As a content marketer, you’ve probably got all these great ideas for new content, but you need a place to organize them all. Organization is a key element of content marketing and gaining reach for your blog. This is why it’s helpful to have a content calendar so you can keep track of your ideas and when you want to post them. Some people also refer to this as an editorial calendar (we’ll be using these terms interchangeably throughout this post).
In this post, we’ll review why a content calendar is important, tools you can use, organization tips, and steps to creating your content calendar.
Why Do You Need a Content Calendar?
Simply put, a content calendar (or editorial calendar) is a way of organizing your content strategy and schedule. It defines what you’ll get done when and helps you stay on track.
I would like to note that just because we are referring to it as a “calendar,” that does not mean it needs to look like a calendar. (That is, all the days in a month laid out in a grid format). The “calendar” part for me is more referring to the fact that it’s a schedule. Of course, if it helps you to use an actual calendar, go for it!
You’re less likely to post content as often as you should if you don’t schedule it. You could also forget an amazing idea you had for a post or forget to make an important update to an old post if you don’t document that information. It also reminds you of what topics you’ve already covered on your blog so your content doesn’t get redundant.
Here’s another struggle that many bloggers we’ve talked to have mentioned: consistency.
More specifically, how the heck you get consistent with blogging on a regular schedule.
How do you keep yourself organized and accountable when you’ve got so much else going on between your other job (if blogging is a side-hustle), home life, kids, spouse/partner, volunteer and other activities, time for fun (yeah, right!), and everything else?
A content calendar helps to keep you consistent in your content pieces and where you share them (either on your site or across different social networks).
Consistency and organization even have a place in improving SEO because when you post on a regular basis, your site gets a lot more traffic and search.
If you have a team as opposed to doing everything yourself, a calendar is also a good way to communicate with each other. It helps to avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen in that you don’t want too many people working on one post. It also shows everyone when their deadlines are so they can get everything done in a timely manner.
Bottom line, content creation and management becomes easier by adding a high-quality calendar to your digital marketing strategy.
How to Organize Your Content Calendar (Tools, Apps, Methods)
This answer depends on you and what you find most productive. If you’re really unsure then try a variety of different content calendar tools. They can range from:
- Physical Calendar: This can be a paper calendar that you hang on a wall, a whiteboard, or a book planner. This is only an option if you’re working alone as you can’t easily share or collaborate this way. Download this Pretty Darn Cute printable calendar, if this is your jam.
- Google Calendar: You can keep track of your content through your Google account across all of your devices, desktops, and phones. It’s also easy to share files with your content team through Google and organize everything into a Team Drive (if you have Google Apps for Work).
- Google Sheets or Excel Spreadsheet: A spreadsheet is a simple, free option if you’re working solo or with a small group. It’s good for collaboration, but it can get hard to manage if you have a lot going on in your content marketing strategy or if your team grows.
- An organization website or app: Trello, Basecamp, and CoSchedule are three of the more well known of these (we use them all the time, each for managing different pieces of our content and project development). They’re convenient task management tools for teams and clients so that everybody can stay on the same page when working on and scheduling content.
Find a System that Works for You
We love Trello for managing our blog content calendar, but it took us a while to find the best way for our team to manage content.
We have used Basecamp for years to manage client projects, and it works great for that. But as we began to think more about content and ramp up our blog post output, we struggled to put a systematic workflow in place with Basecamp. It felt too hard to get a holistic view of everything we had going on at one time.
Then, I attended a webinar on content strategy and the host mentioned Trello. She also shared a content strategy Trello board with all of us attendees. I was intrigued and began to play around with the tool. I started with a board for planning out a guide we were creating at the time, How to Start Blogging.
I realized very quickly that this is what I had been looking for. I was able to create a workflow and move things around so it was clear at what stage in our editorial process content was and what still needed to be done.
We kept refining, building on what we had, and even templatizing for our professional services clients.
We’ve settled on a design that works great for us. It includes idea generation, category organization, search data, and status (i.e. Live, WIP).
Our calendar also includes our editorial workflow:
- 1st Draft
- Optimization (key terms, word count, reading level, etc.)
- On-Page SEO
- Images Optimization (mainly sizing and Pinterest)
- Publish & Tracking
We also use a separate Trello board for social media idea generation but have found it easier to use Coschedule to schedule social media posts (excluding Pinterest, we use Tailwind for that).
How to Structure Your Content Calendar
Again, this depends on you and what type of content you produce. However, there are a few general key elements that every content calendar should have. The three basic categories of any good calendar are editorial, promotional, and future ideas.
The editorial section is where you’ll organize the content that you plan on publishing. The idea of the content calendar is to schedule what you plan on posting far in advance. This goes for your site, but it’s important for social media marketing too. You want to schedule your blog content and social media content in advance so that you have enough time for everything.
Some companies have 6 months to an entire year planned out, but it’s okay if you only plan for three weeks to a month ahead of time. You have to research, write, optimize, and pass content between team members before a deadline. This process goes a lot smoother when nobody is blindsided by not knowing what the new content is or when it should be produced.
The promotional section is where you organize how and when you’re going to promote your content. This doubles as your social media calendar since this is where you would plan out your social media posts. Promotion extends past social media. You could market your content through email, a podcast, or a public speaking event too. Either way, it should be organized into one place so that you can keep tabs on it all.
The future ideas section is self-explanatory. This is where you would organize all of your ideas for quality content that you want to do at an unspecified date. You don’t put these ideas into the editorial section because you don’t want to get distracted from content that’s more fleshed out to be posted sooner.
4 Steps to Create Your Calendar
Answer these four basic questions to create a content calendar that actually makes your life easier.
1. Where (do you create it)
Try out different tools, apps, and methods until you find something that works for you. It may be a physical calendar or even a notebook. Just because others are using fancy content management tools, doesn’t mean you have to!
Remember, your considerations may be different if you have a team and multiple people need access and a way to give input.
2. What (goes in it)
Make a list. Get all of your ideas for new content together.
It doesn’t matter how thought out each content idea is, you can put them in order later, just write them all down to get your calendar started. Later you can flesh them out more by adding things like search data, title ideas, and additional notes.
3. When (are tasks getting done)
Make a schedule. Your entire marketing strategy should be pretty much laid out on your calendar. This goes for all pieces of content, including blog posts, social media posts, podcasts, emails, webinars, case studies, infographics, videos, and anything else in your content strategy.
You can also include important dates for other to-dos like content updates, site audits, team meetings, public appearances, affiliate marketing, marketing campaigns, and guest promotion work.
If it’s easier to break things out into different calendars based on content type, you can do that too. For example, we separate our blog content and social media content calendar. There is really no wrong way as long as it works for you.
4. How (are tasks getting done)
Organize content and define your workflow. Color-code or label all of the different types of content so that it’s easy to understand.
Assign an owner to each piece of content. This way all members of your marketing team know what they’re responsible for so that everyone is on the same page.
Pro-tip: Create checklists! These help you define what’s important and make sure you don’t miss anything before you publish or share your content. We have checklists for each stage in our workflow so that whoever is responsible for the content at that stage knows what must be done before it can be moved further down the pipeline.
Leave a comment below with your best tip for creating an editorial checklist. If we include it in a future post, you’ll get free access to our How to Build a Remarkable Blog course (that’s a $579 value!).
A Well-Planned Content Calendar Makes a HUGE Difference
I truly feel that having a content calendar has made a world of difference for us. We are much more focused in what content we produce, and we execute much faster.
That’s not to say you should sacrifice quality for a higher posting frequency. We’d never advocate that. Having a plan, process, and schedule actually helps you create better content. It has also boosted our productivity, efficiency, communication, and planning.
Your posting frequency should be determined by what is reasonable for you. You have to balance that with the rest of your workload (not to mention the rest of your life). The biggest thing is consistency. If you decide once a week or once a month is realistic, then commit to that so your visitors know when to expect content from you.
Just take a look at our blog posting history if you need more proof. From April 2017–February 2019 we posted 17 blog posts. That’s a time period of 1 year and 10 months. Let’s round that to 9 posts a year to make things simpler.
Obviously we are not super proud of that output, but I am giving you the numbers to illustrate an important point. Once we committed to focusing on our blog content and put a repeatable process in place, our output soared (and so have our Google rankings by the way).
From the end of August 2019–today (about 6 1/2 months), we’ve published 14 blog posts and 1 guide on How to Start Blogging. At that rate, we’ll be at ~30 posts by the end of the year. So we have approximately tripled our output!
It’s not hard, it just takes some planning and commitment. With a process to fall back on, blogging consistently becomes a habit, and habits are awesome for productivity. In fact, a book we love and reference a lot here at BizBudding is Atomic Habits by James Clear (aff link). On a side note, his website is built on Mai Theme and is in our showcase.
Content Calendar Templates
Figuring out a process and schedule for all your content can feel like an overwhelming task. Trust me, I get it. A content calendar template is great because it gives you a place to start, and then you can customize it to fit your needs.
That’s why we want to share a few different types of templates that you can choose from based on how you like to work. The Trello template is based on the actual content calendar we use, so obviously it is seriously cool.
In all seriousness, we think you may find it really useful. There are explainer cards throughout, so it’s clear what the purpose is of everything in there.
And remember how I mentioned the epicness of checklists earlier? Well, they’re in there too so you have a well-defined set of steps to follow at each stage in your editorial workflow.
There are checklists for:
- New Content Ideas
- 1st Draft
- On-page SEO
- Image Optimization
- Publish & Tracking
If spreadsheets are more your thing, we’ve got that for you too! We modeled a Google Sheets template off of one of our clients’ content calendars that we thought was really well laid out.
Remember to comment below with your tips on editorial checklists. If we include it in a future post, you’ll get free access to our How to Build a Remarkable Blog course (that’s a $579 value!).