How to Create an Editorial Calendar for Readers, Not Your Business
One of the most important steps you can take to ensure the time and money you spend writing and publishing content on your business blog isn’t wasted is to create an editorial calendar.
However, to develop a blog editorial calendar that helps you achieve the best results for your business, you need to do some planning.
While you might think simply sitting down and writing about whatever topic strikes you each day will work fine, the reality is you need a plan or you might not be creating the kind of content that your target audience wants and needs.
According to Hubspot’s 2018 State of Inbound survey, more than half of marketers (55%) say blogging is their top inbound marketing priority, and nearly half of marketers (42%) say blogging is their most important type of content.
That means there is a lot of competition out there for your audience’s attention, so you need to make sure your content stands out as meaningful and valuable to them.
Bottom-line, if you’re spending time and money on your business blog, then you need to give the strategy behind it and the plan to execute that strategy the same investment as you do for your advertising and other marketing initiatives.
The good news is you can do it with an editorial calendar.
Key Benefits of an Editorial Calendar for Your Business Blog
An editorial calendar helps you in two very important ways so you can increase your return on investment (ROI) overall:
An Editorial Calendar Saves Time
Many people don’t create editorial calendars because they don’t think they have the time to create one. It does take some time to create a useful editorial calendar that will help you boost ROI and reach your goals, but without a road map, it’s hard to get to your destination.
The truth is a well-developed editorial calendar will save you more time over the course of a year than you’ll spend creating it today.
Don’t believe me? Track how much time it takes you to come up with topic ideas and publish content to your business blog each time you sit down to write.
If you publish new posts to your blog multiple times per week, that time adds up very quickly.
In fact, if you publish 16 posts per month, which research shows drives the most traffic to a blog, and spend 10 minutes per post coming up with a topic idea, that equates to 160 minutes or nearly three hours of wasted time every month. That’s 32 hours per year.
Without an editorial calendar, you’re wasting nearly a week of time every year! How much does that cost you?
It’s far more efficient and cost-effective to look at your editorial calendar and see exactly what topic you need to write about each day – complete with the title and keywords – than it is to come up with a topic on the fly.
An Editorial Calendar Helps You Be Strategic
When you create an editorial calendar, you need to think strategically. This isn’t a time when you should throw things up on your business blog and hope something sticks with your target audience.
Instead, you should identify your goals for your blogging efforts, benchmark your competitors, and research what your audience truly wants from you.
With this information in hand, you can create an editorial calendar with content that has a chance of driving positive ROI because it effectively positions you against the competition and delivers value to your audience by aligning with their buyer personas and their positions in the marketing funnel.
10 Steps to Create an Editorial Calendar for Readers, Not Your Business
Ready to put on your strategic thinking cap and create an editorial calendar that works and ends up saving you time? Use these 10 steps to get started:
1. Brainstorm Topic Ideas
The first step to create an editorial calendar is to brainstorm topic ideas. What topics related to your business are meaningful and matter to your target audience? Think about your buyer personas. What problems can you help them solve? What questions can you answer?
Blog content should be entertaining, educational, and/or engaging, so diversify your list of topics. Anything goes at this point in the process, so no idea is a bad idea.
If you work with a team of people, ask them to come up with topic ideas, and tap into your customers’ minds by asking them for ideas on your Facebook Page, in your email newsletter, or in an online survey. You’re going for quantity at this stage.
Example: If you own a health food store, your topic list might include things like:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Low calorie foods
- Dining out
- Natural medicine and supplements
- Growing your own herbs or other ingredients
- And so on
Don’t worry about being too specific or too broad at this point. Just get all of your ideas down on paper.
2. Create Content Buckets
The next step to create a useful editorial calendar is to categorize your most important themes. Review your brainstorming list and look for natural categories.
These are your content buckets.
You want to fill each of your content buckets up, so you’ll have months of posts to put in your editorial calendar.
As you’re “bucketing” your content ideas, some topics are likely to fit in multiple buckets. That’s fine. There are many ways to write about the same topic as you’ll learn in #4 below.
Example: For the health food store introduced in #1, the content bucket list could include:
- Health and Wellness
- And so on
I recommend having a minimum of five content buckets and a maximum of 10. If you have fewer than five, you’re thinking too broadly, and if you have more than 10, you’re thinking too specifically at this stage.
3. Map Topics to Buckets
Next, you need to map all of the topics that you brainstormed earlier to your content buckets.
Some topics might not fit naturally into the buckets you created. That’s okay. You might realize they’re not right for your business or your audience at this point, so you can delete them.
If you still think they hold value for your audience, move them to a “Miscellaneous” bucket. As you begin using your editorial calendar and your business blog evolves, you’ll find a place for them (or you’ll know it’s time to delete them).
Example: The health food store could map topics from #1 to its content buckets as shown in the image below:
Of course, your list will be much longer than the example above. Your goal is to fill up your editorial calendar, so you need a lot of topics in your content buckets to do it.
4. Create Article Title Collections for Each Topic
How many different ways can you write about each topic you’ve come up with? Try to come up with a few titles for every topic on your list. Don’t worry, you can always modify titles and optimize them for clicks and keywords later. Your goal at this point is simply to identify multiple options for each topic.
Also, consider where members of your audience might be in your marketing funnel when they read your blog posts. Many topics might be appropriate for three different posts with each targeted to a different stage of the funnel.
Example: The health food store could develop a list of article titles for the Vitamin D topic that includes:
- Benefits of Vitamin D
- How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
- How to Get More Vitamin D from Your Food
- Which Vitamin D Supplement is Right for You
- And o on
The first title in the list above is appropriate for people in the top of the funnel who are just learning about Vitamin D and not ready to purchase supplements yet. The second two topics would be meaningful to people in the middle of the funnel who need educational content to keep them engaged and move them to the bottom of the funnel. The final topic on the list is best for people at the bottom of the funnel who are just about ready to buy.
5. Make Sure All Buyer Personas are Represented
With your list of topics created, you need to identify which topics align with your various buyer personas. It’s important that you have enough content to interest each of your buyer personas or you’ll be missing the opportunity to connect with and build relationships with potentially large segments of your target audience.
Example: The health food store could create two different posts related to the Vitamin D category for a senior woman’s buyer persona vs. a pregnant woman’s buyer persona:
- How Your Vitamin D Needs Change When You Reach 65
- How Vitamin D Affects a Healthy Pregnancy
Your buyer personas will be more complex than the examples above, but the goal is the same – to ensure you’re creating blog content that is useful and meaningful to each segment of your audience.
6. Prioritize Topics
With your list of titles complete, it’s time to prioritize your topics. This could be based on a combination of factors including your marketing calendar, seasonality, buyer personas, and more.
I recommend publishing some evergreen content on your blog first because it’s so useful for backlinking in future posts. When you link back to content in your blog archives from new posts, you have an opportunity to keep people on your website longer, which helps to build a relationship with them, establish trust, and eventually, convert visitors into customers.
Example: If the health food store prioritized the nutrition topic as the most important, publishing a separate post about the benefits of each vitamin and mineral would give the business the opportunity to link back to those posts every time a vitamin or mineral is mentioned in a new post.
For the health food store, rather than re-iterating the benefits of a vitamin in every post where it’s mentioned, linking back to a post with all of the details creates a better user experience.
You should do the same thing on your business blog. Remember, the goal is to create content for your readers, and this includes creating a user experience based on their needs.
7. Create Your Editorial Calendar
With all of the pre-work done, you’re ready to create your editorial calendar! Fortunately, there are many free tools available that you can use to do it. Google Sheets, Excel, Airtable, Trello, and Asana are all excellent options that you can use for free.
The image below shows how the health food store’s editorial calendar might look in Excel or Google Sheets for the first two weeks of January.
At a minimum, include columns for the date the post will be published, the category of the post (which should be the same as the content bucket the post came from), and the post title. If you’d like, you can also add columns for the post’s primary keyword phrase and the URL of the published post.
For teams that want to turn the editorial calendar into a project management tool, you can also add columns for the assigned writer, the draft due date, the editor, and other steps in your publishing process. You can even add columns for social media sharing, email distribution, and more. It’s completely up to you how detailed your calendar gets.
8. Sprinkle in Self-Promotional Posts
Remember, your blog posts should be written for your audience’s wants and needs, not for yours. No one will want to read your content if all you do is talk about yourself through self-promotion.
I recommend an 80-20 split where 80% of more of your posts are not self-promotional and 20% or fewer are self-promotional. That means for every 8 educational, entertaining, and engaging posts that you publish for your readers, you can publish two self-promotional posts.
Have a great new product coming out or a super discount launching? You should definitely blog about it. Just make sure you publish plenty of meaningful, non-promotional content to offset the content that readers will perceive as an ad.
9. Track Content Performance
Once your blog posts are published, you need to track their performance to see what content is resonating most with your readers. Make sure you’ve created a Google Analytics account and installed the tracking code on your website correctly.
Pay attention to page views, referral sources to each post, where people went after they landed on each post, how long they stayed on each post before leaving, and what actions they took. Did certain posts lead to purchases? Did some posts get more social media shares than others?
You can’t improve your editorial calendar if you don’t collect the right data first.
10. Edit Your Calendar
If you promote all of your posts in the same ways, then you can compare performance data to find trends and anomalies that point to high-performing posts and low-performing posts.
Use this information to adjust your editorial calendar in the future, so you publish more of the content that your readers respond to and leads them to take the actions you want and less of the content that doesn’t help you reach your goals.
Your Next Steps to Develop an Editorial Calendar
I recommend creating an editorial calendar for a minimum of three months, but six to 12 months is better because it forces you to focus on long-term strategy. You’ll save more time in the long-run if you develop a half-year or full-year editorial calendar up-front that aligns with your overall marketing strategy and plan.
Finally, don’t forget that blog content should be written for readers, not for your personal preferences or solely to promote your business, products, and services. Your editorial calendar should be filled with content that answers your target audience’s questions, solves their problems, educates them, and entertains them or they won’t read it – and that would be a very big waste of your time and money.