Content marketing is one of the most effective and affordable ways to directly and indirectly promote your business, but coming up with interesting things to write every day can be a significant burden — especially if you don’t have the budget to hire someone to help you write! This is when a content calendar can help you stay productive.
Churning out good content (and I stress the word “good” because bad content will do more harm for your business than good) can be exhausting, but if you have a written plan and stick to it, the task will be so much easier! Don’t believe me? I get it. I’m spontaneous, too. I like to write about whatever I feel passionate about at a given moment in time. Content calendars can make me feel trapped. However, this is a case where planning really is worth it.
The truth is that for people who have trouble generating content on a daily basis, content calendars can relieve the creation burden. To show you why, here are five reasons you need a content calendar.
1. You Need to Get Focused
Do you have so many ideas that you don’t know what to do with them? For many people, writer’s block isn’t the problem; it’s writer’s overload. Without a written plan, it can be very easy to waste time every day trying to decide what to write about. Over the course of a month, all of that time adds up!
However, with your content calendar in hand, you won’t have to worry about coming up with content from the myriad of ideas floating in your head, bookmarked in your browser, or saved with whatever tool you use (for me, it’s Pocket). Instead, you can sit down at your keyboard and focus on exactly what needs to get done. In other words, a content calendar is not only a time saver, but it’s also a stress saver!
2. You Need Direction
If you can’t get focused, then you probably don’t have a clear direction either. What is your long-term content strategy? What are your goals for your business or brand based on all of this time and effort you’re investing into content creation? A content calendar forces you to define your direction and document your plan, so you have a chance to be successful.
Think of it this way. Imagine you create a new blog post every day, and each day, you choose the topic based on whatever strikes your fancy in that moment of time. At the end of the year, your blog will likely seem like a disjointed mixture of content with little clarity and no continuity. You have an opportunity to lead your audience somewhere strategic through those blog posts, but only if you plan it out in advance with a content calendar!
3. You Need to Eliminate Distractions
If you’re easily distracted and find it hard to concentrate on content creation, then you absolutely need a content calendar. Believe it or not, trying to decide on a topic for a piece of content is often just a distraction. It’s a form of procrastination.
Checking your email, looking at Facebook, and so on – those are all distractions that are keeping you from creating the amazing content that your business needs to reach its goals. However, when you have a content calendar that you’re responsible for adhering to, it’s much more difficult for distractions to get in the way without it being glaringly obvious that they’re just excuses so you don’t have to start writing.
4. You Need to Tell Your Story
What is your brand story? Communicating your story to your audience is one of the best ways to engage them and build a trusting relationship with them. And guess what? Brand trust leads to increased sales, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing.
Content is one of the best places to tell your brand story. Use words, videos, and pictures to share your brand promise, values, and more to the world. As long as you’re authentic rather than self-promotional, your audience will appreciate your candor and transparency.
Furthermore, storytelling taps into emotions, and when a brand can evoke consumers’ emotions, it has the potential to achieve big things.
5. You Need to Maximize Quality
It’s hard to continually produce high quality content, but you don’t have a choice. Low quality content could do far more harm to your brand and business than good. As I’ve said many times before, confusion is the number one brand killer.
That means if you publish some high quality content and some low quality content, your audience will be confused. If they’ve grown accustomed to high quality content from you and suddenly, their expectations aren’t met, they’ll be confused. As a result, they’ll turn away from your brand in search of another that does consistently meet their expectations in every interaction.
In other words, if you make the unspoken and unwritten promise of high quality content and don’t consistently keep that promise, you might as well not publish any content at all. A content calendar gives you peace-of-mind that you’ll always have something to write about and eliminates the distractions and lack of focus that can keep you from actually writing. Ultimately, it unburdens you and gives you freedom to consistently create the high quality content that your audience wants.
Blog Editorial Calendar Template and Content Brainstorming Worksheet
To help you start your own content calendar, I created a free Blog Editorial Calendar Template and Content Bucket Brainstorming Worksheet that you can download at the end of this article. Both are easy to use Excel spreadsheets.
I’m only giving you a Blog Editorial Calendar Template so you’re not overwhelmed at first. A blog is the best place to establish as your core-branded online destination and to start your content marketing efforts. Why are blogs so powerful? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but I’ll just give you a few really important ones here.
First, you control your blog. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and so on, you are 100% in charge. You never have to worry that the rules will change one day and all the work you’ve done will have been for naught. Second, your blog gives you the opportunity to continually publish new content, and Google loves fresh content. With every new piece of content you publish, Google (and searchers) have one more way to find you! Third, blog posts are highly shareable because they’re usually engaging and useful rather than promotional. When people share your blog posts, even more entry points to your website are created.
Ultimately, your blog gives you the opportunity to share your voice and story in a manner that enables you to build and deepen your relationships with your audience. As a result, trust increases as do sales, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing. What’s not to love?
Now, back to the template. I intentionally kept it simple — again, so you won’t feel overwhelmed as you’re getting started. However, you might want to read through the instructions below, so you know how to use both the template and worksheet and how to add even more information to them in the future.
Instructions for Using Your Worksheet and Template
Start by opening the Content Bucket Brainstorming Worksheet. There are a number of columns for each bucket of content. Think of your buckets like broad categories. For example, a health coach who is trying to build her business might create buckets for nutrition tips, exercises, recipes, and so on.
In each column labeled Bucket #1, Bucket #2, and so on, enter a broad category into the column heading cell. Next, start listing the topics that you need to create content about making sure that you put each item in the correct bucket column. The image below gives an example for a health coach. Of course, you’d undoubtedly have more content buckets and a much longer list, but this example gives you an idea of how it works.
Always keep your audience (and your competitors) in mind as you come up with topics to create content about so you’re sure to meet their needs and stay competitive. Once you have all of your content buckets filled, it’s time to transfer everything from your Content Bucket Brainstorming Worksheet to your Blog Editorial Calendar Template. The calendar is broken out by month with five weeks for each month since some months are longer than others. Of course, only fill out the relevant spaces based on how the days fall for each month.
Furthermore, I included a row for all seven days of the week, but don’t feel like you have to publish content on your blog every day. Yes, the more high quality content you publish, the better (remember, every new piece of content creates a new entry point for your website that can be indexed by Google and shared across the social web), but don’t stretch yourself too thin. By trying to publish content every day, you might set yourself up for failure. It’s better to publish a really good piece of content two or three times per week (even just once a week if that’s all you can handle at first) than it is to publish seven low quality posts that no one will care about.
When you’re using a content calendar for your blog, your goal is to choose a topic from one of your content buckets and write a headline that you could use for a blog post. Choose the day you’ll publish the post and the category it will appear in on your blog. Don’t worry, you can change the title later if you want to, but the goal is to create a full content calendar, so you don’t have to worry about what to write in the future. It’s all there in your calendar!
Try to write about a variety of topics to keep your audience interested. It’s also a great idea to write series of posts to fully cover large topics. You can use your calendar strictly for your blog or you could add additional content for YouTube, guest blog posts, and more. It’s up to you. Using the health coach content bucket brainstorming worksheet I started earlier, you can see an sample of one week of blog posts below.
You can even take your blog editorial calendar a step further by adding columns for keywords, internal and external links, images, categories, and more. This is very helpful when you want to add backlinks to old content in your new content. However, the free template you can download from this article gives you a basic framework to get started without feeling overwhelmed.
Your Next Steps
That’s all there is to it! Your next steps are to start brainstorming and then organize the topics in your Content Brainstorming Worksheet into a usable roadmap in your Blog Editorial Calendar Template. Just click the images below to download both documents. Save them and then open them in Excel. It’s that easy!
Content Bucket Brainstorming Worksheet
Blog Editorial Calendar Template
As always, if you need help strategizing your content calendar or writing your content, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m here to help!