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In my book, content calendars are one of the most important things you can do for yourself to ensure that stick this out for the long haul.
No more time spent sitting at a blank page wondering what to write. No running out of ideas. No accidentally forgetting to add a Pinterest image to each post.
There is no one size fits all content calendar. We all have different schedules and workloads. I would hate for anything to think that they can’t create a successful website because they can only spare a few hours per month. It may take longer, but it’s totally doable.
1. Do your keyword research
I recommend finding batches of keywords, rather than finding one at a time. I like to batch everything, actually, because I’m not very good at switching between tasks.
I have a full post on keyword research, but I’ll run through it quickly here. Create a list of questions you think a newcomer to your niche would ask. Google them all and see if you could write a better article than what’s already available.
If the top results are high quality or from high authority sites, find a way to make the question target a more specific demographic. Keep niching down until the results either become lower quality, or less relevant.
2. Set a timeline for creating X number of posts
This will totally depend on how much time you have available and how far ahead you like to plan.
I like to plan three months in advance, and I aim to write about ten articles per month, although I do aim to write 30 in the first month of launching a site. If you can’t produce that much content, that’s fine.
Ten articles per month has worked really well for me, but you may be able to produce more or less depending on your other commitments.
Setting a deadline is really helpful to me. If I can get all the work done with time to spare, I can have a few days away from writing.
Having that incentive has really helped me to become more efficient with my time because I had a reward at the end of it – three days on the sofa under a blanket watching Marple repeats on ITV3.
Set yourself a target, and reward yourself at the end of it. I like to make my reward free time because if I make the reward something like buying myself a new coat, I can always talk myself into buying the coat even if I miss the deadline.
It’s super important not to over stretch yourself, and sometimes it can take a couple of months to find a nice balance between getting shit done and risking burning out.
3. Schedule in prep days and writing days
I find it really helpful to separate prepping my articles and writing the content.
Prepping is basically creating the bare bones of the articles – titles, subheadings (and therefore a basic structure), and images.
When you create a blog post from start to finish in one sitting, it can be really easy to forget things like featured images, or checking the box to assign the post to a category. Therefore, I like to get all that stuff in advance.
I do about 30 in one day – it usually take about six hours, and it’s extremely dull.
It saves time though. It can take me about three hours to create an article from start to finish. However, I can create an outline in about 20 minutes, and fill in the content in anout and hour and half, if I split up the two tasks.
I assume it has something to do with my brain having to shift between different types of work.
It also means I can get the stuff I don’t like doing out of the way, and only have to do it once every three months. Like I mentioned in my article on finding the motivation to write, I sometimes get blog prep done when my brain isn’t in the mood for writing content.
4. Don’t include time spent on research or promotion
This can be done in your free time.
I don’t promote any of my websites on social media. I don’t really enjoy it, so I haven’t made the time to learn how to leverage the social media platforms.
Any time I do spend doing this (for example if I’m adding my posts to Pinterest) I make sure that it doesn’t eat into my writing time.
Blog commenting is the same – do it on your own time. Maybe while you’re having your morning coffee.
There are exceptions to this rule. If you’re really not feeling up to writing, this can be a way of using your time in a more productive way than watching TV. Just don’t use promotion and research as a way to put off creating content. In the first year of your website, writing articles is the best way to use your time.
if you feel like writing, but outside of your niche, write a story on Medium.
5. Ensure you have some wiggle room in case of unexpected roadblocks
Don’t let all the writing momentum you build disappear when you get an unexpected bout of flu.
I always used to write my planner in pencil so that I could keep it neat in the event that I wanted/needed to take a week off. Then I discovered the fabulous world of erasable pens. Incredible. I got my mum a pack from Christmas and she’s a convert now too.
There are a million and one reasons that you might need to take time away from your writing.
The only thing that matters is that you get back at some point. Whether its a week or a year later. Just look in your content calendar and continue from where you left off.
How to stick to your content calendar
I’m afraid you just have to try. I could go on all day about treating your website like a business etc etc etc but the cold fact is that only you can make yourself sit down and make it good.
Get bored and start another website if you like, but you’ll still need to put the work in.
On average we’re looking at each post maxing out at around 1000 views per month. Obviously different keyword will have vastly different search volumes, but those are numbers I like to aim for.
Say you want to make £5,000 per month from ads alone, and you have a CPM of £15 (i.e you get £15 for every thousand people that go to your site).
You’ll need 350,000 views per month. If you have 350 articles, then you’re a hell of a lot more likely to reach your goals than if you only have 35.
Final thoughts on what should be included in a content calendar
I’ve used a content calendar the whole time since becoming blogger. It’s the only way I can stay on track, and they will help you enormously with productivity.
But I appreciate that a lot of you don’t have a problem with productivity. I finally realised that I needed to be productive, and religiously produced two articles a week for over a year and still got no traffic.
A content calendar is part of the puzzle – the edge pieces that will surround the interesting bits.
It’s as much creating the right content, as it is creating content at all.
And it’s not hard.
It’s quite easy.
I’m livid at myself for wasting so much time since it’s kind of common sense. But with a lot of common sense thinking, it takes someone else to actually point out what you’re missing, which is the whole reason I built this site.