January SEO content marketing challenge: Create an editorial calendar

Happy New Year! By now, you are probably knee-deep in emails, phone calls and a to-do list that seemed manageable before the break. But now. Not so much.

Sound familiar?

As early as the first week in January, it’s easy to let our good intentions (and resolutions) fall by the wayside. You may have swore to yourself and anyone else who would listen that you’d post three blog posts a week. And now you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to write a blog post – much less figure out what I’d write about.”

And yet again, your content marketing plan falls by the wayside.

I get it. I really do. Heck, I don’t know how many times I’ve meant to write a blog post – and then a client calls, the day is wacky, or (and I bet this sounds familiar,) I just don’t feel like writing.

This year, 2010, is the year to get over it. Here’s the secret to making it happen: Create an editorial calendar.

I’ve waxed poetic before on the benefits of editorial calendars. Basically, what they entail is sitting down and planning what you’ll write about, who’s responsible for the writing, and when you’ll upload the work. Editorial calendars force you to get your ideas out of your head and on paper. They force you to plan in advance (which is challenging for many “write by the seat of their pants” writers.) And they force you (or your writers) to be accountable. After all, if you have a blog post on, say, creating editorial calendars due on Tuesday – and you’ve known about this deadline for awhile – you don’t have much of an excuse to say, “I don’t have time.”

Creating a calendar is simple. Some people use their Outlook calendars to plan. Other people use spreadsheets. Plan on spending at least an hour every month researching the latest and greatest information in your industry, reviewing your site for pages that need updating and developing content ideas. Maybe you know that you’ll need to write at least two sales pages this month. Or you plan to create an article every week. The point is to get all plans down on paper so you can look at a calendar and immediately say, “If it’s Thursday, that means I’m writing the new home page.” Or, if you’re an editor working with multiple writers, you can instantly see who is writing what article and the associated deadlines.

The main kickback I get when I talk about “editorial calendars” is the time argument. If you are already time-strapped (and really, who isn’t,) spending an hour plus every month on “planning” can often make you feel like you should be doing something different. Say, responding to the 50 emails waiting for you. Or updating your Facebook status.

But the reality is, editorial calendars not only save you time – they can actually make you money. I’ve seen clients sit on old, stagnant pages for years because they “didn’t have time” to update them. However, the problem wasn’t one of time. It was overwhelm. Once they sat down, generated a content calendar and created a gameplan, they could more easily integrate the writing tasks into their normal day-to-day.

The result? Piping-hot fresh content that helps drive traffic and – more importantly – conversions. Isn’t that worth an hour a month?

So for this month’s SEO content marketing challenge, create an editorial calendar. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You could literally take a monthly calendar, hand-write in the writing deliverables and deadlines, and zip it to other folks on your team. That’s it.

And hey, I’m taking my own medicine this month. Before I started writing this post, I printed out a January 2010 calendar page and scribbled in my blog post topics through January 28th. Was it hard to sit for an hour and plan? Yes. Do I feel much, much better. You bet. Organization can be freeing like that.

Go ahead, try it. And let me know how it goes. It won’t be as painful as it sounds. Really.

Coming soon, I’ll be announcing my new SEO copywriting certificate program. If you manage folks who are great writers, but need to learn the SEO copywriting ropes – or if you’re looking for an in-house gig and want to differentiate yourself from other competitors – completing a certificate program could be the perfect solution. DM me on Twitter for more info, or contact me here!