- Planning Your Content Marketing Calendar for Every Season - April 3, 2020
When it comes to executing a successful content marketing strategy, you need to be organized from square one.
Coincidentally, square one is a super-star content calendar that encompasses all of your content marketing: from social media and blog posts to ads and email campaigns.
While everyone has their own method of organization, in my many years of working with and managing content, I’ve quickly learned that an efficient, clear, consistent calendar is a must.
The hour or two you put into planning your content marketing calendar will save you major headaches in the future. Not only will it help you get a bird’s-eye view of your overall plan, but it’ll also help your team stay organized with all of their different tasks as well.
That’s right, a truly great content calendar isn’t just for your writing team or your social media team—this is an opportunity to build a streamlined network of communications between whatever teams you want.
Your content calendar should organize and streamline your work efforts internally, but it will also help you make sure that your content is fresh, on-brand and engaging—and one of the best ways of ensuring this is through your use of evergreen and seasonal content.
So, let’s dig in: this article will go over how to create a content marketing calendar, the basics of evergreen content, and how to integrate seasonal marketing into your existing strategy.
Table of Contents
Why Do You Need a Content Calendar?
As I’ve said before, taking a short amount of time to build an awesome calendar will really pay off in the long run. It’ll keep your team members on the same page as well as allow you to visualize your content—and your content creation will benefit in both quality and consistency for it.
Plan your content calendar as though you’re planning a vacation.
Whether you have a full schedule, or you’re going to completely relax, you’re still going to need to know the basics of your itinerary (like what airport you’re flying out of, the time of your flight, the hotel you’re staying at, etc.)
Your evergreen content is the travel necessities you always need to bring with you, such as your passport, suitcases and your toiletries. Think of seasonal content as the specific items you’re packing for your trip, such as your swimsuit and snorkeling gear for the Bahamas or your rain boots and a copy of Yeats for Ireland.
Planning all of these things accordingly helps you go on the best possible vacation—no need to save room for stress in your carryon!
The Basics of Setting up Your Content Calendar
While I have my own methods (and I realize they may not work for everybody) these content calendar basics have helped me build great calendars for marketers and magazines alike.
Using Google Sheets or Excel
Google Sheets and Microsoft Exel are both good starting points for calendar-building.
In the following example, I’m going to show you how to build a content calendar for a marketing team’s content writing department on Google Sheets.
Here’s a look at a very pared-down, simple (but effective) calendar: there are columns for the piece, type of content, status, post date, subject, author, Google Doc link and notes.
You can add or remove whichever columns you think necessary. For example, you can add a column for the keyword the post should focus on or how the post should be tagged.
In this particular case, I thought I could make the sheet more user-friendly if I modified the “status” column to three checkboxes: Written, Edited and Published. Not only is this less hassle for those who would be updating the sheet, but it also gives users the opportunity to sort by certain criteria.
Another tip for making the sheet more user-friendly is freezing (in this case) the top two rows and the first column. While it doesn’t make a huge difference for this particular screen capture, imagine scrolling through this when you have over 100 rows and 15 columns; freezing certain columns or rows will make it easier for the user to navigate through various cells.
Once you’ve set up your columns and input your pieces of content, the next step is playing around with how you’d like to sort and filter the sheet. Just remember that other members of your team will have the same view of however you filter or sort it.
As you can see, this is a great option if you’re working on a small team and all of you are doing similar tasks. But what if your team grows or you start integrating other departments? You may need to look into an option that offers more flexibility and capabilities.
Where It Starts to Get Complicated:
Let’s continue to explore that idea—take the same team: their new internal initiative is to combine the efforts of three content departments.
This expanded team is comprised of content writers, a social media marketing team and an email marketing team. They have decided that after years of working separately from each other, they can pool content and get more out of all of their hard work.
Their new marketing goals are to take their fresh blog content and sync it with their social media content and newsletter content.
While they could still use their spreadsheet, there is going to be a huge information dump into that one sheet if three different departments are involved. This means an overwhelming amount of cells and info for team members to digest. It could also run the risk of repeating information.
This sheet, while rich with information, does have repeated content. Since the team’s new initiative is to use blog content in their social media posts and newsletters, there’s no need to have the same piece of content represented in three different rows.
One way to decrease this clutter is by dedicating one row to one piece of content (you may need to tweak your sheet a bit to accomplish this):
Another remedy for clutter is to use three different tabs all housed in the same sheet—but while it would make that information more convenient to find, all this accomplishes is taking three separate sheets and just putting them closer together. In other words, it’s cleaner, but there’s little opportunity for easy collaboration.
As you can see, the Google Sheet is beginning to feel more cluttered; this is where a project management tool will come in handy.
Using a Project Management Tool
Once you’re looking into cross-pollinating your teams, I highly recommend using a project management tool (while I’ve created calendars on Asana and Trello, I have to say my favorite tool is Airtable).
For more information, I have a full article on how to build your content calendar on Airtable for free—but for now, I’m going to boil it down to the points you need.
When you move your sheet over to Airtable, you’ll see off the bat that you have way more capabilities than your typical sheet. For example, you can choose from a drop-down of options (perfect for a status or creator column), and you’ll also be able to expand a cell for viewing long-form content.
Here’s what the marketing team’s Airtable looks like now:
It’s pretty much the same, if not slightly more chaotic than the sheet; but the real magic in Airtable is in its Views.
The different Airtable Views allow different team members to view and share the same information on the sheet in a way that’s more convenient for them. For example, the email marketing team could use the View in the screen capture above, or they could filter out, move, sort, group and hide information that’s not relevant to them and end up with a nice, clean overview like this:
For those of us who aren’t a fan of spreadsheets, Airtable also offers different methods of viewing information. Its Grid View (shown above) is great for a general at-a-glance, its Kanban View is a good option for status and tracking progress. And its Calendar View is probably one of the most valuable Views this marketing team could have.
The Calendar View creates an excellent overview of the day, week or year with the option to expand and see the full record with the click of a button.
There’s a lot more that this tool can do, but I think you can already see what a difference it could make for your team. If you need help with content marketing, you might try a content generation tool like GrowthBar and/or a copywriting agency like MarketSmiths.
While Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel are great for smaller teams, using a project management tool (in this case, Airtable) significantly increases the opportunity for collaboration between teams.
What Content Should You Cover?
Now that we’ve discussed how you should organize your content, let’s look into what sort of content ideas you should be generating.
There are mainly two types of content you should be concerned with: evergreen and seasonal.
Evergreen content is exactly what it sounds like: content that works no matter what time of year.
These pieces of content can take written, auditory or visual form—pretty much anything can be evergreen as long as the topic isn’t time-specific and it’s created with timelessness in mind.
Examples of evergreen content could be movie reviews, a recipe, a song or a resource page. It’s a more gratifying production for content creators because they know that what they’re making won’t go stale with irrelevant information in a short amount of time.
That being said, don’t treat this content like a post-it-and-forget-it situation; in fact, you should refresh and repost your evergreen content regularly if you don’t want it to get drowned out by competitive pages.
Evergreen content refresh ideas include:
- Reformatting the structure or appearance of the page
- Updating outdated content, such as facts, events, etc.
- Posting new photos and videos
- Make sure links are up-to-date
These are just a few ideas on how to keep your evergreen content current, fresh and click-worthy, but one of the most important points is to do this consistently (this is another great opportunity to use your shiny new calendar).
Let’s move onto seasonal content: seasonal content at its purest form is content that has a shelf life.
Here are a few examples of seasonal content:
- Major holidays (ie: New Years, Halloween)
- National holidays (ie: Pi Day, National Friendship Day)
- Internal milestones (ie: 10th anniversary, friends and family sale)
- Trend watching (ie: pop culture, current events)
- Trend watching for seasonal content ideas means keeping an eye out for topics that are, well, trending. This will keep your brand looking current and on top of your game—the one trick is that this content needs to be produced at a lightning speed or you’ll miss your window of opportunity.
As far as your calendar goes, I highly recommend making notes on seasonal dates you know you’ll want to create content for—especially for your social media team. It’s an easy way to come up with content concepts that are perfect for a quick tweet or Instagram Story.
Seasonal Content, Evergreen Concept
An important trick that often gets overlooked sort of combines evergreen and seasonal content. Let’s say you want your page to rank for “web design trends;” that’s a very competitive term, but you have a better chance of ranking if you tweak that term to “web design trends for 2020.”
This is essentially evergreen content that you’re spicing up with some seasonal variety. If you keep in mind that you’ll want to refresh this content yearly, there’s no need to create a new page (or new post) every single year.
All you need to do in this situation is to make sure your URL isn’t time-specific, so leave “2020” out of it but leave the year in the page title and heading. Then simply refresh the information and year on this page annually. By doing this, you won’t have to start from scratch (you can even leave your copy the same as long as the important information is updated) and compete against yourself for page rankings.
This technique works for seasonal content concepts as well—particularly for annual holidays and events. Why would you create a new page for “best fall coffee drinks,” “new restaurants to try this summer” or “top gifts for Christmas” every year when you can reuse the same page and URL and refresh the content?
Not only will this technique help you get more use out of your content, but you can plot it in your calendar way ahead of time, making it easier for you in the long-run.
Take our friends in the marketing team again; the content writing team has decided to repost or refresh a best-performing blog post every Wednesday and try to integrate more seasonal posts. Here’s what the content team’s calendar could potentially look like:
Note: While all of these screenshots are showcasing Airtable’s free version, its pro version allows you to color-code your calendar cards (and more).
Wrapping It Up
Once again, this is a very basic overview of the benefits of planning a well-rounded content calendar.
We’ve discussed everything from building a calendar that can meet the needs of your team and minimize confusion to trend watching and creating the best seasonal content. And as you can see, planning a content marketing calendar is a must for letting your content strategy reach its fullest potential.
To learn more about building your best content calendar, writing high-quality content and more, click here.