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Total posts: 4
Last post: April 24, 2017

How to Create an Editorial Calendar: Topics

By alex on  April 24, 2017

If blogging is part of your company’s online strategy, then you know that the struggle to put pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard, more likely — is a problem. I mean, you can’t always make your brain magically come up with fun, unique content ideas as you stare at a blank Word document.

That’s Where an Editorial Calendar Can Help

An editorial calendar is an organized list of topics, publish dates, and other pertinent information that will save you time (and keep you away for the horrors of the totally-not-fake condition Blankdocumentitis) when it actually comes time to write. It’s better to plan ahead and think through how each post will help support your business goals, rather than write in a panicked state while a deadline looms in the near future.

Image of crumpled paper on the floor. Stop writer’s block by brainstorming topics for an editorial calendar. Learn how. Picture by photosteve101 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Should I Be Blogging in the First Place?

It depends. Before you dive in head first, consider:

  • What is the goal for the blog?
  • Who is your target audience? Why will they want to read your blog?
  • Who will be writing the blog posts?
  • How much time will this person/these people be able to dedicate to blogging?
  • How will you structure the review and approval process?
  • Who has the final approval on the content?
  • How long will you keep the blogs on the site before they are archived?

If you have the time and energy to commit to blogging, that’s great, because blogs are good for business. Frequent blogging makes for plenty of fresh content, allowing you to create new pages containing valuable information for your customers. Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt that each of these new posts can, and should, be optimized for valuable keywords. This can help you increase traffic to your blog and direct new people to specific areas of your site

Oh, Okay. Now What Do I Do?

In a word, brainstorm. You need to do some work to save you from doing even more work when you’re really running up against deadlines. During this brainstorming session, you can plan out your blog’s topic list, a publishing schedule, and other important items.

“But how do you do all of that in an efficient matter,” you ask? That’s an excellent question, and I’m here to help. There is a lot that goes into an effective editorial calendar, including important items like posting times and personas. In this blog post, we’ll go over the biggest part of your calendar: what you should write about.

How to Brainstorm Blog Post Topics

A good blog needs good content, but it’s not always easy to come up with a bunch of quality topics off the top of your head. Your brain is an impressive tool, but it can’t be asked to do everything, especially if you’re trying to create an editorial calendar that will last you as long as a full year.

No, you’re going to want some help, which is why it’s good to know where to look for inspiration. As someone who has made a topic list on thermocouples that will last two years, I can tell you that the following suggestions will save you a lot of time and energy.

Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools

Find out what your customers actually need to know. Check Google Analytics to see the most-visited pages and think of potential topics that relate.

For example, if you run a feline goods emporium and cat adoption shelter and your most visited page is about golden Persians, it’s probably time to plan some topics around those adorably fluffy creatures.

Image of Persian kitten. Find blog topics that excite your users and create an editorial calendar. “Persian Kitten” by kitty.green66 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

You Can Also Find Out Specifically What People are Looking for on Your Site Through Webmaster Tools.

Look up search queries and search for the terms “who,” “what,” and so on. Now you can see exactly what questions your customers ask and be able to include helpful keywords to your posts.

Image of Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries screenshot

Borrow from Others

You may not always like your competitors, but you can use them for inspiration. Check out your rivals’ blogs to troll for potential topic ideas. Did Felicia’s Feline Funhouse recently do a blog series on helpful tips for what cat breeds are best to adopt based on your personality? Well, that sounds like it would be a lovely addition to your topic list.

A media kit for a related publication can also be a treasure trove for good topics. For example, the Humane Society’s media kit can inspire posts on animal diet control and cruelty-free products.

Then there’s the power of a conversation. Your fellow workers may have some ideas in mind that wouldn’t have crossed your mind, or you can reach out to the sales or customer service professionals at the company to get ideas of frequently asked questions or topics they encounter.

Borrow from Yourself

Don’t be afraid to repurpose old content, particularly if it’s a post that performed well in the past. People aren’t going to necessarily search for an article that’s a few years old, so updates on old information or revisiting a topic after a lengthy period of time is a quick way to come up with quality topics. If you put out a newsletter, you can draw several potential blog posts from there as well.

Borrow from Buzzsumo

If you’re the type who wants to see some examples of successful blog posts, Buzzsumo is right up your alley. The content marketing and SEO tool lets you search related topics and domains and shows you the most shared articles.

For example, I looked up “cat adoption” and got the following results.

Image of Buzzsumo screenshot for blog topics about cats.

These were the top four results, which suggest that lists and before-and-after topics tend to attract more engagement. You can test Buzzsumo out for yourself for free, but keep in mind that you’ll only get a couple of searches per day without paying for the service.

I’m Done Borrowing Stuff; What’s Next?

Now that you know how to come up with topics, you can start coming up with topics! Just how many you’ll need will depend on how often you plan on blogging. Want to publish two posts a month? Then you’ll need 24 topics for the whole year, and it’s always good to have a few backup ideas just in case of a situation where you need to drop a post.

Remember: consistency is important, so don’t overreach. Start with a number that you are comfortable with and you can always grow from there. Nobody likes a blog that hasn’t been updated in years (and it looks really bad).

Your blog post topics are just one part of your editorial calendar. In our next post, I’ll tell you how you can put together a full calendar that will help you organize when you should post and just how you should be targeting your posts.

Got any questions about editorial calendars and want to learn about how Aztek can help? Just fill out our contact form or give us a call at 216-472-2121.

Photo Credit: "overcoming writer’s block- crumpled paper on wooden floor- crushed paper" by photosteve101 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo Credit: "Persian Kitten” by kitty.green66 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

How to Create an Editorial Calendar: Putting Everything Together

By alex on  April 24, 2017

Blogging for your business is more than just mashing words together to make coherent sentences. A good strategy can help you provide useful content for both you and your intended audience while supporting your business goals. In my last post, I went over ways to brainstorm up to a year’s worth of post topics, because it’s a good idea to know what you’ll be writing about.

But there’s more to editorial calendars than just topics. The more details you can plan out before you actually begin to write, the better. We focus on a few important areas in our editorial calendars:

  • Personas
  • Dates and times
  • Descriptions and resources
  • Authors
  • Categories and tags

personas

Personas

After reading our rundown on how to come up with blog post topics, you know how to figure out what you should write about and when you should post it, but do you really know just who you’re writing your posts for? Yes, these posts are intended for potential customers, but not all visitors look for the same things or respond to the same types of post, which is why it’s helpful to come up with personas to focus your content to a specific types of people.

What are personas? In short, they’re descriptions of the different audiences that interact with your business. For a longer explanation, check out our rundown on persona basics.

Each blog post can’t entice every one of your personas, so make sure to cater to each of them as you are planning out your topics.

Dates and Times

There’s a reason that an editorial calendar isn’t simply called a “topic list.” The editorial calendar acts as a whole plan for what posts you will publish on your blog and when. Sure, you could go through and think “Yeah, every Thursday should work out just fine,” but to get the most out of your fresh content, you’re going to want to dig a little deeper to find good dates for posting content. As you might have learned from Raiders of the Lost Ark, you want to avoid bad dates (and times).

You want to give your posts as much of a chance to succeed as possible, so try to publish content when users are more likely to visit your site. Fortunately, you can narrow that information down to specific hours and days of the week through Google Analytics, allowing you to publish content when people are ready to read it.

How to Use Google Analytics to Find When People are Active on Your Site

  1. Change your date range so that it pulls data from the last calendar year
  2. Select "Behavior" on the left-side menu
  3. Under Behavior, select "Site Content" and then "All Pages"
  4. Once in All Pages, select the "Secondary Dimension" drop-down menu
  5. Select "Day of Week Name" under "Time" and record which days have drawn the most page views over your time frame
  6. Do the same with "Hour" under Time

Date and Hour for Google analytics

Description

A topic title is a good start for when you go to write a blog post, but it still doesn’t give you the full picture. Writing out a description ahead of time will give you a better idea of the angle for your post instead of leaving you to make a judgment call or do extra research while the clock is ticking.

If you’ve managed to keep your description under 150 words, you can even use it as the meta description for your blog post. If not, trim it down so that you have a clear message that won’t be truncated when your post is shared on social media. It’s also good to keep track of any resources you use while researching potential topics. Think an article online would help the author? Add it to the editorial calendar so that they can use it when they write the blog post.

Author

A blog post can’t be created without someone to write it. That’s why a good editorial calendar will include a section that lists who is responsible to write each post.

Who writes what can be determined by areas of expertise. If Joe Guy really knows a certain part of your business, he could be a good option to write those posts. Check with the proposed authors when the editorial calendar is first created, but once it’s approved, there’ll be a list of responsibilities so that it isn’t a struggle to find someone to write a post at the end of a deadline.

It’s also possible that just one person may write all of the posts for your business, but you want it to appear that multiple people contribute to the blog. The Author section will then be helpful to let the person in charge of blogging know who he or she should list as the author of the post (and who should review it) when it gets added to the blog.

Categories and Tags

A good editorial calendar can help streamline your blogging habits, and that includes straightening out categories and tags. Both items help organize your blogs posts into, well, categories and tags that allow people to search for related posts to the one they are reading.

What’s the difference?

  • Categories are broad groups for organizing posts, so they can align with your business’ main services, company news, or other themes like that
  • Tags are more detailed, so a blog post for a pet store might have “cat care” as a category, but use tags like “Persians” and “conditional love”

Categories and tags can get messy and unorganized when you assign them at the last minute. Look through your current list of categories and tags and list appropriate ones out for each of your topics. This will help you avoid random tagging and creating several different versions of the same tag.

What an Editorial Calendar Looks Like

Writing can take a lot of time – believe me, I know from experience – but an editorial calendar can spare you from a lot of aggravation and rushed blog posts. So what does an editorial calendar look like? It can change depending on your preferences or needs, but here’s an example of a basic, two-month calendar we made especially for you (and every other person reading this post).

Download Editorial Calendar Example
Download example Editorial Calendar (.xls)

There are several clichés and sayings about the value of time, so you likely already know how important it is to plan ahead. If you want to know more, contact us today about how content marketing can help your business.

How Haters Can Make You Great: Handling Customer Complaints

By alex on  April 24, 2017

While many companies believe they provide excellent customer support, their customers don't necessarily agree. According to marketing consultant extraordinaire Jay Baer, only 8 percent of customers feel like businesses provide good customer support experience.

Image of an angry customer. Responding to customer comments can help with customer retetnion and give you ideas for content.

Some unhappy customers may walk away grumbling to themselves, but others may decide to take their vitriol to the Interwebs. You may not be able to control what your customers say online, but you can always respond to them. Don't fear the comments, use them to your advantage.

Respond, Respond, Respond

Leave no comments behind! Not responding to a negative comment can be the kiss of death for an unhappy customer. Ignoring complaints shows the offending party that you really just don't care about their woes, and we know how that bit goes. Show people that you care about what they think and do what you can to make the situation right.

Even if someone just posted a message of "YOU SUCK!!!" on your Facebook wall, it's worth a response. Find out why said poster thinks that you suck. They very well may uncover a problem that you didn't know you had. This is also a convenient segue into my next point. How splendid!

Don't Hate, Appreciate

via GIPHY

You may be familiar with the phrase "haters gonna hate." While it's true that there can be a few people spouting off negativity for no good reason (see: heckling), blocking out all of the haters means that you could miss out on some important constructive criticism.

Customers help you correct problems

People complain because they want you to know something about your company. Whether it's because your company takes too long to answer their phones or your website won't let them buy that cool thing they need to have, they're letting you know about a problem they feel that you should fix. Channel these complaints to work toward improvement.

Use complaints to come up with new content

Customers can be great at finding holes in your site's content. If customers keep asking the same question over and over again, it might be time to create a new page or blog post that directly answers that question. Not only will you get a brand new page for your site that can fit in with your online content strategy, you're also keeping your audience informed.

A little creativity can go a long way

A witty, imaginative response can be a great way to diffuse a customer complaint. If you're really good and people start to catch on, you could have the makings of a viral hit on your hands/electronic device. For example, British supermarket chain Sainsbury's got a lot of positive attention when it took one typo and turned it into a chain of pun-filled responses.

Image of a Sainsbury's Twitter exchange with a customer. Creative customer responses can lead to positive exposure for your business.

That's one way to turn a complaint into an oppur-tuna-ty.

Create a Good Experience for Your Customers

People like dealing with people, not faceless corporations run by unfeeling robots.

The world hasn't been overtaken by robot overlords just yet, so you still have plenty of reason to provide a personal touch when responding to your customers. According to Bain & Co., even a 5 percent increase in customer retention rates can lead to a 75 percent increase in profitability. It pays to keep customers happy.

Remember, the complaining customer isn't the only person seeing your response. There will be some customers who are hellbent on no longer using your company and nothing you do will change their mind. An open, honest response can engender trust in other people who witness the exchange. Your customers are like a part of your family. There may be a bit of fighting every now and again, but a happy relationship is going to be best for everybody in the long run.

Need to up your online content game? Contact us today about our Digital Marketing services.

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Why Typos Matter for Content Marketing and How to Catch Them

By alex on  April 24, 2017

Content mistakes matter. The lack of an Oxford comma can lead an appellate judge to overturn a ruling for a labor dispute. An incorrectly entered input from Amazon reportedly cost S&P 500 companies $150 million. A single letter swap can even result in you calling your aunt a very naughty word.

Typos are bound to happen when you write. The key is to find and fix them before what you write hits the web. Just imagine that you're a small business adding their location to their site. Well, instead of Butte, your company now resides in Butt, Montana. It's a simple mistake that will never pop up in spell check, grammar check, or whatever check, but it's still going to make you look like an ass.

Why Does the Quality of My Content Matter?

There are a few reasons. One is that sloppy content can take your users right out of the intended reading experience. Not only can misspellings or other mistakes be distracting, they can also lead the reader to believe that this business doesn't pay attention to detail or doesn't care how they're perceived online. That's not a good look for a business.

Another big reason is because Google says so. The all-powerful rulers of searchlandia name quality content as one of their top ranking factors. When Google's Quality Rater Guidelines leaked back in 2014, the document placed an emphasis on professionally-written content. Sloppy sentences and the occasional spelling mistake just won't do for human testers, which can hurt how well your pages rank for valuable keywords.

Heavens to Murgatroyd! How Do I Fix This?

I'm glad you asked! There are several tricks and tools you can use to help you catch those pesky misspellings, sneaky homonyms, and other problematic content mistakes that can hurt your content marketing efforts.

1. Use Spell Check and Other Online Tools

This tip should come as no surprise. Spell checks have been helping writers for decades. Microsoft Word's built-in spell checking system is one of the most well-known tools, and those squiggly red lines highlighting misspellings can be the difference between embarasing tpyos and clean copy.

If you're not a fan of writing in Word or any other tool without a built-in spell check, there are plenty of online tools you can use. For example, you can copy and paste text in the Hemingway app and it will check your spelling, as well as other writing issues. However, spell check is not going to be right all of the time. Technical verbiage or uncommon words may get flagged as incorrect just because the spell check doesn't recognize them. Don't be afraid to overrule the tool if you know it's the right call.

2. All Eyes on Deck

After enough time, even a break won't be enough to help you find certain mistakes. Your brain can become numb to certain typos, blinding you from certain mistakes that you would have found in other content.

This happens because your brain knows exactly what you're trying to convey in your post, page, or whatever piece you're preparing. New readers won't have that level of familiarization and are more likely to notice errors, odd phrasings, and other issues.

That's why an extra set of eyes can prove to be so helpful. A separate editor can review content with a fresh perspective, catching those dastardly errors in addition to providing feedback on the overall composition of your piece.

3. Read Out Loud

There are few things that can really ruin the flow of a good article like an awkwardly-written sentence. Missing words, changing tenses, and other common mistakes can turn a perfectly good string of words into a written monstrosity.

You'd think that your brain would catch a mangled string of words, but we've already learned that your brain can trick you into thinking your prose is perfect. That's why it can help to read your writing out loud.

Verbalizing your words can help you hear your mistakes for yourself. That sentence you thought was great? It certainly doesn't sound all the good when you forgot a verb or changed tenses halfway through. Reading your text out loud doesn't have to be, well, loud either. You don't have to stand up in the middle of the office and recite your copy like it's Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" Just read it back to yourself and fix any issues when you find them.

Don't do this. Nobody wants this.

4. Take a Break

Even professional copywriters need to step away every now and then. Writing fatigue happens, especially if you're not used to regularly churning out quality content.

Don't be afraid to take a break from your copy if you notice yourself making more mistakes or struggling with your message. If you aren't facing a deadline, save your draft and revisit it the next day. You may realize that your intro should be restructured or that you aren't using that fancy word correctly. Once your brain has reset and you can approach your content with a fresh outlook, you'll be ready to pump out a real slice of fried gold.

Gotta Catch 'Em All

As Osgood Fielding III said in Some Like it Hot, nobody's perfect. You're bound to make mistakes. I even misspelled the word "misspelled" while writing this post and spell check caught it. Part of creating quality content is accepting that mistakes happen and doing your best to fix them before your copy goes live. By following the four tips listed in this article, you'll have Google's human testers thanking you from wherever that company keeps them. Any tips/tricks to catch typos that we've missed? Let us know on Twitter @aztekweb.

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