Imagine starting 2021 with your blog content all mapped out – knowing that you are going to fulfil your goals, never be stuck for ideas, have well balanced categories (great for SEO) and never again miss seasonal opportunities! In this blog post I show you exactly how to do all that by creating a blog content plan for 2021!
How was 2020 for you? Did you achieve everything you wanted to? Did you grow as much as you had hoped? Did you make as much money as you planned?
One of the key things which separates those who can say YES to those things and those who say NO is PLANNING – both generally planning what goals you want to crush in the next year, but also at a more specific level – planning the content you intend to publish on your blog week in, week out.
For a lot of bloggers, content planning doesn’t really happen. Content ideas are thought of on the fly and turned into blog posts haphazardly. Some things work well, somethings don’t – but there’s no real purpose to any given blog post…other than to ensure that you just churn another blog post out.
This method is totally fine if you blog is just a fun hobby, but if your blog is your business, or you WANT you blog to be your business then you need to start treating your blog like a business and being a business means PLANNING.
Before I started blogging, I worked for a number of businesses – everything from a giant multinational engineering firm, through to a national luxury supermarket, a national online wine retailer and right down to a small English language school and a micro business recruiting nurses to private hospitals.
All of these businesses were different, but all of them spent a good deal of time on planning. If you are running your blog as a business and want it to be a SUCCESSFUL business, planning is NOT OPTIONAL!
Last week I shared my tips and advice on Goal setting for bloggers in 2021, showing how to set goals and create action plans for 2021. This week I am turning my planning attentions to specifically how to create a content plan for your blog in 2021.
Why create a blog content plan for 2021?
Creating a blog content plan is not supposed to be some dry exercise designed to take the joy out of blogging – quite the contrary! In fact, if you follow the steps below and create a content plan for your blog in 2021, I can pretty much guarantee you will end the task more fired up and excited for 2021!
To serve your target audience
A blog is no good if no one reads it! But if you don’t consider the needs of your audience and write content that they are actually going to be interested in reading, no one will want to read your blog!
All too often bloggers write what THEY want to write, NOT what their target audience wants to read. By spending some time thinking about your audience and planning blog posts which you KNOW they will want to read, you are setting yourself up for a much more successful year in 2021!
To ensure you fulfil your blogging goals
Last week I shared how to set goals for your blog in 2021. A large part of fulfilling those goals will be writing the right content.
For example, if one of your goals in 2021 is to launch a product, you will need to create content that supports that launch – content which establishes your authority in that field, content which builds up excitement for that product, content upgrades to grow your email list and content which drives sales of that product.
Likewise, if your aim is to grow revenue from affiliate sales, you will need to create content which drives sales through your affiliate links.
Alternatively, if one of your aims in 2021 is to improve your SEO, you will need to write content which supports this aim – content which you create as a result of careful keyword research, content which ensures your categories are well balanced and you’ll need to write cornerstone content on your main topics.
It saves you time
Having a content calendar in place will save you a ton of time further down the line. There will be no more dithering about what to write about for your blog post each week. You will be able to crack on straight away. It will also mean you don’t have to create additional content on top of your usual workload because you missed something out.
It’s good for SEO
An important part of SEO is content structure, and an important part of content structure is ensuring your categories are balanced. Writing a plan will help you see at a glance if you are planning a similar amount of content for each category.
Writing content which your audience truly want to read, and which is the result of careful planning and keyword research, will also ensure your content performs better in search engine results.
Read more => A beginner’s guide to SEO
It means you won’t miss out on seasonal opportunities
How many times have you thought about writing a post for a key seasonal event (Christmas / Thanksgiving / Easter / Valentine’s Day / Back to School) TOO LATE to take advantage of the season?
I’m writing this post in early December, when many bloggers are just beginning to think about creating some Christmas content – that’s WAY TOO LATE to take advantage of seasonal bump from Google and Pinterest. It takes a while for new content to ‘get into the system’. By the time that content is in the system properly, it’s likely to be January and the window of opportunity will be long gone!
Having a content plan for your blog means you won’t miss out on any of those key seasons in 2021!
It allows you to focus on your best ideas
Most of us bloggers suffer from the problem of FAR TOO MANY IDEAS! But not all those ideas are good ones, and by definition the vast majority won’t be THE BEST ideas. Spending time evaluating your ideas and choosing the best ones, will mean your blog will be full of your very best blog posts in 2021.
Blog content planning shouldn’t be a straitjacket
One thing I hear quite a lot about blog content planning is that bloggers don’t want to do it because having a plan feels like a straitjacket. They feel that once they’ve written something down in their blog planner, they MUST do what’s on the plan and that takes away from the spontaneity.
I would argue the opposite. A plan is definitely NOT set in stone – more like the first draft of an essay, which you will improve upon throughout the year.
Throughout 2021 you can make changes and alterations to your plan as things change. But the plan is the starting point – and the reference point.
If you come up with a ‘new and better idea’ you can test this idea against the plan. What needs to come out to make room for that new and better idea. If it’s genuinely better, it will be easy to take something else out to make room for it.
Things to consider when planning your 2021 blog content
Before you get started on content planning for 2021, you need to consider several different factors:
Who are they and what type of content do they want from you? What are their pain points? What are their problems? What content can you write that will help them with their problems?
Which posts are performing well and which posts are performing badly? Can you spot any trends? Can you write more content which is similar to your most popular posts?
For example, if your most popular posts are all recipes cooked in your slow cooker, can you write more slow cooker recipes? If your most popular content is all about how to use Instagram, can you write more posts about using Instagram?
Having balanced categories is really important for SEO – and content planning will help you to ensure you have a similar number of posts in each category. Before you begin, take a look at your existing category structure – could it be made better? Are there any categories which have too many posts or too few?
What are your goals for 2021 and what content will you need to write to fulfil them?
Relevant seasonal events
What are the key seasonal events which affect your blog? What content will you want to write about them?
How to create a blog content plan for 2021
Step 1: How many posts do you need to write in 2021?
The first thing you need to figure out is how many posts you need to write in 2021. So, for example, I publish a blog post on Productive Blogging once a week, so I need to create 52 blog posts in 2021.
If you want to create 2 posts per week, that’s 104 blog posts you’ll need to write in 2021. If you want to just post once every other week that’s just 26 blog posts for the whole of 2021!
You might also want to take into account holidays and other events which might prevent you from posting. I personally prefer to schedule out posts to go live when I’m away or on holiday, but I know many bloggers prefer to take a complete break.
So, for example, you might want to post once a week, but you know you’re going to take all the school holidays off – so that’s just 39 blog posts you need to write in 2021!
Step 2: Create a blog content planner
The next step is to create a content calendar for 2021. This needn’t be anything fancy – a simple spreadsheet will do the job. Mark on it the dates you plan to publish blog posts and leave space to write the name of the blog post next to the date.
If that all sounds like far too much hard work, you are in luck! I have created a blank blog content planner, based on the exact one I use to plan Productive Blogging, which is free to download.
Full details of how to use this 2021 blog planner can be found in this post.
Step 3: Mark on fixed dates
Once you have created your blog content calendar, the next step is to mark on it the key fixed dates that you have to plan content for. For example:
- holidays – Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving etc.
- special days/weeks/months – Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, organic month etc.
- product launches and other blog specific events
- other fixed events that are relevant to your particular blog – the end of the tax year, perhaps or the start of the new school year
Step 4: Start with fixed date/seasonal content
You need to start by planning your fixed date/seasonal content. This content, by its very nature needs to be planned first. All the other content will have to be slotted around these fixed dates.
Work out what fixed dates you have and work out how many blog posts you want to write for that date/event. So, for example, you might decide you want to create 4 blog posts for Christmas, 2 for Easter and 3 for your product launch in September.
Using the criteria in the things to take into account when planning your 2021 blog content section above, plan the content you want to create for those key seasonal events.
You don’t necessarily have to be too specific at this stage – just a general idea. You can focus on more specific planning nearer the time.
So, for example, if you have a food blog, your 4 Christmas posts could be – a turkey recipe, a sprouts recipe, a Christmas dessert recipe and a party nibbles recipe.
Or, if you have a home decor blog, your 2 Easter posts could be a general one about decorating your home for Easter and a more specific one about creating an Easter themed floral centrepiece.
And if you are planning the launch of your Pinterest course in September, your 3 supporting blog posts could be a beginner’s guide to Pinterest, a 10 top tips for Pinterest post and a post about using Tailwind to schedule to Pinterest. Each of these posts could include a content upgrade designed to encourage people to subscribe to your email newsletter.
Finally, you need to take these fixed date content plans and write them against the appropriate date on your content plan.
Step 5: Add in any other important content
Next you need to consider any other important content you need to schedule into 2021. Sometimes we have content that we know is important to write but doesn’t have a fixed date.
For example, perhaps you have identified through your goal setting process for 2021 that you want to make more money from affiliate sales this year and to accomplish that goal you are planning to write 6 new posts in 2021 which each focus on encouraging readers to buy the product you recommend (and are an affiliate for). If this is the case, you should plan these 6 affiliate posts into your content plan first to ensure they get written!
Or perhaps you have identified that your blog needs more cornerstone content – perhaps you don’t have any at the moment and have identified that you would like to write 1 piece of cornerstone content for each of your 5 blog categories. Those should also go on your content calendar for 2021.
Step 6: Check if your categories are balanced
The next step is to check how balanced your categories are looking. Having a roughly equal number of blog posts in each category is important for SEO.
Take a look at each of your categories and add up how many posts you currently have in each category and how many posts you already have on your content calendar for 2021.
You are most likely to find a bit of an imbalance! But the good news is, by planning your content accordingly, you can correct that imbalance in 2021.
Step 7: Identify additional content needed
From your analysis of your categories in step 6, you can figure out how many additional blog posts you need to write for each category in order to have perfectly balanced categories by the end of 2021.
So, let’s say you have a running blog with 5 categories – you might identify that in order to balance your categories you need to write only 3 more ‘race reports’ posts and 5 more ‘start running’ posts, but 10 more ‘training plans’ posts and 13 more ‘running kit’ posts.
Or with a food blog, you might discover you don’t need to write any more ‘main meals’ or ‘desserts’ posts, but you need to write 10 new ‘snacks’ posts, 5 new ‘starters’ posts and 7 new ‘breakfast’ posts.
Step 8: Brainstorm additional content
Write the name of each category on a blank piece of paper and the number of posts you need to write in 2021, then brainstorm ideas for blog posts for that category onto each sheet of paper.
Use the things to consider when planning your 2021 blog content section above to help you brainstorm: ideas that address your audience’s pain points, ideas similar to your current most popular posts, ideas related to your goal, etc.
Set a timer and give yourself 5 minutes for each category.
Once you have a page full of ideas for each category, go back and pick out the BEST IDEAS for each category – selecting the correct number of ideas for each category.
Step 9: Fill in your content calendar
Now you have an idea for every blog post for 2021, it’s time to add those ideas into your blog planner for 2021. Try and slot your content ideas in an order that make sense and spread your blog posts out so your audience gets variety each week.
It will probably take a bit of jiggling about to get an order you are happy with. But once you have, you will have all your posts planned for THE WHOLE OF 2021 – woohoo!
I like to go one step further and colour code my spreadsheet, so I can see at a glance which blog posts are on which topic and where the key dates/events are.
Step 10: Use your content calendar!
Now you have a content calendar for 2021, it’s important to actually use it! Each week when you come to write your blog post, you will already have your blog post title (or at least an idea) in your blog calendar ready to go – hoorah! No more spending hours staring into space, wondering what to write, and no more starting drafts but never finishing them.
Having just ONE topic to blog on will make you much MORE FOCUSED and PRODUCTIVE. And, as it is part of a well thought out blog content strategy, you KNOW each blog post is taking you ONE STEP CLOSER to achieving your goals!
Of course, from time to time, your blog plan will almost certainly change – perhaps you get a better idea, or a sponsored post opportunity. In this case you can adjust your plan accordingly, rescheduling or deleting the planned blog post and adding in the new opportunity.
A content calendar is not supposed to restrict you, but support you, guide you and help you make wise choices when new opportunities arise.
Over to you…
I would love to hear about how you plan your blog content or what some of your plans are for the year ahead! Let me know in the comments below – or head over to the Productive Blogging Facebook Community and share your plans with the group!
FREE Blog Planner for 2021
Want a ready-made content calendar for 2021? Then here you go! My 2021 blog planner will help you map out your 2021 content in a way that is easy to understand at a glance.
How to create 52 blog post ideas in less than 2 hours
Goal setting for bloggers in 2021
Why every blog post should have a purpose (and how to decide what it is!)
How to use cornerstone content to increase blog traffic
How to write the perfect blog post (for search engines AND your readers)
Don’t miss a thing!