Building An Editorial Calendar From Scratch

We have a super exciting five days ahead of us over here on Jennypurr as we kick start Take Your Content To The Next Level Week. If you’re an email subscriber you’ll already be clued up, but if not then I’ll give you a quick introduction. In my two years of blogging, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that content with always be king. Engaging, substantial, and shareable content is the best way to connect with your audience, share your expertise, and develop and grow your online space. From engaging with you in the comments and Twitter, I know so many of you are already running really awesome online spaces and this week exists as five days to help you take it to the next level.

With five days of blog posts where I’ll be sharing everything I’ve learned and some ideas and insights into how you can raise the blogging bar, and a Twitter chat on Wednesday evening where we can connect and discuss all things blogging and content, I’m super excited for the next few days to come. To celebrate, I have a super limited time only special discount on my Take Your Content To The Next Level package which is perfect for anyone who wants to find their voice, craft an intentional content plan, and have impact and reach with the words they share. Usually priced at £79, my content coaching package is now available at £63 for a limited time only and if you want to find out more about the package make sure you head over to my Work With Me page.

What I’m most excited for is the first ever #jennypurrchat on Twitter this week and the opportunity to engage in more depth with the Jennypurr community. I believe blogging is better when done with community, a support system, and fellow creatives to inspire us along the way. This Wednesday (4th March) from 9-10pm I’ll be over on Twitter hosting the first ever Jennypurr Twitter chat and I’d love to see you over there. We’ll be talking about all things blogging and content creation!

I don’t know about you, but I’m super excited for Take Your Content To The Next Level Week. Whatever stage you’re at in your blogging adventure, my hope is that over the next five days I can encourage you to keep pushing forward on your goals and share some secrets and insights into how you can make them happen. If you’re as excited as I am, click to tweet and let me know you’re in!

"Do you want to #TakeYourContentToTheNextLevel? Join me and @jennypurrblog if you do!"

So for the first of this weeks posts we’re going to focus on Building An Editorial Calendar From Scratch. Your editorial calendar can change everything. It can give you focus, keep you on track, and help you to see the bigger picture with your content. You are more than just the blog posts you share each day, they all work together alongside each other to create the voice and purpose of your blog. Creating with intention, having clear and focused goals and a system that works for you is one of the best ways you can really take your content to the next level. I won’t lie, this post is going to be pretty long. But if you put aside some time this week to build the perfect editorial calendar for you I promise you won’t regret it. 

I'm going to focus on:

  • Big Picture Goals & Aims
  • Focusing Your Categories & Columns
  • Themes, Series, & Features
  • Choosing A Posting Schedule That Works For You
  • Building Your Digital Calendar

Feel free to scroll down and pick and chose the topics that will help you the most as this is a pretty long and in-depth post, though if you're completely new to editorial calendars I'd really recommend taking the time to get your head around the process so you can build your own awesome digital calendar from scratch. 

Before you get started, being clear on your big picture goals and aims is one of the most important steps to take. Ask yourself: what is the overall purpose of my blog? To connect with future clients and customers? To establish expertise in your industry? To build community and connections? To monetise? Get it down on paper and know your big picture goal. The day to day aspects of running your online space can start to distract you over time, and having a clear long term goal will help to keep you on track and guide you with the decisions you make.

Know who you’re creating for. If we try and please everyone, we end up connecting with no one, so getting super specific on our ideal audience and who exactly we want to connect with is how we will really start to reach those long term goals. Know your audience, what you want to create for them, and the reader experience you want to craft along the way. Your content is what does all the hard work for you. It’s what builds your SEO, it’s your content marketing, your online presence, and how readers and clients/customers will find you along the way. Trust in the fact that if you create high quality sharable content you’ll be able to push forward on those big goals and ambitions you have for your online space. 

Task: Get down on paper/word document your big picture blogging goals and aims. Maybe you have just one, or maybe you have five, however many jot them down and see them in front of you. Know your purpose (this post should help) and be super super clear on your intentions. Write a manifesto or a brand statement if you really want to take it seriously, these are awesome for staying focused along the way.

Your categories & columns will be the foundations of your content plan. Not only do they give your blog structure and focus, but they also aid in the content creation process as they give you initial areas of focus as jumping off points. It’s up to you how specific you get with your categories. Depending on your niche and the focus of your blog, you may prefer general categories like “Lifestyle” and “Creativity”, whereas for a super specific and niche blog breaking it down into focused categories like “SEO” and “Social Media Marketing” might suit your blog best. 

How many categories you have is up to you, though my best advice is to keep it under 5 or 6 as anything more than that and your blog may become a little scattered and unfocused. As Jennypurr is quite a niche specific blog I only have three categories - Blogging, Creativity, and Personal Insights - and the most important thing is that you take the time to be super intentional with the categories you choose. 

Task: Take half an hour to write down on paper all the topics and areas you currently focus on and any other topics you’d like to introduce into the mix. See if any overlap and can be joined together into one category. Highlight the six categories that work towards your blogging purpose and big picture goals the most (and make sure they’re ones you’re passionate about too) and try and brainstorm 20 post topics for each. The categories where the ideas just flow and flow will probably be the cornerstone content of your blog, whereas if you’re stuck with one and can’t think of relevant topics that you will enjoy creating and that will work towards your bigger picture goals then it’s a probably a sign to leave this one out. Hopefully you’ll be left with 3-6 categories that you feel confident that you can continue to create fresh, exciting, and engaging content for. 

Something to note: A frequently asked question is whether or not it’s okay to have different topics and categories within your content plan. For example, if you’re a blog that shares social media marketing advice but also have a column on gardening techniques. There’s no clear cut answer for this one but my advice would be that if you run a for-profit blog then the needs of the business have to come first. Think about your ideal reader/client and ask yourself whether writing about something off-topic will just confuse them and send them away to a different site that seems more focused and clear. On the other hand, if you run a personal blog (or your business is very tied into your personal brand) then keeping your categories quite open and varied will probably work in your favour and you shouldn’t feel any pressure to compromise your ideas. Listen to your gut and be guided by your big picture goals.

Once you’ve focused your categories and columns, it’s time to take a closer look at each and explore your themes, series, and features. These can give your categories more structure, focus, and help you to plan out your content in advance. Depending on your blogs focus and niche you may only have features in the mix, whereas for others monthly themes and weekly series may be more in-tune with your audiences needs. Great examples are By Regina and A Beautiful Mess. Regina regularly has themed months that tap into her readers needs and get super specific on a subject in her niche. ABM are awesome at keeping up with regular features and series. For example they have their reoccurring Book Club, Scrapbook Sunday, and Sister Style features throughout the month. 

If your blog is run alongside a business, whether it’s service based or with an ecommerce shop, monthly themes can be a great way to kick start your marketing strategy. If you have a new release or a service you want to promote, breaking your months down into themes can give your content a super clear focus and is a great way to embrace content marketing while still creating authentic content for your audience. Braid Creative do an awesome job at this as when they have one of their eCourses coming up they share content specific to that topic in the lead up so they can attract the people who need exactly what they’re offering. 

Tasks: Features: With your pen and paper or word document (I personally love Evernote for these kind of tasks), write down all of your current features. With ticks and crosses, decide whether they’re still relevant to your long term goals and intentions, or whether your blog has since outgrown them and it’s time to move on. After that, brainstorm any new features you’d like to explore. My best advice is to never jump in straight away to a new feature, give yourself enough time and space to see whether it’s something you want to commit to in the long run. Once you’ve decided on any reoccurring features, decide how often you want to feature them each month (or even quarterly through the year) and write that next to each one. This will come in handy later when you start to build you digital calendar. 

Series & Themes: Whether you just want to take your content to the next level or promote your business and products alongside your marketing plan, get down on paper any series or themes that may help you along the way. For example, if you’re just about to launch an eCourse on personal branding you might have a themed month in the lead up that shares your knowledge and expertise so you can connect with your ideal audience before the launch. On the other hand, if you’re a personal blogger focusing on an area like Beauty or Lifestyle and you want to really raise the blogging bar you may have a monthly series on a super topical and interesting area within your niche so you can really start to establish your blog and online presence in your community. 

Features, series, and themes are not essential to stellar blogging but they are worth exploring if you really want to take things to next level and push forward on your bigger goals and intentions.

Having a posting schedule in place means you’ll know when to create for and your readers will find comfort in the consistency of your online space. There’s no golden number of how many times you should post each week and I think various factors, including the time you have available, your niche, and your big picture goals, should be what guides your decision. Posting daily has the benefit that you’ll be able to connect with your audience every single day, though the wonder of social media means that even if you’re not posting fresh content each and every single day you still have the opportunity to connect with your readers and add value to their day via your social media channels.

Three of my favourite blogs, By Regina, Braid Creative, and Femtrepreneur don’t post daily content (usually 1-2 posts a week/fortnight) and I’m always excited by how much value there is in every post they share. On the other hand, another of my favourites is Elle & Company and Lauren posts five days a week and I look forward every weekday morning to her latest post going live. The point I’m trying to make here is that how often you post will not define the impact you have with your audience. The quality of your content, the intentions behind your posts, and your social media presence make all the difference and I’m a big believer in only posting when you have something to say instead of just sharing filler content to pad out your content plan.

For almost two years I posted seven days a week on my blog, and it without a doubt really helped in the beginning with my initial blog growth. Since moving to a five day posting schedule a few weeks back though I’m feeling so much happier with my routine. I have more space to create intentional and focused content and it’s more realistic alongside the time I have available to work on posts. 

Task: Assess the following things:

  1. The time you have available throughout the week to create
  2. How often blogs within your niche post
  3. Your big picture aims (to increase traffic/to monetise/to establish your business/to build community etc)

Reviewing all these things, hopefully you will start to see what posting schedule works best for you. Whatever you do, my best advice is to not stretch yourself too much. Content isn’t the only component of blogging. There will be business maintenance, product development, networking, and social media and although posting often and frequently is the best route to take for both connecting with your readers and your SEO, if you can only do 2 days a week then don’t worry about the pressure to be doing any more. 

Now to the exciting part, building your digital calendar. I recommend doing it digitally as this way is more streamlined and can be synced amongst your devices. Your best options are to either use your Google Calendar, your iCloud calendar, or a third party app like Sunrise, or if you want an extra in-depth option you can build your digital calendar on a spreadsheet or a template you make yourself.

What you want to include is:

  • Your posting schedule
  • Your categories
  • Any features, series, and monthly themes
  • Social media marketing
  • Any guest posts and collaborations
  • Any launches and special events
  • And of course your upcoming posts and content

If you’re super organised with your process, you may work better looking at the year or each quarter in advance and assigning your themes, series, and launches and special events throughout the year. I like to work on a monthly basis and each week in-depth, though sometimes I have to look further ahead for any bigger events or plans. On each week/month you can colour co-ordinate your categories and series/features onto the relevant days and build in the specific post for that day from there. Additionally, to take your process to the next level and really commit to your online presence you can include your social media marketing and maintenance tasks within your calendar, as it all works together alongside each other in the long run. Things like:

  • Social media promotion
  • Newsletters and email marketing
  • Guest posting
  • Upcoming audits
  • Behind the scenes blog maintenance

This way your entire process will be in front of you and you will be able to stay on top of everything with ease. Last year I shared a very basic overview of my editorial calendar here, but it has since evolved and has a spreadsheet that works alongside it now which houses everything from my launches and marketing events, to my weekly letters and behind the scenes maintenance tasks. 

Congratulations if you've made it all the way to the end of this post and I hope it's been helpful and encouraged you to build an awesome editorial calendar of your own. Remember to put this coming Wednesday 4th March at 9pm in your diary for the first ever #jennypurrchat on Twitter, and if you're interested in one-on-one content coaching support the special discount price of £63 is available until the end of the week.

I'm super excited for the rest of Take Your Content To The Next Level Week and if you're joining in let me know in the comments below! 

This months Spotlight Advertiser

Six of this months sidebar advertisers