Content Planning Tools and Practices


Nathan Ellering

Featuring: Nathan Ellering

Recorded on: May 21, 2015


Links for Nathan Ellering:

LinkedIn Twitter CoSchedule

Show Description

Want to have better planning tools for your Content Marketing strategy?  That is the topic of this week’s show with Nathan Ellering, Content Marketing Lead at CoSchedule, the content marketing and social media editorial calendar.  We learn a little about how Nathan got into marketing, what problems CoSchedule solves, the importance of guest blogging, and how software solutions for Content Marketers will change the way we distribute content. 

The Threes

We asked Nathan what three content planning tools he uses to help him plan the content for CoSchedule.  Here is his list:

  • MOZ – SEO tools with amazing add-on benefits for keywords and competitive analysis
  • KISS Metrics – Data analysis tool for your content
  • Mention – Social listening platform to help measure success

Nathan gave us two bonus tools: Evernote and Google Docs that are essential for his planning rhythms.

Influencers


Show Transcript

Jeff Julian
Welcome back to our next installment of the Midwest Marketing Show. Today, I have a guest from Fargo. I love Fargo. If I can move anywhere that has a small town feel, it would definitely be Fargo. Today, I have Nathan Ellering. He’s from CoSchedule, which is a tool I’ll let him talk about. Nathan, how are you doing?
Nathan Ellering
I’m doing well. Thanks for having me.
Jeff Julian
Yeah, no problem. To get started, why don’t you give us a little bit about your background and how you got started in marketing, and build up today?
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, definitely. I work at CoSchedule as you mentioned. I’m the content marketing lead there. My roots really stem from traditional marketing. About eight years ago, I got my foot in the door with marketing. When I talk traditional, I mean very traditional advertisements, brochures, flyers, PDFs, all those sorts of things, posters. It’s a good way to get in. When I was going to school initially, I actually wanted to be a teacher. That was great, and I loved it, except when I met the kids for the first time, it didn’t go over so well. That’s when I switched my career path and went into marketing and communications.

The idea of content marketing started becoming a thing. I know it’s nothing new, but it started gaining popularity a couple years ago. I just found myself naturally progressed into that direction of content marketing, the idea of providing helpful content, to help people learn, and thereby just connecting with your product and your brand. That’s how I made my way into marketing and content marketing. It’s been a pretty fun ride.
Jeff Julian
Yeah, it sounds like it. You mentioned CoSchedule. Can you give us an introduction to what the platform is and what you guys offer?
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, definitely. CoSchedule is a social media in content marketing editorial calendar. It integrates into Wordpress. That’s about 75 million sites that are on Wordpress. It’s the largest content management system in the world right now. Where CoSchedule comes in, is it’s really a blog planning tool that integrates with your social media, and even a few other content types to help you plan ahead and just make sure that you’re accomplishing what you’re setting out to do. It’s an all-in-one marketing calendar. Where it’s really helpful is that everyone on your team can finally see what’s coming up with marketing. Everyone knows it helps with accountability. By seeing things on a calendar, there’s the deadline that people see, so their work gets done.
Jeff Julian
Very cool. Yeah, I totally love any planning we can get in place to have teams own and commit to producing content. If you just let it go, and you have a mentality of we’re going to try to do it, but there’s no focus, there’s no commitment, it’s never going to happen.
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, I’m right there with you. Actually, I really like using editorial calendar because everyone has these strategies. The 20-page Word Documents that are out there think this is the stuff we need to do to grow our business, and this is how marketing is going to help. Everyone has got these strategies, but then how do you actually execute the strategy? That’s where an editorial calendar comes in to say all right, we said we were going to do X, Y, and Z. Now that is actually on the calendar with a deadline, and everyone can see exactly what they’re doing, and what they’re responsible for to get work done. That’s how I see editorial calendars helping people out. It’s really for those people who are in the trenches doing the work to help them do what they do even better.
Jeff Julian
Cool. As content marketing lead, what does your day-to-day look like? You are marketing to marketers, which I love doing. I get to do the same thing. What does that day look like?
Nathan Ellering
Like you mentioned, I just [inaudible 00:04:56] out every day. It’s the coolest thing that I’ve ever done. I get to market a content marketing school to content marketers and bloggers. I touched on this earlier, the idea of going into teaching and education. As a content marketing lead at CoSchedule, we really focus on providing helpful useful content, like here we call it utility, to help bloggers and content marketers learn how to do what they do even better. The stuff that we publish, really is to planning ahead, working faster, boosting your efficiency, saving time, and generally just becoming better at what you do.

It’s all actual content. It’s focused on education, more so than anything else. We barely mention the tool, the CoSchedule tool in our content. Really, what our philosophy is there, is that if we can help people do all of this on their own and become better bloggers, they’ll actually have a better reason to plan ahead with an editorial calendar. Once they learn how to do what they do better, and they want to take it to the next level, CoSchedule is an natural next step for them.
Jeff Julian
Absolutely. I think, with a tool like CoSchedule, you can get a quick five-second review, and say okay, I know what this does. Then as you continue to build trust and loyalty, and when I have a need, or even an inkling towards a need, I’m going to go right to you because you have that trust. I love that content marketing approach you guys are choosing. I like to see that there’s companies that have content marketing leads that actually know, and love and truly believe in the content marketing initiative.
Nathan Ellering
I absolutely love what I do. Actually, our company’s philosophy if we had a motto, we see this all the time is, “Do what you love, love what you do.” We’re a small team, we’re a startup, but every single person on the team wakes up every day, and knows that they’re going to go work to do something they love to do. It’s an awesome culture. It’s definitely that way from the entire team. Whatever they do, our developers, our designer, our social media person, everyone has that same philosophy. They love it. It’s fun, and it’s cool that you pick that up.
Jeff Julian
Cool. I wanted to ask you a question about software, because I’m a reformed software developer, and turned marketer. I love, and I understand software. If I ever need software, I can build it, buy it or have somebody else get on it. Why do you think software is that missing cog when it comes to distributing content, planning content, and during that creation process?
Nathan Ellering
Oh, yes. I can really appreciate your background. Coming from a developer’s standpoint or a programmer, and transitioning into a marketer is really interesting to me. I definitely think there’s a lot of ways that software and technology is going to help marketers do what they do better, so in a word, yes. Coming from my background, before tools, I was using Excel spreadsheets to manage my blog. I still know that a lot of people use Excel spreadsheets to manage their blogs. There's a lot of problems with that. There’s no integration with project management tools or workflow, so no one really knows what their core responsibilities are. It’s hard to work with a writer, a designer, and then an editor to all piece together this piece of content they’re trying to publish.

Another problem I had with Excel spreadsheets is really, I was the only one who ended up looking at it. No one knew how to find, or where the file was that I was working from. It was just a mess. Planning without a tool design to help you plan content is tough. The more tools that come around to help you do those specific things the better. I know that we’re going to talk about some tools here in a little bit. I absolutely love tools that help me do what I do better and more efficiently. While you can scrape by with something like an Excel spreadsheet, there’s a tool designed to do it better. You’re going to save tons of time and work more efficiently with your team. I’m right there. Technology and software is really going to take content marketing to the next level.
Jeff Julian
Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about there’s a point to where Excel works. Same with a blog, when you start a blog, there’s a point to where no plan works, just getting the rhythm to. Even see if you’re interested, and you can commit to this thing, doesn’t take a planning tool. Then after that, start with something simple, something free, get a rhythm going, but you will evolve out of that and need something bigger. I love that CoSchedule is a tool that integrates with a blog engine. If you’re using Wordpress, it’s native within it or around it. It still offers all that stuff you’ve been building up the rhythm to have. Then you can continue to succeed, and actually excel by adopting a tool that fits that need.
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, I couldn’t have said that better.
Jeff Julian
Maybe I should come to work for you guys. No, I’m just kidding.
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, right?
Jeff Julian
For the three section of the show, and you hinted to this, the question I wanted to ask, what are three planning tools? I think you guys get this, that marketers need for their new, or maybe even ongoing content marketing efforts.
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, definitely. You mentioned this. I just mentioned how software is really helping me do what I do better. I can do a lot of the things that I do without some of these tools, but they help me be a lot more efficient. I can even narrow it down to three. I’ve got a couple bonuses.
Jeff Julian
Cool.
Nathan Ellering
I’ll start off with Maz. Maz is a tool for SEO or search engine optimization. Really, I use it more so for content optimization than just that. It really helps guide my decisions on what we should be doing next. Basically, when I have a great blog idea, or someone has a great blog idea for me, the first thing I do is make sure that we target a key word with it. It’s such a simple process. Anyone who has been blogging or publishing content for a while knows that the content will get a lot of attraction within its first few weeks. Maybe its first month, you get a couple thousand page views, and then it’s next to nothing. If you do things right, and you don’t go heavy or crazy on including your key word like a certain density, but you use it, and you target this where maybe a year from now, it will help you get found in search engine.

That’s definitely something that we use Maz to help us market those key words that are right for a business to help people find content that they’re searching for CoSchedule to make that first touch point. Maz is a huge tool, and I absolutely love it.
Jeff Julian
Yeah, I agree.
Nathan Ellering
Second tool is KISSmetrics. I mentioned this before, but we’re a startup, and we work really fast. We try something new, and if it doesn’t work, we’re not afraid to say yes, that didn’t word and try something else. We do that super-quickly. The only way you can know if something works or if it doesn’t work is based on data, and KISSmetrics is how we get that data. Third tool is Mention. Mention is a listening tool. Really, it helps to understand what our audience is saying about us. I know we were talking about blog planning tools, but this helps me after the fact, which posts were successful, so I can base new posts around that.

Sometimes, I also use it to search for key words in my industry, and see what people are saying about a certain topic. Whenever I write blog posts for a different site, like Convince and Convert or [inaudible 00:14:00], or whatever it is, we then track the key word that we targeted in those posts using Mention, so that we can thank anybody who shares it on social media. Then there is that nice way to get two touch points out of your content.
Jeff Julian
Absolutely.
Nathan Ellering
There’s that old philosophy of the more touch points you have, the better connection you’ll make with your audience. Mention is a tool I use nearly daily to do that. Then my two bonuses are Evernote and Google Docs. Anybody can use those for any reason, but for blog planning, these things, they’re just awesome. We use Evernote a lot. Basically, we keep a note for all of our blog post ideas in it. Anyone can add to it anytime on the team. When you have those moments of inspiration, and you just need to jot down the idea before it leaves your brain forever, and you’re just left there with oh, what was that, we jot them down in Evernote.

We also use them for pitches to other blogs. A lot of times, you have to write out three headlines and your outline for those posts. We’ll do that using Evernote so everyone can see. Pitches are a pretty big deal. If you mention the wrong thing, use the wrong word, people may not take your pitch. That’s a way for the whole team to be involved in understanding what other blogs they’re going to pitch and how we’re going about doing that. It’s between Evernote and Google Docs, those are some great tools to do that with.
Jeff Julian
I love the collaborative spirit of what you’re talking about with your team. I want to drill into this portion a little bit more, and this guest blog mentality. I really liked that you mentioned that it’s not just Coschedule.com, where you guys write your content. You distribute it on several different networks, and you still are able to build audience and trust. What is your philosophy on guest post?
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, definitely. One of our problems that I’m trying to fix is to spread the word of CoSchedule. The more people who hear about CoSchedule, the more touch points we have, them more recognition we will gain in the industry. One of the ways that we really try to do that is through guest blogging. Really, it’s just a way for us to provide super-helpful content. Our backbone is anything we publish goes super-deep. There are some posts out there where the headline just attracts me, and I’m just like, “Oh, I really need to read this, because that’s going to be awesome.” Then the posts themselves just scratch the surface.

They don’t provide any super-actionable stuff that I can implement right after reading. We try to take that philosophy that has built our blog up. It has become super-popular. We have more than 33,000 email subscribers right now, and 20-something thousand subscribers on social media. I feel like we’re on the right path with our concepts, that there is an audience out there that needs super-actionable stuff that helps them, the people in the trenches doing the work, do the work better. Our philosophy with guest blogging is to bring that philosophy to other blogs, where they have a similar audience to ours, but they may not know CoSchedule.

We can show them our idea of, we are there to help you execute. By doing that, there is something to be said with having the CoSchedule name on other sites like Convince and Convert, and [inaudible 00:18:06], and Social Media Examiner. Those are pretty big names in the industry, and those are only a couple that we are looking at writing for. There’s that recognition factor there, and then a way to spread the word that CoSchedule provides super-helpful content.
Jeff Julian
Yeah, I love it. I always like the analogy of, let’s say you’re a band, and you also own a venue. Does that mean you’re only going to play in the one location, or does it make sense to go town to town, and have shows all over the place, and build fans all over the place? As long as they know you are the one that provided the information, they’ll follow you back, they’ll find you.
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, I really like that analogy.
Jeff Julian
When I started Geeks with Blogs, over, what is it now, 12 years ago, I always would go after bloggers who are amazing, and say, “Hey, can I just get you to cross post on our blog, and to build up?” It was always a tough sell, especially with some of the Microsoft bloggers, even when I’d come and show them, look, we’ve got a huge audience here, we’re one of the most popular technical blogs in the world. When you start blogging here, you get some of that audience. Still, it was this weird, I’ve got a blog here, because this is my own domain, that was always blocking people from going out and sharing. That’s the hurdle. We got over it 10 years ago as developers, but now as marketers, we have to get over that same hurdle, that when we go out, and we share content for marketers, that we’re not building a single community. We’re building our voice in multiple communities.
Nathan Ellering
I couldn’t agree more. Actually, one of the things I would urge other marketers to do, is if you are considering doing guest blogging … We started doing this with content trades. I don’t even know if that’s the right word. I will write a guest post for you if you write one for me. You are getting content on your site, and I am getting content on my site, and we both get to see each other’s audiences. So far, that’s worked out really well for us, because there’s that idea of the consistent publishing schedule. It scares some people, like I need to make sure I have two posts a week on my site, and if I guest blog, that means I have to write three this week, and I don’t have the resources to do that. These content trades are a really easy way to reach a new audience, and still have your consistent publishing schedule.
Jeff Julian
I love it because it solves the problem of no outbound links or inbound links issues with SEO, because no one blogs anymore about reading a good article like we used to. Those links are so powerful. On a trade like that, you’re getting inbound links, and they’re getting inbound links, and you’re giving outbound links. All those pieces together, one, they benefit your SEO, but then also, like you said, the resource, the timing it takes to write a good compelling valuable blog post is traded in that effort. I love that.
Nathan Ellering
I’ve really enjoyed the idea that it brings a totally new perspective to your blog too. This is why we’re talking today. I am super-passionate about blog planning, and getting ahead, and knowing how to execute your strategy. One of our recent examples is guest blogging for Pressly. Pressly is curation tool. I just provided them a guest post about content development process. In return, they traded a piece that talked about how to curate content super-efficiently, and according to best practices, so you’re not just stealing other people’s stuff. I wouldn’t be an expert on curation, but this person is. Now our audience gets to see this super-relevant topic for them, that they would not have otherwise seen without this content partnership.
Jeff Julian
I love it. I think that is content marketing next phase, beyond this just getting your own rhythms down, but really being interactive and social, and spreading your voice all around. I just can’t wait for other markets. When you think of construction, and you have the architects blogging on the construction, the foreman’s website, or you have stadium builders talking sports team websites, and getting outside are just these verticals that are so known, like software development or marketing.
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, I’m right there with you. It’s going to be fun to see more and more folks pick up the reins.
Jeff Julian
Cool. As we start to wrap this up, who do you find influence in, in the region, so Fargo area, or just the Midwest, or even worldwide?
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, definitely. I have a couple local folks that have really helped me along the way, so I have to give a big shout-out to David [inaudible 00:23:34]. He’s the senior marketing manager at [inaudible 00:23:37]. He’s one that understood my traditional marketing background and my love for education, and helped me move into content marketing to begin with, and work against the grain, like don’t just always go with the flow. One of his biggest quotes that has always stuck with me, or his philosophy I guess, is “Done is better than perfect.” That’s always stuck with me. I think that’s a really cool thing to remember when you’re marketing, because it’s so easy to a piece will never be done because you can edit, and edit and edit, but eventually, having something done and published is better than perfect. David helped.

My second person is actually Garret Moon. He’s our cofounder at CoSchedule. He has helped me a lot with content marketing, and just really opened my eyes to agile processes, working quickly, efficiently, staying focused. He, along with Justin is our other cofounder. Both of them are just great people to have in our corner for strategic direction, and I really look up to the both of them. It’s really fun. They inspired to burning every single day, and always getting better at what you do.
Jeff Julian
Awesome.
Nathan Ellering
I guess, from the national way of things, I’m a big fan of Jay Baer. I’ve referenced him a couple times. Youtility is just an awesome philosophy on content. I eat, live and breathe that idea of providing helpful content that helps people just eventually make the decision to work with you. Another marketer, and my last marketer is Neil Patel. He has just an awesome way with his blog posts, taking super-complex topics, and making them sound super-achievable in his posts. He’ll take a complex idea on SEO that just goes way over my head, and just in a way, dumbs it down enough that I can actually understand it and use that content to influence my next decision when we’re publishing something.
Jeff Julian
Nice.
Nathan Ellering
Those are my folks.
Jeff Julian
Cool. That’s a great list. I totally agree with Jay Baer on that list, especially on the Jay Today stuff, the way he gets straight to the point. It’s sharable content beyond your marketing department. There was one post, where he gave how customer service should be handled, and I shared it with the entire team. I’m like, “Watch this. Learn it. If you don’t remember it, watch it again”, because he nails it. He’s just a really good marketer that’s also focused on the big picture of business.
Nathan Ellering
I just think that his example of Jay Today is such a cool way for marketers to learn from. I mentioned “Done is better than perfect.” Jay Today is super-unpolished. He shoots on his iPhone, and just talks for a minute, and then sends it to a company that packages it for him and gets it on all the distribution channels that he sends that to. It’s just a super-cool idea of really great content. Like you said, you share it and it’s minimal effort.
Jeff Julian
Yeah, I totally agree. Well, thanks for coming on the show. It’s been an awesome show. I can’t wait to start guest posting on the CoSchedule blog as well.
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, we’re excited to have you.
Jeff Julian
Cool. Well, thanks again.
Nathan Ellering
Yeah, thank you.