A content calendar is a blogging tool that helps you take a strategic approach to content creation. It allows you to plan your content creation ahead of time and across various platforms, such as your blog and social media accounts.
In this article I'm going to show you how to choose a content calendar and how to set it up.
1. What is a Content Calendar?
Simply put, a content calendar is a planning instrument that allows you to forward plan your content over a specified period of time.
There are two aspects to content calendars:
- the content planning process
- the actual content calendar itself (paper or digital)
The Content Planning Process
Let’s look at the planning process first.
Identify who you are blogging for. Who is your audience? What are they trying to achieve? What are their biggest challenges? What’s their predominant age group? Are they mainly male or female?
Identify the main goals you want to achieve with your content. Build your list? Build your social media profile? Improve your SEO? Brand your business?
Make a list of all your blog categories or topics. In my case, these might be:
- writing blog post titles
- content marketing
- creating graphics for blog posts
- creating lead magnets
- email marketing
- finding topics for blog posts
- guest posting • influencer marketing
- link building
- list building
- monetizing your blog
Now make a list of 10 blog post ideas for each of your categories. In my case, that’s 120 blog post ideas I need to come up with.
Decide how often you want to publish. Weekly? Bi-monthly? Monthly? There’s no correct frequency. There are plenty of successful blogs that only publish monthly. The key here is not the intervals between posts but the consistency of posting.
Successful blogs all have one thing in common: their readers know that they will see a new post every week, twice a month or monthly. I've been guilty of erratic posting, so I probably shouldn't be preaching about this!
But here goes: erratic posting will create an erratic readership.
Take the list of blog post ideas that you created in Step Four and schedule posts for the next 2 to 3 months.
Content Calendars (paper or digital)
There are three types of content calendars:
- Templates that you can download
- Online content calendars
- WordPress plugins
These are usually free and are mostly Excel or Google spread sheets.
They vary in complexity. Some are very simple, while others allow you to track a whole range of criteria against each blog post, such as:
- Due Date
- Target Persona
Here are some free CC templates:
- WordPress plugins
WordPress content calendars present you with week-by-week or month-by-month calendar views, showing when your blog posts are scheduled. You can usually customize the number of weeks/months displayed on the screen.
Most of them allow you to drag and drop a post from one date to another. Some display blog post meta data when you hover the cursor over the blog post title.
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2. Benefits of a Content Calendar
A content calendar lets you take control of your blog instead of being overwhelmed. You’ll find that instead of working for your blog, your blog will start working for you.
Here are some of the main benefits of a Content Calendar:
It used to be that I didn’t have a content strategy.
I would just lurch from one overdue blog post to the next. And the topic of that post would just depend on whatever was top of my mind on that day.
In other words, I was blogging on the fly.
But to excel in any activity – whether it’s getting fit, learning a musical instrument, or running a blog – you need goals. And to accomplish those goals you need a plan.
And in blogging, that plan is a called a ‘content calendar’.
One of the problems with blogging on the fly is that you never take a birds eye view of your blog.
That’s what a content calendar does – it gives you the 10,000 feet view. You see your blog as a whole instead of just a collection of individual posts.
When you have a content calendar you can see at a glance if there are gaps – topics within your niche that you’re not covering.
With a content calendar you no longer produce random content.
One of the most difficult parts of producing written content on a regular basis is coming up with ideas. A large part of writer’s block is simply not knowing what to write about.
A content calendar frees you from that – you already know what you’re going to be writing about because you’ve filled out your content calendar with blog topics several months in advance.
By eliminating the weekly struggle to come up with ideas, you’ve got rid of a large part of writer’s block.
When you don’t have a content calendar there’s a rising sense of urgency and then panic as the date for your next blog post approaches.
That state of panic and fluster is an inefficient use of energy. A much more efficient use of your time and your energy is to sit down in a calm and concentrated exercise and plan out blog topics for the next couple of months.
A part of me used to rebel against the idea of a content calendar because it seemed mechanical. Surely it would stifle creativity?
But I discovered it’s quite the opposite.
With a structure in place I was able to get more of an overview, and that in turn allowed me to choose from a much wider range of topics.
There were many more possibilities and ideas than I’d been aware of when I was just plucking ideas out of thin air at the last minute.
The truth is, creativity thrives in a disciplined environment. Just look at musicians, composers, and writers. If you look at their work regimes, you find that they’re highly disciplined.
In short, having a structure allows you to spend your energy in creativity rather than panic and fluster.
Keyword research should be a vital part of your content strategy. For example, writing blog posts that focus on ‘long tail keywords’. Those posts will rank much quicker than posts that target standard keywords.
But if you’re just grabbing ideas out of the air at random, it’s impossible to follow any kind of keyword strategy with your content.
Consistency has almost become a mantra of successful blogging. It accounts for the difference between blogs that have high reader engagement and those that don’t.
If you blog erratically, you’ll have erratic visitors. A content calendar guarantees that you publish consistently.
To build authority within any niche you need to be covering the key topics within that niche. A content calendar ensures that you do that – it gives you an overview that allows you to see any gaps in your content.
Anything that is a visual model for something abstract makes that abstract thing seem less difficult. That’s what a content calendar does – it gives you a concrete visualisation of something abstract.
And so it makes the task easier, makes it more manageable.
I think you’ll agree after reading this post that blogging without a content calendar is a bit like going on a road trip without knowing where you’re going or making any bookings.
A content calendar will help you:
- Follow a content strategy
- Avoid writers block
- Increase efficiency
- Be more creative
- Get better SEO results
- Be consistent
- Build authority in your niche
- Make content creation more manageable
This post was most recently updated on November 17th, 2019