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Your Complete Guide to Creating a Content Calendar

By: Compose.ly — March 09, 2020

According to the World Economic Forum, every single day:

  • 294 billion emails are sent
  • 500 million tweets are published
  • 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook
  • 95 million photos and videos are uploaded to Instagram
  • 3.5 billion Google searches are made

How do you keep up with the enormous volume and frenetic pace of digital content? How will you stand out as a unique voice in your industry?

The solution starts with creating the best content calendar you can—one that’s detailed, organized, and consistent with branding strategy.

Similar to professional sports, behind every great team is a strong game plan driven by players who know how to execute. Without those elements in place, your organization’s content will be instantly drowned out by the trillions of other content options available to consumers.

This blog post will not only teach you how to create an amazing content calendar, but also provide examples and templates that are standard-bearers for content calendar best practices.

What is a Content Calendar?

A content calendar is a document that outlines your entire content schedule. It not only details where and when you’ll be publishing upcoming content, but also tracks deadlines for subtasks such as drafts and revisions. Examples of content calendar staples include:

  • Blog posts
  • Social media updates
  • Email newsletters
  • Extended marketing or promotional campaigns
  • Partnership updates
  • Video premieres

How you construct and design your content calendar will depend entirely on your organization’s goals, unique needs, and existing content arsenal.

For instance, your content calendar could be a simple document with a few in-line links, an editable task list on a platform like Trello, or even an internal website content calendar model using Microsoft Teams or Confluence.

The most important aspect of a content calendar is how well it supports your business’s overall marketing and sales objectives.

Why Use a Content Calendar?

A content calendar is indispensable if you’re a business looking to grow your brand, expand your audience, and generate more sales leads. Its effectiveness means the difference between a winning content marketing strategy or one that’s a complete bust.

Below are the biggest benefits that come with creating a content calendar.

Greater Efficiency Through Organization

Publishing dozens, if not hundreds, of pieces of content every week is an impossible goal if you don’t have all related tasks centralized in one place. By using a content calendar to organize your publishing schedule and streamline your content creation workflow, you ensure that you post new content in the right place at the right time instead of forgetting important items or missing deadlines.

Implement SEO Strategies with Ease

If you publish content but no one’s able to find it — let alone read it—does it make any real noise online?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an integral part of any content you produce for the internet. The ability to use effective copywriting techniques, weave in relevant hyperlinks, and include various content assets to larger topic clusters will go a long way to ensure that your blog posts, videos, and social media updates get noticed by the masses.

With a content calendar, you have tags, comments, and other features—depending on the software you use—to easily keep track of relevant key phrases and keywords, important pieces of research, and backlinks for each project. You can also track progress on tasks such as writing meta titles and descriptions, content revisions, and so forth. Instead of scrambling to remember SEO guidelines for each project, keep your resources neatly organized in your content calendar.

Effective Performance Tracking

Your content calendar is a living, breathing organism, just like the strategy it supports. That said, the only way you will refine your content over time is through effective performance tracking.

By centralizing all your content-related information, the data and key performance indicators (KPI) you need will always be at your fingertips; you have access not only to resources that help you plan and complete projects, but also tools to track and rate their performance afterward. Content calendars make it far easier to organize and glean actionable, data-driven insights that inform your content strategy.

How to Build a Content Calendar

Step 1: Find Inspiration From These Content Calendar Examples

Before you start building your publishing calendar, it’s always a good idea to get some inspiration from some content calendar examples.

Of course, inspiration doesn’t mean copy-pasting another company’s calendar template and hoping for the best. Instead, use sample content calendars to figure out what kind of style and structure will best suit your organization.

Here are some examples to get you started:

You can also download free content calendar templates from:

There are plenty of additional content marketing calendar examples that are only a Google search away. However, regardless of whether you select a sample content marketing calendar as your base, be sure to back it up in a shared cloud drive. You don’t want any important edits getting lost in the shuffle.

Step 2: Gain Performance Insights with a Content Audit

Once you’ve decided on the best content marketing calendar template for your needs, you need to have a rock-solid understanding of your current content assets.

Conduct a content audit, which involves going through your organization’s content piece by piece and assessing what needs improvement.

Here are some important questions to ask when performing a content channel audit:

  • What are your content goals? These can be both short and long-term.
  • What KPIs will you use to measure success for each type of content?
  • Who is your target audience or buyer persona?
  • Which types of content do well with your target audience? Which ones don’t?
  • Are your social media accounts up-to-date with the latest company information?
  • Are there any bots, imposter accounts, or other security threats infringing on your traffic?
  • Who’s responsible for what tasks on your content or marketing team?
  • Which individual pieces of content are your most successful? Least successful?

Without knowledge of how your content is performing, you’ll have no clear starting point. Without a clear starting point, how can you hope to construct a detailed content calendar?

The strength of your content calendar relies on the information fueling your overall content plan. In this sense, your content audit sets you up for success right from the get-go.

Step 3: Determine Which Assets You Need Your Content Calendar to Track

After performing your content audit, you and other content stakeholders need to decide what assets your content calendar will track.

Do you want everything together in the same document? Or do you want to split up different content streams or platforms so they have their own spaces?

Consider creating a content marketing calendar that includes all your relevant assets if:

  • Your organization is just starting to standardize content assets
  • You’re looking to scale a small-to-medium content output
  • You’re part of a cross-functional, highly collaborative team

Alternatively, consider creating separate calendars for each type of content if:

  • Your marketing/creative team is large and split into several specialized groups
  • You have a large amount of dense, intertwining content assets
  • You’re outputting enormous volumes of content—for instance, hundreds of social media posts per week

Once you make this overarching decision, break down your desired content calendar(s) and narrow down which assets to track. You don’t have to include everything, especially if there’s outdated content you’ve retired—but don’t be too selective either.

Any piece of content that actively helps to generate leads shouldn’t be left by the wayside.

Step 4: Build a Content Asset and Idea Library

The next step is to start building a usable library of both finished content pieces and ideas for future collateral.

The latter is arguably more important to your content publishing regimen than your stable of current assets. It’s not just about sharing what you already have (possibly from several years ago); it’s about crafting more impactful content down the road.

The best content ideas must check at least two of three boxes:

  • Consumable. From writing concise, catchy blog titles to incorporating compelling ad copy to all social media updates, your content must follow established best practices.
  • Refillable. Think Moz’s “Whiteboard Friday” videos or David Letterman’s Top 10 List segments. The simpler your content formats are to reuse, the easier it will be to consistently generate new material.
  • Emotionally impactful. The golden rule of content creation is this: anything you publish should strike an emotional chord with members of your target audience. Otherwise, they’ll scroll right past you and move onto something else in their feed.

Not all the content your organization produces will be refillable, nor will every word you form tug at consumers’ heartstrings. However, keeping these tips in mind will streamline how you build and expand your content library.

You’ll often see sample content calendars organize content around topic clusters or specific marketing campaigns. Organizing your assets and ideas like this will help you consistently publish great content and organically grow an audience.

At the end of the day, it’s about how to create a content marketing calendar that makes the best possible use of every piece of content you have at your disposal.

Step 5: Establish a Content Calendar Workflow

If you want your organization’s content to consistently engage consumers that match your buyer persona, then you need to establish your content calendar workflow.

Your workflow serves as a cross-section of the creation process for a given content asset. It encompasses every stage of the journey, from ideation to publication.

Here’s a blog-centric example of a content calendar workflow structure:

  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Outline the article
  • Write the rough draft
  • Get input from the team
  • Implement revisions
  • Obtain final approval
  • Publish the blog post

Of course, the specifics will differ depending on the content type (e.g.—social media may not require as many steps) and any unique campaign goals attached to a particular asset.

Nonetheless, once you’ve developed workflows for various content streams, they should remain relatively uniform; blog posts might not share the same workflow with your social media updates, but one blog post’s workflow should be the same as another.

These workflows give your content calendar meaning. They underpin all scheduled tasks and standardize the content creation process for all employees across all departments. Without content calendar workflows, you’d have 10 different people using 10 different approaches to create blog posts.

If that happens, you’ll be unable to create content that has a unified voice, tone, and purpose. Beyond just being your organization’s content creation schedule, your calendar will set your team’s level of operational efficiency and dictate how you work on creative projects.

Step 6: Determine the Best Content Posting Times and Platforms for Your Audience

As the amount of content available online continues to grow, niche audiences will, in turn, become increasingly fragmented. Every brand’s target audience is different and you need to play to your particular audience’s desires and habits.

Don’t guess when and where your audience prefers to engage with your content. Do your research, gain actionable insights through that data, and make an effort to go to them. Make sure they never have to go looking for your latest blog post, eBook, or video ever again.

How does this translate to your content calendar? It’s all about educating yourself. For instance, learn about optimal posting times.

Below are some questions you should ask in order to optimize your content publishing:

  • What times of day did you post your most popular social media posts—the ones that got the most likes, shares, and comments?
  • What days of the week does your website or blog get the most traffic?
  • Which content type has enjoyed the highest engagement numbers during the past month? What about the past year?

You won’t find answers to these questions in any content marketing calendar template. You have to inject some critical thinking into your content calendar’s schedule, otherwise you’ll miss out on valuable organic traffic and audience engagement opportunities.

But you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. There’s lots of data available about social media posting and consumption habits, and insight from various studies will help you finetune your content publishing calendar.

Some of the best free resources out there include blog posts from:

  • Hootsuite compares B2B and B2C results
  • SproutSocial breaks down the best times for posts centered around consumer goods, media elements, education, and much more
  • HubSpot includes a downloadable report that provides in-depth information
  • CoSchedule aggregates data from 25 different studies

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution for how to plan content calendar items. But there are certainly best practices you should follow, especially when it comes to scheduling social media posts.

Once you hone in on the best platforms and times to publish your content, you put your organization in a much better position to build a devoted, organically grown (i.e.—not bought through ads) audience.

Step 7: Get Feedback and Monitor Your Content Calendar’s Efficiency

The final and perhaps most important step in creating a powerful content calendar to grow your business involves the following parts:

  • Monitor your content creation performance
  • Get feedback from internal and external sources
  • Adjust your content calendar and content creation process accordingly

First, you have to keep tabs on your efficiency levels after implementing the calendar. Are you creating more content? Are you publishing pieces faster? Generally speaking, is your content’s return on investment justifying the use of this calendar?

These evaluations dovetail with feedback. Make sure you get honest opinions from employees and consumers alike on your content quality. If you’re struggling to engage the latter group, send out short surveys delivered via email newsletters or social media posts.

Then, it’s all about what you do with that information. Don’t let data, feedback, and reviews sit idly by, and whatever you do, don’t let ego or emotion cloud the truth. Data doesn’t lie.

It all goes back to the idea that your content calendar is a living, breathing document. It doesn’t matter which content calendar format you use—if you’re unwilling to learn and make necessary adjustments over time, your approach will become ineffective very quickly.

Conclusion

Your brand content calendar is an integral part of productive marketing and sales practices. A content calendar enables your content to flourish in an overcrowded digital domain and helps you forge those all-important emotional connections with your audience via regular, quality releases.

Whether you’re looking for tips on how to create a content calendar for blog posts or trying to revamp your existing content calendar marketing campaign structure, be sure to take time to incorporate your brand story. Your brand is the heart of all your content. Your content calendar is just there to help you keep track of the beats per minute.

This article was written by Compose.ly writer Matt Fish.


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