An editorial calendar is essentially the plan for the next month, or even several months, of what's going to be published on your site. The length will depend on how often your publish, but even those who don't publish every day or every week can still find value in an editorial calendar. Here's why every blog or online publication needs an editorial calendar, whether your publish four times a day or four times a month.
It Forces You to Come Up with Article Ideas in Advance
Consistency is huge when running an online publication. Miss a day or two and your audience will notice that something is going on. The more often you publish, the more consistency matters and the harder it is to deal with writer's block or getting something out in a time crunch. This is where the editorial calendar comes in. If you need an idea, then simply refer to the calendar. If you release a new post every Wednesday, then all you need to do is look at the calendar on Monday or Tuesday and get writing. No longer will time be wasted scrambling for an idea because that time would have been spent beforehand coming up with all sorts of ideas to fill your calendar.
Note: This doesn't mean that you can't do something in response to breaking news, or a post on something you thought about that day. The editorial calendar and impromptu writing are not mutually exclusive. This tool is there so you don't have to waste time staring at a blank screen coming up with an idea. You have a whole list of ideas to choose from.
It Can Help Attract Advertisers
If you are making money from your blog or online publication, or want to start making money, then think of the editorial calendar as a way to attract advertisers that match the content you will product as well as your audience. For example, if you are a tech blog, and you are going to spend a week in October entirely on apps, then you can use your editorial calendar to show potential advertisers some of the topics that you are going to cover. If you are going to have an article or two about health apps, then potential advertisers might want to advertise on that day or week. They may also want to contribute sponsored content that adds an additional perspective, as a such a topic will interest very specific brands. The revenue is not only valuable to you, but the advertisers benefit from targeting that's based on who will read that article, and not just who will read your overall site.
It Can Be More than Article Ideas
The most basic editorial calendar just has topics or blog post titles listed when they are supposed to be published. That's great, but the editorial calendar can also include much more information than that. Below are some good ideas to include on your template (or use this one from HubSpot, which is really good).:
- Category/Type (ex. Recipe, How-To)
- Publication Location (if you have multiple blogs or often guest post)
- Reception (keep track of how many tweets, likes, or pins the post got)
If you don't want to create your own or use the one from HubSpot, then Wordpress has two really good editorial calendar plugins: Editorial Calendar and Edit Flow. Anyway, the point here is that it can be for more than post ideas. Use it to come up with your tags and keywords prior to writing the article. Use it to track the success of your articles after the fact. It's also a good tool if you have several writers on staff, so that you can manage what all of them are doing and what progress they are making with a little more ease.
Overall, the editorial calendar is an incredibly handy tool. Even the solo blogger who is writing for fun can benefit by saving time and reducing the stress of what should be a hobby and stress-relieving activity. There aren't many reasons why you shouldn't use an editorial calendar.