We asked content development experts to tell us the biggest mistakes they see bloggers make in creating an editorial calendar – and what mistakes they made when they created their first editorial calendars. We heard from bloggers, PR professionals, SEO pros, and content strategists.
Take a look at the tips they offer for avoiding common pitfalls to create a successful editorial calendar.
Editorial Calendar Mistake: Neglecting Your Content Strategy
One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is to try to come up with ideas for their editorial calendars before figuring out their content marketing or editorial strategy. A documented strategy guides all the decisions that go into successful content: Who it’s for, why you’re creating it in the first place, what makes your content different from other takes on the topic, where you’ll publish, and how you’ll measure success.
Without a strategy, you’re creating your editorial calendar (and your content) in the dark.
Editorial Calendar Mistake: Losing Focus
This is especially true of you receive a lot of pitches from freelance journalists and PRs. Know what themes you want to publish on, and crucially, why that content makes sense for your business (affiliate revenue, brand awareness, campaign promotion, etc).
Don’t accept too many ideas from other people, and end up publishing too much content that’s interesting but wholly tangential to what you’re trying to achieve.
Editorial Calendar Mistake: Writing for the Wrong Audience
Write for your readers, not your industry peers. If you’re a freelance writer with a blog about freelance writing, it’s tempting to write content like “Best Ways to Land a Client” or “How to Handle Crappy Clients.” However, if you’re a freelance writer trying to grow your client base, those posts do absolutely nothing to help out your target market. It only helps out your industry peers who are also looking to get more clients.
Rather than simply thinking of interesting topics, think about what you ultimately want from your target audience and write copy that will get them to that point. For example, if you’re a mechanic wanting to grow clients through a blog, talk about the signs everyone should look for in a good car mechanic. Your blog should serve your readers (and potential customers) first.
Editorial Calendar Mistake: Too Many of the Same Type of Posts
A 1,000 word blog post is fine, and consistency is good. But don’t limit yourself or your editorial calendar to the same blogging “template”.
Mix it up with shorter blogs that more image based, have a video, podcast, etc.
Would you want to eat the same thing for dinner everyday? Probably not, so change it up every once in a while. Have 2-4 templates that you can go to.
Beware of Setting Unrealistic Expectations & Schedules
Overwhelmingly, the experts we heard from told us that the biggest mistake they see new and even seasoned content creators make is creating a schedule and expectations that are simply unrealistic. From overbooking a schedule to overestimating creativity – the experts suggest starting small and slow, and developing a rhythm that fits your actual workflow and leaves room for unexpected obstacles.
Here’s what they told us:
Since building out editorial calendars for clients is a constant priority each quarter, the biggest piece of advice we have is to “set realistic expectations.” It is easy to get excited and about the prospect of many different topics, but it is also easy to under estimate the actual time it takes to put together a high-quality and effective blog post for your audience.
Tip: Track all the time it takes from beginning to end, which includes your initial research, creating an outline, writing a first draft, proofing, revising, and publishing. Use this as a benchmark so that when you build out the number of proposed monthly posts in your calendar, you have a realistic vision on what you can accomplish.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen, one that’s caused many a blog to fold before its time, is starting with too ambitious of an editorial calendar. New bloggers tend to underestimate the time and mental energy needed to develop great topics, and then write about them in an engaging, useful manner. The pressure to publish can quickly overwhelm you, and then one of two things generally happens: You give up blogging altogether or start churning out half-baked content you aren’t terribly proud of.
Start small, with a target of one post a week or even every two weeks if you’ve already got a lot on your plate. You can always write more as you start to find your voice and get into a writing groove.
The biggest mistake to avoid when creating a calendar is putting too much on the schedule. When I first started blogging, I tried to produce content 5 days a week, which was a lot on top of a full time job.
It’s better to start small and have a manageable calendar with room for changes or updates, than to burn out on something you’re supposed to enjoy.
From Travis Reynolds
Director, Content Marketing, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance (provided by Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group) @ASPCAPetIns
An editorial calendar is vital to ensure messaging is on-target for your audience and brand. However, a great blog should also join the conversation on relevant trends.
To accomplish this, be sure that everyone understands the editorial calendar is written in pencil, not pen. Sometimes a planned post needs to be pushed to the next day to allow for a more timely subject.
Beware of Creating A Rigid Editorial Schedule
The second most common mistake that the experts warned us about had to do with creating an editorial calendar that is not flexible enough to respond to current events and changing customer interests. See what these experts have to say about the dangers of being too rigid in creating and following an editorial calendar:
The biggest mistake is trying to schedule out all content in advance and not leaving any room for creativity and spontaneity.
In the fast paced digital environment we live in, there is news and information breaking at all times that is time sensitive that can drastically change your content strategy. If your calendar is too booked with scheduled content, this won’t leave room for creativity and spontaneity.
When you are creating an editorial calendar, make sure there is flexibility available.
It seems counter-intuitive, but often scheduling 100% of your blog content too far in advance can be problematic. The most successful blogs are able to capitalize on newsworthy events related to their industry in a timely manner. So, if something happens that’s relevant to your audience, oftentimes content managers cannot react quickly due to all of their writers being at maximum bandwidth. By the time you rearrange your calendar and reallocate resources, your competition has already written a blog about it..
You’ll need to know realistically how much blog content you and your team can product each month if you’re creating a blog calendar. One solution is to leave about 15-20% of your blog content “flexible,” meaning the subject and timing aren’t set in stone too far in advance. Then, set up Google Alerts relevant to your business. When something breaking happens, you already have the extra bandwidth baked into your calendar and can focus on creating relevant, timely content before your competitors do.
When new information in a niche makes headlines, many bloggers and content marketers are slow to react to it, adding to the end of their editorial calendar rather than moving it up the queue. Building flexibility into an editorial calendar allows you to be among the first to share insights about a topic, increasing your authority and visibility in your field.
Additionally, when new findings update or re-frame a post you’ve previously written, use the opportunity to update or expand on an old post rather than let outdated information continue to live on your site.
It could be useful to use an editorial calendar, but the danger with that is that the content can become too static and too focused on what you want to talk about, rather than what your customer is paying attention to.
Stay focused on up-to-date and relevant topics in the news that affect your customers’ lives and don’t be afraid to keep things nimble to address hot topics as they come up.
Editorial Calendar Mistake: Only Including a Publish Date
We’re a blogging agency. We pretty much run on editorial calendars 🙂 But we’ve made some mistakes and learned from them over the last several years. We like to include a Due Date and a Publish Date. And we almost always leave at least one week as a buffer.
This requires patience. Most bloggers want to publish a post as soon as it’s written. But when you get into the habit of publishing you get a more consistent frequency. You can still research and write on the same day each week, but you have a buffer in case something comes up.
Editorial Calendar Mistake: Trying to Do It All
The most common mistakes I see new bloggers make are:
- The belief they don’t need an editorial calendar
- The belief they have enough ideas to write something once or twice a month
- The belief they can do it themselves
The truth is you can’t do it all and not everyone is disciplined enough to maintain a steady blogging habit. They also are unsure how to implement their blog and the tools to make it effective and produce the ROI desired.
The business owner/blogger has 2 options: 1) work with the specialist to create a quarterly calendar and then follow on their own or 2) hire the specialist to create and write the blog. Otherwise, it just won’t get done… I’ve seen it too many times.
Have you made some of these mistakes? Are there other mistakes that you’ve made that you want to warn fellow bloggers about? Share your thoughts in the comments below.