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Alyssa Young

Create a content marketing calendar that works.

Once a small business recognizes the value of content marketing and starts brainstorming topics to write about, it’s time to get organized. But, how? An editorial calendar is an easy way to plan, schedule and assign content creation and publication. By using a calendar, businesses can visualize how content will be distributed throughout the year.

Setting up a calendar to include only valuable information makes it a helpful tool for internal teams, rather than a headache to maintain. It keeps plans on track, making it possible to achieve the ideal frequency, consistency and variety of content. After all, that’s what transforms a static, ho-hum website into a successful traffic driver and lead converter.

Don’t worry—expensive software is not required. While free templates are available on the Internet, a spreadsheet is all that’s needed to log planned blog posts and capture information about the performance of what’s been published. Whether starting from scratch or using a tool, the ability to customize a calendar is vital, so that unwanted, unneeded or missing components don’t sour efforts to keep the calendar current.

When getting started, consider including columns for each piece of data listed below.

Content Calendar Must-Haves

Date: Fill in several rows of the spreadsheet with planned publication dates for at least one quarter; however, planning content on a yearly basis is ideal. This ensures a consistent flow of content that strengthens your brand’s perceived expertise. Without this, it’s easy to see long gaps between postings.

Topic: Briefly describe the focus of the blog post. If desired, add another column to list important or key sources to reference. Develop a detailed plan for the next month, and use the spreadsheet to write down ideas to be scheduled later, so that they’re not lost.

Author: Who’s writing the blog post? Put the assignee’s name in this column. This way, someone is responsible for creating the content and knows his or her deadline. If the editor or reviewer varies post by post, include another column to name that person, too. Anyone with a task on this schedule should have access to view the calendar.

Visual: Identify a photo, graphic or embedded video to accompany the content and specify the source. Describe where the asset exists, or name the person responsible for creating it.

Deadlines: Specify dates for when the writing, editing and photo or graphic are due.

Completion: Be sure to denote when a post has been published. To do so, consider changing the font color or using strikethrough on the text in a cell or the entire row.

Optional Calendar Components

Topic category: If blog posts fall into a handful of themes, identify the category of each post on the spreadsheet to establish a pattern or to space out the publication of posts within one group. It will provide a visual cue about how recently or how often topics have been covered, which will make it easier to ensure variety. Taken a step further, guidelines can be outlined to cover each topic category only once per month, for example.

Social media specs: Use an area on the calendar to track any social media details that need documenting, depending on the strategy. For example, indicate on which channels/networks a post will be shared, or whether to pay to boost a particular post.

Next steps: Identify a call-to-action to include or a URL that the reader should be encouraged to follow after reading the post.

Metrics: Look at blog analytics on a weekly basis and log key measurements, such as page views and social media engagement. This creates an easy, at-a-glance summary of not only what’s on the blog, but what’s been most popular. This data can inform which topics warrant more focus in the future.

Keep it Up

Most importantly, use it. Refer to the calendar daily as a reminder of what’s coming down the pipeline. If something changes, ensure that the spreadsheet is updated to reflect the new plan. In addition to this schedule, you should implement a process that outlines individuals’ responsibilities, as well as how each piece of content, and its supporting elements, is submitted, reviewed, published and shared.

No matter how skilled you are at your craft or how many years you’ve been in the industry, there’s always a need to establish thought leadership and differentiate your business from your competitors’. That’s why we rely on content marketing. By developing a thorough content calendar, you can provide your internal teams with a bird’s eye view of the entire lifecycle of your company’s content marketing campaigns, while continuing to drive your efforts in the right direction.

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