Planning your blog posts in advance has several major advantages, as I’ll show you below. Each December, I create an editorial calendar to plan all my blog posts for the coming 12 months.
This year, I’m using a spreadsheet to help organize all of this data. (Thanks @ReneeShupe for sharing that Google doc!) Let me share with you the spreadsheet as a template for your own use, and walk you through some of the ways I use each field.
Field #1: The Theme of the Month
I don’t need to explain that, but I try to make it simple, yet keep it as specific as possible. This sets the tone for each item in all the fields below. Planning my blog posts in advance saves me a lot of time and money, and means that I can even put most of this on a fully-automated system if I want to go away for a 4 week vacation. (Well, it could happen…)
Field #2: Current Events
While I often put the holiday of that month in this field, I might also include something like a large industry event, or Renee has used January as her “birthday specials”, as it’s her birthday on the 17th. (Capricorns are very organized people.)
Field #3: Product Launches
While this year I’m not committing to a new product coming out every single month, I’m certainly going to give it my best darn shot. In my case, I’m taking all of what’s in my live classes and turning each module into a product. This means that by about the time a person has worked their way through the March product, they’ll be ready for the one in April, and so on. Products might be a Kindle eBook, a self-study product, or a combination. I also try to switch it up a bit, so that if one month the product contains a lot of video, the next month is more about downloadable worksheets, etc.
Field #4: The Format and the Price
This way, I can (vaguely) predict sales and set some sort of target. I may also try to escalate pricing on a logical progression of the same theme or work, so that people aren’t hit with a dramatic price change from one month to the next.
Field #5: Blog Post of the Month
Here’s the meat of the sandwich: although I’ll have more than one post, this one represents my “anchor content” for that month. Knowing this far ahead of time helps me gather raw data and research, and talk to potential partners, for example, if I hope to interview someone for the article. I can also plan advertising around my topic based on rates that may be seasonal, and it allows me to buy advertising from other “long-tail” sources, such as other blogs, well in advance. This anchor post might also be the one that appears in that month’s newsletter as a feature article.
Field #6: List-Building Objective for the Month
This is a new field this year. I have a goal to double my mailing list(s) by the end of June. By setting a goal, and guesstimating how much uptake each strategy to expand the list might have (“OK, I think I can get about 20% of my list to share to friends, and assuming that 25% of those shares join the list, that adds up to X number of people…”) I can add more strategies and again, plan those out in advance.
Field #7: Advertising Target for the Month
This isn’t a number, but a platform. For example, I might decide to commit to a 3-month run of ads on Facebook, overlapped on the final month by promoted tweets. Or, not.
Field #8: Keywords for the Month
Perhaps this should be in the top spot. I arrange these somewhat to do with seasonal trends in keyword history, but mostly on my own priorities.
Field #9: Images for the Month
These might be key photos that I’ve taken or purchased, or they could be something I’ve Photoshopped up (inspirational expressions on attractive backgrounds work nicely), or it could be an infographic I’ve created. Or rather, an infographic that I create once I can make one that actually looks half-decent. Working on it.
Field #10: Video for the Month
While I’ve made no official New Year’s Resolutions, aside from to stop spreading myself too thin, I do want to try and integrate more video into my marketing. One really solid one per month that relates to my keywords and theme will have nuclear SEO power.
Field #11: Cross-Promotion for the Month
I’ve had some lovely people offer to be affiliates for my products, and vice versa. To avoid double-booking myself (like I accidentally did last spring – oops…) and have no overlap in focus products, I will perhaps adopt one per quarter, and try to avoid only one month at a time. We’ll see how this goes.
Field #12: Speaking Engagements or Classes of the Month
I’ve done as many as six classes per month. Rather than stretch myself again like that, I’m going to try to stick to one larger virtual class per month, based on the theme. Since the themes are arranged in a logical progression, people can work their way through my curriculum as the year progresses. (Although, I would never make each class a pre-requisite for the next. Too hard to maintain.) By sticking to my theme, I think it not only benefits me as an instructor, but learners as well.
And finally, Field #13: Guest Blog Posts of the Month
This not only refers to others who will blog on my site, but my posts on other sites as well, including this one. While I may not stick precisely to the theme on other sites, I may choose parallel topics. This allows me to do research once, and possibly use it twice, thereby saving a lot of time and effort. I might also split interviews, using half on my own site, and half on a guest blog post. Many ways this can be used.
Yay for planning! And yes, I did print this out as a mini-poster and tape it to the door of my office. Sometimes, paper gives a tangible sense of commitment to these things.
Happy New Year!