If you’re having trouble keeping your blog on track, a calendar may be just what the blogger ordered. We always have ’em for The Daily Post and The WordPress.com Blog — they help us organize and space out the topics we want to cover, and they let us relax knowing that come April 5th, 15th, and 25th, post ideas will be at the ready. We may re-organize as we go or toss in new posts based on how the blogular winds are blowing, but we can trust in the basic structure.
Even if you’re not posting every day, a calendar can help you stay motivated, develop good blogging habits, and grow your readership. Take a few minutes to work through these five steps, and sketch out a solid 90-day blogging plan.
1.Define some goals.
Goals don’t just focus on how often you’d like to post, although they certainly can. Here at The Daily Post, our goals for a month might be “Expand our photography coverage,” “Reinforce how embeds can add life to posts,” and “Publish 1980s music-themed prompts, including a minimum of one Rickroll,” along with “Post every day.”
Yours might be something like “Post the recipes I inherited from Aunt Mary” or “Chronicle my grad school application process” in tandem with a quantifiable goal, like “Post twice a week” or “Gain 50 new followers.” All your blog goals — big or small, measurable or ephemeral, Rick Astley-related or not* — will inform your calendar.
2. Pick a reasonable posting frequency.
A reasonable posting frequency is not your dream frequency, it’s the frequency you can actually maintain. It takes into account the time you have to dedicate to blogging, as well as the fact that blogging is about more than posting; you’ll also spend time tweaking your theme, poking around your settings, and reading others’ blogs, whether or not you intend to when you log in.
You can always publish more than what you plan in a calendar — but once you start missing scheduled posts, things go downhill fast. I like Coco Chanel’s advice: when you get dressed, take off one accessory before you leave the house to avoid overdoing it. When you create your first schedule, remove one element to ensure it’s realistic.
3. Brainstorm topics you know you want to cover.
How often have you had a dozen things you wanted to say… until you sat in front of the blank “new post” screen, and they all disappeared? Finding the initial idea to jump-start a post is the toughest part of blogging, so a cheat sheet listing of your ideas is one of the best supports you can have. Brainstorm the topics you know you want to post about, and keep the list handy to jot down flashes of brilliance as they come. (Make sure you keep a notebook by the bed.)
Add anything that captures your attention to the cheat sheet: general topics, specific questions, random inspiration words, song lyrics, whatever. Even “I want to respond to three photo challenges” — anything that captures the kinds of things you want to blog about.
4. Take a hint from your stats.
Your stats tell you what posts are resonating with your readers. Look at your most popular posts and topics to get a sense of what people want to hear more about, and compare that to the cheat sheet you just made. See where they overlap. Do those posts advance your goals? You’ve found your blogging goldmine, and the foundation for your calendar.
Take a minute to figure out what your blog’s popular days of the week are, too, so you can publish your best work on the days when more eyeballs will be on it.
5. Look at your non-virtual calendar.
Last, cross-reference your blog life with your life-life. Look at your overall calendar. Will you be traveling? Do you have a big deadline? Are your kids on spring break? Is the Rick Astley concert coming up?
Now, write out your schedule. Take your post ideas, use the info gleaned from your stats to prioritize them or narrow them down, and start slotting them into a calendar. Assign them specific dates if you’d like, or just list the post topics you’ll cover each week. If 90 days feels like too much, start with four weeks. And if you want to be extra-industrious and/or are still fizzing from the adrenaline rush of creating such a well-organized scheduled, create drafts for all the posts so they’re waiting for you in the dashboard.
You still may not end up checking every post off your list, but you’re primed for success — you know what you want to write about and when, so the hard part’s done. Happy publishing!
Stopwatch image by conte magnus, openclipart.