Looking for ways to create an effective content strategy?
I’ve got two words for you – content calendar.
In this fast-paced world, bloggers can’t waste any time scrambling for paper and pen. You’ve got to find a way to streamline your blogging process. A custom content calendar template allows you to do just that.
With help from a content calendar, you won’t have to shuffle through stacks of planners to find blog topic ideas. Nor will you miss out on life because you were too busy drafting posts after a drawn-out brainstorming session.
In this how-to guide, we’re going to highlight the importance of a content calendar for bloggers. I’ll also share a custom content calendar template and productivity tools that’ll optimize your workflow.
Here’s everything you need to know about content planning:
The Psychology of Organization and Planning
Cluttered workspaces are distractions. You end up drowning in the clutter and procrastinating when you don’t have an organized plan. This situation is particularly dangerous for bloggers.
Subsequently, disorganization decreases your productivity and efficiency. That’s because you’re trying to pay attention to multiple things at the same time.
The lack of a content plan adds to the confusion, which is why you spend hours and days on topic ideation and research. Some bloggers also feel a lack of purpose when they’re uncertain about the next blog post they plan to tackle.
At times like these, an organized editorial calendar for bloggers comes in handy. A content calendar is a battle plan. It helps you to target niche audiences, keywords, and compelling content ideas. It also gives you an overview of the tasks assigned for each day. That way, you manage your time wisely and work productively.
With that said, you can’t work with any old calendar. Using a custom content calendar template simplifies the process. It allows you to keep track of upcoming tasks and noteworthy information. The time that you’ll save with an organized content calendar will help you dedicate more time and energy to work on other marketing channels (i.e. social media).
Use your content calendar (sometimes called an editorial calendar as I alluded to earlier) to get a sense of direction when you’ve got a gazillion ideas running through your mind.
The Planning: How to Make a Content Plan and Content Calendar
A content calendar is a fruit of a content plan. Next to a great copy editor, a full content calendar is a blogger’s best friend.
A content plan outlines the workflow for a blog. And writers use content calendars to create a visual representation of their writing assignments. Often a content calendar’s color-coded design and detailed rows and columns help bloggers keep tabs on their blogging activity. That way, you can keep your blog updated and active with fresh content.
Other items that can be found in a content plan include:
- Blog posts for upcoming events and milestones
- Social media promotion plans and tracking
- Content syndication plans
A content plan and calendar functions as a roadmap that tracks your blogging and promotion activity. Its presence and utilization allows you to manage your days proactively, not reactively…keeping you from falling into a rabbit hole of research whenever you open your laptop.
Keeping these content planning objectives in mind, we’ve devised a three-step guide to create content plans:
Step 1: Strategize
Remember that your content calendar or editorial calendar is a battle plan. It’ll help you develop effective strategies against the competition (which includes your own distracting mind and environment). If used correctly, it will be an answer to how to get more page views and pique your visitors’ interest throughout the year.
For this to work, you should answer three essential questions:
- How often do you plan to post your blog posts?
- What kind of topics and type of content will you use?
- How will you promote the blog posts?
Besides this, consider covering relevant information required to optimize your content strategy. If you find planning for the whole year overwhelming, then don’t panic. You can break down the action plan into quarters. Lastly, try planning for a week or a month before you move on to the grand content plan.
Power Tip: Synchronize your social media content calendar with the main content plan. In fact, the social media calendar can be on its own tab on your content calendar template.
Step 2: Research
Content strategies are incomplete without research and data. The lack of research can prevent you from ranking high on SERPs and/or keep you from creating content that resonates with your audience.
So before you start typing, do research.
Here are some things that you should explore in your research:
- Focus and secondary keywords to boost SEO (don’t forget competitor keywords)
- Word count and quality of competing content (especially if you plan to do the Skyscraper Technique)
- Content gaps on your site so that you can plan internal links
- Marketing trends to capitalize on any hype
- Reader insights for relevancy
This list contains just several of the over 200 ranking factors in Google’s search algorithm. That goes to show the importance of research for your content strategy and calendar.
Step 3: Update and Tweak
The best bloggers always leave room for overnight trends and social movements. Take the pandemic, for instance. With no fashion events to cover, fashion bloggers are seeking comfort in at-home fashion trends and listicles. The canceled plans and social distancing has a similar impact on other blogging niches.
Having a Plan B is essential to blogging success. It is useful even when there isn’t a global crisis unfolding. That’s because the industry is unpredictable. Your well-strategized blog post might sound outdated if you don’t enhance it with current references, stats, best practices and buzzwords.
On the whole, to create a content calendar, you must strategize, research, and update. Then repeat these steps to prepare for the next blogging cycle.
The Tools: Best Content Planning Tools for Bloggers
Whether you’re a team of creators or you work solo, content planning tools can be highly beneficial for you. They ensure that your content and marketing are synchronized and at arm’s length.
Let’s have a look at my top picks:
1. Google Sheets
Google Sheets can be used as a convenient content planning tool for spreadsheet enthusiasts. From brainstorming blogging ideas and scheduling to data visualization, you can use Google Sheets for multiple purposes. Sheets can also act as your daily planner or campaign manager.
You can use it as a central base to provide you and/or your blogging team with real-time updates. Or, you can utilize it as a personal planner to save blogging ideas and action plans.
Best of all, Google Sheets provides a customizable template gallery:
These content calendar templates are easy to use and organize. You can also incorporate other downloaded templates with ease.
Here are all the reasons why we like Google Sheets:
- It is customizable and user-friendly
- Cloud hosting makes it accessible on all devices
- Your work gets saved automatically
- You can collaborate with your content team via shareable links
- Unlimited data storage space
- It’s free!
Don’t have time to develop your own custom content calendar template? You can grab our content calendar easily. More on this later.
Want to keep track of ongoing content marketing campaigns?
As the adage goes, ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. You can feel a similar distaste when you manage a group of bloggers remotely. There are times when things go awry midway, but nobody realizes it until it’s too late.
Asana is a lifesaver for teams and independent bloggers.
Here’s why we like this project management platform:
- It simplifies delegation duties
- It eliminates redundant tasks with its automation feature
- You get an aesthetically pleasing representation of your project status
- It has a separate space for note-taking and to-do lists
You can organize and plan everything on a single platform. Not only does it save time, but it increases productivity too.
Speaking of which, here are more ways to boost your productivity with Asana.
Editors Note: Hey, David here, the founder and editor of Mazepress, just chiming in to say, Asana is my personal tool of choice for my content calendar. I love the clean and user-friendly interface and keep most of my blogging systems in Asana. I will pass you back to Chris.
Are you frequently scribbling on post-it notes?
The problem with post-it notes is that you lose them as soon as you move on to another task. So all the bright ideas you had during the commute or on the breakfast table could vanish.
Luckily, Evernote is a worthy substitute for traditional post-its. The app allows you to brainstorm and save ideas on-the-go and then work on it later. It can also record media files and bookmark websites for inspiration.
More importantly, the app syncs data on multiple devices. That gives you the chance to access your blogging ideas anywhere you want.
See it looks just like a regular planner:
Reasons to love this app:
- It saves attachments, records memos, and pins web pages in a single place
- It includes an editing mode
- You can set reminders on it
- It features content calendar templates
In short, it is a smarter version of post-it notes that makes blogging more manageable.
4. InspireFirst’s Content Calendar Template
Maybe you can’t afford some of the content planning tools that I recommended earlier. That’s understandable. How about you download InspireFirst’s exclusive content calendar template here?
The calendar is organized according to project status, title, keyword research, and other SEO specific areas. It also has a separate section to track editorial details (i.e. author, publication date, and competitor details). Storing all this information in a single sheet makes planning blogs super simple, and it’s already done for you.
Best of all, this template works on Excel and Google Sheets, and it is absolutely free. No more excuses for being unorganized!
You can download this blog-centric content calendar template from here.
The Execution: How to Stick to Your Content Plan?
This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it?
Many bloggers like to create a content calendar. But executing the plan is a different ballgame. Sometimes bloggers lose interest and motivation to blog. Or they don’t have time to draft a post for the scheduled date.
Here are a few tips that could keep you on track:
- Plan drafting days at least a week ahead of the publication date. It’ll give you ample time to compose a thoughtful blog post.
- Set reminders for time-sensitive posts.
- Create a reference list while planning topics. That way, you won’t get overwhelmed with research work.
- Use the 3×3 writing process to give your writing process some structure.
- You can find a partner on the Digital Creatives Guild Discord server.
More importantly, set realistic goals. Otherwise, you’ll end up creating half-baked content that makes no impact on your audience. The bottom line is that your success will come down to how much you prioritize your blogging craft in your life.
You may want to use a social scheduler tool like Jarvee or Postoplan to help with automating your social content. See this guide on how to schedule posts for LinkedIn using Postoplan for example.
Don’t know what to write? Check out this list of blog post ideas for inspiration.
The success of your blog is dependent on the quality of the content that you publish. Knowing how to create a content calendar makes your blogging goals achievable. A content calendar will help you produce a consistent stream of fresh content without any trouble. And don’t forget to utilize the content planning tools that I mentioned that will optimize the blogging process.