Content Scaling: 13 Advanced Techniques to Amp It Up

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Alex Birkett

Most people can write one good blog post.

But one good blog post doesn’t drive results.

A thousand good blog posts drive results.

This constant demand for fresh, engaging content to captivate both the audience and search engines is a real pain point for many marketers and content creators.

However, there are ways to streamline the content scaling process and make it simpler.

Enter the strategic framework for content scaling. This approach will help you create tons of content without compromising on quality.

Setting Up a Strategic Framework for Content Scaling: The Content Mise en Place

In the culinary world, “mise en place” refers to the organization and arrangement of ingredients before cooking begins.

Each chef knows their role, ingredients are prepped and organized in advance, and dishes are delivered flawlessly.

Similarly, Alex Birkett, who heads the content marketing agency Omniscient Digital (and runs this website), suggests setting up a “Content Mise en Place.” Think of it as a set of rituals that acts as a link between strategy and execution – creating a systematic approach to content production that ensures scalability, quality, and efficiency at once.

However, while every content mise en place is different because it needs to serve the specific company and its context, a few key elements and rituals appear often.

These standard “Content Mise en Place” elements include:

  • Establishing KPIs for your content program
  • Developing a content roadmap
  • Creating an editorial calendar
  • Hiring writers
  • Content briefs, templates, and guidelines
  • Automating workflows using content marketing tools

Establishing goals and KPIs

The first step in scaling content is establishing clear goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your content program.

Just like you wouldn’t build a ship without a destination in mind, scaling your content strategy without an end goal doesn’t make sense.

Goals and KPIs serve as the north star for your content strategy, helping you align your content production with broader business objectives. They enable you to track your program’s effectiveness and make data-driven decisions to enhance your content’s impact.

Recent survey data also found that marketers who actively set goals are nearly four times more likely to succeed than those who do not.

Goal-setting marketers statistics (Source)

How will you establish your goals and KPIs? Here are some tips:

  • Align with your business objectives. Your content goals should support your overall business goals, whether that’s increasing brand awareness, generating leads, boosting sales, or enhancing customer loyalty.
  • Set SMART goals. Goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). For example, “Increase organic traffic to the blog by 25% within the next six months.”
  • Select relevant KPIs. Choose KPIs that directly reflect progress towards your goals. For example, if your goal is to increase traffic to your page, establish KPIs like page views, users, and bounce rate. Consider how long visitors stay on the page, comments, and social shares for engagement.
  • Use a dashboard to track KPIs. Set up a dashboard tool like Google Analytics or Tableau or a content-specific platform like HubSpot to monitor your KPIs in real time. This allows for quick adjustments and optimizations to your content strategy.
  • Audit existing content: Is your existing content performing well? Analyze metrics like traffic, engagement, and conversions to determine which content resonates and which needs improvement.

Pro Tip: Focus on actionable metrics more than vanity metrics. While page views and followers (vanity metrics) can give a sense of reach, primarily focus on actionable metrics like conversion rates, revenue, and lead quality, which tie directly to business outcomes.

Developing a content roadmap

Your content roadmap is a single, centralized document from which you’ll run your content program.

Typically, a content roadmap report will serve as a backbone of your program – laying out what you aim to publish, when, and why over a business quarter or more. With the inclusion of keywords, topic ideas, and competing blog posts, it ensures that your content scaling efforts align with your marketing goals, audience needs, and SEO opportunities.

Here are some key components of a well-rounded content roadmap report:

  • Content topic ideas: Start with a broad list of topics that resonate with your target audience and align with your brand’s expertise. Use audience research and SEO tools to identify subjects with high interest and engagement potential.
  • Target keyword: Identify a primary keyword for each content piece based on SEO research. This keyword should balance high search volume and attainable difficulty for your site.
  • Monthly search volume: It will help you gauge the potential traffic each content piece could drive to your website.
  • Keyword difficulty: Evaluate and record the difficulty score for ranking each target keyword. This helps prioritize content topics based on their potential SEO impact versus the effort required to rank.
  • Content draft/brief: Create a brief for each piece of content that outlines the article’s goal, target audience, key points, and any specific instructions for the writer. This ensures consistency and quality across your content (more on this later).

You can begin the process with Surfer’s Keyword Research tool, which can help you discover dozens of relevant topic clusters based on your seed keyword or phrase.

What’s cool is that it doesn’t just throw a list at you – it smartly clusters these keywords using natural language processing. This means you get neatly organized topic clusters that are relevant to your seed keyword or phrase, making it easier to dive into content creation with a clear direction.

SurferSEO keyword and topic ideas research

Your search for topic ideas and relevant keywords doesn’t end here. SurferSEO further helps you check the search intent for your target audience and determine monthly search volume and keyword difficulty.

SurferSEO keyword search intent, monthly search volume, and keyword difficulty

  • Suggested title and H2s: For each topic, suggest a title that will capture attention and H2s (subheadings) that outline the structure of the article. This helps in organizing the content and ensuring it covers all necessary points.

Frase is another tool we absolutely love for this stage in the content scaling process, especially for crafting outlines and H2s.

What’s great about Frase is that it doesn’t just stop at showing you what’s out there. It dives deep into competitor analysis and hands you suggestions for headlines, subheadlines, and even content pieces.

Frase outline suggestion (Source)

  • Relevant products or offers: You’re creating content to promote your product, albeit organically. Mention the products or offers you can naturally integrate into each piece of content. This will ensure that your content not only informs and engages but also guides readers toward your business solutions.
  • Competing blog posts: Analyze content from competitors on similar topics to understand the competitive landscape. This can help you identify gaps in their content that you can exploit and differentiate your content.
  • Priority, impact, and effort: Rank each content topic by priority, potential impact, and the effort required for production. This will help you allocate appropriate resources and focus on high-ROI content first.
  • Suggested URL: Provide an SEO-friendly, concise URL slug that reflects the target keyword and content title.
  • Publish date: Based on your content calendar, set a publish date for each piece of content. This will help you maintain a consistent publishing schedule and ensure timely content production and release.

All these essentials together make a well-rounded content roadmap. However, merely collating these components isn’t enough – their success hinges on your strategic approach.

Drawing on his vast content marketing experience, Alex Birkett shares three core principles essential for crafting an effective content roadmap:

  • Conduct quarterly research. If you’re constantly researching and choosing which topic to write about, you’re dragging down your operation. Instead, conduct content and SEO research quarterly to stay ahead of industry trends, understand evolving audience needs, and adjust your strategy based on performance data.
  • Use a formula that considers the impact, ease, and relevance to prioritize content topics. This means evaluating the potential of each topic to drive traffic, leads, and conversions (impact), the resources required to create content on the topic (ease), and how well the topic aligns with your audience’s interests and search trends (relevance).
  • Organize content topics into themes or clusters. This not only improves SEO by creating topical authority but also makes it easier to assign topics to writers based on their expertise.

PS: You can use this copy of the Content Roadmap Report template by Omniscient Digital to get started.

Creating a content calendar

You’re the captain helming the Content Marketing ship.

Your intended goal? Navigate the vast seas of digital content and reach your island of an engaged audience.

But it’s not as simple as reaching from point A to B.

There are multiple stops in between, from assigning content to writers to multiple rounds of editing.

You need a map to guide you through this journey. This is where a content calendar comes into play.

A content calendar is like having a personal assistant who’s got your back, making sure you remember every important date and event. It helps you:

  • Stay organized: Keep track of what you’re creating, when it’s due, and when and where you’re publishing it.
  • Be consistent: You can now maintain a steady flow without forgetting to write and publish for days.
  • Plan ahead: Planning ahead will give you a complete glimpse of your content ideas and schedule. It also makes it easier to produce and publish content based on upcoming promotions, events, or seasonal trends.
  • Collaborate better: It acts as a central hub for your team, where everyone can see what’s in the works and who’s doing what.

Clearly, a content calendar is more than just a schedule –  it’s kind of a communications tool to keep your team and clients in the loop.

Plus, it’ll save you from those “Oh no, what are we posting today?!” moments.

Even if it’s just you operating alone, it’s all too easy to get lost in the shuffle of ideas, deadlines, and the hustle of producing multiple pieces of content.

Think of it as your personal checkpoint system, reminding you, for example, that two blog posts need to go live this week.

I use Trello to keep my writing work in order, for instance. It gives me a bird’s eye view of everything that’s on my plate.

For each client, I set up a separate board and break it down into stages: “Blog Assigned,” “In Progress,” “Under Editing,” “Published,” and “Invoice Sent.” This way, I keep things organized and make sure I’m always on track with deadlines, seamlessly moving from one task to the next. It’s also a central spot where I manage deadlines, content briefs, and workflow.

Trello content calendar example

For a company with a full-fledged content production team, the content calendar might have more sections and boards (depending on their workflow).

Every individual and company has different goals and workload, so the content calendar will look different for everyone.

However, building a content calendar becomes smoother when you consider some universally helpful elements.

Here’s a typical process of building a content calendar:

  • Choose the right tool: Explore options like Google Calendar, Trello, Asana, Airtable, or dedicated content marketing platforms based on your team size, budget, and desired features.
  • Map out your roadmap: Align your calendar with your content roadmap, scheduling content based on priority and publishing dates.
  • Include essential details: For each piece, specify:
    • Content format – Blog post, infographic, video, etc.
    • Target audience – Persona or segment you’re aiming for. Don’t know where to start? Read this guide on how to identify your target audience.
    • Target keyword – Main keyword for SEO optimization.
    • Assigned team members – Writer, editors, designer, or other responsible individuals.
    • Call to action (CTA) – Desired audience response (e.g., subscribe, download, purchase).
    • Content topics and titles – Outline what each content piece will be about.
    • Distribution channels – Indicate where the content will be published or shared (e.g., website, social media).
    • Publication dates – When will each piece go live?
  • Utilize visual representations for status updates: Utilize tools with Gantt charts or Kanban boards for a clear visual overview of your content pipeline. Track the progress of content creation, from idea to publication.
  • Integrate with other tools: Connect your calendar to project management or communication platforms for seamless workflow management.

Bonus Tip: If you’ve got multiple stakeholders involved with multiple rounds of internal as well as edits from the client side, it’s smart to set clear deadlines for each step of the process.

Take a leaf out of Omniscient Digital’s playbook, for instance.

Content calendar deadlines

This keeps everyone on track, avoids delays, and makes sure all involved members know exactly when to have their input or edits ready. It’s like giving everyone their mini-deadline within the timeline, ensuring the project moves forward smoothly.

Hiring freelance writers to build a scalable content team

Scaling content production requires not just technology and processes but the most crucial ingredient: people.

If you plan to fly solo, you can cover one or two blog posts a week at most. But if you want to scale content, you’ll need to hire professional freelance writers (or you could team up with a reputed content agency).

As Alex Birkett says, “Finding good writers is easily the biggest bottleneck for content scaling, and no, AI isn’t going to save you.”

Defining your content standards:

Before you start scouting for talent, you need to know what good content looks like for your brand.

This involves some key components:

  • Establishing a brand Voice: Your brand voice is your company’s personality expressed through words. Whether it’s professional, witty, or inspiring, it should be consistent across all content.
  • Creating a style guide: A style guide outlines your writing and formatting standards, including tone, grammar, and usage, ensuring consistency across all content pieces.
  • Setting quality standards: Clearly relay your quality standards, which should cover your skill and quality expectations from the potential writer.

For example, Omniscient Digital sets a high bar for quality from the outset, clearly communicating their expectations and standards to potential writers right from the initial stages of the application process.

Setting quality standards and skill expectations for potential writers

This clarity in your initial call for writers simplifies the vetting process compared to a scenario where you don’t explicitly mention your expectations and standards.

You’ll now mainly attract serious candidates who align with your expectations. However, you’ll still need to carefully review each application to pick the best ones.

Criteria for hiring content writers:

Look beyond resumes and consider the following when picking the writers:

  • Content portfolio: Look for writers with a stellar track record of working with companies similar to yours. Their content portfolio will also reflect their writing style, expertise, and alignment with your brand.
  • Paid sample assignments: Ask them to write a sample piece to see if they’re producing the type of content you’re expecting. It will also help you identify their understanding of your niche and quality of work.
  • References and social proof: Verify the experience and gather insights into the writer’s work ethic and professionalism.
  • Incorporate a “Brown M&M’s” clause in job ads: Ask for something specific and unusual to be mentioned in the application, like including a particular word or phrase in their cover letter. Job boards are infamous for a lot of spam – this will help you filter out candidates who don’t pay attention to detail or fail to read instructions thoroughly.
  • Test their SEO knowledge: If SEO is crucial for your content strategy, ask specific questions about keyword research, on-page SEO tactics, or how they would optimize an article to rank well in search engines.
  • Do they take feedback well? After the initial test or assignment, provide constructive feedback and ask for revisions. This helps assess their openness to feedback and ability to incorporate it into their work, which is important for ongoing collaboration.

Where to find writers?

You’ve got your content standards and expectations all mapped out, and you know exactly how you’ll pick the right writers for your team.

But the big question remains: where are you going to find quality writers?

  • Look within your network: Often, the best resources are just a conversation away. Reach out to your contacts for recommendations.
  • Use social media: Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn can be goldmines for discovering talented writers. Ask your colleagues and acquaintances in the industry to retweet or repost your writing gig to make it reach potential writers.
  • Explore Slack Communities: For a more targeted approach, use communities like Superpath and Top of the Funnel, where there are specific channels dedicated to job postings and writer gigs. These communities usually have writers who are already engaged and knowledgeable in content marketing.
  • Utilize job boards: Don’t overlook the power of Job boards like ProBlogger, PeakFreelance, and BloggingPro. But don’t forget to clearly relay your requirements and quality standards, and use Brown M&M’s vetting technique to avoid unserious, irrelevant candidates.

The hiring process and standards differ by company, but this guide on how to hire freelance writers might help for more detailed insights.

Creating structured content briefs to streamline the process

Now that you’ve hired credible writers, it’s time to start assigning topics to them. You need to create structured content briefs to streamline this process.

As a freelance writer, my work becomes significantly smoother and more straightforward – at least twice as easy – when a client provides me with a detailed brief.

And not just easy, I am also in a better position to create the type of content the client expects.

What makes content briefs so effective?

  • They eliminate any sort of ambiguity, and the writer knows the precise content goals and key requirements.
  • They explicitly mention who the target audiences are, allowing writers to create content directly addressing them.
  • They reduce back-and-forth communication and revisions, speeding up content creation.
  • They maintain brand voice, style, and format across all pieces, building a cohesive identity.

But merely creating a content brief isn’t enough. It should consist of all the components, allowing your writers to create content that hits the mark.

Here’s what a content brief needs to include:

  • Content goal/intent: Clearly state what the content piece aims to achieve. Is it to inform, persuade, or entertain?
  • Target audience: Who are you speaking to? Understanding the audience is crucial for tailoring the message.
  • Tone and style: Align this with your brand voice. Should the piece be formal, conversational, or somewhere in between?
  • Key messages: What are the core ideas or messages that the content needs to convey?
  • SEO keywords: List the primary and secondary keywords that the content should rank for.
  • Structure and format: Outline the expected headings, subheadings, and any specific formatting requirements.
  • CTA: What action do you want the reader to take after consuming the content?
  • Competitor insights: Include notes on how this piece can differentiate from what’s already out there.
  • References and sources: Provide links to studies, data, or any material for background information.
  • Client products, features, or offers: Include information on any relevant products, features, or offers you want the writer to highlight in the piece.
  • Internal/external links: Mention any internal or external links you want the writer to point the reader to.

To speed up the process, keep a standard content brief template ready that includes all these components listed above.

Here’s a typical content brief that Omniscient Digital hands out to their writers:

Template for a content brief (copy this template here)

You’ll just have to customize this template for each new piece of content – helping you maintain consistency while saving time.

Another way to save time is by taking help from Frase (as mentioned in the content roadmap section) and AI writing tools to create outlines (H2s and H3s) for your content brief.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools like Jasper and ChatGPT are particularly useful for producing content ideas and outlines.

For instance, I usually kick off things by asking ChatGPT to break down the topic into simpler terms and then create a rough outline. In fact, the blueprint for this article is a cool mix of insights from Alex Birkett, inputs from ChatGPT, and other top-ranking articles.

You could use a prompt like:

“Provide an outline for a blog post targeting [target audience] about [topic]. The goal is to [content goal]. The tone should be [desired tone].”

Here’s my prompt and the content outline ChatGPT produced:

ChatGPT content outline and prompt example

You can refine this outline further by suggesting SEO keywords and headings you want to include. If nothing else, ChatGPT gives you H2s and H3s that serve as a great starting point.

Some GPT-4 tools offer an even more streamlined process with ready-to-use outline templates.

Take Jasper’s blog outline template, for instance: all you need to do is input your topic title and the tone of voice you’re aiming for, then click generate, and voila! Jasper rolls out several outline options for you just like that.

Content outline options created by Jasper

Remember: Don’t solely rely on AI to generate your outlines. Refine and personalize the briefs to ensure they align with your specific needs and brand voice.

Automating workflows and processes

According to an Adobe report, 98% of B2B marketers claim that marketing automation is vital to success.

The reason is clear: automation saves time, reduces the chance of human error, and makes sure you don’t miss out on important deadlines, resulting in a smoother, more reliable workflow.

Automation in content marketing strategy involves using software to manage repetitive tasks in the content creation and distribution process.

Automating workflows can include (but is not limited to):

  • Scheduling posts
  • Assigning topics to writers and editors
  • Managing content calendars
  • Facilitating communication between team members

Alex Birkett shares how his team streamlines their content workflow using Airtable at his growth marketing agency,

“One of the biggest levers we use at our agency is simply automating our Airtable workflows between the clients, writers, designers, editors, and project managers. Every time a task is completed, automation is triggered, pushing it to the next step, notifying someone of a deadline, or filling out data that is necessary for the next task.”

For example, as soon as we update the status from “final draft” to “final editor review,” the card will automatically move to the next stage and trigger an automated email to notify the editor and any other team members associated with this stage.

Airtable content workflow automation

Airtable is just one of the few marketing automation tools at your disposal.

Another one of my favorites is Zapier. This tool is like a Swiss Army knife for automation, connecting over 3,000 web apps to automate workflows.

Zapier also offers several pre-built automation workflows to help you streamline and automate your content scaling process.

For instance, by linking Zapier with ChatGPT, you can set up a Zap that crafts ideas from the ground up – whether starting from a brief or an update. These fresh ideas can then be funneled into a Google Doc (or directly into your project management tool of choice), ready for your team to peruse and use.

Zapier workflow automation templates (Source)

Here’s a quick overview of all the tools you can use to scale content and streamline your workflow:

  • Content Creation:
    • Utilize AI tools like Jasper and ChatGPT for initial drafting, research, and outlining.
    • Use tools like Grammarly for grammar and plagiarism checks.
    • Check readability with Hemingway Editor.
    • Automate SEO optimization through plugins and tools like Yoast SEO.
  • Collaboration and Workflow:
    • Leverage project management tools like Airtable, Zapier, or Trello with automated workflows and notifications.
    • Use a content marketing platform like Airtable to automate content handoffs between team members based on task completion.
    • Utilize collaborative editing platforms like Google Docs for real-time document co-creation.
  • Publishing and Promotion:
    • Schedule content publishing in advance on CMS platforms with automated posting.
    • Set up automated social media promotion through tools like Buffer or Hootsuite.
    • Automate email marketing campaigns to promote new content.

Extra Tricks Up Your Sleeve to Scale Content Production

Productized Workflow for Content Creation: Breaking Down Content Creation

Tyler Hakes, the brains behind the content marketing agency Optimist, shares how his team makes content creation less of a headache and more of a streamlined process by breaking down the process into smaller tasks.

He says,

“My tip is to productize each part of your workflow. Think about each step as a process in an assembly line. Your goal should be to create a very clear, step-by-step process for completing each step in the content creation workflow.”

Not everything in content creation is straightforward and easy to productize. For example, writing a post can be messier.

Tyler’s solution? Break it down into bite-sized tasks that make it easier for the writer to do their best work.

Things like:

  • Collect quotes from SME
  • Research relevant data points
  • Figure out the search intent and general article structure
  • Outline the article
  • Format document according to client specifications
  • Edit content for specific grammar, voice, and tone preferences

All of these things can be their own step in the “assembly line.” This means the big task (“Write the content”) is smaller and more defined.

It’s still not an exact prescription, but it makes it much easier for writers to just sit down and focus when they don’t have to worry about 100 small things beyond just putting the words on the page.

Invite Guest Post Submissions

If you are operating on a tight budget and don’t have the resources to hire writers and editors to scale content production, you can leverage guest writers.

Alex Birkett shares one important caveat, though,

“Most guest post submissions aren’t relevant or reliable and are just looking for a quick backlink with very little effort. So the content likely won’t match your expectations. You’ve got to hold very high standards and be unafraid to turn down first drafts (avoid wasting your time editing a subpar first draft or paying for the guest post).

It also helps to have a high DR to pull this one off. People will go through a lot to publish on HubSpot’s blog. They probably won’t write more than 1000 shitty words to be on your personal hobby blog with a DR of 25.”

Consider the Pareto Principle

Remember the 80/20 rule, popularized as the Pareto Principle? It states that 80% of outputs often stem from 20% of inputs.

Applied to content, this translates to a disproportionate effect:

  • Focus on quality, not just quantity: Instead of churning out mediocre content, identify and create high-value pieces aligned with your target audience’s needs and search intent. This “20%” can deliver the majority of your desired results.
  • Data-driven topic selection: Invest in keyword research and competitor analysis to identify topics with high potential for organic traffic and engagement. Tools like Surfer and Frase can automate and streamline this process.
  • Optimize for multiple formats: Repurpose long-form content into bite-sized social media posts, infographics, or short videos. This expands your reach and maximizes the value of each piece you create.

Pruning and Repurposing of Content

While this doesn’t necessarily speed up long-form content production, it does accelerate total output from your program.

If you’ve got a workflow to turn a blog post (or podcast) into a bunch of tweets, images, LinkedIn posts, and the like, you can stretch the effort that goes into creating one post into a whole lot more output.

Here are some tools to make content repurposing a breeze:

  • Canva for transforming insights from your content into eye-catching graphics or infographics.
  • Descript to easily transcribe podcast and video content for repurposing.
  • BuzzSumo to identify your most popular content that holds potential for repurposing

Alex Birkett also suggests using content on your site with no traffic as guest posts,

“Got a ton of content on your site? Like 100s to 1000s of pages? Next time you build a content inventory and find pages to prune (e.g., pages with no traffic or link value), instead of simply deleting them, you can use them to pitch as guest posts. It takes very little effort to spruce them up and get some guest post / link-building value.”

The Recipe for Content Success: Your Content Mise en Place

Think of scaling content creation like prepping for a big feast in the kitchen. Just as chefs organize their ingredients and tools before they start cooking, setting up your “Content Mise en Place” lays out everything you need for a smooth content creation process.

It’s about having your strategy chopped, your tools at the ready, and your team briefed, so when it’s go-time, you’re cooking up quality content without breaking a sweat.