Note: This post has been updated for 2018.
Whether you’re a blogger, business owner, or in charge of content marketing for your organization, there’s no time like the present to start planning out your content for the months ahead. It’s never too late to start!
But if you’ve never done editorial calendar planning before, and you’re not entirely sure why you would or how to go about it, where do you start?
At a recent Cincinnati Blogging Meetup, I shared some of what I’ve learned about editorial calendars over my years as a writer, editor, and blogger. I also distributed this free editorial calendar template, a Google spreadsheet you can customize with your own content plans, as well as save and update throughout the year.
Here’s a brief recap of what we discussed:
What is an editorial calendar?
An editorial calendar is an organizational tool that helps you create a strategy for your blog in the coming year. Using this calendar allows you to define and control the process of creating content, from idea through writing and publication.
Basic elements might include:
- DATE: When will the piece of content be published?
- SUBJECT: What topic or headline sums up the content?
- FORMAT: Will this content be a written blog post, an image gallery, a video, podcast, etc.?
- WRITER: Who will create this content?
- OWNER: Who is in charge of taking content from ideation to publication and promotion?
- STATUS: What is the current status of the content?
Benefits of editorial calendar planning
Creating and implementing an editorial calendar into your blogging process helps:
- Reduce the daily pressure of “what do I write about today?”
- Produce content that’s more thoughtful, and naturally builds or flows from what you’ve published previously
- Make it easier for you to monetize and promote your content
- Create a more consistent and disciplined publishing cadence
Popular editorial calendar tools
Bloggers use all sorts of tools to put together their editorial calendar—some as simple as paper and pen, others with a monthly subscription price of $30 and up. Here are some of the most commonly used editorial calendar tools and software:
- Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets
- Google Calendar
- Editorial Calendar
- Brandpoint HUB
Things to consider when creating your calendar
It might seem like you should go right to brainstorming content topics or ideas to fill up your calendar, right? But I suggest doing some analysis and exploration first, which should produce a better brainstorm later. Consider the following questions as you prepare to create your editorial calendar:
Looking back at your publishing pace in the last 12 months, do you want or need to post more? Less? Or stick with a similar pace?
Year in review
When you look back at your content and performance from last year, which posts did well? Google Analytics can help you understand this from a traffic perspective. BuzzSumo can give you insights about which content was most shared. And good old fashioned comments on individual posts might reveal how provocative or engaging the content was for your audience. Which topics, headlines, or content categories seemed hot—or not?
Themes and series
Perhaps you want to focus some of your content this year around a specific theme, for a week, by the month, or even all year long. Or you might try a special series or recurring post type, like a roundup or trend spotlight.
Have you been wanting to experiment with a different medium, such as Facebook Live or a podcast? Think about additional formats to try and include those in your editorial plans.
In addition to frequency, you should examine timing for your content. For example, are there certain times during the year when you struggle with creating content, or days when your traffic tends to grow or dips? Oh, and don’t forget about vacation breaks. You don’t want to burn out, so be sure to give yourself time off to recharge.
If you’ve been blogging for a while, why not make the most of that growing archive by repurposing and updating the content? In your editorial calendar, you can set aside spots for breathing new life into old content.
OK, now it’s time to brainstorm
You might already have a running list of topics and content ideas. Now’s the time to refill the well, with the above considerations in mind. Need some thought starters? Check out ProBlogger’s free download of 180 blog post ideas.
Another way to generate topics: Identify trends based on what your audience is searching for. Google Trends is one of my personal favorites for this. If you create lifestyle content, take a look at the Pinterest 100, which predicts this year’s hottest trends from what Pinners searched and saved in the previous year.
Finally, look up holidays, seasons, and annual events that relate to your topics and audience. Consider publishing seasonal content in advance of the observed dates—similar to how retailers set up their Valentine’s Day displays before you’ve even taken down your Christmas tree.
More resources to explore
I recommend listening to this ProBlogger podcast about how to create a successful editorial calendar. As always, Darren Rowse delivers solid blogging advice in an upbeat, straightforward manner. Another good one: How to Create an Editorial Calendar by Amy Lynn Andrews.
I hope this helps you jumpstart your own editorial calendar planning. Don’t forget to grab this free Editorial Calendar Template and make it your own.
If you have any good learnings or tips about editorial calendars, please leave a comment!