It was Sunday early evening on the 29th September and I’ve planned my blog posts for the next 8+ months. In one afternoon. You can call that a productive day.
When a few days later I was celebrating this ’little win’ in one of the Facebook groups where I’m a member – and if you don’t celebrate your wins (each and every one of them) – know that you should – I was asked to share my secret. Of how I did it.
So here it comes. My secret formula. How I cracked the code. My ultimate guide of blog post content planning 101.
Well, nope. I don’t have any secret formulas. And it didn’t happen in a magical moment either. It was a longer road that lead me to this point, where I finally had all the ingredients to succeed.
During one Sunday afternoon.
How to plan your blog posts with ease?
Know where you're headed
Mindset. Clarity. Direction. Call it however you want. But you need it. I guess you’re now either nodding with your head, or rolling your eyes. But the latter won’t bring you results.
What helped me to get clarity?
What gave me the push?
This simple quote:
I want my business to support my life. Not my life to support my business.
I heard Maria Ines talk about this in a quick Facebook live video. And it just hit me. Secretly or openly everyone thrives for this. Many start a side hustle to be able to leave their 9-to-5 job, so that they can travel more. Spend more time with their children and family. To have a better work-life-balance.
Then as a full time entrepreneur or small business owner they get so absorbed by all the things that they have no time for anything outside their business.
My take-away: Having a blog post content calendar filled with ideas till as far in the future as I can manage it will free up time for me on the long run. Also it will free me from the burden of sitting before my blank screen trying to think of something to write about for that week. Which then always takes longer than it should.
You're already unique enough
September 24-26 I attended the Teachable Live 2019 online conference. It was a 3 (+1) day long free mega event with workshops and panel discussions about how to prepare, create and launch your (first or next) online course.
But many things were applicable to other business contexts too, of course. And one of the panelists, Jadah Sellner, reminded us that:
There are no unique messages. Only unique messengers.
Almost everything has been told online already. Yes, once in a while there are genuinely new, disruptive things coming out. But the majority of stuff is repetition.
What you can add to the mix is your perspective. The known and the familiar retold by you. How you lived through it. How you made it work for you. How it helped you.
No matter what your niche is, how you started, where you come from. How you see things, how you tell your story – all that makes your message unique. Simply because of you.
My take-away: I often jotted down blog post ideas on my notepad earlier, that I then discarded a few days later saying – ‘Oh, but so many people have already written about this. Surely no one is interested in my version, in my views.’
No more of this. I won’t let that little devil whisper into my ears. I’m a unique messenger, just like everyone else. And with my message told my way I’ll attract the right people. Who get me. Who are interested in me. And want to read of me and work with me.
"No Zero Days"
When I tried earlier to plan ahead my blog posts. Or even social media posts. I subconciously sabotaged myself by always thinking of: ‘How am I gonna pull that off? Writing that much content? Consistently? There won’t be time left for anything else.‘ – So I just let it go. Didn’t continue with planning. And I dreaded the times when my calendar warned me it’s time again for a new blog post.
I needed a solution for this conundrum. Not to get overwhelmed by the thought of seeing 25+ blog post ideas and blog post titles in front of me. And of how I will write all of those.
I came across a short Facebook video from Julie Leonard talking about the simple concept of ‘No Zero Days’.
You set a goal and every day you commit doing something to bring you closer achieving it. Every single day. Without failure. No skipping it. Hence the name of ‘no zero day’.
One of her examples was writing. Let’s say you want to write a book. So you start writing every day. Even if it’s only an idea. A few words that you want to explore later in more details. Even if it’s just one sentence. Or 10 minutes that you can spend on it that day. Then you do that. You do as much or as ‘little’ you can manage. Because you have a life, family, friends, work. Things will come up. It may seem hard, impossible to squeeze your book into your schedule too. But if it’s just one sentence. Even the busiest person can do that much.
And this builds momentum. There’ll be days when you have more time and energy and inspiration. And will write several chapters in one go.
My take-away: From no on ‘no zero days’ it is. I’ll do it one sentence at a time. I will start working on a blog post I feel the most inspired to talk and write about. And then the rest will come naturally.
SEO is important, but your human readers are the most important
You find everywhere as advice to write blog posts regularly. It does good for your website’s SEO. Establishes you as trusted expert. As a familiar face in the eyes and minds of your readers and potential customers and clients.
To maximize your blog posts’ SEO potential write catchy and optimized titles, headlines, subheadings. Spread your SEO keywords all over your post in a clever way. Add images with SEO optimized file names, alt tags, descriptions, captions. And don’t forget the meta descriptions, the schema markups. And. Should I continue?
But the main audience of your posts are not crawlers and search engine bots. It’s human beings. If they like what you write about. If they find it useful. If it solves their problems. They will read it. They will share it. They will come back.
And search engines will interpret this as a value. Which in return helps you with SEO rankings, too. So at the end you will win!
My take-away: I give permission to not SEO optimize all my blog posts. Not everything has to be a SEO masterpiece on my blog. I’ll write for my audience. Sometime even just for fun. And about things that I enjoy. And yes. Even if it’s a business blog.
Practical step by step guide: how to plan 8+ months of blog posts in one afternoon
After this much theory here are the practical steps I took to plan my posts. Read them, take them, tweak them and make them work for you and your business and blog.
Create an initial list of blog post ideas
Write down all blog post ideas that you can think of related to your business niche. Don’t hold back. There’s no such thing as bad idea.
Try the mind map method. Write down your business niche, the core product and/or service you offer. Add branches and note down any related topic idea. Let your creative juices flow.
Use Facebook groups for new inputs
Go to Facebook groups where you’re a member. Start scrolling through the feed posts and comments and get inspired by frequently asked questions & answers.
What are the topics your fellow group members are struggling with? Is it related to your niche? Could you elaborate on them and write a post with the solution? Or how you would solve that problem?
Add all these new ideas to your list.
Get inspired on Pinterest
Go to Pinterest and look at your boards. What pins have you saved on them related to your niche? Did you save them because you liked the design? Or because the topic was something that you were interested in? If it was the topic, make note of that.
Oftentimes your blog readers are people who are a few steps earlier/behind you in your field of expertise or journey. They come to you to learn and get help. If that pin’s title caught your attention – probably it would work for someone following in your footsteps.
Use the search bar and start typing a few key phrases from your idea list and see what additional topics you come across.
Collect all your previous notes
Look at your notes from earlier. You surely have some. When I browse Google for information on a certain topic I always make a note of those pages I find extremely helpful. Either I jot them down on a piece of paper or copy the article’s title and URL to a my Notepad. But you can use GoogleDocs or Dropbox Paper too. Whatever is your preference.
Take a look at this mini research you already have at hand and select what you could use for your own blog post content calendar.
Evaluate your current blog posts
If you write a blog since a while check which posts got the most comments and shares. Can you re-work or expand on that topic for a new blog post?
Also analyze which of your current blog posts could you split up into two or three smaller ones. Or which smaller ones could you combine into a long form ultimate guide.
Last but not least. If we disregard your business for a second, what would you like to write about? What would you share with your audience that would help them to get to know you better?
List all topics, ideas you’re comfortable sharing about yourself.
By now you should have at least 50+ blog post ideas on your list. If you’d publish a post every week it’s a year’s content already! And there’s more to come.
Plan for special, themed blog posts
Look at the calendar and note down all important days you plan to write a special themed post. Depending on your niche the number of themed posts may vary. Or you can skip this part completely.
These special calendar days can be bank holidays, seasonal events – like back to school week, New Year’s Eve – or just national/global days like National Pumpkin Day and Small Business Saturday. I like to use this online calendar for brainstorming.
Make a note of both the date and the topic you plan for them.
Decide on a general blog post schedule
When I planned out my blog posts for 8+ months in advance I made the decision to plan two blog posts a month. That’s 24 blog posts for a year. Not too intimidating and totally manageable.
Pick a frequency that you feel comfortable with. And no worries, nothing’s carved in stone. You can make it less or more frequent later on as we continue with planning.
Choose a main blogging day
Make a simple blog post content calendar
I’m old school. I started mapping out things in a Dropbox paper document but lost the overview quickly. So I switched to paper and pen.
First note down all Saturdays (or the day you’ve picked as your main publishing date) on a large sheet of paper. Or a white board if you have one. Then if you want to post certain topics on a special theme day as mentioned above add them to this list of dates. These won’t fall on a Saturday, but don’t worry about it.
Categorize your blog post topics
Now go back to your main list of all the blog post topics and ideas you’ve collected so far. While not all your posts have to be SEO masterpieces at the end but the majority should be relevant to your business niche and still optimized for search engines, too. Aim for an 80% – 20% ratio.
80% of business relevant topics spiced up by 20% of personal, fun topics.
Look at the 80% business related core ideas. There will be shorter, lighter topics and also heavier, longer ones where you could give a detailed guide, explanation or ‘How to’ article to your audience. Grab a highlighter or a colored pen and mark your idea list items as short form vs. long form post candidates.
The longer topics should always be optimized for SEO. Try to publish such a detailed article after every 3(-4) shorter, medium length posts.
Fill in your content calendar with blog post ideas
By now you’ve jotted down all calendar days you initially plan to publish a blog post on. And you’ve categorized your list of topics as core business niche related – short, medium & long form article. Plus you have your special themed posts and personal, fun topics, too.
I’ve to say I’m impressed with all the effort and progress you made so far! And don’t give up as this is the last step: to pair your topics to certain dates in your blog post planner.
The special themed posts will have their dates fixed. You won’t move them as it makes little sense to write about an Easter related topic in August.
If you plan to publish posts on Saturdays, then pick the first/next Saturday and add a short form post idea for that day. For the next two Saturdays I recommend planning two short, medium long ones, too. That way it’s not so intimidating. Then add a detailed, long form topic idea. Every now and then spice it up with a personal, fun blog post.
And that’s it.
By following these steps I’m confident that you are able to plan at least for 8 months in advance all your blog posts with publishing 2 posts a month plus having some extra, themed blog post days in between.
And the further good news is that you still should have plenty ‘unused’ blog topics left on your main list. So you could do one of the following:
- If you’re ambitious, you can revise your plan and say you’ll post 3 or 4 times a month, and adjust your schedule accordingly filling in some extra Saturdays.
- Or you stick to the original twice a month publishing frequency and continue planning for further months in the future.
Last piece of advice
As the first few upcoming posts select topics that you’re passionate about. And that you can write about easily. Remember the ‘no zero day’ mantra. One sentence, one paragraph a time and you’ll manage this.
And believe me (or not). But you’ll get so inspired along the way, that you definitely will have more and more topics to write about.
And should you reach the end of your main idea list, just repeat these steps again.