A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Content Calendar in 2023
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Content is king but a calendar is the throne that keeps your content in place.
Creating a content calendar is an essential part of any successful content marketing strategy. A content calendar helps you plan, organize, and schedule your content ahead of time, so that you stay on track and publish at a regular cadence. Plus, if you work with a content team, a calendar creates visibility for everyone and makes it easier to collaborate on new ideas and agree on deadlines.
But what does it take to create a great content calendar? A lot of thinking, planning, defining, outlining, and assigning. Take a step-by-step approach to create a content calendar fit for a king:
1. Identify your content goals
Before you can get started, decide what you want to achieve with your content calendar.
Do you want to increase website traffic?
Build a community of followers?
You might say — all of the above, and I get it. But, that’s exactly why you need a content calendar to help you achieve one goal at a time (and stay sane). Plus, your content needs to be tailored differently for different goals.
For example, if your goal is to generate leads, you would want to include content that encourages followers to sign up for a newsletter, register for a webinar, or download a white paper. But, if your goal is to increase website traffic, you might focus on creating SEO-optimized content that will drive more organic search traffic to your site.
Set specific goals so that you can define your content strategy and adjust your content types as needed.
2. Decide on your content strategy
A content strategy drives what you include in your content calendar. Your content can take the form of blog posts, ebooks, white papers, social media posts, case studies, video tutorials, webinars, or podcasts. While it’s good to have a balanced mix of content, each piece of content needs to serve the overarching goal you outlined in the first step. This will help make your content planning process more efficient and effective.
Prioritize content that will bring the most value to your audience and help them solve their problems, answer their questions and provide them with useful insight. For early stage companies, readers may be looking for foundational content like guides, data studies, and ebooks that educate them about the industry, trends, and concepts. These readers are at the top of your funnel, which is an opportunity for you to create brand awareness and provide thought leadership. In this case, your content strategy for the short term could be to build out content pillars or hubs on important topics and post thought leadership content on your website and social media handles.
That way, you can ensure that you're creating content that your readers want and will take them further into the funnel to find out more about your product.
On the other hand, if your readers are already well-informed and are looking for software solutions to tackle their pain points, your content strategy would focus on bottom of funnel (BOFU) content.
3. Outline the topics that you want to cover within each type of content
Make a list of the topics your readers are interested in. Keyword research can help you create a list of topics and subtopics for search optimized content whereas combing through blogs, news sites, community forums, LinkedIn posts, and talking with industry leaders give you leads on thought leadership topics.
Research popular trends in your industry or use Google Trends or Twitter to find out what people are talking about. You can also check out competitor websites and blogs for keyword ideas. Keywords help search engines categorize your content and understand the topic. If the keywords you use match what readers are searching for, your content will be more likely to appear in the search results. Include them in the titles and throughout your content to help search engines prioritize your content in the search results.
For instance, for a blog post about tips on baking a cake, you could include relevant keywords such as "cake baking tips," "how to bake a cake," and "cake baking techniques" in the title and throughout the content.
But, don’t be afraid to come up with original ideas too. After all, you don’t want to just create copycat content. You want to stand out as a true thought leader, not blend in!
4. Organize a publishing schedule
Now, it’s time to start organizing your topics into an editorial calendar. Map out a timeline based on how often you want to publish, who will be writing each piece, when each piece of content will go live, and which pieces might take longer than others.
For instance, if you plan to publish one blog post per week, you may want four or five drafts for the month ready in advance and then schedule them for publication for each week over the next month. Make sure that the timeline is realistic and achievable. Most experts agree that businesses should publish blog posts two to four times per week, equating to eleven to sixteen posts a month.
Consistency is key when it comes to content marketing, so plan ahead and stick to the schedule as much as possible.
5. Choose the right tools
Content calendar tools are an invaluable asset for content creation, organization, and scheduling. They can help you create an organized, efficient workflow for managing and publishing content, as well as track the success of your content campaigns over time.
You can manage your content calendar with a simple Google sheet or use more sophisticated project management software like a Trello board, a HubSpot template, or Hootsuite, especially if you want a separate social media content calendar. Depending on your needs and the size of your team, you can choose the tool that best fits your budget and workflow.
A basic content calendar should include columns with publishing dates, keywords, topics, and authors. It’s helpful to create a column for notes or comments so team members can collaborate and ask questions. And, drop-down menu to track the progress of each post adds an extra layer of visibility for everyone involved. Once you build your unique content calendar template, it’s easy to replicate and plug in the next batch of posts. If you’re feeling extra enthusiastic, create a separate tab in your Excel sheet to brainstorm future content ideas because once you get rolling, they’ll keep coming!
6. Promote your content
Once you’ve created a great piece of content, make sure that you promote it in all possible channels – social media, email campaigns, etc. This will help ensure that more people have access to it and get the most out of it.
Promoting your content requires a strategic approach too. Optimizing your content for search is just one way for your readers to find you. Don’t wait for your readers to show up on your blog post — get the new content in front of them. After all, American consumers spend an average of eight hours a day consuming digital media. Once they enjoy your content, they’ll keep coming back for more.
To get to that stage, identify the channels your target audience is most active in, and focus your efforts there, whether it’s through social media posts, email campaigns, newsletters, or paid ads. Also consider which channels have the most reach, like TikTok or Instagram, so you pick the right channels and get the highest return on investment.
Refresh and repurpose your content calendar from time to time
Most content doesn’t have an expiry date. Use your content calendar to remind yourself of that gated ebook that had a record number of downloads, or that high-quality data study that brought in a bunch of qualified leads. Take that evergreen content, update and refresh it, and send it out into the world again in a different format, or a separate channel from the one you used last time.
Creating a content calendar isn’t just a one-time job — revisit, rinse, and repeat!