How to Create a Blog Content Calendar

A content calendar helps you out!

  • It take the guesswork out of what to write
  • It keeps your blog on track with relevant content
  • It sets you on a strategic plan that moves you forward
  • It helps you avoid burning out
  • It aligns your blog with your core goals

How to Create and Stick to a Blogging Content Calendar

I’ve been a professional writer for a long time, but up until this year I didn’t put together a blogging content calendar.

Why?

A few reasons I suppose. First, because I create content calendars for everyone else so my blog was the last thing I touched in an average freelance day. Second, because I was a bit paralyzed in overwhelm. So many ideas. Too many things to write about. You know, the usual blogging problems.

#bloggerproblems

But I knew the value of a good plan—there’s nothing like a calendar to tell you what to write and keep you on track.

Long story short, I told myself to quit stalling and created a sweet content calendar. I built it last fall, I implemented it last January, and I’m keeping to it today. Here’s what I did and how you can do it too.


How to create a blogging content calendar

(Also known as an editorial calendar.)

  1. Get clear on who you’re talking to (your ideal reader) and what you offer (what’s your goal? what are you trying to achieve?)
  2. I spent a few months figuring this out. Here’s what I came up with: My ideal readers are creative freelancers. I help busy people do marketing.

    To get clear on my blogging goals I took tips from people I trust but I found the most practical help from Denise Duffield-Thomas’ Planning Process. In this post she outlines her step-by-step planning process and links to her simple business plan. I filled it out and used the plan I came up with as the foundation for my content calendar.

  3. Decide what your topics are
  4. Once you know what you offer, it’s time to brainstorm what topics you want to cover. For example, my ideal reader struggles with time management, marketing/digital strategy, organization, and overwhelm. Look at that, I have four main topics.

    I used these topics as headings, then brainstormed blog post ideas for each one. From a short session I had 17 ideas. If I decided to blog once per week I all of a sudden had 17 weeks of posts lined up. Wow. OK maybe I could do this.

  5. Put everything into a calendar template
  6. There are a lot of options when it comes to editorial/content calendars, everything from paper planners to cloud-based task systems. You need to use what works for you. After some trial and error I found Trello works for me. If you haven’t heard of it before I’ll give you a little overview of how it works and how I used it.

    Trello is a cloud-based visual project management tool. It took me a while I understand how to use it but after a few video tutorials (I watched how other people used Trello) I figured out a system.

    First, I started different boards: Content Calendar, Goals, Article Ideas, Articles in Progress, Blog Post Planner, Newsletter, etc.

    Next, I populated the boards with lists. In my Content Calendar board I started with my four main themes and put them on a list of their own. I have found this keeps me focused on my big ideas when I’m brainstorming individual blog posts. In my Article Ideas board I created 12 lists for the 12 months and put 10-20 ideas/prompts under each list. For example, my August prompts are back to school, Labour Day recipes, beach crafts, scheduling, planning, gardening, canning, autumn, etc. These aren’t topics I’ll write about per se, but it’s a place to start.

    I have different lists in each of my boards. Some are tasks with due dates and some are just lists of ideas, links to articles I want to come back to, or goals for this year.

    This is what is working for me. Having a visual plan laid out holds overwhelm back. In fact I haven’t sat down and wondered what to write in months. Months! I also like my content calendar because it keeps my blog ideas separate from my freelance work or anything else I’m working on. Oh yeah, and it never gets lost on my desk.

Here’s how I plan each month of blog content using a content calendar

I try and plan at least three months of content at a time. When I say “plan” it’s not like I have draft posts written up, but I have a blog topic and maybe a few notes of the direction I want to go with it. I also have coloured labels for my different types of content and I label it right away.

All the blog topics go in a list I’ve called Articles in Progress. Then when I go to plan a new month I create a new list with the month name and pull the different brainstorms from Articles in Progress to the month blog lineup. From there I look to see each theme is covered (easy to tell when they’re colour-coded!) and assign dates.

Of course, none of this is set in stone so if a sponsored post comes up, I’m able to swap my calendar around to make room. Oh, and how awesome is it to actually know when you can post something when speaking with a client? I mean, how pro!

Once a month is over I archive the list and set up the next month of content, so I always have a rolling three-month plan. And when I have a new idea? I add it to the Articles in Progress list. A sponsored post comes up? I figure out when is the best time to post and move my calendar around. It was a lot of initial set up but now that it’s rolling I don’t know how I blogged before this. Not only am I keeping on track but it is an enjoyable experience. No more stress!

If my story isn’t enough to convince you to build and keep to an editorial calendar, I don’t know what will. You can’t be strategic without a good plan.


To create a content calendar you’ll need:

  • Some sort of calendar template
  • Themes
  • Monthly topics
  • Blog post ideas

There is so much value in a good plan—there’s nothing like a calendar to tell you what to write and keep you on track. I built my blogging content calendar last fall, I implemented it last January, and I’m keeping to it today. Here’s what I did and how you can do it too.

One last thing.

Before I could plan what to write I decided how often I would write. I decided I’d post each Tuesday at minimum. I want to write more, but deep down I knew once per week was even asking a lot. My blog hadn’t been priority for a long time and I needed to get back in the habit of posting with consistency before I could do anything grander.

I also made posting on Tuesdays the priority over posting on topic.

Weird, I know. I spent all that time coming up with what and who and why and how and all that. But here’s the thing, all the topics I came up with were things I’m also struggling with. Some of them needed to simmer on the back burner while I figured out what I have to say about it. Some ideas needed testing. Like this topic for example. Can a blogging content calendar help a busy writer who doesn’t have time for a personal blog? Six months ago I wasn’t sure. Now I know.

So sometimes my posts aren’t 100 per cent on topic. And I’m good with that. Because I am still posting every Tuesday.

Need help cutting through the paralysis of analysis in order to get focused on what you want your blog to do for you? Let’s chat!

Going Viral: Creating Contagious Content

Have you ever wondering what makes something go viral? Is there a secret? What do viral-video makers know that you don’t? Learn the what and how of going viral and a few tips for what you can do to make your content more contagious.

Going Viral: The What and How of Creating Contagious Content

It was my niece’s first birthday and her mother threw a party, inviting the whole family to join in on the celebration. Everyone was excited to share in the festivities but the morning before the party, people began cancelling saying they weren’t feeling well.

But this was my niece’s first birthday! A big O-N-E!

With much pressure on, the family came together to save the party. Those who were feeling sort of better were encouraged to show up anyway and give my niece the party she deserved.

So they came.

And it was a lovely time. Good food, good conversations, good feelings all around.

Later that evening…

I haven’t vomited from being ill since I was a child. But vomit I did, from midnight till 8 a.m. the next morning. Who was the culprit? No real idea, since there were a few people at the party who weren’t feeling 100 per cent and we spent the day switching children, changing seats, and grabbing snacks from the same bowls.

And I learned I wasn’t the only one—most of the other non-sick party-goers spent the next day beside the toilet.

It all happened so fast. One moment we were minding our own business, living life like normal, and the next we were swept up into a wave of vomit-filled illness by no fault of our own except for attending the party and enjoying ourselves.

What happened? Our party went viral.


What does “going viral” mean?

Sans vomiting, going viral in Internet terms is seen as a good thing. It’s what happens when a piece of content (article, photo, video, etc.) is shared, copied, and otherwise spread across social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

How many shares does it take before something is considered viral?

I’m sorry to say, there isn’t an exact number. Viral status is achieved when the proportion of people seeing the content and then sharing it increases over what’s usual.

I know, could it be more vague?

Think of viral sharing like a secret. If you share a secret with someone, and that person shares it with someone else and then another, and another, then pretty soon everyone knows your secret. But if the person keeps your secret, that’s where the sharing ends. It’s safe, and no one knows about it.

The simple math of virality

Viral content is relative. When you share a piece of content on social media, how many shares is normal? If you see your shares go up from normal on a couple posts, you can consider those viral. However, if your shares go up and stay up—then it’s the new normal. Not viral anymore.

The more complicated math of true viral content

Of course, a few extra shares here and there doesn’t make a big impact. We want to know about the life-changing kind of viral content like Chewbacca Mom’s laughing video or Mandy Harey’s deaf singing audition for America’s Got Talent. How do you get those?

The next level of viral content

When you level up on going viral this is where stuff happens. On day one a piece of content is shared and you receive your regular likes, shares, and website visits, plus a few extras. This (according to ShareProgress) is called “first generation.” From there, a few of these first generation people share your content on their social channels and some of their friends check it out. They’re called “second generation.” By the second generation there should be more likes, shares, and website visits. Now it’s on the second generation of visitors to share your content. If a few more than the first round do this, then the third generation of visitors should be seeing your content. If this continues then you’ll see exponential likes, shares, and website visits. This is where things get crazy.

In the simple viral example, you’ll have a bump of activity and then things will go back to normal. In the next level of going viral, the momentum grows and keeps growing and, if you’re prepared for it, sends your life in a new direction.


How do I make something go viral?

Yeah, sorry. I don’t know how. Actually, I don’t think anyone does. No matter how many terms I Google, all I come up with is “there’s no formula, there’s no secret.”

But here are a few things you can do to help your content be ready for going viral.

People are more likely to share something if…

  • they have a strong reaction to it
  • they have a positive emotional response to it
  • they feel inspired by it
  • they are surprised by it
  • they find it practical and useful
  • they think it will help someone

Where to go from here

Before you write an article don’t think about what will or won’t make it go viral, instead think about what will help and inspire your audience. Think about what they’d like to read/watch/hear and then create it. Be genuine, be real, and be positive.

Here’s how Derek Halpern says it.

Positive uplifting content always gets shared. Remember, there’s a lot of unhappy people in the world, and while there are different reasons for being unhappy, content that is uplifting and inspirational helps people get out of their rut…even if it’s only for a few seconds.

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to help someone out of their rut today.

Going Viral: The What and How of Creating Contagious Content. Have you ever wondering what makes something go viral? Is there a secret? What do viral-video makers know that you don't? Learn the what and how of viral content and a few tips for what you can do to make your content more contagious.

If you need help coming up with content ideas or don’t know who you’re audience is, that’s where I come in. Drop me a line and let’s start a conversation. I’m here to help!

The Business of Blogging

The Business of Blogging

The Business of Blogging

Last week I had an amazing opportunity to speak about blogging to a third year communications class at my local university.

How crazy!

When the prof asked I said yes before thinking. But if I had thought first I would have said yes anyway, I just would have been more afraid.

I had a few weeks to prepare, which was good because I wasn’t sure what to speak about being my first time and all. I asked some questions but really I had an open slate so I decided to read through the syllabus and the course textbook. If I knew what the students were already learning then I could find a topic everyone would be interested in (not just me).

Good writing is worth fighting for

I decided on The Business of Blogging. I wanted to come up with a practical subject with some takeaways rather than vague artsy fartsy feel-good content. But maybe I was a bit ambitious. I mean, who reads a course textbook when preparing a one-hour presentation?

Better over-prepared than under though.

The good news is I finished my presentation with enough time to pass it over to my graphic designer for beautifying. I was able to come up with something I was proud of.

And then I gave my presentation

It was scary but so fun! I love blogging and love talking about it. I was prepared, I spoke without crying, and I was able to answer most of the questions (via Twitter btw…progressive!) without stumbling too much. I call that a win.

Speaking action shot

Speaking action shot

Really my presentation was my blogging story, with a few nuggets thrown in about how blogs can get you jobs. And I realized I have a story but I haven’t really told it before. If you’ve read my blog these past um eight years then you can kind of track my blogging progression but really who can remember.

The point is I even took something away from the presentation. I have a lot to offer and I’ve maybe lacked motivation or drive or confidence to put myself out there. So I’m glad I spoke to a class and I’m glad to move into this part of my blogging journey.

Thanks for the opportunity!

Apparently I’m Normal

Sometime between this week and last I put my back out. And I feel so sorry for myself.

You don’t even understand.

Because my back isn’t just a bit sore.

It’s not something I can take medication for and it goes away in a bit.

No, I actually put my back out.

And apparently this is normal.

The pain kind of built and built until one day when my alarm went off I found I couldn’t sit up. (That’ll learn me never to try becoming a morning person again.) After a couple failed (and painful) attempts I opted to barrel role out of bed. And I did it pretty effectively too, seeing as how I got out of bed and didn’t fall.

From there it has been a downhill slide. The day was horrible and I couldn’t sit down at work. The plus side of that is my desk is high enough to stand at so it wasn’t weird.

The next day my arm went numb. Like, my entire arm.

Think of it folks. I’m a writer. Now I can’t sit and I can’t use one of my arms.

How am I supposed to do my job?

So there was that.

And also there was the confusion over why my body was rejecting me.

So I went to the walk-in clinic. I explained what was happening, the doctor felt a few places in my back and referred me to a massage therapist. He didn’t seem phased about my arm, even though I repeated myself just in case he didn’t catch it the first time around.

Then I called the therapist. After explaining my story I was informed since it was a long weekend I would have to wait five days before I could get in.

Again with the non-concern!

Eyes brimming with tears I booked the appointment and then called every other massage therapist I could get a number for. Over and over I got the “long weekend story” yadda yadda until finally three hours later I got a call back from someone who could take me if I left right away.

“How close are you to the clinic?”

Honestly? I didn’t even know who was calling. The clinic? No clue. So I clarified.

“Uh…in Abbotsford?”

“No Coquitlam.

CRAP!

“Well, pretty far. Like 30 minutes or more”

“Leave now.”

And you know what? I was so desperate I did. I drove 40 minutes to someone who would see me despite the “long weekend.” Someone who thought my arm going numb was cause for at least some concern.

But still, it felt a bit crazy.

Anyway, now the long weekend is over and I did survive. But it has been one of those ones I’d rather not remember. My body hates me, my arm is still tingly, and I’m so far behind in my work I’m sweating just thinking about it.

Funny thing is, apparently most of my issue isn’t my work posture but my stress level.

So I’ve had a lot to think about while stuck lying on heating pads on the floor.

Nativity Nostalgia

card-gift-tags

My latest crafty enterprise has been trying to figure out useful ways to reuse cards once they’re written on. I thought I would be able to come up with a couple ideas but in reality it was difficult. I went round and round and round…nothing really struck my fancy.

In the end I came up with four alright ideas and submitted my blog about reusing used cards over at UsedEverywhere.

And then my mom emailed me. She remembered our family nativity scene was handmade from used cards. And then she found it in the crawlspace and sent me a photo.

Wow. Now that’s a great idea!

used-card-nativity

I had enough time to plug the card-nativity into the post and I think it saved the blog.

Anyway, the more I think about and remember our old nativity I wonder if I ever knew it was made from cards…I don’t think so. If I did, I didn’t care. I liked that it was shiny, and that the windows were a bit fuzzy. Also I liked that we were allowed to play with it—within reason of course.

I like how kids don’t care about things being fancy. It’s all in the details. Texture, glitter, expressions on faces.

Seems like an important realization.