Creating great content starts with an amazing editorial calendar. 79% of B2B marketers say that article and blog posting is the most popular content marketing tactic. With brand awareness (69%), customer acquisition (68%) and lead generation (67%) as the top three goals of content marketing, we ask a lot from our blogs. Is yours positioned to deliver the results you’re expecting?
Follow these steps to creating a killer three month blog editorial calendar just to be sure.
1. Create Your Spreadsheet
Of course, an editorial calendar can be created in just about any format, but a spreadsheet allows for advanced formulas and easy collaboration. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume you’re working with a spreadsheet (either Excel or Numbers). The first step is to customize your tabs. You’ll want to create something like the following tabs: Blog Editorial Calendar, Work-back Schedule, Categories, Keywords, Top Posts, Guest Posting, Promotion Plan and Potential Writers.
For now, focus on the Blog Editorial Calendar tab. The other tabs will be covered in detail below. You’ll want to create seven columns: Title, Author, Status, Description, SEO Title, SEO Description, and Core Keyword.
It’s important that you have working titles for all of your posts. Of course, they may change over time and during the writing process, but a rough guideline is key. Assign each blog topic to an author, whether that’s a freelance writer or in-house writer. The status column will let you know how topics are developing.
Tip: Organize your topics within rows labeled “Complete”, “In Progress” and “Not Started” to further clarify the status.
Try to be as detailed with the descriptions as you possibly can. List examples, resources or suggestions. It helps ensure nothing is forgotten, especially since you’re building a three month calendar. Also, it will save time when it actually comes time to start writing.
The three final columns are based on the SEO WordPress plugin Yoast, which helps optimize blogs for search engines. Get a head-start by listing the title, description and core keyword of each topic in your calendar. The title should include the name of your blog (e.g. “How to Create a Killer Blog Editorial Calendar | Intigi”) and your core keyword. Your description should also include your core keyword once or twice.
Tip: Upload your spreadsheet to Google Docs for maximum collaboration.
2. Define Your Categories & Keywords
Keywords are the backbone of any content marketing strategy. If you don’t have a keyword list built yet, start by defining your core keywords. What three or four terms describe the value you provide to customers? For example, “customer acquisition”, “content marketing” and “startup PR” work for Onboardly.
These core keywords should be your blog categories as they’ll be the general topics you’ll be writing on. Simply list these categories and any subsequent subcategories in the Categories tab. For the sake of consistency and organization, you may want to assign categories to certain days. For example, Onboardly publishes startup PR posts on Mondays and Content Marketing posts on Thursdays.
To expand your list beyond your core keywords, use tools like Google’s Keyword Tool and UberSuggest. Simply enter your core keywords and look through the additional suggested keywords. You should be specifically looking for high volume, low competition keywords. Add these keywords to the Keywords tab.
Tip: Divide keywords into categories. For example, keywords resulting from the core keyword “customer acquisition” and keywords resulting from the core keyword “content marketing”.
3. Spy on the Competition
Put your binoculars away! Spying on your competition just means evaluating their blogs and extracting the most popular content. Start by developing a list of 15-20 blogs catering to your audience. For example, Onboardly would list any blogs looking to cover customer acquisition, content marketing or startup PR. Then, record the URLs of their most popular posts. Doing this lets you get a better idea of the type of content your audience already likes to read and share. At Onboardly, we create ‘affinity blogs’ and source out 20 top competitive blogs to find their most popular posts. We do this to a) discover the content people like, and b) Get blog post topic ideas.
Fortunately, quite a few blogs make this easy by having their top posts proudly displayed. Others require that you define “top posts” for yourself. Does that mean the most commented? The most shared? The most viewed? Decide and record the top posts manually. When you’ve got a solid list, add all of that information to the Top Posts tab.
4. Start Brainstorming
Now that your research is done, you can host your big brainstorming session. Gather everyone that will be contributing to the blog and ask them to start throwing out ideas. Just be sure the ideas are loosely based on all of the information you’ve gathered so far. Keep your keywords and competition in mind.
This should be a relatively quick process. Don’t weed out any ideas at this stage. The idea is to come up with as many topics as you possibly can. Right now, there’s no such thing as a bad or silly idea. Anything goes!
Keep all of these topics (titles only) stored on the Blog Editorial Calendar tab.
5. Get Strategic
The next step is throwing out any ideas that aren’t compelling. Develop your own ranking system. If a topic is less than an 8 out of 10 (Use your own internal team judgement), throw it out! Be sure keywords and the competition play into your ranking system somehow. This is where you get strategic about what will actually end up being published on your blog. It has to be content your customers (and potential customers) are dying to read.
Getting strategic also means filling in those other columns. This is where you start fleshing out the ultimate blog topics you’ve brainstormed. Who will write them? What will they cover exactly? Who has written on the topic intelligently before? Make a note of all this information, turning all of that brainstorming into a real content marketing plan.
Tip: Be strategic about posting dates and times as well. New research from Dan Zarrella indicates that Mondays at 11 a.m. (EST), Thursdays at 7 a.m. (EST) and Saturdays at 9 a.m. (EST) are three of the best times to publish a new blog post.
6. Start Making Connections
With a boatload of strategic, well-developed blog topics on your hands, it’s time to figure out who will actually be writing the content. This means making a list of any freelance writers you’d like to engage. Start by adding their names, email addresses and Twitter profiles to the Potential Writers tab. Follow them on Twitter and start getting to know them. When you’re ready, reach out via email.
This is also a good time to consider guest posting. Who would you love to have contribute to your blog? What blogs would you love to contribute to? Start making lists, sourcing email addresses and engaging those people on social media. Your author column will be full in no time!
Most recently, Onboardly contributed a great piece called The Ultimate Startup Marketing Guide to the KISSMetrics blog. The post ‘blew up’ and it created some really great inbound traffic leads. Make sure you source out publications relevant to your audience and industry and start contributing.
Getting a killer blog editorial calendar right the first time is tough, even with this guide. Success is different for everyone and each blog will have a different readership, which will respond differently to content. The key is to always be testing. The times Dan Zarrella highlighted might not be the best times for your blog. Experiment and see what yields the best results for you.
What has been missing from your blog editorial calendar?
About the Author: Renée Warren is the Co-Founder of Onboardly, a company focused on helping funded technology startups be more visible and acquire more customers. They do this through Content Marketing, startup PR and Social Media. Subscribe to their blog here!