Creating and using a content calendar helps you organize your goals, streamline the creative process, and measure long-term success — all while empowering your team with tangible deadlines and specific objectives.
But what is a content calendar exactly, and how can you best use one? Here’s everything you need to know to elevate your content marketing strategy.
- A content calendar is a written schedule that outlines the topics you plan to cover on your blog or website for the year. It helps you plan, organize, and schedule your content production process.
- A content calendar lets you stay on track, saves time, increases audience engagement, fosters collaboration, improves performance, and reduces errors.
- A social media content calendar will help you keep track of each social media post, while you can use a content calendar for longer-form content like blog posts, articles, ebooks, and white papers.
- To create a calendar, you’ll want to define your audience and goals, set your columns, select a tool or template to use, audit existing content, brainstorm new ideas, and assign tasks to team members.
- Popular content calendar software and tools include Monday, Trello, Google Sheets, CoSchedule, HubSpot, and Notion.
- Definition of a Content Calendar
- Benefits of Content Calendars
- How to Create a Content Calendar
- What Is a Content Calendar Tool?
- Content Calendar vs. Editorial Calendar
- What Does an Editorial Calendar Include?
- Content Calendar vs. Social Media Calendar
Definition of a Content Calendar
A content calendar is a written schedule that outlines the topics you plan to cover on your blog or website for each month of the year. It helps you forecast, organize, and schedule content creation and publishing. This means that if you have multiple writers or editors working on content for your site, everyone will know exactly what needs to be done and when.
While they’re usually used to organize blog posts, ebooks, and other long-form content, you can also have a dedicated social media calendar. If you schedule many social media posts, including videos, this can be a helpful tool to keep track of what you’re posting and where and help you maintain consistency.
What Does a Content Calendar Include?
A calendar may include any of the following, depending on your needs:
- Blog post topic or headline
- Assigned writers and editors
- Scheduled publish date
- Targeted keyword
- Hashtags to use
- Planned promotional strategy
- Calls to action to include
- Images/videos needed
- Published date
- Published URL
Benefits of Content Calendars
Having your own content calendar is smart, no matter how large or small your content operations are. Here’s a look at some of the biggest benefits:
Keeps You on Track
Because you’ll typically have multiple touchpoints, it’s easy to forget things. You may post on Twitter and Facebook, but forget to post on LinkedIn. Content calendars help you keep track of your efforts across all channels and mediums and help you maintain a publishing schedule.
Creating a content calendar lets you plan your content ideas and posts to stay organized and hit your goals. This helps save time because you don’t have to constantly search for ideas or scramble to put together last-minute posts. When everything is already planned out, it’s much easier to stay focused on the task and achieve more in less time.
Because you have more time, you have room to be creative with your content marketing strategies. Content calendars give you the big picture of your content. You can schedule posts months in advance. You also have the freedom to play with themes, think of creative ways to boost audience engagement, and leverage the success of older content.
The beauty of having a content calendar is that it allows multiple people within an organization — or even outside of it — to collaborate on projects in real time. This means everyone, including your marketing team, freelance writers, editors, strategists, and designers, can access the same information, update tasks, and see due dates.
One of the main benefits of using a calendar is that it helps ensure consistency in the posts and topics you produce. This can help reduce the risk of publishing similar posts or duplicate content while ensuring you publish at a regular cadence. Plus, this consistency will help build trust with readers over time, as they know what topics they can expect from your website, blog, or social media channels.
Identifies Content Gaps
A content calendar provides an easy way to identify potential content gaps you may have missed. By taking inventory of upcoming posts or topics that still need to be covered, you can fill in any blanks quickly and efficiently. This makes it easier for you to strategize ahead of time, create better-quality content that will resonate with your target audience, and extend your reach into new markets or audiences.
A structured system helps you measure performance more effectively over time. Content calendars provide valuable data, such as how often you should post, to maximize viewer engagement. With this kind of insight, you can make informed decisions about future content ideas and perform tests that will help you optimize performance. For instance, you can do A/B tests to optimize the posting times of captions or to test headlines.
A busy editorial schedule can often lead to errors in posting times, missed deadlines, and other mistakes. With a content calendar, you can keep track of all tasks related to each post, such as when it needs to be published or who is responsible for editing it. This will help keep everyone aligned and reduce any chances for errors in timing or execution with improved team collaboration. Plus, having everything organized in one place makes spotting any problems before they happen easy — saving precious time and energy down the road.
How to Create a Content Calendar
Before creating a content calendar, it is important to know who your audience is. Ask yourself questions such as “What type of information do my readers want?” and “What topics should I focus on for my target audience?” Knowing who your audience is will help you develop topics and content they’ll love.
Define Your Goals
Since each piece of content may have different goals, you’ll want to map this out when creating your content calendar. Do you want to increase brand awareness and trust or get more email subscribers? Clarifying your ‘why’ will guide your content strategy.
For instance, a ‘how-to’ guide is top-of-the-funnel content that will drive traffic and awareness, whereas a product review-type post will help drive conversions in your marketing funnel.
Decide What Your Calendar Should Include
Depending on your needs, your content calendar can be as simple or detailed as you like. For example, if you need to keep track of blog posts, all you may need to include on your calendar are the headlines, due date, and published date for each post. As you get more advanced, you might also want to keep track of assigned writers and editors, planned promotional activities, keywords, graphic design status, the live URL, and more.
Once you have identified your target audience, decide what types of content you want to publish. Do you want to share blog posts? Videos? Podcasts? Infographics? Deciding the types of content will give you an idea of how much time and effort needs to be invested in creating each piece of content. This step will also help shape the structure and format of each topic.
Select a Content Calendar Tool or Template
Plenty of free content calendar templates are available online, making it easy to create a customized content calendar — do some research and find one that works best for your needs. Additionally, many project management tools (such as Asana or Trello) also provide templates specifically designed for creating content calendars.
Audit Existing Content and Brainstorm New Ideas
Take stock of any current content you have and use your calendar to plan what to do with it in the future. Content calendars aren’t just for upcoming content — they help you make the most of current content by rewriting, refreshing, repurposing, or deleting if it no longer serves your audience. You can use the calendar to note when a post has been refreshed and when the next update should occur.
Take some time to develop topics for each type of content listed in your template, and write down any ideas that come to mind. As part of this process, don’t forget to consider how each piece of content will fit into your overall brand message and marketing strategy so that everything aligns with your goals. Map out seasonal content, content for product launches and site updates, and anything else relevant to your business.
Outline Content Creation Steps
If you’re a small business with a small budget, you usually can handle all the steps alone. But on larger content marketing teams where the content will change many hands, from the SEO team and writers to content producers, you’ll need to outline the steps clearly so everyone on your team is on the same page. This will provide the clarity everyone needs to get things done. It will also help you see the workflow, identify bottlenecks, and keep each item on track.
Schedule Content and Assign Team Members
Now it’s time to schedule when each piece should be published or sent out. Consider how long each task will take you (including research time) and schedule accordingly so that everything fits into both short-term deadlines and long-term plans. Choose the appropriate content types and formats based on the goals and ideas you chose.
Once you have your dates and times and you’ve outlined your workflow, assign tasks to your different team members. This will help to keep things moving smoothly and timely.
Implement and Monitor Progress
Monitor your content’s performance to see how it performs against the goals you set in step one. Make adjustments as necessary. Keep an eye on industry trends and news opportunities so you can take advantage of newsworthy events when they do happen.
What Is a Content Calendar Tool?
There are many tools you can use to plan and schedule your content. But content calendar tools usually fall into three main categories, spreadsheets, basic calendars, and software.
A spreadsheet is a great calendar option, whether Excel or Google Sheets. Google Sheets allows you to create spreadsheets and collaborate with your team members. You can correspond directly in Sheets, providing feedback or bouncing ideas off each other. You can find many templates online if you’d like to use a spreadsheet as your content calendar.
Calendars are a decent option if you’re flying solo, or you’re not creating a lot of content. However, there isn’t much room to customize fields like in other content workflow options. However, Google Calendar is a good, basic option for a content calendar.
Tools and Software
There are many content calendar tools and software to choose from, depending on your needs. Some of the more popular options for content calendars are Monday, Loomly, SocialPilot, HubSpot, CoSchedule, ContentCal, and Story Chief. Although not technically calendar software, you can also adapt project management software to meet your workflow needs. You can use tools like Trello, Asana, and Notion to schedule your upcoming content and assign team members to specific tasks.
Content Calendar vs. Editorial Calendar
Editorial calendars are often confused with content calendars. But they aren’t the same. An editorial calendar provides a general overview of the content plan. They are usually used to predetermine content themes and promotional channels. It serves as a guide. On the other hand, a content calendar is a workflow tool. It provides an overview of the content, down to minute details of who handles each stage of the content creation process. The editorial calendar is typically used for strategy over a long period of time, while the content calendar is focused on execution.
What Does an Editorial Calendar Include?
Editorial calendars typically contain the following:
- A 12-month plan: Since an editorial calendar is used to plan the big picture of your content, you can use it to map out content themes and ideas for the full year. This could include seasonal content, national holidays relevant to your business, and product/service launches.
- Ad/design specifications: Depending on your graphic creation process and promotional channels, you might want to include important details like ad size requirements, graphic dimensions, image formats, and any other details your team will need.
- Posting cadence: Content shouldn’t just be posted randomly. The benefit of establishing a publishing frequency is that readers know when to expect content. This can help with audience engagement.
- Distribution platforms How will you promote your content? You can use your editorial calendar to map this out for your team.
Content Calendar vs. Social Media Calendar
There isn’t much difference between a content calendar and a social media content calendar. They’re the same, except that a social media content calendar is used for social media management, while a content calendar is used for blog posts, articles, and ebooks. Both calendars allow you to organize ideas, plan for upcoming months or weeks, track performance metrics, and ensure everyone involved is on the same page about topics, assigned tasks, and due dates.
From saving time to improving performance, there’s no denying that maintaining a comprehensive content calendar helps you plan for success. Not only does it streamline collaboration among team members, but it also allows you to identify crucial content gaps. Whether you’re using a calendar for social media management or blogging, it’ll be an essential tool for your business.
Transitioning your team (and yourself) to a new process can seem overwhelming, but you can start small to make it easier. Get your feet wet by tracking just a few details, like post headlines and publish dates, and see how it works. Add additional details from there until you have a robust content calendar that enhances your content production process from start to finish.
Barbara Lawson is a marketing writer with over ten years of experience teaching marketing at a university level. Her content is backed by extensive research, and her expertise in the field is invaluable. Living in the beautiful city of Burlington, Vermont, Barbara enjoys practicing yoga to stay centered and focused.