Blogging: How to Develop an Effective Content Calendar

A blog content calendar saves time in the long run as all your ideas will be ready and waiting. Here’s how to create a list of topics to last a whole year.

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When it comes to blogging, sometimes half the battle can be thinking up relevant, interesting topics to write about each time you sit down at your keyboard. This is where a content calendar can come in really handy. Whilst it requires a few hours of research upfront, it saves precious time in the long term as all your headline topics are ready and waiting.

So how do you go about creating a list of topics or headlines to last you through a whole year of blogging?

The first thing to do is to create a content calendar. Sorting ideas into categories can be very helpful when it comes to organising your thoughts, planning content and making sure you have enough time to create it all. For example, for a B2C client, such as an interior design consultant, you could opt to break down content into different categories by room, by style, by colour… or any number number of different ways. For a B2B client, perhaps a legal firm or insurance company, for example, you could break down content by their product or areas of expertise.

Keep your categories broad enough to give you plenty of angles. Remember, for a long-term client you may well be creating a new version in 12 months! In addition, it’s very useful to make sure you add ‘ad hoc’ or ‘industry news’ to the rotation of categories – this will ensure you’re able to include internal news, as well as timely, topical pieces which show your client is a thought leader and keeping their eye on the industry ball.

Once you have chosen some categories, allocate one per blog post, whether that be one a week, one a fortnight or one a month (although more frequent than once a month is usually advisable) and cycle through them throughout the year.

The next stage is the nitty gritty job of coming up with lots of different things to write about under each category. Rather than trying to pull them out of thin air, here are our top six resources for populating blog topics:

  • Analytics

Nothing speaks louder than evidence. If you’re putting together a content calendar for a client in a similar industry to an existing client, interrogate Google Analytics to see which of their past blog posts have been the most popular. Putting a new spin on an old topic, adapting a theme for a new set of readers or doing a ‘one year on’ revisit to a blog post are all ways which you can use existing content to your advantage.

  • Expert Opinion

Don’t be afraid of asking your client which questions they get asked most by customers – sometimes this can bring up surprising topics which you may never have discovered through using search engines or brainstorming alone or with colleagues.

  • Google Alerts

You can set up alerts for any keywords or phrases relevant to your client and blog categories, and Google will then monitor the web, and alert you when these terms are mentioned. Google Alerts are not as useful as they once were, but you might still be able to garner a few ideas for content from these.

  • Forums

As per Matt’s post on sucky content, one way of ensuring that readers will find your posts interesting is to understand what they want to read about. What are the burning questions that keep them awake at night? What are the hot issues in an industry? A good way to find out is by searching through forums.

For general questions and answers there are sites like Quora, where you can search by industry or keyword for relevant questions or topics. General sites should have a large number of members, so there should be plenty of information – although there may not be a great number of relevant threads if your search is niche.

If this is the case, you might be better off seeking out industry specific forums. Lots of leading industry websites have their own forum sections, such as Houzz (for interiors), Hitched (for weddings), MoneySavingExpert and TripAdvisor (both self explanatory).

  • Content search tools

There are some good tools out there such as Buzzsumo which enable you to search for content ideas in a number of ways; what’s trending or what’s being shared the most, for example. Check out Will’s post for more detail on Buzzsumo and how it works.

  • Social

Last but definitely not least, don’t forget social channels. Twitter is probably the most useful resource when it comes to finding ideas for content, and there are three ways you can mine it;

  1. Use hashtags to search for your keywords to see what people are tweeting about that you could use or adapt for a blog.
  2. Look at what’s trending. Whilst it might not be directly related to your industry or any of your blog categories, a bit of imagination could conjure up a link, so it’s best to think broadly.
  3. Tweet! Why not ask fellow Twitter users for ideas, or ask them to choose their favourite from a selection?

Whilst we would advocate blogging about once a week to be ideal for most clients, obtaining just two ideas from each of the above sources gives you enough content ideas for each month of the year. It doesn’t have to be complicated; just remember to think broadly about blog categories and how you could link top content to make it relevant. Also, when populating your calendar, pay attention to any seasonal trends – your audience may like Christmas content but might not engage with it particularly well in April.

Ultimately, the key to creating an effective content calendar is to keep it flexible – you don’t know what’s going to happen in the next 12 months. It’s also advisable not to spread yourself too thin – whilst regular, frequent blogging is the best approach, you must take into account the other activities that need to be done in the time you have available. Allow yourself enough leeway to write an extra blog every now and then, so that if there is something staggering which you have to write about right now, you have the time to do so.

Still unsure where to start? Get in touch!


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