The Ultimate Content Creation Guide
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In this post we will show you exactly how we execute high quality content creation at scale! (including sharing all of our standard operating procedures and article briefs for free!)
I have been a long time fan of Spencers and the NichePursuits audience, and up until recently (~6months) I had a demanding day job and had to focus on building systems to be able to operate my online business. Leveraging systems for creating great content I have built up my portfolio of websites to earn over $14k/month and I have left the day job to pursue my online ventures full time.
This is a giant guide but I will try and make it as actionable as possible!
- Get 7 standard operating procedures and article writing briefs (FREE) – HERE
- Get an exclusive and limited discount for done for you content marketing at ContentRefined (10% off!) – HERE (use coupon code “spencer” to save 10%)
In this post I am happy to reveal here many of the article briefs and SOPs we created as part of launching ContentRefined into a leading done for you content marketing service. (And see Niche Pursuit's full Content Refined review here.)
This post is a MONSTER and I hope it doesn’t overwhelm you as everything that we do gets shared.
If you are a website owner like me, you understand how difficult and time consuming it can be to maintain your sites, producing and publishing consistent content is tough!
Over time, I have accumulated over 60 active money websites, most of which are affiliate sites, blogs or FBA businesses. Although this portfolio of sites is still really fun to build out and make money off of, other aspects of my online business have really become a large focal point and I have less and less time to spend on my site portfolio.
With the number of projects I have (fellow willing sufferer of the bright shiny object syndrome like Spencer), in order to achieve sustainable I have to be crazy focused on systems!
Although all of my sites are a little bit different, a major commonality they share is that they all require great content marketing to sustain/grow. As you know, the quality of your content is something that is becoming more and more crucial to any site as Google keeps raising the quality bar and finessing their algorithms.
Because of my many projects I hired a new team member to help me run my money site portfolio and specifically focus on creating the systems to publish great quality content. I wanted more than just help maintaining my sites, I wanted my portfolio to have solid processes in place to ensure systematic quality without feeling like I had to do much myself.
It originally took a few months of really hard work, messing with different content marketing tools, and making a ton of mistakes to figure it out, but we have been able to create and execute a company SOP around systematic, high quality keyword research, content creation and content publishing. As a result, we have noticed that our rankings have been consistently increasing and the portfolio is experiencing pretty solid and consistent growth (as shown below from my income report).
As the site portfolio management started getting more and more efficient with this SOP, we saw potential for expansion as the need for quality content is a common problem for not only myself, but also for most site owners.
I pitched this idea (done for you content marketing) to a few members of my list, and as a result we got a few beta testers to see if the service would actually work for their sites and if they would see value in our processes. After a few months of tweaking our procedures and figuring out where our sore points were, we launched Content Refined, a one stop shop solution for your online content.
Now this blog post is all about sharing the tools, SOPs and insights created/learned in the creation of this system.
We truly believe that good quality content creation is attainable for everyone regardless of budget and we would like to share some tips, secrets and even some of our documentation with you so that you can either do it yourself with your own team, or choose to try out Content Refined if it makes sense for you and your business.
The next section will show you how to SYSTEMATIZE and OUTSOURCE EVERY STEP in the process!
- Hire Your Team
- Complete Keyword Research
- Assign Article(s) to Your Writers
- Writers Write the Articles
- Systematically Edit the Articles
- Publish the Articles
Do it Yourself with your Own Content Team:
If you want to create your own content using the Content Refined process, your best friend is going to be Upwork. Upwork is a great platform to hire a small team which should consist of at least one writer and a Virtual Assistant.
DIY – ONE – Hiring a Team:
Hiring consistent and high quality writers is an ongoing battle and something that we are constantly doing- However, we have managed to build up a really good core team of writers that have been with us for a long time and who produce a lot of content for us on a monthly basis by following our Hiring SOP and keep reading to see exactly how to do it on upwork.
Our 5 fundamentals on hiring/managing writers on Upwork is the following:
- Hire fast with no interview
- Hire more than you will eventually need. For example, if you have the need for 1 writer, hire 3 or 4
- Fire quickly- as soon as it is clear that the writer is not going to be a good fit for you fire them
- Keep them consistently working! No freelancer wants a dry week. This is their livelihood and they will prioritize another client over you if you don’t have consistent work for them.
- Make sure you have a system in place to manage their output and that you give them great instructions and feedback! Here are the General Instructions we give potential candidates for their test articles!
Note, me and my team have A LOT of experience on UpWork with 1,661 hires and over $400k in lifetime spend! So the tips above and below have been hard earned.
How to post a job and vet good potential candidates on upwork:
Part A: Posting your job post
Step 1: Log in to your upwork account
Step 2: Go to the Jobs tab and click on “post a job”
Step 3: Select “part time” unless you’re looking for a dedicated full time writer
Step 4: Create your Job posting
Step 5: Make sure that the category is “writing” and the subcategory is “web content”
Then- describe the job with the requirements. Generally what is listed below should suffice
Step 6: Add a screening question to weed people out! Generally with our screening questions, we ask candidates to fix a sentence that is grammatically incorrect so that you can just skip over their profile and application if they answer badly
Step 7: Click “post job”.
DONE! You’ve posted your job!
Part B: Hiring Your Writer(s)
Step 1: Wait 12 hours and check your job posting, you should have a few freelancers on the list at this point when you check your job posting
Step 2: Click “Review proposals” and you will get to a list of those who have applied
Step 3: Things we look for
- Budget: Does the bid fall within the budget that you specified?
- What have other clients said about this freelancer? We look for 80% job success minimum
- They have to be North American. Either from the USA or Canada. We’ve struggled with international writers with language capabilities, time zone changes etc.. The best writers for our business have consistently been from North America and educated in North America.
Step 4: If you find one you like and meets the metrics, click “hire freelancer”
TIP – In a world where hiring and firing has almost no cost the risk you are mitigating with an interview is not worth your time. Hire fast and fire fast!
Step 5: Make sure the budget is deposited and give them 3 days to complete their first test articles using these General Instructions.
Step 6: Once you get the articles back, it’s time to review the articles for your quality assessment. You’re going to want to look for the following things:
- Assess grammar and language capabilities to see if the article meets your expectations
- Copy and paste text of the article in Copyscape to make sure that the article isn’t plagiarized, and check out our full Copyscape review
Step 7: It’s time to make a decision and use your judgment in hiring/firing decisions. If you like what you see then give them a shot and you’ve got yourself a new writer!
TIP – Tools like MarketMuse or Grammerly can help systematize your evaluation of writers.
Now it is time to keep building your content creation team. Just a writer is not enough if you want to build a team to execute the entire strategy!
Hiring a Virtual Assistant for Keyword Research and for Content Publishing:
Let’s face it, Keyword Research and Content publishing can be complicated, technical and very time consuming. To understand the fundamentals of Keyword Research, check out the Longtail Pro University course for a really great, in depth look at how to do great Keyword Research.
For more technical tasks such as Keyword Research and publishing, I have traditionally hired a talented virtual assistant to help me with this. Now hiring a VA can be tricky, but for anyone who is trying to build up a good website or online business, I believe a VA is essential. Read below for a step by step guide to finding a qualified VA quickly on upwork.
Step 1: Log in to your upwork account
Step 2: Go to the Jobs tab and click on “post a job”
Step 3: Select “part time” unless you’re looking for a dedicated full time Virtual Assistant
Step 4: Create your Job posting
Here I will put down the requirements for each task that I need completed in the job description.
For Keyword Research I generally write something like this the job description:
“ I need someone to execute high-level keyword research using advanced keyword research tools that we will provide to the right candidate. Candidate must be able to do website research to make sure that there is no overlap in existing content, must have experience with Keyword research and must be able to come up with creative and competitive post titles. Ideal candidate will be either a Native English speaker or proficient in the English language”
Whereas for publishing tasks, I’ll get into the nitty gritty of what I need done for my Content publishing tasks:
- Publishing professional articles onto various WordPress sites and posting images that are copyright free and relevant to the article
- Embedding comparison tables using HTML and/or plugins
- Finding and posting relevant videos
- Finding authority sites with high DA and PA in the same niche and linking externally
- Linking internally to other related articles
- Adding meta descriptions
- Understanding Keyword placement
- Understanding YOAST scores
- Great English communication with the Project Manager is a must
Step 5: Click “post job”.
Step 6: Let some time pass ( 12-24 hours or so) and then it’s time to sort through your candidates
Here we are going to look for 4 things:
- How many hours has the person worked on UpWork (~30% weighting)
The general rule of thumb is “the more hours the better”. What can happen a lot is that someone will sign up on UpWork, apply to a job but then just never complete the assignment. Someone who is dedicated and who has a career in freelancing on UpWork will absolutely deliver results for you as they will want to ensure that they will be receiving positive feedback and future work.
- UpWork Feedback (~30% weighting)
General rule of thumb on this one is that if someone is below a 4 rating I would stay away. Reviews are useful to read but don’t take one negative review too seriously if they have many positive reviews as well.
- Matching Skill Set (~20% weighting)
In my case I am generally looking to find someone who has done this kind of work before. WordPress experience is a must, whereas for keyword research this is something I am willing to teach based on my own preferences.
- English Skills (~20% weighting)
Communication is essential to this business and I want to find someone who does not have any broken English in their application. What I’ll also do is send them a message via upwork and try to have a real time conversation with them in order to assess their English.
Step 7: Hire 2 of the best VA’s and Give them a Test
The best method that I have found is to do a blind experiment with my VA’s instead of an interview. In real life, the costs of making a hiring mistakes are high. In the online world, ending a contract only costs a few hours of work. You can save yourself tons of time by not doing interviews.
Assign each VA a short term publishing assignment and a short terms Keyword Research Assignment. It is important to send the instructions and assign the tasks right after you have hired them. The assignments I am looking to assign are going to be something that is simple and but that will test them on skills sets that are required for the job.
Step 8: Time to Review and Compare the VA’s work
The most important first step of the review you’re going to have of them is the initial communication. Questions are great- but in this case, the tasks I need completed are going to be simple and if they actually have the experience that they said they have, I shouldn’t be getting a ton of emails asking simple questions like “how do I save a post to Draft Mode” or anything they could easily learn on Google. If they do, then they will undoubtedly be a burden on me. If they are able to execute the tasks I give them properly, in a timely fashion, and without much guidance, I know that they will be good fit.
Using this method for testing VA’s has saved me so much time and has been a huge help to me and my team in terms of weeding out low performers without spending too much time on it.
Basically the 4 skills that I am looking at during this testing phase is:
- Speed of communication
- Quality of communication
- Quality of questions they ask
- Quality of final piece of work
CONGRATS! You now have a team to start managing the creation of your content for your sites!
DIY – TWO – Keyword Research
So now that you’ve got your Virtual assistant, you can start thinking about Content Creation. The first obstacle is finding solid Keywords and Article Titles<span< a=””> style=”font-weight: 400;”> for your articles. This is a process that we have nailed and it’s really simple. As I mentioned above, </span<>Long Tail Pro University is a great way to educate yourself on how to use the tool properly or you can follow this simple guide on how we conduct solid Keyword Research.
To give you some background, LTP has a few different subscription options that you can choose from. You can read more about the differences between each package here. If you are unsure about buying LTP, you can also sign up for their 10 day free trial.
Step 1: The first thing you do once you have LTP is set up a new project. You can do this by clicking on the green Add Project button.
Step 2: Now that you have a new project, you are able to find some keywords to analyze. You want to click on Find Keywords. Here you will have the option to add your own keywords or add Seed Keywords. If you add your own keywords, it will only analyze those keywords, however if you use the Seed Keyword section, it will find keywords related to the keywords you type in. I like to use the Seed Keyword option as it will bring up keywords you may not have thought of and it will widen your search.
Go ahead and input different keywords into the Seed Keyword option and we like to use these settings:
- Max result per seed keyword: 50
- Monthly Searches Min: 200
- Monthly Searches Min: 6000
- Suggested bid: We leave this blank
- Advertiser competition: We check all
Then click Retrieve Adwords Suggestions.
For this example I am going to type in the following seed keywords:
- cheap 7 inch tablets
- Best tablets for kids
- tablet reviews
- compare tablets
Once LTP gathered all the data, I was left with 62 keywords:
Step 3: Now we will need to do a competitor analysis.
So here, we are looking for at least 4/5 following metrics:
- 3+ sites that have a Domain Authority of 30 or less
- 3+ sites that have a Page Authority of 30 or less
- 4+ sites that have 30 page links or less
- 0-3 sites that have an exact match keyword title
- 1+ sites that are less than 3 years old
What makes this option the quick and easy option is that it gathers all the metrics for each keyword for you! What you need to do is click on each keyword one by one.
For this example, I am going to look at the keyword “tablets under $100”
You will want a place to keep this information, so I have created a document that you can download to help you organize your information.
Another good feature that LTP has is the ability to download the keywords you find into a .csv file onto your computer so you can open it up in Excel. This makes it easier for you as you will not need to type out all the keywords along with their titles, Suggested Bid, and Local Searches. If you have Long Tail Pro Platinum, it will also give you the Avg. KC.
From the above photo, we can conclude that;
- 0 sites have an exact match title
- 5 sites have a Domain KC of less than 30
- 6 sites have less than 30 page links
- 3 site in less than 3 years old
As we can see from our analysis (green=good), this keyword meets 5/5 of the metrics we wanted, so this would be a good keyword to go after.
After you have your main keyword (keyword with over 1,000 monthly searches) you will then want to find some long tail keywords relevant to your main one. These will help to generate traffic (in turn more income) to your site and allows you to tie in more products to your site.
DIY – THREE – Assigning Articles to Your Writer
So now that you’ve got your keywords, you can start thinking about Content Creation.
Once you have your keyword that fits within these metrics, you want to create an article title that has the main keyword in it, generally at the beginning of the title. For example, if the keyword is “Survival Tents”, you want the title to be something like “Best Survival Tents for Winter Camping”.
Now, I believe that this part of the process is where we really stick out and where we have really invested in the quality aspect of our content. As you probably are already aware of, Google ranks content based on a number of different metrics (learn more about what's considered a metric in Google Analytics). There is so much garbage and terrible content on the Internet that google wants to reward websites who have the best content to encourage quality content creation.
One measure that Google will take is the “In-Depth” article metric. The idea of this is to ensure that a piece of content covering a topic isn’t simply stuffing the article full of low competition keywords, rather they are discussing several topics that broadly cover the “Focus Topic” to give the reader a better understanding and therefore rendering the article more useful to the reader. This is all about LSI keywords and the Hummingbird update (Neil Patel did a great case study here).
So how do we make sure topics are being covered thoroughly? It is difficult for writers to have the knowledge base on every topic assigned for them to cover it “thoroughly” and with accordance to what Google believes is “thorough” and “ in-depth”. To address this problem and in order to setup our writers up for success, we invested in a really great tool called MarketMuse.
MarketMuse is a piece of online Software that allows you to grade your content by comparing it against other high ranking posts on on the same “Focus Topic”. It will help if you assign your articles to your writer and ask them to include topics and other keywords that will lead to different content opportunities.
What we’ve done, is we’ve basically built a brief for each article based on MarketMuse outputs with subheadings and sub topics that will guarantee that our writers won’t miss the ball on the article in terms of content depth.
For example, if I’m going to assign the article “Best 8 Inch Tablet”, I’m going to plug it in to MarketMuse BEFORE the article is written to see what it will suggest to me. See screenshot:
From the Screenshot, you can see that the Focus Topic has been analyzed. Three Metrics from this screenshot will help me determine my approach for my article on this topic.
This is keyword research going beyond what keyword research tools reveal and actually showing how competitive the top pages are in terms of the likely quality of their content.
- Content Score:
The Average Content Score is 28 whereas the best article on the internet for this topic has a score of 53
- Related Topics:
MarketMuse will output a list of “related topics” that should be mentioned in the article. Copy this list to be able to provide it to your writers.
- Content Wordcount:
This isn’t a huge factor for us, but definitely helps us figure out how long our article should be in order to compete online.
So with these metrics in mind, check out the Review Article Brief that I would send to my writer for this article here! Moreover, including an appropriate word count in combination with the suggested keywords and topics, will almost guarantee that your writer will cover the topic properly and that your article will be of high ranking potential.
As an FYI- We have a few different types of articles that we assign to our writers, you can check out our writing brief templates below:
- Review Article Writing Instructions
- Blog Post Article Writing Instructions
- How to Post Writing Instructions
- Buyer’s Guide Writing Instructions
- List Post Writing Instructions
DIY – FOUR – Writer Writes the Article
Based on the instructions provided in the section above your writer now writes the article.
DIY – FIVE – Editing Using MarketMuse:
Now do not fear! If your writer didn’t follow the instructions properly while writing your article, you can still salvage it and enrich it using MarketMuse (learn all about it in our in-depth MarketMuse review). This step by step guide will show and explain how to use the tool MarketMuse to create better, more valuable and in depth content for your website!
Step 1: Go to the website of MarketMuse and login with your credentials if you have an account
Step 2: Once you sign in, this will be your view. You might have to click on “dashboard” or “content Analyzer tab” to get to this view if it’s your first time signing in
Step 3: Take the article that you will be editing and simply copy and paste the focus Topic, the Title and the article in the correct areas. The click the “analyze” button
Hint: The focus topic will be the Keyword which is always in the title of the article
Step 4: It might take a minute or two to analyze, but at the Final analysis should look like this. I’ve pointed to the Content Depth Score, the Average Content Score Target and the Best Content Score.
We generally want our articles to be above the average content score target. So for this one, we can clearly see that it needs some work
Step 5: Read the Article from start to finish
Step 6: Now this is a judgment call. IF you feel like the article is badly written or has not been written by a native english speaker ( Basic grammar + sentence structure issues, odd choice of words etc..) you should probably have it re-written by another writer just throwing out the bad article.
IF not, then you should proceed to step 7
Step 7: After you’ve read the and corrected the errors in the articles, you’re going to look on the right side of the page and look at some of the keywords+topics listed.
Step 8: Without “ Keyword Stuffing” or inserting Keywords that are unrelated, start going through the article and adding suggested keywords where they fit and add value. You will see that it is really easy to get the article up to well above average by just adding a few value added sentences addressing any keywords mentioned.
Step 9: Now that we’ve got our content up to a reasonable standard by just using different words, take a look at the missing words on the list of keywords. They will generally identify a missing subject from the article. Here you can see that the writer didn’t think to include anything about Android tablets which is clearly an important thing to mention if the keyword is high up on the list.
This is where your chance to do some content writing fits in. Simply add in a small paragraph that talks about windshield insurance. It doesn’t have to be extensive.
DONE! You have a great article ready to be published!
DIY – SIX – Publish Your Article
Now that you have your crisp piece of market competitive content, it’s time to publish your article. You can either do it yourself if you don’t have a Virtual Assistant, or you can assign it to your Virtual Assistant. Either way, to ensure that all the SEO functionality is being covered, follow these steps:
Step 1: Login
Step 2: Adding a new post to the website
- Once you are on your sites dashboard page, you will need to go to either the left hand side and click on Post —> Add new post or go to the “edit with Thrive” depending on the site
- If you don’t know how to edit with thrive look at these tutorials! They are super useful and will help you figure out Thrive, which is in my opinion the one stop shop for WordPress publishing!
Step 3: Inputting the article into the post
- Enter the title of the article
- Copy and Paste the content from the article into the body section
Step 4: Editing articles
- Ensure all subtitles are formatted to Heading 3 and any other types of formatting edits you want to do! I suggest the following:
- Embed comparison tables using HTML and/or plugins
- Find and post relevant videos to your article
- Find authority sites in the same niche and link externally
- Find some relevant popular terms in the article to link to authority sites. So for example, in this article we could link the keyword “graffiti” to the wiki page for graffiti – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graffiti
You can do this with different sites such as About.com or any other general authority sites.
- Link internally
- Link internally to other article on your site
- Add meta descriptions with the keywords
- Add Tags
- Add Tags For the Post, Use 1-4 tags that are related to the article. In this case the article was about becoming a pressure washers so here are some example tags below:
- SEO (Copy the Title of the post into the SEO Title Box and add the first 1-2 sentences into the Description Below (Each Site Will Have A Slightly Different looking SEO Section here)
- IF there is a category, select the category (sometimes you won’t have one for your article, which is ok!)
Step 5: Publish your article!
Once you are done, publish your article and make sure that they YOAST scores are either yellow or green!
The downside of the Do It Yourself Model
Although this all seems pretty straightforward (which it is), one thing we haven’t really talked about is cost.
Downside 1 – Cost of Writers and Tools:
Unfortunately, the tools that we recommend using in order to have a competitive advantage are quite pricey, and it really only makes sense for people who are crushing out massive amounts of content and really making a business out of their websites to invest in these tools.
- LongTail Pro Pricing: Depending on the package you get, you’re looking at between 30-100 dollars/ month for the Keyword Research tool.
- MarketMuse: Again, depending on the package you get, you’re looking at spending between 200-500 dollars/ month for the Marketmuse tool.
Paying your writers and your VA’s: To get a good writer, you’re looking at around $50 an article and to get a good Virtual assistant you’re probably looking to spend between 5-10 dollars an hour.
In total, if you’re doing this yourself you’re probably looking at around 500-800 dollars a month for solid content creation for one website. This doesn’t even include images if you’re sourcing from a stock image account. There are ways to not do everything outlined in this guide and you will be able to save money.
Downside 2 – Time to Setup and Manage the Team
There are a few moving parts in this process that all need to be managed. Getting someone on your team responsible for the overall management of the process including the keyword research and publishing can add a lot of time/cost/complexity to the process.
If you are needing articles right away it can be very slow to get this entire process setup.
Done For You Content Marketing – ContentRefined.Com
This blog post was to give you insight into the exact process we have for content creation so that you have the resources and information at your fingertips to build out a similar system for your own sites.
We hope all the article brief templates shared will be helpful!
7 of our KEY templates all shared for free! Steal Them All While They Are Available!
All this free information I am sure will provide a lot of value to many people within the NichePursuits community.
However, for those that are looking to scale their business or find a method to get great content created we have a special offer for you!
(use coupon code “spencer”)
ContentRefined.com has scaled rapidly since its launch and now delivers a couple hundred great quality posts per month to clients with Affiliate Sites, ECommerce Sites and SaaS businesses.
At ContentRefined we are a marketing first focused content creation service that does everything for you from advanced keyword research through to blog post publishing.
As shown above we believe in being fully transparent and here is our exact process…
As a special for being a NichePursuits member we have a discount for you to give you a 10% discount for the first month using “spencer” – to signup click here
Make sure to use the limited coupon code “spencer”!
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