How to Create a Content Calendar: 10 Effective Tips for Developing a Dynamic Content Calendar
Writing tends to be a primary focus with content marketing. Publishing, however, is the flip side of the content marketing coin. After all, if you don’t have a plan for publishing your content, your audience probably won’t see it (or engage with it).
One of the most effective ways to manage the publishing aspect of content marketing is to create a content calendar.
Content Calendar vs. Editorial Calendar: What’s the Difference?
Before we dive into our content calendar tips, it’s first important to define what a content calendar is. A content calendar is essentially a tracking system for each piece of content you create. Content calendars usually display your current and planned content for a given day or week.
In contrast, an editorial calendar shows a bigger picture than the content calendar. Editorial calendars tend to show a monthly or yearly view of content marketing plans. This means that they can highlight larger content themes, plans or opportunities (rather than the details featured in a content calendar).
Here’s an overview of Digital Authority’s content calendar, showing our content plans for a few weeks.
Some of the various pieces of content you can include in a content calendar are:
- Social media posts
- Email newsletters and campaigns
- eBooks and guides
- Content templates
- White papers
- Visual content like infographics, maps or video blogs
- Podcasts and other audio content
- Any other type of content you or your team is (or will be) creating in the near future.
Benefits of Using a Content Calendar
Using a content calendar can be really helpful for a lot of reasons. Some of the main benefits to using a content calendar include:
• Effectively optimizing your content – A content calendar can include important SEO information. This may be target keyword phrase(s), suggested SEO titles or other info for optimizing a piece. These details can help the writing and publishing processes. They can also position each piece of content you create to do well in terms of search, rankings and traffic.
• Keeping your team on the same page – Your writers, salespeople, marketing professionals, managers and other staff members can coordinate their efforts if everyone is working from and referencing a single content calendar.
• Cultivating topics for future content – Your content calendar can provide a bird’s-eye view of the recurring themes in your content. It can also highlight the trajectory of the story you’re telling for your brand. Understanding these themes and your brand story can provide the perspective for effectively planning for future content (i.e., what topics to cover over the upcoming days or weeks). It can also help in terms of scheduling content, making it easier to figure out when is the best time to reveal specific parts of your brand’s story.
• Maintaining a consistent message and voice across your digital marketing campaigns – With a content calendar, all of your content can be coordinated far more easily. From social media and email campaigns to blogs, visual content and more, your content calendar can keep the beat of your content drum. And that’s important to developing and maintaining a consistent and relevant message for your brand across every piece of content – and across any platform or channel your content is published on.
10 Essential & Proven Tips for Creating (& Maintaining) a Content Calendar
1. Start by formalizing your publishing process
Make sure your team has a standard operating procedure (SOP) for creating and publishing content. This is an important first step because it will help you figure out the specific elements that needs to be in your content calendar.
It can also provide other key information, such as who will be responsible for keeping the calendar up to date and where to keep the calendar (so the right people all have access to it at any point).
• Pro Tip: Talk to your staff about the current process(es) they use to write and publish content. Ask them what aspects may be redundant, where they see inefficiencies, etc. This can help you refine your publishing and content marketing processes while getting your team to buy into the new formal process(es) you’re putting in place.
2. Choose the format that fits your process and team
Content calendars can be developed in a variety of formats and platforms. They can live in static or dynamic spaces (like on a desktop or online). The dynamics of your team (and its processes) will highlight which format and platform is a best fit.
For instance, you can use Excel spreadsheets to create your content calendar, with different tabs for different types of content. Alternatively, your team can rely on an online platform (like CoSchedule, for instance). The bottom line here is to pinpoint the format that will best serve your team, your processes and your overall goals.
• Pro Tip: Do a test run with a few different formats if you’re not sure what option will best suit your team. Test runs (and even the little bit of extra work they may involve) can go a long way to helping you avoid investing your time (and money) into a format or platform that simply won’t work. Not sure where to get started?
Try Using Digital Authority’s Content Calendar Template!
3. Populate the calendar with important dates
As you dive into to populating your content calendar with details, important dates and deadlines can be a good place to start. These dates don’t have to be limited to when content is published.
They can also include dates like draft due dates, deadlines for designing content-related graphics, and dates for distributing content across various channels (like social media, for example).
• Pro Tip: Create a system of alerts or tasks so that each team member (and you) are aware of what’s due when. This can keep everyone accountable and informed about the progress of every piece of content in your pipeline.
4. Include forms of content being created
Blogs, articles, email campaigns, social media posts, infographics, etc. can all be included in your content calendar. You can even include or track plans for new forms of content to add to your current content marketing campaigns.
For instance, if you’re blogging right now and want to start promoting your blog on social media (or even through Facebook ad promotions), track these plans on your content calendar!
• Pro Tip: Set a deadline for each piece of content added to your content calendar, including for new content plans (like new social campaigns, for instance). Due dates can be an effective way to stay on track and ensure that execution of new content plans actually happens. It can also be helpful to ensuring that new content-related processes are fully incorporated in your writing and publishing SOPs as your team moves forward.
Here’s a simple example of how you can use the Digital Authority Content Calendar to plan Facebook Promotions.
Whether it’s on your Facebook Page:
Or a Facebook Ad to drive traffic to your website:
5. Fill in additional details for each piece of content
For any piece of content added to the content calendar, include details about the topic, available resource(s), target keyword(s), and anything else your team would need to know upfront in order to make that piece the best it can be.
These details can add some important meat to the bones of your content calendar. They can also help everyone stay on task, avoid mistakes and produce and publish content as efficiently as possible.
• Pro Tip: Another helpful detail to consider including in your content calendar is how to repurpose content down the line. For instance, you may include a “repurpose” field, category or column. This is where recommendations can be added about how a piece of content can be reused or atomized later. This detail can help you squeeze the most life out of each piece of content your team creates. It can also help you improve the ROI for your content marketing.
6. Track the status of each piece of content
At the very least, your content calendar should track the dates on which different pieces of content are published. But that doesn’t have to be the only ‘status’ tracked. You can also include sub-due dates that lead up to the publishing milestone(s).
For example, you can include due dates for when each member of your team needs step in and do something to prepare your content for publishing. These can be dates for when the first draft is due, when the final draft is due, when associated graphics are due, etc.
• Pro Tip: Consider having your staff input or set these dates on their own. This can be helpful to setting realistic deadlines. It can also be important to promoting cohesion and teamwork with your content staff.
7. Track engagement
Up to this point, we’ve pointed out how a content calendar can be incredibly helpful on the front-end of content creation and publishing. In other words, we’ve shown how a content calendar can facilitate your content team’s planning processes.
Content calendars are not limited to planning alone, however. They can also be effective at tracking back-end data, such as the ROI of each piece of content you’ve published. Here’s a snapshot of how we at Digital Authority use our content calendar to track email engagement for our Weekly campaigns:
By including engagement (and other backend) data in your content calendar, you can compare what is and is not working.
You also gain insight about what types of topics, formats, and publishing platforms are generating better (or worse) results. And that can help you refine and improve your overall content marketing strategies.
• Pro Tip: Set up a schedule to analyze engagement for your published content. Getting in a weekly (or monthly, etc.) habit of doing this review is an excellent way of keeping your thumb on the pulse of your content marketing efforts. This can help you avoid wasting resources on content that’s not working or generating the results you’re looking for.
8. Pick one point person to be responsible for the content calendar
Having one lead to oversee the content calendar (and to be accountable for it) is important to maintaining the calendar.
If no single person is primarily responsible for the content calendar, it’s easy for anyone to drop the ball. And that can lead to miscommunication, mistakes and oversights in any area of your content marketing.
• Pro Tip: Make sure that you also have a backup point person, as well as managerial oversight. This can be essential if your point person becomes unavailable at any point in the future (like due to illness, job change, etc.).
9. Keep it simple at first
As you get the ball rolling to create a content calendar, the process can quickly snowball as more and more details, tasks, etc. get added in. So, start off with the basics. Then, slowly build in the more detailed portions or functionality once the foundation is in place.
This can be central to training your team to work with and from the calendar. It can also be the key to maintaining a cohesive content team.
• Pro Tip: Prioritize the items you want your content calendar to track. As new items get phased into the calendar, make it a point to inform your team about them. You may even want to conduct a special training session so everyone understands the latest updates.
10. Revisit your content calendar as your business (& the available technology) evolves
What works today may not work in 6 months or at some point down the line.
With time, your business may change and new software and tools can become available. So, make it a point to evaluate the functionality of your content calendar on a regular basis.
• Pro Tip: Set up a task or alert for yourself to make this evaluation. Consider checking in with your team to see what is and isn’t working for them in terms of the calendar. Your staff may be aware of new or different software, practices, etc. that may better serve your content, your business, and your target audience.
A Few More Helpful Content Calendar Tips
Include links to published pieces
After publishing your content, add links to the live piece in your content calendar.
These links can be helpful resources later. They can help you (and your team) easily find any piece of content you’ve published. And they can help enhance SEO efforts when you interlink your content.
Track guests’ posts
Our content calendar discussion has mainly focused on the content your team creates for your brand. But if you have guests writing content for you, include this guest-developed content in your calendar also!
This can be anything from content written by colleagues to posts, contests or quizzes involving your audience. It can even include testimonials (or other content) written by your current or former clients.
Set monthly or quarterly content goals
Do you want to start publishing different types of content for your brand? Would you like to cover different topics?
Or are you looking to expand your content marketing to new platforms?
Whatever your content marketing goals may be, include these in your content calendar also.
Setting content goals and keeping them visible can help you continue to work on your goals. And that can be key to achieving them and bringing your content marketing to the next level.
The Bottom Line on Content Calendars
Your team, your business and your audience can all benefit from a dynamic content calendar. The bottom line on content calendars is that the right calendar can go a long way to:
- Keeping your brand’s messaging consistent
- Publishing content on a regular basis
- Growing your audience
- Engaging more of your audience
- Refining and improving your content marketing campaigns
- Enhancing brand awareness and authority online.
Have you tried creating or using a content calendar?
What has (or hasn’t) worked for you or your team?
Have you run across any helpful tools or tactics? Or have you been tripped up by any challenges?
Share your experiences and keep the conversation going in the comments below and/or on social media.