We talk a lot here about the editorial process for content marketing, especially how to document your posts on an editorial calendar. But we wanted to summarize how it looks in practice. Finally, we’d like to teach you best practice tactics with an emphasis on the tried and true part.
And since we recently ironed out a fancy new editorial process, I thought it would be the perfect time to walk you through the process, 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 is important in the first place.
Why an editorial calendar?
This is NOT the first time DM covers the benefits of an editorial calendar. And personally, I’m a huge fan. Creating an editorial calendar doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. But it’s important.
In fact, maintaining a well-organized editorial calendar can hurt or hinder your content process, especially if you are a larger team (or a one-person team) and even more so if you are trying to use linking strategies like the Content Cluster strategy integrate.
The trick is to keep track of things. The whole purpose of an editorial calendar is to keep track of the things that matter to YOUR business. By documenting important information about your blog posts or content, you can:
- Find and fill object holes
- Know what keywords you have targeted in the past
- Just navigate to older posts
- Find old posts that are easy to update
- Track the correlations between traffic changes and what you’ve published
- Plan days, weeks, and even months in advance
- Easily find posts for internal links
But knowing something is important, and in fact, it is important to play two completely different ball games. For this reason, I am giving you an insight into how we, the DigitalMarketer content team, keep our editorial calendar up to date and make our process run smoothly. Well, as smoothly as possible 😉.
What we tried
But before we get into that, I’d like to quickly break down some of the other things we’ve tried in the past and why they didn’t work. This 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 editing process into Monday, it just fell flat.
Part of the problem was human (not always?). Our team was just bad at making things happen, and since not everyone on the content team used the program regularly, we had a problem keeping it up to date.
We also tried to get Monday to do something it just wasn’t well suited for: long term documentation. Trying to scroll through hundreds of ideas and then hundreds of previously published posts was confusing and chaotic. It just didn’t live the way we wanted it to live with us.
So if you are looking for a software solution, make sure you find a program that your entire team is passionate about and that is consistently using it.
2. Just use the google sheet
Do you remember the Ed calendar sheet I showed you earlier? Yes, there was a while, really a long time, that was all we had. And it was really, really great for exactly what Montag wasn’t great for: long term documentary.
However, it was next to impossible to organize the actual content creation process into a 1000-line Google Sheet. And if we didn’t have other solutions, we just didn’t document the build process.
Who worked on what and what status a certain position had lived only in my head. And if you’ve ever been on my mind, it can be a crowded and chaotic place. Therefore I would – more often than I would like to admit – lose track of posts or forget whether a post has been edited.
This was clearly unsustainable.
Earlier this year, one of the content team members found this post about using Trello, task management software, for an editorial calendar. Many of us had already used Trello for our personal to-do lists, but when we saw the workflow features we knew we had to try.
And now we are addicted.
What we use now
When we started our calendar in Trello, I knew I didn’t want to run into the issues we were having with Monday, so I took 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 actually follow the path this particular post took in creating it. It’s going to be very meta.
All of our posts start in the same place. Idea. Someone has a thought or makes a customer content request, or I notice a gap in our content and we post it to the ideas list on the Trello forum.
Once we have decided to actually write and publish this post, we move on to the outline (usually if it is an outside writer) or the writing phase. The card for this post gets a little more information at this stage, like a description and a label (labels can be any categorization you want to pursue – for example we label content based on its end goal, like clusters or advertising or fun) and A checklist to create so that team members know when it is their turn to take the baton.
As soon as the post is written, it will be processed further, given a publication date, and then goes to package creation. We will send the package to the person who is responsible for uploading the post. It usually contains the SEO information, document file, and all of the images for the post.
Some of them use paid powerups like the due date (you’ll see this in action in a moment) and the custom fields. But, later in this post, I’ll show you how you can do similar things without paying any money.
Then the uploader slips it into WordPress and either schedules or publishes the post immediately or immediately, moving the Trello card along the line.
Once the post is published, we make sure that all important information (URL, keyword, content cluster, author, date, CTA, etc.) is documented in the Google Sheet of the editorial calendar. That way we can easily do a Command-F search to find the post in the future.
When it comes to scheduling posts in the future, we use the calendar powerup in Trello, which allows me to set the “due date,” which is the publication date.
This is our editorial process! This is still a relatively new process to us, so we will likely run into kinks and gaps if we continue to use it, but no process should be static.
And since some of our processes included paid tools, I wanted to break down some free ways to get the same results.
Free vs paid organization
Content marketing can and should do any brand well. But I know that it can be difficult for many companies to invest a ton of money in something that is a long game in terms of ROI.
To keep the barrier to entry low, there are a few ways you can get the same results without spending a ton of money (or, in this case, money).
While we use paid power-ups like the calendar, custom fields, and even Slack notifications, this isn’t required for a working Trello editorial calendar.
Instead of using custom fields to tag keywords and authors, etc., just put all of that information in the Description field for a postcard.
And instead of using the calendar power-up, use an old-fashioned white board to write when posts are going to be published, or just paste them into the Google Sheet archive in advance if you prefer digital documentation.
Regardless of your budget, and regardless of your company, you can create better content faster by maintaining your editorial process and documenting the information about your content. So get out there and set up your own editing process so you can keep your content marketing efforts moving even further.