An editorial calendar for your blog helps you keep up with what needs to be written and published and when. It’s a good idea to put one together for the month, if not for the year, at the beginning of the year. It helps you plan your blog’s content around marketing campaigns, holidays, and other events, too. Knowing what you’ve got coming up ensures your content and other assets are always ready to go ahead of time off and sick days. Plus, if you’ve got a team of people working on the blog, the editorial calendar keeps everyone working from the same page – saving time and potential frustration from duplicated efforts.
Step One: Determine Your Categories
If you’re working with a brand new blog, you’ll need to determine the categories you’ll use. If you have an existing blog, it’s a good time to do an audit. What are the broad topics you cover on your blog? Those are good places to start with your categories.
If you’ve already got categories, take a look at where you placed posts in the past year. Are there any categories you’re not using? Are there any categories you could combine into one? Are there any new categories you should add based on a new direction you’re taking with your blog this year?
Step Two: Post Frequency
How often are you going to post on your blog? Nothing says you have to post every day, but whatever schedule you’re going to follow, it’s a good idea to keep it consistently, for the sake of your audience.
If you’re not sure what you can commit to, start small with one to three posts a week. As you get more comfortable with it, you can decide whether or not you want to increase it, or add another writer or two to your team.
Step Three: Spreadsheet or in Your Blog?
For most people, the spreadsheet seems to be the easy answer. But, the older your blog gets, or the more people you have involved in the topic selection and post approval process, the harder it can be to manage.
If You Opt for a Spreadsheet:
If the spreadsheet seems to be the easiest thing for you to do, make sure you have columns for the following information.
- Post Date
- Author – if you’re part of a multi-author blog
- Working Title – at least just the topic you want to cover
- Post Description – this can be something to remind you what you want to cover, or it can be a meta description, if you want. If it’s a basic description of what you want to cover, it can help you when it comes time to write the meta description for SEO purposes.
- Status – draft, written, scheduled, published, hold
- Tags and Keywords
- Calls to Action
This will help you keep track of what you need to write and publish and when. If you need to share it with others, use something like Google Sheets or add it to a shared folder in Dropbox or OneDrive.
WordPress Plugins to Help You
If a spreadsheet seems like it will be too much work to keep up with as things scale, you can keep an editorial calendar right within your blog, using a plugin.
- Editorial Calendar: This is a free, no-frills option, which works wonderfully for a single blogger. It presents a calendar format where you can create a new post, which automatically places one in draft on that date. If you change your mind and want to move it, simply click and drag it over to the new date. As your blog grows, this one will continue to do you well. However, you may find it becomes less effective if you bring on additional authors to contribute.
- CoSchedule: This is a premium plugin that will run you $10/month. But, for many, it’s worth it simply because of the additional features it offers compares to free plugins. It’s a great option for people who are working as part of a team, because it makes it easy for everyone to leave notes and comments for each other. Plus, you can add tasks to each post, and assign those tasks and posts to anyone on the team. You can make the tasks anything you want – so it can be as simple as “research for X post” or “image creation” or something completely different and unrelated. One reason people like CoSchedule is the fact that you can manage your social media promotion from the calendar, crafting and scheduling social media updates to go along with each post. And, your blog posts aren’t the only thing you can add to the social media calendar.
- EditFlow: This is a free plugin that works well for teams. It’s a lot like the Editorial Calendar plugin, but has additional features like editorial comments, custom post statuses, and user groups, so you as the blog owner can more easily collaborate with your writing team, and even on a post-by-post basis. The idea is to reduce the number of emails that go back and forth between the writer and editor, and by keeping the notes for each post in a central place, you save time and effort. Custom statuses make it easier for you to create the workflow that works best for you, and allows you to focus solely on posts in each status group. For instance, if you have “needs edits” you can sit down and work with all the writers on posts that need editing before they can move to “ready for scheduling”. Then, you can look at all the posts in that category and schedule them out as needed to fit with your posting frequency.
Step Four: Plan for Guest Posts and Roundups
You don’t have to have something to fill every single part of the calendar on the days you intend to publish. You can leave room for curated link round ups, and guest posts from other bloggers, too. And until you gain enough traction to get people submitting guest posts to you, you can use networks to help you.
- My Blog Guest: This is a free website for guest bloggers. You can sign up and offer guest blog content to other bloggers, and also let bloggers know you’re open to receiving and publishing guest posts from them. You can use the platform to network with other bloggers and build relationships, too.
- Blogger LinkUp: This website is a list of resources for bloggers, but part of the website is dedicated to connecting bloggers and guest posters. You can submit requests for the type of posts you’re looking for, and other people can reach out to submit posts that fit those guidelines.
Becoming a part of these two sites can help you fill your editorial calendar with quality content without having to write every single thing yourself. As far as roundups go, you can host your own, or use them to promote your content on other blogs.
There’s some debate as to whether guest posts are a viable part of an SEO strategy anymore. In fact, Matt Cutts, a Google employee, said himself that guest blogging is no longer effective for SEO in January 2014. He says it’s gotten too spammy, and just doesn’t carry the same weight as it used to.
Others argue the practice isn’t dead – the statement from Cutts just meant the low quality fluff wasn’t going to pass anymore. Focus on quality, and the rest will fall into place. That’s why we’re still talking about guest blogging/posting years later. If you’re a good writer (or hire a good one to ghost for you) and can provide quality and value with each of your posts – whether they’re going on your blog, another blog, or a major publishing platform – then that’s all that really matters.
Step Five: Start Filling Everything In
The beauty of an editorial calendar is the flexibility that’s built into it. As ideas start coming to you, start filling in as many details as much as possible. You’ll only be locked in to certain topics for certain times of the year – such as holiday topics around those days – but everything else you can move around as you see fit.
It’s up to you how much work you want to do at this stage – simply coming up with basic topic ideas could be enough, or, you may want to go more in-depth here, to make the actual writing stage simpler when the time comes.
What I like to do is come up with as many ideas as possible, place them on my calendar, and then when I’m finished there, I focus on the week at hand with more detail – finding keywords, images, and some basic links for research. Once I write a couple posts for the week, I’ll go back add more details to the topics for the rest of the month, so I can sit down and just write, for the most part.
That’s what works for me, but I realize that workflow won’t work for everyone. The beauty of the calendar is you can setup a workflow that works well for you. You may choose to batch your topics, batch your images… or write full post outlines, working only one week at a time for the whole year. Play around with it until you find the most efficient workflow that makes sense for you.
Step Six: Write and Schedule
Even if you don’t get the whole thing filled in right away, start writing and scheduling the first posts you have on tap for at least the first week, if not the first week or two. You don’t want to get too far ahead if your topics rely on timeliness, but you want to be far enough ahead to where you can take an unexpected day off without throwing off your entire blogging schedule.
I like to sit down once a week and write the posts for the week, going back to my editorial calendar to see what’s on tap. Some weeks, when I know I have more going on than usual, I will write less. But, the weeks when I know I have time, I will write a few more, just to make sure I have a steady flow of content ready to be published.
Step Seven: Consider What and How You Can Repurpose
Just because you’ve written a blog post on a topic doesn’t mean you can’t use that post or topic again. I’ve written about all the ways you can repurpose content, to help you get those creative juices flowing.
Keep Yourself On Track with Your Calendar
Blogging is hard work, and since consistency is the key to making it work for your business, your editorial calendar is a critical tool for your success. It should keep you from running out of things to blog about, and give you what you need to write ahead of time when you have extra time to devote to your blog.
What kind of editorial calendar do you use? Do you keep it with your social media calendar, or separate from it? Tell me in the comments below.
Photo credit: iStock