You know that feeling when a rare bolt of inspiration motivates you to take out your laptop and start typing?
It almost feels like magic. After weeks of your creative well running dry, you finally have some ideas to be excited about. But, it only lasts so long.
Strategically planning blog content ahead of your publishing schedule will help you make the best use of those random bursts of creativity. You won’t worry about not having anything to write about because you’ll already have a master list of ideas to pull from.
Enter in blog content calendars. By organizing your article topics and creating a consistent timeline, content marketing will no longer be a task you dread. You’ll also streamline your efforts so it takes you less time to write content that your audience will enjoy even more.
Creating a strategic blog content calendar takes time and experimentation, so let’s start with the foundational steps of building a calendar that works for you.
Step 1: Determine What Your Niche Is
Before you dig in and start creating your blog content calendar, let’s make sure you’re building from a solid foundation. In order to discover what you want to write about, we’ll start with defining your niche.
Having a niche, or a clear focus on your content helps you not only in the blog content creation process but also influences all other areas of digital marketing. When you niche down, you’re able to better connect with your audience since they know what you’re an expert in.
Let’s say you’re a photographer. Great! While that title alone gives your audience an idea of what you do, you can niche down even further.
Are you a wedding photographer, senior portrait photographer, or family lifestyle photographer? All three types are going to produce vastly different types of content.
A wedding photographer may post-wedding recaps from their client’s big day while a family lifestyle photographer might share tips and tricks on getting energetic kids to sit still during photos. In each example, blog visitors will know what to expect from your content from your niche.
Step 2: Understand What Problem You’re Solving/Addressing
When a visitor comes to your blog, they’re looking for you to answer one simple question: What can you offer me? The first step to answering this question is understanding what your audience struggles with and how you can solve that problem.
Using the examples above, if your ideal client is a millennial bride who’s planning a Pinterest-worthy wedding, she’s probably overwhelmed with a number of decisions she has to make. Focusing on this issue helps you create content that gives your ideal client peace-of-mind throughout her wedding planning.
No matter what kind of educational content you offer, as long as it addresses your client’s problem, you’ll make a lasting impression as someone who genuinely wants to help.
It’s easier to use your blog to sell your products and services when you’re giving upfront value your audience is already benefiting from. Your blog content, in a way, then sells itself.
Once you’ve defined your niche and what problems you’ll be solving through your content, it’s time to create a framework that instantly tells readers what they can expect to find.
Want to know what your customers problems are? What are they asking Google?
Search Google and see what it suggests. Simple!
Step 3: Define Your Blog Categories
When creating a niched down blog, the best thing you can do is set boundaries for what you will and won’t cover on the blog. This starts by deciding what your blog categories will be.
You have the freedom to choose how specific or broad your blog categories will be. If you’re a graphic designer, you could have blog categories that look like this: Visual Branding Basics, Typography, Colour Theory, Moodboards, Design Studio.
While those are great blog categories for a designer, there are plenty of other categories you could pursue. Another graphic designer in your market may have chosen these blog categories: Graphic Design, Logo Design, Web Design, Print Design.
Neither designer is right or wrong; they’re simply giving their audience different types of content which helps each designer stand out. A blog reader who’s DIY-ing her own logo can easily choose which blog he or she wants to read solely based on reading the blogger’s categories. These blog categories will come in handy for the next few steps.
Step 4: Use The Right Tools
Before you jump straight into blog post brainstorming, let’s check your toolbelt. There’s no shortage of software and app options in the world of online marketing, we even listed our top tools we use and one of those is our content calendar.
While true, not all tools will be useful in your process. What works for someone else might not work for you and vice versa. Take time this month to test a few different tools to find your best fit. You’ll never know until you try them out.
Here are a few tools that might be worth adding to your blog content creation toolbelt:
CoSchedule: This content marketing calendar plugin helps you plan out blog content, social media scheduling, and more. It’s easy to use and pretty to look at.
Asana: A comprehensive, user-friendly project management tool to help you streamline your to-do list. There’s even a unicorn that flies across the screen when you check a task off your list! Talk about motivation.
Trello: A more visual project management tool that allows you to create various boards to organize blog post ideas, timelines, and collaborations.
Google Sheets: If you’d like to keep it simple, creating an old-school spreadsheet may be all you need. They’re flexible and easy to edit over time.
Step 5: Brainstorm Blog Post Ideas & Blog Topics
Once you’ve decided which tools you want to use, you can finally get to the fun part; brainstorming blog post ideas. There are a few different ways you can do this.
One option is to create a master list of blog post topics. This is an especially great option for bloggers and entrepreneurs who find themselves constantly on-the-go.
If you don’t have the time to dedicate to regular content creation brainstorming sessions, you could add random article ideas into your Notepad phone app. You could also simplify the process by downloading Evernote which will keep all of your desktop and mobile notes in one place.
Another option is to brainstorm all of your content ideas for the month or the quarter in one sitting. This works best for me since I’m able to determine which content themes I want to focus on for a more fluid content marketing strategy.
When I brainstorm, I take out a pad of sticky notes and hang each idea on a single Post-It note. Then I stick each one on the wall. After a quick break, I return to the notes and rearrange them based on my categories, something we already defined in Step 3.
If the blog post idea doesn’t fit into any of my blog categories, I toss it since it won’t fit into my niche.
Next, I take those ideas and draft up some headline ideas and do more research within our community and other statistical data.
Once we have a list of blog topics I create tasks in Asana and then begin work on those projects.
You could also brainstorm in a shared Google Doc, jot down notes in a journal on your daily commute, or bounce ideas around with friends at a coffee shop. Think about what environment you’re most creative in and incorporate it into your brainstorming process.
The next step is to highlight your best blog ideas and decide which to tackle first, which will bring us to our last step…
Thinking Like Your Customers
Going one step further on blog post ideas you can get your mind into thinking like a customer. This is a common SEO strategy but it can be used for blog post ideas.
Go to Google and search for a term related to your niche.
For popular terms Google has started presenting answers to common questions related to your search.
If you click on these to view the answers Google automatically expands the results and shows more questions.
These questions are being asked by people and you can use those as blog topic ideas.
Another option is scrolling to the bottom and seeing other related search terms. Again these can be blog post ideas.
There are some great tools for generating blog post ideas based of search terms. One examples is Ubersuggest. Again a tool used by SEO’s for keyword research but useful for seeing related search terms and will give you ideas for topics you could write about in your content. Type in your keywords for your blog post idea.
See what related terms match your search term and you now have more blog post ideas.
One thing to note is this doesn’t just produce content for the sake of it. Research what your audience are searching for and then produce content that solves their problems or answers their questions.
Step 6: Determine Your Posting Schedule & Create Timeline
You’re almost done! With your best blog post ideas in hand, it’s time to organize and place them into a content calendar that works for you.
First, consider how often you want to post on your blog. Are you hoping to create high-quality weekly content that packs a punch? Maybe you’d rather post bi-weekly posts that read almost like mini ebooks. Perhaps you want to build a multi-contributor website that publishes at least 3 posts a week.
Your blog post frequency will help you determine a timeline for your content marketing plan. If you have more blog post ideas than you know what to do with, add them to your brainstorm archive so you can cover the topics later. You could even swap out a few ideas based on the timeliness or your own interest.
Here’s an example of the calendar view in Asana. Each month we can look through and see what content we have being published and from here we can edit publish dates, move articles around, see what content gaps we have and click through to each task to review its status.
Content calendars are meant to help you create a solid foundation to build from when creating blog content, but it doesn’t need to be set in stone. Online marketing constantly changes so your content calendar will surely evolve over time.