In the early days of search engine optimization, cramming as many keywords as possible into a piece of content was the best way to reach the top of the search results. Although keyword stuffing was effective, it also made online content difficult to read, causing a backlash among search engine users who were tired of having to wade through page after page of poor writing to uncover a helpful article or blog post. Now you need to maintain a delicate balance between meeting the needs of human readers and making sure your site is optimized for the search engines. A content calendar can help you do that.
What Is a Content Calendar?
A content calendar, also called an editorial calendar or a content plan, is a schedule that lays out exactly when and where you’ll publish articles, blog posts and other types of content. If social media is part of your marketing strategy (and it should be), you can also use a content calendar to plan out your social media posts for the next few months.
Using a content calendar has many benefits for product-based and service-based businesses:
- If you have your content planned several weeks or months ahead of time, you’ll never have to scramble to come up with an idea for an article or blog post.
- Developing a content calendar makes it easier to carry out your SEO strategy.
- An editorial calendar can help you stay organized, eliminating the problem of publishing duplicate posts on the same site or forgetting an important publication deadline.
- Content plans increase consistency, ensuring your site has a steady supply of fresh content to attract new visitors and improve your search engine rankings.
- Creating an editorial calendar makes it easier to see gaps in your content marketing strategy.
- If you work with multiple writers, a content calendar makes it easier to assign work and track each piece through every step of the editorial process.
How to Create an Editorial Calendar
1. Conduct Keyword Research
Although your content needs to appeal to humans, it also needs to contain keywords—words and phrases that tell the search engines what each page is about. Primary keywords are the terms you plan to target with your SEO strategy. Ranking well for these keywords can drive thousands of new visitors to your site, increasing your revenue and helping you build a stronger brand. Secondary keywords provide more context about your website. They often relate to a user’s search intent, or the reason a person conducts an online search. For example, a recipe website might use “chicken recipes” as a primary keyword and “30-minute chicken recipes,” “chicken recipes with cheese” and “slow cooker chicken recipes” as secondary keywords.
If you’ve never done keyword research before, here are a few ways to uncover search terms that are relevant to your website and your readers:
- Use the Google Keyword Tool to search for ideas. When you enter one or two words in this tool, it returns a list of keywords you can incorporate into your content.
- Visit competitor websites to see what keywords other companies in your industry are targeting.
- Consult with subject matter experts to find out what topics are most important to the people in your target audience.
- Enable Google’s autocomplete feature to find out what kind of information people need about your product, service or industry. When autocomplete is enabled, entering a short search term helps you find longer keywords that you can use as part of your content strategy. For example, entering “all-terrain bike” brings up “all-terrain bike vs mountain bike,” a keyword that lends itself to an in-depth comparison of all-terrain bikes and mountain bikes.
- Survey customers to find out what kind of information they need.
2. Sort Your Keywords
Once you have a long list of keywords, sort them according to search volume and competition to determine which ones you want to target first. Your top priority should be keywords that have high search volumes and low levels of competition, as it’s easier to rank for these keywords than to rank for terms that have high search volumes and high levels of competition. As you sort your keywords, move terms with low search volumes to the bottom of the list. You shouldn’t ignore them entirely, but you don’t want to put a lot of effort into targeting a keyword that only gets 10 or 20 searches per month.
3. Develop Content Titles
Page titles are extremely important as they tell readers what your content is about and give them a reason to keep reading. Titles also help search engines understand the focus of your website and determine if the content is relevant for specific keyword searches. Although a good title should include your primary keyword, it should be written with your human readers in mind. If a title isn’t compelling, few people will take the time to read the entire page.
To make your titles as appealing as possible, follow these tips:
- Explain exactly what the reader will take away from the article.
- Promise to solve the reader’s most pressing problem.
- Use numbers to help readers understand what to expect.
- Share news that you know your audience will care about.
- Ask a question.
- Incorporate adjectives to help your titles appeal to the reader’s emotions.
4. Schedule Your Content
One of the most important steps in creating a content calendar is putting each piece of content on the schedule. The calendar should follow a consistent publication schedule, whether that’s once per day or once per week. For SEO purposes, it’s best to publish as often as possible, but frequency is less important than quality. Publishing two great posts twice per week is a lot better than publishing low-quality content on a daily basis, especially when it comes to building your reputation and establishing your website as a resource for readers.
For each title, write down a target publication date and note where you plan to publish the content. When you’re done, you’ll have a schedule you can follow for several months or even an entire year. If you plan to work with a freelance writer, order several pieces of content at a time to ensure you don’t miss any of your deadlines.
5. Write Your Content
Once you have a content calendar, you have to follow it. If you’re developing the content on your own, make sure your team understands who’s responsible for writing, who’s responsible for editing and who’s responsible for making sure the content gets published on time. If you’re not sure what to write, check your keyword list and then take a look at what other companies are doing. Read industry publications to find out what problems the people in your target audience are facing. Survey your customers to determine what they want to know about your products and services.
Once you have an angle in mind, determine what type of content you want to write. Articles and blog posts are some of the most popular types of content, as they tend to be fairly short and focused, but there are many other types of content you can publish.
- Case studies
- Buying guides
- Industry reports
- White papers
- Customer profiles
- News releases
- How-to guides
- Tip sheets
- Fact sheets
Have a few people read the content before it goes live to make sure it’s factually accurate and doesn’t have any errors that could cast doubt on your industry expertise.
If you plan to work with a freelance writer or a marketing agency, use your editorial calendar as a road map for managing workflow. Give writers as much lead time as possible to ensure they can research each topic thoroughly and consult industry experts when necessary. Build in plenty of time for editing the content and making sure it meets your expectations.
Content Calendars and SEO
An editorial calendar is a valuable organizational tool that can keep your marketing team on track when it comes to connecting with potential customers. It’s also essential for implementing your search engine optimization strategy. A content calendar can help you improve your rankings in several ways.
Search engines consider dozens of factors when determining how to rank pages for specific search terms. One of those factors is query deserves freshness (QDF), which applies to topics that change frequently. The QDF factor is the reason news sites tend to rank well for search terms related to current events—the more often they publish, the more accurate and up to date the content is likely to be. Your SEO content calendar can help you increase your freshness factor by ensuring you publish content on a consistent schedule.
Writing longer pages allows you to provide in-depth information on topics of interest to your audience. As a result, long pages tend to have better search engine rankings than short pages, which tend to be superficial and provide less value. One study showed that the average result on the first page of Google was around 1,400 words long, highlighting the importance of publishing in-depth content. Using an SEO content calendar can help you take advantage of this ranking factor by ensuring you have plenty of lead time to work on longer pages of content. Without a content plan, you may find yourself dashing off short pieces of content just to get something published.
Google considers the use of semantic keywords when determining if a page is relevant for a specific keyword search. Semantic keywords are words that are closely related to your primary keywords. They typically provide more context, making it easier for both readers and search engines to understand what your pages are about. If you sell sneakers, for example, you might use “running shoes,” “athletic shoes,” “athletic trainers” or “walking shoes” as semantic keywords. When you create a content calendar, you can list semantic keywords for each page title, ensuring your writer knows what phrases to include.
In some cases, a site may be penalized for having multiple pages with identical content. Even if you make a few edits to each page, the search engines can tell that these pages are nearly identical, resulting in lower search engine rankings and fewer visitors to your website. Without a content calendar, it’s easy to publish multiple pages on the same topic without realizing it. Creating an SEO content calendar keeps you organized, ensuring you have just one page on each topic and helping you avoid duplicate content penalties.
The search engines consider many factors when assessing the quality of a page. These factors include grammar, spelling, reading level and the availability of supplementary content. If you don’t have a content calendar, it’s difficult to stay organized, making it more likely you’ll publish content with typos, grammar errors or other issues that could hurt your rankings. When you have an editorial calendar, you know exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it, eliminating the need to rush through the writing and editing process.
When search engine crawlers visit your website, they look for your keyword in several places: the H1 tag, the page URL, the title tag, the description tag and your H2 and H3 tags. This helps a search engine determine if your page is highly relevant to the target keyword. Because creating a content calendar requires you to do in-depth keyword research, it can help you make sure you have the right keywords in the right locations on each page.
Get Expert Help with Content Development
Working with a content creation agency takes all the guesswork out of writing articles, blog posts, white papers, case studies and other types of content, leaving you free to focus on generating revenue and making your business as profitable as possible. Crowd Content has expert writers ready to develop high-quality content that appeals to your audience and improves your search engine rankings. Contact us now to learn more about how we can help you grow your business.