An editorial calendar helps you with everything around blog planning from keeping track of what content you’ll write to publishing your posts. Some people use software for their editorial calendar, while others prefer the old fashioned way with pencil and paper. The best editorial calendar is one you actually use—whether it’s digital or on paper. One of the easiest digital ways to create an editorial calendar is through the project management software Trello.
As a professional blogger, I use and recommend the free tool Trello for planning your editorial calendar. It is hands-down the best editorial calendar option if you prefer to keep things digital. It’s free to use most features, and you can drag-and-drop your blog content “card” across “boards” as it moves through your editorial workflow. You can also add checklists, team members, due dates, labels, and attachments to each card.
1. Download the Trello Board Template
I’ve created an editorial calendar template for you to use with Trello. You can sign up for an account for free on Trello. Download the link to the Trello board template below. After creating an account, you will be able to make a copy of this editorial board.
To copy the Trello board, click the left-facing carrot next to “About This Board.” Under the menu, click “More,” and then “Copy Board.” This Trello board template is now added to your own list of boards so you are free to edit your copy.
2. Do a Brain Dump Exercise for Topics
A brain dump is a way to unload your brain of all the ideas swimming around in it and onto paper (or a Google Doc if you prefer a digital unload). How you unload your topic ideas from your brain is up to you, however, this exercise is simply to write down as many ideas as possible. These ideas might not work, and that’s OK. Just write them down.
My favorite way to unload all of the ideas in my head is to use a timer. I will typically set a timer for 10 minutes, and I must use all of those 10 minutes. I like to listen to epic instrumental music on Spotify while brain dumping. This keeps me motivated to come up with ideas. Plus, if you listen to music with lyrics during this exercise, it can break concentration.
Don’t get discouraged if it feels like you can’t think of anything for a while. Often, I will have a few ideas at the beginning of my brain dump but won’t have any more ideas for the next eight minutes or so. Then when the timer is running out, I will have a fury of ideas spilling onto the paper.
3. Validate Your Ideas Using Keyword Research
Now that you have a list of topic ideas, you need to conduct keyword research to see if people actually search for these ideas. Sure, you can write articles on topics people don’t search for, but if you want to make money blogging you must write content people actually want.
An easy way to see if an article is worth writing is to use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs.com. The Ahrefs feature to use is Keywords Explorer. Input each of your topic ideas into this tool to determine how many people search for it every month. You can also see how difficult this idea will be to rank for. I tend to focus on articles with at least 200 monthly searches, and any keyword difficulty less than 10.
You might need to play around with the way you phrase words in order to find a viable idea. For example, if I take the first keyword phrase on my list, “tour our homestead,” there are zero searches for this particular phrase. However, if I use “homestead tour,” it shows 40 keyword searches per month. It also has a difficulty rating of 0, which means I have a great chance of ranking on the first page of search results.
It’s important to understand that if I had a blog in this niche, I still might write an article about touring my homestead even if only 40 people search for it per month. This is because once I have an established audience, I can send this content to people using social media or my newsletter. People may not know they’re interested in touring my homestead, but definitely are once they know I have an article on it.
For the purposes of planning content, that particular blog post is a low priority. However, the next blog post idea on my list is a great example of a blog post I want to write about right away. The keyword “self-sufficiency” gets 2,200 searches per month and has a keyword difficulty of 10. I will then work my way through the rest of my brain dump list and highlight any articles that have a high priority.
4. Input Ideas into Trello Board
After vetting your ideas against Ahrefs.com, add your ideas to the Trello board you made a copy of in step one. You will place these high-priority articles in the Trello column titled, “Content to Create.” To add your blog post idea, click on the button that says add a card.
The rest of your ideas that didn’t make this high-priority list will go in the first column titled, “Ideas.” If you accidentally put an idea in your “Content to Create” column, you can just drag that card over to the “Ideas” column.
I find myself adding to this Ideas column regularly, even if I’m out and about. Trello has a free app for your smartphone, so it’s super easy to add your ideas on-the-go. Then, when you have time you can vet your list again and see if any need moved to the “Content To Create” column.
5. Establish Editorial Workflows & Add Deadlines
Think about what your writing process is like—this process should form the basis of your editorial workflow. Once it’s time for me to write a particular article, I go through the following steps:
- Do research on the topic thoroughly
- Create the outline
- Write the article
- Add images
- Edit the article
- Create social media graphics and posts
- Schedule blog post and social media posts
- Add blog post to an upcoming newsletter
Your writing process might look a little bit different from mine. For example, when I first started blogging, I never created an outline. In fact, I didn’t start writing outlines until I started writing for Fit Small Business. Writing an outline helps organize your thoughts and present information in a logical, ordered way. My blog posts have improved tremendously as a result of adding an outline to my editorial process.
Once you have a process in place, create a checklist for each card in the “Content to Create” column with this process. This way, you can see what still needs done with an article at-a-glance. It also makes it easy to track your progress because you can check off the list as you complete each task.
To create a checklist, click on a card and then checklist from the right side of the window that pops up. You can name your checklist whatever you want and save it. From here, you can add your editorial process to this checklist. You don’t need to write a checklist for every single card you make. Instead, you enter the new card copy the checklist over as shown below.
After you complete your checklist, you can move that card over to the column titled, “Ready to Be Posted.” If you post your blog posts as soon as they’re written, you can delete this particular column. However, if you plan your content in advance and post on a regular schedule, this column will let you know you’re ready to go as soon as you want to post it. After your blog post is live, add the card to the column titled “Posted.”
I like to add due dates to my cards so that I don’t miss a deadline. You can do this by clicking on “due date” from the right column of the card you want to add a due date to. When this card moves to the “posted” column, I add a new due date to update the blog post with fresh ideas and images in three to six months. This helps keep the content relevant, which is important to search engines.
You’ll notice there’s also a column specifically for sponsored posts. In my blogging process, these posts take precedence over any of my other content because a brand is paying me to write it. This is why it has its own column for maximum visibility. There are also times where I move a card to the “On Hold” column. I recently did this after my sponsored press trip got postponed because of COVID-19.
If you aren’t getting paid blogging opportunities yet, you want to read this article on setting your blogging rates and pitching brands. It’s my favorite way to make money blogging.
Examples of Alternative Editorial Calendars
If you’ve used Trello before and are looking for alternative editorial calendar solutions, there are a few other ways to plan your blog content. These editorial calendar tools include Miro, Monday.com, Google Calendar, and CoSchedule.
I like to use Miro as a “big picture” kind of editorial calendar where I post loose ideas, rather than concrete ones. If you’re more on the creative side, you might prefer this to a structured system like Trello. It’s like using sticky notes, but digitally.
If you have a team of bloggers contributing to your blog, consider using Monday.com. Its at-a-glance color coding makes it super simple to see what everyone is working on, and the status of each task. There’s also an activity log, so you can see who changed what on the calendar.
A Google Calendar is perfect for bloggers who need everything on a single calendar. It’s how you plan your days, weeks, appointments, and meetings, so why not plan your blog posts this way too? The only downside is that I haven’t found a great way to add checklists to this unless you add a bulleted list within the description of each event on the calendar.
CoSchedule is popular with bloggers thanks to its free Headline Analyzer (I use that tool to help me write blog titles). It also offers an editorial calendar that’s pretty robust. CoSchedule can auto-publish into WordPress for you, it has a calendar view, and you can label each task with a color to see progress at-a-glance. However, I’ve found the learning curve to be a little frustrating, so I gave up on it. You might like it if you have the patience to figure it out, though.
The key to using an editorial calendar is finding something that works for you. If you use paper consistently, by all means—use paper. However, if you consistently create blog content using an editorial calendar that’s digital, it’s easy to do on-the-go. You can check deadlines, add ideas on-the-fly, and even tag a team member on a card for visibility.