I have a confession to make.

My name is Lisa and I used to be a really bad blogger. I used to wake up every morning in a panic about what I was going to write about. I had nightmares of going three days without a fresh post. There were anxiety tears, writers block headaches, and even worse, horribly unpolished posts being let loose into the wild. It was a scary, scary time. But all of that is behind me now.

What changed?

I began thinking like a professional publisher and created an editorial calendar for the blog. And it’s been heaven.

If you don’t think you need an editorial calendar for your blog, you’re wrong (sorry. I still love you.). The effect it will have on your writing, reader retention and your own sanity is very real. How will an editorial calendar help you, you ask?

  • Post quality will INCREASE: No more scrambling to throw a post together to avoid the dreaded blogging dry spell. By knowing what post will go live on which day, you’re able to spend time creating evergreen content. Posts will feel more polished, less scatterbrained and may actually make sense. W00t! You’ll also be able to create a more cohesive blog strategy because you’ll be looking at your blog from a few months out instead of getting caught up in the day-to-day rush.
  • Post quantity will INCREASE: It’s a proven fact that when you put deadlines on things or assign accountability, they’re more likely to get done. I mean, I don’t have stats for it, but I’m pretty sure it’s proven. Figure out how many posts you want to be publishing a month, set deadlines for each, and then do it. Having a laundry list of blog topics to pick from is nice, but unless they have real tangible deadlines attached, they have a habit of staying “to-do” and never become “to-doNE”.
  • Advertising opportunities will INCREASE: Yes, believe it or not, creating an editorial calendar can even help you earn more money through your advertisers. And the reason is quite simple. When you know which kind of post will go live on what day, you can reach out to specific advertisers and match the subject matter. For example, if you know that in two weeks you’ll be posting a huge local-themed guide, then maybe you want to reach out to someone like BOTW to run an ad on that day. By planning ahead you create advertising opportunities more likely to convert.
  • Subscribers will INCREASE: It’s simple mathematics. Better Posts + More Frequently = Subscriber WIN!
  • Urge to bang your head against the wall will DECREASE: There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank screen and watching as the day escapes you. I report an 80 percent reduction in blogging-related tears since switching to an editorial calendar.

Now that you know why you should do it, HOW do you go about using an editorial calendar that you’ll stick to and use to help you plan content?

I’m a big fan of Google Calendar. It’s free, it’s easy and it allows me to share my different blog calendars with the others involved. I also like it because each time I tell Rae I’m using yet another Google product I can feel her heart break just a little bit more. From there, I’ve adopted the Problogger approach for making notes to slot things in.

And that’s when the fun part starts – figuring out what your blog is going to look like over the next few months! Here are the things I tend to consider when coming up with planned content ideas:

Check a real calendar

Look for opportunities to create tie-ins with holidays, important anniversaries or even the change of seasons. Besides just being timely and fun, they’re also things your readers are probably naturally searching for. You may not got a huge amount of content from the yearly calendar, but it’s better than waking up on the first day of Spring, Thanksgiving morning or even Game 1 of the Red Sox World Series and realizing you missed an opportunity for a great (and timely) post. Also look for calendar tie-ins with industry specific anniversaries. SEOmoz had a great post earlier this week about SEO from 1999 where a community member used his 10 year anniversary date in SEO to comment on all the changes that have taken place in the industry. Awesome idea. Awesome post.

You should also be consulting your own internal calendar. When are you scheduled to be giving that presentation? When is that new product coming out? When will you be traveling to a conference? Create posts that bring these things, and you, into the spotlight.

Create weekly features

Make every Monday a roundup of the weekend, every Wednesday a post about your favorite SEO tool or have a fun Recap every Friday. These kinds of posts help keep you on a good schedule, but better yet, they put your readers on a schedule. If you train your readers to expect certain content on certain days, they’ll keep coming back to view it. For example, folks who read the Bruce Clay, Inc. blog know that every Friday there’s a Friday Recap coming to help you get your giggle on.

I used to be a big fan of this on past blogs, but I haven’t taken that approach here (yet). If you’ve noticed, we don’t do silly things on Friday like I did at my old jobs. In fact, sometimes we just cause massive riots on Fridays instead. ;) Even though I don’t think we’ll be adopting this one, per se, I do think it’s incredibly valuable. I remember walking into Bruce Clay every Friday feeling relaxed knowing that today was a Friday Recap day and that my blog topic was covered. And that there would probably be donuts in the office. Mmm, donuts.

Develop In depth Article Series

One of the best things about planning posts ahead of time is that it allows you to create well-researched, evergreen pieces of content. When you’re not struggling to get a post up before the 5pm East Coast deadline, you have time to think. You have time to look things up. You can polish posts. You can find the right angles. You can do more interesting things with your blog.

This is something I’m really interested in doing with Outspoken. I’ve long wanted to created a full fledged Do It Yourself series for small businesses and people just starting out on the Web. I also want to wrangle Rhea into making her SEO tools post a permanent blog feature. And by putting it on a calendar that both Rae and Rhea will have access to, it makes it easier to threaten their lives if they don’t produce content on time. Huzzah for easy death threats!

Give each blog category equal love

We all have our favorite Internet marketing topic. If I could, every post here would be about community building or how to not be a social media whore. But unfortunately for me, there needs to be some diversity. Creating diversity on your blog is a lot easier to do when you’re looking at your schedule on a grand scale. Brainstorm 5-10 ideas for each of your listed categories and then space them out so that you know you’re hitting those topic areas regularly. It’s very easy to accidentally write 15 posts on blogging and forget about all your other categories. Or, at least it is if you’re me.

Creating an editorial calendar is a great way to control the direction and flow of your blog. Obviously, you want to keep up with time-sensitive topics and breaking news, but by adding an editorial calendar you’ll allow yourself to always be a step ahead and a more relaxed blogger.


About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.


32 thoughts on “Why You Need An Editorial Calendar For Your Blog


  • Barry Schwartz on said:

    I like to go on record saying I do not have an editorial calendar for either Search Engine Land or Search Engine Roundtable. If there is nothing to write about, then we get a break – but that never happens. :)


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    Barry: You’re a far better trooper than I am, Barry. I used to fly without one at Bruce Clay and every day there was a serious anxiety attack. Now that I’m blogging at different locations on very regular intervals, I find I can’t function without one. I need to know which content is due on what day and for whom. Without it I would have gone crazy by now.

    That reminds me, I believe I have an article due for Search Engine Land. ;)


  • Charlene on said:

    Before starting my blog I did an editorial calendar – it was suggested by a colleague who found himself floundering for posts about 12 months into his blog :) Having said that, I have pre-scheduled posts but ‘intervene’ when the situation warrants, i.e. my thoughts about presentations at an annual conference. Your thoughts about using the calendar for advertising and holiday tie-ins are spot on. Well done.


  • amymengel on said:

    Lisa – you share some great tips here. I have a pretty poor editorial calendar for my blog right now – if it could even be called one. It’s basically a notes file on my Blackberry where I enter topic ideas as I think of them. If I get stuck for a blog post idea, I refer to that list and pluck something off it for inspiration.

    Having recurring features also helps a ton and I’ve just started one on my blog – the great thing there is I can write a couple of them up in advance and have them all ready to publish when I hit a bit of a dry spell.

    The thing that resonanted most with me was your last part above about the calendar helping you to spread the love equally among your categories. I definitely get stuck on the same topics/categories and I can really see how having some more structure would help me make sure that I’m adding diversity to my blog topics.

    Another great post, thanks!
    @amymengel


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    Amy: Ha, you mean I’m not the only one with a notes file on my Blackberry? Awesome. :)

    I’ve had to become WAY better with it recently because I’ve taken on a lot more and I need to make sure everything gets done and done well. I feel like its made me a much more relaxed blogger. It’s also kind of nice to pretend there’s a rhyme or reason for the crazy that goes on here. :)


  • Shay West on said:

    Lisa:

    Thanks for an awesome post about the necessity of using an editorial calendar for blogging. We all use calendars throughout other parts of our collective personal and professional lives, so blogging shouldn’t be any different. A calendar helps to create relevance and connection to other events in our world.

    @shaywest


  • MikeTek on said:

    OK, you know I’ve been thinking about taking this approach and have avoided it because, well…probably because I’ve been lazy. But you have inspired me.

    I think it might be easier for blogs like Search Engine Land and Search Engine Roundtable to operate without a schedule because most of their content is centered on current events or forum threads that pop up organically.


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    Mike: Agreed on that. However, I think even in those cases it’s not bad to have some non time sensitive content ready to go. Because though it’s rare, there are days when there is *nothing* happen in the SEO world and then you’re kind of stuck. :)


  • Alec on said:

    Hello Lisa,

    If you are talking about a weblog with multiple authors and editing, I totally agree with you about a calendar. Or if you write for four or five weblogs, it’s also a good idea to make sure none of the children gets neglected.

    For a solo weblogger, I think planning might even reduce efficiency. It’s more like on your marks, get set, write like hell every day for the rest of your life.

    ________________________

    Alec Kinnear
    Creative Director – Foliovision


  • Dana Lookadoo on said:

    Lisa, THANK you for this post! And the comments add great value as well. I so appreciate your tips. Personally, I’m much better at helping others plan their blogging/editorial efforts than doing so for self. The result of blogging w/o a plan has resulted in not posting anything, with many blog post drafts sitting… But, ‘nuf about me.

    Question – How much time do you schedule for blogging if you were going to take two approaches? One for the planning/researching/writing of an article series and time estimated for the shorter blog posts? Imagine you were talking to a corporate client who needs to know how much time is required.


  • Glen Allsopp on said:

    Another great post Lisa, I write regularly for my two blogs and for DumbLittleMan, but in all honest I don’t have a ‘calendar’ per say. For PluginHQ I just post when the feeling takes me, although for my other blog I have a limit to say I want to post at least 3 times per week

    You make some good points, I’m not so sure about the advertising part, how would you get advertisers to take part just in aid of a post? Were you talking about affiliate links or something…

    Keep it up guys, you’re growing quickly!

    Cheers,
    Glen


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    Alec: I’m not sure I understand how planning posts out ahead of time would reduce efficiency. Can you explain a bit more? At least for me, the biggest part of the blogging process is finding something interesting to write about. So, create an editorial calendar means I know what I’m going to write that day. If you’re a solo blogger and you’re afraid of biting off more than you can chew, at least by having a calendar you’ll already know the topic at hand and won’t have to waste time figuring it out.

    Dana: I think that’s really going to depend on the blogger and they’re comfort in the area of blogging. For me, if it’s a short post or a post where there’s no research involved, I’ll probably have it written, formatted and pics included in about an hour. If it’s something I have to research, then that could jump up to more like 3 hours. It really depends on (a) how much research is involved, (b) what kind of formatting will be involved (photos, video, crazy text tricks), and (c) how comfortable the person is writing in the first place.

    Glen: Yep, I meant affiliate stuff and being able to switch ads in and out.


  • David on said:

    Great tips, Ive been posting on my blog when the mood strikes but a more structured approach is something im going to try to stick with from now on.


  • Alysson on said:

    I, for one, would love to see Fridays here at Outspoken be designated “Rants & Riots” day. Just imagine the possibilities. :)

    I completely agree with the need for an editorial calendar. I am woefully neglectful of my blog, due in large part to my lack of attention to creating a calendar and giving structure to my posting schedule. Thanks for wagging a finger at me…I deserve it.


  • Ruud Hein on said:

    A planning tool to add, stolen from GTD: a “Waiting For…” list.

    With the growing list of guest posts and interviews I manage, knowing whom I’m waiting for, since when and how many times I’ve reminded the person when is invaluable.

    Works for many other outstanding stuff too, of course :)


  • Derek on said:

    We’ve started moving more towards the concept of an editorial calendar, particularly when talking to clients and prospects about blogging, but also for our blog as well.

    I do think the emphasis on making certain to keep up with time sensitive topics, breaking news and other blog conversations is important also. I could foresee some getting too reliant on the schedule and possibly losing touch as a result.

    Thanks for a great post – it definitely makes a lot of sense!


  • David Wright on said:

    Great post, thanks! As a former reporter, I took the same approach with my new co-authored blog. I was tinkering with Google’s calendar but was unable to find a way to show much beyond the event name without a couple of clicks. I’ve found Yahoo’s calendar display a little more friendly.

    Thanks for the information.


  • Yura on said:

    Lisa, when your post writing expands to the non-existing deadline, you follow the Parkinson’s Law:
    “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

    I have been sharply affected by it for the last few weeks, when I have set 1-2 week deadlines for small projects, postponed them to the last minute – naturally, and now every morning starts with finishing a project.

    Great idea about the calendar, though, I believe, one still needs to leave room for random posts, just in case. You know, the posts you write in one breath, under 1-2 hours.

    I have been using something similar to what Ruud describes: I have a huge list of possible topics to write about, where I list facts, thoughts or stories/posts/tools to write about. When I need to publish a post [on a specific topic], I simply go to the list, grab the topic and start with an existing plan, because I’ve already thought what to write about before and have included posts to link out, too.


  • David on said:

    Great post! I’m just now becoming more regular at posting, and am hoping to get on a more disciplined schedule. Your suggestions will surely help. Thanks.


  • sherisaid on said:

    Late to the party, as always, but this is a great post – and one I find incredibly helpful and not merely interesting. A lot of what you blog about – like SEO and building community – I find interesting but have no current use for (until I do, and then I will) but even for a personal blogger like myself, this advice is sure to prove itself invaluable. Thanks, as always, for what you do best: making me think. sherry


  • Outsourcing Lifestyle on said:

    What an AWESOME post. As someone that just relaunched his blog after a while relaxing, this was a lot of help in being able to plan my writing, which I enjoy immensely, but as a busy guy, have to schedule, otherwise things get put off.

    Thank you, Lisa, for some real good quality content.


  • Gil Reich on said:

    Quick point on why I think Barry Schwartz says he doesn’t need an editorial calendar and you say you do. Barry is essentially a journalist who reacts to the latest news. He provides more insight and interpretation than a reporter does. But he’s usually bringing us the latest industry news. You’re primarily a columnist, which is why yesterday you could link to this 9 month old article, and the article is as relevant as it was when you wrote it (though writing a comment on it is like trying to pick up a girl at a party after everybody went home). For this kind of column writing I’m sure the discipline of an editorial calendar is very helpful. For bringing us the news, it isn’t. You and Barry are both A-list search engine bloggers, but you have different skill-sets and you’re doing different jobs.


  • Chameleon Copywriter on said:

    Hi Lisa, great post and very good advices, surely an editorial calendar helps. Unfortunately if blogging is not your job (I mean, if you do it for fun/personal interest, but you already have a primary income from a “normal” job) it is always hard (at least for me) to plan in an effective way my writing. Still a great post though.


  • kieran cassidy on said:

    I used to use my notes on my iphone which is great as I always have my phone to hand, some great tips and I will be back reading you a lot more often. Thanks a lot!


  • hank on said:

    Thanks for this post! I do practice collecting material over time as blog ideas develop, but I still struggle with getting my postings more organized and scheduled. This sounds really attractive and I’m setting up my calendar now.


  • Peter on said:

    Good information is valuable. I have always used some form of editorial or event calandar to plan my weekly/monthly work load. I guess it comes from my previous full time day job. Far more productive working this way.
    Thanks for the input Lisa.


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