Coordinate with your team, research your topics, make a solid plan.
Marketing blogs are one of the best ways to promote your business online. A well-run blog provides promotional content for social media, helps build your email marketing lists, and creates SEO ballast for your domain. And yet many businesses struggle to maintain a regular blog.
For anyone who does blog regularly, this comes as no surprise. Blogging, like exercise, requires discipline. And, like exercise, unless you do it regularly, you won’t see satisfactory results. Many organizations run into some common pitfalls when they blog. These include:
- Going too big too fast: writing several very long, comprehensive posts, and then running out of steam.
- Thinking too small: restricting them to discussing only their product, or treating their blog like a company news bulletin.
- Leaving it to the intern: treating the blog and its content as an afterthought rather than a branded piece of marketing strategy.
- Under planning: not tying the blog in to a company strategy, not making it a priority, not putting anyone in charge of content.
- Over planning: obsessing over strategy to the detriment of execution.
An editorial calendar for your blog won’t cover every one of these concerns, but it can go a long way toward aligning your team around a goal and helping you to keep perspective. If you can’t see what blog posts are coming up, you may be tempted to write about everything all in one post.
Or, if you thought that one blog post a month would be enough to meet your marketing needs, you may change your mind quick quickly when you see how small a list of twelve topics looks. A blog plan can also help cut down on writer’s block because your team will never be stuck trying to think of a topic.
So, now that I’ve convinced you of the great importance of an editorial calendar to your marketing success, you may be wondering how to create one. Never fear: here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a plan and putting it into action.
Step 1: Create a spreadsheet.
We usually start with a Google Sheets document, because it’s easy for us to share with the team and with clients. Because it’s on the cloud, we all have live access and can update it as needed.
Your spreadsheet should have columns for due date, blog title, focus keyword, and category. I usually include one for the character length of the blog title, and for any notes that might help me remember ideas I had for what to write about, such as a link that inspired the topic. Don’t limit yourself to these columns, though: I sometimes include ones based on the stage of the marketing funnel the blog is intended to target, or to assign the author. Personas are also a great column to include.
This is what our content editorial calendar looked like for August. You can see the due take, the blog titles, the character length for each title, the focus keyword and the category. All of this (save the focus keywords) is public information. You can go look at the blogs we wrote back in August, and you will see all these posts. And you could probably figure out what our focus keywords were too, if you looked carefully enough.
Step 2: Research blog topics.
Brainstorming good blog topics can take a while, but it’s usually easier done all at once. Often you can think of three or four good topics that are all related to each other, and they inspire others. However, if you’re having trouble coming up with good ideas, there are places you can look for inspiration:
- Other blogs. Find the industry thought leaders. For us that’s places like Moz, Yoast, or Hubspot. Look for places where you might find authoritative information yourself. Also see what your competition blogs about. You might find something you agree with, or you may have a different take on the subject.
- Google. Take some of your keywords and type them into Google. See what other recommended searches come up. Go down the rabbit holes.
- Quora. I love Quora—it’s full of people asking valuable questions and experts answering them. See if there’s a topic that matches your profession, and follow it. Look at the questions people are asking, and read the answers.
- Your Sales Department. Don’t forget your own internal resources. Your sales department works with customers all day long. Ask them for an FAQ list, and start writing posts based on that.
Step 3: Keywords.
You don’t need to do the keyword research up front. You can easily wait to fill this column until you’re ready to write the post. However, at some point you will need to do your keyword research and it may affect the final blog title you settle on. I try to find a new, unique focus keyword for each blog topic. By keeping them in my editorial calendar, it helps ensure I don’t accidentally blog about the same topic twice.
Step 4: Categories.
WordPress allows you to assign categories to your blog posts so that posts on the same topic can be grouped together. I try to think about potential blog categories as I develop my list, and I use my calendar to ensure I’m covering a wide range.
For instance, our blog primarily covers SEO, web design and development, and content marketing. Less frequently, I might also cover a bit about project management, or I might go a bit deeper to do ones on e-commerce. Your category list will grow organically as you find your groove with your blog. It’s a good place to come back to the next time you’re trying to think of ideas. Take a look at what you haven’t covered in a while, and write a blog about that.
Step 5: The Buyer Matrix
The final step is to plot your blogs into a buyer matrix. Look at the topics you’ve created, and determine what stage of the buyer’s journey they fall into. Does this blog post attract, convert, close, or delight your target persona?
Some blog posts may do more than one, and you’ll probably see that they don’t distribute evenly across every category. Depending on your strategy, you may want to focus more on attract and delight blogs than others, and that’s fine. The point is to see where your content is going, and adjust it if necessary.
Step 6: Write.
I like to plan my calendar about one or two months ahead. With two blogs a week, that usually means coming up with 10–20 blogs at a time. Any more planning ahead, and I lose flexibility. Besides, you don’t want to fall into the trap of overthinking. At a certain point, you have to stop thinking and just do it.
After a few months, blogging will become its own inspiration. You’ll get used to the routine, you’ll have endless ideas for topics, and your website traffic will back you up. Time to get started!