2012 was the year of the Panda and the Penguin. Google became — or at least tried to become — better at discerning high-quality content from the textual flotsam that isn’t worthy of a reader’s attention.
Great for readers, but it put a considerable burden on bloggers, especially those who blog with SEO in mind. What once passed muster (albeit just barely) is now not good enough for either readers or SEO. Bloggers have had to up their game, and writing large quantities of high-quality material with lasting value is hard to achieve quickly.
For optimum results it’s often no longer sufficient to sit down, scan a couple of articles from other blogs, and knock out 500 words of mediocre copy with your keywords dispersed liberally throughout.
Bloggers are faced with a problem that magazine publishers have long since gotten to grips with. Producing high quality, informative, and well-written articles is a complex and time consuming undertaking that requires advanced planning. Topics, research, writing, proofreading, and publication should be planned in advance, especially if a blog hosts work from multiple writers under the auspices of fewer editors.
The magazines’ solution to this problem is the editorial calendar.
An editorial calendar is a way of planning all aspects of your blog, so that you know what needs to be done and when, what resources you need to allocate, and where problems are likely to arise. It’s a combination to-do list, project management tool, a place to record your brainstorming, and to motivate you to write now because you have something else planned to write next week.
Ideally you will use your editorial calendar to plan:
- Completion dates
- Publication dates
- Writer and editor
- Accompanying social media
- Article tags
- Everything else connected with your blog
You know those yellow sticky labels scattered all around your work area and the higgledy-piggledy piles of note paper and scribbled-on napkins that litter your desk?
That’s not the best way to do it.
There are many online resources for creating editorial calendars. You can do it the old-fashioned paper-and-pen way, but, if you have to share your calendar with other people, or change it on the fly, it’s better to have it computerized.
Also, as you come to rely on your editorial calendar, the last thing you want is for it to be lost or destroyed, so keeping it backed up in the Cloud is wise.
For a simple editorial calendar, using a calendar application like Google Calendar is feasible. However, there are often limitations of formatting and available data fields with calendars that make using them frustrating. They are designed around appointments and events, rather than a complex multi-task endeavor like publishing.
Spreadsheets are a great choice. They are much more flexible than calendars and allow you store all the information you need, color-coded and sorted by date. A spreadsheet like the one in Google Drive is perfect for the job because it’s got all the functionality needed for an editorial calendar, without the feature-bloat of a product like Excel. It also has sharing facilities with fairly granular permissions.
If you’re using WordPress to publish your blog, you can take advantage of a couple of plugins for making your editorial calendar.
Edit Flow is a feature-packed plugin that includes a calendar, custom statuses, notifications, budgeting, and user groups.
Editorial Calendar includes a drag-and-drop calendar, an ‘ideas’ area where you can plan topics without a confirmed publication date, the ability to schedule publication, and edit from within the calendar. Check out the video for more information.
Have you found editorial calendars to be an effective way of managing your blog? Which tools are you using? Let us know in the comments.