One of the biggest issues many of our clients face is a failure to add posts and pages on a timely basis. A big part of the reason for this is that they do not have an Editorial Calendar. What is an Editorial Calendar? How can you build an Editorial Calendar? How is an Editorial Calendar best used to ensure website success?
What is an Editorial Calendar and Why do You Need One?
An editorial calendar is simply a tool to keep your content development on track. It is a list of scheduled posts and pages including deadlines, links, and placement locations. It could include other items such as author name (if using someone other than yourself and you want/need to track this), date of assignment, or anything else you deem vital to ensuring that the content gets added to the site on a regular basis.
By now, you should have a content marketing plan and perhaps some freelance or in-house writers adding content to your website. But without an editorial calendar, the content may be added sporadically, not on schedule, or in a haphazard way.
An editorial calendar does several things for your website:
- Ensures that content is added regularly
- Helps keep track of where content is posted (the website, social media, newsletter, etc.)
- Helps ensure deadlines are met
- Lets you keep track of links to the pages/posts for quick reference/use
- Lets you keep track of where and when content is promoted
- Provides a simple way to add ideas for future posts/pages
- Allows you to better organize and plan the timeliness of posts and pages
The concept of an editorial calendar is nothing new. Newspapers and magazines have been using them for over a century. But just as traditional publishers must keep track of what is to be published and plan what is to be added to each issue of their publication, desktop publishers need to do the same.
For instance, maybe you are walking your dog one day and get an idea for a post that would be ideal for Back to School. It is a great idea and you make a quick note on your phone for later, maybe even adding it to your calendar. When the notification beeps, you realize that it is a great idea, but you only have a week to get it done. You quickly contact your freelance writer and are informed that he is very busy this week with back to school promotional pages. If you want it done, you will have to pay premium price.
Had you instead added it to an editorial calendar, you would have seen months in advance that the content was needed and been able to plan exactly when the best time to add it to the site would be. You may have even considered having additional smaller posts created for social media, to be included in your newsletter, or perhaps in a press release.
The point is, an editorial calendar keeps all content creation ideas and plans in one place, making it easy to organize and strategically plan your publishing efforts.
How to Build a Simple Editorial Calendar
Building an editorial calendar need not be complicated. In fact, the simpler it is the more likely you will be to continue using it. Some folks try to get everything possible about their publishing efforts onto the editorial calendar, but really, just a few vital elements are needed.
The following editorial calendar is the same one we use here at Oakes Writing and on our other website, CriminalJusticeLaw.org. It is a no-frills tool designed to make planning content a simple, yet effective task. We provide it here as a free download for anyone who wants to use it. Below, we include some simple instructions for use, though most users will easily figure it out. In addition, because it can be downloaded as an Excel file, you can modify it as you wish.
How to Use Your Super Simple Editorial Calendar from Oakes Writing
You will notice that this editorial calendar is very simple, so much so that an explanation is not really needed. But, we will explain how we use it below to give our readers a better understanding of how to use the tool to build a better website.
- Website Domain: If a site owner has more than one website, it is recommended that a separate editorial calendar be created for each. This line is here simply as a placeholder for the website. (Be sure to clear our site name.)
- Post Day: We use this column for days of the week. Because we add posts three days a week and a page once a week, our calendar has four days of the week rotated going down. These are: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. Pages are reserved for Saturday, so the title appearing to the right of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are planned posts. As we get new ideas, we just add them to the list. They can be added as an idea or a proposed title. Whatever.
- Post Date: Use this column for deadlines and dates added to site. The way we do it is to add the deadline date and highlight it in yellow if we have outsourced (as we do with some content on CriminalJusticeLaw.org). Then, when the post is added to the site, the highlight is erased and the actual post date added. It is an extra step, but keeps the calendar from becoming cluttered. Of course, if content is not outsourced, just leave it blank until the post is added, unless you need a deadline to keep you on your toes.
- Post/Page Name: You can put whatever you want here to identify the post/page. We add ideas and later when we give it a title, we change it.
- POST TO: Notice here that there are five options below. SM1, SM2, SM3, SM4, and SM 5. These are here in case the post is to be added to one of your social media accounts instead of the site. We just type an “X” into the space. Also, instead of “SM#” ours reads, “FB, LNK, STU, TW, and RED” for the five social media platforms we use.
- LINK TO: When a site is added somewhere, we promote it across all other social media accounts. The options provided here allow us to simply add an “X” to the appropriate social platform once the post/page has been linked to/promoted in that site. It is just a simple way to remember if we did so.
- Post/Page Link: It can get cumbersome constantly going to the website to lift links when they are needed. Because our editorial calendar stays open all the time, when we need to look up a link for a post or page for any reason, it is here in a handy, easy-to-use list.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, this editorial calendar can be edited as you see fit. If you want to add to if, go on, have fun. Just remember that the more complex it becomes the less likely you or those you assign to it will use it faithfully.
Remember the adage, KISS (Keep it Super Simple)