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Content marketing is the hot new thing in digital, I think we can all agree.
But all this delicious content doesn't just create itself unfortunately. It requires strategy and planning in order to come up with blogs, white papers, videos, websites or whatever else you're producing to engage with your audience.
To coordinate all your content ideas effectively it is necessary to come up with a content calendar.
Now while you could spend sometime coming up with your own content calendar from scratch, it’s obviously easier to simply customise an existing template.
I’ve also detailed a number of other resources below, but first allow me to delve further into the reasons for having a content calendar.
And for more information on this topic, check out Chris Lake’s phenomenally popular Content Marketing Periodic Table.
The goal of a content calendar
It can be difficult to get editorial teams to take notice of a content calendar, as one of the reasons people embark on a career in writing is so that they never have to look at spreadsheets.
However if your content production is tied to specific strategic marketing goals then it is useful to create a calendar so that you can plan ahead, delegate tasks and benchmark your success.
More specifically, a content calendar enables a business to:
- Make a note of key events in the industry calendar.
- Plan around seasonal events, such as Christmas or Easter.
- Ensure you are creating a variety of content rather than getting stuck focusing on one channel.
- Delegate specific tasks within the team.
- Make sure everyone in the content team is aware of their deadlines.
- Plan ahead so that content creation isn’t always a last minute rush.
Overall a content calendar should allow you to plan well in advance and track your progress, assuming people actually stick to it.
Potential data fields
Assuming you see the logic of having an editorial calendar, the next step is to decide what information you wish to track.
For example, alongside the month or week you might choose to include:
- Important industry/seasonal events.
- Important events for your own business.
- Type of content.
- Potential headlines.
- Who’s responsible for it?
- Potential audience.
- How will it be promoted (e.g. email, social)
- First draft deadline
- Final deadline
- Performance against KPIs.
I would recommend only using fields that are absolutely necessary and stripping out any ‘optional’ categories, as if the spreadsheet is too large or complicated it will simply deter people from using it.
Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I've rounded up eight content calendar templates that you can download for free, though one of them does require an email address.
And here they are:
This download includes two calendars in one spreadsheet – a year view and a month view.
There’s also an example calendar that has been filled out to give you an idea of how it might be used.
It allows the user to make a very thorough content plan, with the year view enabling you to map out important dates or business milestones, while the month view gives a more detailed map of specific pieces of content.
Another free calendar that comes in the form of a handy Google Doc, this time created by Postcron and aimed at bloggers.
It has a very simple but effective layout, with columns for the author, topic, keyword, title, results and conclusions.
Our friends over at HubSpot have published a useful guide for creating a simple content plan in Google Calendar.
It’s quite basic and really only serves as a reminder of when deadlines are due, however it does allow content teams to share a centralised calendar that people will hopefully stick to.
Designed as a way of helping non-profit organisations manage their content plans, Lightbox’s Google Doc calendar comes with separate tabs for each month of the year.
It’s perhaps not the easiest template to get to grips with, but it does come pre-populated with annual events to give you a headstart with content planning (though the events are all from 2013).
Editorial Calendar for WordPress
This one is a free WordPress plugin that gives you a calendar view of all your scheduled blog posts.
You can also edit posts within the calendar view, schedule in new articles where gaps exist, or reschedule posts by dragging and dropping them to a new date.
It has 4.8 stars out of five from more than 130 users, so if you’re looking for a simple way to plan ahead on your WordPress blog then this might be a good option.
Web. Search. Social
This Excel calendar comes as part of the ‘Marketing Game Changer Kit’ and requires an email address in order for you to download it.
However it’s a very handy tool that enables you to schedule blog posts, record topics, tie them to events or themes, choose keywords and assign authors.
Bog Angus has created this simple editorial calendar in Excel which allows you to track your monthly ‘roadmap’ in the same sheet as your specific content pieces.
There are also worksheets to track new ideas and log the progress of completed content.
Content Marketing Institute
The CMI’s Excel calendar consists of four worksheets: an overview of important dates, details of specific blog post, headline ideas and another for listing existing content.
Again it’s quite a simple layout but you can easily customise it to include any additional information that’s relevant to your business.