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If you regularly publish any kind of content in your industry, I guarantee you can make some use of a content calendar.
Content calendars keep you organized, which is probably the most important benefit of having them, but they do so much more than that. Content calendars help you strategize, project the future, encourage collaboration, and identify gaps in your content approach.
If you’re more familiar with just publishing content whenever you have it, without much of a plan, then you might be totally lost on how to create a content calendar.
Every organization’s content marketing calendar will probably look a little different, but there are some basic elements that pretty much every calendar should include.
So, let’s dive into this! We’ll look at what content calendars are, their benefits, and how to create a content calendar for yourself (using our free downloadable template if you so desire!).
What Is a Content Calendar?
If your operation is small and you’ve never had the need to work off of a full-on content calendar, you might wonder what one even is.
A content calendar is a planned-out schedule of your future content publication. Its purpose is to allow your organization to see what content is coming up and plan its marketing efforts around that.
What exactly is included in your calendar will be up to the needs of your organization.
For instance, if you’re creating a schedule of blog posts designed to perform well for SEO, then your content calendar probably includes the target keyword, its monthly search volume, and the topics to be written in each week of the year, or at least for the upcoming quarter.
Or, if you’re the content manager of an online journal that publishes contributor work weekly or even daily, a content calendar can help you keep everything straight regarding which topics are being covered, who the guest contributor is, and when their submitted work will need to go live.
We’ll get into more detail below on what kinds of things can go into a content calendar, but you can keep it all straight if you just remember that content calendars are publication schedules at their core, meant to keep you as organized as possible.
What Are the Major Benefits of a Content Calendar?
You’re probably already seeing the enormous benefits of maintaining a calendar for your content publication, but let’s also lay those benefits out in detail below.
The main advantages of having a content calendar, as opposed to a more scattershot publishing schedule, include:
- Keeping you organized – if your organization publishes content every day or every week, your stockpile of published content is going to grow faster than you can imagine. If you don’t have a content calendar to keep it all together to be viewed at a glance, you’re probably going to get lost. One of the biggest dangers of getting lost is publishing on a topic that you’ve already covered because it was a few months back and you forgot about it. Covering the same topic more than once is bad for user experience, and in the SEO world, it can lead to keyword cannibalization. Content calendars serve as reference guides so you can avoid all that and keep things together.
- Letting you strategize – content calendars are also the perfect tools for strategizing on your content marketing efforts. When you know what topics are coming up, and when, you can plan your content promotion ahead of time, too. You can get ahead on your social posts that will highlight the new content, plan your link building efforts for the piece, and know what keyword targets to start tracking in what week. Being able to strategize like this, months ahead of time, should go a long way toward improving your overall content approach.
- Enabling organizational collaboration – whether your organization is small or large, each member of a team is likely busy from day to day. It’s difficult to throw new tasks at someone and expect results from them in a matter of a few days. With a content calendar, everyone who will have anything to do with the content can plan their upcoming quarter or even their whole year around the publication dates. The writers and editors will know what to expect, while the SEOs will know which keywords to start tracking, and the social media experts will be able to plan their social posts in advance. If a member of any of the marketing teams has questions around the planned content, they can ask the appropriate person on another team. Content calendars act as hubs for this kind of organizational collaboration and reduce miscommunication and hiccups.
Identifying content gaps – one final benefit of keeping a content calendar is that, once you’ve gotten enough publications under your belt on your calendar, you’ll be able to identify where your content marketing has gaps. We talk about content gaps all the time in SEO. Your competitors are ranking well for a keyword that you don’t rank well for, so you look into why that is. Your content calendar ultimately shows you that you’ve never created content around that keyword. That’s a keyword and content gap. So you can go and slot that topic in for the future. Think of how confusing that would be without a calendar in place as a guide.
How to Create a Content Calendar in 3 Easy Steps (Plus a Bonus Step)
Creating a content calendar is not necessarily hard, moreso time-consuming.
It will probably seem even less intimidating once you realize that there are no hard-and-fast “rules” for what should go into a content calendar. You can include only those elements that are most important to you!
Here is the way that we create content calendars for our clients here at LSEO. You can alter your approach based on your industry, but the following steps will still provide you with some good places to start.
1. Know Your Objectives
Before you start creating the actual calendar, you need to know why you’re creating content in the first place.
Let’s say you’re an SEO agency. You probably want to show yourself as an authority on various digital marketing topics so that Google ranks you well and prospective clients start trusting you. When they trust you, they might call you and give you their business.
Based on those goals, you’ll know what kind of content you need to create. The topics would cover issues that your ideal client would be looking to read as they research agencies to work with.
So take our advice: don’t do anything else until you know why you’re publishing content at all!
2. Perform Keyword and Topic Research
Content calendars are filled with topics, and in SEO, topics come from keywords. Keywords come from keyword research, so when you’re planning a content calendar, you actually have to start with keyword research.
There’s a lot that goes into this if you really want to drill down and write content for the right audiences.
We’ve written about the importance of incorporating content marketing funnels into your content creation. If you want to write content that has the best chances of ranking well for the most relevant audiences, you have to think about those sales funnels as well as about search intent and SEO when you do your keyword research.
Let’s take an easy example of this. At the top of a sales funnel, the awareness stage, people are searching for topics that include words such as “What is” and “How to.”
If you’re going after those audiences, your topics might be things like “What Is SEO?” or “How to Create a Content Calendar.”
If your proposed target keywords have decent search volumes, you can feel free to make topics out of them and schedule them out.
When you’re doing keyword and topic research for your content calendar, you don’t necessarily need to stay in the top-down order of the funnel. You can continue to create pieces for each of the three stages as you go.
But being familiar with the funnel, and the search intent of users in each part of the funnel, will help you to structure your calendar so you’re not just shooting in the dark.
For instance, as you’re scheduling your topics out, think of seasonality. Evergreen content is always good, but if you plan to publish something for the holiday season, be smart about something like that. Publish it in late October or early November to give it time to rank and accumulate traffic.
Here’s a bonus tip: after you’ve accumulated enough content, you can take some time off from creating brand-new content and instead go back and optimize and repurpose older content. Google considers updated content to be the same as new content.
If something is outdated, revisit it to keep its ranking opportunities strong.
3. Lay It All Out
When you know what you want to accomplish and what your topics are for the next few months, it’s time to lay it all out in a calendar.
Now, here is where your options really open up. There are lots of companies out there that will allow you to create content calendars inside their proprietary software. Those kinds of tools offer up every kind of feature you could possibly want, such as task management, message boards, and different views.
If you’re just getting started in this, though, and you want to keep things simple (and free), a good old Google Sheet will do the job.
Organize your rows and columns like a calendar. Then, detail everything you need to know about this particular project. You should be able to see the week, the post title, and exactly when it will be published, as well as any other action items associated with the publication, such as social media promotion and even the names of the assignees for each task.
Whatever your situation, it should be plain to see how the information contained within a content calendar will help keep your content organized for as long as you keep publishing.
Bonus Step: Tracking Your Content’s Performance
Content calendars are amazing tools for organizing and tracking what content you publish, but there’s another kind of tracking you need to be thinking about here: performance tracking.
Your content calendar won’t be of much use to you in the long term if the content you write doesn’t perform. If that’s the case, why would you continue doing what you’re doing?
To make sure you’re making all the right moves with your content, be sure to set up a dashboard to track your content performance.
You can definitely look inside Semrush or Ahrefs to check in on your content, but if you want to see the SEO metrics of just the new blog content you’ve been writing, it would be more convenient for you to set up a dashboard in Google Data Studio.
There, you can create a table just for those new posts and then pull the metrics you want from Google Analytics, such as new users, bounce rate, and session duration.
You can use this data to analyze your content, see what is working for you and what isn’t, and modify your approach from there.
Download Your Free Content Calendar Template PDF
If you’ve read all of this and are still feeling a bit lost on how to create a content calendar, don’t worry. We got you.
Included here is a free content calendar template that you can use to get started on your own content calendar.
For more help with your content marketing needs, get in touch with us here at LSEO.