You know it and I know it.
Creating fresh blog content can be challenging.
Do you, more often than you like to admit, sit down in front of your computer only to draw a complete and utter blank?
You stare at the screen and you just can’t think of ANYTHING to write about. Not to save your life, for crying out loud!
It’s so frustrating, isn’t it?! You ought to create content that inspires and here you are – not even inspired enough to write something yourself… ANYTHING!
What do you do? Do you break into an acute Tourette episode, where you lose your otherwise exemplary temper, and swear like a trooper?
Or, do you sigh in defeat and silently escape the annoying experience by getting lost scrawling through the latest autocorrect fails (hilarious, but not really productive)?
It’s not you – it’s your planning. Or rather your lack of planning.
Fear not, my friend, we’ve all been there…
Actually, that’s me until about a month ago. So I totally understand what you’re going through.
BUT there is a way out of this dilemma! Read on to find the tool, that’s hopefully gonna take
If your content creation process looks something like this:
- Sit down with a cup of coffee
- stare at the screen
- think about what you might feel like writing about today
you are not setting yourself up for success.
But you already know that, don’t you?
What you need is a system to make your content creation easier and more productive: Enter the content calendar.
Whenever you use your content to convince people to give you some of their hard-earned money, you’re in the content marketing business – if you acknowledge it or not.
We already talked about what content marketing is and why it’s important (check out the link if you missed that post – I’ll wait;)), now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of HOW you can create a content calendar to plan out your content.
Your content calendar doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It doesn’t even have to cost you a dime, as you’ll see in a sec.
A simple Excel file will do.
Now you label a row for every week of the year and a column for every aspect of your content you want to plan ahead.
Let me give you an example. This is what the first bit of my content calendar looks like:
Apart from the weekly topics, I also planned things like:
- post type
- lead magnet
How long do I plan in advance? Well, to be totally transparent here, this is the first time I really sat down to write a content calendar myself.
Shocking, I know. But hey, I took a few digital marketing courses and read quite a bit about it and in the spirit of a starting a new year, I sat down and planned out the next 3 months.
Three months seems like a good amount of time to plan ahead but still be able to react timely when new trends emerge or you find that your current strategy just isn’t working at all.
If you’re just starting out, I don’t think there much point to planning ahead any further than three months at a time.
5 Benefits of Using A Content Calendar
Using a content calendar will help you in many ways:
- First of all, you will always know what to write about as you planned your topic beforehand.
- Secondly, it will help you execute your content marketing strategy: You don’t just create content for the sake of it, you create content with a clear end goal in mind.
- It helps you streamline your content across all your marketing channels.
- You can make sure that your content is varied and addresses different pain points your audience might have and speaks to different stages of the reader’s journey.
- A content calendar can also help you to think about choosing different post types and formats (text, audio, video) to change things up a bit and be more engaging.
Wanna try it for yourself? With one of the free content calendar templates I’m about to show you, you have nothing to lose. 🙂
My 3 Favorite Free Content Calendar Templates
There are countless free content calendar templates floating around the vast shallows of the Internet.
I limited my selection to three of them in order to not completely overwhelm you.
Cause, after all, I don’t want you to spend all day comparing templates – that would be a poor use of your precious time.
I’d much rather have you look at 2 or 3, decide which one you like most and then start planning your content.
So here we go!
Content Calendar Template: themarketingnutz
What I like about it:
This simple template has a new tab for every month and tracks just about any aspect of your content creation process you can think of.
What could be better:
As it is, all days of the month are just one big list which makes it difficult to quickly spot where one
Could do with a little more helpful background information on how to actually fill the calendar with useful content.
Content Calendar Template: CoSchedule
What I like about it:
Compared to the first one, I find this one much more visually pleasing. It’s easier to quickly gain an overview over the whole month. It also comes with a lot of background information, instructions on how to use it, and a printable PDF version.
What could be better:
On the downside, it basically only tracks projects, deadlines, owner, status, and notes. It does come with an extra social media marketing calendar file, that you can use to map out all your social media content though.
So as long as your comfortable spreading your plan across different files, this shouldn’t be a problem. You might still need another file to track things like keywords, headlines, calls-to-action, or whatever else you might want to plan ahead.
Content Calendar Template: Content Marketing Institute
What I like about it:
Another really clearly structured and easy to use
What could be better:
Yes, I noticed – it’s outdated. At the time of writing this article, the most recent version is from 2018. Nevertheless, you can update that version without putting too much time and effort into it.
Again, you might have some additional things like lead magnets or offers that you would like to include
Adjust Your Content Calendar
A word of caution before you jump right into action-mode and plan out your content using one of those done-for-you content calendar templates:
If it doesn’t make sense to track a certain aspect of content for your particular business, don’t do it just because your chosen template suggests it.
The same is true for things that might be lacking from those templates: If you need to plan and track another variable – add it!
After all, the template has to accommodate YOUR business needs.
The Blog-Like-You-Mean-It Blog Planner Kit
If you are a visual person like me, a plain Excel sheet might not be the optimal choice for you. Maybe you need something more, well, more visually pleasing… LOL
If that’s you, check out the set of 7 blog planners I created for you to help you map out your blogging goals, plan your blog posts and track important metrics each month.
Creating a content calendar for your blog content is a great way of planning ahead and structuring your posts.
It helps you see the big picture so you can create the type of content that makes the most sense for your marketing plan.
By using a free done-for-you content calendar template, you can start planning your content in no time at all – just choose one that appeals to you and remember to make sure you track all the things that make sense for your particular business.
Pro tip: A business plan will help you put all your content puzzle pieces together – from defining your audience, to your offer and your marketing strategy. So if you don’t have a marketing plan yet, now is a good time to finally sit down and craft that long overdue business plan you’ve been avoiding like the devil the holy water.
Now I’m curious: What’s your content creation process like? Do you plan ahead or just go with the flow? Do you have a favorite content calendar template that you use? Let me know in the comments below!
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