September 1, 2022

Creating a Content Workflow That Promotes Quality and Scalability for Your SEO Growth

Derek Flint
Derek Flint

Most content marketers are aiming for 3 core goals at the center of all content production efforts.

  1. Making the content into something great
  2. Consistently nailing your publishing deadlines
  3. Getting the right eyes in front of that content

If you consistently find your team running up against the same bottlenecks or fighting to keep content quality consistent, it’s time to establish or improve your content workflow.

Follow our 11-step guide to create your well-oiled content machine, and use our content workflow template to document your process as it evolves. 

Let’s dive in! 

If you’d like to listen to one of our Co-founders and our Content Production Manager discuss content briefs and killer workflows, feel free to listen to the Content That Grows podcast episode below:

What is a content workflow, and why are they challenging to execute well?

A content workflow is the sequence of tasks that moves your content from an idea to a published and distributed piece of content. It should be repeatable across the majority of related content objectives to allow your teams to smoothly execute and later scale their efforts.

The best workflows include:

  1. The people responsible for carrying out each step
  2. The dates each step needs to be completed by 
  3. The tools/resources needed to execute the task
  4. Key details, anomalies, team notes

Defining your workflow from start to finish gives your entire content team what it needs to stay on track, whether they’re in-house, contract, or freelance. 

In turn, you’ll have room to adjust the scale of your content creation to fit the demands of your publishing needs and your available resources to build that content. Otherwise, you run the risk of lowering the quality of your content — and its ability to attract the desired engagement.

There are many other advantages to building effective content workflows: 

More efficient time budgeting: It’s easier to set realistic deadlines, and for your team members to meet them, when you have a clear understanding of the tasks involved. If you work with clients, you’re able to communicate timelines without overpromising.

Clarity around responsibilities: A solidified content workflow ensures that everyone — internal and external — understands their duties and how they impact other parts of the process. Not only is this helpful for reshuffling tasks if someone is out/unavailable, but it provides insights when team members are overburdened and need additional bandwidth resources. 

Better team coordination: A clearly documented process gives your team members clarity and flexibility — they can collaborate, delegate tasks, and step in to support one another when needed. This is especially helpful for improving internal communication and reducing silos or bottlenecks, one of the biggest marketing challenges noted in Content Marketing Research’s 2022 survey.

That said, companies may fail to get content workflows working as effectively as they’d like for a number of reasons. Here are some of the most common challenges from our experience: 

  • Internal or external teams’ bandwidth is too limited 
  • Roles, deadlines, or priorities are unclear at a certain step in the process
  • Little or no flexibility within the workflow to account for unexpected delays/roadblocks, especially when working with external teams (freelancers, clients, partners, etc.) 
  • Missing two key roles in the workflow: a content production manager (who oversees writers and editors and manages editorial standards) and an operations manager (who oversees team capacity, sets overarching deadlines, and moves resources based on what’s needed and available.) 
  • Struggling to accommodate different types of content (from blogs and landing pages to videos and infographics) and types of production (creating new content vs. updating old content) 

Now let’s talk about how to build a process that puts quality and consistency first. 

Recommended Reading: What is Great Content? [+ How Marketers Create It, Consistently]

A step-by-step walkthrough of a thorough content workflow (Includes 11 steps we’ve tested for you)

Step 1: Build a roadmap aligned with the overall content marketing strategy

Start by building a content roadmap with the topics and deliverables for a particular period or campaign, which you’ll use to reach your goals (whether for your own company or for your clients). This may include new content and existing content updates.  

If you don’t already, make sure you have a good understanding of the ideal customer profile (ICP). You should generally align your content — topic strategy, messaging, and distribution — to match your their pain points and content consumption habits.

How much time to give this step

  • 2 weeks to 1 month for general research, depending on your schedule
  • If needed: Time during the research phase to go over the ICP with other teams (marketing, sales, etc.)
  • 6 to 8 hours to outline a 6-month roadmap

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • Content strategist

Pro tips for this step

  • Build a roadmap that’s at least 3 months long — this allows everyone to make a sustained, focused effort to execute on the plan
  • Leave gaps in the roadmap timeline for unexpected roadblocks or time-sensitive content opportunities
  • If possible, break down each deliverable/task and expected completion time 
Recommended Reading: Using Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) To Improve Your Content Marketing’s Efficacy

Step 2: Upload the roadmap into a content calendar or project management tool

After completing your roadmap, it’s time to upload your content topics to a digital location that’s accessible to all relevant team members. Keeping everything centralized in one place reduces the risk of disjointed content or information silos. 

You could run the roadmap successfully from a spreadsheet as well if you’re still operating a small program or you can’t quite get a project management tool to function the way you like.

Once you upload your roadmap, add a deadline for each task and assign the person responsible for completing it. Talk with each team member about how you allocated the work and ensure they understand how to access and update the content management tool.

How much time to give this step

  • About 1-3 hours 

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • Operations manager

Pro tips for this step

  • Use a template in your project management tool so you can easily upload your roadmap and have it formatted and ready to customize

Step 3: Schedule SME interviews (if needed) to inform the content brief

The SEO strategist, content strategist, or SEO specialist needs to identify individuals who can provide more insight into a given industry, product/service, or topic. This is what’s known as a subject matter expert (SME). 

There are many ways you can leverage SMEs to create great content, from getting helpful background info and feature quotes to having them write content or simply lend their name as the piece’s author. 

It’s typically the responsibility of the SEO specialist to prepare questions ahead of time for the SME. They should have the answers to your questions and additional recommendations on what information the writer should include in the final draft of the content.

How much time to give this step

  • 1-2 weeks to schedule and conduct an hour-long interview
  • If needed, carve out additional time to create a transcript of the interview (you can automatically generate one with transcription software, we use Rev.) 

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • SEO strategist, content strategist, or SEO specialist

Pro tips for this step

  • Group your questions in a way that allows you to cover multiple topics in a single interview
  • If an in-person interview won’t work offer the SME the option to respond to your questions asynchronously in writing or create a recording of themselves going through their answers

Step 4: Create a content brief for each approved topic

Your content brief, handed off to the writer, paints a picture of what you expect in the final product. Be as prescriptive and descriptive as you can and try not to leave any room for uncertainty. This accomplishes a few things: 

  • It allows the writer to focus on research, writing quality, and self-editing instead of trying to interpret what you want 
  • It reduces the number of revisions that might be required later 
  • It helps your team maintain consistency across different writers, topics, and editors

The key is finding a balance between too many details and not enough. You don’t want to overwhelm the writer, but you also want to avoid leaving them feeling unprepared or like they’re responsible for the direction of the piece.

Have the SEO specialist do competitor content research and use SME materials to create a unique brief that includes: 

  • An outline of the content structure (title, labeled headers, detailed visions for each section, as well as CTA recommendations)
  • Company or client the brief is for
  • Essential keywords
  • Grammar and style instructions
  • Topics and subtopics to cover
  • External or internal links to include (don’t forget to recommend which existing pieces should link to this newest piece)
  • Calls-to-action (CTAs)
  • Target audience/ICP details 
  • Planned distribution channel if needed (company blog, social media platforms, etc.)

How much time to give this step

  • Anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the complexity of the content and research required

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • SEO specialist

Pro tips for this step

  • Supplement your keyword and content research with AI and semantic tools like Clearscope. This not only helps with SEO research, but will also give your writers that are unfamiliar with the tenants of SEO a sufficient grading system.

Step 5: Send the brief to the writers

Decide which writer will handle the piece and share the brief and deadline. They should be fully equipped to craft content that aligns with your guidelines and successfully promotes your ideas or products. 

That said, be ready to jump in and answer questions or provide clarification. Even detailed briefs can leave room for interpretation. You may also need to adjust them if the writer comes back with new info, ideas, or suggestions. 

How much time to give this step

  • 3-5 days, depending on the length of the piece and writer speed or expertise 

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • Content production manager
  • Content writer

Pro tips for this step

  • Allot extra time for deadline extension requests or unexpected delays 
  • Let the writer know which style guide you prefer (AP Stylebook, Chicago Manual, etc.) 
  • If you ask for statistics, set a standard for how recent they should be (no older than 4-5 years is common) 

Step 6: Make any design requests for the piece of content

The SEO  or Content Strategist should talk with the graphic designer about what they want the look of the piece to be. It could be as simple as one feature image or as complex as an original infographic, video storyboarding, etc. 

Be mindful of how the content will appear in different formats, like a desktop screen versus a smartphone or tablet. It’s a good idea to share brand design guidelines or inspiration with the designer if you have them.

How much time to give this step

  • 3-5 days based on the designer’s bandwidth

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • Content strategist or SEO specialist 
  • Graphic designer

Pro tips for this step

  • Depending on the design elements you want, it may be possible to start this step at the roadmap stage (step 1) 
  • Submit multiple design requests with bulk content briefs so the designer can accurately plan their time for each piece
  • If you don’t have access to a designer or they can’t meet your deadline, look into having another team member use a tool like Canva to complete the task
  • You could also ask the writer to provide screenshots or copyright-free images

Step 7: Have an editor review and revise the content 

The editor should go through the content with a fine-tooth comb, proofreading, checking facts, and improving language to ensure a piece’s accuracy and quality. 

If needed, they’ll send it back to the writer for corrections. After completing all revisions, the editor can send the content for final approval.

How much time to give this step

  • 2-3 days for edits

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • Editor

Pro tips for this step

  • Editors should refer to the brief as they edit and have a deep understanding of brand guidelines 
  • Don’t let the person who wrote the content edit it themselves — every piece needs a second pair of eyes 
  • If you don’t have a designated editor, have another team member with an understanding of the brief and brand guidelines review the piece
  • Use content management and editing tools to automate small steps like spellcheck and make notes/edits  

Step 8: Make revisions (if needed) 

Have content sent back to the writer to perform rewrites or address accuracy issues if needed. It can sometimes take multiple rounds of revisions before an editor is satisfied with the content. 

How much time to give this step

  • 1-2 days, or longer if the piece contains substantial issues

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • Content writer
  • Editor

Pro tips for this step

  • Have editors make minor revisions or quick fixes themselves to speed up content completion, and save the significant edits or clarifications for the writers to handle

Step 9: Send the content draft for final approval

Get the stakeholders’ approval before publishing content on the relevant website, social media channels, or mobile apps. They may decide that the piece doesn’t yet meet their standards or change their mind about the direction they wish to take with the content. If that happens, be prepared to move back to an earlier stage, like brief creation (step 4) or content revision (step 7 or 8). 

Make sure you have a clear understanding of the feedback and what’s a must-have change versus a nice-to-have change. 

How much time to give this step

  • 1-5 days, depending on your review & revisions policy and the stakeholders’ turnaround time 

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • Content production manager, content editor, content strategist, or marketing manager/director

Pro tips for this step

  • Agree on a timeframe for review, revision request, and approval with your stakeholders ahead of time (to avoid having this step be a momentum-killer)
  • When possible, limit the review process to only necessary team members, ideally one person 

Step 10: Upload the content and design assets to your preferred platform(s) 

There are many content management systems (CMSs) you can use to simplify and automate the uploading process. They may also have handy SEO or quality-assessment tools you can use to give your content a final check. 

Make sure you include all your design assets and take care of any technical SEO details like adding the title tag, checking headers and internal links, adding alt text to images, and setting up the URL structure, author, or content category.

How much time to give this step

  • 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the complexity of the content

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • SEO specialist
  • Technical expert

Pro tips for this step

  • Set up CMS plugins that make it easier to add SEO and navigation improvements like Yoast or Rank Math

Step 11: Publish your content

Once you have your content assets all loaded and fromatted, you can schedule your CMS to publish content to a variety of digital marketing channels automatically.

How much time to give this step

  • Base the publishing deadline on your editorial calendar

Role(s) that are responsible for this step

  • Content production manager or content manager

Pro tips for this step

  • Remember to adjust publish deadlines as needed to spread out new content dates or update existing content dates 
  • Don’t be afraid to publish content that isn’t perfectly optimized but is good enough to get in front of readers/viewers — it’s better to have your content crawled and indexed sooner, and you can always return to polish the piece 

For more tips and tricks on building a comprehensive content workflow, listen to our podcast episode: Leveling up Your SaaS Content From Good to Great

Need help creating quality content at scale and meeting deadlines?

Limited bandwidth, experience, or resources can be a major hurdle for any company’s content strategy, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. 

Our SEO content workflow produces top-notch content that looks and feels like your brand while growing your organic traffic and bottom line. Let us help you scale up while prioritizing quality and performance — Book a call with our CEO, Nate Turner to see if SEO-focused content is a good fit for your company.

Discover how we can help.

Book a call with us and we’ll learn all about your company and goals.
If there’s a fit, we will put together a proposal for you that highlights your opportunity and includes our strategic recommendations.