A content calendar is like your recipe book, keeping track of all the tasty topics you’ll serve your readers. It’s basically a roadmap for your blog, ensuring you’re not throwing random ingredients together and hoping for the best.
Here’s why a content calendar is your new blogging best friend:
- No more brain freeze: Ever stare at a blank page, begging for inspiration? A calendar preps you with post ideas, saving you from frantic brainstorming sessions.
- Consistency is key: Readers crave a steady stream of content. A calendar helps you plan ahead, keeping your blog a reliable source of info and entertainment.
- Stay organized, stay sane: Juggling writing, editing, and promotion can get chaotic. A calendar keeps tasks on track, preventing you from drowning in a sea of sticky notes.
- Target the right audience: Want to attract more readers? A calendar lets you plan posts around relevant holidays, trends, and events, keeping your content fresh and targeted.
- Measure your success: Tracking what works and what doesn’t is crucial. A calendar lets you see which posts resonate with your audience, helping you refine your strategy.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve long lived a lifestyle where I open up WordPress and then stare at my post editor, desperately trying to come up with something, anything, to write about. This is the nature of the beast. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By taking the time to plan a content calendar, you can sit down at your desk with a plan in place to produce content that will drive traffic and get results.
How to make a content calendar
You have a lot options when it comes to creating a content calendar for your blog, and ultimately, you have to find what works best for you. You could use an app, a spreadsheet, or even just a notebook and pencil. People who know me know that I, uh, love spreadsheets. (Yes, I do plan holiday dinners with a spreadsheet. Doesn’t everyone?) So for me, it made sense to use a Google sheet to plan my content calendar for 2024. At the start of the year, I set up a new sheet and planned out my strategy. Here’s how I did it.
Step 1: Choose blogging consistency
As I wrote about in yesterday’s post about blogging, consistency is key. How much can you commit to writing on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? Be realistic in your assessment. Writing a high-quality blog post can take time and that’s okay. Just plan for how much time you can dedicate to it and still do the rest of you work. If you have other people in your company that can write too, all the better. Many hands make light work. Anyway, figure out your consistency. For myself, I chose 3 blog posts a week.
Step 2: Set up sheet (or app or whatever)
Because I love spreadsheets, and because using Google sheets is free, that’s what I used to set up my blogging content calendar. I made one row equal one week of blog posts, and since I’m writing three posts a week, that means that for six months of blog posts, I need 26 rows and at least three columns, one for each post. That would be a basic version. But I’m not basic. So here’s what mine looks like. (Click on it to see it larger, I know that text is small.)
I have blurred future topics and titles to keep you surprised!
Step 3: Choose themes
To make coming up with blog posts easier, I decided to focus my blog posts each week on one theme, and I made my decisions by looking at my blog categories. What categories do I write about, and what can I write about more, and I chose a category to focus on each week. You don’t have to do it this way, this is just how I did it, but it did really help me focus and develop my individual post ideas when I had already narrowed down a theme.
I went through my list of categories, decided the ones I wanted to write more about, and filled one theme in for each week. This week, my theme is blogging. This really helped me in planning for the next step, which was the planning of the actual blog posts.
Step 4: Plan blog posts
The next step is to start planning our what posts you are going to write. I’m not going to lie, this is where I started asking AI to help me generate topics. I went to both Bard and ChatGPT and asked them each to generate a list of 25 blog post ideas with titles on each of these themes. Then I went through the lists that were generated and pulled the ones I thought were good, and plugged them into my sheet. Sometimes these ideas gave me ideas for my own posts. I didn’t love every post idea, but having a handful of ideas for each theme was incredibly helpful.
Step 5: Automate (Optional)
If you want to a be a super geek, there are a lot of ways you can automate this as well. I haven’t actually done this (yet) but depending on how you set up your sheet, you could set up an automation so that a new draft blog post is created in WordPress every day with the title of the post you are writing about already plugged in.
You can set up an automation that will load all your blog post topics onto your Google calendar every day, so it’s part of your daily routine. You look at your calendar, and it automatically shows you what you need to write about.
And, if you wanted to take it even a step further, you could create an automation that takes your daily blog post idea, generates some starter content in ChatGPT that gets added as a draft post in WordPress. Is that taking automation too far? Perhaps. But it can definitely give you a jump start on your blog post.
Tips for your Blogging Content Calendar
- Use current events, trends, or news to draw more topic ideas.
- Don’t feel nailed down – if inspiration arises, it’s okay to make changes.
- Periodically review the calendar and adjust as necessary. If you find you picked a too stringent schedule, adjust it so you can stay consistent rather than abandoning it. Lots of blogs get abandoned, which doesn’t help you at all.
- You can expand your content calendar to include your SEO keywords, and even integrate it with social media posting.
Content Calendar Resources
I use a spreadsheet, but you don’t have to. There are lots of options out there, and some of them maybe a better option especially if you are collaborating with a team.
Planable is a content collaboration platform designed to streamline the creation, approval, and scheduling of marketing content. There is a limited free plan with additional plans starting at $11 per month per user.
ClickUp is a cloud-based all-in-one productivity platform that aims to replace all your other productivity and project management tools. If you are already using ClickUp, they have a free ready-to-go content calendar template you can use. ClickUp has free plans and paid plans depending on your needs.
CoSchedule is an all-in-one marketing calendar platform designed to help individuals and teams organize, create, and publish content and social media posts in a centralized location. It focuses on streamlining the marketing process, saving time, and boosting efficiency.
Honestly, any project management tool you already use can probably be used to create a content calendar. Already using Monday, Asana, or Trello? Trust me, those can all be used for your content calendar. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If you are familiar with and like an app, use it! What’s important is that you find one that you like and that you’ll continue to use.
If you are thinking that a Google sheet is the way to go, here are some free templates you can use to get started.
- Editorial Calendar Template from Smart Sheet
- Simple Content Calendar Template from Smart Sheet
- Content Calendar Template from Backlinko
- Free Editorial Calendar Templates from HubSpot
- Free Content Calendar from HelloMetrics
Remember, a content calendar is your flexible friend, not a strict dictator. Adapt it as you go, experiment with different formats, and most importantly, have fun with it!
Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.