Content marketing plan: how to build the perfect content calendar for 2020

It’s time to build out your content calendar for the year ahead, but where do you even start?

You’ve come to the right place. I’m going to run through some of the very best planning tools available for your content team, link you to their templates, explain the ‘hows and whys’ of using a content calendar, and furthermore, I have a gift for you, drumroll please! … 

We’ve created a free-access template that you can use to make sure 2020 is your strongest year to date.

First and foremost, before getting into the planning aspects of managing your content in 2020, let’s quickly delve into what quality content really looks like and why you even need a plan in the first place?

Many of you reading this post will know who Gary Vaynerchuck is. If you don’t, you should look him up. Something he says frequently is this: “putting out great content is always the right idea.”

However, there’s one slight problem with this, Gary. What if you don’t know what great content looks like? Where do you get started?

Fear not! The team at Quuu are here to give you a helping hand! 

What is quality content? 

At Quuu Promote we make it central to our quality criteria that we only share content as a suggestion with our users that has the intention to educate, entertain or inform the intended audience on a specific topic. We try to avoid the overtly sales-focused spiels you see so often on people’s blogs, typically this doesn’t play well in the world of social media marketing, and guess where your content is going to get shared most? That’s right, on social media!

Some ideas for types of content to build around

Here are a couple of topics that traditionally tend to capture people’s imaginations and tempt them to engage more wholeheartedly with content.

Content that…:

  • inspires people to take any action they otherwise would never have dreamt of taking.
  • claims to disprove popular opinion on a matter.
  • does the work for you and provides tonnes of useful curated resources.
  • helps the total beginner get started.
  • gives real-world examples of something.
  • gives hope.
  • affirms our existing beliefs.
  • reveals the secret ingredient behind a success story.
  • is helpful and not self-serving.
  • aims to predict future trends.
  • is about how to deal with a common/relatable issue.

Now you’ve got some ideas to build your topics around; you’ll have to brainstorm which content types are going to enable you to best present one or more of the values above. Once you’ve done this, it’s essential to ensure that all that hard work is not ruined by a sneaky and easily avoidable mistake that could increase the dreaded, bounce rate! (This is where a visitor, reader, listener or viewer navigates away from your content… i.e. got bored).

To help with this, I found this incredibly helpful and comprehensive checklist by Nayomi Chibana, which outlines her process for checking content before publishing.

Why is it important to have a clear content strategy?

Using an editorial calendar means that everyone involved with the content creation process is fully informed about their objectives, important dates, and can see where their contribution fits into your overall content strategy.

You want a calendar that will answer the classic: who, what, where, when and why questions for your marketing team. 

Being able to easily click into all the details, timelines and objectives of any given piece of content is essential, but also having the ability to see the bigger picture in how your content is lined-up over the month, quarter or even year ahead. A good planner allows for that so that you can more easily strategise the way you feed content to your audience. 

Having a content strategy in place makes it much easier for content marketers to produce and share quality content that their audience will enjoy at scale, rather than repetitive topics delivered in a monotonous way.

When building out your content strategy for the year ahead, you must focus on:

  1. Setting clear goals
  2. Understanding your target market
  3. Identifying the best channels to distribute and share your content
  4. Establishing a set of topics that will ultimately add value to your audience

You must understand who your target buyer persona is ahead of creating your content plan. If you need any help with that, we’d recommend checking out this post.

This content marketing planner is here for you to experiment. Make a copy for yourself, then make changes as you see fit. We’d love to see your results!

Meet your free content calendar template

Getting setup

If you’re not already familiar and comfortable with Google Sheets, then please don’t worry, it’s nothing you haven’t already encountered in an Excel spreadsheet, or dare I say it… Apple Numbers!

It’s a simple spreadsheet tool, and we’ve done all the legwork here, so you don’t have to get in a tangle with cells, formulae and formatting.

How do I use this calendar?

  1. Open this link to access the planner: Quuu’s Free Content Calendar
  2. Then click ‘File.’
  3. Then click ‘Make a Copy’, now you have your own version to play around with.

Example image of Quuu's free content calendar
How to make Quuu’s content calendar template your own – make a copy!

4. Read the instructions on the first tab, this is just a simple breakdown of what each worksheet does. 

Example image of Quuu's free content calendar
First tab instructions to familiarise yourself with the calendar template

5. Explore the rest by clicking the tabs at the bottom of the page; there are 6 in total.

6. If you’d like to delete tabs or edit anything then feel free to do so, it’s yours now.

The editorial calendar section

In this section of the content calendar, it is fully automated and requires no input from you or your team. The purpose of this sheet is to give you a bird’s eye view of what content you’re publishing, when and what kind of content it is. For example blog content, video, webinar, podcast, an email, even an infographic etc. 

The data for this comes from the ‘Campaign Overview’ tab that contains critical information for all pieces of content.

Setting goals & creating themes

Example image of Quuu's free content calendar
Setting goals and themes in your content calendar

There’s nothing better for the brain than setting goals every month for your new content. When working on content creation, you should always have an end goal in mind. We think three goals for each quarter should be plenty; that way, you can remain laser-focused, and the goalposts won’t be moving too often, which can make it challenging to achieve your objectives.

"Once you have your content goals written down, pick a theme or topic for the quarter ahead. Choosing a theme makes the content creation process much faster and gives your content a clear focus." – @MatthewSpurr Click To Tweet

Having a new and relevant topic each quarter is something we had never tested before until this year, and it’s something our audience is enjoying. 

Once you have your theme, you can then even break this down into subtopics. You could also experiment with turning each subtopic into a monthly focus. Then take it a step further and break this down into four weekly subtopics.

Having this planned out ahead of time can make content creation so much easier. If you’re still struggling for content ideas here is where the second sheet of the planner will help you.

Your campaign overview

Here we have the high-level information about each piece of content you’re planning to publish (or have already published). It is this information that will update other worksheets in the planner.

It includes crucial information such as: when the project was assigned when the drafts are due and when it was published. 

There is also scope in this section to add notes on targeted keywords and variations for SEO. You could also put useful URLs to link to the project while it’s underway. 

At Quuu we give all our bloggers a working Google Doc URL to work from so that we don’t have endless versions upon versions of documents and we know exactly where to find what’s being worked on. It also means we can leave feedback in the form of comments when necessary. 

The beauty of Google Docs and Google Sheets, of course, is that they are live documents that multiple people can work on in realtime together and check at any point in time.

The content planning tab

Duplicate this sheet as many times as you need it for each separate project.

It should help you focus on all the right details to ensure your content planning is heading in the right direction from the very start.

You can present your authors, editors and formatters with this document, and it should give the whole team the crux of what you are trying to achieve with this particular piece of content. Having everyone on the same page is an integral part of your content strategy!

Example image of Quuu's free content calendar
The Content Planning tab of the content calendar

Now it’s your time to shine! Go away and experiment with this content marketing planner. I can guarantee that if you implement it today, you’ll start seeing better results from your social media and content campaigns. If not we’ll give you your money back…. just kidding. This was free, remember?

Share this free content calendar on social with your followers, friends and colleagues!

Loving this content calendar template to organise your content marketing in 2020 and start seeing some results! #contentstrategy #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Other content planning tools for you to use

  • Airtable – the platform offers multiple viewing formats to suit your team’s preference, and it has loads of cool additional features to make in-platform communication super-easy and enjoyable, things such as technical requirements for writers to adhere to, or sharing a resource that does a good job of illustrating a relevant point for the content. It’s exceptionally clean in design and very easy to use. ($0, $10, $20, Enterprise)

  • CoSchedule – like Airtable, this really is the full-stack tool for your marketing plan. You can schedule, plan and publish right from their dashboard and they even have a handy WordPress plugin which means you can seamlessly automate your blog post publishing in-line with your plan. The platform is an absolute delight to view and couldn’t be easier to use with its drag and drop UX. Their ‘Content Organiser’ feature starts from $60 per month for 3 users and this even includes a handy ‘Headline Analyzer’  

  • Asana – offers a free plan if you want to check it out. This is another very feature-rich project management tool that can be used very effectively as a content planner for your blog.

  • Basecamp – is a very well established project management tool that can indeed be used for content planning. Prices go from $99/month upwards, and they offer a 30-day free trial, I would say their pricing model suits larger teams. However, I would argue that as much as I love Basecamp (and I’ve used it for years over various projects), it’s probably better for general task management requirements as opposed to planning schedules. It has a lot of great features, and don’t get me wrong, it does do pretty much all the stuff you need, but it tends to be displayed in a less flowing way than Airtable and Asana’s templates specifically for content marketing schedules. At the end of the day, you need to take a look at it and make your mind up for yourself, because it’s an incredibly powerful tool and probably one of the easiest to use on the market!

  • ContentStudio – prices range from $49-$299 with a free trial. Featuring attractive and cleanly designed calendar and list views, you can use ContentStudio as a content marketing planner for your blog, but they also provide a lot of tools such as scheduling for social media posts too – very handy for the promotional phase of the content marketing strategy.

  • HubSpot – a marketing behemoth rather than a specialist in any one particular niche for content strategy, but HubSpot have got you well and truly covered in the content organising game. In fact, here’s a link to a free editorial calendar template for you to use. But check out their in-app offerings for more information about the gazillion ways in which HubSpot can support your team’s marketing efforts. In fact, HubSpot give away so many free templates when you share your email with them, I think there may even be a template on how to create a free template. 

  • Wrike – loads of plans available depending on your needs, free plan for up to 5 team members. These guys do a flawless job of making their platform a dream to use. If you want a taste for yourself, you don’t even need to go as far as signing up for their free plan to see what it’s like. On their website, you can play around with features of the app right there, check it out. If you want to use their content planner platform, then simply:

  1. Navigate here: 
  2. Click on the ‘Content Development’ tab under the ‘Out-of-the-box templates for your marketing workflows’ section. 
  3. Then that will give you the option to start a free trial with Wrike using the right content planner for you!

Well, that just about concludes this post. I hope that you’ve found these tips, lessons, giveaways and recommendations useful for bossing your content strategy in 2020. 

Are there any other tools that I might have missed in this post, then please drop them in the comments below and let us know what your experience of using them has been!

ThanQuuu again for reading this post, until the next time, happy planning folks!