Your content calendar is the brains of your content marketing strategy.
Done right, it can lead you to where you want to go and help you stay focused along the way. But if you don’t do it at all, it’ll cause endless headaches and take twice the time for half the result.
What would you rather have?
Why You Need a Blog Marketing Content Calendar
Forecasting: A content calendar enables you to focus on what’s ahead instead of down at your feet for your next step. If you’ve ever created a system or process in your business, you know what I’m talking about.
A blog editorial calendar is nothing more than a process that takes the guesswork out of publishing your marketing content.
Get (and keep) your team on the same page: When I ask marketing teams what they struggle with the most, lack of communication is one of the challenges I hear about the most. When you have multiple departments and team members working in different locations, just communicating can become a full-time job!
You must find a way to get your entire team to use the editorial calendar consistently. To do this, I’d suggest figuring out the requirements for your editorial calendar before choosing a tool. Consider these things:
- Does your content calendar need to be compatible on Mac, PC, or both?
- Does it need to support multiple people editing at the same time?
- Will it require a login, and who will manage that?
- What specific features do you need? And which ones would be nice to have?
- Do you only want a content calendar, or do you want a place for team members to add content ideas as well?
Content leverage: If you plan your content calendar like I’m about to suggest, you’ll get twice as much leverage out of every post. How?
You’ll be able to easily reuse, repurpose, and turn your content into a lead generation machine if you keep it organized. Gone are the days of publishing a post, promoting it for a few days, then forgetting about it and letting it die.
That’s just wasteful.
Intentional promotion: By planning ahead, you’ll be able to add promotions and campaigns into your content calendar, and then create content to support them. Most people create content because they have an idea, and then randomly add promotions, which means they lose out on a huge opportunity.
How to Set Up Your Content Calendar
I’m going to give you a free content calendar template and explain it further down this post. Click here to download the FREE Content Marketing Calendar Template.
These are the basic fields I included in the content calendar template everyone should have:
- Date published
- Post title
- Post URL
- Call to action
Here are a few more fields you can choose to add into your template, depending on your needs:
- Target audience/persona
- Sales funnel stage (e.g. early, middle, or late stage)
- Content owner – if you have multiple authors
- Content formats (I talk about these below)
Now that you have your blogging content calendar, let’s talk about how to use them.
1. Get clear on your content marketing goals.
The first step is always figuring out the reason you are sacrificing your blood, sweat, and sanity in the first place.
So what do you want out of your blog and content marketing?
What does a win look like for you?
When your content marketing plan is running perfectly, what does that mean exactly?
Here’s a few content marketing goal examples to get you started:
- We want 100 new leads (new email sign-ups) from the calls to action in the blog posts each month.
- We want 20 phone calls a day from our blog. (How do you track that? Make sure asking them how they found you is in your receptionist’s call script!)
- We want to build our email list by 10% each month with qualified leads.
NOTE: “Getting 100 new visitors to your site” or “increasing engagement on social media” is NOT a goal.
Unless you are running a site that sells ad space and you get paid by impressions, traffic is a strategy, not a goal. Increasing traffic is one way to reach your goal, but it shouldn’t be the target if you’re a business that sells products or services.
2. Define your blog’s categories & post types.
If you took all the content in your blog and sorted it into four to six main categories, what would they be?
If you’re a service-based business, your categories will often concern the services you offer. For example, my primary topics are content marketing, social media marketing, blogging, productivity, etc.
If you sell products, your main blog topics will usually focus on your target audience and the problems your products solve.
If you’re reading this, I assume you already have your publishing process down. If not, read about how to consistently write powerful blog posts first.
Take your time to define the types of posts you want to write. What formats will your content take?
A few examples…
- List posts
- Aggregated content from other websites
- Company & product updates
- Videos, photos, or slide decks?
- Or another type of content?
You must know how each format will fit with the category of your blog content. Some content may naturally work better in specific formats. How will you make sure you are showcasing every topic you write about in the best way?
3. Choose your publishing frequency.
How often will you publish content?
I get this question a lot, and my answer is always, how often can you publish content?
Choose the speed at which you can consistently create high-quality content.
Once you know how often you’ll publish, say once a week, fill in the weekly publishing dates on your content calendar ahead of time for the next six months, or even year.
Doing this will help you plan seasonal topics and promotions ahead of time.
4. Choose a Call to Action for each post.
I wrote about this in depth in a recent post about content upgrades. Make it easy for your reader to take the next logical step after reading your content. Your content should make them want to take action.
Actions can include:
- Downloading a content upgrade or lead magnet such as an e-book, course, or cheatsheet
- Scheduling a call or consult
- Requesting more information on a product or service
- Purchasing something
The important thing to remember is that the next step and call to action should be related to the content you are writing about. If I’m writing about content calendars, and I offer you an infographic tutorial at the end of this post, you’re probably going to ignore it because it has nothing to do with the content.
BUT… I’m willing to bet you’d click on the free content calendar template link to get a copy of my template. I usually require an email address to download my content upgrades and leave magnets, but this one is a freebie. No strings attached : )
Plan & Create Your Monthly Content
Now that you’ve downloaded your own copy of the content calendar and customized it, it’s time to plan your monthly content.
I wrote a few months back about a method we use with all our clients that enables them to create a year’s worth of content in less than two hours. Rather than write about it again, I’m going to direct you to that post:
IMPORTANT: Please don’t skip this step. You’ll never look at your content calendar again if you don’t take the time to proactively plan new content.
Don’t Wait for Inspiration – Schedule It
Producing content for your social channels is hard work, but using a content calendar can take the guesswork out of it and save you hours while getting better results.
Remember, there are a million different ways you can customize your content calendar. Don’t let the endless options paralyze you from starting. Choose what you think you’ll need right now and make small changes when necessary.
We run dozens of different content calendars for our team and our clients, and have been improving them for the past seven years. Our content calendars look nothing like they did when we started, which is okay. Don’t be afraid to try different tools and methods – just make sure they work for the core members of your team.
When you do this effectively, you won’t rely on inspiration to write new content, but you’ll have dozens of different topics begging to be written!