Your content marketing calendar is equivalent to the roadmap for the blog’s evolutionary journey. Imagine setting off on an epic cross-country journey, one that would make even Kerouac proud. It takes preparation, it takes resources, it takes time. But, most of all, if you don’t want to get lost along the way, it takes a map.
Your content marketing calendar will help guide your decisions on what to post where, and when. But, more than that, it will help keep you organized as you schedule your writing, editing, optimizing, and promoting throughout the content cycle.
So, in this quick 10 minute read, we’ll be guiding you through why your content marketing calendar is so important, plus how to make one of your own!
As opposed to what every first time blogger thinks when they first start out (yours truly included), picking what to write and what not to write isn’t as simple as sifting through personal whims and random inspirations. You don’t get to write whatever you want, whenever you want to. Or, should I say, if you’re trying to engage (and grow) a specific audience, you won’t just write whatever you want, whenever you want.
Instead of randomly publishing posts on weekly musings, a smart content marketer will build a keyword plan around the keywords most relevant to his/her brand. But, even the most thoroughly flushed out keyword plans don’t necessarily equate to content marketing success if all you’re doing is publishing content for keyword ranking’s sake.
Yes, it’s always good to rank on the first page of Google for your keywords. But at the end of the day you aren’t writing for Google, you’re writing for your readers.
The truly intuitive and expert content marketers don’t stop their research at the keyword level. They continue looking for even further insights into their readers’ behavior and interests.
You can take your keyword research one step further when developing your content strategy by distinguishing between your brand’s keywords and the actual search terms your readers are using to find your content. As you can see in the image below, there can often be multiple search terms related to a single keyword.
This means that writing some highly targeted blog posts about these specific search terms (which could be thought of as long tail keywords) might be a more effective way of ranking your post and engaging more readers. Writing for what readers are actually typing into the search engine as opposed to what keyword suggestion tools might tell you will always pay off in the long run. After all, it’s the humans on the other end of the search engine that you’re trying to reach anyways.
And, if you want to take your keyword research one step further, you can begin to analyze what types of blog posts your users specifically respond to the most. By tracking which of your posts perform the best, you can begin to identify what type of content your ideal readers (and customers) are looking for. This can help inform what type of external content you publish that helps lead new users back to your site (where they’ll find your relevant content).
It all ties together. And your content marketing calendar is where every individual strand can be tracked, traced, and led back to the original knot that is your conversion hub.
As I just mentioned, the content marketing calendar serves as the hub for all of your internal and external content plans. If you know what you’re doing, this strategic roadmap can help you identify opportunities to streamline your existing content strategies - to better connect the different points of your digital presence. It can also help you identify opportunities for writing new posts that you may not have considered in the past.
However, if you don’t build your content calendar the right way, and focused on the right metrics, you can easily be fooled into a sense of complacency by constantly filling your calendar and your publication queue without actually seeing any results. Or, worse yet, you can end up chasing the entirely wrong keywords and wasting time, resources, and mental bandwidth struggling to rank for keywords that won’t even benefit your business.
The value of the content marketing calendar comes from the research that goes into building it. The more scrutinizing you are when auditing your keyword and content strategy, the more insights you’ll have when building your calendar. And the better idea you’ll have of which KPIs actually track growth, and which are just vanity metrics.
You may be wondering why you need to perform a content audit on your site if you are just going to be writing new posts anyways. I mean, why bother studying that which you’re going to replace, right?
There are plenty of benefits to performing a content audit beyond just seeing which posts performed well and which sat on the proverbial shelf collecting dust. Below are just a few takeaways from a content audit:
So how do you get started on your content audit? Well, it all starts with a good old fashioned inventory. Ain't’ that fun!?
Luckily, you can export most relevant content data using some helpful content auditing tools. You should end up with quite the elaborate looking CSV when you complete your content inventory.
You can take a look at the screenshot below for an example:
Each piece of content on your site, each page and each post, needs to be allocated in your content inventory. Each cell should include information on all the relevant data points that can be optimized for any piece of content. And you should be able to easily segment and track each piece of content by which keyword it was meant to rank for (and more importantly, which keyword it’s actually ranking for). In the end, you should have information on at least all of the data points listed below.
And these are just the basics. Once you start considering the complexities of link building, backlink profiles, and the complicated world of domain authorities, the list of included metrics gets even longer.
However, the more information you can provide on each piece of content, the more data you’ll have to analyze. And, in the end, the more opportunities you’ll have to optimize each piece to better rank for their respective keywords.
Now that you’ve had the time to go all Sherlock on your content inventory, you should have a better idea of what your site/blog/strategy is currently missing.
Because you took the time to import so much data on each of your content pieces, prioritizing which content pieces to repair and update versus which new pieces to write and publish should be as easy as choosing the highest search volumes and the highest CTRs.
After that, it all becomes a matter of optimizing the pages and posts on your site that generate the most conversions for your actual business. While the primary agenda of most content marketing campaigns is to increase visibility and traffic to their brand’s domain, it never hurts to keep the end goal in mind: actual conversions and sales.
Writing content that manages to impress Google in order to rank, while still engaging readers enough to transition from reading blog posts to converting and opening up their wallets, is the golden triskelion that all content marketers aspire toward.
You should end up with a content calendar that looks something like the template below. Notice all of the different data points that each piece of content includes, even though this is the calendar, not the audit.
This content calendar should serve as the hub for all of your content creation, curation, and promotion scheduling needs. Which means that you need to include cells for not only your content, but the promotional content associated with it as well.
And once it’s built, you’ll know exactly what you’re writing each week and what you need to execute each post and promotion. Plus, you can confidently publish away knowing that each post was prioritized and specifically chosen to publish on that day on that week with actual intent behind each post.
One last crucial point to touch on before we part ways and I leave you to go build your own content marketing calendars: make sure to pick the right KPIs to track in your content audit and calendar.
What do I mean by that? Surely, any and all metrics are welcome in the massive spreadsheet that is the content audit. Well, yes and no. You do want as much data as you want in your audit and calendar. The more metrics the merrier. But it’s important to distinguish between a metric and a KPI (key performance indicator).
Certain metrics are far more important than others, especially in the content marketing game. For example, while we may think that visit to a certain blog URL are a great metric to report on the success of that post. But, if you aren’t paying attention to time on page, you have no idea how long users are actually staying on that post to read. You may find that it has an incredibly high CTR but has a horrible read time.
What does that mean?
It means two things: 1) Your post isn’t actually being read as much as you think and it isn’t performing as well as you thought either, however 2) Your title has done a good job of generating interest. This means that you need to optimize your post to better appeal to the incoming readers that your title has already done the job of grabbing.
This is just one example of how certain metrics can be considered KPIs (like read time for blogs) while others can be misleading vanity metrics like simple clicks without considering bounce rates and the context of incoming traffic.
Make sure your content audit focuses on the right metrics when prioritizing which changes to make to your existing content and which new avenues to pursue in your content strategy. Your audit will be the substance with which you build your content marketing calendar. So making sure that both are finely attuned to only the metrics that will truly move the needle in terms of your brand’s digital growth is something worth triple checking.
Just like any long journey worth taking, the roadmap is absolutely vital if you want to know where you are and where you’re headed. And when it comes to content marketing calendars, the ladder is far more important.
So make sure you take the time to draw your road map accurately, and plan your journey wisely. It’s this calendar that will be guiding you and your readers through your brand’s evolution. And the stronger you make it, the more followers you will be bringing along on the ride.
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