Why Building a Content Calendar is a Great Idea and Why it Works

by | 6 Jan, 2022 | Ideas

18 Minute Read

A content calendar will help you decide the content which would be of most interest and value to your target audience throughout the year. It helps you stick to your content strategy for the long term and remain creative all year long.  In today’s fast-paced competitive environment, getting the word out about your company, product and services to as many people as possible is paramount.  If you’ve read our article ‘How SEO Works‘, you’ll know that high-quality content is a key ranking factor for your website in search engines.

A good place to start when trying to create a calendar for your content is by thinking about what you would like to achieve. Content calendars should be tailored to the content creator and their respective audience. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that all your work has a purpose and is targeting a specific audience and fits into your overall content marketing plan.

Let’s look a little deeper into the benefits of a content calendar, how to create one and how it will benefit your business.

A content calendar is a timeline of all the articles and blog posts that will be published on a particular site over a given period.

 

What is a Content Calendar?

A content calendar is a timeline of all the articles and blog posts that will be published on a particular site over a given period. This timeline helps to determine things such as how much content should be produced each month and to help spot gaps in the content schedule. This can then be used by marketers to plan their marketing strategy and by editors to plan the content that will be available on their site, day in and day out.

Not only does a content calendar help with your website’s core blogging articles and frequency, but they help digital marketers even further because they allow them to plan their social media campaigns around the times the articles are released also. This means that the calendar will also serve your social media content calendar too.

By doing this you will be creating a content agenda which is a scheduled list of all your planned content pieces and their designated deadlines. This will cover the three core phases of content creation:

  • planning
  • managing
  • and implementing content

Why Do I Need a Content Calendar?

Content calendars help you stay organized and on track when it comes to your blog article.  High-quality content is one of the key digital marketing trends so it must be part of your marketing mix from the outset.

With a calendar in place, you’ll have a better understanding of what topics you need to cover and in what timeframe. A calendar also helps you plan for social media posts to maximise your social media efforts and monthly newsletters. It’s easier to get your blog posts scheduled properly when you use a content calendar because it will tell you what posts are due and when they should be published.

Your calendar is the key to staying relevant online. It’s also the plan that will let you know exactly what you need to create for your blog or website. A calendar helps you make sure that your posts are scheduled in advance, so you don’t find yourself scrambling to come up with something to publish next and do a poor job.

Your calendar is your content strategy’s action plan. You might not have one yet, simply because you don’t have a well-planned strategy. Having a calendar is great for situations where you want to stay organized and on track, especially on days when you just can’t get going or lack the spark. Having a prepared calendar means your schedule is already ahead of time.

How Does it Work?

A content calendar is a way for marketers and businesses to organize their content marketing strategy as well as their social media content calendar. Your calendar can include articles, social media posts, blog articles, videos, infographics and so on. A good content calendar should have a balance of strategies that are timely and will connect with your target audience.

The easiest way to start is by listing the content you wish to create and planning when the core content will be created, then assigning delivery deadlines to each piece of content.

Creating content calendars doesn’t take long and not only makes caring for your content more enjoyable and less stressful but having one will also aid you in developing more successful and valuable information that is more likely to connect further with your audiences.

What are the Benefits of a Content Calendar?

Many companies are now delaying their marketing strategies because of the surge in content. A content calendar is an efficient way to stay organized when it comes to creating pieces of information that can be shared with your target audience.

A content calendar keeps you honest with your production goals. For example, if you say that you’re creating content at a rate of six pieces per month but aren’t tracking deadlines and assignments, you won’t meet your targets, and will likely fall in the SEO rankings losing valuable leads.

You Can Share Your Plan with Your Team

Anyone should be able to see your calendar so they can see what’s upcoming on your schedule. Additionally, it provides a full picture of your schedule and what posts are coming and where your immediate focus should be to meet any looming deadlines.

You, Will, Keep on Track

When you’re behind schedule, you can see where bottlenecks are. Maybe it’s the bottleneck in the development process? Or maybe your lack of resources has caused trouble? Whatever it is, you can understand it and work to eliminate it.

You, Will, Centralise Your Content Marketing Plan

It will serve you well to manage information in a central place. The calendar uses workflows to streamline tasks, and it is all in one place, boosting productivity. A calendar of articles and pieces that include notes, comments, files, and other information in one program makes coordination and collaboration simple. It also keeps your social media content calendar full too. This is also especially helpful when running a content audit to check relevancy at any given time.

It Will Save You Time

Despite what at first might feel like more work, creating a calendar can save you a lot of time.

By conducting thorough research first, you are not wasting time writing articles that have no traffic or relevance to your audience. You’re not creating videos and posting content that won’t get seen. You are also not wasting time doing something that will not bring a return on investment. You also reduce the need to rush content out the door and can take your time to ensure it’s of high value and can be reused time and time again to greater effect. A few quality pieces of content will be of much greater benefit than lots of small, short content pieces that gain no traction. Your audience will thank you for it by engaging with you more.

You, Will, Make Fewer Errors

By taking your time to plan, you will reduce errors. Everything will be aligned across your social channels, and everything will be on point. Nothing will appear random but well thought out. It gives you time to create incredible content and build a more active audience who will become more interested in you. You will also appear much more professional.

You Won’t Panic

A little stress is good. It can bring out the best in people. But too much stress leads to panic. This can often lead to paralysis and then nothing gets done. The result, no fresh content.

Can you imagine what would happen if Netflix or Disney+ just one day stopped creating new shows? Everyone would leave the platform pronto. The same goes for your website and online communities. Content is your greatest asset and your best way of expressing yourself. It’s one of the few assets in a business that can be reused to greater effect.

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Your Content Will Remain Fresh and Frequent

You need to remain current, on topic and alive to your audience’s needs. By creating a calendar, you can plan ahead and ensure you have numerous pieces of content to support your marketing campaigns. By keeping your content relevant and evergreen you can start your own content curation and pick and choose when and where your articles will be best suited.

There’s nothing more satisfying than helping others with helpful articles. You also have more time to build a catchy call to action (CTA) button too which will keep your audience active for longer with your business and brand. It also gives your sales team a lot to work with.

You, Will, Make Iterative Improvements

Not only will you be helping your customers, but you will be helping your team improve too. Your articles and social channels can be shared internally to keep your training current and your employees engaged in what you are up to. As times change, you can update your content and optimise it further than having to start from scratch each time. If a particular event happens each year and you didn’t get much traction on your content, once it’s passed you now have a whole year to build upon what you learnt the year before to be better prepared next time.

You Will Increase Creativity and Learning

Having time to think freely and mind map creative content can be energising. There’s a certain energy you can take when you have a lot of people in a room or over a conference call all having fun and thinking up new and innovative ways to engage with your customers.

It’s also a great way to share knowledge and pick out those who are going to take ownership of your next great piece. It’s a valuable part of content creation and one which should be encouraged. There is so much that can be gained by bringing everyone together to think creatively. You’ll be amazed at what ideas come out of it.

Do this often and you’ll have a consistent flow of ideas not just for your next campaign but your entire business, and that’s just fun for the entire team.

You, Will, Create More Valuable and Relevant Content

Part of your content workflow is ensuring that you create value and remain relevant. If you don’t do either of these two things, then you won’t be much help to anyone. In a world where attention can be stolen in a moment, it’s more important than ever to remain relevant.

This doesn’t always mean that you should be going viral with a humorous video because that can also hurt a brand image if it’s handled poorly, but it does mean that you must be aware of what’s going on around you. This might be just keeping tabs on what is trending over the current week, month and even year.

A misplaced comment here and a poorly thought-out response there can really drag your audience down. That’s why planning is so crucial. Without a plan, you are always reacting, but by planning, you can adapt faster and modify what’s not working to make it work.

How To Create a Content Calendar

If you have never created a content calendar or have no idea where to start, then here we outline the steps you need to go through to get the best out of your calendar across the business.

Define Your Goals

The first step in creating your calendar is to define what your goals are for the information you are going to create. This will greatly impact your approach to your strategy and creation.

Some examples could be:

  • To increase visibility within search engines
  • Creating targeted content to improve your rankings
  • Enhance support for your products or services
  • Creating more online and digital leads for the long term by increasing your sales funnel
  • Answering direct questions your customers are asking online
  • Growing your email subscriber lists
  • Improving your customer retention by keeping them informed
  • Educating potential prospects about the value of your products and services
  • Building an online community to build relationships
  • Raising your brand authority and awareness
  • Growing your social media followers

A lot of the above will naturally align with your marketing goals and they should align with your business goals too.

Research Topics People Are Searching for and Sharing

The next step in defining your calendar is to research what content is worth creating. It’s no good spending time writing articles and authoritative pieces that don’t align with your overall objectives, you will just be wasting your time. You should also look into the type of content that is being shared on social media within your industry.

You also need to research your competition or rather how competitive a keyword might be online. If a keyword is too competitive, then you are never likely to rank for it. If it’s got high volume traffic associated with it and has a low competition value, then this is the content you should target and go for, you’ll get a much better return on your investment. This also aligns tightly with how SEO works to get the boost you need at the same time. You’ll end up getting a lot more views and engagement this way over time.

This will help not only with ideas but with generating the framework for what’s going to get you the most traction online. You will also start to learn the level of engagement articles are achieving, such as how often it’s being shared, liked, or reposted.

This is the beginning of you creating your social strategy and strategy for the long term. It means you can review upcoming posts which might be of value, ensuring that you create enough posts in advance if you decide to run a focused social campaign. If you have enough upcoming content for weeks or even months in advance, it makes it much easier to top up your content calendar tools, and you will like it’s a lot less work too. It might also be a good idea to look at upcoming awareness days, the times per day that items are posted which the most efficient social accounts to maximise your social media efforts.

In researching what people are sharing, you can also make sure you have a plan in place to cover all the various social channels too. Content management is key here because not all content suits particular social channels. An infographic will likely work better on Instagram vs YouTube for example. A webinar might work better across something such as Facebook Live where you can use Facebook analytics to see how engaged your audience was in real-time. A video, on the other hand, will gain more traction than it would on your blog alone and reach a wider audience across Facebook and LinkedIn if it’s relevant to the wider audience. Videos with high-quality graphics also perform very well across social channels.

Researching Content Types and Your Content Channels

During your research, you should also be looking at the types of content which are being created and the medium and channels in which they are shared, repurposed and curated. For example, within your industry how often are people promoting their product as compared to sharing created or helpful content? How often are they posting? Where are they posting and on what channels?

Content types include:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Email newsletters
  • E-Books
  • Listicles
  • infographics
  • How to guides
  • Websites
  • Case studies
  • Webinars and presentations

Once you have researched the types of content you would like to create, you can also then define and decide on what channels you would like to release your content on and repurpose it.

Content channels include:

  • Your website
  • Social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Discord etc)
  • YouTube
  • Email marketing
  • Guest blogging and writing
  • Community publishing (great for user-generated content)
  • Press releases

Once you have defined your channels, you can then choose which ones you would like to prioritise. This will largely depend upon where your audience spends most of their time.

This is a key component of your content research. If you are creating content that your target audience is not engaging with or reacting to then you will need to tweak and modify your approach. You should also focus on monitoring your best pieces of content and see how engaged your audience is with the content you create.

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Does your editorial calendar need updating to promote more visual content, is it lacking in content ideas, do you need to provide more valuable content or perhaps does your team need more time to get your content ready to be shared with a wider audience?

Repurposing Your Content and Keeping it Evergreen

One of the best parts about creating content for your business, brand, product, or service, is the ability to repurpose this content across your various channels.

There are so many benefits to doing this.

  • For your website, you will get an SEO boost which as long as the content is optimised will increase your website hits
  • By using different channels and posting to different ones you will reach new audiences
  • It helps reinforce your message and brand to segments of your customers
  • You gain additional authority on your topic which you otherwise might not have had

If you’re not sure where to even start with your content, it’s always best to start with writing a blog. The reason is that you can research in-depth your content and topic of interest for your audience.

This means you can build up the value of your content immediately to them by including helpful information with stats and the latest market data. You can also find out with your keyword research what your audience is searching for and asking for. This immediately means you can deliver direct value to them.

Your blog content will likely be highly valuable and long to in order to rank well in Google. This means it will be full of snippets of content that can be reused or to keep on topic, repurposed.

For example, you might choose to share a quote from your content and use social media to direct traffic to your blog. You might decide to put some figures into an infographic and post it out onto Instagram. You may decide to record your content on a podcast or reach out to a guest and discuss the topic with them – perhaps a team member or a client. You may use a long-form case study to promote the impact your work has had on the industry. There are so many uses, and the best place to start is from your blog. It also helps team members to be brought up to speed on the content topic you are creating too.

One of the best tips with regards to your content is to try and keep it evergreen. What this means is that you don’t get too specific or tied into something which becomes irrelevant once the event has passed. For example, let’s say you are writing an article about a major industry event. You optimise it and throw a lot of effort into ranking for the key phrase, but then once the event is passed no one is looking for it anymore, other than for historical reference. Now there might be some benefit in doing this if you are a major big business sponsor, but if you are a small business just trying to grow your traffic online, then you may gain the traffic at the time, but it will then drop off sharply.  Not all content can be evergreen but the more you can reuse content the more you get back from it.

The purpose of evergreen content is so that you can keep using it and improving it over time. It means you won’t still be reposting content on social media channels that are long out of date. This keeps your social posts relevant and fresh as you can always rephrase how your post sounds but still link to the same content piece on your blog. This blog piece you can of course update over time to keep the content valuable and relevant and aligned with your marketing goals.

Therefore, repurposing content should also be a key factor in your social media strategy, and why it’s important to bring the entire marketing team together with your content calendar.

Creating Your Content Calendar Template

Once you have defined your content goals, planned your initial content based upon what your target audience are searching for and decide on the content channels you now need to create your calendar and template to manage and monitor the progress of your content.

There are several ways you can do this. The different tools will be dependent upon whether you are working as a team or independently.

Use a Spreadsheet

The simplest way to create a content calendar is to use a spreadsheet. You can then share this file with your team and provide status updates using the correct columns (see template further below).

Use a Document

You can create a table in programs such as Microsoft Word and update the table each time you plan your content. With 365 you can then integrate this with your team and set it up fully integrated within the Teams App.

Use a Google Calendar

You could create a Google content calendar and share it with your team, filling out each part of the content template outlined below. You can set this up easily through your Google account, or you can download the calendar to your computer, whichever is easiest.

Use an Outlook Calendar

Just like your Google calendar, you can use Outlook in a similar way by creating your content and adding them to the days they will be published and released, along with any deadlines relating to the content along the way. A project management tool might be more efficient if you set strict deadlines.

Task Management or Project Management Software

If your team works from a project management tool, there’s no need to stop using them for managing your content. In fact, these are some of the best tools to use for monitoring progress and results. They can synchronise with your team’s calendar and remind you of what’s coming up or what needs to be done on any given day. It helps keep you on track. Kanban views are a great way of looking at the present and what’s coming in the future for promoting future content and sparking others interest.

Use a Paper Diary

If you prefer to work on paper, then you can use your paper planner to jot down your ideas for content, when you will start creating the content and when you plan to release the content. Planners such as a Filofax or Daytimer would work just fine for this. Just make sure you stick to the plan.

Whiteboard

You could have a whiteboard up in your office and use it to plan your content in a brainstorming session. You could also do this digitally with whiteboard software. We’d recommend that once you’re done that you take a picture of the board or save it, so you have it stored for reference in the future. It would be all too easy to just wipe it clean if you’re using the real-world version.

Alternatively, you could keep a dedicated whiteboard with calendar partitions on it and keep it up for everyone to see. We’d recommend if you do this though, that you use the whiteboard for planning, and then use a calendar to put the deadlines onto so that people can see from any device what’s going on. It’s also easier than communicating any updates or changes across a team.

Once you have decided upon your content calendar, you then need to define what will be included in the calendar to make sure you consistently create high-quality content. This is where a digital tool might be better than a manual tool, though if you work alone then an offline paper solution could work just fine.

Each of these sections will ensure you get maximum traction for your content:

Title

This will be the main title of your content. This will be what grabs your audience’s attention. If you start your journey by writing a blog, then this is the hook that will draw your audience’s attention to your content or blog post.

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Content-Type

This is where you define what the content type is or perhaps where it will be used. Such as, is it a blog, podcast, email, eBook, perhaps a how-to guide. This will dictate how much work needs to be completed to generate the information required to be of high value.

Customer Journey

This is optional, but you might want to write who the content is aimed at and perhaps at what stage of the customer journey your audience is at. For example, content focusing on generating a lead is going to be less focused on providing information on how to use your product. A customer at the interested point might be more inclined to sign up to your email list by pressing your CTA so that they can be kept informed.

Publishing Date

This is the date on which the content gets published onto your channels. This is your deadline date. The date in which all the work for this piece of information needs to be completed. You might also jot down republishing dates too or make a note of how much time passes before the content is repurposed (and possibly on which channel).

Edit Date

This date can work as a core milestone so that all research and brainstorming ideas are assembled, and a rough form of the article takes shape. It’s an opportunity to make sure it meets the overall objectives of your campaign, or the desired outcomes before it’s too late.

This can also be assigned into any of your team’s editorial calendars, especially if you have more than one piece being written at any one time. You might want to send out some teaser social posts around this time. Especially if you are gearing up for a big promotion later in the month or quarter.

Countdown pieces work well in this scenario. Just make sure it aligns with any of your other social media marketing that may be running at the same time. You also don’t want to get in the way of any content that may have been planned and diminish your other content marketing efforts or detract from the work of your content writers.

Author or Owner

This is the person who is responsible for seeing this topic completed. They need to ensure that all team members collaboration is working well and that it stays on track.

Progress

This is important to see what point the work is at. It’s a good idea to use a percentage to see if it’s only just started or close to completion.

Status

This is a good option to add so that you can see what status the content creation is at. You can then briefly see what is pending, in progress, completed or overdue. It’s a way of keeping track of everything and monitoring things effectively.

Channel

This will show where your upcoming content will be released on. Perhaps it goes into your monthly email newsletter, directly into your website or perhaps it’s just a special promotional video that goes out into the media and onto YouTube.

Campaign

By organising your efforts by the campaign, you can closely monitor how effective it is and compare your efforts against different campaigns over time. For example, you might compare your brand awareness campaign and its effectiveness against your product launch or Black Friday content to see how much engagement you got. This can also be tied to other digital marketing efforts. It also allows you the chance to optimise your content marketing plan each time you run a campaign.

How to Organise Your Content Calendar

A good method for organizing a content calendar is to use days of the week. This way, you can create new content or make edits to your existing content on a specific day of the week. For example, if you have a blog post that you would like published on a Monday, you can create a new post and schedule it to go live on that day.

Using the calendar, it is possible to map out content for future weeks and months. This gives an organization a sense of continuity and allows them to take advantage of the best times to create content. The idea is that organizations should be able to map out their content ahead of time rather than throwing something together as soon as they remember they need a new blog post. This way, they can make sure all their efforts are going into quality content that can be properly promoted in a timely and which meets a constant and consistent publishing schedule.

You should pay attention to awareness weeks coming up such as Mental Health Awareness Week, any shows that people are binging (think Squid Games), any big events coming up such as the Olympics or world cups, any special offers you have planned which could include leading up to Black Friday and never be afraid of reminding people of some of the old content in your closet that got the most attention. You can fill your calendar in no time! There is just so much to say and do these days, you just must make it relevant, fresh, and valuable.

How to Monitor Your Calendar’s Effectiveness

The final stage for any content calendar’s journey is to monitor how effective it is along with the content that is being planned. There are some easy ways to do this.

Are Deadlines Being Met?

If you or your team is repetitively missing deadlines, you need to find out why. It might not be through laziness, it might be through lack of engagement or interest (in which case you need to find someone else to drive your content), it might be that people’s schedules don’t align with the calendar such as holiday time. It could be a whole host of reasons which is why a content audit is a good move to perform, at least once a quarter.

How Easy is it to Access?

In essence, is your content calendar being used? If people aren’t using it or it’s too clunky to use, then maybe you need to put it on a different platform that’s easily accessible. If your team has started using an internal Discord channel to hang out and discuss their work, then make it work for them.

Is Your Content Audience and Engagement Growing?

Sometimes the calendar is perfect, but the content isn’t. You must keep monitoring your content efforts so you can adapt. An easy way to monitor this is by looking at whether your social posts are seeing higher impressions, more shares, greater engagement, likes and whether you’re getting more followers. You should also check your website analytics.

Are you getting more hits, are your keywords increasing, are you ranking higher for your targeted keywords? You should also check with your sales team and see if your leads are increasing. Sometimes it’s worth checking whether your support requests have increased or decreased. Support information that is readily available can decrease customer churn.

Are Your Goals Being Met?

Right at the beginning, we looked at setting your business and marketing goals. Look at whether these goals are still being met, and if they have changed, alter your content strategy and calendar accordingly.

This is a good opportunity to get the whole team involved too. You could review your objectives weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Your yearly goals can be set to a much higher level such as reaching x number of hits or seeing x growth for this product in our online store or growing our online community by x users. If you keep aligned with your strategy at all levels of the business, your content calendar will keep delivering for you all year long.

Summary

Using a content calendar will make sure you better align with your marketing goals not just across one particular marketing channel, but all channels relevant to your target audience. It will enhance greater collaboration across any business, will increase your views and traffic and should increase your call-to-action conversion. You will also end up with a complete content marketing plan and posting schedule too. This means you will never be short of anything to say, post or share.