You just need to follow 5 steps to create the best content map for your blog
This summer, I finally gave up — I built a content map for my blog.
I have thought about it for a few months, but the idea never thrilled me too much. Perhaps I believed a content map forces you to write about the same things every month. Or maybe I wasn’t ready to put boundaries to the subjects I was discussing.
But with time, I discovered that most of my success came from one or two topics. Creative articles never performed very well, and people didn’t appreciate them as much as I did. So I had only two choices.
The two choices of my content strategy
The first choice would have forced me to reduce my articles to one niche, set fixed boundaries, and probably lose interest in writing in a couple of months. So my blog would have either become a large spoon of chewed topics or a dead memoir of a lost passion. And it would have never helped anyone.
The second choice required me to create a content map in continuous expansion. Each subject had to correlate with a master topic, but the constraints would have been less severe. So I could have exploited a strong strategy mixed with great originality.
The two choices might seem similar, but they have a crucial difference. Although they both work with a niche concept, the second enhances an expansive mindset. So instead of reducing my beloved topics, I can start from a master idea and make it grow with creativity. And if I dive deep enough, I can talk about every idea that comes to mind.
Nowadays, I believe a successful blog is nothing without a content map. But before learning how to make the perfect content map for your blog, I shall describe what a content map is.
What is a content map?
A content map is a graph that contains any possible topic that relates to your key focus. It is an evolving snapshot of your content, and it can give you an overall view of everything you have published or will publish.
Building a content map is challenging. Although creating connections between topics is manageable, making them meaningful is not that simple.
The first links will always appear shallow and vague. But as you keep writing about the same relations, they will strengthen like a muscle. It works similar to memory: you have to analyze the same concept multiple times before it becomes a robust relationship.
When I built my first content map, I had nothing but two unrelated topics. One was self-improvement, and the other one was writing. The first gave me infinite subjects to discuss, and the second was my passion. And choosing one was impossible because I loved them both for various reasons. So I decided to try and link them into a double-faced content map. And even if the first try was unnatural, it evolved into the perfect content map.
How to make the perfect content map?
The best way to create a content map is to draw it on a piece of paper. According to many studies, handmade projects help release creativity reducing anxiety and stress. So it is better to start with a simple handcrafted project instead of an overcomplicated map.
I drew my first on a magnetic board, which allowed me to delete and rebuild links with different meanings or logical connections. And each time I have to review my content map or draw another one, I follow five simple steps: main focus, first and second association, relationship deepening, and trending topics.
1 — Main focus
The main focus is the focal keyword of your blog — it is your niche.
When you decide to write articles, you can discuss whatever you want. But if you wish to build a successful side hustle out of it, you need to focus on one main topic so people will easily recognize you.
If you have more than one subject you want to discuss, do not worry — a content map will help you with that. Also, nothing is set in stone, ever. So if you are uncertain of which topic to choose, pick the first one that comes to mind, and try to make a map with that. Then, if it doesn’t work, you can change it and try another one.
I built my first map around the self-improvement niche, for example. But then, I realized I love talking about blogging more, and self-improvement was only a source of techniques I tested. I love trying new plans, challenges, and routines — all self-improvement topics — but I use them for blogging. That is my final destination and that I should write. So until then, my main focus became content creation.
When writing your content map, consider your favorite topics one by one, and mingle with the idea of choosing them as your central focus. If you are unsure, make a small content map for each one, and see which convinces you. Then, focus on that topic.
2 — First association (close relationship)
The first association of your content map includes the first things that come to mind when you think about your niche. Your challenge here is to find at least three related topics to outspread your map. And if you cannot find them, you may want to choose another focus.
For example, I linked content creation with productivity, motivation, consistency, planning, and creativity. Luckily, some of these topics are in common with self-improvement but do not worry if that is not your case. You can add other links later in the content map, so maintain this first association level as clean as possible.
Sometimes this step works even better if you mark the link with the idea it represents. For example, I decorated the link between productivity and content creation with the question: “how do I produce more content?”
3 — Second association (distant relationship)
On the second level of the content map, you are in a peripheral zone, and the leverage of your main focus lowers. Hence, you can contaminate your main niche with external influences that fascinate you.
Here, I wrote topics closer to self-improvement than to content creation. For example, I connected meditation and good sleeping to productivity by asking myself how to sleep/meditate better to increase the content output? So using productivity as a leverage topic, I linked sleeping and meditation with content creation.
Notice that associations on the first level have one-to-many connections on the second one, but the contrary could also happen. Meditation could help writers produce additional content, but it could also improve their motivation and creativity. So you can draw multiple links between topics from different levels of your map.
4 — Relationship deepening
Once you complete the second level of your content map, there is only one way of deepening the topics you can discuss: questioning their relationship.
This map shape gives you only one link between two topics, but a single relationship is often not enough. Perhaps you linked them with the first question that came to your mind, or you put many on the same link. But this approach is not accurate enough, and you might miss captivating connections.
My approach to relationship deepening starts with the 5W questions. First, I try to find five topics for each relationship. And then, once I get all the creative juices out of my brain, I check Answer The Public for other possible connections I might have missed.
Sites like Answer the Public bring many advantages to your maps. For example, they show you topics people are already searching for, so you are confident of their success (at least in theory). Also, they organize data similar to a content map, so the fitting comes naturally.
5 — Trending topics
For a content creator, understanding the cyclicity of relevant topics is vital. If the end of the year approaches, and you didn’t produce anything related, you miss multiple virality possibilities.
To avoid it, make a list of all the periods of the year you can exploit with your content and add it at the bottom of your map. Then, each time you approach one of those periods, check if any of the topics can relate to that time frame and brainstorm a few ideas for each.
On my content map, I started with three trending topics. The first goes from December to January and covers the new year resolutions. The second ranges from June to late August and deals with vacation work. And the third covers November and deals with rating the end-of-year goals.
How to use a content map?
If you want to discuss many topics while focussing on a single niche, a content map is the right fit for you.
Once I built my master content map, I used the same technique to draw other micro maps for fascinating topics like meditation or the relationship between family and productivity.
Each time I write a piece of content, I add a small red cross on the relationship between the two topics. This way, if I want to repurpose a subject, I can check how many times I wrote about the same thing, so my content doesn’t become monotonous.
If I have an idea, but it isn’t on my content map, I add it and connect it with as many topics as possible. And the insertion triggers brainstorming sessions that widen my content map with more subjects than expected.
When you build a content map from scratch, you can focus on the same subject for a limited amount of time. After a while, you stop thinking about the relationships deeper enough, and you rush the insertion to finish faster. But when you have to insert a single idea, the process is more gratifying. You are well-rested, more creative, and you can take your time, so finding connections is also easier.
When they told me a successful blog needs to focus on a niche, I didn’t want to hear them. I wanted to talk about everything I found interesting, and the topics I loved seemed too heterogeneous.
Thanks to content maps, there are no topics different enough that are impossible to connect now. There is always a link, one way or the other, and I only need to find it. And to do that, I use a structured approach.
First, I choose the main focus — the core of my niche. Then, I search for the first level of relationships with that topic.
The second level of relationships is more extensive and can include more distant topics. This level also allows me to introduce other subjects that make my offer unique, so I think about it deeply.
The third level enlarges the links between two topics with other questions. Here I use creativity to generate an abundance of subjects to never run out of content. And the fourth level deals with the virality of content. I try to identify the periods of the year when people search for my content the most or which type of content they privilege. So I can adapt to their routines and exploit that knowledge to develop a suitable schedule.
With this approach, you too can make the perfect content map for your blog and reach more success than ever.
SOURCE: THE WRITING COOPERATIVE