What gets planned, gets done, and it’s no different for content. While you could create content as you come up with ideas, your lack of consistency and content strategy would likely lead to little or no results.
A better way to go about creating content is by developing a proper content planning process, and for that, you need a content calendar or editorial calendar.
What is an editorial calendar?
An editorial calendar is a publishing schedule that contains high-level information about the content a business is planning to publish, such as the content’s topic, the content type, and which channel it will go on.
Initially, an editorial calendar laid out the general content plan of the year, while the details for each piece of content (who would write a piece, when it would be published, etc.) were included in a content calendar.
While some online publishers still use both an editorial and a content calendar, the terms are now often used interchangeably. Many online tools such as Trello and Asana make it easy to turn items on a list of content ideas into detailed tasks, negating the need for two separate calendars.
In what follows, we’ll use “editorial calendar” to refer to the organized overview of content ideas for the year, and “content calendar” to refer to the fleshed-out schedule including writer info, deadlines, and more.
Why do you need an editorial calendar?
Editorial calendars allow you to stay focused on publishing content that is in line with your business goals. They form the bridge between the many ideas that come up during brainstorming sessions and the approved topic ideas that have been checked off against your marketing goals and keyword research. As such, they ensure that everyone on your marketing team is on the same page about upcoming content.
As they contain lists of pre-approved post content, editorial calendars also make it possible to plan ahead and publish your content in an organized manner.
In short: editorial calendars are the basis of a consistent blog content production process.
We’ll go more into this further down this post but first, let’s discuss what you need to do before you can start creating your own editorial and content calendars.
Before creating your calendars
To create your editorial and content calendars in an efficient way, you need to make some decisions and gather some information first.
Decide on a tool and format for your calendar
There are many great content calendar tools out there and which one is best for you depends both on your content workflow and on your personal preference. Trello is great for those who love Kanban Boards, while Asana is more flexible with various calendar view options. CoSchedule is a good calendar app for those who want a tool that publishes directly to WordPress.
Make a list of how you’d like to organize your blog editorial calendar (per month, per content type, as one big list, …), and what kind of information you want to be able to put in your content calendar (publication dates, assignees, notes, …). Then, choose a tool that offers these options.
If you’re just starting out and don’t plan on creating a lot of content, a simple spreadsheet could work as well (read on for a free template further down in this post!). However, the options there are limited, and adding information as well as tracking progress will be more cumbersome.
Honestly assess how much content you can produce consistently
Before you can start scheduling content on your content calendar, you need to decide on a posting schedule. It’s easy to get excited about the benefits of SEO content and publishing regularly, but you need to be realistic.
How much quality content can you produce consistently? What are the resources (time, budget, and people) at your disposal to create content on a weekly or monthly basis?
Once you’ve honestly assessed this, you can determine your publishing cadence and add content slots to your calendar accordingly.
Create a feedback loop between your SEO and content teams
When you create more than only SEO content, chances are you’ll have different people working alongside each other for content creation. Maybe you’re working with an agency to create rankable and thought leadership content, but you have an in-house writer who creates product release notes and press releases.
Make a list of the different types of content you’ll be publishing and who is responsible for them so people can check in with each other and avoid writing about the same topic twice, or creating keyword cannibalization.
Creating your calendars
Now that you know which types of content you’ll be publishing and how often, it’s time to create your calendars in your tool of choice.
Add your editorial calendar
First, add your editorial calendar as a separate section in your calendar tool. How you do this is up to you:
- as a column on a kanban board
- as a list
- as a tab in your spreadsheet
Whatever the option you choose, include all of your approved content ideas for the year and organize them in a way that makes the most sense to you. This can be:
- per month: this can be useful if you plan to create a lot of content around annual events
- per content type: blog post, press release, expert roundup, …
- per theme: this can work well if you’re building out content silos and want to publish a lot of content around the same theme in a short amount of time
If you want, you can also keep a running list of unconfirmed content ideas somewhere for easy access and inspiration. Just make sure to keep these separate from the ideas that are confirmed for creation.
Top tip: Create an editorial calendar template so you don’t need to start from scratch every year.
Include fields for all necessary information (+ free editorial calendar example)
Then, create the template for your content calendar including all the necessary information. At Flow, these are the key elements we include for each scheduled post:
- the post topic/title
- the associated campaign
- the due date
- the publish date
- the target audience
- the main and secondary keywords
- the call-to-action or offer
- the author
- a link to the brief
- the distribution schedule for social media
We also add a link to the final draft once received, and a link to the live URL once the article has been published. This allows us to keep track of published posts right in our content calendar.
If you use content calendar software, you can create a task card or similar with all of this information as a template.
Side note: Some brands also track their content’s performance (backlinks, traffic, rankings, ..) inside their content calendar. However, this really only works if you’re using a spreadsheet and it can get messy quickly. We advise having a separate system to track content.
If you prefer to use Google Sheets, you can make a copy of Flow’s editorial calendar example and use that for your own editorial calendar. Easy!
Block designated slots for SEO content
Your next step is to block designated slots for SEO content. Ideally, you’ll publish at least one optimized article a week. Having a consistent schedule for your SEO content is important for getting results. The more optimized content you publish, the more target keywords you’re likely to rank for, and the more traffic you’ll get.
By blocking slots for this type of content on your calendar, you avoid them being taken over by other types of content.
Schedule regular optimization of existing content
Don’t think that your editorial and content calendars are only useful for creating new content. Optimizing existing content can give your traffic a serious boost and should be part of your editorial process.
Add to your editorial calendar which pieces should be reviewed at which times of the year, then schedule them on your content calendar alongside new articles.
Now That You Know How to Create an Editorial Calendar…
Quite a bit of work goes into creating an editorial and a content calendar. You need to brainstorm ideas, do keyword research, figure out a posting schedule, make sure there’s no keyword cannibalization between your SEO content and your other content,… and then you haven’t even started writing yet.
However, doing all of this preparatory work is crucial if you want to see results and it will make your content creation process much smoother.
Let us know if you want help with your editorial calendar. Here at Flow, we specialize in creating effective content strategies, including content calendars, briefs, and existing content audits.