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How to Improve Workflow in a Multi-Author WordPress Blog

This guest post is by Syed Balkhi of WPBeginner.

Running a multi-author blog can become a hassle, especially if you do not have a dedicated content manager for your site.Having run several multi-author blogs myself, I understand the issues you face and decisions you have to make.

If you’re running a multi-author blog, you may have asked yourself questions like, should I give the writer access to my WordPress dashboard? Is it secure? How do I monitor their activities to see they aren’t messing up my website? How do I improve my workflow?

In this article, I will share my personal experience in managing a collaborative WordPress site safely and effectively.

The “t” in “team” is also for “trust”

If you want to improve your workflow, then you will have to give your writers access to your WordPress dashboard. Otherwise, you will find yourself copying and pasting a lot of elements from a Word Document into your WordPress dashboard, attaching images, adding styling elements, and so on.

Fortunately, WordPress comes with numerous user roles with various permission levels.

user capability

If you look at the charts above, the two permission levels that make the most sense for multi-author blogs are Contributor and Author.

The biggest issue with Contributors is that they can’t attach images because they do not have the ability to upload files. Since you want your authors to have the ability to upload and attach images to their articles, you will want to give them Author-level permissions.

The big issue with that is that it gives them the ability to publish posts, delete posts, edit published posts, and so on. While I trust all of my authors, I don’t want things to go live without going through an editorial review. So I don’t want them to have this capability.

The good thing about WordPress is that there is a plugin for just about everything. You can use a popular plugin called Members to modify the capabilities of the Author role. Once you install the plugin, go to Users > Roles and modify the Author role. Your final permissions settings should look something like this:

The roles editor

As you notice, the only abilities we’ve given Authors here are editing posts, reading posts, and uploading files.

Security and monitoring

In the past, I have seen hackers trying brute force attacks through the login page. Because each author’s URL contains their username, they only have to guess the password for an author to get access to your site. What’s worse is if your author has used the same password elsewhere, and the hacker knows this.

To prevent this kind of attack, the first thing you need to do is to limit the number of failed login attempts. This means that after three failed login attempts, the user will be locked out.

The second thing you need to do is make sure that you use the plugin Force Strong Passwords. To monitor users’ activity, you can use plugins like Audit Trail or ThreeWP Activity Monitor.

Last, but certainly not least, make sure that you have a strong WordPress backup solution in place. Of course there are other security measures you can take to protect your site in other ways, but these are the ones that are specific to multi-author blogs.

Improving your workflow

A good editorial workflow can make things a lot easier. The key to a good workflow is communication. I use a plugin called Edit Flow to make things easy for me.

The first step is to define the stages of your workflow. My workflow looks like this:

  • Draft: default auto-saved posts, or any un-assigned posts
  • Pitch: when an author pitches a post idea
  • Assigned: the editor or admin assigns the post idea to a specific author
  • In progress: the author puts the article in this mode so everyone knows that someone is working on it
  • Pending review: once the author finishes the post, they submit it for an editorial review.
  • Ready to publish: once the editorial review is complete, we make the post Ready to publish. From there, I or another admin can take a look at it and schedule it for publication.

This workflow makes the process really easy, especially when we have a lot of writers. This plugin comes with default statuses, but you can always add your custom post statuses.

The best part is that you can sort posts by the custom status. Changing the status is extremely simple.

Custom status

You can also use the Edit Flow plugin to communicate with the author from within your dashboard. This makes the communication part really easy, and prevents you juggling through emails. Also, when assigning posts to a specific author, you can set deadlines in the Editorial Meta Data option.

The plugin also gives you a convenient month-by-month calendar-view of posts. This lets you know if you have a post scheduled for a specific day or not.

Calendar view

A private area just for contributors

Over time I have learned that I don’t have to do everything myself. I can assign tasks to trusted folks in my team. The best way to establish this trust and find out who is the right person for the job is by judging their interest level. Setting up a private area just for your team members can help you determine that.

I recommend that you set up a site with P2 theme and invite your team members and authors there. Password-protect the site, so only logged-in users can see the content. And when an author stands out in this environment, you can promote them to an Editor or another position within your business.

What’s your workflow process? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Feel free to share your tips and tricks for multi-author blogging, too.

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest unofficial WordPress resource site that offers free WordPress videos for beginners as well as comprehensive guides like choosing the best WordPress hosting, speeding up WordPress, and many more how-to’s.

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Comments

  1. Kenny Fabre says:

    great workflow, blogging takes time so its important to work smoothly and be relaxed

  2. This blog was very helpful. A colleague and I are started a multi author blog and will have several contributors so I will definitely share this post with her. One thing you didn’t mention in your blog post was revenue sharing from Adsense or other click ads. I found the Awesome Adsense plugin for wordpress which isn’t very user friendly, as well as author advertising but I can’t get that plugin to work. Do you have any suggestions?

  3. Ashley O. says:

    This is a great post! Thank you for sharing this information. I have a muti-author blog and I’m constantly trying to research new ways to improve it. I really like the Edit Flow plugin especially. I have something similar, but not as powerful. I’ll be deleting that plugin and taking your advice on this new one.

    I’ll have to check out the P2 Theme, too. I’ve been looking for something like this. Can’t wait to visit your website. Thanks again.

  4. Manipal says:

    Hello Syed,

    This is a truly informative post and the plugins you mentioned are a god send for me. I’ve been struggling to maintain a semblance of order in the multi-author site I run and these will help me no end. @Darren Rowse, I do hope that we see more on Multi-Author blogging as the trend towards these ideas is picking up.

    Cheers

  5. I like to be organized with my files and my work. I like the way Edit Flow does it. I also make use of Google spreadsheet a lot. I have VAs who can access it. We can check if there is task and the progress.

    Always make sure that the password is strong. You should force that to your co-authors/contributors as well.

  6. Shelby Roth says:

    Amazing write up! I just loved your blog contents and thanks a lot for the workflow ideas. I look forward into applying teh same method and I believe things are going to work out so well. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I agree with your site contents Syed! The advice above is really fascinating and inspiring. I can’t wait to research new and workable ways of improving workflow; sounds so interesting tips. keep up and thanks for sharing such a help to us!

  8. It takes a good writer to build the trust of his/her clients and readers. They will always come for more if you embrace quality and take their concerns into account. Multi author blogs really need the write contained herein. I love the blog post.

  9. Kacey says:

    I went to your services you offer link and tried submitting but got the following error message. i think this is my first time to your site so not sure why I’d be blacklisted.

  10. Alex says:

    I am looking at implementing an interface for guest authors myself, and I simply love the plugins presented in this page. The only issue I am having here, is that your post assumes that your are teaming up with people you trust.

    What I am trying to achieve for now is for guest authors to be able to ONLY see their own profile details, and the posts that they have written themselves (so they should not be able to even view the posts written by other authors). Is there a way to do that with the plugins suggested, or are there other plugins for that?

  11. Robert Jones says:

    Syed, great insights here. “Trust” is hard to find, so you must always have your back covered. My head is spinning with all this advice. Will def check out your site and take advantage of the plugins you mentioned.

    I usually just give a “author” status to my team (outsourced) and have them set everything up as a draft so I can review it 1st. But would rather not have to review each and every post as I have a lot of websites using WordPress – too much to keep up with at times.