Stop Burning Out ON Content Marketing For Your Biz

Words By Tara Wagner

Create a Year of Content in Less Than 8 Hours – Content Calendar Template {Google Sheets}

content planning

Content marketing is obviously a key part of your small business marketing plans, but it can also be freaking exhausting. 

Use this content calendar spreadsheet to plan 1 year’s worth of content in less than 8 hours.

I’m going to walk you through a free spreadsheet and a planning doc that I personally use that saves me time and creative energy. 

Watch here or scroll down if you prefer to read.

https://youtu.be/ssZljkZJBc4

Create a Year’s Worth of Content FAST With This Content Calendar Template {Google Sheets} Click To Tweet

Create Content Fast and Effectively

This free spreadsheet and planning docmakes the whole process much more enjoyable and it ensures the whole thing is organized and streamlined, yet still effective. 

So be sure to download the templates here to follow along.

Let’s dive in with the first step. 

First, Create a Schedule to Get It Done

The first thing that I recommend is to break this up into more than one day.

(Yes, you can still do it in one day or less than eight hours, but I would recommend a 1-2 hour sitting here and there over the span of a couple of weeks to get the most from each step.)

The benefits of doing this:

  • This will allow you to really chew on the content and, let things simmer. You’re going to have much better ideas, and feel clearer about the whole process when it’s not rushed. 
  • Get some work done, and the initial steps started, and then come back to it in a couple of days to analyze the results of Step 3, and finalize the content plan. 

So for your first sitting, I would recommend about one hour’s worth of time, just to grab these links and do these first steps. 

Step #1: Know Yourself/Your Business

It’s really easy to get off course with our content and allow it to get off-brand. 

The very first step when you’re doing this is to actually sit down and answer some questions inside of the spreadsheet to avoid that common issue.

For example: 

  • What do you want to be known for? 
  • What’s your niche or business about? 
  • What is NOT within your niche? 

When you do this, it will allow you to get some clarity on what your purpose and overall picture is.

This helps you to make sure that any content that you create stays aligned with that overall picture. 

Step #2: Outline Your Pillars

Now, look at the big picture that you’ve just painted in Step 1, and outline roughly four pillars worth of content.

Think of pillars like categories: the things that you’re going to talk about in your content (or things you talk about/do in your business). 

Let’s say for instance, you were a painter.

Maybe you’re going to talk about different paint brands, how-to tips and tricks, organization, and clean-up.

Whatever the topics may be, I want you to think about, when it comes to the content, what you do, how you teach, and what you wanna be known for, what are the four main categories of content that you want, or that you could have? 

(You could have more than four, but we’re using four in this case, because I’m assuming you do about one piece of long-form content in a year. If you have four pillars, that means 13 pieces of content for each pillar, which is gonna be pretty easy to fill out in just a minute.) 

All you’re doing right now is just brainstorming what your pillars could be.

You could brainstorm 10 to 15 different ideas for pillars, but then I want you to look and see, do any of these actually belong together as one pillar?

Or are there any that I need to eliminate because it could kind of take us away from our ultimate purpose, what we wanna be known for, or our branding? 

When you have your four pillars, I want you to do two things:

  • Write down in the spreadsheet what you think one or more of your pillars should be.
  • Then go to your spreadsheet and edit the titles of the tabs to reflect your final 4 pillar names. (This way, you have your four pillars right there in front of you at all times to help you stay on brand.)

Step #3: SURVEY YOUR IDEAL AUDIENCE

Step number three is very important.

You need to survey your ideal audience. Not just any audience, or whoever has congregated, but survey the ideal people that you want to serve.

(This might be current clients and customers, or people very similar to those current clients and customers.)

  • Ask them, when it comes to your four pillars you chose, what are the things that they’re most interested in if they had to choose ONE of them. This is going to give you an idea of where you might want to double down on content. 
  • Next ask your audience what are their biggest questions, frustrations, needs, worries, concerns, (whatever it might be) are around each of those pillars. This is will give you a lot of your content ideas. (Maybe not all of them. There may be some really random ideas in there, but what you’re looking for are commonalities, patterns and themes.)
  • Get this set up in a Google form to send out to your audience. About a week later, come back to look through the answers and use them to help plan out your content.

Overall your day 1 of content planning looks like this:

  • Figure out basic overall topics (Step 1)
  • Figure out your four pillars of topics within that overall theme (Step 2)
  • Survey your audience on those four pillars to make sure that your content is serving their needs. This will make sure your content gets seen, shared and more traction in the algorithms (Step 3)

Plan for about three to four hours for your second half of this content planning to dive into these next steps. 

Step #4: Brainstorm by Pillar

Step number four begins the process of brainstorming actual topics, with about 13 plus topics to go in each pillar. 

Now let’s walk through the free content calendar/planning spreadsheet and how you’re going to do this. This is where you actually put the topic names.

And again, you wanna look at your surveys for content that people are asking you for first; make sure to get into your spreadsheet.

There might be some ideas again that you don’t want to use. That’s totally normal.

You really have to look at that and say, “Is this something I can talk on or want to talk on?”

And then add those things in the spreadsheet.

What you will see in the spreadsheet next are three different Types, and five different Categories to organize your spreadsheet by. 

What are the 3 Content Types?

These 3 Content Types are things that I use to help me make sure that I’m not leaning too far in one direction or the other.

Type #1: Search

So Search is search engine content.

This will be things that have really good keywords that I might want to target – things people are actively searching for.

If you’re doing any search engine optimization, that’s where you’re going to figure out what those keywords are. And if it’s gonna be a good topic for search engines, you would categorize this as a Search

Type #2: Church

Church is going to be something that people aren’t searching a lot for, but maybe you’re referring back to a lot.

Or people are asking you about it, but they really don’t even realize could search it. Or there’s just not a lot of good keywords on it. Or maybe it’s stuff you know would be useful and appreciated, even if your clients don’t realize it exists.

Think of “Church” like topics that will be preaching to the choir.

It’s not necessarily going to bring in new people, but it is going to serve the people that are already in.

Type #3: Merch

Merch is any topic you might have around merchandise or offers.

This could be affiliate links, platform reviews, book reviews, or any sort of products or services you’re promoting.

Anything that might have sales related to it – either your sales or somebody else’s – you’ll categorize this as Merch

Now, you get to decide for yourself what is the right balance of these 3 content types?

What you will notice is that the columns to the right will total your Search, Church, and, Merch for you.

This is an easy, and simple way to see what is your balance.

And you get to decide for yourself what you want that to be in your yearly calendar, and we will get more into that next.

What are my 5 content categories?

Next is to categorize the content by 1 of 5 options: Reviews, How-To/Educational, Lists, Inspiration, or Vlog. (As examples.)

So you can ask yourself, “this is Search, but is it a review? Is it how-to or educational? Is it a list? Inspiration? A vlog?”

These are just examples/ideas.

If you want to change these categories, do this inside of the spreadsheet:

  • Right-click the drop down and click “view more actions”
  • Go to “Data Validation”
  • Then you can change any of these categories to your preference.

Inside the spreadsheet, you can also mark any content topic as “done” and put the date that it is going to launch or has launched as shown in the image to the right.

Any notes that you want can be put in the “Topics” column.

Generally what I do is have a long list (literally hundreds and hundreds of ideas) because I don’t just do the brainstorming once a year.

I sit down and PLAN IT OUT once a year. But throughout the year, as ideas come to me, I come in and I drop them in here for the next time that I’m doing my planning.

What To Do If You Get Stuck

There are some recommendations that I have for you if this is your first time doing this and you don’t already have a ton of ideas brainstormed. 

#1: Start with cornerstone content/Your Biz 101

What are the really basic things that you need to teach that are going to be good for the search engines?

So it could be like a, “what is so and so/such and such”, or “how do you do such and such”, really simple 101 type topics. 

#2: Things that people ask you all the time

I also want you to look at your pillars and say, “what do people ask me about all the time?”

Or what are some problems that people face around this topic? (That can give you some more ideas of how to break things down.)

You’re probably going to be thinking in terms of really broad topics, but when you look at that broader topic, see if you could break that down into smaller pieces and get content out of it.

#3: Common questions from your survey

Again, make sure you look at that survey.

What are some of the common questions or needs or frustrations that people are coming up against?

What are some ways that you would answer those things, or things you could teach that would help to solve those problems for them? 

#4: Competitors content that did well

Lastly, you might want to look at what your competitors are doing that’s really working.

This might be hard in terms of blogs or podcasts – it’s hard to see what’s ranking well.

But when you go on YouTube, you can actually pull up your competitor’s videos and see which ones are getting them the most traction.

It’s a really great way to get some ideas for yourself.

You obviously don’t want to copy what they’re doing, but it can give you some ideas of what’s working well.

(Even if you don’t have a YouTube channel, I would consider looking at some of your competitors on YouTube, just to see some of their top-ranking content.)

Now, again, the whole purpose of step four is just brainstorming, brain dumping really. 

So you want at least 13 pieces, but try to go for more so that you’ve got options to choose between. 

Step #5: TRANSFER TO YOUR YEARLY PLAN

Step five is where you’re planning out a year’s worth of content all at once. 

You will utilize the “Current Year” tab in your spreadsheet:

  • Duplicate that tab, and keep one as a template so that you have it to duplicate for next year.

  • Then go ahead and rename that template to be the current year that you’re working on. 

  • What you’re going to do next is look through your content ideas and start to put them into the weeks of the year. Or if you’d prefer, you can change these to actual dates that they’re going to launch.

  • And, if you’re going to be doing more than 52, (I assume most people do about one piece of long form content per week) click the cell in the corner, and drag it down to add more rows.

Be sure to think about how do you want things to flow? Do you wanna do a series?

Maybe for pillar one, you want to do four videos back to back, or maybe you want to alternate pillars each week throughout the year. (Create what makes best sense for your business content. And, take your time.)

  • Make sure you categorize it as the Search, Church, and Merch. There is a column that will give you the total and you can also set some goals. See the image to the right.

You can decide to be 20% Merch and 80% Search, and not care about Church right now.

Mix and edit the numbers to reflect the flow that you are going for with your content for the year.

The spreadsheet will help you keep track.

This will give you a really quick way to see both the Type and the Category of content that you’re creating. 

  • Once you have lined all of these out (which will take a couple hours), go into the “Planner Link” column and drop a URL, or a word, and hyperlink it as seen in the image to the right. Hyperlink it to the content doc itself. 

Next, we will go through the Google doc planner in a little more detail, however, I have a video here that walks you through it even better.

How to Utilize the Content Planner Document With The Spreadsheet

Watch the full video of the Content Planner document here.

  • Duplicate the document or each individual piece of content you’ve mapped out (make sure you keep a copy as a template and are duplicating it for each new piece of content)
  • Hyperlink the URL in the spreadsheet (like I showed you above) to the Video Content Details document (Image is to the right) or to your content once it goes live.

The Video Content Details document will help you work through your Ideal Client Avatar and clear on your call-to-action for each video.

It will also help you work through your:

  • SEO details
  • Content outline
  • YouTube description
  • Social media copy.

Reminder: you can easily edit this document to be for podcasts, blog posts, or anything else that you want. Use it as a template, but personalize it for yourself. 

The spreadsheet and the video document will work together to keep your content organized.

You could also add extra columns of your spreadsheet if you’d like, for show notes of a synopsis of your content. Just remember to keep everything well organized for yourself.

Are you ready to plan a year’s worth of content in less than 5 hours?

Content marketing can be great for business….and it can be a beast. Learn how to streamline and organize the entire messy process with “A Year In a Day”, the content map and toolbox to help you map out 365 days of content in 5 hours or less. You’ll also learn how to:

  • Create content that attracts your DREAM audience (while repelling the “nightmares”!)
  • Organize it all with my spreadsheets, templates, and SOPs, so the chaos no longer overwhelms or distracts you
  • Come up with 100s of ideas on autopilot, without burning a single brain cell of your own

Click here to learn more how to save yourself time and energy with A Year In A Day.

What about you, Boss?

What ideas for content do you have after brainstorming?

Scroll down to share in the comments.

xoTara-teal

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