, this plugin won’t slow down your site since the tracking script is only 2kb and inlined with the HTML.

Similar to Strive Content Calendar, you can download the Independent Analytics plugin from the main website and install it via the Plugins menu.

Photo courtesy of Independent Analytics

Pricing: Free

Why should your small business do content planning?

A good content strategy can only be good in practice when there’s proper content planning. To be specific, you reap these benefits when you invest time and energy on creating a clear, comprehensive content plan: 

  • Better alignment to content strategy and goals. Content planning compels you to be intentional about your marketing efforts. Instead of just winging it and posting whatever you want for the day, you take into account your strategy and goals and reflect that in the pieces of content you lay out in your editorial calendar. 
  • Increased audience engagement. A content plan is a long-term plan. As mentioned, it avoids spur-of-the-moment posting. Since there’s continuity in content efforts, it builds trust and improves engagement with the target market.
  • Improved thought leadership. As you can see from the tools mentioned earlier, content planning involves rigorous research of topics and ideas. When you incorporate these elements in your content, you’re able to establish and build thought leadership, while serving relevant information to the audience.
  • More efficient work flow. With the content plan laying out the what, where, when, who, and how of content creation, team members are properly guided when working on tasks. It reduces confusion and downtime because everything’s organized.

Key takeaways

A content plan is the foundation of marketing success. As you introduce tools to your production process, take note of these important reminders:

  • Decide which capabilities are most important to you. For some marketers, the priority is collaboration and easy sharing of materials. Others prioritize the depth and insight of research. Sometimes, you can’t have it all in one platform, so know your priorities and let that inform your choice of tool.
  • Check product demos. With this, you can understand better how the tool can help your team and decide if it will fit suitably in your process. Most software providers provide tutorials on their websites and social media pages.
  • Try the free trial or platforms with money-back guarantees. If you’re not familiar with a content planning tool yet, take advantage of the free trial for a test drive. Or, choose the most basic plan. Some platforms offer a refund if the tool doesn’t suit your process. All the same, before choosing, research about a product’s pros and cons. 

Have you picked out your content planning platform yet? What are your must-have features? Share it with the Propelrr team via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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