Content calendars are among the best tools a content marketer can ask for.
Not only are they essential for quality control, but they help organize teams and keep blogs on schedule.
As the content needs of your business grow, content calendars become more valuable for your content marketing efforts.
In this post, we’ll be covering the ins and outs of creating a content calendar that will keep your content on track no matter what.
Sit tight, here we go!
What Is a Content Calendar
For creating fantastic content, a content calendar is like a Swiss army knife.
It is a tool for guiding the entire process of content creation and publishing. It contains what team members need to complete their tasks and create jaw-dropping blogs.
Asset-wise, your content team will find everything they need, such as the relevant information, sources, and supporting content.
In terms of work, a content calendar will establish a workflow that turns content creation into a guided production-like process.
Let’s talk about what you get from implementing a content calendar.
Why You Should Use a Content Calendar
The quick answer?
A high-performing team and a satisfied audience.
The long answer?
It enables your team to scale content production so that the posts they’re publishing maintain the highest standard of quality.
When blog production is organized and guided, the end result is grade A content. That makes your readers happy and allows your blog to stay on top of the ever-competitive search results.
Don’t think readers can’t tell a blog post was written at the last minute.
If you ignore content calendars, you’re risking disorganized content production, which can significantly hurt the quality of your content.
For example, you can find yourself dealing with doubled tasks, content with outdated research, or publishing delays.
Some of the best blogs in the biz use content calendars, so there’s no point in you missing out.
If you want your blog to compete with the rest and reach a new level of quality, you’ll implement content calendars.
What to Include in a Content Calendar
To have a content calendar that’s easy to understand, you should include these elements:
- Task/assignment date
- Title or topic of the assignment
- Responsible team member’s name
- Status (pending, in progress, completed)
- Supporting content
Thanks to this info, content calendar users can easily navigate it, see their responsibilities, and complete them on time.
Best of all, it makes progress easy to track and reduces the risks of getting lost or overwhelmed during production.
With that in mind, here’s an example of what a content calendar looks like, provided by Airtable:
This isn’t the be-all-end-all of content calendars, but an example of some key elements such a calendar has.
As you can see, it shows what the assignment topics/titles are, what the deadlines are, and who is accountable for each part. It also has supportive content available.
That’s what to include in a content calendar.
Now it’s time to understand how to make it as efficient as possible.
Tips for Creating a Content Calendar
Creating a content calendar that works is about using the proper practices so that the process has tunnel vision focused on producing blog content.
By following these tips, you’ll make the process easier for your entire team and supercharge their productivity.
Without further ado, let’s get into our content calendar tips.
1. Choose Your Target Audience
We get into the details of the top content calendar practices without talking about auditing your readers.
As you know, you must tailor all your content for your audience. If that notion isn’t your starting point, no content calendar will make you successful.
Have you seen a blog without a target audience? The post topics are all over the place and instead of everyone finding something for themselves, the opposite happens.
Your goal should be for your content to fit your audience like a glove.
That means you have to look outwards and grasp what they are like and what kind of post content they need to discover. This way, all your future efforts won’t be chasing the wrong crowd.
After that’s clear, you can implement practices to plan and deliver that content.
There are 3 different methods you can use to choose your target audience:
Current audience analysis. Go through your analytics data about your current readership to see what kind of content makes them tick. Don’t be afraid to bracket your audience based on their reader needs.
For example, some of your readers might prefer data posts over in-depth articles; finding out which readership is dominant will focus your future posts.
Competitor analysis. Research what kind of blog content your competitors are succeeding with and add it to your content calendar.
Create reader personas. They help you understand the ideal readers for your blog and what they are like. Having a clear picture of the individuals you’re after outside your audience is necessary for outstanding content.
Now that you’re clear about the content you want to fill your calendar with, it’s time to bring it all together.
2. Create a Library of Content
Your content is a pool of continuous ideas and writing materials that can be repurposed time and again. Having everything easily accessible makes life easier for everybody.
You don’t need fancy tools to do it; just look at our Google Drive approach:
You’re looking at the topic ideas part of our content library.
It can be easily accessed via mobile devices and shared with team members in two clicks.
The bottom line is that you have to have your past content searchable and accessible if there’s a need for supportive data or additional content.
Think about it.
Having to research from scratch is a major time burner. If your blog has already covered a similar topic, chances are there’s content you can use and repurpose to save time and do a better job.
When somebody has a question about past content, they can browse the library and fetch the info at their convenience.
Best yet, implementing this tip is the easiest thing to do.
Pick a cloud storage service that fits your needs best, add content and organize it.
You can use any tool, but the two most popular ones are, by far, Google Drive and Dropbox.
Keep in mind that you’ll have mixed content types, like infographics, images, or animations, meaning that storage will be one of your prime considerations.
After organizing all your available content in one accessible spot, you’ll be all set to create your content calendar.
The next pillar of your calendar is to have a general publishing plan.
3. Create a General Publishing Plan
The essential point of creating content calendars is to establish a long-term plan for sustainable content publishing.
Without a general publishing plan (GPP), you’ll shoot out all your content, and then you’re back at square zero. It would help if you looked at your GPP as the working principle on your calendar.
It determines the frequency of your publishing and special dates with specific content.
Let’s unpack these claims.
First off, no top-performing industry blog posts content on random. There has to be a schedule behind it so that the process doesn’t stop suddenly.
After all, you can’t get organic traffic without being consistent with your blog posting.
Setting up a schedule will make sure that readers can expect to see a new post pop up no matter what happens.
Also, note that there are particular dates in the year that demand themed blog posts.
You’ve seen this a million times.
You can always expect to see horror movie list posts before Halloween or romantic gift ideas before Valentine’s day. It’s because every industry has its special days of the year.
Nothing shocking here.
Missing out on themed blog posts is a poor move for any severe content writer since audiences are particularly interested in these topics around that time.
Your general publishing plan has to take them into account.
To make your GPP a success, it’s all about defining how frequently you can publish your content.
According to a study by the Marketing Insider Group, businesses need to post 2 to 4 times per week to boost their traffic and conversions.
Your GPP will help you get there, as it will set up a posting plan for your writers.
When you add special dates to it, you’re able to alert your writers in advance, so they have enough time to prep the unique themed posts.
Your content calendar needs a schedule to work.
4. Diversify Your Content
Most readers dislike monotonous blogs.
They want different content formats that keep things fresh. They need you to rotate the content formats you use so that the same content doesn’t reappear over and over again.
Without diversifying your content, readers will eventually tire of your posts, regardless of whether you’re doing a fantastic job putting together list posts or how-to guides.
Remember that there are many content formats you can try out and rotate.
We could talk about:
- List posts
- Step-by-step posts
- In-depth articles
- Statistics posts
- Case studies
If we wanted, we could probably name a dozen more content types.
But it’s not about having a fixed number of formats; it’s about having a sense and rhythm of rotating the content you’re posting.
In the book of blogging, a content calendar is your number one tool for content diversification.
Nothing comes close to it.
It’s because it helps you quickly spot what kind of content format you’re posting the most, so it keeps you from being repetitive.
It also invites a handful of excellent practices.
In various content calendars, you can mark the type of content you’ve posted with color, similar to editorial calendars. This gives you a visual understanding of how often you post certain content types.
Have a look:
Various content formats are shown in different colors. In this picture, they show studies as blue and regular blog posts as red.
When editors open the content calendar, they instantly see which types occur most frequently and spice things up.
Remember when we mentioned libraries of content?
Such libraries are pools of content waiting to be repurposed into different content types. You can pull out any of your older posts, update them and reformat them into a new type.
For example, just about any how-to post with steps can be turned into a step-by-step tutorial video.
With visual aids and your content library, you’ve had a rotating machine for your content in front of you the whole time.
Since content diversification is a vital part of the content production workflow, it’s only fitting that we talk about it next.
5. Establish a Content Production Workflow
Creating something worthwhile is often time-consuming and happens in multiple phases.
For example, let’s consider a well-structured blog post:
- You check your analytics and have a data-informed idea of what to post next
- You do research so that you can provide a context for your topic
- Write the post
- Edit and polish the post before publishing it on your blog
We’ve singled out 4 phases for a regular job of producing blog content, but keep in mind that this is the very minimum.
As you post increasingly complex, ambitious content, the production phase will grow in complexity as well.
If it’s not properly established under a content production workflow, you will face unexpected delays and setbacks, affecting the quality of the content you put out.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll repeat it: the quality of your content is paramount.
Half of it lies in the tools you use to enable your content production.
Content calendars have a considerable role to play here because they actively create an organized workflow where phases happen in an organized fashion.
Use content calendars to track the progress of each phase and establish a content production workflow; when there’s a system in place, you can have an organized workflow that can improve productivity immensely.
Think of your content calendar as a production line for your blog.
It is simple: create a workflow for your posts by dividing duties between the team and tracking them in the content calendar.
For example, determine which projects are being edited, proofread, researched, etc. Every production phase has a next step that leads it towards completion.
One more thing.
Use calendars to create accountability.
Since you can tell which team member handles a separate task, you can identify choke points in your production process and give improvement feedback to team members.
Pick: either a disorganized system where everybody handles everything or an effective blog production line?
It’s a no-brainer when you think about it.
Now that we’ve talked about establishing production workflows, let’s see how content calendars drive high-quality content creation.
6. Set Up the Production of High-Quality Supporting Content
We said that content production happens in phases. Well, developing supporting content has stages too.
You see, the top-performing blogs like HubSpot rely heavily on original supporting content to increase the quality of their posts and get backlinks from other blogs in their niche.
If you want to create high-quality content, it’s going to need killer supporting content.
We’re talking about:
As you’re creating your content calendar, set up a production system for supporting content so when your blog gets published, it has the proper content support to earn backlinks.
Thinking “it takes only 30 minutes” is a rookie mistake.
Don’t be a rookie.
Great supporting content demands research and production value, both of which take time and expertise.
You can either search the web and create identical supporting content to the majority of blogs—or you can schedule it as part of your content calendar and create something that will earn you backlinks.
To create supporting content, you need to decide which future posts will rely on supporting content and specify its type.
For instance, if you have a post explaining how to optimize title tags, it would be handy to have short clips under the text and graphs which show the before and after numbers.
As long as your supporting content is shareable and based on data, you’re doing fantastic.
After you’ve laid out the supporting content types, delegate research, design, and production responsibilities.
Ensure your content writers have access to finished support content.
Two more steps to go.
7. Create an Immediate Posting Schedule
The whole point of having a content calendar is to plan things.
With that in mind, create a specific publishing schedule for your immediate future.
We call this a content queue.
Queues are the beating heart of your content calendar; they tell you what content you will publish in the next couple of months.
An experienced content creator knows that having a publishing plan mapped out in advance makes content creation easier.
When there’s a plan, you don’t waste time wondering what to do.
You’re able to be as productive as possible.
To build your publishing schedule, there are two strategies: creating a content pool, or content barrelling.
When you create a content pool, you create a large trove of content and a queue to cover a month’s worth of content or even a couple of months.
Content barrelling (our very own in-house phrase) is the strategy of creating smaller chunks of content to be used in the following week or two.
It’s a flexible way of preparing content without sitting down and creating 20-50 complete content pieces.
Which of the two is better?
For most cases, content barrelling.
Content barrelling goes hand-in-hand with the concept of content calendars and immediate posting schedules.
The point of content calendars is to have an organized, phase-based approach to content.
When a system is organized like a production line, it takes less time to assemble what’s being produced than to do it all at the same time in one big chunk of work.
Barrelling allows you to create content in advance but leaves enough time to cover all eventualities and unexpected events.
For example, if a new, immediate trend appears, you can quickly produce content that covers it, but if you rely on a content pool, you’ll either wait to drain your pool or create content to cover the situation and disrupt your workflow.
Also, when you have a pool of 50 future posts ready, you have to spend lots of time updating all of them, in case you need to implement feedback.
Barrelling doesn’t have that problem.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t take more time to plan your ambitious, in-depth content and have it ready weeks ahead.
Still, if you want a flexible strategy that can accommodate your posting schedule, consider this approach.
8. Review Published Content and Improve
Content reviews are crucial for improving and stepping up your content production.
Nobody creates stellar content on their first, third, or even fifth attempt.
It’s a continuous process, but at the core of it is implementing a practice of reviewing what you’ve published for the sake of improving it.
Many content marketers forget how vital this step is.
A B2B research report by the Content Marketing Institute showed that only 42% of marketers research their audience by having conversations with them.
The paper said that 55% of them rely on sales team feedback and website analysis to get the necessary insights.
Does your team talk to your audience?
Don’t get us wrong; we love analytical data for feedback. But having conversations with your audience about topics and your content is a must.
We will not talk about different ways you can elicit feedback from your audience. However, when creating a content calendar, include content reviews as part of your schedule.
To do it, set up the dates in your content calendar when you’ll explicitly review your content with your team and see what they can do better.
Remember to log down your findings and have review reports available for everyone, like the content library. Anybody can access them before writing and improve their work.
Last but not least, we have to talk about performance improvement.
Tools You Can Use for Content Production
Digital tools make a world of difference in performing digital marketing tasks.
Just like almost every digital marketing activity has its own set of tools, content production is no exception.
If we’re talking about a content calendar, you can either create your own from scratch, use a calendar tool or use a combined approach, meaning you do one set of tasks in one tool and the other somewhere else.
Let’s name a few.
Asana is a management software that allows you to plan your future content and delegate tasks in a calendar view.
It allows you to customize the appearance of each task, so you can mark different content types with a different color, making it easier to diversify the content you publish.
You can also store content and track the progress of each content-related task.
Another useful content management tool is Airtable, which we’ve already touched upon earlier.
Airtable allows you to schedule blog posts, assign tasks and attach files. It’s incredibly straightforward and easy to integrate into your team’s workflow.
We love Airtable because it makes all the info essential to content production, like keywords or target personas available on the spot. You can also see task progress at a moment’s notice.
Lastly, the backup tool every business should use for their tasks is Google Drive.
You can use it in combination with other tools or as a backup.
The downside is that you have to do everything manually, which is that Docs is more of a backup and support option than a single solution.
We promised we’d tell you how to make a content calendar, and we’ve delivered.
Top-performing B2B blogs understand the importance of having a blog strategy, so it only makes sense to introduce supporting tools for your blog.
Follow up on these tips and start organizing your content calendar.
Make no mistake, you’re helping both your readers and your team.