calendarDo you remember when you thought blogging would be fun? Adding value to your customers while sharing your own personal expertise and insight; driving traffic to your site with fresh content that search engines love. What could be better?

But reality sets in. On top of daily tasks, now you’re a writer, too. Ugh! There is an answer and the traditional publishing industry has known about it for years…the editorial calendar. Every content marketing professional uses it to stay on task (sign-up for our free UpCity Daily Tips newsletter to get more tips on managing content on your site) and produce quality content week after week.

What is an editorial calendar?

Quite simply…a plan. Knowing what you’re doing in advance of doing it. Putting it to paper and sticking to it.

The editorial calendar varies from company to company. It might be simple or complex, the secret is that it has to work for you and your team. A document (electronic or otherwise) that provides the required information to keep articles moving and a history of what has been completed in case you ever need to look back.

Start with a spreadsheet. The most basic columns include:

  • Due date for article
  • Article title
  • Publish date for article
  • Category
  • Author
  • Goal/Call-to-action
  • Notes

Due date: Work a few weeks in advance. (Yes, we do that here.) If you are working on one post/week, plan to have them ready at least ready one week ahead. If someone is giving these to you, or you’re doing them yourself, they should be completely ready to go by the due date.

Article title: Headline writing is an art in itself. This might be the most helpful and complex task you undertake. Do you write headlines first or last? I find that nailing down the headline (with the pitch/hook) first, makes it easier to write the post and keeps me on track. See also Seven Irresistible Hooks That Generate Traffic.

Article details: A brief overview of what you’re writing about so you can look back later and know what you had planned!

Publish date: If you use one of the many leading CMS systems like WordPress, Drupal, or others, you can load up posts in advance and pre-schedule ‘publish’ date and time. This is really convenient, you can do it at your own pace and keep the publishing flow going, even when you’re away.

Category: This also applies to ‘why you need it’ as well. Setting a schedule of categories gives you a starting place when beginning your calendar. If you have different facets of your business, divide those up weekly and write on a rotating schedule. At UpCity, we’d divide categories into things like content, email, local SEO, etc. Topics we want to educate our clients on.

Author: This really only applies if you have more than one contributor but listing individuals allows you to stay on top of who is responsible for what.

Goal: This is a personal line item that helps me keep focused on what I want my reader to do. Different articles have different goals—sign-up for a newsletter, subscribe to your service, buy a product. Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve so you can measure the success later on. Setting strategy for your content should be the start, our round-up of 20 leading content experts can help if you’re not sure how to define those goals.

Notes: Pretty self-explanatory—anything of importance that doesn’t fit in the other columns.

There are many great templates available on the web: Vertical Measures or Content Marketing Institute to name a few.

Why do I need it?

Short answer…to make life easier! It helps you stay focused on the task at hand and business goals of your site. I love great writing that’s personable and engaging but, remember, a business blog is a business blog. It can help generate traffic and grow your presence online but needs a purpose. A editorial calendar also helps stave off the ineveitable writers block that comes with writing. See Five Fun and Creative Ways to Beat Writers Block in case you get stuck!

Get publishing today. Start with a detailed plan and you’ll be a content marketer in no time!