They always say that content is king. But how do you make sure the content you are creating is going to achieve its objective?
First of all, you need a content calendar. But what is one? And how do you make a content calendar?
We’ve spoken with our content marketing team to get their insights and top tips on all things content calendars. This will help you to not only plan what you should be doing in the weeks and months ahead, but also give you clarity on what has gone before.
Read on to find out how to create a content calendar and get your content marketing on track…
What is a Content Calendar?
Simply put, a content calendar is a planner that details the content you’ll be publishing for months in advance. A calendar not only gives you an overview of your content schedule, but it can also be shared with colleagues and clients so they’re aware of deadlines and details.
Also called an editorial calendar, it’s all about having a schedule of when and where you plan to publish upcoming content. You can then include lots of details, including upcoming pieces, status changes, any promotional activity, third party partnerships and who will write the content.
Why create a Content Calendar?
You’ve heard of the six ‘Ps’ of planning, right? It still rings true: Prior Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance. Yep, that’s, basically, why you need a content calendar.
If you want people to actually have an interest in you, your business or clients then you’ll need a content calendar. If you’re using content marketing to grow your online business and audience, then staying organised is key.
Ceri Foulkes, Content Manager at We Influence, says: “Creating a well thought-out content calendar is probably the most important thing you can do to make a success of your content marketing strategy.
“For every piece of content you plan, consider what form it should take, what its purpose is, who you are targeting, which channels it will be promoted down and any SEO benefits it could provide.
“I find it most useful to use a simple spreadsheet, adding columns to pinpoint each of these things.”
We’ve picked out some of the main reasons for creating a content calendar…
Save Time & Be Organised
Maintaining a content calendar lets you plan ahead, avoid multitasking, and note down all your creative ideas for later. Basically, it’s the best way to make sure you’ll never find yourself desperately coming up with an idea to fill a slot you forgot about.
Essentially, it will allow you to maintain a consistent content schedule, generate new ideas, and encourage teamwork. You can get input from multiple writers, SEO experts, your social media team and clients. Additionally, a content calendar allows you to see which type of content resonates most with your target audiences, helping the development of the calendar.
Without a doubt, a content calendar makes it easier to collaborate with your team and outside partners, such as clients. If you’re a solo content team or in a small company, you may not even need a content calendar. But for wider networks, they’re a must.
If lots of employees – like writers, SEO and social media teams – as well as contractors or freelancers – contribute to your content, then you need something to keep everyone on the same page. Bingo, a calendar. It gives you the chance to share it around everyone – two minds are better than one and all that – to get their insights and make them aware of what’s coming next.
A calendar allows you to allocate your time and assets into creating high-quality content. This can be for anything from blogs to social media posts. By not planning and asking someone to drop what they’re doing to produce will lead to poor content.
A long-term plan means you’re pushing a consistent brand voice, products, and content that supports your marketing goals. Giving people room to plan and breathe will lead to a higher quality of content. From how it’s written and presented to the keyword research used to underline it. The same can be said if you have influences such as product sales involved.
Track What Works
It’s pretty simple in many ways, what gets scheduled gets done, and what gets measured gets improved. The same goes for your content. With a content calendar, you can look back and measure which content has proved successful in rankings and views.
Analytics has a lot of insights, just ask our SEO team. A content calendar provides the opportunity to schedule content and experiment to see what works or towards improvement. By having a calendar, you’ll be able to dictate future content by looking back to see what your audiences responded to the most or performed well in search rankings.
What to include in a Content Calendar
There are a lot of things you can include, it really depends on your business and industry. For example, if you’re a marketing agency with clients in retail or clothing, you have some easy topics to include, from seasons to events.
Nick Hughes, a member of the content team, says: “You could, realistically, include anything in a content calendar. No matter what, from a production standpoint, you need to say what it is, the author, when it is being produced and its status. Whether you use Google Docs or a project management system, you need as much detail as possible about the content.”
It’s always useful to have the bare minimum, which includes (using blogs as an example):
- Day or week it’ll be written
- Products or keywords to include
For a step further, depending on the system you use, you could try including different stages:
- Assigned to a writer
- In production
- In review
That’s all for keeping you organised. In terms of the content, you can include, it can be anything. That’s the joy of content, it’s such a vast area of marketing. This all comes from brainstorming and sitting down with your team or client to get their ideas. But here are just some potential content ideas for your calendar:
- Blogs – you should always look at updating old posts, too
- How-to guides
- Customer success stories
- Case studies and white papers
- Use pop culture, news, holidays, or trends
- Reading lists
- Interview with a leader in your business
- Behind-the-scenes of your business, company insights etc
- Business-related infographics, statistics, press releases
- Weekly or monthly themes
How to Create a Content Calendar
Time for the big one. This isn’t as simple as reading through a boat-load of keywords research and saying “that’ll do”.
Here’s our rundown of how to make your own content calendar…
Ideas and Brainstorm
The best content plans are influenced by a range of viewpoints, not just one person in the marketing department flying solo. They should include experts across your company, including writers and editors, email specialists, and, if it’s a client, their knowledge.
While most of these roles represent your company’s content creators and distributors, experts are different. You should have a bunch of subject-matter experts who can offer insight into relevant topics for your calendar. If you are an agency, be in regular contact with a client’s marketing lead for seasonal performance or products to push throughout the year.
Now that you know who’s involved, you need to determine how much time each can devote to content over the period of your calendar. Have in your mind, roughly, how long it takes to create a blog, for example. That will then dictate the time you dedicate to content as well as helping decide the types of content you produce.
The ideas that you come up with should be based on topics that fit your brand, addresses any questions or concerns your audience has, and marks you as an expert. There is no point just doing what everyone else has done before. Originality counts.
Nick adds: “Coming up with content ideas depends on your business and industry. If it’s fashion, for example, it’s relatively straightforward – you can count on new seasons and trends or annual events.
“No matter what industry you are in, you can find events to latch your content onto and release at that time. Some popular ones include Pride, festival season, religious holidays, environmental and international days or sport. Always look them up and consider what you can do with your content.”
Now that you’ve decided the ideas to put into your calendar and your content marketing capacity, you need to think through your goals and how content plays a part. This is beneficial to whether you’re getting started in content marketing or building on what you have.
Most companies have one of these three goals for their content marketing:
- Improving your brand awareness
- Increasing new leads through the website
- Improving search rankings through SEO for targeted keywords
While goals aren’t always the deciding factor for some businesses, it will form part of general growth that comes from content marketing. Using keyword research as a basis for some of your content, such as headings and sub-headings, will boost search rankings.
Plan it All Out
With your ideas and goals in hand, it’s time to put it all into a calendar. There isn’t exactly a set rule for how long a calendar should be but you should always plan at least a quarter ahead. Use the insights you’ve gained to develop the ideal mix of content for the quarter.
As we’ve said, you can create all sorts of content types, from blog articles and videos static or interactive infographics. If you’re tight on time and budget, stick with written content because it’s the least expensive easiest to produce with a small team.
Map it all out in a calendar – spreadsheet or a Google Doc – so you can share to whoever you want, allowing them all to know what is coming up and who will be writing it. Remember to include the following details for each post:
- Publication date
- Content description
- Keywords used
- Status: draft, complete, or published
Tip: Always allow some space for flexibility in case you or a client has a piece of content that reacts to market or external changes.
Finally, once you have been writing, use analytics to measure the impact of pieces to gauge the success of your calendar against your content goals. This could also be used to make improvements. Just bear in mind that it can take time for you to get a true picture of content impact on search rankings, sometimes months.
Try tracking these metrics to see how well your content is performing against your goal:
- Brand awareness: you can measure this on social shares on for guest articles, clicks to your website, new connections or people reaching out to you
- Lead generation: clicks to your website from published content or infographics, for example, conversion rate for blogs, content campaigns published through outreach
- SEO: links you’ve earned through published content, traffic from organic search, and rankings for your target keywords
Ceri adds: “Once you’ve published your content, don’t let it go stale! Push it out across your social media and email marketing whenever relevant.
“Revisit old pieces of content and refresh or optimise them when an opportunity comes along. Your content is there to give a voice to your brand, so be sure to use it.”
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