High-quality content that engages and delights readers requires a great deal of planning and time. If you want to generate more leads and attract more customers with your blog, you need a sound content marketing strategy.
However, any marketer will tell you that developing a plan that works is easier said than done.
Fortunately, there are many content planning tools available to give your content strategy a much-needed performance upgrade. From blogs to social media posts to other content types, a planning tool will help streamline and organize your digital marketing efforts.
Let's take a look at some of our favorite planning tools that will help you get the most out of your content strategy.
What is Content Planning?
Any marketing strategy requires a planning phase. Taking the time to develop a website content plan will help you turn great ideas into great content.
Planning content is different from content strategy.
A content strategy takes your goals and utilizes content as the primary method to fulfill those objectives. Your content strategy should lay the groundwork for what's going into your planning phase. Basically, strategy refers to the process that you go through before the planning phase.
On the other hand, a content plan includes building blocks that are chosen based on the goals outlined in your content marketing strategy.
In content planning, you develop topics for addressing your themes, select which content types to use, and create strategies to meet your company’s content goals and reader preferences.
Why is Content Planning Important?
Although content writing, in general, is a time-sensitive exercise, this doesn't mean content should only be developed on an ad-hoc basis. Properly planned content will provide you with a number of key advantages as you look to increase your organic visibility.
Content planning will:
Prevent Wasted Efforts and Minimize Mistakes
Too many marketers and content creators begin their digital marketing journey only to call it quits after a week or so.
Why is this the case? Because they think that their work isn't paying off.
Efficiently planning the critical elements of your content pipeline will save you time and help you avoid publishing website content that doesn't resonate with your target audience.
Ensure That Your Content Lines Up With Your Company Mission
Through brainstorming sessions and a handy content planner, you can make sure that your content ideas line up with your overall business goals.
From scheduling a content piece to connecting a blog post to one of your ongoing campaigns, the planning process makes it easier to align your game plan with long-term goals like maximizing reader engagement and increasing leads.
Keep the Team on the Same Page
Content planning works as a collaboration tool because it empowers you to keep different people on the same page. Everything is organized, accessible, and visible to the copywriters and content stakeholders, promoting a more collaborative environment.
Plus, content planning makes the editing process more straightforward and streamlined.
How Can a Content Planning Tool Help?
According to a survey by SEMrush, one of the top content marketing challenges for companies is to create content that generates quality leads.
Content planning significantly helps increase organic traffic and generate leads by maximizing engagement through high-quality and consistent blog posts.
Fortunately, there's no shortage of content planning apps and services to help you achieve this goal. A robust content planning tool will streamline the content creation process and provide you with many benefits.
A content planning tool will:
Keep You Organized
If you're still scribbling your blog topics on post-it notes or any piece of paper you find, you're doing it wrong. Although it's easy to be distracted by the influx of ideas, a content planning tool will help you refocus and stay on-track.
For example, a content calendar tool can provide a birds-eye view of your overall marketing campaign. As a result, it will be easier to align your topics with your other campaigns like email marketing and social media content.
Besides helping you organize your content, these tools will also help you detect content gaps.
Help You Create More Relevant Content
As you may already know, effective content provides value to your readers. By putting out more relevant website content, you'll establish your business as an authority, increase brand awareness, and generate more traffic and leads.
Many content marketing solutions can assist you as you look to identify the needs of your target audience.
They will not only help you plan, but they're also useful for researching and plotting out the best content for your brand. Using a planning app ensures that you stay at the top of your game in your quest to publish relevant and valuable content.
Drive Content Marketing Automation
Content marketing requires constant work and is very time-consuming.
However, thanks to advances in AI, it's possible to automate many non-critical (but still necessary) content marketing steps. There's a handful of website content planning tools and apps that enable you to automate tasks that would otherwise require one or more team members to fulfill.
Do you want to receive automated reports so you stay on top of your campaigns?
How about publishing a piece of content at night or during weekends?
Or perhaps, you wish to schedule and post content across social platforms?
These apps allow you to be more productive and creative with your content marketing campaigns.
Types of Content Planning Tools
You can find many different types of tools for planning content. These tools will be divided into categories based on their primary purpose.
Content Strategy Tools
Content strategy tools are primarily used for formulating the best possible plan for your content creation process. These tools will help you stay on track and focus on the most critical steps of creating content that's high-quality and valuable.
This type of tool can be as simple as a spreadsheet or as sophisticated as an all-in-one and feature-packed software.
Calendars and Project Management Tools
A content calendar is essentially a planning document that helps you visualize content publication on a calendar-like interface.
However, it does much more than simply give you a birds-eye view of your content plan. A calendar tool is also great for generating post ideas and topics, assigning writing tasks to team members, creating a publishing schedule, and for facilitating inter-team communication.
Many project management tools can also function as a content planning tool.
Team members can use a project management tool to organize, track, and manage their editorial calendars. Using this type of tool, you can design a content schedule, assign tasks to team members, plan future content, and even invite other team members to collaborate.
Social Media Tools
With the popularity of social media, it’s perhaps no surprise that there exists many specialized social media planning tools. For the most part, social media planners are usually calendar apps. Their main purpose is to organize and schedule posts in advance.
Scheduling posts is a critical feature because it allows consistent posting - one of the most important aspects of social media. A content calendar will improve your efficiency by keeping things organized and saving time.
Other Types of Content Planning Tools
There are also other types of content planning tools that don't fall into the categories outlined above. These solutions are generally hybrids that offer a mix of tracking and planning. They also tend to provide functions and features not found in other planning apps.
An excellent example is Wistia, a planning and tool used mostly for video content. It’s a popular video marketing software that injects SEO-optimized metadata into your videos for better ranking.
11 Content Planning Tools
Now we have covered the content planning tool basics, let's take a look at some of the best tools for creating a solid content marketing plan.
MarketMuse is an AI-powered content marketing platform designed to help you research, create, and optimize better content in less time. It uses AI and machine learning to analyze content, suggest topics to cover, and develop briefs to help collaborators create more impactful content.
There are three main components of MarketMuse: Inventory and Applications, Content Briefs, and First Drafts.
The Inventory collects and analyzes the pages and topics on your domain, calculates metrics like Authority Scores, Personalized Difficulty, and Content Scores, and makes it easy to use them to find your best optimization and new content opportunities.
The Applications are where you can find tools to research and plan your content projects. There are three primary tools: Research, Compete, and Optimize.
- Research: Type a subject or keyword, and the AI will provide a list of terms that you can include in your content piece and how many times you should use them.
- Compete: This feature focuses on competition research. What sort of content are you going up against? What terms are they mentioning and which terms are they not using enough?
- Optimize: This handy module analyzes your work and compares it with your competitors. It comes with a content score feature that lets you know how your writing compares with the competition and if you need additional topics to cover.
Within the platform, you can build Content Briefs with MarketMuse’s data and order AI-generated drafts based on your briefs with First Draft.
MarketMuse is one of the best content planning tools available. If your company or agency focuses on content marketing, MarketMuse is a must-have. In fact, so many of our clients use MarketMuse for their content planning that we recently incorporated it into our SEO-optimized services as a tool add-on.
2. Surfer SEO
SurferSEO - a cloud-based application that focuses on-page optimization - does that and more.
With this tool, you can create Google-friendly and on-page optimized website content.
The best thing about SurferSEO is that it can analyze your content against 500 ranking factors, comparing it against your closest competitors and giving you a data-driven SEO schematic to improve your rankings.
One of the features that we like best is the Content Score. This feature - acting as a content analyzer - reviews your work and provides feedback in real-time.
Although SurferSEO offers a lot of tools and features, you don’t need to be an SEO expert to use it. In fact, SurferSEO excels as a content planning tool because it's so easy to use and navigate.
If you're looking to improve your website content quality, Clearscope is another top-notch tool to consider. Clearscope is a keyword research and content optimization application that will help you get better rankings in search engines.
Think of Clearscope as the Grammarly for your SEO needs as it changes the way you write content.
You simply need to type your target keyword, and it will give you a list of key terms and topics you can use. Clearscope also assigns a score based on ranking factors such as word count, readability, and how well your content stacks up against your top competitors.
Once Clearscope analyzes your work, you'll receive a customizable report along with your current ranking and guidance on how you can improve your score. Clearscope makes it easy to create SEO-focused content while also streamlining the writing process.
Frase is an AI-powered content planning tool for researching, structuring, and writing blog posts and other new content types. Unlike the previous tools we discussed above, Frase specializes in providing content briefs.
When you write an article from scratch, Frase crawls the top websites in the Google SERPs and automatically generates a content brief in just a few seconds. The brief will contain topics or questions that you should cover.
You can also plug in a post you've already written, and Frase will optimize it and suggest terms that your competitors are using.
Other popular features include the ability to create content optimization workflows and strategy templates. As a content creator, Frase is one of your best options for generating blog briefs.
Topic is a top-notch solution for writing high-quality SEO content quicker and easier. Like Frase, it's mainly a content brief generation tool.
Like Clearscope, this app also lets you generate reports for your target keywords, access a content grader, and create briefs. The briefs will provide critical ranking factors such as word count, content grade, keyword volume, SERP results, post ideas, competitor outlines, etc.
We highly recommend Topic for its simple, no-nonsense interface and ease of use. The brief generator is a lifesaver, especially if you're always writing a long-form piece.
6. Content Harmony
Content Harmony is a content marketing tool that allows you to create data-driven briefs that easily integrate into your company's workflow.
It comes with a Keyword Brief feature.
Simply input your target keyword, and in a few minutes the application will fetch hundreds of data points and ranking factors for creating in-depth briefs. These generated reports are discussion-based and help streamline group collaboration as content strategists can quickly leave notes for writers.
Whether you're a freelance writer or a website content marketer, Content Harmony is undoubtedly worth a look.
7. Google Tools
That's right - you can use Google Sheets as a website content calendar and even as a social network planner.
Most people will recommend that you use project management apps like Trello to assign content marketing tasks, but a spreadsheet is also a viable option as it will provide you with a cost-effective overview of your plan.
With Google Calendar, not only can you plan out your content for the whole year, but your social media managers can also create templates to help their teams plan and schedule posts.
Provided that you're willing to customize your Google Calendar, it is an excellent option for content coordination and collaboration.
When it comes to collaboration tools, Trello is one of the most popular - and for good reason.
First and foremost, Trello is free.
Trello also uses a Kanban-style structure with cards that you can transfer to different boards as needed. Trello makes it a breeze for team members to work together with its comment and task management features.
Trello is also recommended for social media marketing because it can easily organize social media posts, videos, blogs, draft posts, social media accounts, and any other content type.
Overall, Trello's features make it a top contender for planning and managing a writing team.
If you need help organizing your blogging schedule and marketing in general, CoSchedule is an excellent place to start. It's a marketing calendar app that integrates with WordPress, Google Docs, Google Analytics, and just about any other platform you can think of.
CoSchedule is a cloud-based platform, meaning that individuals and large teams can easily coordinate tasks and manage online content. The Marketing Calendar feature boasts an intuitive and beautiful interface, making it a delight for teams to accomplish their tasks.
CoSchedule will help you save time and improve the overall performance of your team.
10. Gather Content
This application has a number of features that can help increase team productivity, including a centralized content creation and collaboration system, as well as the ability to create custom workflows for each phase of the production process.
Regardless of your communication channels, Gather Content will keep everyone on the same page and empower you to focus on what matters most: creating valuable and hassle free website content.
Content marketers that focus on social media platforms shouldn't overlook ContentCal.
ContentCal is a top-tier content planning tool that does a great job of helping teams collaborate and connect. It’s one of the most popular apps for managing social networks and channels.
At its core, ContentCal is primarily a scheduling and publishing app.
As perhaps the most visually driven app on this list, ContentCal stands out from the pack. From the color-coded UI to what the platform calls Snippets, the app's focus on easy to digest visuals gives teams a shared view of all future posts so they can clearly see what’s going out and when.
Content Planning Matters
Great content starts with a plan. However, a great plan doesn't just come out of thin air. Whether it's a calendar or a team collaboration app, the right content planning tool - one based on your business needs - will go a long way in helping you efficiently create and distribute strong content.
What content planning tools do you use? Let us know in the comments!