Maybe you’re having trouble writing one lone article or you’ve lost your blogging mojo, so you wonder why you should learn how to create a content series.
Like many of my readers, at some point, you find sitting down to write even one measly blog post is physically painful.
While it seems counter-intuitive, I propose that you create a content series because, instead of brainstorming, vetting and outlining a single article at a time, you can build a bigger set of content.
Even better, a content series works best when you start with a list related to your audience needs. You can get help from your sales and customer service teams for this content so you’ve got the starting outline.
And voila—you’ve reduced the need for more content ideas and even better you’ve got content for multiple deadlines!
Content Series (aka: Blogging Series) Defined
A content series is a set of related articles around a key topic where each piece is a digestible chunk of information that can stand on its own but gains from the larger whole.
Every content marketer, blogger and writer can take advantage of series and use if it for any content format including text, visuals, audio (or podcast), or video depending on your topic and expertise. If you prefer, use a mix of formats either for each chunk or for different articles.
The best reason to use a content series is that it reduces the need to brainstorm and vet new content ideas!The best reason to use a content series is that it reduces the need to brainstorm and vet new content ideas!Click To Tweet
My colleague Roger C. Parker is a big fan of content series. He believes that it’s a win for both writers and readers. Here’s how Parker visualizes a content series.
Content series aren’t new. Novelists like Charles Dickens wrote their books in sections that were published over time in magazines. To create sufficient suspense to keep readers buying more, writers included a cliffhanger, a plot device where the main character is left in a precarious situation or is confronted with a surprising discovery.
Similarly, you should use cliffhangers in your content series. Incorporate a problem that has an emotional component your audience cares about.
Why Your Marketing Needs A Content Series
From a marketing perspective, content series for text, blogs, podcasts, and videos enable you to:
- Go deeper into a specific topic. Each piece allows you to create in-depth content that answers your audience’s questions. (Check the 5 types of content your customers need.)
- Create related content around keyword terms to support search efforts. Use the content hub and spoke model to ensure that your content is inter-related and linked.
- Pull readers into your audience. Include a call-to-action that enables readers to get the full series of content, either as it’s published or as a collection.
Additionally, a content series solves resource issues:
- Support a blog or product launch. Provide related content that can be created in advance and dripped out over time.
- Be outsourced to a single person. Create a reason for a guest blogger or other resource to develop content for a specified time period.
- Provide coverage for vacations or heavy work periods. Help your blogging team to create additional content in advance.
Where A Content Series Fits In Your Editorial Calendar
Done well, a blog or content series provides structure for your annual content planning as long as you don’t treat it like filler content.
For example, the Harry Potter books and the Star Wars movies followed a structure tapping into Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey that keeps fans wanting more content.
The key to content series:
- Figure out your series hook, specifically, the unmet need related to your business that you’re seeking to solve for your audience.
When possible, choose a list-based result because it’s easier to break into independent content chunks for each point.
Content Series Hooks
The top editorial hooks for content and blogging series include:
- Business themes. Each article in the series correlates with one aspect of your annual theme, broken out by quarter or month.
- Month of standalone content. Use this content to support a product rollout or other business objective. For example Oli Gardner took over Unbounce’s blog for a month to provide content related to a product rollout.
- Holidays or events. Tap into the structure of a long holiday like Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanzaa for related articles. For example, Spin Sucks’s Gini Dietrich does the 12 days of Christmas. She follows the song by the same title.
The Content Series Plan: 5 Elements You Need
To ensure your content series achieves its objectives, you need a solid strategy or the sum of the parts won’t be as strong as the components.
1. Content series objective
- Why are you writing this collection of articles?
- What results do you hope to achieve? Specifically tie your content to measurable results. Think beyond traffic and branding to email addresses, lead qualification and sales.
2. Content series theme
- Create a theme to make the separate pieces of content feel cohesive. This includes content structure, voice and visuals. Think of it as a brand within a brand. Give your audience clues that the content is part of a larger whole.
3. Content series structure
A content series includes 2 more articles than the individual posts, specifically an introduction and a conclusion. These 2 posts provide context for your audience.
- Is the opening to this entire set of content. This piece of content should stand on its own while making your audience salivate for more.
- Require enough information to be stand independently while also supporting the related pieces especially the preceding one and the one that follows.
- Create a consistent post structure. Each article should follow the same core outline and similar length.
- Include a cliffhanger. Like entertainment content, give your audience a reason to return for the next serving.
- Add an editor’s note in each article referencing the series introduction and other articles.
- Provide a call-to-action at the end of each piece that gets readers to sign up for the series emailing.
- Either create all of the posts at before publication or over time. Roger Parker and Darren Rowse write content series as they go so they can incorporate input from the earlier pieces.
- Show your audience how the pieces fit together. Where appropriate, link to the prior articles. Bear in mind that readers may have joined you mid-series.
No piece of content marketing is complete without a call-to-action. You must guide your reader to act and define the steps that he needs to take. Don’t assume this will happen without your help.
- Determine what you want your audience to do after they’ve consumed your series. This is your opportunity to create a download or other offering. It’s a second chance to get readers’ email addresses or to further qualify them.
5. Post content series publication
- Determine where you’ll promote this content, both the individual pieces as well as the entire collection. Since it’s a big chunk of content together, ensure it reaches the maximum audience.
- Create a page to house all of the articles. This facilitates audience consumption and shows search engines how to track the content once it’s all published.
- Assess the value of the content as a whole. Depending on the topic, once you have published all of the content, you can edit it into one cohesive piece. For example: Darren Rowse created his “31 Days to Blogging” ebook that sells for $29.99 based on a series of articles that still exist on Problogger. Similarly, Spin Sucks’s Gini Dietrich created the 30 Day Challenge to help readers kick off the new year and converted it into The Communicator’s Playbook.
The Content Series Conclusion
Use a content series to not only fill your editorial calendar, but also to create quality resources that attract new audiences and search attention.
Tap into the power of a series of related articles to explain a new initiative as well as the basis for larger pieces of content after publication.
Even better, content and blogging series can be created in advance to help keep your content engine going during busy or vacation periods.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February, 2018. It has been revised and updated.