For the past years, I did not have a content calendar. I only wrote blog articles or email newsletter when I felt that inspiration struck me.
As you can imagine, my results were pretty bad. I ended up writing two (!) blog articles in 2017.
That’s not nearly enough to build a reputation and grow my business. And don’t even get me started on sending newsletters on a fixed schedule. I tried setting up content scheduling plugins, content calendar plugins inside WordPress, and all sorts of other stuff. I read countless posts on content creation and how, as an example, a content strategy can generate revenue for online shops.
While those posts all looked fancy and made me feel super excited, they didn’t help me create content consistently.
They mentioned countless WordPress plugins, most of which I tried. Just go to the WordPress plugin repository and search for “content calendar” … you’ll see how many plugins there are. But for some reason, those plugins weren’t working for me.
This year, I tried something different.
I set up a simple Google Spreadsheet to schedule my content creation, mostly for my newsletters and blog posts.
With this spreadsheet, I can easily track my ideas for email newsletters, the dates on when they should go out, and make sure that I have them written in time. Whenever I finish writing and scheduling an email, I mark the entire row in green, so that I know this topic is taken care of. Then I can just work my way from the top to last ideas – and keep adding new ideas for more newsletters.
I have set up a similar spreadsheet for my guest articles, which seems to be working equally as well. You can make your own copy of this spreadsheet, click here to open it in Google Spreadsheets.
Why setting up a content calendar matters
Having a content calendar can make the difference between running a successful blog that drives 100’s of thousands of visitors and barely getting any traffic.
It has many benefits, including (but not limited to):
- You become more efficient in content creation
- You can create content consistently
- More content inevitably leads to more long-tail traffic over time
There are many more reasons for creating content regularly. It’s important for monetizing your site, it helps build a consistent reader base, and, in the long term, your content will become one of the pillars that makes your audience trust in your brand.
Let me explain how I use this spreadsheet for writing my content.
This content calendar spreadsheet makes me more efficient in content creation.
Here’s my workflow:
Every Monday, I block out a certain amount of time in my calendar to create content ideas. Usually, that’s anywhere between 15 – 30 minutes. That allows me to write down ideas without getting distracted. I even shut down my phone and Slack during this time.
Next, I schedule out time to actually write the content throughout the week, so that I can deliver the content on time. Additionally to scheduling time in my Asana project for content creation, I also run a habit in Coach.me to write 100+ words daily.
For me, 100 words are the perfect target. I usually achieve that within 10-15 minutes after writing begins and then I keep going until the content piece is finished.
Managing a WordPress site on its own can be more than enough work. Writing content shouldn’t add to it. As I don’t consider myself a writer per se, I’m thankful that I finally found a way to make writing more “plannable”. By not having to think about the topic I’m going to write about, the writing itself becomes easy.
Creating content consistently is key.
With this workflow, I’m able to keep up with my content calendar, which I made a high priority for 2018. Especially for my newsletters, and my column on the LiquidWeb blog, creating content consistently is important.
Building a habit out of content creation is my biggest goal and challenge at the same time. Especially when you’re not directly monetizing your content, which you should be, making writing a priority is difficult. Other projects and tasks you can charge for will always seem more urgent.
You have to keep the long game in mind.
How will you build your business if it has no reputation, no platform? By running a blog that’s updated consistently, your website will look much more serious to your prospects. You’re showcasing that you can stick to schedules, communicate clearly and that you’re eager to contribute to your community.
Remember, writing blog posts is a way to share your knowledge. And it’s a great exercise in discipline for yourself and your business.
Why a content calendar leads to more traffic
I’m by no means an SEO expert, but I do know that long-tail traffic can become a numbers game. Long-tail keywords are keywords with low search volume, but with extremely targeted traffic. People searching for long-tail keywords usually are highly interested in a topic and likely will convert a lot better than people searching for broad terms.
An example of a long-tail keyword would be: how to run Facebook ads for a pet shop
The correlating broad keyword is: run Facebook ads
See how an article talking specifically about ads for pet shops would be way more relevant for the people searching for the long-tail keyword?
On this blog, Chris has written an extensive glossary about KPI metrics. While going through it, you’ll notice that he put every single metric into an <h3> tag, telling Google that it’s important – while also allowing for visual differentiation. You can see how his glossary is full of long-tail keywords, for which it’ll potentially rank over time.
That’s why I think creating content is a numbers game. And with a good content calendar, you can play the game on your own rules. It’s simple:
The more (valuable) content you create, the more long-tail keywords you’ll inevitably have on your blog.
And the more potential for getting traffic there is.
For some articles, I do keyword research using Long Tail Pro. Those articles usually are meant to be cornerstone-content on my blog. For other, shorter, articles I don’t do keyword research and rely on making all boxes in YoaST SEO green. It’s a matter of efficiency whether I do keyword research for long-tail keywords or not.
Usually, my content calendar mixes up cornerstone content with regular posts quite well. Maybe every fourth or fifth post is cornerstone content with 2000+ words.
Why content marketing isn’t for everybody
Though this post – and especially the spreadsheet – will set you up with a good foundation to plan your content marketing strategy, I want to touch upon a few topics that you might not have considered yet.
Content marketing isn’t for everybody, even if you have the best content calendar in the world.
Let me break this statement down for you.
The success you can achieve with content marketing highly depends on the work and money you’re willing to invest. It’s not as easy as writing 100 blog posts and seeing what resonates best with your audience, you have to be strategic. Keep in mind that those businesses who can spend the most money on earning the customer, will usually get them. Whether that’s money spent on time invested, on staff, or on paid traffic.
Before you embark on your content marketing path, have a look at your competition and examine what they are doing in their marketing. Say, for example, you’re in the online marketing field and want to build a brand as videographer. If that’s the case, you’d better be prepared to compete with a LOT of content that’s out there. Same is true for other niches like nutrition, fitness, pets, music, consulting, and most other markets I can think of.
Another example, look at Bloom. It’s a blog for women, in the wellness, health, and lifestyle niche. To build their brand and secure their position, they put out multiple posts per day. Ok, SEO won’t be their strongest source of traffic. But given they use their blog as a foundation for an Instagram account (@bloom) with 815k followers, you might get an idea of what’s needed.
This is not to say that you should neglect writing content altogether. Don’t let these two examples discourage you. I just want to ensure that you understand the importance of being strategic in your content creation process.
I hope this article gives you a good insight into my content creation process and how my simple spreadsheet helps me stay on top of my content game. Your content needs to fulfill a certain set of criteria to become a truly powerful foundation for your brand:
- You need to solve a pain point for your audience. LiquidWeb obviously does that by providing great hosting and publishing content that helps website owners. Bloom does that by sharing content that makes their readers feel good (making your readers happy does count).
- You need to keep your monetization strategy in mind. Think about strategies like the AIDA sales process.
- Write for humans, not for search engines. Google becomes better in understanding written content day-by-day. The time of keyword stuffing is over.