Whether you're the lead marketing expert for a large corporation or the sole proprietor of a small blog, you likely need content.
As it turns out, content is crucial if you want plenty of site traffic, which is the goal, right?
Unfortunately, generating ideas and keeping track of posting dates can get confusing quickly. In fact, it's arguably one of the hardest parts of managing a site.
Fortunately, a content calendar can help.
In fact, a good content calendar is an absolute necessity for staying on top of all of the different tasks you have as a blogger or to implement your content marketing strategy. A content calendar helps you take control, organizing the thoughts and ideas floating around in your head.
In this post we will discuss all the benefits a content calendar brings, a step-by-step guide to creating your own content calendar for 2020, and we'll share some free templates to get you started.
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar is exactly what it sounds like - and more. It's a calendar you use to plan the content for your blog, your marketing efforts, and your social media accounts. Ideally, a content calendar will have all the information you need to plan your posts, including post titles, authors, priority levels, posting dates, special holidays and events, marketing campaigns, etc.
With a good content calendar, you can easily plan your blog posts alongside your social media posts, email marketing campaigns, and other marketing efforts. This way, all of your content and marketing can work together, and your brand will feel more cohesive to your readers. When you use the calendar to plan every aspect of your blog, things should flow much better overall.
Why do you need a content calendar?
The primary goal of a content calendar is to organize your thoughts so you can easily implement those thoughts into actions in the future. Without a content calendar, many bloggers rely on last-minute tasks to keep their blogs up and running.
For example, a blogger who primarily writes about home decorating needs to post holiday decorating ideas well before December. Readers will likely start decking the halls the week of Thanksgiving, so blog posts that are aimed at inspiring will perform best in mid to early November.
With a content calendar, this blogger can plan the month of November well in advance. This way, he or she can decorate their home, take photographs, write content, and have everything ready to go when needed. Without a content calendar, it would be easy to panic around Thanksgiving, realizing that it's too late to post content when it matters most. Readers would still see the content, but it wouldn't mean much since their homes are already decorated.
A content calendar also helps you stay in control of your blog. When your posts are laid out in advance, you can make changes and edits as necessary. If you decide one post is more important than another, you can easily make the switch. You don't have to feel married to the plans you make on your calendar. In fact, once everything is written down, you may see changes you would like to make immediately, and that's okay!
Finally, a content calendar is the best way to make sure your site and marketing efforts feel cohesive to your readers. If you're posting content about one topic on your blog, you will want to market that content via your social media accounts and email list, too. With advance planning, this process is simple. You can align all of your posts so they support one primary goal, complementing each other perfectly.
How to Create a Content Calendar: A Step-By-Step Guide
While it's best to create a calendar for the entire year, you can start with just a month at a time until you get used to the process. Here are the steps you need to take to create your content calendar:
1. Determine your goals for your blog.
The first step of the planning process is to outline your goals. What are you hoping to accomplish with your content? You can start with the primary theme of your blog. Many bloggers are hoping to generate some sort of income from their blog. Others may be running a blog purely for fun. Most bloggers are hoping to do both. Whatever your ambition, it's best to write it down.
Next, you can outline the supporting goals underneath your primary goal. If you're hoping to make money, how are you planning to get there? Will you run ads? Do you have a subscription-based product, such as a learning course? Are you planning to market an ebook?
Finally, you will need to brainstorm ways that your content can help you reach these goals. For example, if you're planning to write and market an ebook through your blog, your content should help these efforts.
2. Make note of important dates.
Once you have your goals in mind, you can start writing down the most important dates for your blog. For most people, holidays are important, so don't forget to jot down these dates. Next, you should consider dates that line up with the goals you created earlier. When are you planning to launch your ebook? Start with the most important dates, then fill in less important dates until you have a clear picture of how your goals will progress throughout the year.
3. Evaluate your current content and marketing inventory.
Most bloggers have some content that hasn't been posted on their blog just yet. You probably do, too, even if these assets are just ideas floating around your head. For this step, you need to list all these assets on paper.
Do you have posts you haven't posted yet? Do you have a list of ideas that you haven't used yet? Do you have photographs, infographics, or any other type of media that you could use? These are all great places to start your future content planning.
4. Organize your thoughts.
Now, you can start organizing all of your thoughts on paper. Keeping your goals, important dates, and current assets in mind, start planning some of your content for the year. This step may not look neat and tidy on paper, so it's best to use scratch paper or a blank document to get your thoughts down. It's just a brainstorming session for now. By the end, you should have many post ideas for the year. Remember to include working titles as well as basic outlines and notes that may be helpful in the future.
5. Determine your posting schedule.
With all of your notes handy, you can finally start making your posting schedule. First, you will need to determine how often you will post. Will it be weekly? Daily? Bi-weekly? Whatever the schedule, stick to it. Consistency helps your blog look professional and keeps you on track.
Using the ideas you generated earlier, lay out the upcoming posts for the year (or whichever time period you've chosen). When you're finished, look at your work and make sure it lines up with your goals and the important dates you marked earlier.
6. Add your marketing plans.
Finally, it's time to consider your marketing plans for the year. These should support the content you have created and should ultimately help you achieve your goals, too. You can plan all of your social media posts (including images and captions), your email campaigns, as well as any ads you're planning to purchase for the time period.
7. Review your calendar often.
Though you've planned your content calendar down to the last detail, you should also be ready to shift those plans as needed. To make sure you stay on top of things, you should schedule regular planning meetings to look over your notes and goals to make sure everything is flowing smoothly. If changes are necessary, make the note on your calendar for future planning meetings.
FAQs About Creating a Content Calendar
Q: What type of calendar should I use for my content calendar?
A: You can use whatever you like when it comes to creating a content calendar. Many bloggers rely on regular pen and paper. You can purchase a desktop calendar or wall calendar and make notes as necessary.
If you would like a more organized, functional planning space, consider using an online content calendar template. You can download this template into a spreadsheet and make your own changes as needed. It's a great way to keep your calendar with you at all times.
Q: How often should I post content?
A: This is really up to you. Some bloggers post content every day, while others only post once a month. In general, it's best to focus on quality more than quantity. Readers are looking for long-form blog posts that have very little "fluff" and a lot of helpful information. Ideally, you would schedule as many of these type of posts as you can, but make sure you don't plan more than you can handle. You don't want to be strapped for time when it comes to content.
Q: This seems like a lot of work. Is it really necessary?
A: While a content calendar may seem like a lot of work right now, it will actually save you time in the long run. Brainstorming ideas and planning your content is usually the most difficult part of running a blog. By getting these difficult tasks out of the way all at once, you free up time to spend on the more creative, fun aspects of blogging.
Q: Should I hire someone to write my content for me? I'm not sure I can keep up.
A: This is ultimately up to you. If you feel like your writing isn't drawing readers or you simply don't have enough time to stay on top of your tasks, there are professional content writers available who can help with your workload. Many bloggers go this route, leaving themselves time to focus more on the business side of things.
Q: Help! I don't have any ideas for content.
A: Ah, the most difficult part of being a blogger: generating new ideas. There are lots of helpful guides out there for generating new content. Your best bet is to start with what you know and what your readers have requested. If you still can't get any ideas, try asking your readers, friends, and family what they would like to see more of on your blog. You can also visit similar blogs to see what they're posting about. Usually, there are certain trends that catch on in the blogging world. If you're still struggling for ideas, a content writer may be able to pitch a few topics that can help.
Q: What about other content, like my ebooks, courses, and other marketing efforts?
A: You can include all that on your calendar, too. In fact, you should include absolutely any content that pertains to your blog within your content calendar.
If you have too much information to fit on one calendar, consider using separate calendars for each of your tasks. You can have one calendar for your blog, another for your social media accounts, a separate one for your ebooks, etc. Ultimately, the goal is to stay as organized as possible, making sure everything works together. However you need to accomplish that goal, do it. Use whatever tools you need and as many calendars as you need to stay organized and reach your goals.
Free Content Calendar Templates
If you would like to get started on your content calendar right away, feel free to grab a pen and paper and start making notes. Otherwise, you can download one of these handy templates and be up and running within just a few minutes.
Each template is a bit different, so you should be able to find one that fits your needs perfectly. You can also use more than one content calendar, separating your marketing efforts from your blog posts so everything has its own place.
This calendar from Hubspot is ideal for planning your social media posts. It includes ways to keep track of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. It also comes with detailed instructions for filling out each part of the calendar. You will need a separate calendar for your regular blog content, however.
This calendar from Coschedule is perfect if you want full flexibility for your blog. It's a printable calendar you can hang on the wall, and the spaces are the ideal size for standard sticky notes. You write your ideas on the notes, then you can move things around as needed in the future.
This calendar has two separate views. One offers the entire year at-a-glance, while the second is a regular monthly calendar. You can use both calendars together to make sure you stay on top of your goals and keep your posts organized.
This calendar was created in Googledocs by a user named Postcron. It's specifically for bloggers, so it's ideal if you're running a blog. It has special sections to keep information like the post title, author, post date, etc. organized. Though it was created in 2014, this one is such a great calendar that it's still used by many bloggers years later.
Curata created this calendar as a simple way to plan and track content. You will need to fill out a contact form to access this calendar, but it's completely free. It has sections for all the important information, such as title, posting date, etc. If you just want a simple, straight-forward calendar, this is a good one to try.
This calendar from Convince and Convert is ideal if you want to focus on marketing efforts. It also has room to keep track of your regular blog posts, however. This one relies heavily on dates and key events, making it ideal for bloggers who are goals-oriented.
Trello is a subscription service that helps you keep track of your content as well as your other blogging tasks. The basic service is free, though you can upgrade to a paid subscription if you like. Though this isn't strictly a content calendar, it's quite popular for bloggers because it does so much more. With an integrated task list, you can delegate items to other members of your team. If you want a content calendar that also performs other functions, Trello may be your best bet.
This calendar was created by Bob Angus for both Google docs and Excel. On top of a regular content calendar, he added a separate spreadsheet for brainstorming content ideas. It's a simple design overall, but it gets the job done.
If you, like many bloggers, use Wordpress for your blog, this plugin may be ideal. On top of standard content calendar features, this one is integrated with Wordpress and offers a drag and drop system to help you stay organized. There's a demo version available so you can try it out before you commit to installing the plugin, too.
The Marketing Game Changer Kit is a set of free tools available from Web.Search.Social. The content calendar is available as a download for Excel, and it includes tons of features, including places to store keywords, authors, etc.
Running a blog isn't an easy job. Your day-to-day life likely has many tasks on each "to do" list, and it can be hard to keep everything organized. By using a content calendar, you can help make sense of your thoughts, keeping everything organized and aligning your goals with your daily actions. Even better, a content calendar can relieve some of the more stressful aspects of blogging, such as constantly generating new ideas or making sure you stay on top of the important dates.
Though it may take a bit of time to get used to using your new content calendar, the effort will be well worth the payoff in the end. If you struggle at first, just take each month one at a time. Commit to your goals, be willing to make changes as needed, and revisit your calendar often.
In no time at all, your blogging will feel easier and more cohesive than ever.