Why You Need An Editorial Calendar For Your Blog

April 23, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Content Strategy

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.

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