Creativity without strategy is called art. Creativity with strategy is called advertising.
I started my first two blogs out of greed and passion, but both failed in a couple of months. The first lacked creativity. I didn’t care about what I was writing — I only wanted to make money. And the second lacked strategy. Even if I loved the self-improvement field, I couldn’t design a practical plan to make my thoughts interesting enough to scale.
So I had to learn that although creativity is the fundamental requirement of good writing, strategy is its ruler. The innocence of the first cannot live without the security of the second, and they need each other to create a kingdom — in this case, a blog.
If you are a new writer, you are probably focusing on one of the requirements that a blog needs. But you have to start addressing the second, or it will never catch enough readers. So here is how to create a content strategy worth one year in only five steps.
The cooperation between creativity and strategy.
Creativity without strategy is called art. Creativity with strategy is called advertising.— Jef I. Richards
When you decide to create your first blog, it is always a decision that comes from a creative or monetary need. You either want to talk about something that fascinates you, or you want to make money. In some rare cases, both of them.
But creativity alone never worked. I may create pure art and become the best artist in my field, but does it matter if nobody knows that I even exist? Or is it worth investing my life into a project people may or may not discover years after my death?
Using only strategy doesn’t work either. I may have planned the next twenty-year of content. But nobody will read my articles if I expose the same old ideas without offering new perspectives.
So if you want to write good content, you need to create a content strategy that includes both creativity prodigies and planning stability. Therefore, to get started, here are five steps that helped me build one for my first year of blogging.
1 — Focus on creativity and passion.
When I wrote my first content strategy, it was clear that anything had to start from creativity. I couldn’t write articles and expect people to read them if they were a collection of repurposed content. Instead, I had to build a vast idea pool first and then plan those ideas to reach most of the available audience for that niche.
Hence, each time I write my content strategy for the following year, I always start with a week of exclusive brainstorming sessions. Every day, I take a blank sheet and try to write at least ten ideas before the end of the schedule. Then, I mesh all those thoughts together.
For some people, ten ideas could become a pressure point. Perhaps because they are not used to writing that many article topics in such a short time. Or they prefer working for prolonged periods. But keep in mind that those ideas will not become articles right away. And you will have time to discard some of the topics, review others, or even merge them to create better ideas.
Usually, the larger the idea pool, the better the content strategy. Overdoing, however, will impact your creativity flow, so find a stable point between the two tendencies.
Also, after each brainstorming session, blend the new ideas with the old ones. You can build a content map scheme, a digital pool, or even an idea journal. The mixture of unrelated arguments will spark new ideas, sometimes even more interesting than the originals. So make sure to catch and add them to your pool.
2 — Identify people’s needs and tendencies.
If you want to create a long-term content strategy, creativity is not enough — you need to search the market. So in my content strategies, I have always prioritized research because it feeds my pool with trending influences.
Usually, I use many tools to find data. AnswerThePublic, Google Trends, and Quora are some of my favorites — they are all free, and their combined data is enough for an efficient content strategy.
AnswerThePublic provides me with a range of related questions that may interest people. Google Trends calculates the potential traffic that a topic can reach. And Quora shows with extreme accuracy what people are searching for and which the title should be.
So if I want to study a topic, I scan it first with the first two services to find the exact keyword people discuss the most. Then, I research those words on Quora, so I have an idea of the appropriate tone to approach the target audience.
Here, I also pay attention to the topics nobody is talking about. If I find one, I know I can exploit the first-come-first-served strategy. But I need to relate it to a high-traffic subject to give it a starting value.
3 — Subdivide the year into periods.
Once I finish the creative and research steps, I have to schedule the content.
In the past, I used many scheduling techniques. But working with chunks of weeks always worked best with blogging. So I subdivide the year into many short periods and place articles based on my personal goals and the research I made.
For example, if I plan to reach 1k followers until mid-year, and I make it public, I will write an update on how I made those followers. So I can maintain continuity in my blog while earning the trust of my readers.
Besides my personal goals, I also exploit critical periods like holidays, end-of-year goals, new year resolutions, and the productivity slumps of summer holidays.
For example, despite writing this article in November, I will still publish it at the beginning of the year. Therefore, I can take advantage of the well-known tendency of searching for planning techniques in this period.
So once you have a pool of articles, split your year into periods of relevancy, and try to place ideas on this subdivision. This way, you will create a content strategy worth one year.
4 — Repurpose content far enough.
People need reassurances to believe in you. They want to know that you will fulfill your promises and your techniques work. Therefore, each time you write an article, they search for confirmations, sometimes even on your blog. Hence, in this case, repurposing content can become a promising technique.
When I first started blogging, I thought that repurposed content was a symptom of a lack of ideas. And in many cases, I still believe it is. But discussing the same topic can bring new perspectives to my readers, which gives me many advantages.
If I write an article about productivity and find ways to improve it, I should inform my audience. Perhaps I noticed my technique stops working under predefined conditions, or another one is more efficient. So repurposing content will increase my reliability and provide additional value to my readers.
But all these repurposing techniques work under two conditions.
First, I have to admit my failure and provide a solution, which exposes my vulnerability and fallibility. And second, I have to avoid fooling my readers because they will understand it and search for another honest writer.
Discussing a topic one more time is not bad writing, but you need to provide new data. Don’t write the identical concept because you lack ideas. Spend some time finding another perspective, at least, or your readers won’t spend their time with you either.
5 — Introduce a fun/luck factor.
Writing articles can start as a passion, but doing it for a year will transform it into a job. So to keep writing without giving up, you need to introduce a distraction system — something that keeps reminding you why you started.
When I outline my content strategy, I always keep at least one blank space a month, sometimes even more. Writing has always been about having fun and discussing things that I love. So I want to make sure I can always write about the last trend that excited me without waiting for weeks.
The unrelated articles have always reignited my passion. They remind me of my love of writing and get readers excited about topics they never expected.
Also, I noticed how some articles trigger the interest of many readers and become small cults on my blog. So I am using these articles to introduce a luck factor into my content strategy.
Perhaps some of those topics could become the next focus of my blog, as it happened for writing. In the beginning, I wanted to talk about self-improvement only. But once I wrote about creativity and writing, and people loved that content, I kept giving them those kinds of articles because I loved them too.
I would have never discovered that passion without testing unrelated articles. So if you want to write about something different from the usual, just do it.
If you want to create a content strategy worth one year, you can follow five simple steps.
First, start from creativity and build an idea pool that provides you with enough topics to fill more than one year. Then, analyze the parameters of those topics. How many people search for them each month? Which are the most searched related topics? Which is their core interest?
Once you deal with those two steps, you can plan your content. So start with subdividing the year into relevant chunks of time and then fit each article idea in the correct spot.
If you want to repurpose content, make sure you have relevant data to add to it — readers don’t like when you fool them. And if you need to reignite your passion once in a while, leave some blank spaces in your content strategy, so you can fill it with whatever charms you at the moment.
Here is how to create a content strategy worth one year in only five steps.
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Cover photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash.