A big challenge that businesses face when executing their content strategy is maintaining consistency in the frequency and quality of content. This can be due to a number of reasons: other, more pressing matters may get in the way or there may just not be enough time and human resources to continuously create interesting and informative content. More often, it is due to a lack of planning.
If you’ve been struggling with keeping your blog up to date or maintaining a steady stream of traffic, it might be time to consider putting together a content calendar. Here are some benefits:
- A content calendar will give you a clear snapshot of all the topics being covered in a particular period.
- It helps you track the progress of different tasks and stay on top of things.
- It improves task management and resource efficiency as everyone knows who is doing what and by when.
- It improves the quality of content because when your team already knows what needs to be done, they can focus on the actual process of content creation.
Creating a great blog
Before you get started with creating a content plan, you must first build a great blog. This includes two primary factors:
i. A beautiful design. Depending on what your blog is about, you can either choose a template or design it to suit the theme. For example, a blog about home decor should have a cozy, comfortable feel as compared to a blog about the latest gadgets in the market.
ii. A great domain name. This is your blog’s identity on the web (and, to an extent, also off web) and, therefore, it should be meaningful and contextual. Today, with new domain extensions such as .tech, .online, .space, .press, you can have a great domain name. For example, something as simple as www.name.space or www.name.online wherein the ‘name’ is your brand name will help you stand out from the competition.
5 things to keep in mind when creating your blog’s content calendar
Every company’s content calendar will look different from the others’ because content strategy goals vary for different companies. But, if this is your first time creating such a plan, these 5 steps are a good place to start.
1. Identify needs and resources
The purpose of the content calendar is to be consistent in your posting, manage your workflow effectively and ensure that everyone involved is clued in. Before you create your calendar, gather your team and answer the following questions collectively.
How often should you post?
Of course, in the ideal world, we all would like to post new content every day. In the real world, however, we would be lucky if we’re able to post even once a week. There’s no right answer to this question, but there is a right practice: to be realistic, disciplined, and quality-focused. Remember, it is always better to publish two stellar blog posts a month rather than mediocre, half-baked posts once a week. Create a schedule that everyone can stick to or you will be compromising on your content’s quality and wearing your team down.
How many people will be accessing it?
How simple or elaborate your content calendar will be depends upon how many people are involved in the content creation process. For sure, there are the writers and the editors. But there may also be designers, editors and social media managers. If you are an agency producing content for clients, you may have an account manager from your internal team and perhaps one from the client’s team.
How many rounds of approval does the content need?
This will help you determine realistic timelines for your content publishing. For instance, if several departments need to sign off on the content, there must be enough gap between the due date and publish date.
2. Create a template
While this isn’t a definitive list, here are the basic elements every calendar should cover:
Content buckets are the broad categories that your posts fall into. They could be specific menus on your blog, for instance, travel, fashion, and food for a lifestyle blog. They could also just be part of an internal list, such as new products, trends, and how-to guides for a business. Including this section in your calendar ensures that you are engaging with all segments of your target audience.
You don’t necessarily need to come up with headlines at this stage, but including even working titles of the content pieces ensures that your content covers what needs to be covered and that topics are not repeated. Maintaining freshness and variety is the key to a blog that attracts high traffic. You don’t want to be talking about the same thing over and over (but you can update and refurbish high-performing posts as long as you space them out).
Mention the keywords you want to target in your post in this section. This ensures that important keywords are not missed and that you are not repeating the same keywords over and over.
This is typically the date on which the content goes to the editor who provides the final sign-off before the post is published. If there are multiple approval stages, you are free to include corresponding due date sections for them.
This is the date on which the post goes live on your blog. It can also include a link to the final post to keep track of everything that is getting published.
This typically includes the writer and the editor assigned to the post, but it could also include people from other departments such as design and social media.
This section is meant to inform the stage at which a particular post is at any given point in time. You can use words such as Assigned, In progress, Approved, and Published, or follow a color-coding system.
3. Get organized
Your content calendar should have all the information in a concise format in one place from where everyone involved can view and update it easily. You must avoid having multiple versions of it floating around as that may lead to chaos.
There are several tools for keeping your content calendar organized and manageable.
Almost everyone from solopreneurs to small businesses to large corporates swears by the good old Excel sheets. Most people are comfortable using them. They divide and display your scope of work in neat rows and columns. They can be uploaded on Google Drive making them easy to share with everyone involved.
Project management tools
For a more professional and integrated calendar, you can use project management tools such as Asana, Trello or any other tool that you are using to manage other workflows. You can create separate tasks for each blog post with deadlines for each person. Upon completing their part of the work, people can assign the task to the next team member and supervisors can easily track its progress.
4. Create a content ideas list
Ideas can strike anyone anywhere and at any time. It’s a good practice to maintain an ideas sheet where everyone can contribute and which editors can go through regularly to pick ones that fit a particular month’s calendar.
Coming up with a solid content sheet involves knowing where to look for ideas.
Start with topics that directly align with your business goals. For instance, if you’re about to launch a new product, you will need content that generates awareness around it. You will also need content to create buzz around any upcoming marketing or CSR campaigns.
Such content is aimed at driving organic traffic to your blog. It must cover topics that your target audience is interested in such as the latest trends or those with high search volumes. For instance, if you are a travel blogger, you need seasonal content for the summer and winter holidays. If you are an interior designer with a blog, you may want to compare search volumes for keywords such as bedroom makeover ideas, home decor trends 2021, or space-saving tips.
Following your competitors can help you gauge which topics are trending, not so that you can copy them, but so that you can improve upon them. Do a critical analysis of their content. There are things you may learn from them to improve your posts, such as the style of writing, image selection, and formatting. Go through the comments they are receiving to identify gaps that you can fill in your own posts.
5. Keep it flexible
Content calendars are meant to help you plan and manage your tasks and ensure that you always have content to publish when the time is right. But even the most robust of plans cannot be set in stone. Calendars are meant to be planned ahead, but they should allow enough room for changes. It takes a long time to test out different aspects of your content strategy, such as the topics being covered and the frequency and times of publishing.
Plan in advance
If possible, create a broad calendar for an entire year that covers important business events such as product launches, sales and marketing campaigns. It can also include seasonal topics that attract large search volumes. This will ensure that important topics don’t get missed.
Leave room for last-minute tasks
Certain occurrences such as breaking-news-like scenarios may require you to hustle and come up with content at the last minute. In such cases, be ready to postpone or put on hold the tasks at hand and move things around on the calendar to fulfill the urgent tasks first.
Track content performance
You will only know how well your posts are doing once you have published them. Use Google Analytics to track key metrics of your posts such as number of views and time spent. When posting on social media, keep an eye on how many views and shares your posts are getting. This will give you a sense of what is working and what isn’t. Review your calendar regularly to replace low-performing ideas with high-engagement ones.
When you’re blogging just as a hobby, you can afford to be erratic and impulsive. Blogging for business, whether you’re planning to become a full-time blogger or whether you’re a company aiming to strengthen its content marketing, is a whole other ballgame. It requires meticulous planning, just like other aspects of the business. A content calendar will help you stay focused, prioritize tasks, track progress, create accountability and ensure that things actually get done.