You can be churning out blog posts by the dozen and have a strong social media presence, but if you don’t have a content calendar your blogging life is certainly not as easy as it could be. When it comes to marketing, the easier, the better.
If you’re one of those creative, artsy types, something as organized as having a calendar of your blog posts can seem quite rigid and limiting. Believe me, though – having your blog topics and social media schedule planned out in advance makes for a much easier and smoother month or a year ahead.
A few days of hard work at the beginning of your blogging year will make for a more less stressful, more effective year ahead. Once you start using a schedule, you’ll never go back.
Why Should You Use a Content Calendar?
Having a strategy of posting can make the hardest part of blogging easier – coming up with regular, quality material, and generating new ideas perpetually.
For us, creative freelancers, planning things in advance can seem like a far too structured way of doing our arty thing. A content calendar, however, goes a long way towards making your life easier and your content marketing strategy more effective.
Instead of spending time every day or every week creating a plan of what is coming tomorrow or next week, you have a bird’s eye view of your blog for the next month or year. You know exactly what material needs to be created when it needs to be posted, and when and where it’s going to be shared.
Why is this important? Well, it means:
- Less on-the-fly brainstorming and writing
- Less time pressure
- Come up with ideas in advance
- More efficiency
- More focused writing
Creating a schedule means also has certain advantages for your blog:
- You can structure your blog posts in a logical, thematic order
- You can create material in advance (great for when you have a lazy or uninspired day!)
- Social media can be planned and executed quickly and easily
- If necessary, you can change your schedule as you go
Schedules are invaluable tools if you’re a lone blogger, but even more so if you work with a team of creators. Communication is so important, and an easy-to-read, comprehensive content calendar ensures that all team members are on the same page.
Different Types of Content Calendars
Not all calendars are the same. If you have a busy blog, you will typically be using at least two different calendars at a time.
- Editorial (your general blueprint for the year)
- Blog Writing and Posting (also called a content calendar)
- Social Media Calendar (when and where to share)
Bear in mind – most bloggers use a combination of these types in one schedule. If you want to split them up, that’s totally all right too. It’s all about what works for you.
Basically, this is a year-at-a-glance schedule used to plan ahead around things like holidays and particular themes you want to work with.
To be successful at blogging your posts need to follow some sort of logical order, and themes are great for coordinating posts and keeping readers coming back. Things like marketing campaigns and events can also be planned here, so from the start, you know when things will get hectic and when they will be a little quieter.
Holidays and events are super opportunities for creating relevant material and getting it shared. Your editorial calendar will have these all marked out, as well as ideas for themes based around these times.
You might need to research some things in advance. If your website revolves around dogs, you might want to research things like National Dog Day, or get more specific and check out days for specific breeds as a theme idea. Things specific to your niche are not necessarily going to pop up on normal posting schedules, so do a bit of poking around for some fun ideas.
This posting schedule is usually a more in-depth, specific schedule that focuses more on the day-to-day material on your blog. The key word here is “content” – this is where you build upon the general themes and ideas in your editorial calendar to come up with solid plans for what kind of stuff you’re going to be putting out.
If you work with a team when it comes to creating material, this is where creators are assigned specific pieces to write, edit, or create. If it’s just you, then you don’t need to worry about planning who does what!
- Listing Articles
It’s great to have an idea of themes throughout the year, but you need to expand this into topic ideas or headlines in order to make the most effective use of this type of calendar. Having a Christmas theme for your fitness blog is great, but scheduling:
- Christmas food article
- Workout Christmas article
- Christmas picture
is really not going be helpful when it comes to fleshing out a theme. You need to get specific.
- Low-Calorie Christmas Dinner Recipes
- A Christmas Family Workout
- Give the Gift of Fitness picture
These are to-the-point, much easier to work with ideas, especially if you’re assigning other writers the task of creating them. You should know who is creating which piece if you work with a content creation team. You may want to add relevant keywords in here too.
- Using Dates
The important date to know is when each piece of content is planned to be published.
It’s easier to work backward when it comes to planning publishing dates. If you wish for your Christmas dinners article to be posted on the 15th of December, it is a good idea to assign it to be written by the 10th. That way, if it does run a couple of days late for whatever reason, you don’t suddenly find yourself in a tricky spot.
Set out your publishing dates for the year, and work in reverse to set your writing schedule. It’s not as hard as it sounds – simply set dates around 10 days before the publishing date to start the creation process.
- Keyword Research
It is certainly worth doing some of your keyword research upfront when you are planning your calendar. This will save you time and energy down the line. Although trends may change as the year goes, if you have a good-sized list of keywords from the start, corresponding to your content themes, it makes life much easier.
Take a day to focus purely on keyword research, and cover everything you can think of. Include long-tail keywords that apply to your area of expertise and to what you offer, and add as many single words as you can for a well-rounded list.
Believe me – you will be glad you did this at the start!
Social Media Calendar
Next to planning what you’re going to write and when you’re going to post it, the most important part of your content strategy is to figure out when and where to share on social media. This can also be called content promotion.
Having a social media content schedule is just as important as your creation calendar. There is little point in creating material if it’s only ever going to be seen on your blog.
Different social media platforms will require different formats of content. Each has its own setup and caters better for specific types of material.
- Twitter has only 280 characters – short and sweet description with a picture or link.
- Facebook is more suited to long-form content and works effectively with visual media as well.
- Instagram is very visual, and the audience may not take time to read descriptions.
When you consider how different each platform is, it becomes easier to realize how a social media marketing plan is a fantastic tool for a blogger.
Another element that is important here is content syndication – this is republishing your articles on other sites to get more goggles on your material. There are various sites that work for this type of promotion, some free and some paid. Some free options include:
- Mix (previously StumbleUpon)
Simply decide what you are going to post where, and remember to base this on what you’re putting out on your blog on the day. Create an easy-to-follow, at-a-glance schedule, and you’re on your way to more effective social media management!
Creating a Calendar
Of course, if you can incorporate all these things into the same calendar, then go for it! If a chock-a-block calendar is a little overwhelming for you, there’s nothing at all wrong with splitting these into separate calendars.
This is, of course, to make YOUR life easier, so whatever works for you is the way to go!
There are endless ways to create a schedule, and it’s really up to you how you would like it done.
- Using a Calendar Template
Content calendar templates are a dime a dozen on the internet. If you have no idea how to go about starting your own, fear not! A template can be found that meets all your needs.
Some research is worth doing before settling on what format works best for you. Don’t just download the first one you come across – compare a few and see what you like and what you don’t. Check out a few until you find something that you can see yourself using.
- Creating a Calendar Yourself
If you can’t find a template that works for you, you can create a calendar yourself. Various platforms work well for this, and again, it will be up to you to use whichever one really works best for you.
- Paper Calendars
If old-school works for you, don’t hesitate to use them. Remember, though; you will be slightly more restricted in terms of space and making changes.
Something like creating your own calendar on the wall out of Post-It notes is an alternative to using a printed calendar. This can also be far more easily customized.
- Digital Calendars
In the digital age, it goes without saying that these are popular. They are easy to adjust if changes come along, highly customizable and easily shareable for collaborative purposes.
Things like Google Calendar, Trello Calendar or Trello Cards, or simply Microsoft Excel, can all be used to create a calendar that works for you.
Calendar Tips and Tricks
Little tricks can really make your content calendar easier to work with and ensure you’ve got everything covered.
- Color code different items
This can be very helpful for those at-a-glance moments. It doesn’t have to be complicated – blue for long-form blog posts, green for short-form, pink for guest posts, yellow for infographics, etc.
- Set a weekly goal for each type of content
If you know you want to publish 5 blog posts a week, create 4 Facebook posts and retweet 6 relevant things on your Twitter profile, you can space these out nice and evenly so that your content is coming consistently. Scatter these across your calendar as you wish!
- Try to incorporate a decent variety of media – not just blog posts!
Remember, not everyone in your target audience has the same attention span. For some, a constant barrage of long-form blog posts is just going to be exhausting. Toss in some media that appeals to everyone – a video here and there, an infographic, or a review instead of a blog post. Get creative!
- Add commenting to your schedule
Never underestimate the power of reaching out to others in your niche! Go ahead and comment on other people’s blog posts. Getting yourself seen and heard (provided you have something nice to say) is always a good thing.
Give a little, and maybe you’ll get some good stuff in return – comments, shares, networking, or a long-term collaboration with a fellow blogger.
- Existing content can be rewritten or republished
You don’t need to constantly be putting out brand new stuff. Older content can be rewritten to keep up with new trends, and stuff can be republished when the timing is right. Some content is evergreen, which means you can revisit the same content again and again, as long as you do it in such a way that the message is still effective.
- Write new content as an extension of existing content
If you had great audience engagement on a particular piece of content, write another piece that follows on from it, or links up with it.
- Create more content than you actually need
All bloggers know how it feels to be uninspired and demotivated and have to come up with something fresh and original NOW. Creating extra content whenever you get a chance will build up a nice little stash of blog posts a the ready for when you need something suddenly.
If you haven’t been scheduling your posts, prepare to be amazed at how much more streamlined your creation and publishing process becomes!
Spending a few days at the beginning of your year (whether your year began in January or begins now) creating an in-depth calendar will save you more time and effort than you can even anticipate right now.
Go ahead and find a content calendar format that you like and get planning. Let us know your favorite templates in the comments below!
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