How to Use a Content Calendar

In Monday’s #WCBCChat a lot of members mentioned their content calendars being an essential tool for blogging success. We couldn’t agree more!

Many bloggers at one time or another will have writers block. How many times have you sat down on Sunday night to write Monday’s post and you just stare at the blinking curser on the screen? We’ll bet that it is more than once. Or your amazing plans to photograph a meal or an outfit or an interior but the lighting fails completely and your photos turn out really dark (not in a moody good way)? Or has a holiday snuck up on you and you’re posting content on the holiday itself when you wanted to post it a week in advance?

Creating and knowing how to use a content calendar can help solve those problems.

But a content calendar, if you don’t know what one is, can be a daunting thing to create. Never fear, we’re here to share the ins and outs of content calendars.

How to Use A Content Calendar

1. Select a Style

Essentially a Content Calendar is an organized list of all your blog posts. You can use a planner, a notebook, your phone’s calendar, Google Calendar or just sheets of paper but make sure that none of them get lost! Whatever form your content calendar takes, make sure there is room for the day of the week, date and post title at a minimum.

Best practices are to have one month in view at a time. This helps you to visualize the current and upcoming week’s posts at once.

One of WCBC’s Original Co-founders, Blair of The Fox and She, has the ultimate content calendar for sale in her Blog Shop – it has literally everything!

2. Fill It In

YAY you’ve picked a style of content calendar! Now what? You fill it in.

Decide what days a week you are going to post and then fill in the post titles. We recommend the following priority:

  1. Regular Series like Friday Fives or Wish I Knew Wednesdays
  2. Sponsored Content (you’ve agreed to post on a certain day with the brand)
  3. Any holiday or seasonal content
  4. Everything else

Seeing everything for the month in one place will help you to space out sponsored content so your readers aren’t overwhelmed by advitorial content. It’ll help you visualize how far in advance holiday related content should go live (rule of thumb, if it requires shopping or you want readers to shop from your site give them at least 2 business weeks).

Make note of which posts can be moved around or eliminated if a paid opportunity comes up! If the gig is right you don’t want to have to turn them away because you’re too organized ;]

3. Consider the Entire Posting Process

Now that your post titles are all in one place you can start to evaluate the entire process. Each post requires some or all of the following:

  • Writing Copy (the words)
  • Capturing Images (photos or videos)
  • Editing Copy
  • Editing Images
  • Affiliate Link Sourcing
  • Social Media Sharing

Copy or the content that you write is the basis of all your posts. With your titles outlined you have a sense for what you want to write about well ahead of it actually going live. This allows you to work in phases if inspiration doesn’t continuously strike. Start a post for next week today, revisit it tomorrow, add the pictures and finalize it the day after that.

Photography or videography should be completed at least few days in advance to allow you time to edit or, heaven forbid, reshoot. Think of ways that you can bulk photography and videography together. But can you and a friend photograph 4 outfits in one afternoon? Can you use a whole Saturday or Sunday to make and photograph recipes? Can you shoot multiple workout videos at once? Similarly editing photos can be done in bulk.

Affiliate Link Sourcing can be a major time suck but if affiliate links are an important factor in your blog’s monetization it is a necessary evil. Certain affiliate link providers allow you to mark favorites on their site for easier reference when you’re putting the final touches on the post. If your affiliate link provider doesn’t allow favorites then you can either A) do it as the last step before scheduling your post or B) start a spreadsheet or document with the links saved in one place.

Social Media Sharing can also be a major time suck. You innocently logged into Facebook to schedule the post to share on your page and WHAM 17 minutes later you’re down a rabbit hole of some high school classmate’s recent trip to Hawaii. Scheduling tools like Hootsuite, Buffer and ITTT help eliminate that risk (but on Facebook these posts get buried by the algorithm because they’re not “original” and Hootsuite’s Instagram reminders are usually 30-40 mins late).

Your content calendar unfortunately can’t eliminate the time it takes to write a post but it can hopefully help you streamline things!

4. Use a Content Calendar Wisely

You’ve got all your titles, you understand your whole posting process and you’ve even found ways to streamline it but you’re not finished with that content calendar yet. It should become your constant companion. Reference it often, make notes on what posts were more successful than others and incorporate similar content into future months.

An organized content calendar will actually help inspire creativity. You don’t have to have all the posts written several weeks in advance but getting a day or two ahead will add flexibility to your day-to-day real life! Use a content calendar to keep you focused on the most important content to create.

5. Make It Work For You

Content calendars are kind of like Resumes – everyone’s is unique and everyone has an opinion about how they should be organized. The important thing is that your content calendar works for you! If you want to go crazy with color coordination – do it! If you want to include checkboxes for scheduling everything to social media – do it! If you want to check the weather for the week and make notes so you know when it won’t be waaaay to cold to shoot an outfit outside – do it! Make your content calendar work for you.

What other tips do you have for effective use of a content calendar? How do you use yours? What other questions do you have? Let us know in the comments!