The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Your Editorial Calendar

Posted on June 2, 2015 by Miranda B

calenderSo you know the drill. You need to create and publish web content that meets your marketing needs. Well, my friend, you in fact need a content marketing calendar. This jewel of a tool will help you polish specific marketing points for each piece of content you publish. Additionally, you can avoid the whole forgot-to-include-a-headline/category/description/call-to-action dilemma. You’ll be capable of cranking out content on a regularly timed schedule without adding extra stress to your busy schedule. Without further ado, let’s get to ‘calendaring’ that content of yours.

Step 1: Set up a Template

Begin with the bare bones of your content calendar. Most typically this step involves some spreadsheet of sorts, but you could also whip out an old-fashioned desktop calendar and pen. You’ll want to set up your calendar over the course of a year. This helps you schedule for holiday themes and personal vacations. Unless you are a true go-getter, keep your content posts to weekly in the beginning. Choose a day and time to post that are consistent every week, i.e. Tuesday at 2 pm or Wednesday at noon. Use your website statistics to determine when people are most frequently visiting your site to help you hone in on a publishing date.

Step 2: Themify It

The next thing is to categorize your content by themes. First make note of your overall theme. What is the main purpose and passion behind your web content? Perhaps you have a website where your purpose is to sell locks of organic yarn from yawning alpacas in the Himalayas. Maybe you are working on your content writing business blog with the purpose of attracting clients. Whatever you are doing with your website, there is a reason and you need to pinpoint the precise purpose of your content. From there, decide what types of content will work best in relaying your theme. For example:

  • White papers work best for informing and educating readers
  • E-books are great for showcasing fiction writing or for providing how-to guides about a product
  • Blog posts are an informal way to connect with readers, while offering quality advice or information

Choose a theme per month for a total of 12 themes using your overarching theme for structure. For instance, if your purpose is to offer webpage design consultation services, your theme for January may be to explore restructuring and redesigning websites for the New Year. By May your theme could reflect the fun of summer by offering summer vacation design theme advice. Then, break the theme into weekly segments.

Step 3: Breaking It Down

To make things easier for you and your audience create a template for each week of the month that carries over monthly. For example, during the first week of every month you can go with informative content that addresses the ‘what’ of the monthly theme. By the second week you are ready to show why this theme is valuable and important to your target audience. For the third week you are giving how-to information and tips for making the themed action come to life. In the last week you can offer free templates, how-to guides, eBooks or white papers that bring everything full circle. Here is an example of this process in action:

Purpose: Selling locks of organic yarn from yawning alpacas in the Himalayas

Monthly Theme: January—Making Your Yarn Come to Life with Warm Winter Wearables

Week 1: What kind of yarn from alpacas is best for making warm clothing, along with the types of clothing usually made using the yarn?

Week 2: Why do people prefer to use alpaca wool for clothing? What are the benefits to the reader? Include a guest post by someone who makes wool clothing for purchase

Week 3: How-to advice for knitting and crocheting using alpaca wool, i.e. what types of tools to use, washing/caring for alpaca wool pieces?

Week 4: How-to guide for creating a hat using alpaca wool in the form of downloadable pdf knitting instructions

For this type example, each month could revolve around the same concepts, i.e. talking about a product in the first week and offering a free downloadable by week four. Throughout the month you can tease the reader with the free download available at the end of the month. This helps to grow the rate of return readers. Additionally, when you offer the free downloadable, whether it is an eBook, white paper or template, ask for the reader’s email address so you can send the downloadable via email. This gives you an ability to create an ongoing marketing campaign with interested, targeted users.

Here are some more alternative ideas of ways to create weekly content blasts:

  • Publish a guest post each month, i.e. guest posters talk about their experience with said concept, product or service every second week
  • Feature video content sourced from reputable sites, i.e. TED or YouTube videos, as related to your product or service once a month; you can also create videos to feature on your site for even more mass marketing appeal
  • Make every first Monday a discount day, in which every person who visits your blog/website receives a coupon code for a percentage off of your products or services
  • For every freebie you give away during the last week of the month, have a content in which the users must read and find clues in the content you’ve published related to the monthly theme in the last three weeks.

List of Content Calendar Must-haves

When you are creating a content calendar it is important to remember the details. Check out this list of must-haves for your content calendar. Of course you may have additional items that you want to include. The following items would theoretically be used as column headers in a spreadsheet, or as a checklist for a paper-form calendar:

  • Title and headline for the content
  • Category of content: text, video, slideshow, etc.
  • Type of content: article, blog post, eBook, white paper or template
  • Creation due date
  • Publishing date
  • SEO keywords/phrases that are targeted
  • Author’s name
  • Editor, if applicable
  • What is the targeted user persona for the piece? Check out the Nielson Norman Group for a guide on developing user personas.
  • Marketing channels to utilize post publication, i.e. social media networks, news sites and email campaign
  • META description
  • Call to action
  • Images or videos to include

In order to make a content calendar work for you, you will need to take the initial effort to organize and create your calendar. However, after this investment of time and energy you will have all of your content planned out for the next 12 months. Instead of fretting over what you are going to publish each week, you will have everything laid out for you. You can spend your time making your content punch harder and reach farther, allowing you to expand your online marketing presence to the outer skirts of Onlinelandiness. Additionally, your audience will come to expect, and return to find, certain types of content every week and month. This will help you create a lasting readership built on trust and a staunch reputation.

Do you currently use a content calendar, and if so, what tips can you offer readers for making a content calendar work for your content marketing efforts?

Writer Bio: Once a pantser for fiction writing and web content production, Miranda B quickly moved into the planner position of developing meaty content for clients and her own publications.


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