For eCommerce companies looking to increase organic traffic, “scaling” content production, that is, building systems to produce a higher volume of content is usually a strategy that is on their radar. We hear this often from clients: “We’re looking to scale content production”, or “In the past, we tried scaling content production, then this happened”, etc.
The logic is simple: more content for Google to index should lead to more organic traffic.
Loosely speaking, that logic is sound.
But Google continues to update their algorithm to emphasize content quality above all else, hoping to keep giving searchers better and better results for their queries.
So, eCommerce companies looking to “scale” content production volume need to do so carefully. If that scale in content creation comes with a reduction in quality, in Google’s eyes, then it can either (a) render your content marketing efforts fruitless or, worse, (b) actively hurt rankings.
We see these mistakes made often. For example a company “scales” by hiring a bunch of junior copywriters (and maybe junior SEO team members) generally resulting in:
- A lot of low-quality content with little authority and inaccurate information
- A lack of brand authenticity or connection
- A traffic spike without the accompanying conversions and new customers
In other words, lots of time, effort and marketing spend with little to show for it.
But there is a better way.
In this guide, we want to lay out an operational plan to scale content production while maintaining high-quality content, so you can reap the most SEO benefits possible.
Specifically, we’ll cover how to:
- Create a strategic plan
- Define the operational plan (e.g. team structure, roles/responsibilities & processes/tools)
- Execute well
- Evaluate results against goals
- Repeat, adjusting the strategy & operational plan as needed
Content Strategy: Maintaining Quality While Scaling Volume
A great content strategy is important for all brands looking to scale content since it helps you think through your needs, define and track your goals, and reduce the chance of spending foolishly on content promotion (or, the wrong hire!).
However, content strategies—and how to put them together—are covered a million different ways around the web, to varying success. This doesn’t make this less important (it’s critical, in fact) but I don’t want to spend all our time on this vs. the operational game plan since that element is largely forgotten.
So when it comes to content strategies, follow the great advice you’ve already seen out there, and:
- Ensure you think through & define all the items that are applicable to you on this list.
- Plan for how you want to display E-A-T on your site.
Google and other search engines are placing a greater emphasis on “E-A-T”, or “Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness” for all websites, broadly speaking. Specifically, to a greater degree, to all YMYL Sites (Your Money or Your Life) sites—websites covering content related to finances, medical advice, legal information, etc.—as well as anyone accepting & processing private data (aka: all eCommerce cart pages due to credit card processing!).
Whether or not your site has E-A-T (spoiler alert: it should,) you should think through how well you show your E-A-T to your customers—and Google—on your website.
Quick example: if you are a YMYL site selling medical devices, you wouldn’t want some junior copywriter doing research on the internet, regurgitating three different articles, changing some copy around, and then creating a new post. That’s a recipe for inaccurate information and low authority. (And just because it might be accurate doesn’t inherently make it authoritative.)
You need to look at your website as a whole—including each piece of content and all pages—and objectively ask, “Is this supporting the goal of my website? Is this helping or hurting my E-A-T?”
- Always showcase E-A-T through your Homepage and About page. Clearly explain how long you have been in business, along with the relevant degrees, certifications, and awards that are applicable to your industry. Also, ensure that security and trust seals and badges are present & functional.
- When creating strategic content, showcase E-A-T on all of your writer and/or editor pages. These pages should highlight the expertise, industry experience, etc. of the specific writer/editor in question—as it pertains to the subject matter they cover.
Try to remember that showing your expertise, authority, and trust isn’t just about Google and growing your organic search traffic—it’s about actually being an expert, having authority, and developing trust with your customers/consumers.
After all, if you don’t have E-A-T, why should they trust you enough to buy anything from you or work with you? Improve your E-A-T to better connect with your customers, increase sales/leads, and grow your business.
Scaling Your Content Operations: Building the Right Team
When it comes to building content teams, people often focus on the ‘what’ and forget the ‘how’. They approach it by hiring a bunch of writers, who don’t have contextual expertise in what the business does, nor real content marketing strategy experience. This creates challenges in building a high quality and scalable content marketing system.
Start with Content Responsibilities
You need to define the team structure to execute against your content strategy in a way that works for your business—considering the job functions, roles and ownership you already have—and what gaps you need to fill.
Start by defining your content team’s RASCI:
- Who’s Responsible: who is owning the various critical project elements?
- Who’s Approving: who needs to approve the plan and work?
- Who’s Supporting: who is executing the various project elements? And who’s responsible for what pieces?
- Who’s Consulted: which stakeholders have needs that must be defined and met as a part of the project?
- Make sure you don’t forget your SEO, social media & email channel owners as stakeholders.
- Who’s Informed: who do you need to keep looped in?
Don’t just plan based on who you already have hired—plan for what you know you’ll need to execute your strategy.
The primary responsibilities of any content team include:
- Editing (i.e. brand and copyediting)
- Optimizing (i.e. SEO, conversions, readability, etc.)
- Expertise (i.e. Depending on the team, this is usually either the writers or editors.)
You’ll also want to think through:
- Who or what team is ultimately responsible for the expertise, authority & trust (or E-A-T) of your content?
- Which responsibilities will be owned by what roles in your content team?
- With training & involved stakeholders that evaluate performance & provide feedback loops, consider that some responsibilities (say, copy editing, social sharing, on-page SEO and content ideation) can be carried out by trained team members.)
- Whether you want to hire full-time, part-time or externally for each role.
- Where and when will everyone work?
- Not everyone needs to be in the office 24/7.
- All the tools, resources and processes needed to help the team do those jobs.
The way you structure your marketing team will vary based on the needs of your business, your brand, and your strategy/goals.
Here are three “outside the box” team structures we’ve seen work well:
1) Invest in Editors Internally; Outsource to SME Copywriters
Are there content marketers in your subject matter already out there blogging and making a name for themselves—that you can hire as freelancers?
Then focus on building an editorial team to help own ideation, brand/tone/style execution, SEO on-page execution and copy-editing, and outsource the copywriting. The SME copywriters will bring their existing audience & authority in association with your brand.
For example, if you sell gardening equipment, you can reach out to bloggers or content creators in the gardening space who already have an expertise and a following. You can hire them to write the content, and have your editors edit it so that it’s on brand.
2) Hire SME Internally; Outsource to a Content Agency
When you’ve already hired subject experts internally, but they are too busy to write strategic content as often as you’d like, a content/inbound agency might be a good fit.
In this scenario, anyone can submit content ideas, the content agency writes and edits it, and the internal SME reviews & signs off on it prior to publication.
3) Hire SME Editors & Specialized Ghostwriters
When expertise is expensive or highly specialized—like when you need to create medical content, but can’t afford to hire a bunch of doctors to write it—consider hiring a smaller team of SME editors with expertise that are willing to read, edit, approve, and put their name/reputation onyour strategic content.
Then seek out specialized ghostwriters that you can hire internally to write & research content, ensuring accuracy & minimizing the time investment on the part of the Senior editorial team.
In each of these scenarios, the key is to ensure that there is someone (or some team) who is in charge of subject matter expertise. They should bring the authority of their expertise to the content. Then you build a team around them that executes on the tasks they cannot support on, thus reducing your costs and increasing your scale.
Plan for Content Production Processes & Tools
After you have your roles & responsibilities defined, it’s time to think through the processes & tools they’ll need to make your workflow actually flow according to plan. We’re talking about processes that will affect content strategy and result in high quality content, not just a “style guide” that most companies already have.
Start with defining those things that multiple people or teams will touch, so you can clarify things like handoff timing & expectations of what’s included in that handoff. Examples may include:
- Content ideation
- “Claiming” a topic to write about
- Turning in content for review
- Content approval & publication
Ensure your teams are organized and have methods for easily sharing insights required by other teams.
One such example here is a tool called a Content Matrix: a visual representation (or mapping) of all of your strategic content & the pages on your site you want to drive traffic to (usually services you provide or stuff you sell) along with their corresponding target keywords, personas, customer funnel stages, calls to action, etc… the sky is the limit!
A Content Matrix efficiently maps your content and what you want to do with it, enabling things like:
- Visibility into what content has already been created (or could be improved)
- Visibility into what SEO targets an existing piece of content is targeting
- Prioritization of what content you want links built to
- What gaps you might have in content (or goods) for a particular persona, or in a particular stage of the customer funnel for a key persona
- Clarity on what CTAs might be meaningful on a specific piece of content (based on the persona + customer funnel stage that persona is in & where you want them to be)
Don’t forget about ongoing training & feedback loops.
Let’s say you’ve decided not to hire a huge SEO team internally, and instead, you are outsourcing to an inbound agency (might I point out—we’re pretty good at this!)
On smaller projects, it’s pretty easy to hand the logical tasks (like in the following list) to this team:
- Who’s going to own on-page optimization?
- Keyword research?
- SEO topic ideation?
- Hub page strategy & organization?
Then you want to scale your content, but you don’t have a huge budget to also scale up your SEO.
This is where training and feedback processes can help.
For example, you can document your processes, tools, and SOPs to train team members on lower-level tasks & ask SEOs to have a consistent process for evaluating their work to create an ongoing feedback loop. You can create similar processes for social media and improving conversions. This also makes it easier to onboard and ramp up new hires.
Evaluate Your Results
Because your content strategy, team structure, and goals aren’t static, you need to build in a process for re-evaluating them at a set cadence.
You should regularly check your KPIs and evaluate your performance against them, taking time to note which content pieces (and types of content) are moving you further towards or away from those goals.
When something works in unexpected ways (e.g. viral growth,) you want to lean into that, but this can also end up distracting you from the end goals, which may or may not be a good thing. Having this process in place ensures you make these changes intentionally instead of chasing shiny objects.
In sum, this is how you can build an authoritative operation plan that supports your content strategy to maximize SEO traffic and conversions.