So you’ve decided to take your blog strategy seriously. This means it’s time to get organised and put some systems and procedures in place so that you can manage your content efficiently and effectively.

But how do you choose the best content calendar tool for you? You know you need one, but there are so many options out there – free vs. paid, online vs. offline – how are you meant to know which one is right for you and your business?

With so many editorial calendar tools in the market right now, making this decision can be a bit of a minefield. Every business and marketing expert recommends a different approach.

Here’s the good news – I’ve prepared a guide to help you work it out.

Ask yourself the questions below to find out what you really need from a content calendar tool in order to manage your business blog successfully.

What types of content are you managing?

The first thing you should think about when choosing a content calendar tool is the types of content you want to manage.

I’m going to assume that blogs will be one of them. But do you also want to manage your social media updates from the same tool? What about some images and infographics to go along with the blog? Or rich media like videos and podcasts?

You might only be creating blog posts right now, but it would be worth thinking about what you want to do in the future. Will your strategy involve producing content across multiple channels?

Future-proof your choice of content calendar tool by considering both your current content plan and your potential future one.

What’s your budget?

The other main factor in choosing the right content calendar tool is your budget. There are options to suit any price point, ranging from free downloadable templates to free project management tools which you can adapt for blog management, to paid tools designed specifically for managing your content strategy.

Free content calendar templates

You might choose to download a free content calendar template, in PDF or spreadsheet format, if you need a quick and easy solution that doesn’t require any customisation or forethought.

These are perfectly suitable when you are working solo on your content strategy, as you won’t have any requirements for collaboration, communication, file sharing etc.

Some great examples include:

Free content calendar tools

If you think you need the features of an online app, so that you can collaborate with team members, keep track of progress, share files etc., but don’t have the budget for a paid tool, then there are a number of free project management tools which can easily be adapted for blog management.

The drawback of using free tools for your content calendar is that they will require some initial planning and customisation. You will need to think through your workflows and processes, in order to adapt the tool for the content creation process and to ensure it is set up appropriately for your business structure.

However, once the setup is complete, a free tool can be just as effective as a paid tool, with the added benefit of flexibility to develop your workflows and processes over time.

At Boost, we use Trello to manage both our own blog and our clients’. Some other examples include:

There are also free content calendar plugins for WordPress, which you may find to be a compromise between a free project management tool and a paid content marketing tool.

However, personally, I feel it is risky to manage your content calendar within WordPress itself without some sort of external backup.

Nonetheless, here are a couple to check out:

Paid content calendar tools

Then we have the paid content calendar tools. These are usually cloud-based and have been specifically designed for managing your content strategy, making it particularly easy to collaborate with team members.

By investing in a paid tool, you eliminate (or at least reduce) the need to plan your workflows and procedures, as these have been built directly into the application. They often integrate with other software tools you might be using to manage your business, creating seamless end-to-end processes.

Choosing a paid tool for your editorial calendar also means you can upgrade as your business grows, adding more team members or unlocking additional features. By choosing a specialist tool right from the beginning, you are preventing the need to switch in the future.

Here are some leading examples:

Free Content Calendar Comparison Matrix

Not sure which content calendar tool is right for you? Sign up below to download our free Content Calendar Comparison Matrix!

Powered by ConvertKit

What features do you need?

Based on all this information, what do you need the tool to do? This is where you need to consider your existing business structure and processes.

Team communication

Are you working on your own or with a team? If you’ve got a team, are they on-site or remote? The reason I ask is that communication should play a key role in your decision making.

If team members are remote, you’ll be relying much more heavily on the tool to speak to one another throughout the content creation process. If you’re all in one office and collaborate largely through meetings and passing conversations, perhaps not so much.

Manage permissions

On a similar topic, are your team members employees or external contractors? You may need to control the level of access an individual has to your content marketing strategy and processes, depending on their involvement in your business.

For example, you may wish to invite guest authors to publish posts on your blog and only grant temporary access. Or you might encourage contributions from your wider team (ie. not your marketing department), who require either occasional or ongoing access. When it comes to the production of the content, you might work with freelancers or external agencies for specialist tasks such as graphic design or video editing, who also need ongoing access but with restrictions.

Make sure you can collaborate effectively with all the internal and external contributors to your blog and other content.

File sharing

Regardless of whether your team are remote or on-site, or employees or freelancers, you are definitely going to need to share files, mostly text documents and images.

If you use GSuite (formerly Google Apps), then this is dead easy, no matter which tool you’re using, as you can simply copy and paste the links direct to the individual files. But perhaps it would make life easier if your chosen editorial calendar tool had a GDrive integration? This would pull through the titles and thumbnails of Google Docs, making them easier to track down in the throng of productivity.

But if you’re working with Microsoft or Pages documents then you’ll need the ability to upload and download local files. Remember to check how documents are organised within the tool, and how easy it will be to find and access them later.

Processes and workflows

In order to develop a smooth and efficient content creation process, you’re going to need procedures to manage your blog. And wouldn’t it be great to build these right into your editorial calendar?

Look for a tool where you can create checklist procedures or workflows to ensure that your blog posts are produced methodically and with consistent quality. Progress tracking is an essential part of the content creation process, especially when you are managing multiple posts at once.

Assigning tasks

These procedures will be comprised of individual tasks and, if you’re working with team members, these tasks will need to be assigned to your various team roles.

The ability to assign due dates and schedule reminders is useful for holding your team accountable to their tasks and deadlines and provides an element of traceability which is valuable to you as a manager.

Integrations

Do you need your content calendar tool to integrate with other apps and software? A key example would be WordPress integration. Would you prefer to manage your content creation process within WordPress itself? As I mentioned above, there are a number of standalone plugins, as well as those which are associated with an external app, such as CoSchedule.

Another example would be integration with your social media accounts. If you want to both manage and share your content from the same tool, then this limits your options.

Consider which tools you currently use with your team, and how these will interact with your chosen content calendar tool.

Accessibility and compatibility

How will you access the editorial calendar? A cloud-based application will allow any team member to log in via their own browser, but a simple Excel spreadsheet, even when stored in Dropbox or GDrive, will only allow one person to access it at a time, without causing conflicted copies.

Think about the devices that you and your team use for work. Are they Macs or PCs? Do you need your content calendar tool to be compatible with both? If you often work on-the-go, would it be useful to have access via a mobile or tablet app?

Make sure that whatever tool you choose is both accessible by your whole team and compatible with their equipment.

User-friendliness and interface style

Many of the available editorial calendar tools have the same features, but their defining difference is their interface. Therefore, your choice may be based on your personal working preferences.

For instance, I’m a very visual person and like to have a bird’s-eye view of the project I’m working on. I chose to use Trello as a content calendar tool for this reason, as the grid layout and drag and drop features lend themselves to this style of working.

People who prefer a more traditional to-do list interface might choose ToDoist, or if you’re a dab-hand with Excel then you might stick to a good old-fashioned spreadsheet.

The other consideration is how user-friendly the tool is for your team members. Depending on their role, they may not be very familiar with online software. Will the interface of your editorial calendar be intuitive for them?

Choose a tool that feels natural and fits with the working preferences of you and your team.

Data and analytics

Do you want to be able to track metrics right from within your editorial calendar? Some tools can provide insight reports on the performance of your content, by integrating with Google Analytics and your social media accounts.

You might also want to track the productivity and efficiency of your team, by keeping time logs and measuring progress against deadlines and milestones.

Having this data at your fingertips, in the form of pretty graphs and charts, can make the job of managing a marketing team much easier.

Manage multiple blogs and channels

Lastly, do you need to manage multiple blogs and media channels from within the same account?

If you’re part of a larger organisation, you might have individual blogs for different teams or sections of the business, plus an internal blog, and a company-wide blog. Do you need a tool which can cope with all of these at once?

You might also want the ability to manage additional content channels alongside your blog, like videos or podcasts.

By considering these questions, you can quickly narrow down the vast number of options for content calendar tools and get to the business of creating awesome blog content.

Which is your favourite content calendar tool? Let me know in the comments below!

Got any questions about choosing the best content calendar tool for you? Hit me up by leaving a comment, or tweet me and I’ll be happy to answer 🙂

Free Content Calendar Comparison Matrix

Not sure which content calendar tool is right for you? Sign up below to download our free Content Calendar Comparison Matrix!

Powered by ConvertKit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.