Wonder how professional bloggers come up with the thought-provoking, timely, and well-researched posts that make you insane with jealousy?
I'll give you a hint — it's not because they hold magical powers. It's not because they’re more inspired than you. And it's definitely not because they’re all freakishly amazing writers. (Well, some are.)
Aside from some serious creative brainstorming time, (that may or may not include wine or spiked coffee — just sayin'), an editorial calendar gives the pros a clear overview of what's now, what’s ahead, and a look at key themes and events that will inspire their post ideas.
An editorial calendar is Charlie Bucket's Golden Ticket into the Chocolate Factory of Awesome. Don't you want a tour?
Instead of throwing content ideas at a wall and seeing what sticks, your editorial calendar gives you a chance to make strategic decisions about what to publish. Whether it be a blog post, a video, or an ebook, knowing the who, what, why, when, and where (otherwise known as your content strategy) is essential to making your blog a shining beacon of light for your ideal reader, who just so happens to be looking for the EXACT thing you're dishing out.
Your editorial calendar gives you a top-down look at the days, weeks, and months ahead. It keeps you on track to see the larger themes and events as well as granular post information that you'll need to generate the most engaging and shareable content possible. Before we get into the WHAT of a content calendar, let's talk about the WHERE. Where should your calendar live?
Excel — Basic spreadsheets are a popular way for bloggers to organize their content, with each row representing a new day. This ends up more like a list than a calendar but for some people, this is easier to digest when looking at large chunks of content.
Google Spreadsheet — You can use the Excel-like spreadsheets in Google's cloud, which are perfect if you want the security of knowing that you can access it from anywhere. If you’re going to go with a spreadsheet, I highly recommend one that lives in the cloud.
Google Calendar — This is great for visual types that need an actual calendar to keep things straight. It also lets you view different color-coded categories. For example, you could have separate calendars for Holidays, Events, Themes, and Content, which makes it easy to view and digest. Plus, you can invite others to view and edit these calendars, making collaboration stupid simple. And it's cloud-based, so you can see it from anywhere or from any computer.
Trello — Trello is my jam right now and my go-to tool for organizing projects and my editorial calendar. Check out how I’m using it here. It’s very similar to using a Google Calendar but is even more flexible since you can add in things like checklists, color-coded labels, due dates, upload files, and more. Best part? It’s free.
Note: There's a Wordpress editorial calendar plugin, but it does not offer the robust planning features that I'd like for a blogger. It gives you a great calendar view of when your scheduled content is going up, but doesn't have much in the way of drafting, so I wouldn't recommend it as your only calendar source.
Now that you have an idea of where your content calendar can be stored and cultivated, let's talk about the goods, baby - the actual content. Queue the music! Switch on the disco ball! Throw your hands up in the air!
Information Your Content Calendar Should Include
- Holidays and Events - Start by listing all relevant holidays, events, conferences, award shows, meet-ups, live streams, twitter chats - whatever - that you could possibly be writing about, covering, or participating in. I'd take the time to do this a year in advance (or quarterly at the least), to stay 100 percent on top of all the things that are going on in your world.
- Due date/Post date - Finally, list the date you will be posting the content and when it is due. Give yourself deadlines, otherwise things will never get done. Amirite?
- Theme - Start looking at larger themes like back to school, spring, the holiday season, New Years resolutions, summer, and others, and plug them into your calendar. Decide when you'll cover them (I chose a week in August to cover back to school content for example); How you'll cover them can come later during your content brainstorming sessions.
- Subject/Title- For each post, you'll want to include its subject. Is it related to a theme? Is it news? An event or holiday? Is it part of a series?
- Details/Outlines - I adore outlines. Outlines are my fuzzy slippers. They make the creation process SO much easier when you sit down to create since you already have a skeleton to work off of. Once you've come up with a post idea, quickly outline each post with basic ideas, links, words, or even images that inspired it. Try it. You'll thank me later.
- Keywords - What keywords will you be using for this post? Best practices for a blog post suggest that you'll want to give each post a keyword focus and stick with it. For example, this post is about editorial calendars. You'll find this word throughout the post, and it's also related to the website as a whole. Don't get off-topic — have a clear focus for each post you write. If you want to cover more than one topic, break it out into more than one post!
- Action/Emotion — Each of your posts should also have a clear action and emotion associated with it. What do you want your reader to FEEL while they’re reading it and what do you want your reader to DO with your post after they’re done with it? Write these down before you start.
- Visuals - Will you be needing photos or video? Graphics? List exactly what you need, and what your vision is for them, here. I even drop some links from Pinterest in here that inspire me!
- Social Media Titles/Hashtags - Using specialized titles for each of your social networks keeps things fresh. But more than that, each network is unique in what gets their motors running. Be bold when using Twitter - messages get lost in the fast-moving feed. Ask questions on Facebook - people love sharing their opinions.
- Pitches — This is where I drop ideas and links to other sites I might want to pitch my blog posts to. Think about these as the start of your relationship building blocks!
- URL of Post — A link to the finished and live post for easy reference.
Start your editorial calendar!
I’m making this incredibly easy for you with today’s free bonus — an editorial calendar template I’ve used to organize and plan my own blog content. It’s in today’s email so don’t miss it.
I'd love to hear your questions, thoughts, and what you currently use as an editorial calendar in the comments!
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