A content map is used to plan an entire website’s content, helping you see how your content relates both to your goals and to your reader’s goals. Similar to mind maps, these visual tools are helpful in building and maintaining a site.
A year and a half ago, I sat down to try and make sense of my blog’s content and decided to create a kind of modified content map. Where did my content start? Where did it go? What was I having to do to make sure I was hitting my readers where they were?
The diagram I created was interesting, to say the least.
While some of what is on the diagram has since changed as different networks allow better integration, at the time it was useful to me as I tried to jury-rig WordPress plugins, feed readers, and other apps to get my content where it had to go with the least amount of work possible.
I was trying to illustrate my content platform in an attempt to discover problem areas. This diagram, by the way, played a part in the conception of CoSchedule. It illustrated a common problem we all have when it comes to trying to get our blog content out to as big of an audience as possible with as least headache as possible. The process of creating this map helped me understand the source of my headache when it came to blogging.
When it comes to mapping your content in order to discover the health of your platform, there are three ways to approach it.
1. The pathways of content.
My illustration diagrammed the pathways of content. It showed where content started, where it went, and how it got there.
This kind of map was important to me because it showed me which tools I would need, it showed me where the hangups and roadblocks were likely to happen, and it also helped me make decisions on which social networks I couldn’t feasibly handle. In my case, I left Pinterest on the chopping block.
2. The topics of content.
Making a diagram of your topics will help you know several key things when it comes to the actual writing. This is going to save you time because it will:
- Keep your audience and niche in mind. Content maps keep you on track. If your blog post doesn’t fit your content map, it doesn’t fit your platform. A content map is really audience-focused, because your content most certainly is. Losing sight of your audience is a good way to lose your audience.
- Help you keep your blog categories in check. Category and tag bloat seem like minor things, but they are the actual first defenders when it comes to keeping your blog on focus. If you can’t find a category for your post from your carefully selected and edited list, perhaps the post doesn’t really fit the blog.
- Help you organize ideas. A content map shows you what you should be writing, so if you’re struggling with ideas, it serves as a good reference point. Used with basic brainstorming techniques, it provides the perfect boundary for ideas you come up with. (And yes, boundaries are actually good.)
3. The goals of content.
Making a diagram of what you want your content to achieve for you will help you understand if you’re realistically on track to get there. If you’re struggling to identify a way to monetize what you consider a niche blog, for example, it might be that the blog isn’t niche enough. Your goals might be income, traffic, or recognition. Make a map so you understand how your blog will get you there.
Writing A Content Map
There are no hard rules to writing a content map. Whether illustrating your networks or topics or goals, your end result should help you understand:
- What you’re doing now.
- Where the roadblocks or problem points are.
- Where you want to go, i.e. goals and endpoints.
- How you’ll get there.
You can see from my example below that I wanted to get a better grasp on my (gasp) seven blogs by laying out monetization goals.
In this example, I first categorized the blogs into whether monetization or not was likely. I then identified niche and specific monetization plans. This was to help me better prioritize them. I am, after all, only one writer and my content map has to help me not burn out.
How you create your content map is mainly whatever works for you, whether you use pen and paper (my preference!), graphics, spreadsheet, or…an editorial calendar. You can do a general overview (as my examples illustrate) or get very detailed and break down and define blog categories and who the audience is for each category.
Think about a typical road map. It has a legend or key, roads, ability to estimate distances with a scale…it has everything you’ll need to use the map to get from point A to point B.
And that’s the important point: getting from here to there. Maps are meant to help you go places, not stay put.
Wouldn’t you like your blog to go places, without getting lost on the way?