The hardest part of blogging, I’ve found, is simply getting down to it and getting started.

Whether it’s your first article or your twenty-first, it can be too easy to put it off or tell yourself it’s not a priority. All sorts of conflicts get in the way, like:

  • Where do I start?
  • Where can I find the time?
  • What could I possibly write about, time after time?
  • Who would even be interested in reading about what I sell?

Well, you’re about to learn how to crack these questions.

Why even have a blog?

Blogs really are worthwhile. If you are serious about growing your business and getting out amongst it, a blog MUST be a part of your marketing mix.

When you contribute worthwhile content to the world, the rewards can be huge. You can:

  • Increase web traffic – through greater search visibility and social media shares
  • Build your brand as an authority – become the ‘go to’ on what you offer
  • Grow your email list – site visitors sign up to your mailing list for more of what you are dishing out. Your email list allows you to market to a warm crowd who have volunteered their email address to you, because they are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. You don’t have to wait for them to come to your website. You are able to reach out to them whenever you have something to offer.
  • Build long term results, as opposed to paid advertising through which the web traffic stops as soon as the advertising stops

According to Hubspot, companies that blog get more than 55% more website visitors

blog traffic

The business results can be amazing. For example, Marcus Sheridan started to blog for a swimming pool business in 2008 in a small town in Virginia, USA. That swimming pool website now receives over 500,000 visitors a month! That’s a direct result of writing valued content, and writing it consistently.

With a well-structured plan, you can build great content, no matter what you are selling.

You’re just 3 steps away from blog brilliance

By creating a quality content calendar, you will learn how to:

  1. Get clear on goals for your blog so you know where you are aiming, and to whom
  2. Brainstorm great content ideas that will connect with your target audience and stand out from your competition
  3. Organise your ideas into a valuable content strategy, and map out your content to a clear, easy schedule

Now, lets get started…

1. Always… ALWAYS start any project with your goals

Getting into goals may take a little bit of digging, but the motivational results can be priceless.

And all your goals should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Time sensitive

Using the Blog Goals Worksheet, included with the Content Calendar Template, list any goals specific to you and your marketing in the first column.

Goals A

You might think this is a waste of time… Isn’t everything just about making more sales? Sure, but in the long term there can be all sorts of improvements that aren’t directly related to a sale. Through creating consistently great content, you are continually building a relationship with your audience.

Your goals might include:

  • Boosting sales
  • Increasing website visitors
  • More email subscribers
  • More social media follows and shares
  • More phone sales
  • Fewer phone queries
  • More walk-in customers

Try and think of anything in your business that your blog may have an impact on.

Add your current count for each of these items next to them in column 2 of the Goals Worksheet.

This is an important step. It makes the whole process absolutely real to your business. If you don’t have exact figures, try and make a close estimate.

When you’ve gathered this information the first time, any follow ups should be a cinch.

Next, add Measurable goals and Due Dates to your Worksheet.

Observe your current measurements and estimate what you would like them to be. An example is to multiply the starting number by 10, meanwhile considering when you would like to reach this number. Make sure you are keeping it Realistic, and that you believe you can do it. Otherwise, it becomes a fantasy exercise with no impact.

For example: 16 social media shares on average each month x 10 = 160 social media shares each month to be reached in 6 months’ time.

Goals B

You now have some positive, realistic targets to imagine and aim for.

2. Building content ideas to wow your audience

What puts a lot of people off blogging is that they go through this process every time they attempt to write an article. If you brainstorm, list and finalise your topics just once and organise them in a clear manner, you can save yourself so much time by not having to do it again and again.

Before we get into specific article ideas, let’s work on some topic ideas:

  1. What do your readers care about? (List everyday customer questions, look at social media comments, run a survey.)
  2. What are features and benefits of your products or services that will make a good read? What problems you are solving for your customers?
  3. Look at your competitors’ blogs. What will you be competing with or what can you say that is different? What kind of tone and type of content do they use, and how can you be different and/or better?

Group your topics into themes

Themes can be created from the services or product groups you offer, or they can be based on how you help your customers.

Let me explain.

A ladies’ clothing shop could break their content down into themes like:

  • Pants
  • Shirts
  • Dresses
  • Shoes

Or alternatively:

  • Weekend wear
  • Work attire
  • Evening wear
  • Personal styling

(I recommend the thinking behind the second list, as it is more creative, and focuses more on making the readers lives better.)

Once you have 3 or 4 themes, you can group topic ideas under them, keeping it to 12 topics so you can neatly focus on one topic per month for the next 12 months. Therefore, if you have 3 themes, each theme can have 4 topics. Or if you have 4 themes, each theme can have 3 topics.

themes

3. Organise and plan your content

Now you can add your themes to the Content Calendar – By Month template, repeating the themes down the Theme column to fill the year.

Next, add your topics next to the relevant themes:

Month plan

Too easy!

If you intend to write 1, 2, 4 or 20 articles per month, they will fall into the one topic set for that month.

Getting the right balance on how often to write

At this point, you should think about how often you would be posting. This depends on:

  • Your subject matter – you might find that daily, or evening weekly updates, will only stretch so far in the name of quality. Or your subject could be so active and vibrant that you find you could write about a number of things every day. (The planning process can work both ways – help build up ideas, or help prioritise and choose from ample ideas.)
  • Your audience – how often are they online? Do they tend to read heavily or just stick to basics?
  • Your resources – how much time or help you have at hand makes a big impact on the possible frequency of your posts.

In the end, it’s about being able to offer something of value to your audience while keeping things real.
If you are just starting out, you may want to ease in slowly, then ramp it up a little over a few months. You could start at, say, 2 articles per month, and slowly add a day between the others until you are posting at a comfortable pace – like 1-2 posts per week. Again, how often depends on various factors.

post frequency

Honing in on the 3 months ahead

Back to the exercises, copy the 3 topics for the next 3 months to the Content Calendar – By Week page.

Brainstorm 20-50 article subjects for each topic. Don’t hold back!

Some excellent tools to help you brainstorm are BuzzSumo‘s topic research tool and the Google Keyword Planner – which will check the popularity of your topics within Google Search.

Your subjects can be fine-tuned into Headlines when you are ready to start writing. Don’t rush your headlines. The success of your whole article relies heavily on writing a powerful headline.

Add your subjects to the relevant spaces on the Content Calendar – By Week, between the Topic and the intended Due Date.

week plan

Why not fill in a whole year like this, now?

Too many factors change, like how frequently you post, movements within in your industry or your business, or seeing what type of content is working really well while other content suffers. Revisiting this step every 3 months keeps your efforts in tune and on track.

And there you have it.

The content calendar process, once completed, puts you in a clearer, more confident place to move forward with it. It can be easily managed and can even be exciting to see what you can do, and how you can approach it, throughout your year.

To recap the 3 steps to putting your content calendar in order:

  1. Set out your blog goals, so you have something to aim for and see results for your efforts as you go.
  2. Brainstorm themes, topics and subjects
  3. Map them out so you have a clear sense of timing and where you are going with your articles.

Not only will your blogging become much easier and more fun to work with, but you will be on track to writing great content that resonates with your readers – turning them into big fans.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to grab the template downloads.

Other tools you may find useful for building your content calendar are:

Let me know how this process works for you, in the comments below.

If you get something out of the post, I would be really grateful if you could comment below and share it on your favourite social media network.

Carolyn Wilson

Growth Partner at Think Internet
Carolyn loves to help B2B companies who want to grow but have been frustrated with the lack of business flowing to them. She has helped these businesses achieve their goals through growth-driven web design and online marketing.
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