Are you looking for new ways to scale your blog content by utilizing guest blogging?
It takes time to build a roster of reliable guest bloggers that can produce quality content. But that’s not the hard part.
The challenge is creating a streamlined and scalable process that rewards and incentivizes your guest blogging program for participation—all the way from first-time writer to program evangelist.
To help, I’ve put together a guide to jump-start your guest blogging program.
Guest Blogging Program Beginnings
Let’s rewind a bit. In May 2018, I was hired on board at Liquid Web and handed a budding guest blogging program.
The idea was to utilize internal content experts, who are true experts in our industry, to create new content and drive traffic to our digital properties, instead of using external contributors that may or may not understand our industry.
Back then there were just over 10 internal writers in the program. These were folks that had answered our rudimentary email invites to write an article for us. Topics were chosen based on the participant's interest and skills.
We were keeping a Google sheet of those interested and their skills, which was a highly manual process, and updating regularly. We used Asana to keep track of all of the projects in one place.
As I started working with these talented folks one-on-one, I realized within a month that there was no way we could scale the program with this type of workflow. We were struggling to get out a few articles a week, let alone hit our target of a new piece of content daily.
We needed something radically different.
How to Build a Guest Blogging Program
For those starting their guest blogging program—we’ve all been there!—it’s important to build a solid foundation that can scale.
A solid foundation consists of four areas:
- Clear leadership buy-in and communication organization-wide
- A streamlined process and workflow between departments to get your writers paid
- Teams to check content for SEO value, accuracy, and competitiveness
- Building program evangelists
Step 1: Get Clear Buy-In From Leadership
Without this, you might as well pack up shop and go home. Leadership must believe in your mission and the ability for that mission to be carried out in order for your program to succeed in the long run.
So what is your guest blogging mission?
To start, what’s the objective of your guest blogging program?
1. Build Brand Equity, Site Rankings, and Visits
There’s no better way to get new visitors long-term than providing top-quality, SEO-driven content on a regular basis. This content needs to drive specific keywords that fit into the overall web strategy, and complement your product pages.
2. Capitalize on Existing Knowledge Within the Organization
What better source of content than your own internal resources? You can pay employees much less for participating in your guest blogging program than external writers, and they already fully support your organization’s values and mission.
3. Decrease Support Tickets by Providing Useful Tutorials and How-To Articles
What’s the number one thing eating your organization’s time? Supporting existing customers’ needs. And what better way is there to hit “two birds with one stone” than to create articles from content already being shared by support during calls/tickets anyway?
4. Provide Content for Marketing to Use in Paid and Organic Social Promotion
Marketing is always on the lookout for new and exciting content. This program could become a steady flow of new content that builds your social following and jump starts your brand’s social equity.
5. Provide Leads For Nurture Campaigns From Blog Subscribers
Fuel your nurture teams with content designed to create MQLs and eventual customers.
Leadership buy-in provides the foundational support upon which the program will be built. Think of it as the gas in your tank that fuels the program forward. With their support, you can build a sustainable payment system to provide incentive for participation in the program. We built ours out of the existing content budget—the same budget we paid contract writers with.
Step 2: Create a Streamlined Process Between Departments
Next, it’s absolutely crucial to create a process for paying internal staff to write content. Without it, you will be plagued with the “I haven’t been paid” emails and your participation will tank along with content quality.
Getting Writers Paid
With leadership’s approval and support of the program, set up clear lines of communication between Accounts Payable or Human Resources (depending on how your organization pays out employees).
- Determine clear expectations about what the writers will be paid to produce, how much they will be paid, and for what media.
- Create standard documentation that both departments can reference and keep it up-to-date.
Communication With Writers
Use a project management software like Asana or Trello to track each piece of content like you would a project. Then create new fields for each project, such as the due date, author, content progress, content type, and payment information.
Set up communication channels with your existing writers as well as invitations to write for new participants. I recommend following up with everyone participating on a weekly basis, especially when it comes to first-time writers and those who owe you a first draft of their content.
Also, integrating updates into a “Writing Program” Slack channel is one way to keep existing writers up-to-date on the program, while providing motivation and support for them to finish content.
Resources You Need To Create
These form the backbone of streamlining your program. Creating documentation that explains how the program works, outlining the process, payment information, and helpful tools will help to eliminate barriers and scale the guest blogging program.
At a minimum, have these resources available organization-wide on an internal drive or server. Here are some resources you may want to include:
- Guest Blogging Overview: A complete explanation of why the program exists, who can participate, how payment works, the entire writing process, terms and conditions, expectations, and writing tools.
- FAQ: One of the biggest roadblocks to scaling a guest blogging program is the sheer amount of Slack and email questions you will need to answer, and a document that gives answers to frequently asked questions is the best way to combat this.
- Topics Board: This is single-handedly the biggest reason for our program’s success. Instead of working one-to-one with guest bloggers to determine topics, vet a list of keywords that have SEO value and align this with your site’s keyword strategy. Then provide this list as an organization-wide resource where anyone can select any topic.
In other words, creating transparency into the process will create visibility, which in turn, can improve participation.
Step 3: Check Content for SEO Value, Accuracy and Competitiveness
Once the program foundations are built, quality control is essential for success in the long run. As more content is able to be produced in a shorter time, ways to check content quickly and accurately for competitiveness, SEO value, and alignment with your keyword strategy are key. Luckily, we already had a team at Liquid Web that handles training, which made them perfect for reviewing new content prior to publishing.
There are two levels of review each and every piece of content travels through in our guest blogging program.
1. Content Accuracy
To keep content quality and competitiveness up, you have to monitor closely the content being published. Rely on internal experts to do this.
Find a team of individuals in your organization who are knowledgeable about many of the content topics, and get their support in providing review of all content that passes through your program. This team’s responsibility is to vet content for accuracy.
To motivate our team, we provide them with a pizza party monthly and you’d be surprised how well this works.
2. Grammar, Structure, and Final Edits
The Marketing team will then review the content for grammar, make sure the structure makes sense, and provide feedback to the author. Content is rated against the top competitors for the keyword that it will be ranked against in order to achieve position one or zero in Google, also known as a featured snippet. We use SEMRush for SEO and competitor research.
Also, use a tool like Grammarly to look for plagiarism. Don’t get caught in a legal battle due to copied content.
Step 4: Build Guest Blogging Evangelists
The final key to any guest blogging program’s success is creating evangelists. You can do this by making the program about more than just getting paid.
One of the best ways to incentivize your program is to create tiered rewards. This helps with keeping sustained participation over the long run.
At Liquid Web we give out exclusive North Face Writing Jackets for those who have written five or more pieces of content, and Apple AirPods for those who have produced 13 or more.
Promote the Program On Social
Why not use the program as a way to produce content? We take pictures of our writers wearing their jackets and sporting their AirPods and post them on our social channels. This provides a boost in credibility to our writers.
Utilize Top Contributors
Take note of those who participate in your program the most often. Invite them out to lunch or politely ask them to help you grow your guest blogging program by talking it up to others in their department.
Since these folks are sporting the fruits of their labor—in this case Apple AirPods—they are more likely to be listened to and have tangible sway in getting others to join the guest blogging program.
Scaling Your Guest Blogging Program
To date, over 250 new pieces of content have been created through our program, and we have over 70 published writers, which has produced over one million page views on Liquid Web digital properties. We are now launching new video and content recycling programs to complement our guest blogging program’s success.
There’s no limit to the power that a guest blogging program can have on your bottom line. With the proper buy-in, processes, and documentation in place, you can make 2020 the year your guest blogging program soars to new heights.