You might want to dive straight into blogging at this point because you have so many great things to say.
The time you invest in working out what and when you are going to post can save hours of work on content that is beautiful but irrelevant. Think of infographics made from scratch and then scrapped at the last minute. Without planning. Your content may end up unused because they are not aligning with your audience, your goals and all the factors you become super aware of when you have a content calendar.
One key to great blogging is consistency. Having a content calendar can help significantly. Sometimes called an editorial calendar, making a visual plan for your posts week-to-week and month-to-month will help keep you on track.
This schedule is the perfect way to ensure that your blog has a strategy that keeps it interesting, varied, and full of new content for your readers. You're not going to write an ‘I guess I have some ideas’ blog. Yours will be a professionally planned blog with an editorial calendar.
9 Steps to Creating Your Content Calendar
1. Identify Your Target Audience
The first steps towards creating a content calendar is based on your marketing strategies. These are questions to ask yourself no matter what business you have. Start with ‘who’ and ‘why’, and your ‘what’ will become easier to discover.
As always in marketing, put your customer first. Who’s reading your blog? In other words, what’s the target market for your product, services, or information?
If you are a new mom with advice for other new moms, you have identified your target audience. Flesh this out by creating a buyer persona, which is a detailed description of your typical and ideal customer: a three-dimensional individual. Consider this person's name, gender, age, interests, problems and career goals.
It's helpful also to consider potential audiences that are related to but do not quite match your primary target audience or buyer persona. In this case, you might find pregnant women, new dads, and anyone who has family or friends with babies and would like to be more involved with them.
Who is at the fringes of your market? Make a list of everyone you’d like to attract to your blog. Do it now.
2. Identify the Needs of your Target Audience
What is it that your target audience is looking for when they sit down to conduct a Google search?
Let’s say you’re a plumber looking to attract customers in the local area. Local homeowners are likely to be potential customers for you, but what exactly do they need?
While some of them will need a plumber right away, many will need advice. For example, they might want to know whether the problem they’re having requires a plumber or they might want to learn how much damage a leaky pipe can do if not dealt with quickly. They might want to diagnose the type and extent of their plumbing problem based upon symptoms they have observed.
Use analytics, polls or surveys to work out where your visitors are coming from and why and determine how you can you best serve them.
3. Create Categories of Needs
Now you’ve got a list of needs appropriate to your target audience, break them down into categories. Some needs will be for advice or tutorials, which you could satisfy via ‘how-to’ articles or educational videos. Note that the solution might not be your product or service, but your expertise.
Another solution to a customer's problem might be to suggest how much it should cost to have a service performed by a pro.
As you break down your customers' needs into categories, you will find your blogging strategy emerging with increasing clarity.
4. Start a Topic List and Organize by Category
Now that you are clear on what your audience wants, you're thinking of perfect post ideas. Start writing them down.
Note which ideas would make brief posts and which ones are super broad. This list is going to grow, shrink, and otherwise, transform over and over again. It should.
There are a few more things you'll find it helpful to consider as you flesh out your ideas...
You may also be interested in "How to Generate The Most Effective Blog Post Ideas".
5. Think About Seasons and Events
Since you’re constructing a content calendar, pay close attention to the seasons, holidays, and events that affect our lives. As seasons change, so do people's behavior. How might the changing seasons affect your audience?
Consider the ways that your blog can serve the needs of your readers during each season, holiday, or major event. Is your audience going to be interested in the Oscars? Make sure you know the dates in advance and plan to publish at least one relevant post in the run-up to the big night.
During holidays, you may see a decline or a rise in traffic depending on your industry. A content calendar allows you to predict these trends and prepare for them. When it's quiet, you might optimize old posts and research future posts. When it's busy, you won't be taken by surprise.
Use the calendar to diarize your business events. Make sure product launches, big campaigns and anniversaries are palced in your calendar. If possible, set reminders well in advance to make sure that you post as the event approaches, not only as the dust is settling.
A content calendar ensures that your content stays aligned with your significant dates and events and that you don't forget any!
6. Convert Each Broad Topic into a Series
Don't worry if some of your topics seem very broad. This presents a great opportunity for writing the blog series.
Rather than producing one monster blog post, break the topic down into components of a longer series. Each post will share a common theme and link to the others in a way that is natural and organic.
An engaging blog series on a topic your readers care about will keep them coming back for more as you post your installments. Your visitors will want all the information you have on the subject, but breaking it down into smaller posts makes it more easily digestible and more focused.
Create at least four blog posts for your series and deliver them in a timely fashion - doing what you say you will build trust, especially when people are waiting for your next article.
7. Diversify Content Type
While you're writing down your ideas, remember that not every post has to be the same length and not every post needs to be text based.
Note on your calendar how you will use multimedia content, including videos, images, and infographics. Consider scheduling guest bloggers to provide value to your audience.
Variety is important to keep your site dynamic. Make sure to maintain some balance between long, in-depth blog posts and shorter, snappier posts, including those that comprise mostly of visual media.
Consider the type of business or blog you’re running and use content types that are appropriate. If you're not sure, check out your competition and see what's working for them.
8. Diversify Your Social Media Channels
Work out where you will promote your post before it's even written. By tagging each idea or title in your content calendar with the social media channels you intend to use to promote each one, you'll have the context in which your audience will acquire the content.
Use analytics to work out which social media networks are attracting your target audience and balance this against the networks that give you the greatest number of referrals.
Take all this information back to your calendar and use it to smooth the way ahead.
9. Start Using That Calendar!
You’re ready. You’ve done the legwork, all you’ve got to do now is start plugging these great ideas into a visual calendar.
Find a system that works for you. Some people like an online calendar that they can access from anywhere and provide email alerts, such as Google Agenda or Edit Flow, which works in Wordpress. Others find that a physical calendar is more practical. Perhaps a pocket Moleskine or a giant whiteboard scribbled on with colored markers is your preferred method for scheduling?
Whatever you use to organize your posts - schedule, write, publish and promote.
Aim to have at least two months of posts scheduled in advance, including seasonal topics and posts that you can post at any time. The key is to think ahead and be prepared to react to changes, whether they be internal or external to your business.
Remember to Evaluate and Adjust
Throughout the year, you’ll find that current events or strokes of brilliance will change the schedule of your content calendar. That’s fine. A content calendar is a guide, a baseline starting point.
Look after your content calendar and it will look after your blog, ensuring that you’ve always got what you need to keep your blog relevant and full of great posts. Make sure you use evaluation tools and re-evaluate your content calendar on a regular basis. Put the evaluation dates in the calendar!
A quarterly or preferably more frequent evaluation will help you to know whether your ideas are the right ideas, and whether or not they’re reaching your target audience.
Use analytics tools such as Google Analytics to track your unique page views, lead generation, and click rates of your past articles. You can use this information to work out which articles have performed best and why. Then you can alter your content calendar to take advantage of this information.
You'll also be able to tell where your visitors to each article are coming from, which is valuable information for adjusting and optimizing both your content marketing and your social media strategy.
Even if you're just beginning to blog, merely using a content calendar puts you in a different league to your average blogger.