Steal This Editorial Calendar. Your Blog Will Thank You.

Steal This Editorial Calendar. Your Blog Will Thank You.
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My husband and I have this phrase we shout at each other all the time…

“Paradigm shift!”

It means that it’s time to rethink, reevaluate and get unstuck from our current set of beliefs about how something is and should be.

I’m sharing that with you because after several years of blogging “this way” we recently went through a paradigm shift and started doing it “another way”.

That “other way” is with an editorial calendar.

For the first few years, we wrote whenever and whatever we felt like. We had a schedule for publication but whether we wrote two weeks ahead or at 3AM the day of publication, it hardly mattered so long as the content went out.

As for topics, we wrote whatever inspired us at whatever point we sat down to write. I didn’t want my creativity to be hindered by something so corporate as “a schedule.”

But this year we decided to do things differently.

Now, granted “this year” is barely a month old, but I’ve been so shocked by the results of this one small change that I had to share it with you.

At the end, I’m going to let you steal my editorial calendar (minus the content of course!) so you can use it as a guide to develop your own. If you’re serious about using blogging to grow your business, this could be a real boost.

If you’re not convinced and you’re way more into the whole “inspiration” thing, here are a couple of reasons to start being a little more left-brained.

Inspiration Is Fickle

When was the last time you “felt like” writing? Maybe today. Or last week. Or a month ago. You may be on a tear and inspired every day. But one day you’re going to hit a lull.

You’re going to get bored. Or tired. Or crabby.

Maybe there are no cookies left in the house (that always ruins MY day) and you’ve got much more important things to do (“buy cookies”) than blog.

If you only blog and publish when you’re inspired, you can kiss your blogging success goodbye.

Blogging is part of your business. You couldn’t take a hiatus from paying bills, calling clients or working on projects any more than you can take a hiatus from blogging and still expect it to be successful.

Consistency is important. Showing up is important. So you’ve got to be disciplined about blogging.

If You’re On A Schedule But Not Inspired, Writing Is Going To Be Work

Hard, long, unpleasant work. You’ll do it because you have to. Your writing will suffer. Your blog will suffer. Your business will suffer.

I’m not telling you this because I think so. I know so.

My first year of blogging, I didn’t “feel like it” for about 6 months. Guess how far my blog got during that period?

My second and third years of blogging I put myself on a schedule and made myself write, damnit. Sometimes it got boring. Sometimes I was too busy. Then I phoned it in.

Guess how far my blog got during those periods?

This year, I put together an editorial calendar. Now I know at least a full month ahead of time what I plan to write about.

This has helped tremendously because I don’t have to worry about inspiration kicking in or schedules interfering. If I’m inspired to write next week’s topic today, then I will. If I’m busy tomorrow, then I’ll write the day after. I know what I’ll need for the month so I can choose what to write and when, within the parameters I’ve set.

Guesswork Is Your Enemy

You know what it’s like when you sit down in front of your “idea list” and try to find something to write.

You ponder. You muse. You consider. You wonder if this is the right thing or if that other thing would work better.

All that time spent thinking about writing could actually have been spent writing.

Having an editorial calendar takes out the guesswork. You can wonder once and write many, many posts instead of deliberating over each one.

When I pull my idea list out now, I pick a month’s worth of topics and put them on the schedule. Then when it’s time to write I don’t have to think about it one little bit.

And, see point #1: I don’t need to rely on inspiration.

I find that I spend ridiculously less time trying to figure out what to write about. I’ve already planned it out so writing is just a matter of doing it, not expending precious brainpower obsessing about it.

Monotony Is Really Your Enemy

No matter what you write about, you need diversity within your subject. If you blog about cooking and you post a pork recipe for 36 days in a row, people are going to get bored and look for a chicken recipe somewhere else.

Having an editorial calendar will help you plan for a range of topics that will keep your readers interested.

Not too long ago, we had a spate of posts about presentations and a whole slew of interviews in a row. Do you know what happened? Our unsubscribe rate jumped.

If I was on someone’s email list and all I was getting was a series of same-old, I’d unsubscribe, too.

And as I was analyzing this blog and putting the calendar together, I realized there were a ton of topics we have never even touched. Not because we couldn’t. But because we weren’t “inspired” and because we never really noticed how repetitive we could be.

Now we make it a point to diversify and after just a few weeks we’ve seen a really nice jump in traffic and gotten some worthwhile feedback.

Your Blog Is Part Of Your Marketing

Sometimes when we’re down in the weeds of writing, we can lose sight of the big picture: a blog is only part of your marketing. It has a function outside of adding more pages to the internet, and that’s to drive leads and business.

With an editorial calendar you can get a better overview of how it fits into your overall plan, and you can add key pieces like: what’s the point of this post? What do I expect people to get out of it, or do after reading it? How can I maximize its search potential?
The more details you add, the more analysis you can do on the effectiveness of your plan.

I’ve found holes to plug (keywords? what keywords?) and have a much more cohesive plan for what I’m doing.

Start With This Editorial Calendar Right Now

This is not the editorial calendar. It’s just one. I put it together based on what I wanted to be tracking right now. I’m sure I’ll have another paradigm shift and find a better way to do it at some point (if I do, I’ll let you know!)

You may not need it all. You may think of ten more things to add.

But I bet you’ll find yourself a lot less tethered to managing your blog and a lot freer to actually blog, and focus on using it to make money and grow your business.

Update: You can now get the editorial calendar and a bunch more useful resources in the Marketing Game Changer Kit.

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Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn is a content creator and marketer who has been in the business of digital marketing since 1999. Along with her husband and business partner Ralph, she owns and operates both {Web.Search.Social}, a consulting and marketing services business, and Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio. On any given day Carol Lynn will wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. Her true passion is writing, whether it’s web content, a blog post, email campaign or social status update. When she's not writing for customers, {Web.Search.Social}, or her own blog, she's planning her early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • http://getpaidtowriteonline.com/ Sharon Hurley Hall

    I’m always looking for good editorial calendars, Carol Lynn, so I’m looking forward to testing this one.

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      It works for me! I would love to know what you think.

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Hi Carol Lynn, I just started using a blogging calendar in December and now I wonder how I lived without it! I just use an Excel spreadsheet so I look forward to seeing what you’re using. I color-code my topics so I can get the big picture view and make sure that I’m not covering too much of the same topic all at once (apps, websites, smartphones, etc.).

    Thanks so much for providing this calendar for us, Carol Lynn. Any one who is reading this should definitely take your wise advice!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I did this in Excel but then moved it to Google docs, that way my writers can all access it and update it. Plus Google docs is sometimes simpler to use than Excel. I like the color coding idea, as a visual way to see how well you’re diversifying content! Let me know what you think. If I can improve it, I will!

  • http://pajamaproductivity.com Annie Sisk

    Sharing the crap out of this one. I’ve been working on an improved editorial calendar template as well, and I’ve been eagerly devouring every other ed-cal template I could get my hands on. This one’s by far one of the best I’ve seen. I think it would be especially helpful for multi-author blogs/sites, though with a little tweaking it could work well for an individual working multiple blogs. Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I know you were working on one too! And if you think this one is good that’s a serious compliment :) I’m sure I’ll change it 57 more times before the end of the year but so far this has worked out really well for me.

      • http://pajamaproductivity.com Annie Sisk

        That’s good, though! Systems like this should ALWAYS be “living” things – always subject to tweaking and development where needed. Experience teaches us stuff, etc. Seriously, the more I look at this one, though, the MORE I like it, and I *really* liked it already!

        • http://getpaidtowriteonline.com/ Sharon Hurley Hall

          Hi Annie, I’d be interested in your multi-blog tweaked version too. That’s what I want to use it for though I haven’t quite worked out what to do.

  • Adrienne

    I don’t think this would work for me Carol because I have so many things that come up at the spare of the moment. Like my post tomorrow was due to what happened to me last week so whatever I would have had planned would have been thrown out the door.

    I also write posts around questions people ask me to so I don’t necessarily want to wait another month to get those written about. But like you, if you have a particular business you’re running and certain content you want to share then I can see where that would really be helpful. Huh, wonder if I’ll ever get to that place. Only time will tell I suppose.

    ~Adrienne

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Well, you seem to have no problems with your own methods Adrienne! You tackle in-the-moment topics and that works for you. We do that too, and that’s why it’s also important to be flexible. I don’t get “stuck” on the calendar if something pops up that makes more sense.

      But a lot of what we write is timeless so I can write it today or next week or next month and it will be pretty much the same. So I can plan ahead a bit and make sure we’re tackling a good variety.

      If what you’re doing works for you, then go with it!

  • Gene

    Carrol —I can see a calendar could be a great organizational tool. Thanks for the tip!!!! You mention of paradigm shift–a term constantly used in our seminary classrooms some years ago. Instantly triggered a “silly memory”. A colleague, in a student body address one day quipped, until I came to seminary, I thought a paradigm was 20 cents.

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      That’s hilarious Gene! I love it. It’s so funny how we interpret things like that and they just stick with us. I’ll be honest, it took me a long time to figure out what the heck anyone was talking about when they used that word. It’s a bit jargon-y! Thanks for amusing me today :)

  • http://twitter.com/SylvianeNuccio Sylviane Nuccio

    OK, I signed up, Carol!

    Well, while I do write a lot on the spare of the moment and upon inspiration, especially on my personal development blog, I also have to stick to a very tight schedule with 3 very different post themes, and I do totally force myself to have that darn post ready by due date. Sometimes, with clients orders in the middle of all that it’s not always easy.

    So, I will be glad to see what your calendar is all about and maybe have a few posts in advance which very rarely happens to me.

    Thanks for that great idea!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I hope you find it useful, Sylviane. I know it is challenging to manage a lot of writing for clients at once! I want to work on a way to have a calendar for multiple sites… maybe with color coding. If you have any thoughts, let me know!

  • clarestweets

    Love this idea. Ed calendar which I lived and died by when I was a reporter back in the day was on the to do list for 2013. I’m thrilled to nab this one!!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I hope you like it! I always thought using one would be too much work/too strict. But it’s been great for us!

  • http://www.facebook.com/george.nieves.1614 George Nieves

    Hi Carol,
    Okay, I must say…this is a highly thought-provoking post! You’ve given me a lot of food for thought.
    I shared with you already, that I’m not in the traditional form of internet marketing.
    I sell various items on eBay & offline venues. It’s going well for me.
    I’ve recently relaunched my blog, to a decent amount of fanfare. I really don’t have an actual game plan for my blog.
    The main topic area is focused on information overload, and how to cope with it.
    I consider myself a creative person. I work well when I’m inspired.
    Unfortunately, I’m not able to work full time in my business currently.
    In addition to my business, I also work a full time job, and have to find time for my family. It’s a constant struggle for me to manage.
    I don’t know if I would be able to discipline myself to create a blogging schedule?
    Although, I must admit, it is a tremendous idea! It actually made me say aha!
    So, I will admit that I am perplexed right now, as to what to do.
    However, that’s a testament to how much I liked your post & respect your opinion.
    So there…I thank you for giving me something interesting to ponder.
    Take care!
    George

    • http://www.facebook.com/george.nieves.1614 George Nieves

      Hi again Carol,
      I also wanted to let you know that I signed up for your list & to get the editorial calendar.
      George

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I know you have a bit of a different business model George – Adrienne mentioned that she’s not one for scheduling either but whatever works best for you is what works best! I resisted the idea of a calendar for a long time but since I tried it, I’ve really loved the results. Sometimes it’s worth a try and hopefully I gave people a place to start. Glad you had an aha moment!

  • Donna Merrill

    Carol,
    Well, I signed up because this is just what I needed! I get inspired and write on a note on my computer. I cannot believe how many unfinished blogs I have created.

    This year, my husband and I are on a new venture with our own product line and that takes most of our time. I want to keep up with my blog and need more direction.
    I also tried writing blogs ahead of time, but they just never got finished. I’m sure this will help and I thank you for sharing it.
    Plus, now I can keep up with your blog posts without searching.
    Thanks so much Carol,
    Donna

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I know you have some new thins going on so if this can help, then great! I would love to know what you think. And good luck with your new adventures :)

  • Marquita Herald

    Ha! I’ll have to remember that term “Paradigm shift!” Writing is such a part of my daily routine I rarely have to think about it – but since the writing is not always about my blog there certainly have been times when I’ve suddenly realized a post is due asap. Thanks for this valuable resource, I’ll definitely have to take a closer look.

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I’m using this for my blog but I would like to evolve it to be able to manage multiple blogs (for clients). And at some point turn it into a content marketing calendar. one step at a time!

  • http://twitter.com/rgoutal Richard Goutal

    After reading your article and all the comments, I’m thinking a calendar that is open to serendipity makes sense. I am getting yours to check it out. Thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I hope you find it helpful, Richard. It’s really made a difference for us in how well we manage content, vary topics and get stuff in the queue to so we can plan our marketing!

  • Becky

    That’s kinda funny. My first blog, waaaaaay back when, was called Paradigm Shifts. :)

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Nice! Once I finally figured out what the word “paradigm” meant, it worked out a little better :)

  • http://www.TrafficGenerationCafe.com/ Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe

    It was my New Year resolution – start using my editorial calendar, instead of just staring at it. lol

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Well, today looks like a good day to start a new calendar! I’ve found it tremendously helpful and I resisted the idea for so long. Live and learn! Now go set up your first few deadlines!

  • http://twitter.com/robgoss Creativebloggers

    Hello Carol great post, I don’t use a calendar but I do try sticking to a schedule, as far as publishing my articles that way I have some kind of time frame when my readers can keep a eye out for new post.

    I think you really need something in place to help you be organized this way it will give you more time to work on other projects you might have online.

    Thanks so much Carol for a very interesting post my friend it’s a pleasure to meet you…have a wonderful day..Rob

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Hi Rob,

      I’m glad you liked my post :) I totally agree, being organized and having some kind of structure is important. As much as I resisted a schedule it’s been great for me since I started using one! Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://twitter.com/JNorberto James Norberto

    Great post Carol… Funny how couples yell stuff at each other. Although, ours might be as nice as Paradigm Shift… unless it’s followed up with a “term of endearment.” Just saying…

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Oh we yell other stuff, James… but nothing that will make it into a blog post :)

  • http://twitter.com/gonzogonzo Frederic Gonzalo

    An editorial calendar is soooooo important, I’m baffled by how many people don’t believe it, deny it or just won’t be bothered. I try to do one for at least 3 months ahead of time for myself, and I work on yearly calendars with my clients to get a better, clearer picture of what’s coming.

    Just the process of building an editorial calendar is an achievement in itself, as it allows to prioritize, align with events and upcoming milestones that one might want to talk about on the blog. Personally, I would have a hard time without it ;-)

    Cheers,

    Frederic
    P.S. Great post!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Thanks Frederic, I was a non believer :) It really does make a world of difference. It just always seemed like sooo much work to do, setting it up, what to put on it. Hopefully I’ll take the mystery out for a few people so they can get started!

  • http://twitter.com/Louise_Myers Louise Myers

    Fabulous! After blogging for a year and getting loads of traffic, I am right now (just before I popped over here, actually!) asking myself, but what’s my goal? Happy to have found you via SBC. Sharing this great post!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Thanks Louise, I hope this can help! Better late setting goals than never, right?

      • http://twitter.com/Louise_Myers Louise Myers

        You bet. My random approach has actually helped give me a direction, as I learned what topics are successful :)

  • http://www.theworld4realz.com/ Andi-Roo

    Late to the party, as usual — but wanted to let you know (a) I’m still alive, (b) I am stealing your calendar, and (c) I loved this post. We received a silly LOL-cat calendar for Xmas that never made it up on our wall (didn’t exactly match our “decor”, LMAO!), so Jesse and I just sat down with some sticky notes to plan some posts ahead — things we know will repeat like my “What’s Up Wenzday” series now appear on the calendar through 2013, and I’ve applied topics from my “Idea List” to appropriate days of the week. Hoping to jump into the month of April with a vengeance! :)

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Hey, long time no complaints and/or glitter! Glad you’re still around a kicking. You could’ve just emailed me you know :) How have those sticky notes been working out? Sounds like me but without the sticky. I just have notes everywhere and occasionally I have a “note cleanup day” when I consolidate everything into one master glorious list of stuff to do. Let me know what you think of the calendar and if you have any thoughts on improving it.