How to Create an Effective Content Marketing Calendar

Content is becoming more important than ever and it was already pretty damn important. The increase in platforms has expanded the way we create and publicize content, while the different mediums has increased the expectations of viewers. It doesn’t matter if you are just one person with a camera, or a blog, or a graphic editing software. You better be bringing your A-game because if you won’t, someone else will.

The basis of an effective content editorial strategy is having a solid plan and following it. That means both in the short and long term. Following certain steps can help you get better results and in less time.

Setting Up The Best Possible Content Editorial Plan

Content marketing strategy aims at answering the variety of important questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What are they interested in?
  • What are your competitors talking about?
  • What problems does your audience struggle with and what answers to those problems can you provide?
  • What would interest you as a member of your industry?
  • Who else has valuable insight that you can approach for information and experiences related to your audience’s needs?
  • How does your audience best learn (reading, discussing, viewing videos, viewing graphics, a mix of all)?

This all falls under strategy and it is much more thorough than a calendar plan, which is more about when you post certain content. If your overall strategy is lacking, it doesn’t matter what days you post, how often, the way you market it, etc. Because you won’t be hitting those all important points above. Your content itself is ineffective, so how can your editorial plan be anything but lackluster?

Before you try and organize your content editorial plan, solidify and tweak your content plan itself. Know who you are talking to and what they need. Find the most beneficial SEO targeting keywords and phrases for your brand. Find out how you can connect with other brands for a stronger, more powerful strategy that works for you both. All of this will mean your work is paying off more from the very beginning.

The last thing you want is to implement a content plan, only to have to recreate it and start over a few months from now when it isn’t working.

Keyword Research For SEO and Content Planning

Keyword research has dual purposes. The first is the most obvious and what we are all used to: narrowing our SEO and search strategies and preparing our site for result crawling and (lately) featured snippets that will get us more traffic. This shouldn’t be ignored or neglected because content is a huge part of that.

The second purpose (and one that ties into the first one) is focusing content strategy around your customer. Keyword research helps us understand our audience better and give our customers what they want by solving their struggles and thus building loyalty.

It informs my SEO strategy and vice versa, so it becomes a very integrated process that makes planning that much easier, not to mention more intuitive. Having information and more ideas to work from is so helpful. It cuts out a ton of the work from one of my most arduous tasks and gets me over those humps when I just can’t seem to get my creative juices flowing.

There are so many tools out there for keyword planning and most of them are pretty expensive. To keep my budget down (and just because I like them best), there are my three primaries that have become my go-to keyword and content planners.

  1. Google Keyword Planner – Google’s official keyword planner, located in the Adwords account you should already have operating. The downside to this tool is that it is a little hard to understand the results if you are new to keyword planning. But once you figure out the different criteria it becomes a valuable addition to both an SEO and a content planning strategy.
  2. Ubersuggest – Probably my favorite tool right now, this one was created by Neil Patel (who we all probably know from many years as an influencer in the marketing industry). I have used this for regular keyword planning a lot, but the more common way I use it is for extending my content ideas into more ideas, while seeing how popular those ideas might be. It is easier to understand the results than Google, as well.
  3. Keywordtool.io – Keywordtool.io takes information from Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon, eBay and the App Store, so you can get more specific information based on what you need at the time. You can also base it off of region, which is helpful. You won;t be able to see the metrics (Search volume, competition, etc.) I love their “Find Keywords Within Search Results” feature allowing me to narrow my keyword lists by sub-topics.

 

Further reading: When researching your keywords, keep search intent in mind!

Making an Annual Editorial Blueprint

This is a step that so many people miss – and that I missed for a long time, as well. Editorial calendars are usually around three to six months long, but if I have learned anything in my decades working with content it is that you have to extend that out by a full year. That means making an annual editorial blueprint that you are more or less going to stick to.

Why a year? Because content strategies do better when they are longer term, since it is a marketing plan. Short campaigns are more effective when they are part of a longer strategy, fully integrated and working towards a singular goal. Why should content be any different? Besides, the sooner you know what is in the works, the more time you have to implement each step.

Part of your blueprint should be dedicated to starting the content, not just publishing it. For example, if you wanted to do a roundup of advice from leading experts, it could take you a few months to get those interviews completed and questions answered. So set a date a few months ahead and use that as your guide, not the publication date. That will help you to plan for any face to face meetings, as well (think conventions and public speaking events).

Here’s a solid list of Excel templates that will help you plan each month out in not too much detail to have a roadmap and add in more details once you approach each month. My personal favorite one is “Annual Marketing Calendar Template”:

 

 

Once you have your calendar, don’t neglect it! Just because it is an annual plan doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be changed, updated, tweaked and maintained. Check up on it once a month for the previous and coming month. Try and stay at least a month ahead on content.

Find The Right Tool For Your Editorial Calendar

A good editorial calendar needs the right tool for the job. Some people will use Excel and just keep track that way. Others I know will use a project management software, like Trello. I have used a few different options myself:

  1. Google Calendars/Spreadsheets – Free and pretty simple, this one does take some extra steps to integrate entirely and it doesn’t auto-sync with other platforms without some tweaking (IFTTT has an option for doing it). I used to use Google Spreadsheets and Calendar for this task but it was a bit too much work for me. If you like it, there is no denying it is great for keeping up on multiple devices.
  2. Coschedule – I like CoSchedule because it also lets me sync up my social media posts and plan both at the same time. Having them all in one place is simpler and a nice way to wrap my content marketing up into one neat little package.
  3. Editorial Calendar – I used to use Editorial Calendar, a widget/plugin for WordPress. Now that not all of my work is done on that platform I don’t use it so much. But it is still a good option for WP users.
  4. Airtable – This one I haven’t used myself but it has been recommended to me a couple of times so I think it is worth checking out. They have a free version and pricing beyond that starts at just $10 per month, so not bad at all. They have templates for different content styles.

Of all the tools listed above, I probably prefer Coschedule because it brings so many different tasks together in a very easy-to-understand way:

 

 

Include Social Media With Your Content Planning

Don’t forget to include social media marketing notes in your calendar. As an example, if you had an interview with an industry influencer a couple of weeks ago, send them a personal thank you. Remind yourself of follow-ups or update posts. Keep track of relationships and communication with guest posters. You have a lot of balls in the air… your calendar is your best friend. Seriously.

As I said above, I like how Coschedule makes this easier to do. You can add micro-checklists for each task for your team to mark as done as they go. These make following the steps and processes so much easier.

But whether you use the same platform or separate ones, planning your social media as part of your content editorial plan is important. I try to do as much scheduling in advance as I can, so I can focus my real time social media use for one on one direct engagement, both with my audience and with influencers.

So plan your social strategy around your content, so it is always integrated properly.

To Sum Up: What Your Editorial Calendar Needs to Help You with

There are lots of tasks your editorial calendar should be able to help you with. To keep things organized and easy, here’s what you are looking at when setting up your calendar:

  • Including annual holidays, events and seasonal trends into your content: Keep a yearly editorial blueprint to be always prepared for those and catch more attention with timely content;
  • Collaborating and delegating: Most of the apps I’ve listed allow for effective collaboration, so pick and app and use it. Content should be integrated into many teams of yours (including sales and customer support teams, social media marketing department, conversion optimization experts, design teams, etc.) Your editorial calendar should be able to bring all these people together for each of them to know what exactly they need to do. Checklists and color-coding help a lot here!
  • Scheduling and scaling: Content marketing is overwhelming. There’s a lot going on and it’s extremely hard to get each little task done. Your content editorial calendar should remind you of some tasks and automate others (e.g. schedule social media updates promoting the said content asset).

Keep Your Staff Up To Date

Finally, don’t do this alone. Your entire staff needs to understand your content plan and how you are going to be using that content on a level similar to your own. Get them on board, use tools that keep them informed and allow them to make comments, suggestions or complaints related to the plan as you post it.

Considering having a monthly meetings where you all discuss the coming months content and any changes they feel is necessary.

Have any tips on creating an effective content editorial plan? Let us know in the comments!

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