When you first start blogging your head is a river flowing with ideas for blog posts. You have so many that you could write three or four posts per week (if you had the time).
These are happy days. You publish content with abandon.
But, as your blog grows and you write more content, the flow of ideas becomes a trickle, and eventually, one day when you sit down to write a post, you draw a blank. The river has dried up.
When this happens (and it will) you need to up your blogging game and get more organized. You need to put more forethought and planning into content publishing.
You need a blog content calendar!
And truth be told. You should start using one before you get to this stage.
Why You Need a Blog Content Calendar
A blog content calendar is what it sounds like. It’s a calendar for planning, organizing and scheduling blog content. It helps you manage and keep track of blog posts from idea to publishing and everything in between.
But, it also does more than this!
When used right a content calendar is a powerful tool that will increase your productivity, make you a better blogger and ultimately help you grow your audience.
You Work to a Consistent Publishing Schedule
Having a consistent publishing schedule is important.
When you publish content on the same day (or days) each week, your audience becomes familiar with your posting schedule, and they will swing by your blog on these days to read your latest post. This keeps your audience engaged with your content and your blog at the top of their minds.
Consistency in publishing also aids your SEO efforts. Google, loves fresh content, and when you publish regularly, Google bots will come to your blog more often to check for updates.
You Have More Time for Other Tasks
It takes time to come up with good topic ideas for blog posts. You can spend hours scouring the internet for inspiration and performing research. And if you have to do this each week for every new post, it eats up a lot of your time.
But if you use a content calendar, you know in exactly what you are going to write, you have everything planned in advance, which saves you time throughout the month that you can use to perform other blogging tasks.
Helps Balance Your Content Output
The content you publish should have a good balance between post types and topics. You need a mix to keep your audience engaged.
With a content calendar, you will have a birds-eye view of your posts for an entire month (or more), and you will see at a glance if your output is balanced.
Maybe you have scheduled too many how-to articles or listicles or too many posts around a particular topic.
Keeps Your Content Audience Focused
If you publish content on the fly, where you only think of topic ideas when its time to write a new post, then you are not working to a content plan, which means you are not truly considering the needs of your audience.
When you take the time to plan a content calendar, your audience is front and center of your thought process. You think about what you are publishing and why and how it helps your audience.
Approaching content creation in this way ensures that every post you publish is audience-focused and aligned with their goals, needs, and expectations.
Keeps You Organized – Ready to Go
Writing blog posts can get messy. Depending on how you work you could have ideas for posts scribbled across notepads, on post-it notes, or recorded on digital applications of some kind.
With a content calendar, everything is in one place – post ideas, working headlines, resources links, images, post outlines – and when it comes time to write a new post, all you need is at hand, and you are ready to go.
Helps you Prioritize Strategic Content
Strategic content helps you achieve business objectives, and while this content still provides audience value, it's created with a specific business intent in mind.
For example, you might need to create…
- A series of posts that support an online course you are about to launch
- Posts that align with opt-in offers to help you gain new email subscribers
- Posts that target major keywords that you want to rank for in Google
- Product review posts to generate new affiliate sales and revenue
By using a content calendar, you can prioritize these posts based on your business needs and work them into your monthly content flow.
How to Create a Calendar
Ok, now that you know why a content calendar is important. Let’s dive into how to put one together.
What to Include in Your Calendar:
You can make your calendar as simple or detailed as you like but regardless of which you choose every content calendar should include the following.
- Working Post Title – This can change for the final draft
- Idea/concept – A few lines explaining the post idea and goal
- Category – The blog category it falls under
- Post Type – Is it a listicle, how-to, opinion piece, etc
- Publish date
If you want to go into more detail you can include:
- Post outline – Create an outline with subheadings
- Resource links – For topic research and reference
- Author (Useful if multiple authors are writing content)
- Keywords – The main keywords the post targets
- Meta Title & Description for SEO
- Image sources
Content Calendar Tools
There are lots of tools for that you can use to create your calendar. I know some bloggers prefer a physical calendar (pen and paper or whiteboard), but I recommend keeping it digital, using tools like Google Sheets or Trello.
Google Sheets: I love Google Sheets, it’s what I use for my own content calendar.
Creating a calendar with Google Sheets is straightforward:
- Add a Tab for each month
- Break each sheet into four sections – week 1 to 4
- Add columns for the information you want to include
You can insert notes and resources links within the columns.
See the example below – in the ‘Post Outline’ column, I have the post framework laid-out.
Click here – to download my content calendar template in Excel, you can then copy the template to Google Sheets.
Trello: Trello is a project management platform, but you can also use it to manage your content schedule.
Trello works with a board system, you create one for each for each task or project, and within these boards, you add cards which contain lists, each list will represent a blog post.
To set-up a content calendar with Trello:
- Create a board for your calendar
- Then add a Calendar Power-Up to the board
Power-ups are apps that you can add to Trello for enhanced functionality and features. You get one free Power-Up per board on the basic plan.
Once you add the Calendar Power-Up to your board, you can start scheduling posts.
To add a post to the calendar:
- Click on a calendar date to add a card
- Click “Add a card’’
- Enter the post title
- Click the ‘Add’ button to schedule the post to the calendar
After you add a post to the calendar: Click on the card to open-it-up
When you open the card, you will be presented with a description page where you enter details such the post title, post idea/concept, keywords, resource links, etc.
Cards also have a color-coded label system. You can use the labels to add the post type – How-to, Listicle, Opinion etc. Or the post status – Pending, Complete, In-Process.
Repeat the above process for each post, and when finished your calendar will look something like the below image.
Making Time to Plan Your Calendar
To get the most benefit from your content calendar, you have to make time for the planning stage.
I put aside five hours in the last week of every month to prepare mine (but, it usually takes less than four). Sometimes I do everything in one sitting, or I break it into blocks of 2.5hrs over two days.
You might think that this is a lot of time but coming up with new topic ideas week by week is much more time-consuming.
When you work in this way, you are batching the task of content planning, which helps you get super-focused and concentrated and the creative juices flow.
This is typically how I break-down the planning process:
Content Research: I conduct content research to get topics ideas. This usually takes an hour.
During this research phase, I try and get at least 6 topics, of which I will use four. I keep two in the bag as potentials for the next month.
Then for each post topic I…
Write the Post Idea – What the post is about, its goal and the outcome for the reader.
Write a Working Title – I write a working title that sets the tone and direction of the post.
Compile Resources Links – I do some quick research (20 or 30 mins tops) to gather links that might be good to reference within the post or that will help me gain deeper insights into the topic.
Creata a Post Outline – I make a list of subheadings to build the framework of the post. These can change at the time of writing, but it gives me a good reference point.
Now It's Your Turn
There is a famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” and by creating a blog content calendar, you are planning for success.
So, download the content calendar template I linked to above or you set-up a Trello calendar, whichever you choose, now is time to start planning your content for next month.
And that's it for this post. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email or chime in below in the comments.