A content calendar will help you consistently publish useful and relevant blog posts. Learn more about creating one and its benefits.
A content calendar is the key to success for any blog. A well-planned, organized, and executed content calendar will help you increase your blog's traffic and generate more revenue. In this post I'll explain what a content calendar is and how it can help make your blogging efforts significantly easier.
What is a Content Calendar?
A content calendar (also known as an editorial calendar) is a tool that bloggers can use to plan and execute their content strategy.
But what exactly is a content strategy?
If you want your blog to make money, you can't just write blog posts about any old topic that's on your mind. You need to strategically plan what to write about.
Think about your niche and the audience you'll be serving. What kinds of questions do those folks have? What problems do they have? How can you meet their needs?
Brainstorm the content type and topics that you think will serve your target audience. For each topic, make a list of the blog posts you'll write.
At a very high level, that's your content strategy.
Back to the content calendar.
A content calendar is a schedule of what content you're going to publish or have already published. It can also be a way to schedule and keep track of all the tasks that go into content production–everything from researching keywords to writing the draft to taking photographs to sharing the post on social media.
A content calendar is a good idea whether you have an entire team or whether you are the team.
For bloggers who have a team working with them, a content calendar is the best way to keep track of the blog post workflow.
For example, let's say a blogger has two team members – a writer and a graphic designer. The blogger may pick the topic and do the keyword research then hand that over to the writer who drafts the blog post. The blogger may approve the draft then send it to the graphic designer to make the graphics.
A content calendar will show the deadlines for the writer and the graphic designer. The deadlines will be created so that the publish date of the post can be met.
The bigger the content team, the more important having a content calendar is.
You're probably saying, “But I'm a solo blogger! My team is me, myself, and I. So, I don't need a content calendar, do I?”
Yes, yes, you do. Consistent new content creation is so much easier when you use a content calendar. Here are some of the reasons why.
Benefits of Using a Content Calendar
- You always know what you're going to write about.
- You're more productive and save time.
- It's easier to batch your work if you know what you're going to publish next.
- You can plan far enough in advance for holiday or seasonal content.
- It's easier to maintain consistency.
- It holds you accountable.
- It ensures that you have a variety of topics and types of posts.
You always know what you're going to write about.
No thinking to yourself, “what should I write today?” because you know what your upcoming content will be about. This can reduce your stress dramatically.
You're more productive and save time.
When I'm not sure what I should be working on, I jump from project to project and wind up not finishing anything and I definitely not working on the most relevant content.
It's easier to batch your work if you know what you're going to publish next.
How can I make pins for my next four blog posts if I don't even know what they're going to be?
You can plan far enough in advance for holiday or seasonal content.
The publication date of your back-to-school content needs to be well before August. Planning ahead will also help you remember important dates for social media posts.
It's easier to maintain consistency.
Publishing two blog posts a week is so much easier when you know what you're going to be writing about. If you waste a day trying to decide what to write, it'll be hard to be consistent.
It holds you accountable.
An editorial calendar can serve as an accountability partner. Every time you look at it, you'll be reminded that you need to get that new blog post published.
It ensures that you have a variety of topics and types of posts.
Do we really want to publish 4 round up posts in a row? Or what about 5 cookie recipes in a row? Now, that's fine if you're a cookie blogger, but it doesn't make sense if you write about more than cookies.
Types of Content that Should Go on your Calendar
Most bloggers create several kinds of content–new blog posts, social media posts, and emails. In addition, bloggers should update older blog posts from time to time.
Every type of content should be on your content calendar. You may choose to have a blog calendar, a social media content calendar, and an email calendar.
Personally, I think having all of these content types on one calendar makes the most sense. Your blog posts, social media posts, and emails should integrate seamlessly. If they're on separate calendars, it'll be harder to make sure your content marketing strategy is consistent.
For example, one of my blog posts is about free keyword tools. It makes sense that my other content–social media posts and emails–is also about keyword tools during the week that the post was published.
But if the different types of content are on separate calendars, I may not remember that.
Content Calendar Formats
- Written Schedule
- Online Calendar
- Project Management Tools
- Content Calendar Systems
There are so many ways to create a content calendar–everything from a pen and a piece of paper to online tools. Some are free, and some can cost quite a bit of money each month.
I recommend starting with something simple then work your way up if you need a more sophisticated system for your whole team.
Handwritten Schedule on Paper
You can handwrite your schedule on a piece of notebook paper or on a calendar template.
For many people, brainstorming is easier if you're writing things on a piece of paper. Blog post ideas may flow better if you're recording them on paper.
If you do this, I recommend that you use a pencil or an erasable ink pen like these Frixion Clickers (the purple ones are my favorite!) so that you can make changes if you need to.
You could also put your editorial schedule on a whiteboard. Take a picture of it each month before you erase it so that you'll know what you've already done.
A second format for your content is an online calendar such as Google Calendar. Create a separate calendar just for your content so that it's easier to see.
With an online calendar, your content planning is easier because you can move a piece of content to a different date without having to erase. We all know that things change, so we may need to complete a post on a different week.
Spreadsheets such as Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel make very effective content calendars. It's easier to keep up with your content ideas that haven't been added to your publishing schedule yet.
A spreadsheet also allows you to store more information such as your target keyword, search volume, post category, due dates, etc. It's nice to have all that information in one place.
Project Management Tools
Some bloggers use project management tools for their content calendar. While these are more complex, they allow you to keep up with all the steps in creating your content.
Even if you're a solopreneur, it can be helpful to know at a glance what you still need to do to finish a blog post.
There are so many project management options available–some are paid, and some have a free version. Here are a few that I'm familiar with.
Currently, I use ClickUp and love it. In the past, I used Trello. I've played with Asana and Airtable, and while they have some great features, ClickUp gives me all the features that I want.
Content Calendar Systems
There is a plethora of content calendar systems out there. Unlike project management tools, they are specifically designed For several years, I used and liked CoSchedule.
WordPress Plugins – Like the other systems, you'll find several content calendar WordPress plugins like this one, Editorial Calendar.
This article from HubSpot has content calendar examples that you can take a look at.
Regardless of the format you use, an editorial content calendar will definitely be beneficial to you.
How to Create your Own Content Calendar
If you haven't created your content strategy and brainstormed your blog topics, take some time to do that first. You'll need a list of blog post ideas for your calendar.
Decide how often you'll publish a new blog post and how often you'll post to social media. – If you're working a full-time job and taking care of a family, it's probably not realistic to expect that you can publish a new blog post 5 days a week. You may only be able to publish one a week, and that's OK. Just make sure your goal won't overwhelm you.
Pick your content calendar format. As I mentioned earlier, start with something simple.
Review your blog post idea list to identify any posts that are holiday- or seasonal-related. Those types of posts should be published about two months before that date. For example, publish your Halloween content in August.
Add the posts to your calendar for those dates.
Next, add your evergreen content to the calendar. Think about what might be happening in your personal life as you add these.
Let's say you have kids who are in school. You want to write a few kids' crafts posts and would like to take some pictures of your kiddos doing the craft. Plan these during the summer months when they're home.
Or if you know that the month of December is super busy for you, plan to work on easier posts such as roundups.
What to Include on Your Content Calendar
While you absolutely need to include your publish date on your calendar, a more important date is your start date. Make sure you have a space to put both of them.
Here are just a few of the items you can include on your content calendar for blog posts.
- Post Type
- Target Keyword
- Keyword Volume
- Start Date
- Publish Date
Make sure you have a tab to include any pieces of content that you haven't scheduled, and update the list of blog post ideas on a regular basis.
Your social media marketing calendar may include other types of information such as:
How Far in Advance Should My Content Calendar Be?
This is totally a personal decision. Some people plan a month at a time, some plan a quarter, and some plan a year in advance. Regardless of your timeframe, I suggest that you keep some flexibility in your calendar. You never know when a topic will come up that you should write about.
Whether you've been blogging for years or are a brand new blogger, having a blogging schedule in an editorial or content calendar will help you get the best results from your own blog.