Regularly publishing quality content can be difficult for any business, even those with a wealth of marketing resources. It’s so easy to put content creation on the backburner. Creating content is time-consuming, and seeing the returns in traffic, social shares, and keyword rankings can take even longer to develop. It’s no wonder it’s so easy to forget about or delay creating content when immediate gratification is so rare.
Nonetheless, consistently creating great content is an effective way for every business to increase audience reach, connect with customers, and reach critical marketing benchmarks. And best yet? An effective content strategy is the best way to drive more qualified prospects to your business. In fact, leads driven from your content strategy average a 14.6% close rate—which is pretty impressive compared to the average 1.7% close rate of outbound leads.
All you need to get started is a great content marketing plan and a content calendar to execute the plan on schedule.
What Is a Content Calendar?
Let’s start with the basics: a content calendar is a staple in the content marketer’s toolbox. This tool can help any marketer plan and execute their content marketing plan and/or coordinate marketing efforts with an entire team (note: this content team should also include people whose primary function is not marketing). With a great content calendar, you can create and maintain deadlines, track the progress of any content marketing project, and visualize your entire content marketing plan in one place.
Every business is different and every marketer values different information, so your content calendar can be customized to your individual needs. There are, however, some elements that every great content calendar must have. Here are some of the most valuable pieces of information to include in your content calendar:
What would a calendar be without deadlines? Deadlines are critical for any business looking to publish content regularly or maintain a complex content plan. These deadlines can take many forms:
- Target Publication Date – When will this piece be published? This is the most important deadline because content without a goal publication date is easy to procrastinate. Even worse, completed content without publication dates can be stored away and forgotten. Your content isn’t doing anything for you on your hard drive.
- Draft Completion Date – When will your content be finished? All content should be drafted, including videos, scripts, blog posts and audio content. A deadline before the target publication date will give your team enough time to make any final changes before publication.
- Final Completion Date – This is critical for any organization that may need executive approval prior to publication. Have your content finalized well before publication so you have enough time for approval.
Deadlines are adjustable based on your organization and the processes of your team, but a deadline of some sort must be included for your content calendar to be enforceable.
Content can take infinite forms, including text (blog posts or pages) videos, audio, infographics, images, etc. Including the form of content in your calendar will allow you to plan long in advance and ensure a good mix of various types of content in your marketing mix. You might even consider creating separate calendars for each type of content, depending on how much volume you’re wanting to create.
Pro Tip – Use your content more than once! Great content doesn’t have to just be used just once in one form. Have a great blog post? Turn it into an infographic or add a video discussing the content of your post! This is a great way to maximize the time you spend creating content and boosts the effectiveness of great content. Add content repurposing options to your content calendar.
Title / Subject
This seems like a no brainer, but it’s important a content calendar contains the title or subject of every piece of content. Of course, these can just be working titles or ideas, but you will need at least the seed of an idea to know what to create when it comes time to create it.
The content creation process is hardly ever a straight line from start to finish. Content creators will shift, adjust and polish their ideas throughout the process. By keeping track of titles and subjects of upcoming posts, you will make it easier for creators to keep on plan.
Content is a great way to boost your website’s SEO, but you must keep your keywords in mind from the initial idea for the content all the way to publication. Your focus keywords should be included on your content calendar.
To identify a focus keyword, begin with keyword research and identify where your site is lacking and what keywords your customers may be using to search. You can include more than one, but they must be naturally related to one another and the topic of your content. Once your keywords are identified, remember to think about including keywords when creating the content and even think about additional content that you can create also related to the keyword.
Creator / Voice
This element is critical for marketing teams that have multiple content producers, but even smaller businesses should consider involving as many members of the organization in content production as possible. Including the creator on your content calendar will ensure you know who is responsible for what content.
Many organizations also have dedicated copywriters and content creators that may be creating content for others or across multiple brands. In that case, you will also want to include the voice, so the author will know who they are writing as or for.
Notes / Research
Depending on what kind of content you’re creating, you may need to dig in and research during the brainstorm or content creation phase. Be sure to collect links or any ideas you want included in the content calendar that could serve as reference points. Now all of your notes and links are collected in one convenient place.
Target Audience Goal
The final component of an effective content calendar may be the most important. Every piece of content must have a goal in mind for the target audience. Think about the customer first – What do you want them to do once they’ve consumed your content?
Do you want them to convert and purchase a certain product or service? Make a note of this in the content calendar. Is this piece designed to help potential customers discover your company or products? Or maybe the content is designed to educate them on how to use your product? These are all important functions content can serve.
Without purpose, content is meaningless. You’ll want to keep this purpose in mind throughout the content creation process, so including this in your content calendar is incredibly valuable.
Putting It All Together
Compiling all of these elements into a content calendar is the best way to map out and plan your content marketing strategy. An effective content calendar will be an invaluable resource, keeping you and your team accountable for content creation while making it easier to make better content for your customers.
We’ve created a handy content calendar format for download to help get you started. Of course, every organization is different, so you should customize the format to better suit the needs of your team. Take control of your content marketing plan and download our content calendar format by clicking here.
Not every organization has the resources to execute an effective content marketing plan. In that case, consider partnering with the digital marketing experts at emfluence! Let us show you what we can do! Click here to learn more.