How to Create the Perfect Content Calendar [Template + Examples]
Dec 24, 2021|Read time: 12 min.
- Content calendars are used to manage content from the topic research stage to publishing.
- A well organized content calendar enables the content creation team to align goals and meet deadlines.
- A content calendar can help a team create content for each funnel stage and get a birds-eye view where there may be content gaps to reach their target audience.
If you manage a high-volume content schedule for an enterprise brand, then you know how hard it is to consistently publish high-quality content at scale. You need to plan topics months in advance, organize writers and editors, and coordinate with the marketing team. In other words, you need spectacular organization in the form of a content calendar.
Content calendars (sometimes called editorial calendars) help marketers organize everything about the creative publishing process.
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar is a detailed schedule to plan and manage upcoming content. Project managers, bloggers, and content creators use calendars as a central location for all content ideas, scheduling, and workflows.
Content calendars usually contain some or all of the following elements from a brand’s content strategy template:
- Important dates, including publication, sharing, product launch, etc.
- Key milestones leading up to publishing dates
- Target audience segment or persona of each content piece
- Target SEO keyword for each content piece, when applicable
- Who is responsible for each task in the creation, publishing, and promotion process
- Promotional activities once content is published
Since brands create so many different types of content, it’s important to have a content calendar to streamline your content marketing execution and give stakeholders a high-level view of your activity.
You can also use this framework for specific channels. For example, a social media content calendar helps organize your entire social media strategy. This may require slightly unique information, such as hashtags, influencers, and which social media platform you will publish certain content on.
Free content calendar template
Content calendar vs. editorial calendar
While the terms content calendar and editorial calendar are often used interchangeably, there are a few notable differences between them.
Editorial calendars provide a long term blueprint for planning your content calendar.
They can be used to create a content plan for six months or even one year, but the goal is to provide a monthly breakdown of themes for your content team to use. The deliverables for each month can be based on specific concepts, events, holidays, important events, or other topics your brand wants to focus on.
Now, with an editorial calendar in hand your content team can begin creating the content that focuses on the deliverables noted.
This is where the content calendar becomes beneficial.
Content calendars are used to track and monitor the creation and promotion of content that is being created based on the editorial calendar deliverables. With an strategic content schedule, marketers can see at any point in time where a content piece is in the production process.
Ideally, you should have both an editorial and content calendar in place. In fact, some organizations combine them for the best results. Using both can maximize your publishing schedule and ability to hit defined goals.
Why are content calendars important?
Content calendars guide your strategy
Content calendars help you develop an effective content strategy that aligns with your overarching business goals. Without a strategy in place, it’s easy to lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish and publish content that doesn’t align with your business goals.
For example, if one of your goals is to attract more qualified leads through organic search, the content you publish should reflect that goal. Your content calendar helps you stay focused on publishing content that will rank for relevant keywords and not get caught up in creating trendy content that doesn’t help you accomplish your goals.
Content calendars keep you organized
There are a lot of moving parts in content creation, publishing, and promotion. There are usually multiple team members, tools, platforms, and channels involved. Content calendars help you stay organized throughout the entire process.
All tasks involved are in a central location, along with who is responsible for those tasks. This helps keep everyone accountable and ensures that nothing slips through the cracks.
Content calendars encourage collaboration
Content calendars also make collaboration significantly easier. By sharing a common document, writers, designers, and editors can all know expectations and deadlines. They can see what content is being created, when it is scheduled to be published, and any relevant notes or comments.
It also ensures that there is sufficient time for things like rewrites, edits, or additions. And it opens up more possibilities to repurpose content across different channels. A social media manager could consolidate upcoming content from a blog post and share it on Twitter or LinkedIn to expand the reach of your article.
Editorial calendars improve consistency
Another reason content calendars are so important is that they help you be more consistent with your publishing. Without a plan in place, it can be difficult to come up with new content ideas on a consistent basis. A content calendar ensures that you have topics and themes planned in advance, as well as a timeline for all the tasks involved.
It’s difficult to consistently create high-quality content if you don’t plan in advance. There are simply too many steps involved.
Content calendars help you track performance
Finally, a content calendar helps you track the performance of different pieces of content. Including regular performance reviews in your content schedule can help you improve future content by seeing what worked and what didn’t. It also makes it easier to understand which channels are performing best, making it easier to allocate your resources accordingly.
Without regular performance tracking, you can’t know if your content is moving you closer toward your business goals. You can end up spending significant resources publishing content that doesn’t really help your business.
How to create a content calendar
1. Determine content types
The first step in creating a content calendar is to determine the types of content you plan to publish. There are several things to consider
- Capability – Do you or someone on your team have the necessary skills to create the content? For example, infographics can be a great type of content but you need to have the necessary design skills to create them.
- Time/Resources – Do you have the time and resources to create content that is highly valuable to your audience? When working with an agency to produce content, do you have the time and bandwidth to invest to ensure the project stays on schedule and on budget?
- Audience – What types of content resonate most with your audience? If you sell apparel for teens, TikTok might work much better than a podcast to reach your audience.
In order to consistently publish great content, you need to focus on those types that match your capabilities, your available time and resources, and the desires of your audience.
2. Select topics and categories
The next step is to select the topics and categories your content will cover over a given time period. To aid you in this process, consider the following:
- What are the primary pain points of your audience?
- What are their goals?
- Do they have unanswered questions?
- What keywords and phrases are they searching?
The more your content speaks directly to the pain points and desires of your audience, the more effective it will be.
Another helpful way to think through the subjects your content will cover is in terms of topic clusters. A topic cluster includes a central, in-depth piece of content that covers a broad subject at a high level (often called a “pillar page”). Supporting the pillar page are multiple cluster pages, with each cluster page addressing a single topic at a much deeper level than the pillar page. The pillar page includes links to each cluster page and vice versa.
Structuring your content this way helps both search engines and users understand how content is related and can provide a significant SEO boost.
3. Map content to buying stages
It’s important to map your content to the buying stages of your audience. Different types of content are more effective depending on where they are used in the customer journey.
For those in the awareness stage, you need content that highlights customers’ pain points and desires. This might include things like LinkedIn posts, blog posts optimized for top of the funnel keywords, free ebooks, etc.
For those in the consideration stage, create content that further educates prospects and shows them the most effective way to solve their problems or achieve their goals. Webinars, white papers, long form blog posts, and other in-depth content are effective for this stage of the buyer journey.
Those in the decision stage need to be convinced that your product/service is better than your competitors and is the ideal solution. Case studies, product demos, and other content that demonstrates the value of your product/service are effective here.
4. Set deadlines in your content calendar
When creating a content calendar, it’s essential to set deadlines for all the tasks involved in creating content. This helps ensure that everything is done on time and that you’re not rushing to get something published. When you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of content pieces in a year, deadlines are a mechanism to tame the chaos and ensure a steady flow of published content.
Depending on the content, some of the tasks with deadlines might include:
- Brainstorming topics and ideas
- Researching keywords and phrases
- Writing drafts
- Editing and proofreading
- Designing images or graphics
- Publishing content
- Creating social media posts
- Monitoring results
When setting deadlines, be realistic about how long tasks will take. If you aren’t realistic, you won’t have sufficient time to dedicate to each task and the quality of your content will suffer. If you have to choose, always take quality content over quantity. High-quality content is what strengthens your brand, attracts potential leads, and drives more revenue.
5. Assign tasks
Once you’ve set deadlines for all the tasks involved in creating content, it’s time to assign those tasks. Every task should come with clear expectations of what will be done and what the expected results are.
For example, if you assign a blog post to a writer, fill out a content brief template that includes:
- Exactly what topics are to be covered
- Keywords to be included
- The target word count
- Who the audience is
- What the tone of voice should be
- Examples of similar posts
- Any other relevant details
This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and that expectations are clear. When everyone knows what’s expected of them, it leads to better results. Make sure everyone involved feels comfortable asking questions at any point before or while they’re performing their task.
6. Select content distribution channels
It’s not enough just to publish a piece of content. You also need to deliver it to your audience. Instead of expecting people to find your content, you need to actively promote it through the right distribution channels.
For example, if you publish a new video, you can promote it to your email list, on social media, on your website, with paid advertising, etc. Your content calendar needs to include not just the content you’ll create, but also how you’ll promote it. It doesn’t benefit you if you create content but very few people see it. A strategic plan for how you’ll get your content in front of your target audience is extremely important.
7. Monitor progress
The last step is to monitor your content progress on both a micro and macro level. On the micro level, you need to ensure that all the individual creation and promotion tasks are on track and you will be able to hit all the established deadlines.
At a macro level, you need to ensure that your content is still aligned with your business goals. When you’re deep in the weeds of creating various pieces of content, it’s easy to drift from your primary objectives. Building progress monitoring into your content calendar helps you stay on track.
You also need to monitor the results your content is producing. Are your overall efforts helping you achieve the intended results? Do certain types of content perform better than others? What adjustments can you make to improve your results?
Beware of chasing vanity metrics. For example, if your goal is to generate more leads, it doesn’t matter how much traffic a page gets if it doesn’t produce leads.
Stay laser focused on your KPIs and use them to guide your digital marketing efforts.
Content calendar templates, tools, and examples
If you’re the head of content for a large brand, you’ll need much more power than what Google Calendar can offer. Fortunately, there are numerous content calendar tools and templates that can make content creation, publishing, and promotion much easier to manage.
You can also download Terakeet’s content calendar template right here. This is a modified version of Terakeet’s calendar that includes columns for:
- Content name
- Word count
- Publish date
- And much, much more!
Content calendar application examples
CoSchedule is an all-in-one content marketing platform that helps you plan, publish, optimize, and measure your content. It offers a wide range of features, including:
- Content calendar
- Editorial planning
- Social media marketing scheduler
- A/B testing tools
- Blog post templates
- WordPress plugin
DivvyHQ is a robust content marketing platform that streamlines the entire process and makes it easy for teams to collaborate. It includes features such as:
- Content calendar
- Asset management
- Team collaboration
- Task management
- Workflow automation
- Third-party integrations
Spreadsheet content calendar examples
If you don’t have the budget for an all-in-one content marketing platform, it’s common to create content calendars using spreadsheets.
Cloud-based tools like Google Sheets, Excel Online, or Zoho Sheets make it relatively simple to create a content calendar and collaborate with your marketing team on all the tasks involved. Using spreadsheets does require more attention to detail since you don’t store assets directly in the spreadsheets, but it shouldn’t be much of an issue unless you’re publishing huge amounts of content.
An added benefit of using spreadsheets is that there are dozens of free content calendar templates available. Instead of starting from scratch, you can find the one that works best for you and build on top of it.
Database content calendar examples
Historically, most database applications were complex, clunky, and not ideal for managing content production. However, in the last few years, a number of powerful, yet easy-to-use database apps have been released.
For example, Airtable combines the simplicity of spreadsheets with the power of databases, making it extremely simple to create a functional content calendar.
In fact, Airtable created a content calendar template specifically for content marketing teams to use. Tasks can be assigned, assets can be uploaded directly, and workflow automations can be easily created. Depending on your preference, you can monitor your progress with a calendar view, as Kanban boards, or as a Gantt chart.
Similar to Airtable, Monday is another powerful database app that works well as a content calendar.
One unique feature is the ability to create documents directly within the platform, which is particularly useful if you are writing blog posts, white papers, etc.