When I first started working in marketing, my blog writing process looked something like this: Go to work on Monday, read industry articles to come up with a new blog topic, write the blog, make revisions and publish the next day.
And I did this over and over every week.
Occasionally, I’d think ahead and write down blog topic ideas for upcoming weeks. But most of the time, I was so busy sitting in on meetings, constantly updating the website and working on other projects that I simply didn’t have time to stay ahead of the game.
Over the years, I’ve learned that this is a common challenge for marketing teams. In fact, according to a survey by Gleanster Research and Kapost, managing the overall content process is the biggest challenge among businesses, and 36% said the lack of a centralized calendar was their top reason for missing deadlines.
Having an editorial calendar in place can make a big difference to the content process: 85% of marketing top performers manage an editorial calendar for content production. So, how do you go about developing an editorial calendar and making it work for your business?
What is an editorial calendar?
An editorial calendar is a timeline of what content you want to publish and when. Editorial calendars are often used for blogging, but you can also set up an editorial calendar for your premium content offers, social media publishing and email newsletters.
Some teams use content marketing software to manage their editorial calendar; others simply set up a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Drive.
You can plan editorial calendars on a monthly, quarterly or even yearly basis. Personally, I love creating quarterly editorial calendars for clients – especially when the client is publishing blogs once or twice a week.
Why an editorial calendar is important
We all know content marketing is an extremely important element of inbound marketing. But just as important is publishing content consistently. According to Content Marketing Institute, 57% of B2B marketers say producing content consistently is one of their top challenges.
It’s hard to stick to a schedule when you have a million other things going on at any given moment. Trust me, I get it. But that’s why having an editorial calendar for your content is so important.
Creating an editorial calendar helps everyone – from writers and editors to marketing managers and executives – stay on track with publishing new content, and it keeps everyone on the same page about all upcoming content marketing initiatives. An editorial calendar:
- Makes publishing new content consistently seem more manageable
- Lets you strategically plan your content rather than rushing to find topics last-minute
- Helps you see the big picture of your content marketing initiatives
- Helps save time and streamline the writing process
- Makes collaboration among marketing teams easier
- Helps you figure out what topics are — and aren’t — working
- Allows you to repurpose content and topics in the future
Now that you know what an editorial calendar is and why it matters for your business, here’s how to create one.
8 tips for creating a successful editorial calendar
1. Find the right tool
There are dozens of tools out there you can use to create your editorial calendar. We love Google Sheets since it’s simple to use and everyone (both our internal team and clients) can easily access it at any time.
If you’re looking for other options, Trello, Excel, Google Calendar, HubSpot and CoSchedule are all great options.
The key is to find a tool that works for your business by keeping your team accountable and helping you manage new content on a consistent basis. For example, don’t create an editorial calendar in Excel if no one on your team uses it.
Regardless of the tool you use, make sure your content calendar can be easily accessed by your team and is somewhere you can update it consistently.
2. Include the right information
Editorial calendars vary from company to company, but here’s some important information to include:
- Target keyword(s)
- Target persona(s)
- Projected publish date
- Additional details or notes
Depending on how many people are contributing to writing content, you may also want to include the assigned writer and due date.
3. Decide what you want to write about
Content marketing gives you the opportunity to become a thought leader and share your expertise on industry topics. But your blog shouldn’t be all about you. It needs to be a place where you provide value to your audience by giving them the information they’re searching for.
As you’re brainstorming new topics, think about what questions your buyer personas have and what content will help answer those questions as they move throughout the buyer’s journey.
Once you have topics in mind, you can refine the title and use tip #4 to help you narrow down the right keyword.
4. Plan your keywords in advance
This may seem obvious, but too often, content calendars are created without keywords in mind.
Use a resource like Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush or HubSpot’s keyword tool to see which keywords your audience is searching for along with the search volume and difficulty level. This ensures you’re creating high-quality content that addresses your audience’s pain points and creating content that will be found on search engines. After all, you could have a great piece of content, but if it’s not optimized for the right keyword, no one will see it.
5. Think evergreen
Not every content topic needs to be time-sensitive. In fact, balancing timely material with evergreen content is a great way to bring repeat visitors back to your site. This helps make you a go-to resource year-round and takes off some of the pressure of creating real-time marketing content.6. Get input from team members
Developing new topics that are of interest to your audience is difficult – especially as the months go by.
While you may want to have one person in charge of organizing and updating your entire calendar, getting the entire team involved – including management, sales and marketing – with developing new topics brings a new perspective to your content marketing efforts and helps you brainstorm unique ideas you haven’t covered before.7. Determine your publishing schedule
Now that you have all the details ironed out, it’s time to put your calendar together and determine a publishing schedule. Can you commit to publishing new blogs once a week? Twice a week? Twice a month?
The key here is to pick a frequency that works for you and to be realistic about what you can commit to. It’s tempting to say, “we’re going to publish blogs five times per week” because you want to get new content out there. But when you do this, one of two things often happen: (1) You produce thin, barely-scratching-the-surface content that doesn’t provide any value, or (2) You lose steam after a month or two.
Neither of these scenarios helps your business, and it’ll quickly lead to burn-out among your team. Instead, pick a publishing schedule that’s realistic, and do your best to stick with it.8. Be flexible
Marketing can be unpredictable. Maybe a new product launches sooner than expected or your CEO comes back from a conference with great ideas and wants to author a guest post.
These are great reasons to make changes to your editorial calendar, and you should feel empowered to do so. Remember: Just because you’ve planned due dates and topics for an entire month or quarter doesn’t mean you need to stick to everything perfectly.
Be flexible, and don’t be afraid to accommodate spur-of-the-moment topics.
Getting started with an editorial calendar
Creating an editorial calendar for the first time can be overwhelming and stressful (I know it was for me), but the beauty of these calendars is that they can be changed at any time. Keep it simple at the beginning, and eventually, you’ll find the format and information that works best for you and your team.
Ready to put this all into action? Download our Editorial Calendar Template -- it's the same format we use for our own clients!