The blank page – that’s the blogger’s arch nemesis right?
It’s easier to write when you sit down and actually know what you’re going to write about than if you start with a blank slate.
It’s even easier when you can see your content flows fleshed out over months…when you know how your content is going to progress…when you know exactly how it’s going to support your goals.
That’s the magic of a content plan and a sales and traffic boosting content calendar.
It is possible to create a good 6-months to a year’s worth of content ideas if you have direction. And to have those content ideas directly serve to increase your sales and traffic.
And while it’s likely that you will pivot…that you will have a change in plans…that you will scrap some of those ideas that you come up with…
Those initial set of ideas that you come up with will form your placeholder for the year. You’ll be able to pull out any one and start working on it.
That in itself is immensely time saving compared to the anxiety and stress of not knowing what to write when you have a publication date looming over your shoulder.
I’ve been there. And it’s not a happy place to be in.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through the 6 key ingredients you need to create a traffic boosting content calendar. I use these very steps to come up with a good 6-months to a year’s worth of content ideas. Interested in diving deeper, sign-up for the VIP list of my upcoming book The One-Hour Content Plan.
The 6 key ingredients
This is what you need to start fleshing out your content calendar.
- Your content frequency
- Key dates (sales, launches, promotions)
- An understanding of the products and services you’re promoting
- Your Content Buckets
- A swipe file
- An editorial calendar
#1 Determine Your Content Frequency
This step is simple.
You need to know how many content pieces you need for 6 months or half a year.
When you can see the actual number and know what you have to work with, you’ll come to realize that it’s not that difficult to stock your content calendar.
How frequently do you plan to publish your content?
Here’s a guideline you can use so you know what you have to work with.
Keep this number in mind or write it out in your editorial calendar.
|Twice a week|
#2 List out Key Dates and Themes
The difference between Content and Content Marketing is the destination – Source
For every key event or date, there’s an end goal right?
- Sign-up for your challenge
- Sign-up for your VIP list
- Sign-up for your webinar
- Buy your affiliate product
- Buy your ebook
- Products and services you’re promoting or launching
You can’t possibly show up on that very day and say to your audience: Here’s my thing and go take action now.
A lot of people do this and it may work if you have a very engaged audience.
But you’ll drive more people to take action if you prime your audience in advance.
By locking in dates in your calendar, it allows you to work back on the content you will need to prime your audience.
Write down each month and what you tentatively have going on in that month.
Are you planning your content according to themes? Write the theme for the month as well as the goal for that particular content theme.
- Goal: Launch Challenge
- Content Theme: Prepare for your best year
- Goal: Launch social media membership site
- Content Theme: Planning Social media content with ease
- Goal: Promote Emily’s course
- Content Theme: How Instagram changed my business
This gives your content a destination or direction. Your readers are also led along with clarity.
#3 An understanding of the products and services you’re promoting
Your content has to gel with the products and services you have to offer.
It has to establish you as an authority and also help you build trust with your audience.
It has to show your audience the path to your products and services.Your content shows your audience the path to your products and services.Click To Tweet
Sounds like tall a order?
Not if you understand exactly what your audience needs to know prior to engaging your service or purchasing your product.
For instance, I have an ebook Opt-in Blueprint.
Here’s what someone needs to know before purchasing this:
- Why they’ve been thinking about opt-ins all wrong
- Mistakes they are making
- What the elements of a high-converting opt-in are
They have the ‘what’ and ‘why’. My ebook delivers the ‘How’.Your content gives the 'what' and 'why'. Your product delivers the 'how' Click To Tweet
So where do you start?
- You need to have an understanding of the pain points behind the products and services you’re offering,
- What are the in-sight pain points of your target audience?
In sight pain points are those that are clearly visible… Those that your target audience immediately identify without any explanation.
- What problems do your product and service help solve?
Start addressing these pain points and problems in your content and you will see that it’s easier for you to bag a sale or clinch a client.
That’s because there is alignment and your audience is able to directly see you as someone who can help them.
#4 Content Buckets
If you don’t have any products or services yet, that’s no excuse to not have a content calendar.
You can work plenty with just your content buckets.
Your content buckets are based on the purpose of your blog and who you help serve.
Within each content bucket you have sub-buckets or sub-categories and each in turn can be broken down into blog posts.
Imagine peeling the layers and going deeper.
Having these pieces in place helps you flesh out your calendar with ease.
Now you have some solid ways to come up with intentional content ideas. What will make this process even easier is if you start to have your own personal swipe file.
#5 What is a swipe file and why you need one to generate massive number of content ideas
A swipe file is filled with ideas that inspire you and that you’d like to explore further.
Huge BUT here… You’re not putting any interesting idea you come across into your swipe file.
You’re putting ideas that are aligned with your blog markers – what we defined in this post.
A swipe file can be an email folder, physical file or app. A simple Google spreadsheet will also do the trick.
Here are a few of my favorite ways you can start filling your swipe file.
1. Answer the Public
I’m getting a kick out of using this tool. Answer The Public shows you what questions people are asking about your topic.
Enter your keyword, select your country, and then the tool will display various types of questions that people are typing into Google for that keyword. A search for content plan led me to all these different search variations.
It also breaks it up into the how, why and what that people are searching for.
One of my favorite ways to search for ideas and swipe them at the same time is Pinterest. If you come across a pin image with an interesting title, click save and pin it to a secret board.
You can create a board to store blog post ideas and make it a secret board so that no one is able to see it.
Another useful tool is the Pinterest search bar. Once you type in your keyword, you will not only get a list of pins with similar topics but keywords that people are using to search along with the word that you just typed into search. These are the tiles that appear after you type in a search term. They’re in order from left to right of most to least searched.
3. Facebook Groups
Facebook groups are a wealth of information especially if your target audience hang out there. Use the “Search this group” box and type in your keywords (with quotes) to instantly see the type of questions they are asking.
Here are just a few snapshots of conversations I’ve discovered in Facebook groups about email lists.
Use these to craft content topics, lift the keywords for your opt-in freebies as well as landing pages.
The information you find will literally feed your landing pages and opt-in forms.
Use Buzzsumo to search a keyword or domain to get a breakdown of the most popular content in terms of social shares for the site. This will give you an idea of what type of content is popular or even going viral in that space as well as the comments readers are leaving.
Podcasts are really popular and there is almost definitely a podcast (or many) on the topic you are looking for. Do a search on iTunes for the keyword and filter to view the most popular episodes first. Once you find an episode that looks promising, search for the show notes and have a look at the angle and points mentioned. Use this as a pivot for your own ideas.
Soovle gives you a quick snapshot of the most popular searches in Amazon, Bing, Youtube, Answer.com, Yahoo and Wikipedia based on your keyword.
Ubersuggest helps you quickly find several new keyword ideas based on your original search.
Are there bloggers in your space that are bigger than you? Look at the content that’s popular on their site.
Use Buzzsumo to find out what their top posts are. Look at the comments on their posts to determine what your target audience is looking for.
#6 Setting up an editorial calendar
There are two aspects to setting up an editorial calendar.
1.Choosing the type of calendar
Will you use paper, a spreadsheet or a plugin?
There are many different options.
I personally prefer to track my workflow for each piece of content and see how it comes together in a monthly overview.
For instance, does the content need to be edited?
Are the visuals done?
Is it ready to be published?
I also prefer to look back at my calendar and track my analytics for the different content pieces.
I use the Create Planner which helps me do all of this in a singular place.
Here are some other options:
WordPress Editorial Calendar Plugin – This free plugin works right with your WordPress site, and you can drag and drop different posts if you want to make a change. Adding in a new entry is as simple as clicking on a date in the calendar and clicking on ‘New Post’. This will activate a quick pop-up which allows you to key in the title and details of the post.
Google Calendar/Spreadsheet – You can make changes and update them in real-time. You can also use IFTTT (If this then that) to automate updates and events in your calendar.
There are also paid options like Coschedule, which have more functionality such as scheduling social media posts once a blog post goes live.
Choose an option that you see yourself using in the long run and that you’re comfortable with.
2.Content Planning – Filling the Calendar
You’ve already done the heavy lifting by determining the type of content ideas that will feed your calendar.
now you just need to fill the pieces into the calendar.
Your sales + traffic boosting calendar in 6 steps…
It’s easy to assume that a content calendar won’t work for you…or that it’s hard…or that’s it’ll be difficult to stick to one.
But a well-defined content calendar can boost your traffic and sales. It ensures that content works for you to fulfill your business goals and vision.
It ensures that you know exactly why you’re creating a piece of content.
That piece of content either fits in with your goals for the month or quarter, helps to promote your products and services or inches your audience towards the change that your blog and business advocates. Those are all the ingredients of an intentional piece of content right?
So follow these steps to get started with your own content calendar and you’ll start to see your content creation time cut in half.