A content calendar spreadsheet can help you track upcoming content and publication dates, but it cannot help you publish or promote your content.
And that’s a problem.
After all, 91% of marketers use content marketing to reach their audience, but only 30% report say that their organizations are effective at content marketing.
While many teams see the value of content marketing, few have optimized their content marketing operations to the point of releasing quality content consistently.
Managing your content calendar in a spreadsheet is partly to blame.
Table of contents:
- Why teams use spreadsheets for content calendars
- The benefits of Google Sheets for content calendars
- Features that Google Sheets lacks
- Beyond spreadsheets...what to use instead for content calendars
Why teams use spreadsheets for content calendars
First off, let’s explore why so many content teams use spreadsheets.
Spreadsheet programs are:
- Free or low-cost
- Widely understood, familiar, and accepted
- Easy to use, especially for making lists of items and including dates
If you’re going to choose between putting your content calendar in a document versus putting it in a spreadsheet, a spreadsheet is easier to edit and understand when it comes to managing your schedule.
Using Google Sheets for content calendars does have a few benefits
When we compare Google Sheets to Microsoft Excel, it’s clear to see that Google Sheets does have some key benefits.
While Microsoft Excel does offer cloud computing, it’s not as smooth or widely adopted as Google Sheets, and users will often revert to old-school downloading and uploading, causing version control issues.
Google Sheets, on the other hand, offers these important features:
- Easy online editing - Collaborators can click to open the file and edit it in their web browser (or the mobile app) without having to download or upload anything.
- Version control - Because users don’t download the file to their device, there’s less likely to be issues with multiple versions getting passed around.
- Comment notifications - Google Sheets offers email notifications when a user is tagged. If someone comments on an Excel spreadsheet on their desktop computer, they have to remember to email the file to that person, and the notification isn’t automatic.
- Assignments - Google Sheets also includes the ability to “assign” comments to others. This adds an extra layer of urgency and responsibility so that collaborators know what is expected of them.
However, those assignments are really just comments and don’t offer all of the details that a brief or task management system would provide.
In fact, there are plenty of issues with using content calendar spreadsheets, which we explore below.
But Google Sheets doesn’t have these essential features
While using a Google Sheet for a content calendar does allow your team to enjoy the benefits of cloud-based collaboration, it doesn’t help you release high-quality content as quickly as possible.
Companies producing even just a few pieces of content per week will save hours per month when utilizing a content operations platform instead of a spreadsheet.
Here are some of the important elements that spreadsheets lack:
Bird’s eye view of your content calendar
Looking at a spreadsheet isn’t a great visual representation of what your content calendar actually looks like.
Imagine planning a virtual retreat for your business without looking at your team members’ calendars to be sure that everyone would be available that week?
It’s a bit silly to read a spreadsheet when what you need is a calendar.
When your content calendar actually looks like a calendar, you can achieve these things more easily:
- Easy detection of gaps
- Easy detection of days with lots of content
- Overview of content on all of your channels (not just your blog)
Content assignments and briefs
With a spreadsheet, you also can’t assign content to writers in a helpful way.
Sure, you can tag them in a comment on a spreadsheet, or email them, but you won’t be able to quickly and easily get them all of the information they need to complete the task.
With a content marketing management tool, on the other hand, you can send real assignments that add the collaborator to the in-progress content.
An editorial brief is important for any content team. In your content brief, you might include the following information:
- Intended audience
- Purpose of the content
- Target keyphrase
- Word count minimum or range
- Research or desired internal links
Of course, you can use a document for creating a brief, but then you’re using a bunch of different tools.
Rather than spread your work out across multiple tools and platforms, it makes sense to write briefs where you plan your content calendar. It saves time and reduces confusion, too.
Content creation and collaboration
It’s also not possible to actually create content inside of a spreadsheet.
Using a spreadsheet for your content calendar dictates that your content be created somewhere else, which creates the following inefficiencies:
- Time lost finding files and asking team members for file locations
- Uncertainty on the progress of certain content pieces and who is collaborating on what
- Too many platforms and tools containing important information and communications
If you’re still using Google Docs for blog writing, that’s a problem too. Doing so will create tons of manual work for your team, especially when it comes to actually publish your content.
Pre-scheduled content publication
A spreadsheet lists out when you’re supposed to publish content.
It can’t actually publish content for you.
Today, most marketing teams wouldn’t dream of doing this with social media. Imagine a spreadsheet that tells you when you’re supposed to post on Twitter and LinkedIn.
All of the confusion of following the spreadsheet, trying to locate the content you’re supposed to publish...it’s a mess.
While content teams don’t use spreadsheets for social media, many are still using them for blog content.
Your spreadsheet can show you your schedule, but it can’t automate blog content to be published in advance. This creates manual work for employees who are constantly checking the schedule and logging into your CMS.
Aside from not being able to publish directly to your CMS, and a spreadsheet also can’t publish to other platforms that might be important to you for Google-safe distribution (not duplication).
Popular platforms for multichannel content distribution include Medium and LinkedIn articles.
If you’re using Google Sheets and Google Docs to manage your content, you’re going to have to log in to all of these different platforms to publish your content.
Not only does this waste time, but it also creates negative SEO backlash because Google considers it to be duplicate content.
A content calendar spreadsheet has further failings, unfortunately.
Another big issue is the inability to create, schedule, and publish promotional posts and emails that get the word out about your new piece of content.
If your content team is working inside of spreadsheets, they might check when something needs to go live, manually enter it and publish it on that day, and then manually post on social media about it, and then manually send an email newsletter too.
The big problem with manual work isn’t just that it’s costly. The real issue is that it’s vulnerable to changes.
What happens when your team gets busy?
If there’s a new feature launch going on, your team won’t be able to consistently promote the content for that week or month.
It’s no wonder why so few marketing teams feel that they’re not effective at content marketing.
Content marketing gets pushed to the bottom of priorities when life gets hectic.
42% of content marketers can’t measure their campaign results. They don’t have a solution in place.
Well, a spreadsheet definitely can’t provide content analytics.
Teams using spreadsheets are only going to see a backward view of what their content schedule was supposed to be. That’s it.
Today’s content teams need quick access to campaign results including:
- Leads generated
Of course, Google Analytics can provide content insights, but the hard truth is that the majority of content teams don’t have a GA expert on staff, and don’t have the time or technical skill to set it up well enough to extricate meaningful insights.
Beyond content calendar spreadsheets...what’s next?
So what’s next? What should your team use instead of a spreadsheet?
To release quality content consistently, you need a cohesive platform that allows you to:
- Plan - Use a content marketing platform that helps you visually map out your blog content and promotional content with a calendar view.
- Create - The platform you use should include content creation, briefing, assigning, collaboration, and review.
- Publish - Make sure that your platform can publish directly to your CMS and other distribution channels that matter to you such as LinkedIn or Medium.
- Promote - To save time on content promotion, look for something that integrates with email marketing software and social media networks so you can pre-schedule immediate promotion and evergreen content promotion as well.
- Maintain -Marketers who regularly update and repurpose content are 74% more likely to get results from content marketing. Look for a tool that makes it easy to update content from one central location.
- Analyze - Any content marketing software you use should include built-in analytics to help you better understand campaign performance, from impressions through to leads generated.
It’s time to ditch the spreadsheet and use a tool that’s actually built for content marketing and helps you get results.
Learn more on how we use the StoryChief’s content calendar template to plan blog articles, social media posts and other content.