If you want to grow your business with content marketing, you’ll need to know exactly what you want to publish and when.
Creating content is a whole lot more than just waiting for inspiration. It takes proper organization, without which your content strategy can all too easily flop.
Explore this guide to building an effective editorial calendar for your company and download the editorial calendar template below to apply everything you learn into practice.
What Is an Editorial Calendar?
An editorial calendar is a schedule of where and when upcoming content will be published. It is a helpful tool that is often put together by individuals or teams who want to focus their editorial output on a specific area over a set period of time.
Ultimately, it helps keep your efforts in line.
Editorial calendars can be used by businesses, content creators, media publishers, and everyone in between.
Why Do You Need One?
An editorial calendar is key to establishing and tracking content creation workflows and publication dates.
Eventually, you’ll use it to you execute your content marketing strategy and plan content more effectively.
It also helps you save resources, measure your content performance and consistently publish content to your owned and shared media channels.
Editorial Calendars vs. Content Calendars
While similar, editorial calendars and content calendars have key differences.
One of those differences is time. Content calendars help plan daily production and can be updated regularly. In contrast, editorial calendars are planned months in advance and give you a big-picture view of your content strategy.
Another difference relates to publicity. Content calendars are internal documents that are only shared between the relevant teams.
They are not available to customers or your competition.
Editorial calendars are at least shared internally and can even be made available to other parties. That way they can reach out to organize potential partnerships ahead of time.
Types of Editorial Calendars
There are many types of editorial calendars out there. That means it can be helpful to use different calendars for managing different kinds of content.
For example, you might create social media editorial calendars for planning posts to sites like Facebook and Instagram.
You could also have different editorial calendars for blogs, emails, lead magnets, and landing or product pages.
Sometimes you might even want to create a joint calendar for all types of content created in your company.
Our 7-Step Workflow for Building an Editorial Calendar
Coming up are seven key steps to first start building an editorial calendar.
Start by downloading the Semrush free content calendar template.
Select the calendar type that suits you the most, and then follow the steps in this blog.
The rows of your editorial calendar will be set aside for each new piece of content, and the columns will contain information on what the individual articles contain.
Here’s an example:
Step 1: Assign Resources and Establish a Schedule
Before you lay out your editorial calendar, assess your available resources. This helps you estimate how much content you would like to produce.
You should consider such items as copywriting, design (both in-house and outsourced), research, promotion, etc.
To estimate the optimal set of resources, it’s key to refer to your content marketing objectives.
For example, say your goal is to attract at least 10,000 website visitors monthly and at least 300 leads. Try estimating by answering these questions:
- How much content do you produce, and what are your current results?
- How many content pieces should be produced to hit this new mark?
- How much would each content piece cost you?
Eventually, answering these questions will help you establish a production cadence—for example, to publish four blog posts per month.
An effective calendar will help you understand which resources have been assigned and which are free.
Pro tip: This is especially helpful when you need to respond to changing situations in an agile way.
Tamara Ceman of Practical Marketer recommends planning for the long haul while staying free and flexible for the immediate future:
Plan long term but leave room for agility and reactionary pieces. Markets are shifting more than ever and if your content calendar is too tight, you will struggle to adjust to changes in demand.
The solution to this, Ceman explains, is to build your editorial calendar template with projects for the long term, while keeping empty slots free in the short term.
According to Flying Hippo’s 80 percent rule, your editorial calendar should consist of 80% evergreen content and 20% timely content.
- Review your buyer personas. Highlight their goals, challenges, reasons to purchase, and any other key information. If you don’t have buyer personas, you can start building them.
- Analyze your competitors to get a better idea of what is trending among your audiences.
- This will later help you filter the content in your calendar by different personas.
Step 2: Scheduling Content
Now that you have a deeper understanding of your resources and goals, you can move to building a specific publishing schedule.
Besides estimating how much content you need to reach your objectives, take into account the length of your sales cycle and other specifics of your customers’ buying behavior.
Remember to prioritize consistency and quality over frequency:
If you don’t blog often that isn’t a bad thing; blogging randomly here and there is terrible. The biggest mistake is committing to a specific frequency, then not delivering on your promise to your audience.
- Review your existing content marketing budget and your goals.
- Determine where your content will be sourced from and which resources will be needed. For example, who are your copywriters, and who will help with design?
- Estimate the time and resources needed for each content type/piece.
- With your team, decide how many content pieces you need to produce monthly to meet your goals. You should also consider the posting frequency that will be optimal for both your production cycles and your customers.
Step 3: List Your Ideas, Categorize Them, and Come Up with Content Topics
As we’ve already mentioned, content ideas can come from many different parts of the organization.
- Talk to your sales, customer service, and product teams. They’ll help you uncover common customer questions, doubts, or challenges.
- Go back to your customer research and buyer personas to analyze the high-level topics they are interested in.
- Analyze forums like Quora, Reddit, and social media groups and industry publications.
- Use tools like Organic Research and Keyword Gap to analyze your competitors and find specific keywords they already rank for.
To expand your list of topics, use our free Title Generator tool. Simply enter your seed topic and get a list of headline ideas and related content ideas to include in your calendar.
The tool will come up with headline ideas for your content plan, provide related topic ideas and generate a quick summary for each idea you've selected.
Example: Finding High-Performing Topics
The Barbauld Agency used the Semrush Topic Research tool to generate content ideas. These ideas helped their client increase organic traffic by 133%.
For example, they used the tool to find an idea for one of their most successful blog posts—a guide to correctly placing letterman jacket patches and pins. It now ranks #1 in search.
To find the blog idea, they typed in the “chenille patches” keyword phrase. Then they drilled down to the related questions.
Running the Keyword Research and Creating Topic Clusters
Do you have all your lists of potential themes and topics ready? Use the second calendar in our free template.
It includes all key steps to run keyword research and create keyword lists organized into content hubs.
- Start with creating a generic list of keywords based on your previous research. Then put everything you have collected so far together in one place.
- Break them down into transactional and informational keywords.
Pro tip: Use the new feature in the Keyword Magic Tool that automatically shows intent for each of your keywords.
- Prioritize your keywords by their search volume and keyword difficulty (KD%), leaving out those that don’t seem to be promising.
You might want to remove a keyword if the search volume seems to be too low. The same is true if the keyword difficulty is too high.
You can sort your data by search volume. Also, if needed, add a filter to exclude keywords with a KD% higher than a certain number. You can also filter out keywords directly in the Keyword Magic Tool.
- Categorize your informational keywords. Each topic might match with a content hub you’ll be creating.
For example, a “content marketing strategy” keyword phrase could be part of the “content marketing” cluster, while “sales funnel stages” could be part of the “sales funnel” cluster.
- Decide which of the keywords to add to your calendar first. Then turn them into content headlines.
There are multiple ways to prioritize topics and keywords.
For instance, you might want to focus on building your content hubs one by one. In this case, you would create cluster and pillar pages for each of them.
Or, you might start designing several clusters at the same time. You will also want to plan your editorial calendar with campaigns and product releases planned for the next 12 months.
Pro tip: Remember that besides running keyword analysis, it’s important to involve the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). They can help you be sure your content planning is heading in the right direction.
- With your team, mind-map the content topics you want to focus on. You will soon turn these into specific titles and formats.
- Run keyword research to create a list of keywords divided into thematic clusters.
- Add other ideas. Not every content idea in your calendar will be coming from keyword research. Most likely, the actual calendar will have a combination of content ideas based on your conversations with Sales (e.g., webinar ideas), keyword research (e.g., blog posts), industry trends (e.g., ebooks), and so on.
Step 4: Pick Formats to Suit Your Audience
Who you are targeting and what they need to achieve will help you decide how to deliver your content.
That means you should now be thinking about how your editorial calendar can help you plan content formats.
Formats can include blog posts, social media posts, and video content.
Be sure to target each piece of content to specific readers or buyers. It should also map to their buyer’s journey.
When speaking to a B2B audience, note that buyer personas are often complex and buying decisions are more process-oriented.
This needs to be reflected in your editorial calendar. It might actually mean your content is more specific and detailed.
Myeisha Thompson, principal copywriter and content strategist for MPower Content in Arizona, recommends setting aside extra time to talk to B2B audience members. This helps you make sure your content really hits home.
It’s important to remember that you’re talking to a person, not just a business. Your editorial calendar should leave room to speak to B2B decision-makers on a more personal level. This builds trust.
For a deeper dive, check out our study on how to build a content marketing funnel.
- Decide which content formats would work for your business. For example, if you are a B2B company, you may wish to run webinars and produce white papers. Or, if you are a B2C ecommerce company, you might like to focus on blogging and Instagram stories. You may have a combination of both, too!
- This will help you fill the Content Format field in your calendar.
Step 5: Open Your Calendar to Different Teams
Make sure to share your calendar with other teams in your company, from Sales to Social Media. This brings the creative side of your business closer to the planning phase.
It can help position the content team not as a “group of writers and grammar enthusiasts” but as a critical part of the company’s pipeline- and revenue-building engine.
Keeping tabs on your output via your editorial calendar can also help you identify bottlenecks in the production process.
Collaboration and simplicity are the two most integral aspects of having a winning editorial calendar. It's essential to keep things manageable by making the process simple for everyone. The goal is to provide a tool for everyone to gather content insights and apply those insights to form captivating content.
Ultimately, this will create connections with other departments. They will be able to reuse and adapt your lovingly created content.
It will also give your sales and product departments access and help align your plan with that of the business as a whole.
- Decide which team members or departments need to get involved.
- Share your calendars with them. Explain exactly what each calendar is and why you would like their input and collaboration.
Step 6: Decide How to Repurpose Content and Choose Your Promotional Channels
Once you have content to publish, you must decide where and when to promote it.
This can be done across your social media accounts, but you can also push it via a newsletter, influencers, or even through paid search channels.
Remember that having more early visitors typically leads to more shares, backlinks, and organic traffic down the road.
Later, you must repurpose your content to get the most out of it. Remember it is no use just copy-pasting a blog post and publishing it in an Instagram caption. Make the content native to each platform you use.
You‘ll want to reserve time for reworking content to make it suitable for each channel you want to publish it on. To learn more, explore our guide to repurposing content.
- For every content piece you produce, you must decide which channels would be most effective for promotion.
- This will help you fill the Promotion field in your calendar.
Step 7: Use Your Editorial Calendar to Measure Productivity
When you are building your editorial calendar template, include columns that allow you to record snags in production.
There are red flags that can indicate where delays are not one-off issues, but recurring problems.
Start by using the editorial calendar to record the average length of time needed to create a piece of content.
When delays happen and deadlines are missed, record what type of asset the piece fits under.
Also note which contributor handed in the work late.
This way, you can begin identifying where problems are happening before working to fix them.
At the same time, you can also use your calendar to track content performance. For example, you can add the target KPIs (metrics) for each content piece in the calendar and check whether it performed well later.
- Fill out the KPI column in your editorial calendar with metrics for each content piece. For example, it could be ranking, traffic, shares, or leads.
- Go to the results tab in the template to measure your success over time and see which topics, formats, and channels perform best.
- Analyze whether content is produced on time and with a planned cost, and if anything needs to be adjusted in the content production cycle.
Using Your Editorial Calendar
So there you have it—the steps you need to build the ultimate editorial calendar for 2023, as well as for years to come.
Your calendar can be used to assign resources and schedule when and where you plan on publishing your content.
Remember to list your ideas and categorize them alongside your chosen content topics as the year progresses.
Once you have your ideas jotted down, pick the right formats for your audience, choosing your readers’ favorite style and voice.
Finally, use your editorial calendar to choose your promotional channels—including when you plan to use them—and monitor that all-important productivity.
Good luck with your editorial calendars, and let us know how using them helps you!