You can develop and publish excellent content consistently with an actionable content marketing calendar. Innovation and flexibility will grow as you get ahead of deadlines, always have topics to write about, and keep team members coordinated.
Integrating a calendar into your content creation process allows you to plan your content topics, themes, and target keywords, along with when and where you’re going to publish it. Your audience will know what to expect and when it’s coming. Traffic, brand loyalty, and engagement will increase.
Content marketing calendars are easy to create in Google Sheets, and multiple users can update them. Or you can use one of the many paid calendar tools. There are also many free templates available. The specific tool or template you use isn’t critical.
What is important is creating a dynamic content calendar that holds your team’s essential information. Your calendar needs to be updatable in real-time. Think about how any user can update a Google Sheet, and all users instantly see the change. Making your content marketing calendar actionable makes it a great asset.
If you need more features than free Google Sheets offers, you can purchase one of the many paid content calendars available. We’ll discuss the best ones below.
Why You Need a Content Marketing Calendar
Seasoned content marketers know that success depends on sticking to a publishing schedule. Missing one small element could throw off a whole campaign.
To drive traffic to the content at the right time, publishers must coordinate emails and social media posts with content's publishing time. If you’re running paid ads, scheduling becomes even more critical. Mistakes can be costly. All team members and departments need up-to-date information on the status of each content piece.
Planning Is Manageable
It’s easy to get lost if you're trying to keep in mind both the big picture of overall content strategy and your end goals along with the details of content production. A calendar can handle this for you.
Moreover, when you inevitably have to pivot because of some last-minute event, your content marketing calendar helps you figure out how you can make the pivot with as small a sacrifice as possible. You can find space in your schedule for new content or postpone more evergreen content to make room for a more current topic.
Goals Become Easier to Reach
Something almost magical happens when you write your content publishing schedule out in a calendar — it becomes tangible. Suddenly, all content production team members know how they will accomplish the goals set for your content marketing program and when they must deliver.
Content Keeps Flowing
Finding fresh topics to write about informatively while keeping readers engaged is one of the biggest hurdles for content creators. When you lay out your topics, you can easily see what areas to research to generate more ideas for upcoming content. The content ideation stage becomes less of a rushed struggle.
You’ll be able to thoroughly explore topics with preplanned series of posts at consistent intervals, instead of publishing randomly and inconsistently. You’ll also be able to create content in advance, so you always have something ready to put out.
Content Stays Current
You’ll need time-sensitive and seasonal content along with your evergreen content. A calendar helps you easily plan content to tie into promotions, special offers, product launches, and sales events. Your marketing teams and content production teams start working seamlessly.
Event Planning Is Easier
Creating content for business-related events and activities often gets neglected until the last minute. You can avoid the rush this creates by planning and producing seasonal content for holidays and cultural events in advance. Your content calendar will help you prepare ahead and send out updates and insights to keep your audience informed.
Meeting Reader Expectations
Blog subscribers feel like they’re part of your blog. Those readers expect content at specific times and dates, and they enjoy sharing great content that spreads your message and grows your subscriber base. Your calendar helps you meet reader expectations by producing quality content on time that’s honest, insightful, and packed with useful information.
Simpler Measuring Progress
When you look back through content calendars for past months, it’s easy to see the number of pieces you published and where you published them. You’ll also know what content topics you’ve already explored, so you can go deeper into those that generated a lot of reader interest.
The many benefits of using content calendars explain why successful content creators use them. Building a content marketing strategy or a social media strategy before creating a content calendar will help your calendar succeed.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Before you create your content marketing calendar, there are several steps you can take that will ensure your success. Develop a content strategy that addresses these topics.
Goals keep your whole team working toward common objectives. Maybe your goal is to create article clusters that will result in multiple page-one Google rankings. Or you want to increase social media users by 15%. Whatever goals you set, be sure they are SMART, or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
Profile Your Audience
Without an audience profile, you're creating content in the dark. You'll have difficulty choosing engaging topics and your content creators won't be able to connect with your target audience. A good profile includes characteristics, behaviors, interests, and demographics.
Two types of tools are beneficial for generating topic ideas — trend analysis tools and keyword research tools.
BuzzSumo is a popular trend analysis tool that lets you monitor articles and posts to discover trends and conduct content research. Ahrefs takes that a step further by including keyword research. Google Trends is another good trend analysis tool, and you can use it for free.
SEMrush is a popular keyword research tool that offers the option of displaying the results in a mind map. This map lets you see hundreds of related phrases. Google Keyword Planner is a free keyword research tool you can access when you create a Google AdWords account.
Using both a trend analysis tool and a keyword research tool lets you spot hot topics and expand on them by researching related terms. You can come up with fresh content ideas no one else is exploring.
Choose the Best Content Types
The platform you’re publishing on will significantly impact your type of content. TikTok users like short, entertaining videos, while blog post readers and LinkedIn users may prefer long-form posts broken up with images, infographics, or short videos. Instagram favors highly visual content like quality photographs that inspire.
YouTube videos can be long explainer pieces or short, attention-grabbing, and entertaining. Facebook users like images, and you can make posts as long or short as needed. Funny memes and inspiring quotes also work well in a Facebook social media post.
Also, keep in mind that some media types work better for particular topics. Video gives the viewer a sense of being present at an event, while infographics work well for product comparisons.
Use the Right Mix
Your digital marketing strategy can apply two rules to get the right mix of content — the 70:30 rule that covers value-based versus promotional content and the 70:20:10 rule covering proven, premier, and experimental content.
Producing 70% educational, inspiring, or entertaining content and 30% promotional material will come close to the right blend that will keep your readers happy while meeting your marketing goals.
The 70:20:10 rule segments content from a different perspective:
- 70% should be proven content types and topics you know will engage your audience and build your brand
- 20% should be top-tier content that might be risky or costly but can engage a bigger audience
- 10% should be experimental content that you may or may not repeat, depending on the audience response
The 70:20:10 mix ensures that your content meets your goals while satisfying the audience segments that want more in-depth information. At the same time, your content is getting injections of fresh, new types of material that keeps it from feeling stale.
With your content strategy in place, you’re ready to create your successful content marketing calendar.
Fill Your Calendar
After you’ve created a list of your content topics and types, you’ll need to decide how often to publish. A weekly schedule may be good if you’re publishing blog posts, but you may need to publish several pieces of content per day on social media.
Fill in your publishing dates with ideas you've generated from your content topics and types list. Here’s where you set out precisely what content you’ll publish, where you’ll share it, and when it will go out. Color coding according to content type will help you see the distribution of your topics and types at a glance.
Sections to Include in a Successful Content Calendar
The design of your content calendar will depend on the size of your team, the content type, and your personal preferences. At a minimum, a successful calendar will need the:
- Topic or title
- Publishing date and time
A freelancer producing one type of content could get by with only these two columns in a spreadsheet. Individuals wanting more information or content teams could also include these sections:
- The channel in which you’ll publish the content
- The type of content
- The person responsible for the piece of content
- Content length in words or minutes, for video
- Primary keyword
- Secondary keywords
- Content audience persona
- Content purpose — educational, marketing, lead generation, or others
- Call to action
- Internal links
- Research links
When you start filling in and using your content marketing calendar, you may discover more sections that will be useful. Good content planning tools offer templates and easy customization.
Best Content Marketing Calendar Tools
The best content calendar tool for you will depend on your needs. Freelance content writers working alone can be comfortable with just Google Sheets, while an agency producing different content types and juggling multiple writers, creators, and clients will need a more robust platform.
This free online spreadsheet is available in Google Drive and integrates easily with other Drive tools like Docs and Drawings. Multiple users can edit, collaborate, and comment in real-time. You can track changes. While Google Sheets works on mobile, users recommend a desktop for the best visibility. It's easy to work off of or create an editorial calendar template with Google Sheets for long-term content planning.
Trello’s clean, easy-to-use interface is great for blog and social media content scheduling and production.
It uses a system of boards and cards. You can create a card for each project and move cards from board to board to track a project from ideation to publishing. The Trello blog suggests this workflow:
- Information and instruction: The first list of cards has information and how-tos to help users perform tasks.
- Incoming: Ideas and article pitches.
- Forming: Topics that were potentially approved but need more information and research.
- Writing: Posts that writers are working on.
- Editing: Posts in the first editing round.
- Final edits: Posts ready to be finalized.
- Ready to upload: Ready to place on the website in draft form.
- SEO audit: Analyzing and updating to rank in SERPs.
- Scheduled: Ready to publish.
- Published: The post is live.
You could get a free Trello plan with limited functionality. Paid plans begin at $5.00 per month, while the enterprise plan is $17.50 per month.
Asana’s web-based software handles task management and project organization. You can plan and schedule any content type in your choice of views — board, timeline, or calendar. The interface is intuitive to learn and use. Templates for different content types are easy to create, store, and use from the sidebar.
Other valuable features include:
- Mobile friendly
- Goals and milestones
- Custom charts for tracking
- Over 100 integrations for communication and document creation
Asana has a free plan for individuals. Paid plans start at $10.99 per month.
Created for content teams, Divvy is a cloud-based content planning tool that lets you design and monitor production workflows. It features:
- Editorial calendar
- SEO management
- Workflow management
- Multi-channel campaigns
- Publishing scheduling
- Engagement tracking
All this power and functionality comes at a cost. Divvy pricing starts at $49 per user per month for the Starter Plan.
There are many good project management tools. Choosing the one that will help you create the best content marketing calendar for your team comes down to evaluating your needs and preferences.
Any content producer will benefit from keeping a content plan up-to-date. You’ll consistently have more content ideas, create better content, and hit deadlines. Everyone works together when you coordinate the content creation team with your marketing team through a content marketing calendar.
Work flows more smoothly, you can avoid duplication, identify bottlenecks easier, and your returns for content marketing improve.