If you create content for your company on a regular basis, you probably have to occasionally do some planning (we hope). From using Evernote for a basic list of topic ideas to utilizing sophisticated social media scheduling software, some level of organization comes into play for serious content creators, for one main reason: coming up with content out of nowhere on a tight deadline is stressful.
That’s where the content calendar comes in. A content calendar is a way to lay out the content you plan to publish in the next week, month, or year, depending on how far in advance you’d like to plan. The point is, it handles the planning phase of content creation well ahead of the execution phase, thus making both parts more manageable. And helping you keep your sanity in the process.
A content calendar is an incredibly valuable tool, for a few reasons:

  • Storing content ideas – it’s hard to come up with ideas off the top of your head when you most need them, so keeping an ongoing cache of good ones is crucial for content marketing.
  • Keeping to a schedule – your readers expect regularity, and the content calendar will keep your posts on track.
  • Seeing the bigger picture – when you begin to lay out your content in calendar form, you’ll also spot patterns, recurring subject matter, and other big picture aspects of your content strategy that usually get lost in the day-to-day struggle to post content quickly.

Now that you know why you should have a content calendar, let’s get around to building one. As a content marketing company we’ve seen the content calendars of dozens of companies (some more successful than others), and we have a pretty good grasp of what tends to work well. The key to a good content calendar lies in the following formula:
A content calendar you’ll actually use is one that is organized enough to count as a planning tool but uncomplicated enough that you’ll actually use it.
We’ve seen just as many marketers fall prey to a disorganized idea list as ones who crumble under the weight of a 10-tab monstrosity of a content calendar. Here are 3 ways to make sure your content calendar is actually usable:

  1. Start simple.

At first, two simple tabs will do. Use one to plan out upcoming content. Use the other as a depository of ideas. When you need to come up with a topic to put into the calendar on tab 1, look through the ideas in tab 2. Use this for a while before adding any further complexity.

  1. Create Categories.

Chances are, the content you create can be divided into some broad categories (for example: industry news, product reviews, helpful tips). Figuring out the categories you work within and marking future posts with their respective category will help you visualize your content and provide a variety of it. Doing this will also enable you to see the success rate of certain categories over others when you do a content audit.

  1. By Zeus, stick to the schedule!

A content calendar you don’t follow is meaningless – it didn’t lead to the creation of content, and isn’t really a calendar. You have control over how frequently you schedule future posts, but whatever you choose, you need to follow.
No need to thank us. We’re merely doing our part to raise the bar for content on the Internet (and also helping businesses get the attention they deserve). Make a content calendar and stick to it. Your content will thank you.
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