I run sites that are mostly informational in nature, and since informational sites need lots of actual ... well ... information, that means I spend a good deal of my time creating content. Creating good content takes time, and like most of you, I have very little time, so over the years I've created a "system" that helps me shave off as much wasted time as possible during the process. Here's a glimpse at the content creation system that works for me. Feel free to use any parts of my system to streamline your own content creation process.
The most important part of my content creation system is the way I organize all the bits of information I use.
First, I have one folder on my desktop labeled Content ToDos. Everything related to content that I'll create will be found in this folder.
Let's take a look at what is included in this folder.
I have one subfolder for each site I create content for; shown in this example as Niche1 and Niche2. Each niche contains 1 text file called "content ideas", one subfolder named "PLR articles", and one subfolder named "Templates to use".
The PLR articles folders sometimes contain hundreds of articles. Don't make assumptions about these articles yet though. I'll explain their presence here soon.
The Templates to use folders contain just one PHP template for each uniquely-coded section of the site that I'll be creating content for. Some sites use only one format throughout the site, so only one template is included; some sites use different formats for different sections of the site, so different templates are needed.
Here's an example of what one of my standard templates looks like.
Because I routinely place headers, footers, advertising, and navigation into separate included files, these templates can be short and sweet. You'll notice too that I place multiple words TogetherLikeThis in certain places, such as PutTitleHere. The reason I place those words together as one word is because I can double-click on ThatOneWord to select it and just start typing to replace it with real content. If I'd used Put Title Here instead, it would take me significantly longer to highlight all three words so that I could start typing in the real content - plus I'd often miss during the highlighting process and accidentally select too much text or not enough, having to start the text selection process over again. Double-clicking to select JustOneWord is faster, easier, and more accurate.
New Content Idea Generation Phase
Research and planning for new content is an ongoing, never-ending process. Every morning, once my brain has absorbed enough caffeine, I run through my research routine.
1. Scan POPURLS news headlines. Any big buzz related to my topics?
2. Scan my Twitter topic searches, Google Trends, and similar trends sites; again, looking for buzz or breaking news in my related topics.
3. Run searches on the top-level keywords to see if there's any new competition out there. If so, I check to see what kinds of content they are creating, so I can out-maneuver them if possible.
4. Gather any new free PLR content I run across that relate to my niches. I mentioned earlier that you shouldn't make any assumptions about the PLR articles I horde. I almost never use any of the PLR content on my sites, because the writing is almost always nowhere near the level I need it to be. Nevertheless, even reading bad content generates more ideas for content that I should create. By building up a library of PLR content, I know I can always scrounge through my collection to spark new thoughts when my idea well has run dry.
So the main goal at this stage is to just gather ideas for content that should be created. Let's face it, even though I consider myself to be an "idea kinda gal", I still have a hard time coming up with ideas for new content on a day-to-day, continuous basis, so I use this phase almost as a brainstorming tool.
As I run through this morning routine, I jot down the topic ideas that I come up with in the "content ideas" text file in the appropriate niche folder. I don't spend much time determining if the idea is a good one or not at this point. Anything that might be worth considering in the future goes into this long list. I also don't bother separating the ideas into subcategories. I just list them in any order because when I'm sifting through the list in the future, I'm merely looking for some idea to spark the creative bug in me, and I won't care which subcategory it falls into. All the sites' categories need content, so it really doesn't matter which gets done when - leading me to have no need to categorize the ideas here.
This idea generation process sometimes takes an hour; sometimes two or three hours, depending upon what else I need to deal with that day.
Schedules and Reminders
I use calendars and reminder systems to control everything! Every other day, my calendar will remind me that content must be written for one or more of my sites. The calendar has been pre-filled by me, letting me know which site needs to have content written on that day, at that time. By making these decisions once only, I save lots of time. If I hadn't already decided that Niche1 site would have content written on Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m., for instance, I would sit around all day Wednesday contemplating which site to create content for - wasting much of the day deciding.
Of course, exceptions arise. If the morning buzz would allow me to create timely content that just can't wait, but that site isn't scheduled in for that day, I'll make an exception and do it anyway. And if some major problem arises, like a server crashing, then of course I'll skip that day's content to attend to the higher priority task. In general, though, the exceptions are pretty rare, and I stick to the schedule pretty consistently.
Note that I don't use any fancy tools for this - just a simple calendar like with an alert feature is all I need.
Researching and Writing The Content
Once it's time to actually create the content, I do whatever research is necessary, and I gather all the images I'll need as well. I'll then write the article first in a simple text file, with no concern for formatting. Once I've written the article, I'll read through it again, concentrating on getting the title and the first paragraph right. It's those two things that will make the biggest impact, so I want them to get the most thought. Obviously, I want the entire article to be perfect, but the title and first paragraph will be the make-or-break parts - luring the reader in. If they suck, the rest may never get read.
Once I'm satisfied, I just copy/paste the article into the PHP template, add in all supporting images, and make sure it looks good in the browser, editing as needed.
The last things I do are:
1. FTP the new content, and all associated images up to the server.
2. Update the sitemaps (both the HTML version for users and the XML version for the search engines).
3. Add the new content to either the site's menu, or within a main category's on-page list of subtopics.
Keep in mind that content isn't necessarily an article or blog post. Sometimes content comes in the form of something outside of "text". I may create content that is really an image, or a downloadable item of some sort, such as a freebie or giveaway.
Any tips for me? Would love to hear about them in the comments.
8 thoughts on “Streamline Your Content Creation Process With Time-Saving Systems”
Excellent list of ideas … so much of your “thinking” and routine work is taken care of by your process that you’re able to concentrate solely on the creative process.
As for tips – I’m a HUGE fan of Write or Die, a tool that forces you to keep writing or it will simply start deleting what you’ve written. The idea is to separate writing from editing as much as possible … just type type type and then once it’s written, go back and start editing.
A little to direct in my opinion to be of a use to the web population as a whole but if you pull your concepts and remove the context its a great read. I think your organization techniques will do me some good in the long run. I use a dirty mix of google docs and local folders to handle my current organization, it works, but there’s obvious flaws.
Excellent tips Donna. Always wonder how you keep up with it all 🙂 I use a similar system with a few differences, but simply because I’m not always able to upload my work to the site. Mine are set out by where I am in a project (quoting, writing, client approval, etc.). I also run a set of folders labeled from Sunday to Saturday to keep things straight. Combined with my massive pull file and my ‘ideas’ notes that I have scattered all over in chunks, I find it works well.
I think a lot of people would find that if they kept themselves organized, they’d naturally produce better content. I say this simply because they have to time to do it rather than pushing something through at the last minute because they forgot.
The template is an excellent idea… will try that!
@Cornelia, while writeordie is a wonderful idea, I’m not sure I could stand seeing everything disappear if I paused for too long. My heart might stop! 🙂
@James, not sure what you mean by to(o) direct to be of use, and removing the context, but whatever works for you is cool with me!
@Angie, yours is even more complex than mine because of the client process that you have to deal with. I don’t envy that! 🙂
The key for me really is to make the non-creative bits as routine as possible so I don’t have to waste time over them, so yes, organization of those parts lets me concentrate on what matters.
Thanks for sharing your process Donna – more than ever quality content creation is becoming “most wanted.” I’m saving a few of your tips and plan to use them!
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Thanks for putting this out there.
Quality content is rarer than it should be. The good thing about the internet is anyone can post any content; the bad thing about the internet is that anyone can post any content.
Quality content requires work. Streamlining the work process makes sense. Thanks for allowing us a peek inside how you’ve streamlined yours.
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