SERPS. Special projects. Keyword research. Technical SEO. Every content marketer knows that there are countless things to keep track of in your daily work. So, it’s not surprising that tasks sometimes have a tendency of slipping through your fingers…and out of the pipeline.
The key to keeping all your good ideas squarely in your reach is, of course, organization. A content marketing calendar is a critical element in a digital marketing toolkit that will make it that much easier to not only document content ideas but keep track of them as you move forward in your content marketing campaign.
What is a Content Marketing Calendar?
A content marketing calendar is a spreadsheet that houses all the important information about content (whether that means blog articles, landing pages, or something else) in one location. It is, of course, a calendar too, which means it should provide a clear snapshot of what’s coming down the pipeline and the status of every piece of content. This is a living document that your team will need to update (i.e. adding a live link, changing the status of a piece, linking client feedback, etc.) on a regular basis. How often you update the calendar will depend on posting frequency and content output, but I generally recommend reviewing at least weekly.
A content marketing calendar can be internal or client-facing. The benefit of an internal calendar is that your team can brainstorm freely and discuss ideas without worrying about a client becoming confused or invested in an idea you may not have the resources to actually pull off. However, a client-facing content marketing calendar makes it very easy to share content ideas with the client. You can look over the content recommendations together on your regular client meetings or even just send over the document and let the client leave any notes in a column designated for client feedback. Sometimes, a team might even decide to have both an internal and an external content calendar—just remember, though, that means you have to update everything in two places instead of one!
How to Create a Content Marketing Calendar
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of making a content calendar. Start by creating a new spreadsheet. Then, I like to create the following tabs:
- Content calendar (content currently moving through the pipeline)
- Completed content (content that has been published and edited)
- Keyword research (a list of relevant keywords, along with metrics such as volume and competition)
- Content brainstorm (optional, but it can be nice to have a space to just dump any ideas that arise without necessarily fleshing them out into full content recommendations in the moment)
This can also be a good place to put other research or resources such as competitor research or a client style guide. Basically, anything you might need when developing content can live here.
In terms of workflow, I start by populating the keyword research and/or content brainstorm tab with ideas. From there, select keywords and develop those into complete content ideas in the content calendar tab. Once that content is finished, copy the row and move it to the completed content tab. The benefit of having a separate tab for completed content is that it makes it easy to find links to old blog posts if something needs to be updated, check whether you have already targeted a keyword before, and get inspiration from past content—without all those old posts cluttering up the calendar tab.
Organizing Your Content Calendar
What fields do you need to include in your content calendar tab? Well, it will vary depending on unique client needs, but generally it’s smart to include columns for:
- Date (could be day it needs to be published or when work began)
- Status (i.e. topic needs client approval, drafting, editing, client review, published)
- Content type (blog post, landing page, whitepaper, etc.)
- Content title
- Keyword (if desired, you can split this into two columns: one for the primary keyword and one for secondary keywords)
- Link to draft or content brief/outline
- Live link (for when the post goes live or the URL of the page you are revising)
- Article inspiration (if needed for the writing team)
- Notes (can separate into two columns, one for internal notes/action items and one for collecting client feedback, if client will be reviewing content recommendations and leaving extensive notes)
Of course, all of this can be customized to specific situations. Not all clients will need all of these columns and some may need others not listed here. But this structure should provide a good foundation to start building your content strategy house on.
Maintaining Your Content Marketing Calendar
Since a content marketing calendar is a living document, you need to take care of it to keep it alive and healthy. It’s a good idea to set clear expectations within your team regarding who is in charge of maintaining what in the content calendar. This minimizes the risk of something being neglected simply because everyone thought someone else was going to take care of it.
While it may seem like a lot of work creating and updating a content marketing calendar consistently, it will actually save you a lot of time and effort in the long-run. Careful organization helps keep everyone on the same page, makes it easier for new hires or people covering for an employee to jump right in, and ensures that your brilliant content ideas don’t get lost in the ether. And in the busy world of digital marketing, efficiency is everything.