One of the most common questions we get from emerging and current inbound marketers is, “How do you manage all of this content?”
When we tell them we’re using an editorial calendar, the next question is often, “Oh, how much is that?”
Nothing. Because we mostly use Google Calendar.
Surprised? There are many great calendar tools to choose from. (For those of you who are HubSpot customers, a marketing calendar is built right into the HubSpot software.) However, after trying a ton of other solutions, our team found that we really did the best with just a simple Google Calendar Achieved results. In fact, this was the longest running editorial calendar solution our team has ever seen.
Here’s how we set it up.
Follow the free editorial calendar templates
Download the template for free
How to create an editorial calendar (in Google Calendar)
- Download HubSpot’s free editorial calendar templates.
- Customize your template and prepare to import it into Google Calendar.
- Open the Google Calendar.
- Use the drop-down menu on the left to create a new calendar.
- Fill in the details of your new calendar.
- Import your XLS or CSV file from the same drop down menu.
- Select the calendar to add this file to.
- Click on Import.
- Determine your release schedule.
- Set up recurring events.
- Fill your publication spaces.
- Share your editorial calendar with others.
1. Download the free HubSpot editorial calendar templates.
The first is the first: download the calendar templates above (they’re free). This way, you have three editorial calendar templates on your computer that you can use as you wish: one for Google Calendar, one for Excel, and one for Google Sheets. We’ll talk about it in this blog post How to import the Excel template into Google Calendar.
2. Customize your template and prepare to import it into Google Calendar.
By default, the publication dates of the templates you downloaded are stamped for 2016. You can change it to the current year in the table itself. You can also drag it to the dates of your choice in Google Calendar after uploading the file.
With Google Calendar, you can easily load a calendar that you may have created in another program into Google. This includes Microsoft Excel. To import the Excel calendar template downloaded in the previous step into Google Calendar:
3. Open Google Calendar.
Once you’ve downloaded (or created) a calendar that will open in Microsoft Excel, it’s time to open Google Calendar. Just make sure you’re already signed in to the Gmail account that you want this calendar to have access to.
4. Use the drop-down menu on the left to create a new calendar.
Now it’s time to set up your Google Calendar to take into account the information in your Excel spreadsheet. First, go to your Google Calendar and click the plus sign to the right of “Other calendars” (see image below). In the drop-down menu that appears, choose Create New Calendar.
5. Fill in the details of your new calendar.
Complete the fields that appear on the next screen. This includes a brief description of your calendar as shown below to give people the right context when you invite them to this calendar. When you have finished filling in the details, click Create Calendar.
6. Import your XLS or CSV file from the same drop down menu.
Using the same drop-down menu that you used to create your editorial calendar, now import the Excel file into Google Calendar yourself. Click the plus sign and choose Import.
Click the upload box that says “Choose a file from your computer” and locate the file called “Blog Editorial Calendar – Excel” that was included in the zip file you downloaded in Step 1 above .
7. Select the calendar to which you want to add this file.
In the second box under your imported file, click the “Add to Calendar” drop-down list. Make sure you select the name of the calendar you just created from the drop down menu as shown below. Then click on “Import”.
8. Click on Import.
Once you’ve uploaded your Excel file and selected the calendar you want to add this file to, click “Import”. An Import Calendar dialog box shows that seven events were successfully imported. Click on “Close”.
If you haven’t changed the dates of the first seven assignments in the original Excel document, you can do so now. Navigate to January 3, 2016, the start of your calendar. Make sure all other calendars are temporarily hidden by clicking the colored box to the left of the calendar name. For the week of January 3, 2016, you should only see one “Blog TBD” calendar event each day from 10 am to 11 am.
Use the edit window of each assignment to change the publication date. For example, if you are happy with the 10am publish time, you can easily change the date from January X, 2016 to January X, 2021. Each assignment will then be displayed as event blocks in your monthly calendar view 2021.
9. Determine your release plan.
Now that you’ve created your calendar, it’s time to fill it with tasks for the year. If so, there are a few decisions you need to make about your blog’s publishing schedule.
While the Excel file you imported includes accounts for one blog post per day, that doesn’t mean you have to post seven days a week. You might want to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Or maybe you plan to only post on Thursdays. Remember, the key to blogging successfully is quality over quantity. Don’t overuse a blogging schedule if the quality of your content is compromised. (This blog post has some great benchmark data on how often companies should blog.)
To reduce the number of days you want to publish, click that day’s calendar event and choose Delete.
Even if you want to post multiple times a day, updating this calendar is as easy as adding an event. Select a slot on your calendar to add another “Blog TBD” event and copy the default description from another of the events you imported.
Next, it’s time to make some minor adjustments. Currently, the “Blog TBD” events are set for 10am. You can always reschedule these events until your blog is published during the day.
10. Set up recurring events.
After you’ve set your publish dates and times, you can set these recurring events on your calendar. If you have a regular release schedule, e.g. For example, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10:00 o’clock, add this as a recurring “slot” to your calendar. It’s fine if you don’t already have full content – or even a working title – to put it there. It’s just a reminder that you want to post something that day.
To add your recurring slot, click your first “Blog TBD” event and then click the pencil icon to edit your event. This takes you to the details of the post where you can create a custom recurring schedule for each task, as shown in the image below.
You can set up the post as a recurring post so that it automatically appears every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00 AM (or any day and any time).
When you have selected the recurring days, hit “Done” and “Save” and you have an editorial calendar framework to work with.
For now, keep the title of the event as “Blog TBD”, but you can customize the description with any additional details you want to include for each post. Wait until you’ve invited a guest as this will allow us to assign posts to an author once you start filling in your topics. When everything is done, click “Save”.
If you don’t have a recurring schedule like this, you might not need an editorial calendar just yet – but it’s a great way to set goals. Knowing that you want to get a certain number of posts every week, even if you don’t hit every single slot, is a great reminder for you and your team that this is something that you should all strive for.
11. Fill in your publication spaces.
Now that you know all of the slots you want to fill, you actually have to … you know … fill them. (If you don’t have any topic ideas, check out this free topic idea generator. It will give you some great ideas for what to include on the calendar.)
Suppose one of the posts you want to write is “10 Surprising Facts About Tapirs” and one of the posts that you have already written and plan to publish later is “Do you think you are cut out to own a tapir?” Read this first. “Cool! Just add them both to the calendar by clicking “Post-TBD” on the correct date, selecting “Edit Event” and then changing the text “Post-TBD” to the actual title of the post.
Let’s say you don’t want to write “10 Surprising Facts About Tapirs” but your colleagues. To assign an author to the post, invite him to the event as a guest. To do this, click on the event, click on “Edit event” and invite this colleague to the post by entering their name or email address in the “Add guests” field and selecting “Add” if you Name is displayed. When you are finished, click “Save.”
Now everyone can see who is responsible for writing the post that will be published in that time slot.
You can go a step further by adding details to the Description field of the event as shown in the large field in the screenshot above. It might include a brief synopsis, the keywords you want to target the post on, the audience you want to reach, and the offer or CTA that you are directing the reader to at the end of the post. Don’t forget a due date for the draft.
Before you can save the event to Google Calendar, a dialog box will ask if you want to change just that event or all of the events in the series. Select “This event only”.
Repeat these steps to assign each blog topic today and in the future.
12. Share your editorial calendar with others.
After you’ve set up your calendar, you can invite people to view it. I would recommend that you start with your direct team and regular contributors – as well as anyone who regularly asks you about posting content on your company blog.
To share this editorial calendar with other people, simply find your editorial calendar under “My calendars” (see below). Click the three dots next to the calendar name, then select “Settings and Sharing” when it appears in the drop-down menu. You will be taken to the same screen we saw when we first filled out the details of your editorial calendar in step 2.
You can then add the names of the people you want to share the calendar with and set the correct permission levels for each invitee.
It is advisable to keep the permission settings for managing changes and sharing to a minimum so that there are not too many cooks in the kitchen. However, I recommend that you view all of the event details so it is very clear what content is in each slot.
Under the heading “Share with specific people”, enter the email addresses of the members of your content team and decide whether they have view, edit or administrator rights. Save your updated settings.
Why using Google Calendar as an editorial calendar works
I mentioned earlier that we’ve tried many different editorial calendar solutions and this is the only one that’s stuck for more than a few months. I think one reason is that we use Gmail for our corporate email. This means that everyone on our team has been on Gmail (and especially on their calendar) all day. As a result, it is not difficult for people to check the editorial calendar because it is not difficult for them to find.
Google Calendar also makes it very easy to move and schedule things because … well … it’s already a calendar. It has all of the features you need to plan things and let the people who need to know about them know about it. When we used other solutions to do this, we tried to hack a calendar feature instead of just relying on one that was already there.
With that in mind, adding people to view your calendar is easy. This makes it easy for multiple teams to work together, see what’s being published and find out when they can potentially launch content and campaigns.
After all, this sets a precedent for other teams who can coordinate with you in a very simple way. You can have a calendar for upcoming campaigns, offers, social media pushes, and product launches – you name it. And you can share all of these calendars with each other to see everything that’s happening on one screen so you can coordinate more easily.
Are there other solutions for maintaining an editorial calendar? Naturally. But if you’re looking for a product with minimal viability, and a free one, this isn’t overly shoddy. It has kept our content team healthy, agile, and transparent for some time – and I think it could do the same for you.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated for completeness.