As we come to the close of the year planning our editorial calendars for 2017 is crucial.
Content marketing is complex and without a plan you might just be planning to fail.
Publishers and marketers are producing more and more content that is why they need a way to manage it.
This is where editorial calendars come in.
The concept of editorial calendars isn’t new, in fact, they are as old the publishing industry. This has only started being introduced to the online marketing world recently.
In order for your content to stay consistent and relevant, you need to have a way of organizing it.
You certainly don’t need fancy tools to stay organized. I personally use Google Docs.
2015 was my first full year of having an editorial calendar. At first, I was skeptical about the idea. I wasn’t too sure how it would work out for me.
But it did.
This year I have published more articles than I did in my first year back in 2015.
My editorial calendar has also helped me stay on topic, I have published more consistently and believe it or not my content has become more in-depth.
This is because it has helped me plan ahead of time for each article, as a result I am investing more value into my content.
Before I embarked on my journey to creating my very first editorial calendar in 2015 I looked up some resources online that helped me tremendously,
I would be happy to share some of them with you:
If you’re just starting out then HubSpot’s free editorial templates might be the right place to start.
They offer a ton of free information and resources which you can use to create your first editorial template.
If you’ve already had a look at some of these templates; you will notice that there is a method behind creating an editorial calendar.
What makes an Editorial Calendar a Success?
Editorial calendars are intended to help you support your content strategy, which I will assume you already have one.
They are simply a planning tool for your content marketing efforts. By the time you are creating an editorial calendar you should have a pretty clear idea of your message.
Here are a few elements you should include in your content calendar to make it a success.
- Topics you intend to cover
- Draft Titles for the articles you intend to publish
- The assigned author
- Publication date
- Links to resources
- Keywords to be used for the articles
- The status of the articles ( Assigned, Pending, In Review, Approved, Scheduled etc)
Depending on how much content your organization produces you can add, edit some of the elements mentioned above.
What are the best tools to help you get started?
As I mentioned earlier in this post I decided to use Google Docs excel spreadsheet to create my editorial calendar.
Google Docs is free and you can easily share and collaborate ideas within your team.
But of course, this is not the only way you can create a useful editorial calendar. Here are three commonly used methods:
- A spreadsheet (Can be Excel or Google Docs)
- A WordPress Plugin
- A web-based application that may include a WordPress Plugin
Spreadsheets are commonly used because people can easily access it and the truth is, it works!
A simple sheet with a column for the title, content links, keywords for your article and target market is all you need.
If you don’t produce a lot of content then spreadsheets may be the way to go. However, huge publishing houses may need to rely on software to help them manage their large amounts of content.
So now that we’re clear on the tools and elements that will go into your editorial calendar here’s what you need to do to actually make it work:
Step 1. Be Clear On Your Topics
If you struggle with posting regularly on your business blog, I would recommend you start here.
When I was creating my editorial calendar I simply broke down all my content into seven major categories and color coded each one.
At the time they were:
- Online Marketing
- Social Media
- Website Development
- App Reviews
- Geust Posts
Color coding my topics allowed me to get a visual representation, just by scanning through my calendar, of the topics I may be overdoing and others I may be overlooking.
Naturally, as your blog grows you will expand your topics to cover more categories within your niche. Even when doing this, don’t forget to maintain your core topics.
Topics also give you clarity and ideas on what content you need to keep your eye out for online.
You can use tools like Evernote Web Clipper to save articles related to your topics and use them as ideas for your next blog post.
This helps you stay up to date while maintaining a steady stream of fresh content for your blog.
Step 2. Be Clear On Your Messaging
Your content strategy should ideally be your guide when it comes to your messaging.
Assuming you don’t already have one here are a few questions I used and continue to use that help me get clear with my message
- What are some of the questions people tweet or email you the most?
- What problem does your blog intend to solve?
- Is there a need for the information that you publish?
- What are the top 10 things you’d wish you had known when you got started?
- Is there something that is frustrating you about this industry and how do you intend to change that?
Personally, answers to these questions keep changing every single year. I continuously adjust my core message as the needs of my audience keep evolving.
Remember we are living in the age of information overload. Your readers have access to vast amounts of information online having a clear message helps them know what they should expect from your blog.
The way you structure your content should also be taken into consideration.
People rarely read your articles word for word, they simply scan through your blog posts to pick out the key points.
Structuring your content is not as hard as it sounds, it’s as simple as using:
- Short Paragraphs
- Lists & Bullets
- Enough H2’s & H3’s (heading one and heading two titles)
This way you can be sure that even when someone is skimming through your content they can still get clear on your messaging.
Step 3. Come Up With a Posting Schedule That Works for You
Once you have your list of topics and your message clearly defined, you need to decide how often you want to post.
You need to clearly illustrate this on your editorial calendar.
Is it once a month, twice a month, once a week, three times a week, every day?
Pick a schedule that works for you taking into consideration all of your other commitments such as work and family.
The key here is to be consistent with your schedule.
If you decide to publish once a month, stick to this schedule consistently. Eventually, your readers will begin to look out for your content on those days.
I’m guilty of not following my schedule all the time, frankly, it’s difficult at times.
Overtime, I have come up with a system where I batch write all my posts for an upcoming month. This activity takes me two to three days.
You can use this system too.
WordPress also allows you to auto schedule your publishing days so you don’t have to physically publish every single post.
Editorial calendars work best with a schedule, it is important that you have one.
Step 4. Create a List of Your Keywords
SEO is a huge part of the success of any blogger or publisher.
To execute a proper content marketing strategy you need to implement a solid Keyword research.
In my editorial calendar, I always add a column for Keywords that I want that particular article to rank for.
The objective for our Keywords is to help us better understand the needs of our target audience.
Keywords make you aware of the desires and needs of your readers by knowing what search terms were used in order to find your content in search.
The best place to discover your Keywords is from your Google Analytics Dashboard.
Here, you will see what exact Keywords people used to search online for them to have found your content.
Ever since I started implementing this strategy into my editorial calendar, my SEO began to improve almost immediately.
As you plan your editorial calendar this coming year you should consider adding Keywords.
This will impact prospective readers who rely on the quality of the content from the time they begin searching for it.
Step 5. Plan & Execute
Finally, it’s time for you to create, plan and execute your editorial calendar.
Start by brainstorming on a piece of paper all the ideas I have shared above, your topics, your message, your keywords and your posting schedule.
Define these elements then proceed to create a rough draft of what you would like your editorial calendar to look like for the coming year.
You can also add in some copy with a soft call to action to capture your audience’s email address, such as a newsletter sign up, or a free webinar.
There is no right or wrong way to go about creating your editorial calendar, find what works for you and stick to it.
It helps to have someone in your team who will hold you accountable for publishing content according to deadlines.
If you’re a blogger and you’re working solo, it helps to ask yourself, What are the consequences of not meeting my deadlines?
Don’t let your editorial calendar become just another “checklist” item in your content campaign.
Bottom line, editorial calendars put you one step ahead of your competition.
Think of it as your very own website roadmap without it, you can loose direction and go off course.
Take time to create, manage and implement an editorial calendar, I promise you it’s worth the effort.
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