If you’re like some marketers we talk to, you may be struggling with the elusive — and highly coveted — blog editorial calendar. We often hear questions like, “Where do I start?” or “What should it include?” and, of course, “Who owns the process?”
The truth is there’s no single right way to create a blog content calendar and endless options to consider. But starting one and keeping it going are the two biggest challenges.
Whether you’re using a blog editorial calendar now or thinking about building one, here are a few critical steps to consider.
1. Decide on a collaboration tool
Before you develop your blog calendar, you’ll want to find a planning tool to help your team collaborate. To reduce the time spent emailing spreadsheets back and forth and the nightmare that is version control, try using a cloud-based service that can log changes in real-time. A good collaboration tool looks different for every organization, but here are a few critical features to consider:
- Real-time tracking and updates
- Easy accessibility and sharing
- Ability to assign deadlines
- Review and approval capabilities
- Workflow management
- Chat or messaging function
At WriterGirl, we like to use Google Drive (including Google Sheets) and Microsoft Teams. A good project management tool can also support collaboration for your editorial efforts.
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2. Establish a process for topic selection
When you have many topics to cover, how do you decide what to talk about and when? This can be one of the most daunting challenges of developing a blog editorial calendar.
Before you lay out topics, you’ll want to examine your business goals and marketing objectives. The blog may serve many purposes; a brand ambassador, a tool to drive new appointments, an awareness builder and a home for all of your recent innovation news. Aligning your topics with these goals will make a huge difference in gaining and retaining readership.
And remember, the blog calendar is a living document that can evolve. You don’t have to get it right the first time, and it certainly will change as you go. Give yourself some flexibility while building a few guardrails to help you stay on track.
As you begin selecting topics, here are a few questions to guide the process.
What will your initial brainstorm look like and who will be involved?
You may prefer to make an initial list before vetting it with stakeholders. If you choose this path, you can jot down some ideas based on trending topics, campaigns or service line promotions. Be sure to back up your recommendations with source information, keyword volume or another rationale.
Another option is to have a meeting of the minds before you develop your list. If you have lots of requests coming at you and several campaigns you need to support, consider creating an editorial council. You could set up a monthly meeting where everyone pitches their topics to get a good view of what campaigns are happening and what the focus areas will be in the coming months.
What tools can help you select topics?
Consider using a keyword search platform (such as SEMRush or Ahrefs) or a plugin (such as Keywords Everywhere) that shows search volume, keyword competition and related topics. Google Trends and Answer the Public can also point you toward trending search topics and queries.
You may want to have a list of go-to online sources, like American Heart Association or American Cancer Society, that provide reputable news in key areas. And don’t forget to look at your Google Analytics to see which topics are resonating with your audience.
3. Map your content for your readers’ interests and your brand
One of the most important steps in building a blog editorial calendar is making sure your content resonates with your audience while reflecting your unique brand voice. To do this, we recommend coming up with different categories for posts and putting in placeholders for these categories each month.
Keep your readers top of mind
Variety can keep your readers interested and engaged. If you have a healthcare lifestyle blog, determine which topics are important to your audience and put in placeholders for these themes, making sure to mix it up. Look at historical blog readership to gauge interest levels. Get together with your marketing team to see which posts have led to more conversions on your website, such as appointment form fills.
And don’t forget about your social listening tools — they can provide valuable insight into your audience’s questions and interests.
This might look like allotting half of your content calendar for service lines like heart, cancer, nutrition and maternity, and reserving the second half for trending health topics, news and innovation.
Align topics with brand values
Once you’ve decided on your content categories, you’ll want to align your topics with your brand values and position in the market. If you’re covering a trending topic, offer a viewpoint that’s unique to your organization. You also want to determine any key brand pillars you want to highlight within those topics, such as innovation or clinical excellence.
Switch up the format
Another way to keep your audience engaged is to change up your format. Articles are always a hit, but challenge yourself to include videos, podcasts and Q+As. Your readers will thank you and be more likely to stay engaged.
4. Establish a publishing cadence
Your publishing schedule will depend on the resources you have to create content and your approval process. Once you have a clear idea of the steps it will take to get an article ready to publish, set deadlines with some wiggle room.
Consider these ideas when planning your editorial calendar:
- Decide if you want your blog content calendar to include weekends or just weekdays.
- Determine if you want to train your readers to look for certain topics on certain days, for example, “Mental Health Mondays” or “Women’s Wellness Wednesdays.”
- Build in some flex days for breaking news or those inevitable one-offs that tend to stream in.
- Try to plan your blog content calendar at least 30 days out to give your team time to create the content and secure approvals so it will be ready by the publish date.
- Ensure a steady stream of content to keep readers engaged.
Scheduling posts ahead of time will also help you automate some of the work if you’re using publishing software like Asana, WordPress or HubSpot. It can also help you schedule any promotions you’ll do on social media ahead of time.
5. Track your work
After giving your team high fives for launching a successful batch of content, you’ll want to take one more step before moving on to planning for the next round. Track your work!
Keeping track of the elements of each blog can help you with planning later. It can also ensure that you don’t duplicate content or keywords so your blogs aren’t competing against each other for search volume. Here are a few things to track:
- Live links
- SMEs you interviewed and their contact information
- Keywords and phrases
- Type of post (video, podcast, article, infographic, etc.)
Although it requires a few extra steps, doing this while it’s fresh on your mind now will help you plan for the future.
Creating a blog editorial calendar doesn’t have to be intimidating. With these five steps steps, you can be on your way to creating a dynamic editorial process that integrates your key stakeholders and promises to deliver engaging content for your readers.
A blogging partner from start to finish. WriterGirl’s team excels at blog writing services, from idea generation to editorial calendars to creating content. We’ll ease the workload and help you reach your content marketing goals. Drop us a line to learn more.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 2, 2021. It was originally published in March 2017.