This is a guest contribution from Alexis Grant, an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist.
Managing multi-author blogs can be a lot of work; you’re juggling contributors, an editing funnel, your calendar and maybe even promotion on social channels. But if you put certain systems in place, stay organized and know where to focus your efforts, you can decrease your time spent on the project while significantly increasing your blog traffic.
Because my company, Socialexis, manages several large blogs, we’ve discovered a few handy tips for being both efficient and effective. Here are six ideas for handling posts from a variety of contributors in a way that will help you grow your traffic and your community:
1. Create contributor guidelines.
Putting some work into this up front will make your life much easier later. Rather than explain again and again what you’re looking for and how to submit, create guidelines and post them on your site, so you can refer potential contributors to that page.
But don’t stop there. Over time, make note of questions potential contributors ask, and add the answers to that web page. My team also likes to create bit.ly links for contributor guidelines, so we can easily remember and share the links.
2. Take advantage of free tools.
There’s a huge range of blog management tools out there, but you can usually get by with free tools, especially if you’re not running a high-volume site. We use Google Calendar as an editorial calendar and share it with anyone within the organization who needs to know when certain posts will run.
We also use WordPress’s Editorial Calendar plug-in, which lets you drag and drop drafts if you need to change your schedule. And Google Docs — also free — is a great tool for collaborative editing, so the author can see what changes we’ve made.
3. Use Canned Responses.
This Gmail Lab is brilliant when it comes to emails you send again and again.
Keep receiving requests to write for your blog? Create a Canned Response that says you’d love to consider a post, with a link to your guidelines. Get a lot of pitches that aren’t a good fit? A Canned Response that says something along the lines of “Thanks, but this isn’t right for our audience” will do the trick.
To add Canned Responses to your Gmail, navigate to Settings, then Labs, then search for Canned Responses.
4. Create a database of writers.
To avoid finding yourself without solid blog posts, keep track of quality writers, and encourage one-time contributors to submit again. We ask writers to add themselves to our database of freelance writers, but you could also keep track via a simple Google spreadsheet. (If you’re a writer who wants to add yourself to our database, go ahead.)
This works whether you’ve got a particular topic you want someone to blog about (you can ask a blogger to write that post) or if your pitch well has gone dry (you can email the list letting them know you need submissions).
5. Optimize your headlines for SEO.
This is one of the best things you can do to help new readers find your site, and once you get the hang of it, it only takes a minute or two per post — putting it smack in the middle of the big-bang-for-your-buck category.
Sometimes, your SEO efforts will only send a trickle of traffic to the site until… BAM! One day, a post catches on in Google, and you land hundreds or thousands of new subscribers. Be consistent about tweaking your headlines so readers can find you via search, and your efforts will pay off in the long run. The increase in traffic will bring more potential contributors to your site, which makes your job as editor easier.
6. Work ahead.
When we respond to writers and let them know their post will run in three or four weeks, they’re often surprised to hear we schedule content that far in advance. But working ahead is the best way to minimize stress, increase quality and, yes, maintain your sanity.
When you schedule blog posts in advance, you’re far less likely to fall into the trap of publishing sub-par content just to get something on the blog by your deadline. This also gives you time to put posts aside and look at them with fresh eyes, which is one of the best ways to catch grammatical errors. Working ahead sounds simple, but it’s a great strategy for reaching your goals.
Follow these tips — along with offering valuable, relevant content — and you’ll be on your way to an awesome multi-author blog.