This post is based on episode 76 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Can you believe we’re halfway through January already? Perhaps it’s because we were so keen to see the end of 2020. But whatever the reason, you need to get organised quickly for the coming year.
And that means creating a content calendar for your blog.
Now I’m not suggesting you need to lock in every last detail for each post. You should revisit your content calendar several times a year to make sure your blogging is still on track. But this is a great time of year to make a start.
Planning for success
Ever struggled to come up with a topic to write about? As the minutes tick by the pressure builds, and when you finally do think of one you have to rush it to meet your deadline.
Having a content calendar relieves the pressure because you’ll always know what to write about. And planning your posts in advance gives you the opportunity to take your readers on a journey.
It also helps you become a more consistent blogger. When you can’t think of anything to write about, you may be tempted to just give up and tell yourself, “I’ll try again next time”. But when you’re working to a plan, you’re more likely to stick to it – especially if you’re working on a series of posts that build on one another.
The first step is to review the content you created last year. Were there any posts that did particularly well? You can use Google Analytics to find out which posts got the most views, and tools such as BuzzSumo to see which posts got the most shares. You may also want to dig a little deeper and find the content that got the most comments.
Did any of the topics you wrote about get you lots of traffic, shares and comments? On the flipside, were there any topics that didn’t get much at all? This can help you plan what to write about (and what not to write about) over the next 12 months or so.
Were there any topics that seemed to get more and more popular as the year went on? If so, it may be a growing trend you should focus on.
Did your shorter posts do better than your longer ones, or vice versa? Were there any particular headlines that did better than others? What about your images?
Can you remember how you felt when you wrote those posts? Were they relatively easy to write, or did you struggle to get them finished? Were there certain times or days when writing posts seemed to be easier or harder? Was there anything else you struggled with, such as finding the time to write?
Don’t spend all day on this. Take a minute or so to answer a question, and then move onto the next. But hopefully you’ll see some trends that can help you create new opportunities with your blog, or at the very least make better use of your time.
Now that you’ve done your review, it’s time to start planning.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. It really is a case of whatever works best for you. But here are some questions you may want to answer along the way.
Is there an emerging trend you’d like to focus on?
While reviewing last year’s content, did you spot any emerging trends in your niche? If you did, you might want to consider exploring them in more detail and sharing what you learn with your readers.
This doesn’t mean you need to talk about it in every post you write. But you may want to come back to it regularly. You may even want to create a series where your posts build on each other and take your reader on a journey.
You may even be able to create a product based on the information in your posts that you can sell on your blog.
Is there a type of post you’d like to write regularly?
Whether it’s because they did well last year or you simply enjoyed writing them, you may want to publish a particular type of post on a regular basis.
It could be a list post, an editorial-type post, a roundup post or something else. You could even give it a name such as Story Sunday or Tutorial Tuesday to tie it into a particular day of the week.
How often would you like to post?
How often did you post last year? Was it once a month, once a week, a few times a week or every day? And how did you go keeping up with that schedule? Was it a struggle, or did you take it all in your stride?
Now is the time to decide how often you feel comfortable posting. There’s no point in putting three posts a week in your content calendar if you’ll struggle to keep up. You’re much better off creating a schedule you’re comfortable with.
Are there any mediums you’d like to start using?
If you’ve been thinking about trying another medium – podcasting, Facebook Live, YouTube – you should make time in your calendar for them.
That may involve learning about the medium, researching equipment you may need, learning the tools, and of course actually creating the content.
Not only will you be prepared when the time comes to produce, having it in your calendar means you’re more likely to take the leap and actually do it.
Is it time to mix things up a bit?
If you’ve been blogging for a while, you may have reached the point where it’s becoming a little monotonous. It feels like like you’re doing the same thing day in and day out, and you start to wonder if your readers are as bored with your blog as you are.
If that sounds like you, then it’s time to mix things up.
A lot of bloggers do it by coming up with certain themes or certain types of posts for certain types of days. Mondays could be for list posts. On Tuesdays you might ask your community a question. Wednesdays might be when you write a review. You might share your opinion about something on Thursday. And on Friday you might write a how-to to give your readers something to do over the weekend.
And depending on your blog you might also be able to switch topics from time to time to really mix things up. Just be careful, as mixing things up too much could be confusing for your readers.
When are you having a break?
If last year taught us anything it’s how important it is to look after our health – physical, mental and emotional. That means you should build time into your calendar for taking a well-earned break.
Of course, that leads to an obvious question: What happens to your blog while you’re taking that break?
You might want to:
- create additional content beforehand, and schedule it to be published while you’re away
- ask people for guest posts instead of having to create the additional content yourself
- create a few ‘best of’ posts showcasing some of the content you’ve already published.
Or you could simply have a gap in your content calendar where nothing new is published.
It is time to get more visual?
This is also a great time to think about your approach to visual content. Is it time to change the look of your blog – a new header, new avatars for your social media channels, or perhaps a new font for displaying all your content.
Fortunately, we now have tools such as Canva that can make updating your visual content a breeze. Even doing something simple like changing the background color on your images and icons could give your blog an entirely new look.
Can you repurpose any of your current content?
Just because you’ve covered a topic in a blog doesn’t mean that’s the end of it.
If you provided a lot of data in one of your blog posts, why not give that information another run by turning it into an infographic? If you wrote an editorial piece that got a lot of comments when it was first published, you could use it as the basis for a Facebook Live. And if you have a podcast, why not turn that content into a blog post?
Do you need a new tool to create your content calendar?
What have you been using to create your content calendar? A calendar app? A spreadsheet? Paper and pen? Switching to a new tool could not only make the task easier but also give you a renewed sense of energy.
When we switched to CoSchedule it reenergized our entire team. And we use it to plan our content, collect everyone’s ideas, and even share our content on social media.
Time to brainstorm
Having answered all those questions, it’s now time to fill your content calendar. How many topics for posts can you come up with?
We look forward to finding out.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash