Let me know if this sounds familiar. You know you should probably blog or create content and you agree that it sounds like a good idea, but this is where you get stuck…
You get stuck in making it happen week after week.
You get stuck on what to blog about, where to blog, what format it should be in and you wonder, “does anyone really read blogs anymore?”
Blogging isn’t a new conversation, but it’s important to talk about the why behind blogging and why you need to think about it even more.
There is more information being thrown at us in every which way than ever before. But, there is a real need for relevant and timely content – more than ever.
According to HubSpot, companies that blog receive 97% more traffic to their website, than companies that do not!
Most media companies start their year with an editorial calendar so they can plan for the year ahead. For example, here is Inc’s editorial calendar.
I’ve been blogging since 2009 in one form or another and I can tell you that the results have made a huge impact on my business and in my bottom line.
The value though is not just blogging when you feel like it, or when the mood strikes – it’s doing so on a consistent basis. And for a lot of marketers and business owners, this is the challenging part.
I can tell you from personal experience; I have blogged with a calendar and without a calendar – and the times I have used a calendar is when my business has exploded.
Here is why:
- Creating a blog calendar makes blogging a priority and a habit. When something becomes a habit, it’s just something you do as part of your routine – like brushing your teeth. The key to getting business and leads from a blog – is that people come to expect it week after week, month after month, and year after year. You are building trust when you are consistently providing great content.
- Creating a blog calendar gets you out of the ‘here and now’ and forces you to think ahead. Too often, people who blog create blog content when they become inspired or when there is something to write about. What happens? You blog becomes inconsistent in how often you are publishing which hurts your readership (and ultimately your business) and it hurts the balance of content on your blog. By thinking 30-90 days ahead, you can have a good balance of the type of content that is relevant to your business.
- Creating a blog calendar forces you to be consistent in effort – which means your readers (your clients, prospects and customers) will be consistent in their response to your blog. For example, we publish our email newsletter every Saturday and have for years – I can’t tell you how many people comment to me about how they like receiving it Saturday morning. We are creatures of habit and when you consistently blog, people will come to expect it and LOOK for it!
Consistent effort = consistent reward!
How do you go about creating a blog calendar if you have never created one before? There are two simple options that I think work the best:
Option 1: Spreadsheet. You can create a spreadsheet using Google Documents or Excel. This format is great because you can see at a glance all of your topics and dates in one easy to read location. Our blog calendar is in a Google Document spreadsheet so everyone on our team can see it at any time. I’d recommend if you go this route – simple is better. I prefer just two columns: topic and due date.
If you have more people on your team you may want to add additional columns like: first draft due, graphics due, etc. But, if you are a one-person show and just starting – keep it simple! Even with our team – I went back to a very simple spreadsheet with topic and due date. We publish once a week – every Wednesday, so I know the day or two before I will be working on it to get everything written, proofed, etc.
Option 2: Calendar. Some people prefer to use an actual written calendar, or others like to use an Outlook or Google Calendar. We used a Google Calendar for awhile, but I felt for my needs – I preferred looking at my entire blog calendar in a spreadsheet. I do however like to use my calendar to block off time to write, and I also use it for any other content creation I do that may end up on the blog like video content, Periscopes or Facebook Live video.
Ultimately, you have to do what works best for you and the key, just like anything, is implementation. It has to be something that is easy to use and easy to access.
Other successful bloggers swear by CoSchedule, an editorial calendar plugin for WordPress or a tool like Trello for visual collaboration. Again, you have to use what works best for you. For me, simple is better!
In addition, here are a few extra free resources to get you started with your blogging calendar:
- CoSchedule calendar template
- HubSpot’s spreadsheet calendar templates
- Our content grid (newly updated for 2016)
It’s also important to understand that your blog is a moving target. So, although you want to think 30-60-90 days out with your blog calendar, it’s ok to shift and re-arrange topics as needed.
Now, once you’ve created a simple spreadsheet or calendar, how do you decide which content to put on there? How do you know what people will want to read?
When I am working on my own blog calendar or I am consulting for a client, there are a few steps I take:
First, what is your brand all about? I always start by brainstorming words that showcase my specialty or expertise – and these become the basis for my topics. For example, my brainstorm word list includes:
- Social media and social media strategy
- Social media time management
- Facebook tips
- Facebook advertising
- Instagram and Pinterest
- Snapchat, Periscope and Facebook Live
- Content marketing, content strategy, blogging
This list are all topics I am completely comfortable writing about because this is my expertise – and this is what clients hire me to consult with them about! Notice this list does not include things like: graphic design or public relations. Even though I have experience in those – that is not my brand and those are not the type of clients I am trying to attract.
So, what type of clients or customers are you trying to attract? What content could you provide that would help your clients and customers? Remember, blog content isn’t just the same content people can read anywhere – the difference in a blog post is that it includes your opinion and your voice.
For example, if you are a real estate agent – you may write a blog about the three ways you can get your home ready for the market, OR you can write that same blog post with those three tips and include a personal story of a client and what you specifically recommend and why. If you can back that up with examples – then you have the formula for a great blog post.
Here are a few no-fail tips I use to jump-start my blog calendar
- Sit with a blank pen and paper and brainstorm 20-40 topics. There is no right or wrong, just start writing topics that are of interest to you and may be of interest to your readers. Stuck? Look in your Sent email and see what questions you are answering all the time!
- Ask yourself, “What keeps yours clients or customers up at night?” What is their pain point? These answers are great topics for you!
- Plan around key dates, holidays and the seasonality of your industry. I always think about things like the holidays, back to school, tax-time, etc. Context is king.
Here’s the great news – blog posts don’t have to be the same every time you publish them. Here are a few of my favorite types of posts:
- Lists. People love a good list! Think in terms of 3, 5 or 7 tips – this makes it easy to write and easy for people to read and share.
- How-to’s. What do you know how to do that others don’t? How about: “How to list your house for sale with an agent?” or “How to hire the right real estate agent?” These may seem like basic questions, but for a lot of people – these are exactly the types of questions that keep them up at night!
- Checklists. What checklist could you create that would be of value to your clients? How about: “Your 30-Day Moving Checklist” or “Getting Your Kids Ready for the Big Move: Your Checklist!”
- Q/A or an interview: Reach out to local business owners or others in your industry. Let them know you want to feature them on your blog. If you are a new blogger, this is a great way to make connections and leverage their social footprint. Make it easy for the other person to respond – send them 5-7 questions, format your blog post and once you publish – send them the link and ask them to share it out to their networks!
- Company news. New product updates, new team members, any announcements – put it on your blog!
- Weekly round-ups. We all are consuming so much content. How about a post once a week with your top 5 articles of the week. Social Media Examiner does a fantastic round-up every week and you could too based on your industry!
- Product reviews. Have a new iPhone you love? How about a new Drone or a new App? Do a quick product review. Talk about the product, why you love it, what you use it for, and how people can purchase it!
Lastly, the question I get asked all the time about blogging is where to host a blog. I think your own website is always best, and I always recommend WordPress. But, if you don’t have that capability and you are ready to start today, I recommend starting with Medium or LinkedIn.
Ok, so now that you have started brainstorming content and have started to draft your calendar – now the real work begins!
Remember, consistent effort equals consistent reward. Also remember, that a blog is not just words on a page – it’s your opinion, it’s YOU. I know there are hundreds if not thousands of social media blogs you could be reading right now – but you are choosing to read my post because you want to know my thoughts and my ideas. I never take that for granted, which is why it’s so important for me to not just regurgitate what you could read anywhere but to give my expertise that my readers and my clients are looking for.
I can also tell you from personal experience, that the leads that come to me through my website are generally so much BETTER because many times they’ve been reading my blog and consuming my content for years. Instead of having to ‘sell myself’ every time I get on the phone with a prospect – many times they know exactly who I am from reading my blog, and they are selling themselves on why I should work with them. Imagine that!
I’d love to hear from you – have you been blogging? Just getting started? Did this post help you? Please leave me a comment below, or send me a Tweet! Also, if you aren’t a part of our Facebook community, we’d love to have you there!
P.S. Tired of the social media time suck? Ready to get smarter about how you use social media? Looking for more guidance on how to best use each social media platform? Check out our #GetSocialSmart Academy here!