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By Erika Brookes

If you’ve been in the eCommerce world long enough, you probably know how important high-quality content is to your online success.  Whether your goal is to drive traffic to your site, increase customer engagement, or establish authority in your niche, consistent and high-quality content is one of the best ways to accomplish your goals.

Your content strategy may be okay for now, but is it prepared for what lies ahead this year?  Semantic search, regular Google algorithm updates, and a fast-growing number of new content marketers entering the arena mean that your own content strategy needs to be better than ever if it wants to stand out from the crowd.

So, if you’re an eCommerce expert looking for ways to improve your existing content strategy, this guide is for you:

Step One:  Planning Ahead

Every smart business owner knows that extensive planning is vital to their success.  However, the Content Marketing Institute recently reported that only 37 percent of B2B marketers had a documented content strategy, while 41 percent had a strategy that wasn’t written down.

Essentially, you can already get a step ahead of your competition this year by being an effective planner.  Here’s how to start planning your content strategy:

Ask Yourself the Why and How

The first step to planning your content strategy is asking yourself why you want a content strategy in the first place and how you plan on using content.  Is it simply a way of selling more products?  Or is your primary goal to be a source of valuable information?  Establishing a content mission statement from the very beginning will act as a guide for the coming stages.

Have a Way to Track Results

Tracking results is critical to success in eCommerce, but many marketers are lost on how to measure the results of their content marketing efforts.  Essentially, it all comes down to what your end goal is.  Look at the most important analytics with your mission statement in mind.

Create Buyer Personas

Many marketers find that creating buyer personas is extremely helpful for their content strategy.  These fictionalized representations of your customers make it easier to imagine their needs and problems so that you can solve them with your content.

Step Two:  Content Creation

With marketers churning out content at an increasingly fast pace, your own content needs to be unique and engaging.  Here are some ways to make yours rise above the rest:

Look at the Competition

Take a peek at what content is doing well for your competitors and write your own that is 10x better.  Buzzsumo is an awesome tool that tells you what content is getting the most traction from your competitors.

Keep Up with Trends

One way to get ahead of the competition this year is by creating content that is on the cusp of digital search trends.  For example, visual content is on the rise, and you can jump on this by creating engaging infographics for your customers to share on social media.

Don’t Forget SEO

Your SEO and content strategy efforts should overlap.  Applying SEO techniques into your content strategy will improve the user experience and maximize the effectiveness of your content.  Make sure that you integrate the two so that you can get a better ROI.

Step Three:  Implementation

Now it’s go-time.  This is a challenging step for many digital marketers, and it can make or break your content strategy.  Keep these tips in mind as you implement your strategy:

Consistency Is Key

The demise of many content strategies can often be blamed on a lack of consistency.  It’s important that you have a way to easily manage your marketing efforts so that you can keep producing content that shines.

Know Where and When to Reach Your Customers

If you’re a successful eCommerce merchant, you probably know your audience well.  But do you know which marketing channels your content will perform best on?  Which formats your audience prefers and when to reach them on social media?

It doesn’t matter how great your content is if you are reaching customers on the wrong platforms or using the wrong formats.  Find the ones that resonate with your audience so that your content has a greater impact.

Split Test as You Go

You don’t have to wait to make changes to your content strategy.  In fact, performing split testing (A/B testing) as you implement your content strategy can significantly improve its impact.

For example, you can split test your blog post headlines to see which ones get more shares. You can also test the length of your content or where it is positioned and make changes as you see fit.

Step Four:  Analyze Results and Make Changes

You’ve been tracking your results this entire time, right?  At this stage, you will perform an in-depth analysis of your results and decide what did and did not work so that you can improve your content strategy.

Content Metrics to Analyze

When it comes to analyzing your content, there are many different metrics, and your mission statement should give you an idea of which ones you want to look at.

While common metrics include web traffic, conversion rates, and content popularity, others will want to look at metrics that involve their reputation (such as their site’s domain authority).

You can find a lot of this data in Google Analytics, but it doesn’t hurt to have other big data tools to help you generate reports as well.

Count Your Success, Too

Not all changes have to be due to something not working.  For example, maybe your blog post on the best unorthodox ways to beat a cold did extremely well.  Now, take a subsection from that blog post and expand on it.

Don’t Be Discouraged

If you find that something doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that your entire content strategy was a dud.  In fact, it’s perfectly normal for there to be a learning curve in the beginning.  Use this as an opportunity to adjust your content strategy so that it only gets better as you go.

Erika Brookes is the Chief Marketing Officer at Springbot where she leads all brand, product, marketing campaigns and communications. Before joining Springbot, Erika was the vice president of product strategy for Oracle, the vice president of marketing and communications at Vitrue, and other executive-level marketing positions at leading technology companies like MindSpring, Earthlink and Rackspace. In her limited free time, you’ll find Erika running through Atlanta with her yellow labrador Sunny or sharing marketing insights on Twitter @ebrookes.