Planning an editorial calendar will save time and spare you some headaches. Let your schedule become your best friend.
Today it is Planning day on Debbie in Shape. And why do I say that? Because it is the topic I have on my editorial calendar.
Maintaining an editorial calendar is the best way for a blogger to plan their life without going crazy. No matter how long you have been blogging, you probably have already realized that the list of to-dos exceeds the number of hours of a day. Not having some kind of structure backing you up makes things even more difficult than they are.
But how can you put together an editorial calendar? How should you decide what to write and when? And how can you fit in special dates in your planning?
I will try to answer these and other questions based on the way I have been planning my own editorial calendar. This is the way that works for me after months and months of research (no, I am not exaggerating). It will be an honor if you copy my system as-is. But my wish is to at least inspire you put your own editorial calendar together.
[Tweet “How to start #planning an editorial calendar for success. #blogging”]
Here is how it goes!
I asked you to write one keyword for each subject covered on your blog before start working on SEO. Back then, I was also guiding you towards your editorial calendar. Knowing the main topics of your blog and how much time you can spend on your writing every week are the basics to start building your planning.
Debbie in Shape is about Fitness, Lifestyle and Geek. Under Fitness, I write about workouts, mobility, I share my progress, tips for beginners and preferred equipment. The category Lifestyle covers not only health and wellness, but also Reiki, motivation, recipes and yoga (coming soon). All the technical and practical posts fall under Geek. There you find articles about planning (like this one), organization, blogging, social media, brand strategy and our dearest Tip Tuesday Link Party. It is true that I also write about subjects that do not fall into any of these categories. But even them have a reserved slot in my schedule.
To be able to get to this point, you will need to know and understand your Brand inside out. Knowing all the nuances involved on the topics you want to share will not only make your life easier, but will strengthen your Voice. Just think of my example: how many awesome Fitness-related blogs exist out there? In this huge universe, what is it that I offer that my “competition” does not have? What does my product (=my content) provide my readers that no one else offers? This is the stepping stone of my editorial calendar.
[Tweet “Know what you want to #blog about to #plan an effective editorial calendar.”]
I do not know if you also write about 3 main categories like I do. Maybe you have less, maybe you have more. The frequency of your entries is also something I am not aware of. For now, I am doing an experiment of releasing, or promoting, a new (or refurbished) blog every day. But until not long ago, I could not exceed once a week. Whatever you case might be, you should aim to have balance in your structure at all costs.
It took me a lot of experimenting to fit my categories, and sub-categories, on fixed days of the week. It is true that I have been using hashtags to map my articles since last year (that is what I mean about developing this plan for months). Some of them I could fit on any day, while others were very specific. There was also the challenge of distributing everything equally. How could I organize my calendar to cover all my topics with balance?
To sketch it out, I printed a few blog planners for the entire year. I already knew that my final destination was using an online calendar though. But I wanted to “materialize” it first before going virtual.Debbie in Shape Editorial calendar June 2015 (printable from Just a Girl and Her Blog)
On the printables I assigned a different color to each category:
- Fitness: pink
- Lifestyle: green
- Geek: orange
Some postings were no-brainers and very easy to place. Social Media Sunday, Move It Monday, Tip Tuesday, Wellness Wednesday, Training Thursday and Saturday Shout Out were all straight forward. Even though I was not going to keep most topics as categories, these articles already had a fixed place in my planning. After that it was a matter of expanding and rearranging the left ones so that I had some harmony.
[Tweet “Distribute your blog topics to balance your content. #planning #blogging”]
Once you have defined the structure of your editorial calendar, it is time to test it by planning ahead.
Once you complete planning the current month, make sure you plan the next 2. There is no negotiation here. Unless you have a whole quarter planned you cannot be sure it will be sustainable and make sense. I am not saying that you have to write all these blogs just yet. Just schedule the posts in your calendar according to your planning.Debbie in Shape Editorial calendar July and August 2015 (printable from Just a Girl and Her Blog)
If you are a Visual Learner like me, check if the colors are well-spread throughout the 3 months. None should be predominant. No matter how organize your entries, weekly or daily, they must be in harmony for the sake of content balance.
It was at this point that I moved to online tools for the tracking and follow up of my posts. I still put it all first on paper and hang the current month the wall. However, having it all online is much easier for me to manage. Please go for the method that you consider more appropriate for yourself.
[Tweet “Plan your editorial calendar ahead for productivity. #planning #blogging”]
In all this organization, it made sense to me to let Fridays be my “free” day. Like office workers have weekends, my blog has the Fridays. Note that I consistently join the awesome Friday Reflection’s Link Party. Still, if I need to write an extra blog, like my nomination to the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award post, Friday is the day to post it.
It is also important to include in your editorial calendar posts like mine monthly check-ins and special celebrations such as Mother’s Day and birthdays. I call such entries “exceptions”. You definitely do not want to miss any of them. They are as important as the fixed schedule and can also generate extra traffic. Yet they are to be managed outside my structure.
[Tweet “Make room for special dates in your editorial calendar. #planning #blogging”]
It helps adding holidays to your calendar of choice to make sure you do not lose sight of them. If you have a monthly post that needs to be replaced by an exception, you can choose between canceling it for that month or postponing it for the week after. I prefer the latter because it takes readers into consideration, but the choice is up to you.
In short, planning an editorial calendar consists in:
- The Beginning
- Moving Forward
- Going Further
- Planning Exceptions
By having an editorial calendar in place and tested, you will be able to focus on what really matters: writing great content. It is one of the advantages of building up a plan. Leaving things for the last minute can be exhausting, even for those who are accustomed to work this way. Remember that it does not end once you finish your post. There is also the images, social media promotion, etc.Plan your work and work your plan. – Napolean Hill
With optimized planning you can develop a habit that will simplify your life. You will not waste time guessing what to do next. You will have it all in your agenda. And for the days when you are last inspired, you can always start with a blog pitch.
[Tweet “Plan your work and work your plan. – Napolean Hill #quote #quoteoftheday”]
If you have any questions, please leave them on the comments.
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