This is a guest contribution from Sonja Jobson.
This might sound familiar: you’re staring at a blank screen, panic slowly rising, headache setting in, mind blank. You’re due to publish a blog post but you have absolutely no idea what to write about. Again.
The “writers block” cycle can put a serious cramp in your blogging style, but contrary to popular opinion, it’s not a mysterious ailment with no known cure. In most cases, writers block is a direct result of poor planning.
This is good news, because it means that with correct planning, you can skip right over the blank screen and save loads of time and sanity when blogging.
First Things First: Your Editorial Calendar
Before we dig into using content themes, you need to have some tools in place to hold the whole process together.
The editorial calendar is like a blogging secret weapon – except, it’s not so secret. Most successful blogs – across all sorts of niches and industries – use editorial calendars to give structure and consistency to their blogging.
If you’re not already on the editorial calendar bandwagon, now’s the time to jump on.
If you’ve been putting off starting an editorial calendar because it sounds too time consuming, complicated, or technical, don’t worry about it. Starting an editorial calendar can be as simple as grabbing a cheap wall calendar from the store and penciling in blog posts on the appropriate dates. Or, you could go digital and use an app like Google Calendar or start a simple spreadsheet.
What are Content Themes?
Coming up with an endless stream of fresh blog post ideas can be exhausting. But, like most tasks, it can be made simpler by building on your momentum instead of approaching it in a scattered, ununiformed way.
Say you get an intriguing question from a reader that sparks some inspiration, and you spend some time figuring out how to transform that idea into solid blog post. It takes a bit of time, but you finally find a good angle and the perfect way to tie the topic into your overall blog theme. Next week’s blog topic: check.
Now you go back to square one and begin coming up with an entirely new blog topic to add to your editorial calendar.
Starting the idea process at square one over and over again is time consuming. There is a simpler process that requires you to complete step one just once, and then build on that same foundation to create weeks or months’ worth of content ideas all at once.
That’s where content themes come in: it allows you to pick a broad topic and build off of it with a bunch of hyper-focused topics, making the planning process quicker and more organized.
For example, take a look at ProBlogger’s product creation theme week.
For an entire week, each post focused on creating products, diving into sub-topics like what to do before you create a product, what type of product to create, and launching a product.
How to Create and Plan Content Themes
You can structure content themes in several different ways.
Some bloggers find that themes save them so much time and hassle that they use them on an ongoing basis for content planning (each theme beginning right after the other one ends).
You can also use themes for a set period of time (say, one week or one month) scattered throughout your editorial calendar whenever you want to create a focused burst of content on a specific topic.
Regardless of whether you choose to use themes on an ongoing or selective basis, the steps for creating and planning your theme will be the same.
Step #1: choose your topic
You always build a theme on a base topic. For example, a health blog might create a theme based on the topic of ‘eating raw foods for weight loss’. Or, an entertainment blog might create a theme around the topic of ‘80’s movies that are still going strong’.
The two keys to coming up with theme topics are 1) choosing a topic that is broad enough to support several sub-topics (in other words, you shouldn’t be able to sum it up it just one blog post) and 2) the topic needs to be something your audience cares about.
Step #2: choose your timeframe
After you know your topic, you’ll need to decide how long you want your theme to run. A week? A month? Several months? There is no hard and fast rule on how long a theme should run, so make the decision based on how much content you think you’ll need to create to cover the topic, or simply how long feel like talking about the same thing.
Step #3: Choose and schedule your sub-topics
Now that you know your main topic and the amount of blog post slots you want to fill, it’s time to sit down and plan your individual blog posts. Coming up with a calendar full of ideas should be much easier now that you have a base topic to work off of. A great way to get started is by asking yourself “what are the most pressing questions my audience has about this topic?”
As you decide on individual blog post topics, schedule them into your editorial calendar.
And that’s it! You now have an organized group of blog posts and, for the duration of your theme, you’ll never have to wonder “what should I write about?”
Bonus: Use Your Blogging Themes to Simplify Your Other Marketing Outlets
Saving all that time when planning out your blog content was pretty good, but it gets even better.
You can use the themes you create for your blog to streamline all your other content marketing efforts as well.
Use your theme to help you come up with social media updates, live event (like webinars, live steams, or Q&A sessions) topics, email marketing or newsletter content, or whatever types content you create to market your blog or business.
Using one theme across all of your online platforms will help you to create consistency, structure, and a lot more free time.
How will you use themes to simplify your blogging life? Or, if you’ve already used themes, what were your results? Share it with us in the comments below!
Sonja Jobson helps entrepreneurs grow their audience online in a way that fits their schedule, style, and personality. Want even more advice on simplifying your marketing life? Take her FREE 5-Day Marketing Dare.
Genesis is my top favorite WordPress framework … Genesis themes are always fastest, minimum load time ……. and simpler. best for content. loving your thoughts.
Well that is quite a handful of suggestions for us new bloggers..thanks for the great idea…I’m gonna try this as soon as possible :)
I like the idea of content themes. More than anything, working off a calendar has done wonders for me.
Right now, at 9:45 AM Fiji time, I’ve completed 600 words of a 2500 to 3000 word post that’s due at about midnight, Fiji time, 2 days from now. So to go live at 8 AM EST in the USA I start writing about 2 days before.
Whether I’m working off of a theme or not I drop everything to make sure my post is written 1 day before it’s scheduled to go live. Then I patiently proofread the article, looking for errors, or typos, and after I give it the read through once or twice I add 4 travel images to my blog, to strengthen my branding.
I’ll save, preview and will give the post a once over, again.
When I feel good about the post I schedule the post for 8 AM EST, which is roughly 12 hours from the noon time scheduling/editing point here in Fiji.
Routines can make your blogging campaign. Most bloggers have the discipline to set up a routine – all do actually – but to many, it feels way too uncomfortable to write 3 days a week, or to even write daily. Be regimented. Drop everything when it’s time to write, and write.
You’ll set up a wonderful habit for yourself and yep, you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
Great share Sonja.
Tweeting in a bit.
Many WordPress bloggers are not familiar with the auto content scheduling plugin where it allows them to focus on content more. Never really heard of an editorial calendar before, because content was normally created in most cases “on the fly.” Well, the good thing about ProBlogger is that you’re always stirring up the minds of bloggers and feeding them knowledge.
Having an editorial calendar is a must for every blogger who cares about generating leads or simply doing business online. Content is the new powerful marketing tool that has took the top spot recently. It doesn’t matter what all sorts of marketing you implement – without content marketing it is hard to withstand these days.
Without content, it is also hard to stay useful and interesting to the target audience. And the content cannot be merely random, loose content – it has to be useful, thematic, highly engaging and should act as a lead generating tool.
Thanks Sonja for the wonderful tips about having themed content and creating editorial stuff based on that :)
Yes poor planning can result in Writers Block. But with proper planning of content for a time frame can easily reduce the risk of Writers block. Thanks
This is great! I find that I get stuck in a rut very quickly if I don’t plan ahead of time :-)
Another extremely cool idea for bloggers! Running out of words, time is something always happens to me. I feel like writing the first word is as hard as it wast to send men to the moon!
I admit the calender stuff you told about is awesome. I am going to give it a try next time.
Yeah there are lots of templates has value. For me I always change my theme. Dose that help or that wrong?.
Planning on blogging is a must and a great attitude to exercise to get things organized and finish tasks as fast as possible.
Organizing could be a key to be productive in a day, week and month, right? Therefore, your content theme should be planned depending on you, when do you want to write a topic about money, blogging, inspiration, a roundup and so on?
The article has smart and practical tips that are going to be effective for sure!