Blogging seems so laid back.
The casual reader probably doesn’t realize how much work goes into creating and maintaining their favorite blogs.
Despite the chill factor, preparing blog content definitely comes with a lot of responsibility.
According to a HubSpot’s 2016 State of Inbound report, blog content is the top inbound marketing priority for 60% of marketers.
There’s all the planning, the writing, the publishing and then the marketing and communications on top of that.
It’s a lot to keep up with day after day.
So, I feel your pain.
From my experience running six blogs at once, I know blog management can be a headache.
You can’t let yourself and your blogging team write in the void without plans and organization, nor can you get everything done without a schedule, yet putting together such plans and schedules—on a regular basis, no less!—can be challenging.
Only… it doesn’t have to be!
I hope this guide will help make your life a little easier.
How to Manage Blogs That Attract and Retain Readers with 3 Priorities
As a reader of popular blogs like ProBlogger, QuickSprout and Make A Living Writing for years, I’ve noticed patterns that inspired me to become a better blogger and that can inspire you to be a content manager.
1. Develop a laser focus on your niche
The best blogs out there are aiming for very specific targets, and it shows.
They don’t stray from the focal topic.
They don’t even try to market to everybody in their niche or industry, but they pick a narrow subset of the niche and audience and focus on that.
So, if you manage a community for gardening bloggers, you’ll want to narrow your blogging advice to their specific needs, not the needs of generic bloggers covering any old topic. When it comes time to plan out your month’s post topics and publishing schedule, tackle only topics that will be very specific to gardening bloggers—and perhaps even a unique group within the community of gardening bloggers that you know frequents your site.
2. Produce only gems (no fluff)
There’s no fluff on the top blogs out there.
Every post that appears on their blog is valuable, relevant, helpful and memorable. You can do that, too—just never throw content out there in web space so you can say “I updated the blog this week.”
Go back to the overall goal of your blog and your audience needs if you’re losing track of quality (over quantity). You can also turn your attention to the following staples of quality blogging:
- Bring experts to the table. Roundups, interviews, podcasts… they really do everything in their power to bring as much expertise to their readers as possible! That’s how they make their blogs grow. Have a Twitter chat, invite guest bloggers, start a podcast. You can do a lot with the blog to turn it into the go-to resource for your audience.
- Build real relationships. Follow and engage with only a handful of other names in your niche or industry. Don’t try to scatter and reach out to everyone. You’ll often see certain networks of bloggers and content marketers working with each other’s assets and communities so that they can all grow together. You can do the same. See who’s out there and interested in collaboration.
- Dare to take a stance. Have you ever read Jon Morrow’s blog? When I did the first time (and again a few months ago), it scared me—check this post he wrote against publishing new content during the holidays (really?!) and tell me! You’ll rarely find a blogger like him, not afraid to state what he believes are best practices and ethics.
Yeah, sometimes his words sting, too. Ugh! Bloggers like Morrow go ahead and tell it like it is, which might turn off a few readers, but it works like a charm to retain those with a like mind and grows them into loyal followers. Go ahead and dare to have an opinion. Dare to be honest. Your readers will trust you more.
3. Keep up with your schedule
Successful blogs never miss a publishing date.
If they can’t publish, they’ll have a guest writer’s contribution up for that day or, at the least, let their readers know.
Work with your blogging team to make publishing work smoothly, and encourage communication in case a writer gets sick or has an impediment.
Don’t just keep up—get ahead. Build a small stockpile of blog posts and other materials that you can publish in a pinch. It’s a huge relief knowing that there’s always something good on hand to be published. If something goes wrong with one week’s lineup of publishing, you’ll always have something to fall back on and keep your readers happy.
Plan for Success: 8 Chill Tips on How to Easily Manage Blogs
The following points will show you exactly how to make things easier on you and your team while you shift your focus to the three priorities listed above.
Get ready to release a big sigh of relief.
Developing That Laser Focus on Your Niche
Now, the first three points are more focused on content strategy. It’s all too easy to become lost chasing a million different goals and marketing ideas—then nothing gets done particularly well.
Develop a laser focus with these first main tips below—and encourage the rest of your writing, editing and marketing teams to do exactly the same.
1. Know who you’re writing for
If you speak at a conference, you have to know the background of the people you’re talking to for your speech to make sense. Can you imagine the face of your kindergarten audience if you prepared your speech on graduate mathematics? Or your graduate student audience’s reaction to a kindergarten sing-along hour?
Yeah, exactly. Not fun.
The same happens with blogs. You need to do some prospecting.
“Without proper prospecting before publishing the post, the blog will feel that it has no purpose,” says Sam Williamson from Scotland Shop, “and will be hard to manage. Prospecting can also help to generate more ideas, so is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.”
If your blog is aimed at increasing sales, subscriptions or followers, then you know that your ideal reader isn’t just a reader—they’re also a sales lead and potential customer. Ask yourself:
- What does this reader need?
- What is it that makes the reader turn into an interested lead? Into a paying customer?
- What pain points does the product address?
Linda Formichelli’s post at SmartBlogger is a good place to start seeking answers to those three questions.
Your blog will only be a successful promotional tool if each blog post answers a reader’s question or need, whether they ask directly or it’s left for you to deduce from an audience analysis.
- Search social media and relevant forums. What questions are people actually asking? Which ones haven’t been fully answered anywhere?
- Do mega keyword research, and try to find keywords in the format of questions. What are readers requesting?
All blog posts have to address the customer’s pain points and turn to the product as the solution, without making that a sales pitch, though—your writers have to offer real advice and then link that advice to the product with an effective call-to-action (CTA).
2. Know why you’re writing for those people
What does your blog exist for?
If your company sells SEO services and you want your blog to educate prospective clients on the benefit of implementing SEO for their websites, that education is your mission.
You have to know why you and your bloggers are writing for that specific audience.
- What do you want them to know?
- What do you want them to walk away with?
- Is that post an answer to a question? Or is it aimed at sharing information?
Keep your mission in sight and at the same time be mindful of your audience’s needs (see #1).
3. Mind your keywords
Keywords aren’t only vital for SEO purposes, they’re also what feeds your editorial calendar—they’re the gist of your topics, condensed in a few relevant words.
Don’t aim for exact-match keywords in your content (they’re dangerous for SEO and they make no sense for readers) but look for natural alternatives that search engines can match to what your audience is looking for.
For example, don’t use “cheap hotels Atlanta” in your text, but “five cheap hotels for your vacation in Atlanta.”
The only place you might want to use exact match keywords at is the post URL slug (ex. example.com/cheap-hotels-atlanta). Handle that with care, too!
Topical keywords should be researched before planning the editorial calendar for the new month or quarter, to ensure you also cover seasonal themes if that applies (Christmas, Spring sales, etc.).
Your blogging team can contribute with researching and pitching topics at the beginning of the period to schedule throughout the calendar.
Tools to research keywords include your web analytics suite, Google Trends, KeywordTool.io and, as founder of Man of Many Scott Purcell recommends, use Alexa, SimilarWeb and SEMrush to discover even more keywords.
Producing Those Gems
4. Make every single post worth bookmarking
In a web world filled with low-quality content, you really want to provide readers with information they’ll want to keep handy, reference to, and think of as the authority in the field.
Because you wrote the book on it—oops, I mean the article.
Content marketing is not just marketing and selling with content—it’s also contributing to human knowledge and making that knowledge easily accessible to those who need it. To truly contribute to this online wealth of knowledge, you must make each post worth keeping forever.
If you had to narrow down your team’s blogging goals to one single goal, this is really it. Quality, quality, quality.
5. Accept guest posts… the picky way
Your team doesn’t have to write all the posts—you can also welcome guest posts as you see fit.
But you have to be very, very picky.
“Accepting guest posts can be a great way to build the content on your blog and to attract new readers, but you need to ensure that you’re only accepting quality pitches,” says Max Robinson, marketing executive at Precious Little One. “A good way to do this is to create a ‘contributors’ section, where people have to register as a contributor before being able to publish content. This extra step often puts spammers off. ”
Low-quality guest posting is still a thing, sadly. Spell it out in your guidelines how you only green-light contributors—possibly authoritative industry experts and great bloggers—that have something valuable to tell your readers.
Guest posts should have a place in your editorial calendar. For example, if your goal is to publish three posts per week, one of them can be a guest post.
6. Implement an editorial calendar
From day one, ideally, but if you have been managing a blog for some time, make it a goal to plan regularly from now on, because it’s impossible (or at least very difficult) to manage a big blog with a team without a plan!
There are many apps you can use for your editorial calendar, from Google Calendar and CoSchedule to the multi-featured CoSpot (better suited for blogging teams). Take a look at CoSpot’s features—they’re truly meant to make blog management easier for content managers and writing teams. It could be better than your current editorial calendar app!
But what matters is that the final version of the calendar is as comprehensive as possible, including post promotion and social media marketing along with topical keywords and post deadlines.
If you and your writing team are unable to maintain a regular productivity on a given month, don’t sweat it—give more room to guest posts and easier-to-write posts like roundups and interviews to keep the ball rolling.
You and your team can’t do it all together—blogging, social media marketing, writing the posts, researching, interviewing, finding new outlets for guest posts and writing those.
It gets crazy!
Give each asset its own time slot on the schedule, and develop a process, not just an editorial calendar.
You have to find the right process for you and your team to develop/manage the blog and promote the posts.
Communication with your writing team is essential to make this process work. Nicole Maul, social media manager at Fresno-based JP Marketing, recommends that you become “a cheerleader for your contributors” and support them as people, so that “in no time you’ll be seeing content coming through the pipeline at a steady pace.”
Maul also shares: “We have created a pseudo-editorial calendar keeps our contributors on a five-week rotation. That routine keeps the writers aware of their deadlines and understanding that they are an important part of the blog.”
Also, nobody knows your target audience and your blog’s mission better than you, so share that know-how with bloggers for them to bring out their full potential as content writers.
8. Market every piece of content right away
And I mean even those old posts that you didn’t market thoroughly in the past—it’s time take those, update if needed, and re-launch!
Facebook ads, influencer marketing, guests posting… you have many a method to get your posts circulating—what you don’t ever want is an outdated piece on your blog (what’s that there for? Occupy space and bandwidth? Collect spam? Ugh!)
Make sure all posts ever published at the blog you manage are still marketable and relevant to the audience. If you have reviewed a plugin in the past, now is the time to update that review, and make it current.
Victoria Heckstall, CEO of Unique Words & Giveaways 4 Mom, says that “marketing the content is just as important as making sure the content is high quality. It’s important to market your blog posts throughout all stages of your blog.”
Heckstall’s practical tip is to “Schedule out your social shares as soon as your content originally goes live, at the minimum, for over the course of 30 days.”
If you use WordPress, you can use a social scheduling plugin to automate the sharing of your post across multiple platforms.
Nicole Maul adds that “another great way to share your posts is through your e-newsletter. If you have an engaged email list, then you should definitely be sharing your content with them. […] When you have evergreen content, blog [posts] can be utilized more than once along with your different channels. Whether that be for e-blasts, social media or training and development.”
Blog Management in Practice: The 5-point Checklist
I know this guide is quite long for being an “essential,” but I promised to make your life a little easier with it, so here’s a 5-point checklist get you on track right away (really, copy and paste this to your note-taking app for quick use):
☑ On Day 1 each month, grab your (paper or virtual) calendar and plan your blog posts for the next 30 days
☑ If you have a writing team, have a chat and distribute blog topics among team members (divide et impera!)
☑ Quality over quantity—focus on publishing fewer posts this month, but do make those truly epic!
☑ Make at least one of this month’s posts an interview-based piece about a prominent expert in your niche
☑ Market the heck out of those posts (all of them)
The are three keys to effective blog management are:
- Develop a laser focus on your niche
- Produce only gems
- Keep up with your schedule
That’s all that really matters.
Let the rest go (for now) and stay on top of these priorities.
One thing at a time, you’ll overcome every challenge that comes with managing a blog and a team of writers.
Work together with your team to make the blogging engine work, and reap the benefits.
Did I just hear a breathe of relief?
Very good! Mission accomplished.