April 9, 2014
Let’s face it, sometimes writing a post is the easiest part of a blogger’s job. The tough part, as every blogger can attest, is coming up with the ideas for those posts. You want to write about something relevant to your audience but also unique, something that hasn’t been covered 100 times before. You want the topic to be timely yet also evergreen, a post that could be shared for months or years to come. And of course you’d like to add some smart, well-reasoned thoughts to the conversation.
That’s a pretty tall order for one blog post, let alone hundreds each year. Faced with this task, you might be staring at your editorial calendar in utter despair.
Well, good news: It doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to fill up those blank spots in a matter of minutes, not days, and all it takes is creativity and a commitment to use the right tools. Read on for tips on how to get your editorial calendar ready in a jiffy.
Why Use an Editorial Calendar?
First, let’s quickly outline the reasons you should be using an editorial calendar. First and foremost, it keeps you organized. The editorial calendar is basically a list of topics for your blog laid out by days. It ensures that you know what you’re writing about, and you can check back through your calendar to make sure you haven’t covered the same topic too recently or used the exact same title for a blog post.
A good editorial calendar contains:
- The dates for every entry you intend to publish
- The title of your post
- Resources for that post
- Contact information for guest bloggers, if you employ them
- Dates when you’ll be away and need to stock up on content in advance
- Keywords for your post
- Tags for your post
- The status of the post (whether it’s been published or not)
- How you plan to promote your post
You may choose to use a simple Excel sheet as your editorial calendar. Or you can use a service practically designed for editorial calendars, such as Trello.
Using Topic Generators
Now that we’ve established the importance of an editorial calendar, let’s move on to how to fill it up. One fun resource is using online topic generators. Clearly lots of bloggers are in need of blog topics, since these little tools have popped up all over the web. You will need to have your keywords picked out; you plug them into the tool, and out pop a bunch of different suggested topics.
Let’s use an example here. HubSpot’s blog topic generator asks for the user to type in three nouns, then promises to produce “a week’s worth” of blog titles. Here’s what I typed in:
- Social media
- Apple juice (sometimes it helps to think outside the box!)
Here are the topics suggested for my blog titles:
- 10 Quick Tips About Twitter
- The History of Social Media
- 10 Signs You Should Invest in Apple Juice
- Think You’re Cut Out for Doing Twitter? Take This Quiz
- 14 Common Misconceptions About Social Media
All five titles are unique and definitely do-able. Of course, you still have to write the post, but it’s easy to plug those titles into your editorial calendar, secure with the knowledge that there’s more than enough information out there to support your post.
In addition to HubSpot, I really like Portent’s content idea generator. It requires only one keyword, but you can try a bunch of them and get 15 topics in less than a minute. I’ve also used ContentForest’s Title Tool, which I find really useful when I have writer’s block. Again, it takes only one keyword but it will generate up to 10 topics in a second.
Ask Your Followers
People love to feel connected to bloggers, and inviting them to help choose the topics you write about is a great way to foster that connection. Use your social media accounts to allow readers to tell you what they want to read about. Post an open-ended question, such as “what topics would you like to read more about on the blog?” or “what are you interested in learning about [your niche topic]?” You’ll receive dozens of responses, and you can craft post titles based on those suggestions.
An added bonus is that you know readers really will be engaged with these posts, because they asked for them specifically. It’s always good when you know people will be interested in your topics.
Have you ever come across a story on another site and thought “wow, that would make a great blog post!,” only to realize three weeks later, when you finally get around to writing the post, that you forgot to save the article? Don’t let that happen again. Find a place, whether it’s an app like Evernote or a Word file where you cut and paste things, where you put all your blog inspirations.
Then, when you’re writing up your editorial calendar, you’ll have lots of material to comb through and inspire you. Don’t worry about coming up with the exact blog topic when you save the source material. That will ensure that you’re grabbing from a wide variety of sources and not holding anything back from consideration.
Use Your Analytics and Archives
Analytics and archives can be a huge help when trying to generate new topics. From your analytics, you can discover which posts generated the most traffic and the most social media engagement. Try to build on the topics addressed by those posts to further drive traffic.
From your archives, you can find posts that generated lots of comments and cull the comments sections for ideas for follow-up posts. Even if you find your post being criticized, look at it as a great opportunity to post again on a topic that has impassioned people on both sides.
By being clever, using the right tools, and engaging your audience, filling up your editorial calendar can be a snap. You just have to know where to look.
Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like McElroy Metal succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.