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How to Create a Kick-Ass Editorial Calendar for Your Blog
Perhaps one of the most daunting tasks of starting, or keeping up with a blog is the editorial calendar. If you’re like me at all, you need to write everything down just to make sure you remember what’s going on that day. I subsist on never-ending to-do lists and personally, nothing is more rewarding than being able to check off an item from the list.
When it comes to creating an editorial calendar for you blog, a similar tactic can be used, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming pile of information waiting to be written. It can be whatever you need it to be. If you are an SEO-focused writer whose goal is to boost your blog to the front page of Google search results, you can adjust your editorial calendar to include the SEO details. If you just need to keep track of your blog post ideas and when to do the research and actual writing for the piece, you can adjust the calendar to meet your specific needs.
Use these steps to go from zero to full-fledged editorial calendar in no time flat. With this method you’ll be able to determine what you need to include, what you can leave out, and what process/layout works best for your style of working.
1. Figure out how frequently you’ll publish
Before you do anything else you need to determine how frequently you want to publish your blog posts. The way your calendar looks will differ depending on whether you post every single day, once a week or even once a month. Once you know which days of the week you want to create new content for, you can create spots for the content information in your calendar.
2. Decide what kind of document you want to use
Depending on how you like to work you may prefer different kinds of documents. If you are a tech-savvy blogger who is comfortable with a virtual calendar you could use a WordPress plugin (if you’re using WordPress), a shared Google document or a simple spreadsheet to keep track of your editorial calendar.
If you prefer an old school physical calendar, that will work too! Note that you will be limited in the information you can write down due to the restrictions that come along with a physical calendar. Try using sticky notes so you have some flexibility in where or when you write about a specific post so if you change your mind you can change your calendar without starting from scratch. Whatever works for you is the way you should set it up.
3. Determine categories your posts will cover
Think about what broad categories you want to cover. If you are writing a food blog you could organize your posts around categories like “Breakfast,” “Lunch,” and “Dinner.” You could also organize them by “Recipes,” “Step-by-Step,” and “Cookbooks.” Once you have a solid list of categories you want to cover, you can start to determine which categories you want to talk about each week/month.
4. Make a list of the types of posts you’ll write
If every blogger wrote exactly the same kind of post for every article they published it would get boring really quickly. One big photo, an intro paragraph, three paragraphs explaining the post topic and a conclusion. Rinse, repeat. Doesn’t sound especially scintillating does it?
You could write lists, step-by-step breakdowns, interviews, questions and answers, reviews of places you’ve visited, link roundups, polls, a series of posts, feature-length articles, and many more. Figure out what kind of blog posts you are willing to write to keep things fresh and if possible, determine which type of post would be best to cover each of the categories you listed above.
5. Create space to identify SEO-specific information for each post
If you have space (or are using an online version of an editorial calendar), be sure to leave space for the ever-important SEO information. Meta keywords, descriptions, title tags, and more can all contribute to your overarching SEO strategy and a little effort up-front will take a lot of the work out of actually writing the piece.
If you already know what keyword you want to target for the article and what category it will fit into and what type of post it will be, all that’s left to do is fill in the blanks!
6. Brainstorm and write down post topics you want to write about
Now it’s time for the real bread and butter of an editorial calendar–the actual topics and ideas you want to write about! For some people this is the hardest part of planning. Inspiration doesn’t hit until they’re stuck in traffic on the way to work, or they jolt awake in the middle of the night with a fantastic blog idea.
If we continue off the food blog example I mentioned above, you could figure out that you want to do a series of posts about breakfast, and more specifically around breakfast dishes that include granola. You can vary your post type by including a recipe one week, a step-by-step photo tour the next week, a Q&A post about granola’s health benefits the following week and a link roundup of the best granola recipes on the web as your closure. That’s four blog posts right there, and you’ve barely started brainstorming!
When you put effort into the bones of the editorial calendar and give yourself options to choose from, it’s easy to beat writer’s block and to become inspired by your own work.
7. Make a promotion plan for each post to be published
So, now you’ve got the post topics, the types of posts, the categories, the additional SEO information, the actual calendar (physical or online), and the frequency of posting. The last thing you need to determine before you sit down and put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard is the promotion plan for your posts.
It’s one thing to do all this research and create a kick-ass editorial calendar, but if you don’t have a plan to share your content, all that effort is a moot point. Determine now how you want to share your blog posts. Do you have a weekly newsletter you could include one post on? Do you have a following (or want to cultivate a following) on Facebook or Twitter? By committing to a social promotion plan before you start writing, you are putting yourself on the hook to follow through.
Phew! That’s it! Seven steps! After all of that is complete, it’s time to start writing. Once you do the hard work at the start, you’ll quickly realize that having an editorial calendar for your blog is so much better than trying to wing it. It helps keep you organized, prepared and (mostly) stress-free.
Do you try anything different? What method works best for your blog?
[Photo credit: Alejandro Escamilla, Unsplash]