Why Original Content Matters
I’ll admit it. As a writer, one of the most frustrating phrases to hear (and one that’s been uttered with increasing frequency over the last two decades) is, “Nobody reads copy”.
These three words are not only completely inaccurate, they are potentially damaging to your company to the degree you believe them.
Consider the objectives of your website. For most businesses the strategy is simple: drive more people to your website and get people to buy your product or services when they get there (often referred to as conversion).
You can’t do either one of those well without one thing: fresh, original content.
Google Reads Copy — Content Gets You More Site Traffic
Google ranks search results using over 200 factors. Among the most important are freshness and uniqueness of content. Simply put, original content yields better search results than stale or re-purposed content.
To give an example, if you carry a branded athletic shoe on your website and you post a vendor supplied description of the shoe (like so many hundred other websites), you will not do well on search. Conversely, an original description of the shoe will land you higher on organic search.
More is Better
What’s more, a longer copy description will yield even better results. How much more? A 150-250 word description per product is the sweet spot.
Customers and Prospects Read Copy — Content Strengthens Your Brand and Your Conversion Rate
Driving more customers to your site is only one half of the formula. If they get there and don’t like what they see (or more to the point, what they read), you’ve wasted your money. That’s why investing in fresh, original content is so smart. If your content writer is good at what they do, you will win twice—more customers find you via search engines and more of them learn why they should buy from you versus your competitors.
If your writer doesn’t know how to write 150 words about a cashmere sweater, a running shoe, a cutlery set, a solar panel, a checking account or whatever products and services you offer in a way that differentiates your brand and makes customers and prospects want to buy them from your company, than you need to find one that can. (If they didn’t know they should be doing this in the first place, that’s another red flag.)
The takeaway: Find a great writer, set him or her loose and sell much more.
P.S. Optimized fresh, original content (that utilizes most often searched keywords and phrases) is even more effective at driving search results.
What exactly is an editorial calendar?
It’s usually a spreadsheet, with various headings and tabs that guide you to fill in your sales goals, monthly themes, content ideas, due dates and more. It is used to manage the publication of content across multiple platforms, including blogs, social media, emails, and websites. Our version also includes print, radio and television ads, as well as competitor and referral data, because we like to keep marketing and sales side by side.
The purpose of any editorial calendar is to bring consistency, design and accountability to the publication process. If you struggle to plan exciting and engaging content, publish blog posts on schedule, or remember who’s doing what, then an editorial calendar is definitely for you.
Wait, what is content?
For our purposes, content is information. So content marketing (also called inbound marketing) is information marketing. It’s the idea that your company can attract and retain customers by being helpful, edifying, instructive and illuminating. All that enlightenment is delivered via blog posts, emails, white papers, ebooks, infographics, social media posts, videos and so on. It is given freely—or in exchange for a little personal info, such as your name and email address. When successful, content marketing makes your company indispensable, trusted and loved.
How to succeed at content marketing
Content marketing is strategic. There are three keys to successful content marketing:
- Understand your audience. Who are you talking to? What do they care about? What motivates them? How can your company connect with them? Most businesses have various types of ideal customers, so it’s helpful to develop buyer personas that epitomize those groups.
- Create quality content. There is a lot of competition for your audience’s attention. Boring, self-promotional, poorly designed or useless content will fail to achieve your goals.
- Be consistent. Publish on a reliable and relatively frequent schedule so people can expect—even anticipate!—your content.
How an editorial calendar can help you triumph
An editorial calendar forces you to focus on your goals, plan your content strategy in advance, and meet the expectations of your audience. A good editorial calendar will provide a big-picture overview of your marketing strategy, as well as:
- A place to brainstorm topics and post ideas
- A task management and workflow system
- A publishing schedule with hard deadlines
- A measurement or accountability process
An editorial calendar helps you create quality content that is consistent with your overall themes, brand identity and goals. It also serves to organize and motivate your creative team and keep your strategy on track.
How to use an editorial calendar
Editorial calendars are generally filled out in meetings, with input from your strategic and creative teams. First, there should be a “big picture” meeting to determine yearly goals and themes. Here are some of the questions you will answer and record in your editorial calendar:
- What is the overall message of your brand?
- What will you be talking about in June versus October?
- How often do you want to communicate with your buyer personas, referral sources, and past customers?
- What platforms will you use to communicate?
- What types of content will you produce?
- What are your revenue goals?
- How many subscribers / followers do you want?
- How many new customers do you want?
Once you establish the big picture, you can move on to monthly content planning. This will require approximately 12 meetings. You should plan your content one to three months in advance of publication. In the “big picture” meeting, you will have determined how many blog posts you will publish each month, how many pieces of “premium content” (such as ebooks), how many videos, etc. Now you will give life to those numbers. Here are some of the questions you will answer and record in your editorial calendar during these meetings:
- What should Blog #1 be about this month?
- Who will write it?
- Who will edit it?
- Who will lay it out and publish it?
- When is it due?
- What keywords should it contain?
- What internal links should it have?
- What is the call-to-action (CTA)?
- What are your email campaigns?
- What should go into your newsletter?
- What are you talking about on social media?
Once you figure out all the details, you will move on to content creation. Here’s where a project management system can be very handy. For example, we use Basecamp to help us manage projects and tasks. After our content planning meetings, some deeply organized soul (not me) sets up to-do lists and assigns tasks in Basecamp. The tasks are linked to the editorial calendar for easy reference, but most of the relevant information is contained in the to-do. Then content is produced, deadlines are met, and goals are exceeded (like magic!)
If you don’t have a task management system and don’t want to invest in one, that’s OK. But I would recommend putting basic info, like due dates, into Google Calendar or another program that will generate reminders for your team.
How do you know if you’ve done a good job? At the end of the month, or when you have the data (such as views, click rates, sales, etc.), circle back to your editorial calendar and compare your goals with your results. Content marketing often does not generate direct or immediate sales, so look at more than revenue. Ask and answer these questions, too:
- Did you increase your following?
- Did people engage with your content (i.e., comment, like, share, etc.)?
- Did people act on your CTAs?
If people are not viewing, engaging with or otherwise loving your content, you need to figure out why. Usually the answer is that your content wasn’t sufficiently useful or entertaining. But working with an editorial calendar will help you identify what types of content your audience likes and responds to, and then you can plan more of it.
How to get started with an editorial calendar
Starting is easy! There are lots of free templates available if you search. I like our free editorial calendar template, which is an Excel spreadsheet. In addition to tabs for content planning, our template has tabs for buyer persona sketches, competitor information, community involvement initiatives and more. This makes it an all-inclusive marketing and sales “playbook” for easy reference. Our editorial calendar comes with an example workbook that’s all filled out with a sample campaign, so you can see how a completed editorial calendar should look. It also comes with a marketing overview that illustrates a typical month of content planning, creation and publishing.
Whatever template you choose, an editorial calendar will help you create content with focus and intention. It will result in higher-quality, targeted content that helps you meet and exceed your goals. Even if (or especially if) you are disorganized, spontaneous and messy like me, I highly recommend using an editorial calendar to plan your marketing activities. Try it and let me know what you think.