How To
18 min read

SEO Content Marketing For Startups: How to create a content production system

Chris Lu

June 2, 2022

Introduction

Content marketing is a vital part of any successful marketing strategy. No matter what kind of business you’re running, a solid content production system can help improve your rankings, increase traffic, and drive sales. When it comes to content marketing, consistency and strategy are key — without the right approach, you won’t get the results you want. Ready to ramp up your content production but not sure where to start? In this guide, we’ll give you some insights into what it takes to create and maintain a successful content production system.

Content is king

Example Traffic

If you’re reading this, you probably understand the fundamental importance of a content strategy. In the realm of digital marketing, your content marketing strategy is the key to converting website visitors and building an audience for your company’s products and services. In fact, when you focus on content marketing, all your other online marketing efforts (including email marketing or social media) will follow suit.

However, most companies still aren’t producing enough content. Or worse — they aren’t producing the right kind of content! It can be difficult and overwhelming to identify and create the right types of content, from blog posts and social copy to case studies and white papers. And even if you come up with a few ideas for new pieces of content, how do you scale those ideas into a steady stream? How do you manage the production process to ensure everything gets done, and how do you track and assess your results?

This guide will help you answer some of these questions by walking you through each step in the process of creating an SEO-driven content production system.

Why should startups invest in content marketing?

Have you ever taken a look at your spend on Google Ads and thought, “This isn’t sustainable?” Do you want to confidently increase your inbound traffic without increasing your marketing spend? If so, then you need to start making content.

If organic search is the primary method by which people discover your brand online, you have a chance to provide useful information that helps your potential customers solve their problems—without having to pay for each interaction. This is what we mean when we say content marketing is scalable: it can reach a large number of people for far less money than traditional advertising.

In addition to being scalable, creating content has the added benefit of nurturing prospects through the sales funnel and building trust with existing customers in a way that traditional advertising doesn’t. Effective content marketing helps establish your brand as an authority while also naturally increasing brand awareness and recall among consumers —rather than through interruption-based advertising.

Myths about content marketing

Myth 1: You need a lot of content to rank.

In the past, this idea was more accurate than it is today. There was once a time when volume trumped all other factors when it came to ranking in search engines, but this is not necessarily true today.

With Google’s advances in AI and machine learning, there’s no reason your site can’t rank based on fewer pieces of relevant, high-quality content. In fact, recent research shows that sites with one or two pieces of long-form content can outrank sites with hundreds of pieces that are shorter but less informative (and thus less relevant, at least to Google).

There are many instances where fewer words are better than more words — the most important factors are relevance and quality, not volume. As long as you follow that principle for every piece of content you write , you should see good results from Google.

Myth 2: SEO is spammy.

While there’s a common misconception that search engine optimization (SEO) means shoddy content, nothing could be further from the truth.

When you apply the right strategies and use the right tools, nothing about your content marketing process will feel like “spam.” In reality, you’ll produce a well-organized system that delivers relevant and helpful content to your readers — which is exactly what Google wants from sites in the first place.

While it’s true that there are some “black hat” SEO tactics out there that take advantage of search engine loopholes and try to game the system, using them will only hurt your site in the end. It’s not worth it! On the contrary, responsible and strategic SEO will help your rankings without alienating your readers.

Myth 3: It’s all luck.

A lot of people think you need a stroke of good fortune (or maybe a few) to make your blog successful. The truth is, you don’t need a built-in audience or a viral post in order for your content marketing efforts to make a difference for your business. In fact, our system will show you how consistent effort over time can drive reliable traffic and conversions — even if you don’t start off with a massive base of subscribers or followers.

What is a content production system?

A content production system is a scalable, data-driven system for producing content that generates more leads and sales — a process for planning and publishing content at scale, tracking results, and optimizing for success.

The ultimate goal of content creation is to get more leads and sales, and it’s difficult to do this without a repeatable process in place — a number of things need to happen in order for your blog posts or videos to be effective. If you want to rank on Google, for example, there are dozens of things you can do on every piece of content you publish to improve your chances of ranking higher than your competitors.

While attempting these tactics may pay off sometimes, your results will be very hit or miss unless you have a proven process in place. In order to achieve consistent success, you’ll need a regimented, repeatable method for publishing your SEO content — a method that works over and over again, without fail.

Set your goals

What are your overall business objectives?

To kickstart your system, you need to make sure you understand your startup’s objectives. If you don’t know which metrics you’ll use to measure success, it will be impossible to build a system that delivers results.

Let’s get started: What are your overall business key performance indicators (KPIs)? What does success look like for your company — is it more traffic from search visits?  More leads from organic search? More conversions from organic search visitors?

No matter your motivations, it’s important to understand what you want your content marketing to achieve and how it can help your startup grow. For example, if your high-level goal is to “increase organic traffic by 10% in six months,” this will help you build your content production system around a targeted, measurable goal (e.g., create daily blog posts, target specific keywords, etc.).

If you’re starting from scratch, you can expect to start seeing results in as little as two months. Make sure to budget at least six months to execute a new content strategy, and remember to be patient — prolonged, consistent effort will always pay off.

What do you need to hit these business objectives?

Any SEO strategy must be centered around your business objectives. In this stage, you should work toward identifying precisely what you are trying to accomplish and then creating a tailored content marketing plan to help you reach your goal. A good place to start is by defining your goals in terms of traffic and leads.

For example, say your goal is to increase website visits. The question then becomes: what do you need to rank for? If it’s a high-volume keyword, you’re going to need a fair amount of content in order to earn that ranking. On the other hand, if it’s a lower-volume keyword, you may only need one or two pieces of stellar content.

In this stage, take some time to brainstorm all the assets you’ll need in order to reach your goal. For example, if your objective is increasing traffic and leads, consider:

How many leads do you want?

Which relevant keywords will help each piece of content rank well?

What types of content will actually lead to conversions? (e.g., case studies for bottom-of-funnel or white papers for top-of-funnel)

What is your marketing budget? (If you don’t have enough resources, it might be hard to hit your goals.)

Understanding all of this will help you create a more organized and effective content marketing strategy.

Develop a content marketing strategy

Identify opportunities

Finding the right opportunities for content development can be a daunting task. Here are the most important tools and methods you can leverage to identify opportunities:

1. Use keyword research tools.

Example keyword results for "content marketing"

Google provides a ton of valuable search data, but some of it is not accessible through their own platform (because they don’t want their competitors accessing it). Thankfully, several third-party tools can give you access to this data, including Ahrefs and SEMrush. Even better, these platforms also provide additional functionality beyond SEO keyword research, including competitor analysis and backlink-checking capabilities. You can also check out Copy.ai's keyword generator to begin your research process.

Other similar tools include:


2. Identify and evaluate topics from the perspective of your target audience’s journey.

Let’s say your company sells SEO software. Content that helps people choose between different tools would not be particularly useful for someone who is researching SEO (at the awareness stage of their journey), but it would be very helpful for someone who is ready to buy (at the consideration and decision stages). Understanding where your target audience is in their journey and providing content that meets them there can help attract potential customers to your site earlier in their research process.

3. Use Google trends and other resources to understand what content is trending.

Google trends for "content Marketing"

You can also look at historical data on your own website or blog, such as what type of posts have performed well in terms of engagement or conversions over time. This will give you insight into which types of topics resonate most with your specific audience so you can use this information to inform future content-planning efforts.

Other tools include:


4. Review competitors for inspiration, but don’t copy them! 

Tools like Buzzsumo allow you to see top-performing pieces of content across multiple metrics (like social shares or backlinks) by any given domain name (as long as they have an account with one or more of these platforms). Once you know which kinds of articles tend to do well on certain sites, you can emulate aspirational content strategies while still adding your own personal flair and targeting areas of improvement!


5. Personalize your strategy to your startup roadmap.

Focus on creating content that will be useful for your future product roadmap. For example, write thought leadership content to help elevate awareness about the company’s vision, or plan posts around upcoming product launches or feature releases! Early-stage startups find success by creating content that is relevant to their industry, useful for their customers, and indicative of the company's expertise.

Need help creating one? Read our blog on how to create a content strategy from scratch!


Evaluate your current content

A good content strategy involves a combination of quantitative and qualitative data.

By analyzing the pages that are already live on your website, you can uncover interesting insights on your visitors and their behavior. Find out which pages are ranking well, which pages bring in the most leads, and which ones convert leads to customers — then, use this info as a guide to create more of the type of content that brings in results.

There are several ways to analyze your existing content:

These insights can uncover low-hanging-fruit opportunities such as pages where you can add more content or tweak the existing content (for instance, by adding an internal backlink or changing your blog structure) to boost your ranking.

Other tools include:


Design your content marketing funnel

Let’s say you’re aware of the importance of content marketing, but you’re not really sure where to start. You know you need to create something (anything!) to get the ball rolling, and you want your website to rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs) when people look up your company or industry. The first step is to identify gaps in your website’s content marketing funnel.

Pillar page: The cornerstone of your content marketing funnel, this page is usually a long-form informational article answering very specific questions that have been asked by your target audience.

Topic pages: These are secondary pages created specifically for ranking around an industry-relevant topic identified on your pillar page. These pages will link back to each other as well as the pillar page so readers can seamlessly hop from one article to another to get more information about specific subtopics covered in the series.

Conversion pages: These are your breadwinner pages — your bottom-of-the-funnel pages. They will drive leads and traffic as people click through from one of your topic pages, helping you convert prospects and build credibility. Conversion pages can be landing pages, webinar sign-up pages, case studies, or any other type of content that encourages action.

Strategically linking your content  funnel will help website visitors flow more smoothly through each stage of the content funnel, keeping them on the site longer and ultimately improving your conversion rate.


Build your content marketing infrastructure

Set up analytics to measure your results

How will you know if your SEO content strategy is succeeding if you have no way of measuring your results? 

When it comes to analytics, it’s important to choose the right tool for your business. Free tools like Google Search Console are great because they offer data on website traffic, bounce rates, and more.

However, these tools won’t help you identify the specific keywords that are driving traffic to your particular site. That’s where tools like Moz come in handy — Moz allows you to track keyword rankings across all major search engines so you can identify what’s working and what isn’t.

Once you have analytics set up, you can use this information to identify opportunities and problems as they arise.


Set up your blog structure

Your blog setup will influence how much referral traffic you get and how many leads you generate. If it’s not done correctly, you could lose out on search clicks, which ultimately means less revenue for your business.

So what does a well-structured blog look like?

First of all, it has a clear, user-friendly navigation structure. Visitors should be able to find the information they need without getting lost in a maze of links that are hard to find or follow.

There should also be enough real estate to allow internal links between posts — this way, users and search crawlers can identify which articles are important (which will help improve rankings).

Example of internal link real estate

Finally, tell users where to go and what to do next by placing call-to-actions throughout each piece of content. Attention spans are short in the digital age, so readers will appreciate you making things easy for them!


Handle the basics

From an article’s content to how fast your website loads, Google places a high premium on user experience. Make sure whatever you’re writing is quick to load and easy to navigate!

Here are a few simple things you can do:

  • Run your blog through Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. This will provide you with a bunch of suggestions on how to improve site speed, reduce page size, and improve your overall score.
Example Page Speed Results
  • Keep your site simple. Avoid adding any plugins that aren’t essential to your readers, and stick with a clean, mobile-friendly design.

Implement a content creation workflow

Create standardized briefs

​​The first step in implementing a content creation workflow is creating standardized briefs. You can use the template above to help you establish one for your company.


A brief should include the following:


  • Title of content
  • Keywords (usually a primary keyword and a few secondary keywords)
  • Style or brand guidelines (a document that outlines your brand’s tone, voice, and target demographic)
  • A description of what the content does and its intended purpose (i.e., to inform, advise, entertain, teach, warn, etc.) 


A successful brief will help the writer write with an objective in mind, ensuring a strategic and intentional approach. All briefs should be approved by a manager prior to assignment. When you present a brief to your manager, you can walk them through the above points and use this opportunity to make sure you understand what is expected of you.

Hand off to writers

Once you’ve established your standard templates and a system for getting answers to the questions they pose, it’s time to implement an actual editorial workflow. This can be as simple as sending your writers an email with a template attached, or you can use a project management tool like Trello or Asana.


As part of the handoff process, make sure the writer has everything they need: the template, any relevant research or resources (including links), and clear instructions on what kind of content you want them to deliver. Let them know what formats work best for you and the company, such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word docs. Above all, set expectations for turnaround times and review — writers should know when they need to deliver a draft and prepare for edits during the review process.


This is also the point in the process where you can decide how much collaboration is required within your team. For example, you could have each member (including yourself) write their own sections of a long-form article and review each other’s work as part of regular meetings, or you could opt to assign projects individually based on different writers’ strengths.

Empower your writers with AI tools like Copy.ai to write faster. Be sure to share our guide on how to write a blog fast!

Review and approval

Once the draft is complete, you’ll be able to send it to your editor, who will do any final polishing before publication.



A good editor knows how to enforce your brand guidelines, identify any problems with the flow of a piece, and offer suggestions to make your content even more readable. By hiring an editor, you’ll be addressing a common issue among content marketers: lack of editing.


If you’re struggling to find someone who can edit your articles on a regular basis, consider outsourcing editing services. It may seem like an expensive option in the short term, but in the long run, outsourcing these tasks is actually much more cost-effective than doing everything yourself.

SEO post processing

After you're satisfied with the content of the piece, go back and optimize other SEO factors like images, URLs, meta descriptions, broken links, page titles, and internal links.


Images: When choosing files name for your images, be concise but descriptive. For example, "SEO-checklist" — use dashes instead of spaces or other characters in file names (Google recommends using hyphens over underscores), and use alt tags to describe an image’s function. Using keywords here can help you rank for those terms.


URLs: Your URL should be as short as possible while still being meaningful and readable. A URL like "seo-content-production-system" reads much better than "how-to-create-an-seo-content-production-system-that-works," which would be more difficult to interpret at a glance.


Meta description: While a meta description doesn't directly affect search rankings, it can increase clickthrough rates when users see it in their search results. That means more traffic to your site! The ideal length of a meta description is between 150 and 160 characters (roughly 25 words), according to Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. It helps if your main keyword appears somewhere in your description (though not necessarily at the beginning).


Broken links: Check all hyperlinks — both internal and external — to make sure they're sending visitors where they need to go. Broken links on your site will lead to a negative user experience, resulting in higher bounce rates as well as lost opportunities for rankings improvement via link-building efforts. Google may not follow or count any linking opportunities you have built out with these broken pages involved, which could ultimately hurt this particular content asset on Google's radar for ranking improvements.


Page title: The page title appears as the first line of a search result. It should include your primary keyword, but it should also be concise and represent the content on the page without keyword stuffing.


Internal linking: Build links from your existing blogs to the new blog and vice versa. This is beneficial to both users and search engines — it gives users more information so they'll spend more time exploring your site, and search engines will reward you by sending more traffic your way!


Feeling overwhelmed? Create a checklist that includes each task in this post-processing process so you don't miss anything next time around.

Publish (and promote) your content

Congratulations, you’ve finally reached the pot of gold at the end of the content production rainbow: publishing.


This means more than just putting your content on your blog — it also means getting the word out to as many people as possible, which is why we also call this step “distribution.”


There are tons of ways to distribute your blog posts once they’re published:


Share on social media. This is an obvious one, and it’s the easiest way to get more eyeballs on your content! Sharing on social media also improves SEO by driving additional traffic to your site, which sends positive signals to search engines.

Email list. If you have a large email list, send your audience a link to the new post so they know it’s there! Your email list is made up of highly engaged users who are interested in what you have to say, so treat them well.

Influential partners and brand advocates. When it’s appropriate and relevant, reach out to other bloggers or thought leaders within your industry with links to your new post. Ask if they would be willing to share it with their audience — if they agree, be prepared to do the same for them.

Good content plus good distribution will lead to backlinks, inbound links created when another website links to your website. These links are the number one ranking factor in SEO.


Now that you have a solid understanding of how the system works, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test and start getting more traffic from Google!

Create a timeline

Identify effort and time necessary for each type of post

Create an editorial calendar. Content creation is a time-consuming process. It takes at least a few days to research, write, and format a post that meets your standards, and it’s always wise to leave ample time for review. Plan ahead.


While research and writing are the most time-intensive parts of content creation, formatting should be relatively quick. There are plenty of tools available online to streamline this process for both writers and editors: Notion can help writers collect notes on sources and ideas during their research, while Grammarly can help editors catch grammar mistakes and plagiarism in the writing stage.


By understanding the time it takes to create different types of content, you’ll be better equipped to  scale your production process. This is especially true when it comes to onboarding and training new writers.


Perhaps most importantly, don’t expect to see immediate results from your content marketing efforts. Consistency is key, so be patient and steep yourself in the process.

Scale your system depending on your timeline and objective

A strong content production system is scalable in several ways. First, the amount of time you have to produce your content affects how many pieces you can create for a campaign; the more time you have, the more content you can produce. Make sure your timeline is realistic and leaves room for you to create informative, high-quality content.

And remember: producing great content takes time and resources, so make sure to realistically align your objectives with your timeline! If you have a shorter timeline or larger content production goals, consider scaling up the size of your team by hiring contractors or freelancers to help with writing or editing tasks.

If you build your content production system with scalability in mind, you’ll be able to quickly add or subtract resources as your company, team, and goals evolve.

Create a guest posting process


Over time, your reputation will begin to precede you, and people will start to reach out with guest post requests. Establishing a process for guest posts can help you standardize your outreach and make it easier to scale. Here's what I recommend:


Have target keywords in mind. This way, when someone asks if they can include a backlink to their website, you'll be able to tell them whether or not there's room in the content calendar.

Develop a standard guide outlining guest post requirements ( minimum word count, tone of voice, etc.). This way, people know exactly what and how they need to write. You should also make clear whether links are permitted (and where) in this document.


Create a tracker. This will help you keep track of assignments, deadlines, and submissions so there won't be any delays or overlap between pieces.

Guest posting is an excellent way to grow your business faster with less effort, so be sure to take advantage of it!


Monitor your published articles

Once you’ve created and published a blog, it’s time to monitor its performance over time.

Content decay

“Content decay” refers to when a post stops getting traffic over time. This can happen for a number of reasons, often because the content is out of date or the topic is no longer relevant.


If your content is not bringing in any search traffic, it’s time to find out why. Start by checking whether something else could be causing the problem, like a technical issue or a change on the site that’s blocking indexing.


If that doesn’t turn up anything, then it’s time to research whether your content is actually being found. Use tools like Google Search Console to see which keywords are driving impressions and clicks. This will help you identify what searchers may be looking for—and why they might not be interested in your content.


Once you find out why the content isn’t performing well, you have two options: update or remove it.


First, see if you can improve the content so it performs better. You might need to tweak the title and meta description, or even just add some internal links to help users find the piece more easily. If possible, spend some time improving the content itself to make it more relevant for searchers — this is where your keyword research might come in handy again. 


If you don’t have time to improve the page (or if you think it would be best just to start over with a new page and a new topic), then consider removing the old content altogether. This will reduce any duplicate content issues and ensure that searchers are being directed only to relevant pages on your site.


Automate the review process

No production system is complete without a system for monitoring, reviewing, and updating your content. You need to automate the review process so you can regularly check in on all of your content, determine whether it’s meeting your goals and objectives, and use these insights to inform future planning sessions.


One simple recommendation is to set up alerts for when a post’s performance drops below a designated threshold. These alerts will prompt you to visit the post itself and analyze why it has dropped in performance. If engagement is suffering because a piece of information is incorrect or no longer relevant, then you’ll quickly be able to make the appropriate changes. 


If the post is still valuable but people are no longer finding it through search,  think about how you can tweak it to improve its performance.


Takeaway

By getting the right content in front of the right people, content marketing can convert valuable leads and customers for your business. Build strategic systems within your organization to reap the biggest, most consistent rewards from content creation.


Content marketing for startups isn’t easy, and it takes time to master the various nuances of content creation, analysis, and optimization. However, doing research and testing your ideas on a massive scale gives you a huge advantage over your competitors, who are likely struggling with content creation on such a large scale. Start small, and build your way up as you learn what works best. Your content production system will be a well-oiled machine before you know it!

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