As SMB owners, you are well aware of the importance of posting high quality, well targeted content on a regular basis. It not only helps build your authority, but it also creates a pattern your audience will expect when waiting for your next piece to be published. But how can you achieve this when you are constantly trying to manage all the moving parts of your company?
We have all heard of the term content or editorial calendar; and to a certain extent most SMB owners try to implement the aforementioned, but is it successful? In this article we will be exploring key tactics every content creator should know in order to create a highly effective content calendar.
What Is A Content Calendar?
For those just starting out, let’s briefly examine what a content calendar really is. As its name implies, a content calendar is a calendar that holds the structure of your short and long term content marketing operations. It essentially includes:
- What content pieces will be created
- When they will be created
- When will they need to be distributed
- What will the distribution strategy entail: winnable keywords, best channels of distribution, best times to be posted
Why Are Content Calendars Important?
It is not uncommon for many new SMB owners to feel that creating and holding a content calendar is unnecessary. A lack of experience or information can lead to thinking that they are more than capable of remembering everything that needs to be done, and come up with ideas for their next post on a whim. However, this overconfidence can be detrimental to a company’s long-term growth.
As business owners you have a plethora of responsibilities, many moving parts to constantly keep track of, and a team (if you are not a solopreneur) to manage. Creating and following a content calendar will not only help you remain organized, but efficient and prepared as well.
With a content marketing calendar, you're able to keep track of what has been created in the past, see what content lies ahead, and prepare for and distribution methods such as creating an infograph, connecting with influencers, or acquiring backlinks.
Before You Start
Before you begin creating and filling out a calendar, there are a few things you will first need to establish.
- Who will you be writing to?
- You need to have a clear picture of your audience, know what they care for, why they care, questions they may have, and channels they can be found on. This will help you decide the kinds of topics you will be talking about, the kind of format it will have, the distribution channels you will use, and the frequency you will be posting.
- Make sure everyone is on the same page.
- If you have a team working on content, you will have to make sure they are well coordinated not only with each other but with your goals. Ideally, the whole team (including yourself) should be using the same content calendar. This will help internal organization, time management, and coordination; ultimately enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness or your content creation and marketing operations.
- Use a tool.
- While Google Calendar and Microsoft Excel may suffice for many SMB owners, we highly recommend utilizing a tool to organize and manage your calendar. Evernote and Trello are two great examples. Such programs will: help share brainstorming ideas and notes to the whole team, real time monitoring of team activities, and will enhance overall organization and team coordination.
1. Calendar Layout
While the organization of your calendar is strictly up to you, there are 8 things we recommend should not be absent from any content calendar
- The initial idea of the content topic along with who is responsible for writing it
- The format it will be in (text, infographic, video, slides, etc)
- The date the piece need to be finished by
- Running status log (or checklist)
- List of winnable keywords (for SEO)
- The official title of the piece (based on winnable keywords)
- Distribution strategy and channels
- Appropriate and relevant CTA
2. Coming Up With Ideas For Your Calendar
By this point, you have identified your audience, created a persona, briefed your team on the importance of coordination, and decided which tool to use. It is now time to begin filling out your calendar with topics and potential ideas for your future posts. However, sometimes thinking ahead weeks or months at a time may be strenuous and challenging. In order to avoid any creative blocks, here are a few tips that will help you in your brainstorming processes:
- Constantly monitor industry trends using Buzzsumo or Google Alerts
- Use of tools when brainstorming for keywords. Utilize the auto-complete recommendations from search bars, free keyword generating tools such as soovle.com and askthepublic.com, or paid tools such as SEMrush’s “Keyword Magic” to find “winnable” keywords that will draw traffic.
- Scour social channels to gather insight on user preferences. Use your social listening skills to monitoring comments, likes, shares, and understand what your audience is currently talking about, what they are interested in, and the kinds of content they like to consume (and where)
- Monitor FAQ websites. FAQ websites are one of the best places to find ideas for future posts, your participation in answering user questions can also greatly enhance your authority in your industry.
Bonus Tip: While your content calendar is important for future planning, it doesn’t mean that you should never look back. Monitor how older posts are performing:
- How long ago were they written? Do they need to be updated?
- Were they widely accepted?
- Are they evergreen?
You may not always have the time or creative drive to come up with a new idea. Looking back can help you gather insight for appropriately repurposing content.
3. Effectively Scheduling Your Content
Once you have filled your calendar you will need to carefully plan the distribution dates for your content. This stage requires great attention and should be organized in accordance to your (or your team’s) capabilities to create and distribute content. Ideally:
- Try posting 2-3 times per week.
- Plan content topics and dates at least 1-2 months ahead of time.
- Give yourself (or your team) flexibility. When deciding upon due dates, always provide 1-2 weeks leeway in the case of an emergency or potential setbacks along the creation process.
Generally speaking, the farther ahead you plan the better.
After a while of planning your schedule to your capabilities and your audience’s needs, it may seem that due dates for each week/month will be set in stone. This however, is not the case. There will be exceptions to the rule especially when required to create content around breaking news and newly trending topics. (This is a prime example of the necessity of flexibility in your calendar).
Finally, it is important to always pay attention to major events and holidays. Use an actual calendar (as well as industry blogs and news sites) to focus on upcoming:
- Peak buying seasons
- Holidays that have a great significance for your industry and audience
- Recurring events in your industry
You will find that many times, you will have to adjust your calendar for seasonal content. Do not wait until the last minute to do so. Make sure you have planned months in advance and be prepared to address these events at the appropriate time.
We hope these tips will help you create an effective content calendar, which in turn will increase the productivity and efficiency of your content marketing operations. If you have any further question or remarks, please let us know in the comments section, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
For more reading on how you can make an impact with your online marketing, check out the links below:
- The Twitter Page Template That Helped Me Gain 17k Followers
- The Art Of Repurposing Content
- Content Marketing - What Does It Really Mean?