The Ultimate Guide for Assembling an Effective Content Calendar
In my opinion, the best part about content marketing is that feeling of accomplishment you get when you finish and publish your content. Do you agree?
In order to get to that point, you must have a process in place for developing, organizing and maintaining all your ideas and hard work.
In other words, you need a content (or editorial) calendar.
As part two of my content inventory series, I discuss the essential elements of a content calendar plus the resources to get you started:
Why create a content calendar
Choosing the format for your calendar
Including the necessary elements
Maintaining your calendar
Why Create a Content Calendar?
Do you still hesitate to use a content calendar? Do you have concerns or doubts over its effectiveness and worth? Do you struggle to find a reason to change the way you organize?
I felt the same way for a long time. I worried about the time commitment and effort required. Yet, not long ago, I realized just how valuable a calendar can be:
A content calendar not only helps you stay organized and on track. It helps both individuals and groups stay focused with the ability to plan ahead in an efficient way. Content teams can remain in sync with each other at every stage. It prevents confusion and lessens the team’s error rate.
My best suggestion for considering a content calendar is to look at your existing content strategy and workload.
- Are you struggling to keep up with the demands in your strategy?
- Are you struggling to plan ahead and focus on your long-term goals?
- How are you proving your blog and social media ROI?
If you are currently having any difficulty with idea development, content organization, content planning, or any form of maintenance, you should consider the switch to a content calendar.
Choosing the Format for Your Calendar
When you do a Google search on content or editorial calendars, you’ll find yourself bombarded with articles and resources that either insist you go a specific route or provide an overwhelming, comprehensive list of pre-made formats and templates to choose from.
The problem with these pre-made templates is: they provide little to no ability to customize for your situation.
What works best for one person or company will not always work for another. Use a format that fits with your unique needs, not what works best for the majority.
Also, as I’ve mentioned before, you should have one calendar that holds all your content information, including both your blog and social media. If a template you find doesn’t allow for this combination, it might not be your best option.
If you think you don’t have the time to create your own template, consider how long it would take you to customize an existing template from someone else. It might actually be more efficient to create one yourself.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I want to go with a template or create my own system?
- Should I create a print version or stick to online software?
- Do I have existing content software that can benefit from an additional calendar program?
Including the Necessary Elements
Your calendar can’t do the job you’ll need it to do if it doesn’t include all the information for your blog and social media content.
Most pre-existing templates give you room for various elements, such as date and status, but you’ll likely need to find one that allows you to add and remove as needed.
I’ve provided an example of what my own calendar includes below, but again, what works for me might not be what you’re looking for. The important word to keep in mind is:
Content Marketing Institute has a template that allows for plenty of customization, and Michele Linn provides a great explanation on how to use it in her article: How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing.
I use Excel for my content calendar, but I plan to move on to online software in the near future. Until then, this is what I focus on for my content marketing:
I have a blog tab to include elements, such as:
I have a social media tab to include elements for each platform I’m using, including:
I also have an extra tab for idea development, which includes these elements:
Proposed publish date
To be honest, using Excel is very time consuming for me, which is why I’m considering switching to a software program. I’m starting to think it’s worth the investment. However, if you have the time or staff to handle your own template, Excel might be your best, most affordable choice.
You just have to make sure you include all the content elements you can. When you do that, you make your activity so much easier to manage.
Maintain Your Calendar
After you’ve set up your calendar, your next step is to maintain your records in the most efficient, consistent way possible. If you don’t do this, you defeat the purpose of your calendar.
So how do you make sure you’re keeping a calendar that works? After all your hard work, you don’t want it to go to waste.
Nathan Ellering wrote an article for Convince and Convert called: 10 Reasons Your Editorial Calendar Sucks (and How to Make It the Best). He makes several great points about why editorial calendars are important, why you should consolidate them, why you should focus on traffic, and much more.
This article is filled with advice on maintaining a calendar that gives you the most success. My favorite piece is about social media metrics.
Ellering insists that social sharing or “vanity” metrics matter. I tend to agree, especially after reading his reasoning. You can’t determine the popularity of your content without measuring who and how many people are sharing it. As Ellering put it:
“If you had the ability to choose what to read based on what you know is popular, wouldn’t that make it worth your time?”
Don’t let your hard work with your calendar lose focus or quality. Maintain it with dedication and measurement.
At this point, I’ve said what I can about content calendars. The next step is to implement what I and others have recommended.
I’ve listed a few tools here, whether they be software or templates, to help you get started. They are divided by Paid and Free. When it comes to templates, I’ve linked to a resource list provided by Curata you can check for downloads.
Your Google Calendar
- Editorial calendars are not optional. You need them to get the most out of your content.
- Combine all your calendars into one for better organization and efficiency.
- Choose a calendar design based upon your unique needs, not the popularity of the software or format.
- Fill your calendar with every element you have for both blogging and social so that you get as much from it as you can.
- Don’t let your hard work go to waste. Consistently maintain your calendar.
Do you like what you read here? Pass it along to your own networks!
Read part one of this series: Prevent Content Drought With The Ultimate Reliable Inventory.
Stay tuned for Part 3: Keeping your content inventory fresh and full