It’s happened. Again. There’s a hole in your editorial calendar.

In perfect color-coded glory, you’ve included all your important promotions for the quarter, slotted the new case study you are putting together, scheduled a few out-of-date blog posts to be updated, and even left room for some fun company-related events. And yet, there it is. That blank space between the promotion of your case study and the next week’s blog post.

Before you start digging through your archives to find something you can maybe find a way to sort of tie into the other pieces you so carefully selected, know there is another way.

Many marketers recognize that the editorial calendar is the lifeblood of a content marketing strategy. It calls the shots and creates organization where otherwise there would be chaos. And yet there is another tool, an extension of the editorial calendar, that many marketers overlook. One that can help save time and make sure all channels are covered: the content map.

What Is a Content Map?

Other than a chance to play with sticky notes, a content map is a tool to help content marketers brainstorm ways to use a key topic to cover as many channels and stages of the buyer’s journey as possible. For example, say you have a white paper this quarter covering a topic that keeps coming up in your keyword analysis. Once that piece has been established and outlined, spend a few minutes coming up with tangential topics that would also be good for blog posts, drip campaigns and guest-contributed articles.

Think about the buyer’s journey and the way you would want your audience to move through these pieces. Include at least one piece, such as a guest-contributed article or LinkedIn post, that’s broad enough for the awareness stage at the top of your content funnel. Make sure to have a few pieces — likely blog posts — dedicated to the consideration stage. Your white paper fills the decision stage, but you might also add in a drip campaign or other bottom-of-the-funnel pieces if the topics make sense.

Download an editable version of a content map to use at your next brainstorm.

If you are doing this as part of your regular marketing team meetings, get out the whiteboard markers or a stack of sticky notes and go to town. If you are a one-person team or working with remote team members, Trello is also a good place to brainstorm.

Why Your Editorial Calendar Needs a Content Map

Besides helping with brainstorming, a content map can do a lot of heavy lifting for your editorial calendar and content creation process as a whole. It can help:

  • Make your linking strategy a snap. Once you have your content map, your linking strategy simply becomes a game of connect the dots. Especially if you start with a keyword or phrase you know people are searching for, you have the blog posts and the gated content to organically build your SEO for that term and your site in general.
  • Bundle your interviews and knowledge gathering.Because all the topics are related, you can bundle your interviews and research. A lot of the foundational information should be similar across several pieces, and it may only take another question or two to get everything you need for several blog posts and a guest-contributed article.
  • Build a list of topics for future repurposing. Depending on your brainstorming prowess, you could run out of sticky notes before you run out of ideas. Content mapping is basically repurposing content on the front end, so any ideas you don’t use in your current editorial calendar can be tucked away for another time. Once you know which topics from this content map resonate the best, you can revisit that list and see which shelved topics make sense to add to your next editorial calendar.
  • Ensure you always have content to fill those holes in your editorial calendar. Back to that original frustration of trying to plug a square topic into a round editorial calendar hole. A content map helps you cover all the channels and stages in the buyer’s journey so you’ll have more than enough topics for your editorial calendar. Even if you do find yourself with a blank space, you can pull from the idea list instead of fumbling for something that doesn’t fit well with the rest of the strategy.

There are a lot of moving pieces in a successful content marketing strategy, and an editorial calendar is a crucial one. Give your editorial calendar, linking strategy and your own peace of mind some support by creating a content map at your next strategy meeting.

Learn more about editorial calendars and content mapping in Influence & Co.’s  Content Marketing Strategy Course.