We talk a lot here about the editorial process for content marketing, specifically how to document your posts in an editorial calendar. But we wanted to break down what this looks like in practice. After all, we want to teach you tried-and-true tactics, emphasis on the tried part.
And since we have recently ironed out a spiffy new editorial process, I thought it was the perfect time to take you through it, show you some examples, and hopefully inspire you to take your editorial calendar to the next level.
But first, I want to talk about why this even important at all.
Why an Editorial Calendar
This is NOT the first time DM has covered the benefits of an editorial calendar. And personally, I am a major, major fan. And creating an editorial calendar does not need to be complicated or difficult. But it is important.
In fact, maintaining a well-organized editorial calendar can make or break your content process, especially if you are a larger team (or a one-person team), and even more if you are trying to integrate linking strategies like the Content Cluster Strategy.
See, the trick is tracking things. The entire purpose of an editorial calendar is keeping track of the things that are important to YOUR business. By documenting key information about your blog posts or content, you enable yourself to:
- Spot and fill subject matter holes
- Know what keywords you’ve targeted in the past
- Easily navigate to older posts
- Find old posts that are good to update
- Track correlations between traffic changes and what you’ve published
- Plan days, weeks, and even months in advance
- Easily find posts for internal linking
But knowing something is important and actually doing that important thing are two entirely different ball games. This is why I’m giving you the inside scoop on how we, the DigitalMarketer content team, keep our editorial calendar in line and our process running smoothly. Well, as smoothly as it can 😉.
What We’ve Tried
But before we get into the meat of it, I want to quickly break down a couple of the other things we’ve tried in the past and why they didn’t work. That way, you can learn from our mistakes instead of having to make them yourself.
Now I have nothing against Monday. It can be a really effective and streamlined project management system. But when we tried to integrate our editorial process into Monday, it just kind of fell flat.
Part of the problem was human (isn’t it always?). Our team was simply bad at moving things around, and since not everyone on the content team used the program regularly, we ran into a problem with keeping it up to date.
We also tried to get Monday to do something that it just wasn’t well suited for: long term documentation. Trying to scroll through hundreds of ideas, and then hundreds of already published posts was confusing and messy. It just didn’t jive with us the way we wanted it to.
So when you look for a software solution, make sure you are finding a program that your whole team is excited about and will use consistently.
2. Just Using the Google Sheet
Remember the Ed Calendar sheet I showed you before? Yeah, there was a while, a long time really, where that was all we had. And it was really, really great for the exact thing Monday was not great for: long term documentation.
But trying to organize the actual content creation process in a 1000-row Google Sheet was nearly impossible. And when we didn’t have any other solutions, we simply didn’t document the creation process.
Who was working on what and the status of any given post lived only in my head. And if you’ve ever been in my head, it can be a cluttered and chaotic place. So I would—more frequently than I would like to admit—lose track of posts or forget whether a post had been edited.
Clearly, this was not sustainable.
Then earlier this year, one of the content team members found this post, that talked about using Trello, a task management software, for an editorial calendar. Many of us had already been using Trello for our own personal to-do lists, but once we saw its workflow capabilities, we knew we had to try it.
And now we’re hooked.
What We Use Now
I knew, when we began our calendar in Trello, that I didn’t want to run into the problems we’d had with Monday, so I decided on a two pronged approach.
First, we have our content creation workflow in Trello.
Then, we have our documentation archive in our favorite Google Sheet.
And to show how this process works, we can follow the actual path this particular post took in its creation. It’s about to get very meta.
All of our posts start in the same place. Ideation. Someone has a thought, or brings a customer content request, or I notice a gap in our content, and we post it in the ideation list in the Trello board.
Once we decide that, yes, we are actually going to write and publish that post, it moves on to the outline (usually if it is an external writer) or the writing stage. The card for that post gets a little more information in this stage, like a description and a label (labels can be any categorization you want to track—for example we label content based on its end goal, like cluster or promotional or fun) and a creation checklist, so team members know when it is their turn to take the baton.
Once the post is written, it keeps moving down the line to editing, gets a publish date, and then goes to Package Creation. The package is what we send to the person in charge of uploading the post. It usually contains the SEO information, document file, and any images for the post.
Some of these use paid Power-Ups, like the due date (you’ll see this in action in a moment) and the custom fields. But I will show you how you can do similar things without paying any money later on in this post.
Then, the uploader puts it into WordPress and either schedules or immediately publishes the post, moving the Trello card down the line respectively.
Once the post is all published, we make sure to document all of the important information (URL, keyword, content cluster, author, date, CTA, etc.) in the Editorial Calendar Google Sheet. That way, we can easily do a command-F search to find the post in the future.
When it comes to scheduling out posts in the future, we use the Calendar Powerup in Trello, which lets me set the “due date” i.e. the publish date.
That is our editorial process! This is still a relatively new process for us, so odds are, we will run into kinks and find gaps as we continue to use it, but no process should be static.
And since some of our process included paid tools, I wanted to break down some free ways to get the same results.
Free vs Paid Organization
Content marketing is something every brand can and should do well. But I know that for many businesses, the idea of investing a bunch of money into something that is more of a long game when it comes to ROI can be hard to swallow.
So in order to keep the barrier to entry low, here are a few ways you can get the same results without spending a ton of money (or in this case, any money).
While we do use paid Power-Ups, like the Calendar, Custom Fields, and even Slack notifications, none of this is necessary for a functioning Trello editorial calendar.
Instead of using custom fields for marking keywords and author and such, simply put all of that information in the Description field for a post card.
And instead of using the calendar Power-Up, use a good-old-fashioned white board to write out when posts are publishing, or just add them into the archive Google Sheet in advance, if you prefer digital documentation.
Whatever your budget, and no matter what your business is, maintaining your editorial process and documenting your content’s information is going to help you create better content faster. So get out there and set up your own editorial process so you can fly even further in your content marketing efforts.