We live in a world of endless options. Seriously, the city I live in has a “build your own doughnut” shop. No regular old glazed there, no sir. It’s genius, really, but sometimes a life full of restaurants with 37 page menus (I’m looking at you, Cheesecake Factory) and the never-ending options for what kind of lunchbox to buy your kid is just too much to handle.
And it’s no different in the digital space. We may not have a multitude of doughnut topping options, but boy do we have choices.
Very few arenas are as jam packed as the editorial calendar planning playing field. You know that mapping out an editorial calendar will save you from last minute work and tons of headaches but the task of simply picking a system to make it happen is more than overwhelming.
That, my friend, is not what we’re going for here.
Creating an editorial calendar in a system that will work for you is Step #1 to feeling like the pro you already are. So we’re taking a dive into some of the most popular options for editorial calendar planning so you can make an educated decision and move on with your blog.
Ready? Let’s jump in.
Why You Need a Tool
“But why can’t I just use my list of blog post ideas and publish them whenever they’re written??”
I hear you. I was you. And then I saw the light.
Yes, you can keep on writing blog posts the day of (or week of) publishing and not have a plan in sight. But just because something is working doesn’t mean it works.
An editorial calendar can do a few things for you:
1) It gives you an idea of the content you want to cover and makes sure you aren’t straying from your core concepts.
Your blog audience wants to hear about certain themes from you and, as Tara Gentile shared in Episode 9 of the Reach podcast, even if you want to talk about other topics, your blog is best served by getting narrow and consistent in your message.
“For people who are maybe they've doubled in some lower ticket things, or they've been offering one on one services, and they're looking for how to create something more leveraged or scalable, the first piece is figuring out what are the themes, or what are the ideas behind what you are already doing. Which parts of those are most compelling to your audience? They create the best results. They get the most people talking. They get the most people excited.
Which of them are the most compelling to you? Which are the ones that you get most excited about, the ones that you enjoy talking about the most? Take that little Venn Diagram. Pinpoint the parts that overlap, and use those as the themes for your content over and over again. It doesn't mean you have to write about the same thing every day. You can write about completely different things every day or every week, but you're still pointing back to those themes.” – Tara Gentile
2) Getting ahead means never being behind.
Seems like a simple concept but in practice it is LIFE CHANGING. Imagine waking up on the day your posts regularly go live and knowing everything is set and publishing itself. Imagine treating yourself to lunch with a friend that day instead of frantically writing, editing, and emailing out a brand new post. Imagine closing your laptop at night and diving into your favorite novel knowing next week’s blog posts are ready to go.
Want to know freedom as a blogger? Start planning ahead.
3) Your content can help you make more money.
Want to talk about life changing stuff? How about more money in your bank account all because your content is doing the work of pulling your readers toward your paid products? Try this: plan out a month of content all talking about one of your core concepts and then, bam!, at the end of each of those posts have an offer to join your course or coaching program discussing that very topic. This puts your content to work for you and your audience expects it. Even better, they want it. Your content can build trust and desire for more from you and your paid offerings are the best way to give them exactly what they want.
What Kind of Tool Do You Need
You’re convinced that you need an editorial calendar (hooray!) but what, exactly, do you need from the tool you end up choosing. For that you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I want to manage it directly from my blog?
- Do I need to work with others on my calendar or is the plan all mine?
- How do I work best? Checklists and to-dos or do I prefer something more visual where I can see everything mapped out?
- Would it be better to see things in a calendar view?
- How much content are we talking here?
Once you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be better equipped to sort through the options for editorial calendar tools. Ready for that step? Read on.
Now there’s the (occasionally overwhelming) choice to make about how the heck you’re gonna build your editorial calendar. While the options are endless, here are 6 of the most popular choices for bloggers:
This is what we use and are loving it. Asana is where many other teams here at ConvertKit track tasks and to-dos (customer success, migrations, etc.) so it made sense to keep using the same system everyone was already comfortable with.
Asana is an excellent solution if you’re:
- Already using it as your project management tool
- Looking for a free option
- Really into checking off boxes (so satisfying)
Plus we really like that you can toggle back and forth from list view to calendar view and import your “tasks” (aka blog post titles) into a Google Calendar or iCal. So. Many. Options.
ConvertKit customers and good friends of the Reach podcast, Think Creative Collective, have figured out Trello to the max and include it in their editorial calendar planning. In fact, they’ve recently distilled everything they know about Trello into an easy to follow e-course that walks you through every card, board, and use case you can imagine.
Trello works more like your favorite sticky notes than a checklist (the biggest difference between it and Asana) and, since it’s also free, it’s really about picking the option that makes that happy noise in your brain when you look at it. For many bloggers, that pick is Trello.
CoSchedule offers some incredible free tools we’ve mentioned before but if you want an all-in-one solution for your editorial calendar from planning to publishing to social media, CoSchedule could very well be the answer you’ve been looking for. While their main platform (the editorial calendar and scheduler) isn’t free, at $10/month it’s a very cost effective way to plan out all of your content, especially if you don’t have a team to help you manage all of the moving parts and pieces.
It should be noted that CoSchedule is a plugin built to work directly with your WordPress website. Now there is this guide to how one blogger uses CoSchedule with Squarespace (and you can find other with a quick Google) but it’s designed for WordPress first and foremost.
Want to schedule and plan your blog posts just like Amy Porterfield? Of course! She’s a content genius and you, my friend, are in luck. Amy doesn’t employ a fancy editorial calendar, just a simple Google Calendar so she can see everything at a quick glance.
Amy says she uses Google Calendars over other systems for several reasons. She can:
- access the calendar from any computer that has an Internet connection
- access the calendar from my phone.
- easily share the calendar with team members.
- merge, show, or hide different calendars at any time.
- have multiple calendars for different purposes inside of one account
- color code each entry on the calendar
- put a ton of information in the description area
- attach images and other items to the each entry
- easily move any blog post to a different date if something comes up that alters my schedule
- incorporate tasks into my calendar
Plus they're free!
Want Amy’s exact setup? Head here to make it yours.
If you’re as obsessed with Google Docs as much as we are, this option could fit well into your workflow. A Google Sheet (or spreadsheet, as you might call it) can keep your content organized, your plan efficient, and allow you to easily share it with other team members if needed.
One pro who compiles (almost) everything on the internet into her weekly email called the Useletter is Amy Lynn Andrews. Since one of Amy’s claim to fame is breaking down complicated Internet things, she created a video on her blog to walk you through her Google Sheet and the process she uses every week (it’s that video above). Of course, your Google Sheet could be more simple or more complex depending on your needs so be sure to personalize it and make it your own!
WordPress Editorial Calendar Plugin
To round things out, how about a simple solution for your WordPress blog? No social media scheduling or connections to Google Analytics. No intense spreadsheets or long checklists. Just a simple solution to a seemingly complex problem: is my blog scheduled the way I want it to be?
After years of hacking together editorial calendars for our clients, using Excel spreadsheets and Google Docs, we wound up in a long discussion with our close friend (and brilliant engineer) Zack Grossbart.
Beyond our mutual excitement about blogging and the power of editorial calendar strategy, we shared a passion for open source projects and wanted to give back to the WordPress community. We also wanted to develop a tool that would make our lives and coaching our clients more efficient, easier, and simply cooler.
Looking to be more efficient, have blogging be easier, and (duh) be cooler? Grab this free plugin to simplify your editorial calendar right away.
Step Up Your Game
Choosing (and using) an editorial calendar tool will change the way you approach your blog – I promise. You’ll start to see the big picture and use your blog to it’s greatest potential. You’ll find freedom (and free time!) in planning ahead. Most of all, you’ll enjoy the planning process more when you choose a tool that is a perfect match for your workflow.
Did we miss an editorial calendar tool you just love? Tell us what you’re using in the comments below so we can truly make this the complete guide for bloggers everywhere.