Lots of elements need to be considered when piecing together a content calendar. Objectives and KPIs will significantly change the output of what a content calendar can look like, however there are some fundamentals that every calendar should encapsulate. Content flow and seasonality are two of the biggest elements that should run through every content calendar to ensure the content is engaging and relevant, giving it the best chance of success.
If you'd like to skip straight to building your calendar, then download our new, updated template here: Simply go to File, and 'Make a copy' to get started.
The first step in creating a content calendar is to carry informational keyword research from existing target keywords and from competitors to understand the longtail opportunity. Longtail searches help you to understand the micro moments and pain points that your audience have so that you can create content that helps them answer questions that they will search for. We've got lots of useful tools and templates to help you with this first stage, you'll find many more linked throughout this post!
Once you have the keyword research in place, the keywords then need to be sorted by filters in an Excel document.
Sorting the set by search volumes is a good place to start as it highlights the potential for each term.
Something to consider when doing this is what objective you are trying to reach. Higher search volumes will help to increase traffic to the site if you can create content that ranks well for the term. Whereas, going for a term with much smaller volumes that are more specific help with conversions as the audience searching for it tend to be much further down the purchase funnel and are looking for that last bit of information before they commit.
Our calendar template helps to organise the different elements of a calendar (as shown below) - downloading it, and saving your own copy will get you started, as a calendar is key to organisation. It helps to ensure that all considerations for creating content are included and prioritised.
By using organic traffic as the objective for the calendar, the keywords with the greatest search volumes should be placed into the primary keyword section and then any keywords that are similar or synonyms of the term should be placed in the secondary keyword section.
Sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether keywords should be grouped together or if it warrants a piece to be written by itself. The quickest way to determine this is to put each keyword into an incognito Google search and see whether the answer is being given in a guide that is titled something different or if it has its own standalone content answering the question specifically.
An example of this can be seen below where two terms rank for the same piece, suggesting that a guide is the best way to answer a number of questions.
Once all this information is input, use the primary keyword to inspire a catchy engaging title for the piece of content.
Once the keyword research is organised in order of search volumes with primary and secondary keywords, go through and set what stage of the user journey the content will be created for. Search intent is important for the prioritisation of content. Below are the main ways in which the keywords should be segmented:
Here is where objectives need to be considered again, for increase of traffic and visibility, the highest search volumes are usually within the awareness category which should be prioritised. For revenue-focused KPIs, consideration would be much more worthwhile. Volumes are usually lower but as mentioned before, there is much more intent behind these searches to convert.
The next step is to look at existing content to beat any that ranks for the keyword you’re targeting. This allows you to set a word count, establish design requirements and take inspiration from what other information competitors are providing.
Similarly to when we assess if we need to separate pieces of content when analysing the keywords, the best way to find the content you need to beat is by typing the keyword into Google. Look at what features in snippets and the sites in position one to five.
Analyse how the information is provided as audiences engage with different content types. Dependent on subject and intent, articles, listicles, videos and interactives are all ways to beat your content competitors by offering a better answer and keeping your audience engaged. The example below is a listicle, like all of the top ranking pieces, and features video which you can include in your content calendar.
Word counts are also important to keep your audience engaged and should also offer the most comprehensive information available online. Compare word counts across the top ranking pieces and average it out to set your own. Structure is important to make a note of, too. Depending on audience demographic, it is likely that most people will access a site via their mobile so thinking about how that looks and works on a device is imperative.
Capacity and execution are the next things to plan. By this point, you should now have all titles supported by primary keywords, secondary keywords, search volumes and content to beat with word counts. You can now pull this data together into an actual calendar.
You will need to consider, with fluctuating word counts, how long each piece will take you to write. As a general rule of thumb, four hours per 1,000 words is a good place to start as you may require additional research to be able to write the content. Along with this, it may be that your content needs video or design so additional time will need to be accommodated here.
With this in mind, work out realistically how many pieces can be created per month and decide whether you are planning for three, six, nine or 12 months. It isn’t advised to plan beyond this as there’s a good chance that the keyword set will need refreshing to ensure you are still capturing the longtail search opportunity correctly.
Now you know how much you can write over the period of time desired, it’s time to readdress seasonality & content flow. Vary the types of content between months to ensure that you are thinking as a ‘brand as publisher.’ There will likely be articles, listicles, infographics and even more interactive pieces of content within the list of content titles. Ensure that these are planned throughout and not all grouped together. This will also help with managing the capacity and workflow of content creation. For seasonality, look at any events, days, weeks and months that relate to the content that could help leverage it through social channels and get picked up naturally by external sites.
Google trends is a good tool that will help show when people are searching for terms that will help inform when to place it.
All these efforts to create a varied and engaging content calendar could be wasted if everyone involved isn’t on board and briefed correctly on future plans. It’s important to have all collateral and marketing plans aligned as soon as you start working so that you can work in synergy as one team - for client work, and in-house work alike.
Spending time to embed these plans and work out a collaborative approach when determining a promotion plan for the content is imperative. A plan should be mapped out for each individual piece of content and who is responsible for that promotion should be outlined and agreed. Without strong distribution behind the content, you are shouting into an empty room - we cover this stage in the third volume of our Blogging for Your Brand series, as promotion and distribution is key to seeing impactful results.
By following these steps, a comprehensive content calendar can be created that informs your content strategy across as many months that are required. An advantage to having this in place is that should plans need to change, as they often do, you can be agile but still monitor all content creation and ensure that it’s still in line with your objectives.
Download the full template to get started!
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