It’s a new year and a perfect time to dedicate (or rededicate) yourself to your content marketing strategy. So you took the leap and started blogging. Go you!
Like for your other resolutions for the new year, the first couple weeks probably seemed like a piece of cake. You’re motivated and inspired. The ideas are flowing, and you’re feeling ready to take on 2017. But do you know what you’ll publish next week? Or the next? How about next month?
Despite your current enthusiasm, the truth is that, to maintain a consistent and successful blogging strategy all year long, you need an actual plan.
Just as signing up for a fancy gym membership isn’t enough to achieve your new year’s weight loss goals, launching a blog and telling yourself you’ll publish every week is not enough to keep your blog thriving. In order to create a habit you’ll actually stick with, you need to create a specific and concrete plan that holds you and your team accountable.
That’s where the editorial calendar comes in.
You may have downloaded an editorial calendar template to bring your blog into the new year. But in the instance that you haven’t yet, snag BlogMutt’s 2017 editorial calendar now, and we’ll walk you through how to get it working hard for your business blog right away.
Choose a schedule. Stick to it.
Upon first looking at your blank editorial calendar, you may feel a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities. When should you publish? And how often? Where do you even begin?
First, decide how many times each week you want to publish new content. Really think about how much time you have each week to dedicate to blogging. If the next couple months at work are especially busy for you, focus on just one great post each week. If time allows and you want to go all-in on blogging, ramp up your efforts to two or more days per week.
The truth is that you probably won’t be blogging everyday, especially right off the bat. Heck, we at BlogMutt don’t even blog everyday anymore. About a month ago, we made the decision to move down from publishing five posts each week to four posts each week. Now, Mondays on our editorial calendar are all blocked off.
Whatever your magic number is, be realistic. Being overly ambitious from the start will only set you up for failure and leave you feeling discouraged.
Next, decide on which day or days you will publish each week. There’s no definitively right or wrong time/day to publish a blog post, but depending on your content goals, you might find that a particular publishing day/time is more effective than another.
Once you’ve decided your posting schedule, write in the days you will be publishing and block off the days you won’t. (It’s okay if you don’t have topics just yet!)
The important thing to remember here is that, if you want to post twice weekly, choose your days and stick to them. Especially if you’re just getting started blogging, you’ll need to stay consistent to keep your valuable subscribers interested and maintain a rigorous structure for yourself so you continually build a more expansive SEO presence. If you lose it, I hate to say it…you might not get your groove back for a while.
Fortunately, if you use BlogMutt to help with your blog writing, you can now custom select when you receive your posts with our new flexible scheduling feature, helping you to stay on track with your individual publishing plan.
Keep a running list of ideas.
The most brilliant blog topics don’t usually come to you when you’re sitting in front of your editorial calendar brainstorming next month’s blogs. They usually pop into your head when you least expect it. This is why we’ve include the ‘Blog Post Ideas’ tab in our editorial calendar template. This tab is there to help you keep a running list of blog topics, so you always have ideas to draw from.
Add to this list whenever a new idea strikes you, or write them down somewhere convenient until you have a chance to transcribe them into your editorial calendar.
I’ll often think of blog ideas when I first wake up in the morning, during a call with a client, reading an online marketing article, or when I’m answering a question for a customer. When I do, I jot them down on a sticky note or in my phone, and save them to add to my editorial calendar later.
If you get into the habit of recording every passing idea, you’ll quickly build a healthy archive of ideas from which to pull in the upcoming months. You’ll find that this is an invaluable resource to have at your disposal, especially on those days when the ideas just won’t flow.
Write out your idea, and include any clarifying notes that will help down the road. Also, be sure to use the ‘Reference’ column to include any applicable links that can jog your memory if you’re not sure what you meant when you wrote something down.
If you have a team of people contributing to your blog each month, encourage them to populate their ideas here, too. Rome wasn’t built in one day by one measly blog contributor. Is that the saying?
Brush up on your blogging skills.
If this is your first foray into the world of blogging, there’s probably a lot you don’t know. If you’re in desperate need of educational materials on SEO, or blogging in general, use the ‘Resources’ tab in our editorial calendar template as your go-to place for quick, useful information.
Seriously, we’ve packed this thing with essential links on important topics, such as:
You’ve heard of SEO, but what does it really mean? What are the basic best practices you need to implement to really see an impact from your blogging efforts?
The articles we’ve curated in this section will help you master the basics of search engine optimization so you can ensure each post you publish actually gets found and read by your target audience.
Focusing on a clear, searchable keyword is important for creating an informative and SEO-friendly blog post. But learning to actually perform effective keyword research can feel like you’re tumbling down a rabbit’s hole. Wondering what makes a good keyword or how you can determine which keyword will perform well for a particular post? This is where you’ll find those answers.
Once you’ve learned how to perform keyword research, you’ll need to figure out what tools to use. There are tons of keyword tools available, and we’ve covered several of our favorites. Play with a few of them and see what works best for you. You may even find that using a combination of keyword tools is most effective.
Graphics are no longer an option when it comes to blogging. Studies show that colored visuals increase a person’s willingness to read an article by 80%. But stock photos can be expensive and formatting images within a post can be tricky. These resources offer some free alternatives and useful tips for sizing and formatting your images for maximum impact.
Make your list. Check it twice.
Adhering to consistent blogging best practices, style guidelines, and optimization techniques is important for the long-term success of your content marketing strategy. However, consistency can quickly go out the window when you have multiple team members contributing content to your blog.
Ensure everyone is following the same guidelines by coming up a with checklist your teammates can follow each time they submit a post for publishing. This can serve as a standard to keep contributors (even those not as knowledgeable in SEO best practices) on the same page and ensure consistency among posts (not to mention make your content manager or editor’s life a whole lot easier!).
You’ll see that in our 2017 editorial calendar template, we’ve populated our ‘New Hydrant Checklist’ to give you an idea of what sorts of requirements can live on a list like this. These are the must-haves that we require all our blog contributors to check over before they submit a final post to publish.
Keep your team on the same page.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges content managers face is simply holding their team of blog contributors accountable for each month’s deliverables. Get those contributors in line by utilizing the ‘Post Contributor Frequencies’ tab.
This tab exists so you can keep a formal roster of who will be contributing to your business blog and how often. Include the names of your regular contributors, as well as any guest bloggers you plan to feature in the coming months.
Accountability is key when it comes to running a successful blog. It takes a dedicated effort from all of your contributors to keep things running smoothly. And if one person misses a deadline or drops the ball on a post, it diminishes the hard work of the rest of the team and hurts the overall performance of your blog.
Tip: Once you have the bones of your editorial calendar filled in, be sure to grant every contributor access to the document. Just be careful with ‘permissions to edit.’
Transparency and collaboration is key, especially if you use a remote team, but you don’t want people to go hog-wild editing your calendar if you need to run a tight ship.
Take it one step at a time.
As you start to implement your new strategy, you’ll likely be brimming with enthusiasm. That’s fantastic! Just make sure not to bite off more than you can chew. Take it slow, and focus on establishing good habits and sticking to a routine.
It might sound too good to be true, but the simple acts of organizing your content strategy, filling out your editorial calendar, and actually holding yourself and your team accountable for those topics is likely all you need to keep your blog strategy moving forward throughout the year.
Take BlogMutt as a case study.
Before 2016, BlogMutt’s content strategy was scattershot, at best. But at the start of last year, we committed ourselves, wholeheartedly, to the new editorial calendar. As a result, between 2015 and 2016, we saw impressive jumps in some of our key performance metrics:
- 115% increase in sessions (unique times folks visit our blog, including multiple pages)
- 143% increase in users (unique individual visitors to our blog)
- 105% increase in pageviews (overall times people view the blog)
This success wasn’t the result of big, sweeping changes to our content strategy. It was the result of small, incremental improvements and an ongoing dedication from the entire blog team. In developing topics and outlines beforehand, we saw an uptick in blog performance. Then, by further crafting more thoughtful headlines and conducting more in-depth keyword research, we saw even more incredible results.
Bottom line: Don’t shoot to be perfect with a full-fledged content strategy right out of the gate. Take it a step at a time. Walk before you run. Start by brainstorming blog ideas and familiarizing yourself with your editorial calendar template. Then, work to improve your strategy little by little, month by month. That’s the real key to blogging success.
And if you’d like to know where to start, hop on our “How To Start A Blog” 12-Month Challenge. Whether you’re brand new to blogging or simply trying to form good habits and discipline around your content strategy, this month-by-month guide will help you lay the foundation for a successful business blog.