You’re a smart person. You understand the how and why behind content. You see how it can expand your professional reach, establish authority, bridge engagement, and even morph into a lean, mean marketing machine. You’re all about it! Maybe you’ve started a blog or are guest posting on major websites in your industry. Maybe you’re venturing into the creation of infographics and articles for social media engagement. You’re on the right track, but chances are you’re overlooking one crucial content strategy component: a content calendar or schedule.
3 Facts about Scheduling Content
A content schedule matters. It’s easy to step into blogging, or any form of content creation, with good intentions. It’s ten times harder to follow through. And here’s why:
1. Accountability: Wanting to blog regularly is an admirable goal. In fact, it’s crucial to progress. Consistent blogging benefits your brand in numerous ways, from growing readership to impressing the all-powerful Google gods of search engine optimization. But it’s easy to procrastinate your way right out of a regular schedule. By scheduling content, you create a plan to hold yourself accountable for executing.
2. Sanity: Go ahead and laugh, but just you wait! Keeping up with content is a bear of a task. It’s one of the major reasons businesses outsource content creation and management. It’s a full-time job, and keeping what sanity you possess is contingent upon seeing exactly where you’ve been, are and will be heading.
3. Direction: Building authority and readership doesn’t happen by accident. It takes strategic planning. This preparation is known as content marketing. It’s about understanding what your customers/readers want and tactically planning a means of delivering it while proving your worth in the value department. When content has direction, it’s ten times more likely to result in solid leads and sales, something every business, brand and indie author want.
Traffic growth doesn’t happen by chance. It’s usually intentional. While we cannot always predict when a piece of content will go viral, we can certainly get a better shot at creating epically shareable content if we stay organized. And that’s why a content schedule matters.
Creating a Content Calendar
A content calendar is a calendar of content. It’s comparable to a traditional editorial calendar, which is a tool used to visualize publishing. Today’s content calendars are usually a shareable resource used by marketing teams to plan content marketing activity, including blogs, press releases, national documents, and social media happenings.
Google the phrase “content calendar tool” and you’ll see page after page of pay for and free tools for generating a calendar. Trying to pick one is tough, but if you’re willing to tackle content scheduling solo then here are a few we recommend:
- The Editorial Calendar Plugin for WordPress: It’s a simple, drag and drop calendar that functions on your WordPress platform. It’s a great tool for easily developing, organizing, and managing a content strategy regardless of how many editors are overseeing the process.
- Edit Flow Powered by WordPress: This free plugin hands you a fully customizable editorial calendar complete with custom statuses, editorial comments, and more. It’s a great tool for team collaboration that we recommend.
- CoSchedule for WordPress: For businesses and brands on a budget, CoSchedule is a premium calendar plugin that runs $10 per month. It has more bells and whistles than the free plugins we’ve suggested, and it’s what we feel is the “go to” calendar for all your content marketing needs. You can see and schedule everything in one place from blogs to social media messages.
Creating Your First Content Calendar
If you’re new to the content calendar concept and a solo or small team act, we have one final suggestion to offer. You can dispense with the sometimes confusing bells and whistles and opt for a simplistic approach with a program just about everyone has: Microsoft Excel.
Using Excel, you can create and manage a content calendar for planning and checking off blog content. We started with this simple method, and it’s still something we use for preliminary content scheduling. Here’s a snapshot of our March calendar:
You can’t get much more basic than this, and it’s a clean, crisp means of pre-planning content. The gray boxes contain target word counts. The yellow boxes show unpublished content. The tan boxes contain published blogs.
This template isn’t meant to be all-inclusive and contain social media marketing or other data. It is strictly a means of visually planning blog content and creating a schedule you can easily update and check off. In short, it’s a means of holding yourself to your content goals. If you think it could be useful for your blog or website, grab a downloadable version for the rest of 2015 here.
Schedule Your Content
Content scheduling does not need to be complex. Granted, the bigger the brand is the most intense content creation and publication. But by using a content calendar, you can simplify management, encourage collaboration, and ultimately nurture a valuable content strategy. It may sound like annoying administrative work, but it’s an element of a content strategy you do not want to overlook.
Feature Image Credit: Ivelin Radkov via 123RF Stock Photo