How To Use A Blogging Planner
When I first started working at Dana Corporation in 1999 in their Global IT Division, I was given an allowance to purchase my very first Franklin Planner. I’d used calendars and schedules of course in school, but nothing like this.
This leather-bound tome was amazing and overwhelming.
Not only did it have beautiful calendar pages, but also places to note contact information, goal-setting, to do lists, and all kinds of other helpful information to have (even global, pull-out maps!). I still have that planner today.
But, sadly, I haven’t used it in years.
That’s about to change.
I’ve recently put together my own planner, a blogging planner, that I’ve specifically designed to help myself and other bloggers plan out everything they’re going to do in the coming year.
I’m going to take you through each of the planner pages so you’ll know exactly what to do with them, including how many to print out, and how to make sure that the planner helps you achieve all that you want in the coming year. (By the way, if you haven’t yet grabbed a copy for yourself, it’s just $10! You can check out everything that’s included, or just click the Order Now button to download a copy. Then come back here to continue learning more about how to use it!)
"Whether you're looking to start a new blog or reinvent your current one, Mike Allton has built the roadmap. Inside his new guide is everything you need to know to launch, manage, and monetize your blog.”
- Rebekah Radice
I created this planner because, frankly, it’s something I wish I had been using from the start. I might not have wasted so many posts and years on content and directions that weren’t intended.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” That’s what we’re going to address here.
I also created the blogging planner to help you see the big picture for your blog. It’s hard, when you’re focused on writing a specific article or social post, to see how it’s all going to work together to further your long-term business goals. It’s also hard to identify patterns and themes. That’s where the annual and monthly calendars really shine.
So let’s take a look at your new planner.
First, note that you will receive 5 digital files, each corresponding to a different PDF. They are:
- The 2018 Blogging Planner, and then your bonus items...
- The 2018 Blogging Planner Guide, which includes a printing guide and instructions
- Guest Post Planner
- Facebook Group Promotion Schedule
- “How To Make 2018 Your Blog’s Best Year!” - an article that I’ve written just for you.
Here you can see the blogging planner as I have printed it out, 3-hole punched the pages, and inserted them into a 3-ring binder. You can staple them, put them in a folder, bind them, laminate them… whatever you want. And I’ve designed the PDF files to make it as easy as possible for you to print whichever pages you need.
The Guide has specific printing instructions, but I want to reiterate here that while the guide is designed to have a beautiful edge-to-edge border, you don’t have to print it that way. Some printers support borderless printing. For those that don’t, like mine, you can spend a few bucks more to have them printed locally - but that’s just if you prefer that borderless look. If you’re OK with a small white border around all your pages, just print them out normally. It will not affect the usability of the planner in the slightest.
After the cover page and contents, if you print those, you’ll find sheets for your yearly goals and monthly goals. You don’t have to come up with exactly 5 - you can write more or less, and the same is true for improvements. But the point is to give these some thought and write down concrete goals and changes to make.
One example for an improvement might be to implement HTTPS protocol for your blog in 2018 if you haven’t already. While a goal might be to create 4 new content upgrades in the coming year to drive more subscribers.
You can print out one or more Monthly Blog Goals sheets for each month, if you’re going to come up with new, different goals each month.
Blogging To Do Lists
I’ve included a Blog To Do list to give you one place to track all of those things you know you need to do, or that you discover over time. Any improvements you note in your goal planning should be copied here, as well as any other tasks you have on your plate or want to tackle. In the coming year, you can then set aside a little time each week to work through these items.
Similarly, I’ve included a Weekly To Do list which you can use for more detailed and scheduled work. You can print off one for every week if you want to use the sheets to help you keep on top of changing tasks, or use one for the whole year to help you put a plan for recurring tasks in place.
The Blog Post Brainstorming Guide is a really helpful sheet that will guide you through the vetting process of a new post idea. Instead of just writing up whatever article ideas come to us, this brainstorming guide makes you think about what kind of post you’re going to write, when you plan to publish it, what’s interesting about it, and so on. You can jot down any specific ideas for the article you might have, as well as To Do items.
For instance, if you were thinking about writing an article about how to make money with a blog, you might want to gather some insights from some blogging influencers and include them as quotes within the article. So that might be an Idea, or even a To Do item.
That sheet is for specific article ideas that you want to flesh out. For more general brainstorming - quickly generating a number of post ideas - use the next sheet, the Blog Post Topic Brainstorming sheet.
Both the year-at-a-glance calendar and monthly calendars give you a place to note major events, meetings, create plans, and so on.
The Monthly Editorial Calendar, which your planner includes one sheet designated for each month, is particularly useful.
With these sheets you can plan out when you’re going to publish specific articles and see at a high level how those can work to support each other. You can then also incorporate specific social media posts, webinars, Live Videos, content / product releases, contests and many other kinds of activities to create an overarching message.
Again, this is hard when you’re just publishing one post at a time and not thinking ahead to what the rest of the month and year are going to look like. But when you have a plan, you can support those activities and create an amazing impact on your audience.
Suppose, for example, you want to build your authority on a particular topic. Publishing a blog post is nice, but if you spend a whole month talking about that particular topic, supported by four blog posts, numerous social posts, and other activities, I guarantee your audience will see you as an expert by the end of that period.
In political campaigns, we call that “sticking to message,” and it’s a technique you can apply weekly or monthly as you see fit.
Next is a sheet for Contacts which, again, you can print as many as you need. This is particularly useful for keeping track of other bloggers and colleagues in your niche.
The next sheet is one of my favorites and, again, one that I wish I would have had years ago - a designated place to note all those details from the wonderful people you’ve met at networking events!
Whether it’s a local chamber meeting or a huge conference like Social Media Marketing World, you’re going to begin to meet other people that you’ll want to stay in touch with. But since these are offline meetings and not Facebook Connections, you have to make an effort to organize and do something with those contacts and contact details. Exchanging business cards is great, but I’ve found stacks of business cards to be too easily lost or dismissed.
You can also opt to supplement your written Contacts sheets with laminated business card holders designed for 3-ring binders, if you tend to get a lot of business cards and like keeping them.
As you begin to meet more people, both online and off, some of those people will be influencers in your niche. It’s important to carefully consider how you can best build relationships with those individuals and keep track of how those develop. I do recommend being open to any number of possible directions and activities.
Usernames & Passwords
The Usernames & Passwords sheet is a sensitive one. You must carefully consider your own situation and where it might be safest to store your usernames and passwords. If, like me, you work from a home office, a sheet like this, within the middle of a planner, isn’t easily found, and would not be susceptible to online thieves.
Next, you have an opportunity to begin filling in your affiliate program relationships. Again, just as with the calendar, the act of filling this out will help you far more than just giving you some place to list them. Seeing them all in one place may help you visualize how they do or do not overlap, work together, and even generate ideas on how you might further promote those affiliate products.
Sponsors & Advertisers
Similarly, your Sponsors sheet will help you track your paying advertisers, as well as potentially inspire new collaboration or cooperative activities.
While it’s nice to track all of the revenue coming in from our blogging activities, it’s also important to be realistic about our revenue and track our expenses at the same time. These will likely include domain name renewal and hosting, as well as any premium themes and plugins, and other services. The sheets are designed to be used monthly so for any annual expenses (like your domain), you can either budget the cost across 12 months, or just note it in the month you get billed.
Monthly KPI Tracking
“That which is measured, improves.” That is an axiom that every blogger should memorize.
If you pay attention to “key performance indicators” (KPI) for your blog on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, you will soon get a sense for how well aspects of your blog are working and begin to think about ways to improve them.
For instance, because I pay attention to which of my past articles continue to bring in new readers every day, I was able to discern that my readers are really interested in learning about Facebook. That knowledge empowered me to create a new digital download and offer specifically about Facebook which has been 10X more effective than my previous offers.
The Tracking sheet is a convenient place to note each month’s metrics so that you’re forcing yourself to monitor them, as well as give you an easy way to flip through and compare past months.
I’ve pre-filled lines for Unique Visitors, Pageviews, Bounce Rate, Avg. Time on Site, Organic Google Referrals, Social Media Referrals, New Subscribers, Email Referrals, and Total Revenue. Plus you have more lines available to add other metrics that are important to you (i.e. Facebook Fan Growth).
Print as many of these pages as you need for each month.
Email Campaign Tracker
I like to use the Email Campaign Tracker initially to plan out campaigns, and then after the fact to record their performance. Just as with our editorial calendar, it’s powerful and effective to concentrate on a single message (topic) for a given period of time so that each individual post and email can build on the last.
Trust me, the shotgun approach of blogging or emailing about whatever comes to mind just doesn’t work as well.
After each campaign you can note details like Opens, Clicks and Unsubscribes. While most every email marketing solution has that data, it’s not always readily available, or easily compared to other campaigns. If you are diligent about documenting the performance of every email campaign, you’ll see trends develop and be able to respond to them far more quickly.
Have you ever noticed that suddenly your site started to get more (or less) traffic, but you couldn’t recall what you might have changed to have that result?
The Change Log will help you with that.
Every time you make a chance or improvement to your blog, just write it down here. You don’t have to go into detail - just enough to jog your memory.
Also note that there is one line per date and change. That’s deliberate. If you’re working on anything which might impact SEO or usability, it’s best to effect one change at a time and then allow some time for any benefits or repercussions to show up. If you make 5 changes in a day and then, a week later, notice that your Google traffic has dipped, you’ll have no idea which of those changes was the culprit, or if perhaps it was all 5 together.
Implement and record one change at a time and use the log to help you identify what’s worked or hasn’t for your blog.
Notes & Ideas
If, like me, you need to write down whatever ideas come to you if you’re to have any hope of remembering them in the future, these pages are for you. Print as many as you need, and use them liberally.
These can be used as section dividers, or for custom printing. Suppose you’d like to have some charts or key reports included within your planner. Just print as many blank pages as you need and then put those pages back into your printer to print on them again.
You can also use these to create entirely new, custom pages for your planner! It’s YOUR planner so use it and build on it as you see fit!
Incidentally, if you have an idea for a sheet, or feedback on an existing sheet, please let me know! Each year’s planner will incorporate reader feedback to make it even better than the last.
Guest Post Planner
One of the best techniques a blogger can use for expanding his or her audience is to publish great guest posts on other people’s blogs. The Guest Post Planner will help you document and track the major blogs and publications that you identify for potential publishing.
Facebook Group Promotion Schedule
Facebook Groups are terrific places to connect with other people who share mutual interests, which means they’re often filled with likely readers of your latest blog posts. However, each Group has their own set of rules and permissions. Pat Flynn, for instance, allows members to share their latest posts and promotions only on Fridays as a comment on his invitation post. The Promotion Schedule will help you track which Groups you can post in, when.
Whether you use this Blogging Planner or one you put together yourself, the key is to PLAN and then document the results of your activities. My planner gives you a structured way to do that.
"Holy smokes - I'm definitely going to use Mike's blog planner for 2018 and you should too! Blogging without a plan isn't going to be effective or work well. Use the planner and put the time in to plan and you'll see results.”
- Peg Fitzpatrick
If you haven’t yet ordered your 2018 Blogging Planner, it’s time to get started! Order yours today for just $10.
DISCLOSURE: Many of the links in the article above, and throughout this site, are affiliate links. While there's no additional cost to you, any purchases made via those links may earn me a commission. Rest assured, only products and services which have been rigorously tried and tested are reviewed, and those reviews are always thorough and honest. If you benefited from my review and have a genuine interest in the linked product, your use of the affiliate link is appreciated and allows me to continue writing these kinds of helpful articles. Current examples include Agorapulse, Tailwind, Wishpond or SEMrush. Please also note that I am employed by SiteSell as their Chief Marketing Officer and am fully authorized to share product and company information from extensive personal experience.
By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner - a title he invented to represent his holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blogging, social media, email marketing and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales. He is an award-winning Blogger, Speaker, and Author at The Social Media Hat, and Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse (formerly CMO at SiteSell).
As Brand Evangelist, Mike works directly with other social media educators, influencers, agencies and brands to explore and develop profitable relationships with Agorapulse.Follow @Mike_Allton