Why an editorial calendar is essential for kickass content creation
As an SEO and content creator, I know how vital it is to keep on top of each of my client’s needs when it comes to blog and web content. There’s nothing quite like missing an opportunity because you were too late to tie in content to a holiday season, a product launch or a pre-planned event to focus the mind on how to work that much smarter…..
It was this post from Lisa Barone back in 2009 that first alerted me to the wonders of the Editorial Calendar, and I’ve been using one ever since. Well, several in fact, for myself, my blogs and all of my client sites. You might argue that an editorial calendar (EC) takes all of the spontaneity out of blogging, but it actually provides a solid basis for producing and distributing content, still leaving plenty of wiggle room to write those posts that leverage current news stories. You still get to put your message out there, but in a way that provides your readers (and the search engines) with content that meets their needs on a consistent basis – with the added bonus of ad hoc content as and when required.
From an internet marketing perspective, an EC is incredibly useful not only for planning content to ensure that you’re not only publishing and promoting on a regular basis, but it also helps spark ideas for brand new content and promotions. It’s a very powerful tool for maximizing the potential reach of your content, while reducing the pressure to generate new ideas for each post – thus avoiding last minute copywriting panic. So, an EC is a schedule that shows when you should/will be publishing posts or web content and what topic they will cover. Not only does it make it easier to space out content, capitalise on upcoming product or service launches, but it will really encourage discipline in the running and updating of any blog.
An editorial calendar helps you to plan ahead
While content planning might be old hat to professional bloggers, applying the idea to sites that need to generate slightly less regular content is still a fantastic process for SEOs to adopt. Creating amazing content when you are feeling inspired is very commendable and creative but it doesn’t exactly lend itself to consistent work – either in quality or quantity. For those of us that need a helping hand every so often, the EC is a handy way to overcome writer’s block – with some structure in place, we can pre-plan what to write about.
Of course, by knowing which articles will be published when, you are also able to better plan your personal work schedule. You’ll create a production mindset, hopefully getting into the habit of writing a post a day, or even writing them all in one day and scheduling them to post – result! This will make the creation process much easier to begin and pay dividends in the long run
Use your editorial calendar to track content ideas
So, how to actually make this EC work for you then? Let’s use Green Widgets Ltd as an example. As their name suggests, this company produces Green Widgets and are very keen to establish themselves as an authority site within their sector. To do this, they know that they need to publish more than just sales copy – they need to also provide informational posts about their product and their industry. We can begin the EC process by dividing our content up by topic and by week so we can see that we need to aim for at least two blog posts a week:
- Suggested (SEO friendly) titles
- Suggested (SEO friendly) URLs
- Blog post category
- Author / department responsible for research or content creation
- Publishing location if applicable (i.e. guest post on industry blog)
- Confirmation of links to other sites/blog articles
- Confirmation of any previous articles I can use to link to the new ones
- Social media distribution method/responsibility
- Ideas for any previous content I may be able to repurpose
As for actual content, again, my examples are obvious but you could also use different formats such as:
- Tutorials and How Tos
- Review of non-competitor products and services if compatible with yours
- Tips and Tricks
- Industry Round Ups
- Reader Q&As
- Regular Features
- Ongoing in-depth articles on a particular topic
For the ongoing articles, why not tackle some aspect of your industry in more depth and create a series of them? If the response is good, you could then revise the content and add to the main site as a new landing page.
Imposing deadlines on your content creation lets you organize research to support these kind of features and planning ahead this way makes it easier to deliver higher-quality content to the readers. Whether you are the one that is responsibile for writing everything yourself, or whether you delegate or use guest posters, an EC will soon show you the best way to group your content so it works the way you intend it to. Once you start looking at your blog or your site one month at a time, you will soon develop a great way to make sure your content is well-balanced, relevant and informative.
There are many different tools that you can use to create an EC – I guess it all depends on whether you are sharing the information and what you are most comfortable using. I really like Excel, which I find easy to upload to Basecamp or Dropbox (and therefore use on a daily basis). Although I use Excel for the planning, I tend to copy and paste to my Google Calendar so I have an overview of each of my ( carefully colour co ordinated) clients and in-house blogs. Google Docs are great to use too of course, particularly if you need to collaborate with others on the EC. If your blog is published on the WordPress platform, I know a lot of bloggers that use the following Editorial Calendar plugin and are very happy with it:
The plugin allows you to:
- See a month’s worth of posts – and the day they are due to be published
- Juggle your posts by using the drag and drop feature.
- Quickly edit your posts’ titles, contents, and publishing times.
- Publish or edit posts
- Easily manage posts from multiple authors.
An Editorial Calendar not only encourages the blogging habit but it can also help you defeat the dreaded writer’s block and ensure that you never miss another deadline. It’s an obvious tool really, but if you haven’t used one before you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes to your productivity. A well planned EC provides a structure, involves all those who need to be involved at the planning, research or writing stages but allows flexibility when time sensitive content needs to be published. Above all, it allows you to plan some back up posts for busy weeks – it’s a great feeling to have content that’s all ready to go when you really need to focus on other parts of the campaign.