Editorial Content Calendars are a key tool for helping bloggers manage their time and their content. We've got lots of tips to get you started for the new year!
As we get ready to dive into a new year, it's time to take a look at what we, as bloggers, have on tap for the coming 12 months.
And so, naturally, the topic of editorial content calendars comes up. Should you have one? Do you need one? Will it limit your flexibility? Is it too much work?
The answers? Yes, probably, no and no.
One of the biggest reasons we hear people saying they don't have a content calendar is that they worry it will limit their options and flexibility. Unless you're chipping your calendar into a granite table with a chisel, nothing is written in stone!
If anything, a blog editorial calendar can actually free you up in may ways by creating blocks of time to work on other things, helping you achieve goals and grow as a blogger.
Blog Editorial Calendars and Blog Income
Blog calendars do not need to have anything to do with earning blog income! A content calendar is simply a way to keep yourself organized, plan in advance, be more efficient with your time and create more (and bigger) blocks of free time to focus on writing, creating or, having a cup of tea!
But if income is a big blogging goal then yes, you really do need to implement an editorial calendar to keep your sponsored content commitments organized. They ensure you hit client deadlines - which will make you much more popular with brands! They also help you avoid client conflicts - which will make you very unpopular with clients. And they ensure that you hit your seasonal content goals well in advance so you can take advantage of early pinning, recipe roundups and other marketing opportunities. They are also crucial if you have multiple contributors to your site!
One more note. If video is on your list of content for 2016, keep in mind that it can be much more time consuming to create. Planning and scheduling it can help you break it down into small, achievable tasks.
Here's some tips to get started:
1. Don't Commit to Planning a Full 12 Months Of Content
The thought of planning a 12 month editorial calendar can seem overwhelming - because it is. Even at FBC, where I am managing a team of anywhere from 8-15 writers at any given time, I never plan a full 12 months in advance. I work in three month blocks for day to day content and in slightly larger blocks for seasonal content.
I may have vague ideas of topics I want to cover throughout the year and I make note of those in a good old fashioned paper notebook that I refer to when I sit down to plan out the content for a quarter. But, we live in a world where trends and popular topics can change fast, and what may be a hot topic in January, could easily be old news by next November. So planning that far in advance can be a waste of time. Don't stress yourself out by committing to it!
2. Think About What You Want to Cover in 2016
This is the perfect time to evaluate your current content and consider what you want your future content to be. What's working for you?
Do recipes do well for you? If so, is there a particular niche that performs really well - like appetizers, or gluten free dishes? What about stories about producers in your area? Entertaining tips? Go through Google Analytics and see what your most popular posts for 2015 were.
What's not working? Is there something that performs really well but you just hate writing about it? Seriously consider dropping it - it's draining creative energy that's better funnelled into something you love.
Is there something that you love but just isn't striking a chord with your readers? Consider whether you want to keep it or not. If it brings you joy, then keep it. But, if income is a big focus and you treat your blog as a business, then seriously consider dropping it for better performing content or finding a way to tweak it so it has more appeal.
Once you have an idea of what works and what doesn't work, backed up by some hard numbers, start brainstorming ideas to capitalize on things that do well or, come up with new ideas to fill in the gaps for content you're discontinuing.
Calendar image courtesy of Shutterstock
3. Consider your posting frequency
There's no right or wrong answer for how often you need to post. It comes down to time and energy - those will determine your ability to turn out quality content, which should be the main goal.
Whether you choose to post once a month, once a week or daily, an editorial calendar will keep your posting frequency consistent - and that's the key to happy, returning readers! Start with a number and see how that works for you - adjust after a month if need be.
4. Theme Your Content
A great way to easily fill up blocks in your blog's editorial calendar is to have themed series. We use this technique at FBC and it makes it very easy to plot my content for 3 months. For instance, Tuesday's are rotating column days, Wednesdays are blogger resource days, Thursdays are Craft Beer, Fridays are Featured FBC Members, etc. Mondays and Sundays are left open. Then if we need a slot for some sponsored content or if an opportunity for a great piece comes about, we have a slot for it without having to rearrange things.
The first thing I do is go in and plot those for the quarter. Then I fill in specific topic ideas. I send out all my Featured Member questionnaires for the quarter with a two week deadline - then they're all put right into WordPress and voila... my Friday posts for three months are all done within a matter of days! I work in a similar fashion with the other days of the week. This is also really helpful if you travel a lot, like I often do for work. It's nice to know that even though you're on the road, your blog content for the week is all taken care of.
5. It's Not Carved in Stone
Your editorial calendar is not carved in stone. Even if your goal is to post every week day, keep at least one day a week open on purpose. This can be your buffer day that you use if things go haywire and you need to postpone something, if you're struck with a brilliant idea that you want to write about, or if an income opportunity comes up that you really want to take. You'll always have a slot for it.
6. Tools You Can Use
You can try our easy downloadable editorial calendar template if you want something simple to get started. Here are some other tools:
- One of many editorial calendar plug-ins available like Editorial Calendar or CoSchedule for WordPress let you maintain an content calendar within your blog.
- Google Calendar: we used Google Calendar for a long time - it's great if you have more than one person who needs to be kept in the loop because it can easily be shared.
- A straight up wall calendar - I still use a giant wall calendar because it's easy to look at when I'm on the phone or working in email without having to pull up another screen
- If you manage a team of writers, consider project management software like Trello or Asana. They have a bit of a learning curve but it's worth it in the end. We've been using Asana (it's free!) since September to manage not only our editorial calendar but all our site related projects and it's been super useful in keeping a team organized.
Getting started with an editorial calendar doesn't have to be hard or complicated. And you will find that by working in time blocks you really do free up time to work on other things and focus on creating really stellar content instead of scrambling to get a post up at the last minute!
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