Many content marketers will tell you the importance of having an editorial calendar. I’ve advocated for them myself in the past – keeping an editorial calendar offers a number of clear benefits for business bloggers. But the fact is, I currently don’t run a strict editorial calendar. I plan out our schedule for a week or so in advance, but I don’t plan ahead any further than that. Why? Because I’ve found that editorial calendars have costs, too, and for me, at this juncture, the costs slightly outweigh the benefits.
Of course, this won’t be true for every blog or every business. Whether or not you need an editorial calendar, and how much you’ll benefit from one, will depend on many factors, such as the number of contributors, how often you publish new posts, whether or not you have advertisers to answer to, how long you’ve been blogging, and so on.
Below are some of the pros and cons of creating an editorial calendar to keep in mind when deciding whether you need one for your own blog and content marketing efforts.
The Advantages of an Editorial Calendar
Here are some of the pros of editorial calendars:
They keep you from scrambling for ideas at the last minute – Hastily written articles often suffer from subpar writing, outright errors, poor organization, and missing information. If you have holes in your schedule to fill, you may also end up writing about topics that aren’t the best fit for your audience. Planning out topics in advance gives you time to do proper keyword research. (Here are some tips on targeting keywords with blog posts.) You’ll also be more likely to write about evergreen topics rather than fly-by trends, and evergreen content tends to get more page views over time.
They’re pleasing for advertisers – If you monetize your blog with advertising, know that advertisers often like to know in advance what content they’ll be running against. (For example, a tanning salon probably wouldn’t want its banner ads appearing next to an article on the dangers of UV exposure.)
They help you manage multiple contributors – If you’re the only writer for your blog, you could conceivably keep a kind of rough editorial calendar in your mind. But many corporate blogs have multiple authors, in which case it’s helpful to have a resource that everyone can refer to so your posts are evenly spaced out, rather than jumbled up on the same days with gaps of inactivity in between. Perhaps more importantly, an editorial calendar prevents multiple contributors from writing about the same topic at the same time, unnecessarily duplicating efforts.
They help you align blog content with other corporate milestones – If your business is planning a big product launch or running a seasonal special, for example, it’s helpful to mark off days ahead of time for content that supports and promotes those events, and to write that content in advance.
They help you create and stick to running features – A good way to build in a returning audience is to create a column or running feature that follows a repeating format. An editorial calendar helps you stick to a regular schedule, be it a weekly, biweekly, or monthly feature.
The Disadvantages of an Editorial Calendar
They can be irritatingly constricting – Sometimes it’s important to be able to respond to what’s happening in the world and in your industry. If you’re locked into an editorial calendar, you won’t necessarily be paying attention to news, trends, and bursts of related conversation. You might also be less likely to follow your blog metrics – it’s important to try to repeat what works (in terms of driving traffic and conversions) rather than always randomly trying new things.
They only work if everyone complies – In the past, I have set up detailed editorial calendars stretching out months in advance, for multiple contributors. I even sent out reminders to each author when their next content piece was due. Alas, I was the only writer out of four or five contributors who stuck to the schedule. So it was a lot of work for not much return.
Plans can change – You know the joke about how to make God laugh. Planning your blog schedule too far in advance can turn out to be a big waste of time if marketing goals change, your job role changes, your business model shifts, and so on and so forth.
I find that these are really the only major disadvantages of creating and keeping an editorial calendar, but they’re significant enough that I prefer not to plan out our calendar more than 5-10 days in advance. But then, I’ve been managing the WordStream blog for almost three years, so I’ve gotten used to my own routines. Newer blogs may need more structure.
Have you found that an editorial calendar works for you? Share your experience in the comments.