It’s no news; blogging is no longer an option for any business that wants to grow in this present day. It’s a no-brainer – a necessary tool in any business’ marketing arsenal. It’s a vital part of your content marketing you can’t avoid.
And content marketing is a key part of digital marketing you can’t ignore. You do so at your own peril.
But, have you ever found yourself staring at a blank page or document or blog-editor with no idea what to write? Or found yourself delivering bad posts out of want of “inspiration” and/or desperation to beat deadlines?
Well, I have same problem of staring at blank pages, but I don’t want it to aggravate to the level of delivering bad posts or not updating my blog at all. Sure you know too well that consistency’s the key to successful blogging.
So I set on a journey to find a lasting solution to this problem. I found a way out and I thought I’d share with you what I came up with in the course of my (1-year plus) research.
Firstly, I’ve found that lack of what to write on your blog is a problem that should not even exist, especially when you can always insure yourself against unproductivity with a simple blogging editorial calendar.
The idea of an editorial calendar might sound like getting things more complicated than they already are, but in actual fact, it translates to making life easier for you as a blogger.
A blogging calendar (or editorial calendar, or better still, blogging editorial calendar) is simply a calendar on which you schedule your upcoming posts (and other blogging activities) to aid consistent blogging and keep track of posts on your blog.
Why should you use an Editorial Calendar?
Learning how to create an editorial calendar and using one has great advantages. And here are some:
- It helps you develop a strategic content plan, and therefore, ensures consistency in blogging;
- It instills a sense of responsibility and accountability in you – and your co-contributors, if any;
- You get to hone your craft compulsorily, as you get to write good posts on a very regular basis. This ultimately boosts your productivity to maximum, and insures you against the dreaded writer’s block;
- A blogging calendar gives you a 10,000-foot view of your whole content marketing strategy, and thereby makes it easy to pinpoint any lapses and forestall possible blogging failure;
- Using a calendar gives you plenty of time to find ideas. Planning (and scheduling) content ahead also gives you plenty of time to do your research – and the actual writing;
A blogging editorial calendar is obviously very advantageous; saying it makes living life as a marketer, business owner, or blogger better isn’t at all an exaggeration. It’s definitely something you should consider.
The next problem to tackle therefore is how to create an editorial calendar.
How to Create an Editorial Calendar in 16 Steps
Here are 16 timeless steps you should follow to create an effective editorial calendar for your blog:
1. Determine the purpose of the blog
What mission does your blog look to fulfill? What do you hope to achieve with a blog? Knowing this will definitely give you a direction towards which you can plan your calendar and the blog content.
Is it the main goal of your blog to get more subscribers? Or to simply enhance your reputation in your industry?
Define the purpose of your blog clearly, and then plan your blogging calendar towards that direction.
2. Identify your audience
Who are you blogging for? What’s their major pain point? Is it something you can help them address? What are their needs and desires?
These are questions you need to answer to be able to identify those who you’ll be blogging for. Determine their needs, construct your calendar towards offering solutions, and watch your blog succeed. Successful blogging calendars are built on the mission to serve your audience.
3. Research and choose your keywords
You need to engage in tactical keyword research to determine the important terms your posts will be built around. Keyword research is a fundamental part of blogging, and more so for business bloggers.
It tells you what people are most interested in, and shows you the exact language they use when thinking about those topics.
You can easily use keyword research tools like Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery to discover and choose post topics that your prospects want to read, so that you can fill your calendar to the next few weeks or months. You’ll also get related markets to tap into.
Find additional keywords using Google Suggest (Google search’s autocomplete function), and use Google Trends to see the seasonal spikes and changes in location-based (or general) search behavior.
4. Craft possible topic ideas
You’ve done your keyword research, and you now know what your readers are interested in. it’s time to start writing out your ideas, and craft them into powerful headlines.
One great tip is to keep an inspiration notebook you can continuously fill when you get great topic ideas. You can never tell where or when great ideas will hit you – it’s not unusual to get hit in the bathroom.
Keep this up, and with time you’ll have a great collection you can always draw ideas from to fill your blogging calendar – and in essence, keep your blog regularly updated.
5. Determine the frequency of your posts
You need to determine how often you will be posting to your blog before putting up a blogging calendar.
This should depend on the purpose of the blog and your target audience – all already identified, hopefully!
The frequency of your posts can have a huge impact on your blog, in terms of its ranking on search engines and the number of people that read it.
There are various positions on how frequent one should post on a blog. However, you must know consistency is more important than frequency. To have an idea of how to go about determining your blogging frequency, plus examples of top blogs with various blogging frequencies, check out this article.
6. Choose a calendar
This is an obvious important part of the process – it’s what we’re building anyways.
In choosing a calendar, you must choose something you will be comfortable with and be able to manage, as there are various options to choose from. Your calendar can only get as simple or as complex as you want!
You can choose anything from paper and pencil, to a free or paid digital platform – online or off. Some people are comfortable with traditional calendars, or printable ones, on which you can inscribe whatever you want.
You can find a free printable calendar for 2016 here if that’s your pick. Here’s for 2017.
You can also opt for sticky notes on a paper calendar. It’s common among bloggers, like the guys at CoSchedule.
Online calendars and platforms, like Google Calendar, Google spreadsheets (better for sharing and managing with a group) and Trello, are mostly popular among top bloggers – Buffer uses Trello. It’s also used and endorsed by Moz.
Another popular solution for blogging editorial calendar is WordPress plugins. If your blog is WordPress-based, you can install one of the top-three editorial calendar plugins like WordPress Editorial Calendar, Edit Flow, and CoSchedule by TodayMade.
The simply-named WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin is the most popular because it’s basically simple and suits a single blogger’s needs. But where a multi-author blog is concerned, Edit Flow is one of the best free plugins. Team members can collaborate easily with features like comments, notification, user groups, and etcetera.
CoSchedule is a premium (paid) plugin that offers a 14-day free trial. As expected, it has more features than the two free plugins discussed above. And by popular review, it’s good for its price.
Another great option is to download blogging calendar templates. There are a lot of great free templates online – there are paid ones too. Hubspot offers an editorial calendar for free on their site. It’s a great template you should check out. Click here to get it.
[Once you’ve settled for your choice of calendar, the subsequent steps help you to plan and fill your calendar.]
7. Note recurring features
Write down any recurring features you already have. This might include weekly line-ups, and every other nonflexible feature you have on ground; sponsored posts, guest posts, etc.
8. Consider friends and affiliate partners
You can create space for affiliate partners, or friends with related products in your calendar, to help them promote their products on your blog – could be a mutually beneficial agreement. (I scratch your back, you scratch mine!)
9. Make room for holidays and unofficial observances.
One popular way to generate great blog ideas is to tie your content to holidays. Mark your calendar for the various holidays in the period for which you are creating a blogging calendar, and create topics reflecting each holiday – where relevant.
To find a list of holidays, you can check sites like HolidaysCalendar.com, or TimeandDate.com. You can type “Holiday Calendar” into search engines to find more sites.
There is also a really cool website with random holidays (HolidayInsights.com) that you can use to find fun holidays to come up with posts. For example, did you know 25 January is Opposite Day (where all you say, do, see, and hear are the opposite)?
Unofficial observances, like April fool’s Day (April 1) and Pi Day (March 14) – and World Emoji Day (July 17), will make interesting posts for your blog. You can find a full list of “unofficial observances” here – and even a list by date.
You can also add historical dates and milestones to your posts. Historyorb.com lists prominent events that occurred on each day throughout history.
10. Establish themed periods (days or weeks)
Assigning a theme to individual days or weeks is another great way to generate good content ideas – and fill your calendar. A good example is Linda Formichelli’s Monday Motivation for Writers.
A self-help blog, for example, can decide to make the first week of December “self-esteem week” and make all posts for that week about self-esteem and related topics.
11. Observe trends. Part of your content can be tied to latest or emerging trends. You can observe trends through Google Trends, or through the various social media around, especially Twitter.
Google Trends lists the topics that people are most interested in within a particular period – and geographical location, and these topics can give you great ideas for your content, especially when you need quick fixes for your blog.
Google Trends however gets more useful when you are planning your editorial calendar for the long term, especially for a year. You’ll find those events or topics within your niche that peak at certain times of the year, so you can fill those topics into your editorial calendar to target those peak periods of the year.
A good example from the CoSchedule blog is one that shows June and July are the peak months for people searching for information about weddings – priceless nugget for a wedding blog! You can read the whole post here for great insights on how Google Trends can aid your content marketing.
12. Determine your choice of media mix
A successful content marketing strategy goes beyond textual or written content. You should mix it up with other media formats like photos, videos, infographics, case studies, whitepapers, webinars, podcasts, surveys, interviews, and so on.
Reason being that; in these days of en masse content and info overload, this is the only way to make sure your website/blog stands out and has a chance to be seen and heard.
Endeavour to familiarize yourself with the different types of content available, and start using them as necessary – to get a variety (and mix) of engagements from your audience.
On how much/often we should include other media in our content, there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation. It all boils down to the purpose of your blog, and what your audience responds to.
Click here to read Content Marketing Institute’s post on effective content mix and how to schedule it or include it with your editorial calendar.
13. Curation and Guest contributions
Every single post on your blog doesn’t have to come from you. You can engage in ethical content curation (collecting and publishing other relevant content from around the web, and giving due credit), and accept guest contributions too. These should be included in your blogging editorial calendar.
14. Fill in the gaps
Now you have great post ideas from your research, marked your calendar for recurring events and special dates, determined the frequency of your posts, and determined your choice of media mix. So what’s next?
Fill in the blanks in your calendar. Do this by simply putting your topic ideas into the relevant dates on your calendar.
You should also set up a schedule/reminder system that notifies you (days ahead) of the time for new posts – to give you enough room to write. For this, you can use a mobile phone reminder, or tools like Evernote or Zendone. (Zendone has Google Calendar and Evernote integration).
A plugin like CoSchedule (discussed above) allows you to schedule your blog post, so it automatically goes off on the date it’s to be published. You can even drag posts from one date to another, based on your convenience.
15. Make a place for flexibility
Your blogging calendar shouldn’t be etched in concrete. There should be a place for flexibility, and it’s very important. This will enable you to react easily to sudden occurrences like company news, events, emergencies, industry news, milestones, and so on.
Life happens, and anything unforeseen can come up as long as you remain human. You’ll only have to cross out the post initially meant for that day and reschedule it for another time. It is that simple.
That’s why digital calendars have “edit” and pencils have erasers.
16. Start dishing out awesome posts.
Finally, it’s time to start dishing out kick-ass posts. Go ahead, face that blank screen and get them coming. You can do it.
Extra Tip: Whenever you have more time, nothing stops you from writing out posts for the future, and scheduling it for posting on your blog at the right time.
Here, my friend, is how to create an editorial calendar!
Phew…such long but worthy list, you might say. Yes, it will definitely take some work – just like every other good thing in life – but it most definitely would be worth it at the end.
Have you ever used a blogging calendar? What other tips do you have for creating a kick-ass blogging calendar? Kindly share in the comments section, so that me and other readers can learn more from you.
And…please don’t forget to share – if you think this is useful info 🙂
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