It’s no longer a secret that content marketing can attract a large number of customers at a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of websites producing content for their blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and social media accounts. Some estimates say that there are over 3 million blog posts published every single day.
Not only do you need to create high-quality content to stand out from the crowd, but it’s also important to deliver it regularly. How do you juggle the demands of growing your business and publishing content on a schedule? The answer is simple – a content calendar that helps you plan your publishing timetable weeks or even months in advance. In this guide, you’ll learn how to build a content calendar from scratch so you’ll always be on top of things.
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar (also known as an editorial calendar) is a tool that helps content creators plan, develop, and schedule content days, weeks, or months in advance. It encompasses content on owned channels like a company blog as well as third party channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
The goal of a content calendar is to organize your workload and ensure you’re able to consistently produce quality content. Beyond just setting a date for publication, it makes it easier to track authors, themes, promotional avenues, and even keep production quality high. A comprehensive content calendar should cover three types of content.
The three types of content
- Regular content
Regular content refers to the pieces you produce most often. They relate to your business in a broad sense and can cover multiple topics. For example, if you have a fashion brand, you can create a blog that talks about how to wear dress shirts, what to wear in the spring, how to look good in leather, etc. While they’re all related, each piece stands on its own and can be in a variety of formats.
- Themed content series
Themed content can be a great way to engage an audience over the long term. These are pieces that have a specific theme and follow the same format. People tune in for the series because they know what to expect and find the content or format interesting. For example, a fashion brand could make a weekly video series titled “wardrobe essentials.” Each weekly video shows viewers how to make the most of simple pieces of clothing.
- One-off content
This type of content is produced infrequently and tends to be more difficult to create. It focuses on a major pain point or large topic that many people in your target market will be interested in. A fashion brand may create an eBook on “how to develop timeless style” while a marketing agency may create an annual report related to its industry. All three types of content are important and your content calendar will help you organize and create them.
What to include in your content calendar
Let’s look at the information you’ll include alongside each type of content you add to your calendar. Keep in mind that the way you present the information will be based on the tool you use which is discussed in the next section.
The topics list within your content calendar will always be growing and it’s healthy to have a good backlog of topics. Dedicate time at least once a month to adding additional topics for general pieces as well as thematic content series. It’ll help prevent missing deadlines because you don’t know what to create. Instead, you’ll be able to pick from the backlog and assign a due date.
Go further than just creating a backlog of topics. Consider fleshing out the topic a bit by adding an angle or describing the focus of the article. This will help your content retain consistent quality and POV. Write a paragraph or two about the main idea the piece should communicate or a basic outline.
- Publishing frequency
One of the main reasons organizations create content calendars is to establish and stick to a regular publishing cadence. Since everything is planned out, it’s easier to create pieces well in advance. For each of the types of content outlined in the previous section, you want to decide how often you’ll produce it. Once decided, arrange the topics by order of preference. If you’re using a calendar to arrange your content calendar then you can assign a due date to it now.
- Content format
Each content format has its own pros and cons. For example, the written content is easier to create but it’s not as engaging as video content. Video content is more difficult but it’s easier to hold the attention of your audience once you get the hang of it. Audio content has less competition than video and written content but it also requires a different skillset to create.
For each topic you add to your content calendar, you should also have a clear idea of the format you’ll be using initially. You may also want to add notes about how the content can be repurposed over time.
- Platform created for
Each piece should have a clear home right from the beginning. Make a note that explains where the piece should be published once created. For example, you may create a video that’s for YouTube and one more that’s only embedded on your website. Keep in mind that not all website builders give you the ability to insert the HTML required for a video embed. Choose a tool like Hostgator which you can be sure integrates with the major video players.
- General guidelines
Every content producer should have all the information they need to start creating content right at their fingertips. Add a section in your content calendar that shows them how to access all relevant material related to their work. This includes but is not limited to:
- Stock photo libraries
- Written content guidelines
- Brand voice guide or brand style guide
- Workflow diagrams and explanations (for example a breakdown or checklist of the company editorial process) etc.
The general guidelines will look different for each brand but do your best to include everything you think people will need. An optional element to include is the person responsible for each topic. If you do assign topics immediately, avoid scheduling anyone too far in the future because things can change at any time.
Choosing the right tool to organize your calendar
There are multiple ways to arrange a content calendar and, in the end, the one you choose will depend on what works best for you and your team. Generally speaking, there are three accepted methods.
- Kanban Board
When using a Kanban board to arrange your content calendar, the emphasis will be on the workflow instead of the due date. You may create columns labeled content resources, ideas, up next, in progress, draft complete, editing, passed editing, design, and scheduled. Here the due date is less important as long as something is in the design or scheduled phases. Kanban boards tend to give people more control over what they work on.
- Digital calendar
A digital calendar shifts the focus from the individual steps associated with creating content to the timeline. If you use this tool to organize your content calendar then you’ll immediately assign a due date to each topic. The challenge here is making sure people follow the right steps for producing high-quality content. Within each calendar entry, you can link to a checklist they should follow so everything is done properly. Many calendars can be embedded directly onto a platform like Wix or Squarespace so you just need to share the URL with your team.
A spreadsheet is the most versatile of all the tools mentioned here. You can create countless columns, rows, and even sheets for your team to work with. You can organize content by date, who it’s assigned to, and even the campaign it’s associated with. To track the status of the project, you can use dropdown lists that have labels such as in progress, draft complete, editing, etc. Another benefit is that it’s free when you use a tool like Google Sheets.
A content calendar serves as a single source of truth when it comes to your content production. It helps you stay organized, get ahead of the curve, and deliver a consistently high-quality product. Keep in mind that that the content calendar you choose today may not be the one you use a year from now and that’s alright. It’s more important that you’re organized and producing content your audience loves.