Regardless of how frequently you post on your blog or social media, your content creation process can have a lot of moving parts.
A number of people and tools are involved in ideation, writing and publishing of content. And it can get complicated fast.
Sooner or later, you’ll find it hard to keep track of assigned topics, timelines and resources.
The solution: An editorial calendar, aka content calendar.
What Is A Content Calendar?
A content calendar is a system to keep track of the topics you plan to write, who will write them, when to publish and other important details to help streamline the content creation process.
The editorial calendar also monitors the status of development for each piece of content, along with sharing strategic data for content writers and editors, such as keyword focus, notes, takeaways, research etc.
It is most commonly created and managed as a spreadsheet, but can also be in other formats like a calendar, document, kanban board or other software.
Whatever format you use, it should be something that’s easy to view and manage for everyone in your team. That way you can ensure that everything is organized and moving.
An editorial content calendar also keeps everyone motivated and disciplined to focus on the main thing they’re supposed to do - writing the content.
Building An Editorial Calendar
Without an editorial calendar in place, you or your team will soon reach a point where they are just throwing together content for the sake of it. As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.
So let’s take a look at the steps you need to develop and start using a content calendar for your brand.
Generate Content Ideas
Depending on how much content you plan to produce in the next 6 to 12 months, you’ll need new topics to write about.
If you already have some published content, then your first step should be to conduct an audit.
See if you have appropriate content for all the stages of your marketing and sales funnel. Identify areas where the content is lacking, or opportunities to write new content related to something you have already written before.
If you are just starting or need new ideas from scratch, there are a number of ways to analyze your target audience and brainstorm topics with your team.
One way is to find out the kind of questions new prospects or customers often ask you or your sales team. These will lead to ideas that you should pursue first.
Not only will this help you build trust, but also empower the sales team and shorten the sales cycle.
Moverover, there are certain types of content proven to perform well in a number of industries. You can use them in the brainstorming process as broad categories to help generate ideas. These are:
Pricing/Cost Questions - For example, “How much does a smart home cost?”
Problems - For example, “4 signs there’s a leak on in your cloud security”
Tutorial/Guides - For example, “How to lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks”
Comparisons - For example, “Ikea vs Walmart when buying new furniture”
Reviews - For example, “Is HP Spectre the best 15-inch laptop? A review”
Tips/Hacks - For example, “10 ways to make money in real estate”
Top/Best Lists - For example, “Top 10 dandruff treatment shampoos in 2020”
Another way to get content inspiration is good old keyword research. Answer the Public, for instance, is a free tool in which you can enter a word or phrase to generate content ideas.
If you have the budget, premium tools like KWFinder can also help you uncover fresh content topics to engage your audience.
The results will not just give you hundreds of keywords, but also show you how many times they are searched every month and how easy or difficult it may be to rank for them in search engines.
So are so many other ways to come up with content topics that I cannot possibly go through all of them considering the scope of this article. But for more information, see my post on the best ways to source content ideas.
Prioritize Your Topics
By the end of content idea generation, you’ll probably have at least 50 topics to begin. But how do you know what to write about first?
As I have mentioned before, it’s always wise to take a look at where in the buyer journey are you targeting your audience, and what action you want them to take.
If you already have some published content, follow the same approach. Start from filling the gaps in your bottom funnel content, and so on.
You also want to maintain the right proportion of entertainment, inspiration and education in your monthly content.
For example, if you’re into a kids toys business, perhaps 50% of your topics should correspond to entertaining content, 25% educational and 25% inspirational.
Similarly, a B2B consulting company may decide that 50% of its content topics will be educational, 25% inspirational and 25% entertaining.
In addition, you’ll take these factors into account:
- Which products/services would you like to prioritize in the coming months?
- What are your short term and long term content goals?
- Which of your current content has gaps or no related content?
By prioritizing the topics related to the customer journey in reverse, you will be more likely to acquire customers sooner because you are starting with prospects who are already interested.
Fire Up Your Content Calendar
Once you have brainstormed ideas and prioritized your content topics, it is time to start filling up your content calendar.
You can use the ready-made template that I provided at the beginning of this article, or create a spreadsheet from scratch.
Here are the columns supposed to be in your content calendar, along with their explanations. You can also create additional columns for aspects that are unique to your brand and process.
- Content Type - The type of content (blog article, podcast, video, infographic)
- Freshness - Is it a new topic or an update to something published in the past?
- Focus Keyword - The keywords to be targeted for on-page SEO
- Desired URL - The permalink of the content when it’s published.
- Desired Call-To-Action - CTA if you have something planned
- Assigned Writer - Name of the team member to work on this content
- Completion Date - When is the final draft expected to be ready by
- Publication date - When do you expect to get this content published
In the beginning, this may look overwhelming. You may feel like that is too much information to fill in for each piece of content.
But you’ll realize its true power only after you have been using it for some time. You’ll see that you and your team communicate better, wasting less time in back and forth emails and producing content better and faster.
Content creation is a breeze when everyone understands the scope of the piece, how it fits the content strategy, and what they need to fulfill their part. They don’t have to think over every little detail because much of it is already laid out.
By taking the time to make your blog calendar the right way from the beginning, you’re laying the foundation of a tight process that just works. There will be less mishaps, less misunderstandings and less delays.
Keep It Up To Date
Last but not the least, you or someone in your team will have to own the content calendar and push for its adoption, at least in the beginning.
When used for a few months, I am sure the ease of keeping everything in sync will justify the little effort in maintaining the content calendar.
Being able to track all your content as it is being developed will give you a better sense of whether you are meeting your deadlines and if you need to modify anything in your content creation process.
An effective content planner allows you to easily view what stage each article is currently in. So make sure that you and everyone in your team are filling, referring to and updating it often.
Building and using a content planner does take some work and patience, but it's worth it.
In today’s world, it’s not just enough to create content. You need to create great, engaging content, and do it consistently week after week.
And the ability to keep track of and scale your content creation can make a big difference in the success of your sales and marketing efforts.
So plan and start using a blog calendar as soon as possible. You're going to accomplish great things, but only if you take the time to start at the right foot.
Did I miss anything? Do you use a content calendar? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.