Keeping up with a blog is a lot of work. When you first get started with your blog, you might underestimate just how much time it takes to produce quality content on a regular basis. While we aren’t going to say that planning out your blog strategy will make the job easy, it certainly will make it a lot easier – so this article is going to focus on helping you build a detailed, strategic content marketing calendar for your site.
With a content calendar in place, you will no longer feel like you are always behind with your content creation. It’s common for people who run a blog to constantly feel like they are struggling to keep up, and it can be hard to get ahead of the game. We hope we can help you finally turn the corner by putting a calendar in place that keeps you on track and helps your blog become a valuable part of your overall marketing strategy. Let’s get started!
Why a content calendar is important
At the core of any successful blog lies a well-planned and meticulously executed content calendar. It is the heartbeat that keeps your blogging strategy alive and pulsating with purpose. Through its structure and foresight, it empowers you, the talented writer, to chart a course for your blog content, captivating your audience and guiding them along a carefully choreographed journey.
According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, companies with a documented content strategy are over 3 times more likely to succeed in their marketing efforts. A blog content calendar provides the foundation upon which you can build your success.
Planning helps you reach your customer within the buyer’s journey
Inbound marketing is all about attracting, engaging, and delighting your audience through relevant and valuable content. The creation of a content calendar plays a pivotal role in embracing this methodology by guiding you to create and distribute content that resonates with your target audience at each stage of their buyer’s journey. By mapping out your blog topics, keywords, and publishing schedule in advance, you can ensure that every piece of content serves a purpose in your overarching content marketing strategy.
Planning helps you to be consistent
Additionally, a blog content calendar fosters consistency, a key ingredient in establishing trust and building a loyal readership. When your audience knows that they can rely on you to deliver high-quality content consistently, they are more likely to become avid followers and ambassadors of your brand.
According to a study by the Nielsen Norman Group, users appreciate predictability and are more likely to return to a website that consistently provides valuable information. Your content calendar acts as a compass, allowing you to stay on track and maintain a steady rhythm of publishing that keeps your readers engaged and hungry for more.
Being consistent is incredibly important to me personally because I know how I feel when I find a good resource, but then they stop posting content on a regular basis. This in turn makes me unfollow or ultimately forget about them as I look elsewhere for a reliable source of new content.
Planning helps you to look ahead and be proactive
Beyond consistency, a content calendar enables you to plan for relevant events, holidays, and industry trends. By aligning your blog topics with timely and trending subjects, you can tap into the collective consciousness of your audience and stay ahead of the curve. This proactive approach not only keeps your content fresh and relevant but also positions you as a thought leader in your industry.
Planning encourages collaboration and alignment
Furthermore, a blog content calendar encourages collaboration and accountability within your marketing team. By sharing the calendar with your team members, you can foster a sense of ownership and collective responsibility for the success of your blog.
Each team member can contribute their ideas, expertise, and insights, ensuring that your content is well-rounded and diverse. With everyone working from the same strategic roadmap, you can avoid duplication, gaps in coverage, and missed opportunities. As the saying goes, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” and a content calendar is a secret weapon that empowers your team to collaborate seamlessly.
Even if you’re a solo blogger, taking the time to do research and explore with other experts and groups online as you plan out your editorial calendar can be a great way to make collaboration work in your favor.
Start with the Big Picture
Before you get into the details of creating your content calendar, sit back and think about how you’d like the blog to function in the months and years ahead. Are you planning on the blog being a central piece of your digital marketing strategy, or will it simply be a complementary piece to some of your social media posts and other initiatives? Putting this puzzle together can be a challenge.
Plan for the right resources
Obviously, if you are planning on your blog playing a major role in your marketing strategy, you’ll need to support it with sufficient resources. Posting new content to the blog weekly – or even more frequently – requires significant time and effort. That means you’ll either need to do that work in-house, or you’ll need to make the budget available to hire a writer for the task.
An active blog is one that will have a good chance to gain traction and start ranking for a variety of keywords. It’s not that you shouldn’t bother blogging with a slow content schedule, but you should certainly dial down your expectations if you’re unable to create great content on a regular basis.
How often should you post to your blog?
We’d suggest that your blog should be getting new, high-quality content at least once per week if you want to make a dent in your market. If you aren’t sure how often to post, check out what your competition is doing and use that information as a starting point.
That said, the more content you create, the better. Just make sure that quality is always your focus, not volume. You don’t want to get started on a blog that isn’t going to be sustainable over the long run, so crunch the numbers upfront to see what you find.
For example, imagine that you are going to pay a writer $100 per post, and you are going to post once per week. That’s over $5,000 per year just in payments to your blog writer – does that fit in your budget? Come at these decisions from an informed position of planning so you don’t have to make rushed changes or deal with surprises later on.
Once you figure out how often you’ll be posting, you can start to think about the other components that are going to bring your own blog calendar to life. Remember, the more details you can include in the content calendar, the more useful it will be over time. As you start to give your calendar some shape, you explore some of the recommendations below:
Brainstorming topics (Use your brain and experience)
This is where it all starts. Before you can build a content calendar, you need to know what you are going to be writing about, or what kinds of topics you’ll be sending to your writer to handle.
While it’s possible to build a blog that just does one type of writing over and over again, you’ll more likely want to mix it up with a few different types of posts (more on that later).
To get started, simply open up a blank document – or get out a blank sheet of paper – and just make a big list. At this point, the list doesn’t need any form or structure. Just put down anything you can think of that might be a logical blog post to appear on your website. This list can be as long as you would like, so give yourself some time to really fill it out with a bunch of ideas.
Not all of these ideas will wind up working out, of course, but that doesn’t matter at this point. Generate a huge list and give yourself some raw material to work with as you start to craft what your blog will become.
To go along with picking out blog topics, keyword research is another huge piece of this equation. You need to know what keywords you are targeting with your blog posts so you can have a reasonable expectation of pulling in organic search traffic once your posts are up and start to rank.
For some businesses, this won’t mean any extra work at all, as many companies already have a detailed set of keyword research documents and spreadsheets that they use to go after the right searchers for their business. If you don’t have anything like that in place, however, now is the time to get started.
You can use any of a number of different keyword research tools to figure out what you’ll be targeting with your blog posts, or you can hire a freelancer or agency to do this work for you. Given the outsized importance that keyword research has on the success of your blog, be sure to give this point the time and attention that it deserves.
A.I. for brainstorming
Have you heard about artificial intelligence? It’s a popular and controversial topic these days because a lot of bloggers think they can let A.I. create their content. They just type a prompt, and boom, done. This obviously is not an ideal approach for many reasons so don’t cut corners.
But, using A.I. to research and brainstorm topics for your content calendar is a game changer. With A.I., you have a super-smart assistant that can analyze massive amounts of information in a fraction of the time it would take a mere mortal like you or me.
A.I.-powered tools can crawl the web, scour social media platforms, and analyze user behavior to gather insights on what’s buzzing in your industry. They can identify trends, popular keywords, and even detect gaps in the market that you can fill with your awesome content. It’s like having a personal researcher who never sleeps and always has the latest scoop.
Linking and the HUB or Pillar approach
Thinking ahead about how you’re going to link your content within your website is important. If you think about linking while you are thinking about your overall strategy and your content calendar, you can better prepare to have opportunities to send links to related content while writing blog posts.
A summary of the HUB approach or Pillar content strategy
At the heart of the pillar content strategy lies the concept of building pillar pages. These pages serve as the foundational hubs of your blog content strategy, tackling broad topics that resonate with your audience. These posts are comprehensive and in-depth, providing a one-stop-shop for broad but essential information on a particular subject. Think of them as the majestic pillars that hold up the roof of your content kingdom.
But here’s the real magic and where planning comes into effect: pillar pages are not standalone pieces. They’re connected to a cluster of related blog posts, or sub-topics that are related to the top-level pillar topic. These pieces, called cluster content, delve deeper into specific subtopics, providing more detailed insights, examples, or practical tips. Each cluster piece is like a loyal servant, supporting and linking back to its mighty pillar.
So, why is the pillar content strategy a game-changer? Well, it’s all about organization, authority, and SEO power. By structuring your content around pillars and clusters, you create a logical and interconnected web that guides your audience through a cohesive content journey.
Crafting a Calendar
With plenty of theory and general discussion out of the way, let’s get down to business in this section. If you are ready to sit down and produce your first content calendar, here is how it is done –
Start by choosing how far in advance you would like to schedule your content.
For a blog that is going to be updated weekly, consider scheduling it out three months in advance. That’s a good timeframe that will have you scheduling about 12 posts initially. Then, at the end of each month, you can take a new month onto the end of the schedule, meaning you only have to come up with four new ideas at a time moving forward.
Mark specific dates that you want to post content
Mark dates on the calendar for the release of each blog post, then work backward to determine how much time you’ll need to produce those posts and have them ready for the release date. If you are going to outsource the writing, you might want to discuss this schedule with your chosen writer to make sure it works for everyone involved.
Get specific with target keywords and topics
For each post, assign a title, a target keyword, and the general topic that is going to be discussed. Also, if you are going to think about linking within your calendar, you can also make a note of what links are to be placed in the post.
Share your calendar for collaboration
Depending on the size and structure of your business, you may want to use a shared calendar setup for this content planning process. That way, you can assign different tasks to different people and everyone will know where to look for upcoming posting dates.
As you go about developing topics and bringing together your calendar, consider formalizing your selection of a few different post categories that you’ll use to keep things organized and guide your planning. There are many different types of posts you could potentially feature on your blog, including –
Product feature pieces
Customer testimonials or case studies
Instructional guides, such as how-to articles
Long-form topic discussions
The list above could go on and on. You can let your imagination run and perhaps take some inspiration from other blogs in your industry.
This is a good time to go back again to your master list of potential topics that you created earlier. By sorting through that list of ideas, you can probably sketch out some categories that will make sense for what you plan to put on the blog.
By having categories, you might be able to enjoy an SEO boost that comes from “siloing” some of your content, and you can also have category pages where people who like one post can find other similar pieces.
Track Performance and Adjust
For all of the hard work you put into planning out how your blog is going to work when you first create a calendar, the sad reality is that you certainly aren’t going to nail it completely on the first try. Some of what you decide to do just won’t work out that well, and that’s okay. It’s hard work to build a quality blog, and you’ll inevitably have to make some adjustments and tweaks along the way to get where you’d like to go.
This is where tracking the performance of your posts is going to be so important. By monitoring the traffic that is flowing to each of your posts, along with the ranking that each post has achieved in the search results for the targeted keyword, you can quickly gain an understanding of where your efforts are being rewarded and where they are falling short.
For instance, you might find that one of your post categories just doesn’t seem to bring in traffic, despite plenty of quality content being on the site. If that’s the case, you might pivot away from that category, acknowledging that your audience didn’t respond quite as positively to those posts as you had expected. It’s better to make that change along the way than to continue pouring resources into a losing strategy.
Now, go get started on the right foot!
We hope the value of creating a detailed blog content calendar is now clear, and we hope the advice included above will help you to put this strategy into place in your business.
There will be some upfront time and effort needed to build a calendar and to get things moving in the right direction, but that’s an investment that will be worth making when you see how this approach starts to pay off over time.
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