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How to create and use a content calendar

Growth Secrets|25.07.2017

Content is key to any e-commerce marketers SEO and customer engagement strategy, and with so many formats and platforms, how do you successfully create, publish, promote and track content to get the most out of it?

A content calendar can align a brand’s content strategy, business wide. Whilst a content planner/calendar assigns responsibilities and deadlines, it also brings together one area for idea generations and topic discussion. As a writer, I’ve sat in plenty of meetings where great content ideas are generated, but nothing ever comes of them or the energy simply fizzles out as more pressing tangible deadlines take precedence.

When you create a content calendar, consider assigning and defining roles within the team. Who is responsible for posting content to social channels, who should chase down partners or external sources for content and who is the key content generator?

Regardless if you decide to use a spreadsheet or software, bring all content related activities into one space. This includes metrics and any ideas boards associated, after all, a great quote for Twitter may be embellished into a really tasty blog post and vice versa.

As the Content Editor for We Make Websites, there are elements of my content calendar I couldn’t live without. From deadlines to new topic ideas, it’s a crucial part of my day to day. If you're planning on creating your own, here are the 8 key elements to include:

1 . Target Audience:

Who should this content appeal to and what challenges do they face that your product can solve? How can this content help your customers make a purchase decision? What language do they use or what other websites do they visit? 

Knowing your ideal customer helps create targeted content that entices readers to visit your store. Brands may have more than one target customer profile, maybe different age ranges or interests split by department. It’s important to log which customer profile content pieces are aimed at to enable analysis post campaign. 

2 . Topic:

This can be quite general i.e. shoes / ladies wear / kitchen, whatever topic grouping works for your business. This helps keep your content on track with your target audience profile. By grouping together topics you can later repurpose content and consider releasing relevant topics as compilations, maybe as a whole downloadable asset. 

3 . Title:

A title will define the tone and ultimately the point of your content. Always aim to answer a question or engage an interest relevant to your target audience. Answer the Public is a great tool to use to see exactly how potential customers are searching for key topics. 

4 . Keywords:

Keywords are essential for categorising your content. These keywords should support your overall SEO strategy and can be used as hashtags from any social media campaigns planned around the content launch. Use tools such as Google's Keyword Planner to see search volume and choose keywords that are relevant, yet popular search terms.

5 . Format:

Different formats of content will work better with different subsections of your target audience. Infographics, video and image based content may work well for Instagrammers however long form text “how to” may appeal to consumers looking for technical product information or guidelines. Test different formats with different groups of target customers and use analytics to determine the best format for your customers.

6 . Due date and publish date:

Great ideas stay as ideas without deadlines. That said, as a content professional, I know that some types of content need flexible deadlines, for example, interviews when the participant may be away or slow to reply. I work to two deadlines, a due date and a publish date, one for when the content is due and the other when it’s set to go live, with enough time in between to account for any delays. A publish date allows all marketing efforts to be coordinated from this point, for example, a targeted email or social media campaign. 

Your publish and due dates should revolve around a brand activity calendar. Be aware of what is happening around the business and use content to support any special promotion.  By timely spacing out your content, and working content around seasonal days such as big shopping dates or national observances (things like National Cupcake Day), not only do you give your content the best opportunity to be read and shared, this can also highlight content gaps and quieter periods that could be great opportunities.

7 . Contributor:

This is especially important when working with partners or external content creators. Make members of your team accountable for content they are producing or project managing and review progress weekly to see any potential blockers or problems with delivery. 

8 . Analytics:

Content should not be created without purpose. And if that purpose is, for example, increasing traffic to the footwear section, analytics is key to gauging success. 

For this to happen, all content should be tracked, with individual UTM tracking set for every element of a content campaign. Google provides a Campaign URL Builder tool to help you distinguish your platforms and campaigns. For example, if an article is featured on Twitter, you could use a similar string to this:

And the final URL created will be a long string of characters and recognisable words. You can convert this link to something far more manageable with “Convert URL to short link” and it should look like this:  https://goo.gl/RmRZ3v

This information will tell you that the lead to your website came from a blog post posted to Twitter, as part of the first round of a content supportive social campaign. This information is invaluable to track where the majority of your content wins are coming from. 

Set UTM links for every campaign and every medium to fully track content successes.

There are three key elements brands should measure when determining the content success.

  1. Social Activity: Depending on the platform, you should look to measure views and engagement. Likes and shares are good metrics to see how popular your content is with your audience. Also, keep track of followers and any surges surrounding content releases.
  2. Google Analytics: If you are using UTM trackers, spikes in website traffic can be directly associated with content releases or social activity. Look at referrals to see where the majority of your traffic is coming from and create your next piece of content with this readership in mind.
  3. Sales and Revenue: Always keep the end goal in sight. Whilst content can be seen as community engagement or brand building, the ultimate result is to generate an increase in revenue. If your campaign is tracked and targeting a certain area, look for trends from the launch date to determine the ROI of your campaign.

A content calendar is important for brands to build content into the heart of their marketing strategy and cement good quality content as the base for all future activities. It brings teams together, breaks down tasks into manageable chunks with achievable deadlines and a well thought out content calendar also can show traction and ROI gained from content marketing. 

Your content calendar can be as simple as a spreadsheet, or for larger e-tailers, there are software solutions that can manage multiple contributors and version control. Whichever solution you choose, make this the one place to go to plan, create and track your content and see exactly what your audience responds to and loves.


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