Building up any website takes a lot of working with writers to get the most useful quality articles possible. Across all my money sites, I work with a team of writers to keep the content new every week and to keep the organic traffic numbers growing.
As you can imagine, that’s a lot of writers to manage. So this week I thought I’d share the best ways to hire and maintain a team of solid writers, keep them organized, and keep on track with what everyone is doing.
In addition to these practises I have developed over the years many of these lessons have been learned via ContentRefined.com where we have produced over 1,000,000 words/month for clients!
I’ve talked about this before, but hiring freelance writers shouldn’t be taken lightly. You want a native English speaking, strong and competent writer with solid experience. I always ask them to do a test assignment before bringing them onto the team. Here’s an example job posting from UpWork.
To check for grammar, I always ask the applicant to fix a couple of grammatically incorrect statements. That’s a quick way to check whether they’re legit English speakers or not. If they provide some examples of their work, that’s a good way to quickly check them out as well. But the best way is to assign them a test article to really see their chops.
I stole this rule from Jack Welch, former GE CEO, about maintaining the best teams. In a nutshell, he says that you should fire the bottom 10% of your staff every year. I apply this (in a way) to writing teams to make sure that they’re always stacked with the best writers. Say you have 10 writers on a content team. Every month or so, I cut out the 1 bottom performer and replace them with someone new. Constantly refreshing teams like this has worked well for making sure that writers are on their game and not getting lazy.
Another tip with freelance writers: don’t give second chances. It’s happened a few too many times where I’ll give somebody the benefit of the doubt for a mistake or a late assignment, and sure enough they go out and repeat that bad behaviour every time. When you depend on sticking to a schedule and you really need writers to be on the ball, you can’t let anything slide. If they screw up, move on and hire someone new. You don’t have to be rude about it. Just let them know the problem(s) and why you can’t continue to work with them. It’s not personal; it’s business.
A master spreadsheet that shows the status of team members has been the most effective strategy for keeping track of everybody. I check in with a spreadsheet like this one pretty much every day to review the work in progress. If I’ve assigned something and haven’t heard back from the writer for a day or two, I’ll follow up. If there’s still no response, those articles need to be reassigned. This simple spreadsheet will save you the huge headache of confusing emails and trying to mentally keep track of everybody. Just be sure to actually update it and don’t let things slip by, because that will make things confusing really quickly. Especially if you’re dealing with 10 or more writers, and various writing teams across different businesses, you want to make sure everything is well-organized.
I also always have an editor go through every article or piece of web copy that I have written. It’s great to have a second set of eyes on any text to help with spelling, grammar, flow, and readability. It’s usually this editor who I also get to run every piece of text through Copyscape to check for plagiarism. So in this master spreadsheet, you can keep track of what’s on your editor’s plate at the moment too.
Some freelancers will want to stick with UpWork for payments for security, but more often than not our writers ask for PayPal. It avoids the UpWork fees. No matter which way your writers want to go for payments, I recommend that you stick to a consistent pay schedule. Every week at the same time of day is ideal. Let your writers know when they can expect to be paid, and keep track of the work they’ve completed on a week by week basis. Here’s an example of what that payment tracking spreadsheet can look like. In this example, payments would ideally be made on Sundays, because the weekly tracking goes from Monday to Sunday. So writers know that if they hand something in on a Monday, they won’t be paid until that coming Sunday.
Consistent work, positive reinforcement, and clear communication are probably the three main things that have helped me keep some awesome writers around for a long time. When you’re working with someone primarily through email, it helps to have a friendly tone and to be as clear as possible with direction. Mutual respect and trust is the goal.
What have you found to be the most effective way of managing writers or content teams? Are there any tools you use that I should be checking out? Let me know in the comments!
Working on multiple business and trying to stay focused on tasks can sometimes be hard, and sometimes my time on certain projects lacks more than it should. Over the course of the last few years, I have been working on finding more solutions and ways to keep on task, prioritize important tasks, and stay motivated with the doom and gloomy tasks.
The night before work or the morning before I start work I create a To-Do list for the day. This helps me sort which are the more important tasks to get finished and which ones are lower, but still important tasks. This plans out my day and doesn’t make me spend any more effort on what I should/shouldn’t be doing, it’s all laid out for me at the start of the day. By creating this list, I am able to stay more focused on the tasks as I know what needs to get done and am able to wrap my head around the game plan for the day. I highly suggest for anyone to create a to-do list each day, it doesn’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to stick to it 100% but its a good starting point on staying on task and being productive. On top of it all, it’s always satisfying when you get to scratch off a task on the sheet and eventually get down to a few tasks left.
For anyone, it can often be distracting working in an office or at home on a computer. There are many things to do on a computer and staying on task can sometimes be hard. I like to do work in 30 minute increments, or if you have a task that’s 40 mins, sit and ensure that gets done before anything else. Once the task is done or 30 mins has passed, stand up stretch your legs, take a walk, or do something else for 2-3 mins that isn’t work. Scientific research shows that you are most focused in 30 min intervals with a small break then trying to stay focused for longer periods of time, this is called the Pomodoro technique.
I have a couple hourglasses on my desk to help with this technique. I can’t say I use it all the time but when I am really trying to push I definitely do find it very helpful!
There is always a certain time of day that we feel we are most productive, some people find they are more productive in the morning and some find they are more productive after lunch. Whatever time of day is your most productive, try and schedule the more important tasks during that time. For me, the morning is always the more productive time, so my to-do list reflects this by always putting the more important tasks first.
Some people try to multi-task with tasks and some might even be really goo at this, but I find dedicating time to one project yields more positive results then splitting your time with multiple projects. If you can give a task your 100% attention, you are more likely to finish it quicker and to a better standard then if you have multiple projects on the go at one time.
During the month of November, I went on a work vacation to Mexico with both my family and a few employees. I knew that there would be many distractions around that I needed to figure out a solution on how to deal with. Before leaving, we came up with a schedule on what times of days would be work, and what times of day would be for family time and other activities. It was sometimes hard to stay focused and on task when I saw my wife and children playing in the pool or going on cool excursions, but I was determined to stay on my schedule. I had a seperate office away from all the noise, which helped me to tone everything out and settle down and work just as I would if I was working here in Ontario using the tips above that I discussed. Cold Coronas were always a welcome reward for sticking to the plan!
I always love to find new books that can help me improve my overall business sense. Whether riding a bike or in my car, I often listen to ebooks. There have been many books out there that I have listened to, but two of my favourite ones on being focused and motivated are Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek and The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey. I highly suggest anyone who likes to read to tackle Simon Sinek’s and Chris Bailey’s books as they provide a great inside look on how some of the most influential businessman stay focused and on task and continue to be motivated by the work that they do.
There are many different tips and tricks that can be used when staying on task. The above are some of the few I use each and everyday to help me with my businesses. These tasks may not work for everyone, and some might even have a better more defined strategy that may be worth looking into. If you have other tips and tricks you would like to share with me or the readers please do!
Over the past couple of years, myself and my teammates at Content Refined (the content marketing business that Madeleine Taylor and I co-founded) have really nailed down how to write killer content and optimize it for ranking. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll remember when we analyzed some of our content’s data to find the best tools and techniques. There were a few articles about this—I’ll link at the end of the article.
Well, we actually had those results reviewed and confirmed by a real statistician with a Master of Science in Statistics from Texas A&M (so he, unlike me, actually has the piece of paper on the wall that says he knows how to analyze data).
Our experience in content creation combined with the statistician’s findings has really solidified our understanding of how to achieve awesome, rankable articles.
As always, I want to share this plethora of knowledge with you guys, so that you can implement some of this stuff into your own websites. Also as always, I hope you guys like graphs!
Refining systems and processes has absolutely been key to continued success with our content (hence the name, Content Refined). If you make a good systematic cycle, and stick to it regularly and efficiently, you’ll be heading in the right direction.
So here are the four steps for creating articles that work for us:
The foundation of our articles is a strong primary keyword that is highly probable of ranking. We find the right keyword, and create an article title around it.
Once the keywords and article titles are good to go, they’re sent out to some excellent writers.
Our editors are the final step before publication. A thorough quality check includes checking for plagiarism, editing the writing carefully, and running each article through a content gap analysis and keyword optimization tool.
Our publishers follow a standard protocol for nicely formatting articles with stock photography and ensuring search engine optimization.
Now, let’s break down these steps into a set of standards to abide by.
There are a lot of keyword research tools and methods out there.
With our data review (checking the content we’ve created against their real results), we have verified three essential components of each chosen keyword; (1) monthly search volume, (2) competition score, and (3) domain authority of competitors. So, when performing keyword research, we target the following measurements:
But remember, these measurements are flexible according to your content needs (eg. international location, site traffic, niche, etc.).
We have also verified that the most accurate keyword research tools currently available are SECockpit by SwissMadeMarketing, Ahrefs.com, and KWFinder by Mangools. These are the three tools we use to perform our keyword research.
It’s super important to maintain a strong team of excellent writers. We hire only native English writers (freelancers) who can pass a series of grammar and content creation tests. Plus, our relationships with writers are dependent on great communication and clarity of requirements.
We also frequently review and renew our writing team. Our general rule of thumb is to keep cutting out the bottom 10% (the writers who aren’t consistently awesome or are starting to slack off) and replacing them with new great writers.
Another thing to keep in mind is writing a minimum of 1000 words per article. It’s generally recommended for search engine ranking. Depending on your niche, you might need more than that. The keyword research should help you figure out how long your content needs to be.
An Editor really has to be a master of proofreading.
For us, we make sure that first, they run each article through a program that checks for plagiarism, ensuring that each article is truly original content. The tool we’re currently using for this process is CopyScape.
Then, they carefully go through each article, editing for spelling, grammar, flow, and readability.
Lastly, they run each article through a keyword optimization program to naturally weave in more secondary keywords wherever they can. This greatly helps in filling ‘content gaps’ that the writer may have missed. The tools we’re currently using for this process are CognitiveSEO and MarketMuse. Both tools have proven to increase the probability of ranking in search engines.
*note: In the MarketMuse vs. SERPFox graph: Negative MarketMuse Score was used instead of MarketMuse Score because of the ascending nature of MarketMuse Score (higher is better) vs. the descending mature of SERPFox Ranking (lower is better).
Publishing requirements tend to be subjective.
Everyone has their own processes for formatting and optimizing an article before publishing. However, we’ve set out a set of standards that we follow, that have proven to increase the probability of ranking.
Uploading a bunch of articles at least once per month and scheduling them out is the most efficient way we’ve found to stay on schedule and make sure that good content is always there.
If you hire a freelancer to do this publishing, I definitely recommend doing a quick quality check before hitting the actual ‘publish’ button.
Across all my sites, this is the system we use. These are the core processes used at Content Refined, and we’ve had continued success in getting content to rank and organic traffic to grow and grow. Check out these results from one site that Content Refined does all the content creation for (whose name we can’t share for privacy purposes). They started with no organic traffic, and with these processes, plus a great niche, they’ve been able to scale super fast.
It’s been amazing to watch Content Refined grow, expand teams, and nail down these processes. I do encourage you to check them out and jump on a call with Laura (our acting Business Manager while Madeleine is on maternity leave) to discuss content needs if that’s something you’re looking for.
Let me know what you think and if there’s anything that works really well for you!
Links to our previous data collection articles:
“Rank in Google with Certainty — 2 Metrics Reveal That You Will Definitely Rank Well in Google!” https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/rank-content-in-google-with-certainty/
“Rank in Google with Certainty? — Market Muse Review Updated Data Analysis” https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/rank-in-google-with-certainty-updated/
“Definitive — Best Keyword Research Tool to Determine Keyword Competitiveness” https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/best-kw-research-tool-keyword-competitiveness/
“New Ranking Data to Help Your Site Rank” https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/new-ranking-data-to-help-your-site-rank/
When I first started off in the online world, I was working full-time at my day job as an Engineer. I would then come home each night to eat dinner and spend the rest of the night working away at my computer. My time was very limited to spend online so I had to make the most out of every minute. I quickly realized that the small tasks that were lower level were eating up my (very limited) time, and set out to find a solution to offloading some of those tasks away from me. I had used Upwork (Formerly ODesk) in the past with another job so I decided I wanted to find a VA on here that could help me.
If you haven’t read my post before on how I hire VA’s, you may want to take a look at that before setting out on this task.
This was a pivotal move in my online career that allowed me to free up my time to focus more on pushing businesses forward and doing the higher level tasks rather than holding the business back and pushing through the lower level activities on my own. This allowed me to work smarter, not so much harder. If anyone who is working online finds themselves doing a lot of repetitive tasks that could be offloaded with the use of a simple SOP to a VA, I highly recommend it.
I know a lot of people have had a hard time finding good VA’s and find that they are spending the same amount of time on hiring, training and handhold as they would to complete the task. But what they may not know, is once you find a good VA, the relationship gets easier, the ability to assign them more is fantastic and if you need to hire more down the road, that VA can train them. However, there are a few main points that will help you with being more successful when hiring a VA.
This is one thing I use VA’s for all the time. Wether its scoping out a niche I want to go into, gathering data off the internet and putting it into a Google sheet or any type of easy research, I highly recommend using a VA.
While putting together content plans, I use VA’s all the time to help me with managing my blog posts across all my sites. Adding images, creating tags, dealing with formatting is all time that could easily be done by a VA and allows you to be more hands off. Yes you uploading one blog post here and there isn’t too big of an issue but if you are looking at uploading 5+ per month, save yourself some time and hire/train a VA to take this task off your hands.
Here is an SOP that we use when we hire new VA’s to upload content.
Another part of my business that I found I was spending time on was creating invoices for clients (my current billing system doesn’t automatically generate these). They often would take only a few minutes to do each but as more and more were needed, I desperately needed to find a way to offload them to someone else so I create a simple SOP on how to fill out the proper details. Now all I need to do is send him an email once an invoice is needed.
As with many people who are in the online space, there is some aspect of web development or WordPress that you could use a little hand with. Whether it’s installing plugins and themes, site maintenance or troubleshooting, a VA that has some skills in this area is a definite bonus. With having so many sites, it’s hard to keep track of them all and ensure they are all running smoothly, so having a VA going in to check on each site is a great way to not lose out on
A VA can be a great fit for people who find themselves struggling for time by freeing up some of your workload to allow for some bigger important tasks to have your attention. If you use a VA I would love to hear more about what tasks you use them for. If you don’t use a VA, I would love to hear why.
If you have never used a VA I HIGHLY recommend starting the process of hiring fast and firing fast until you have only the best on your team!
Whenever I’m trying to gain some recognition for a young business, I put someone on my marketing team in charge of finding some low cost opportunities to promote the business online. That person performs a deep dive into our content niche and sources opportunities to find backlinks, get mentions on other pages, build connections with others in the industry, etc. It’s a time consuming effort, but in the long run it’s so worthwhile.
Take a simple backlink for example. In this graph, check out those two spikes. That’s from when we had new backlinks live from good authority sites. Even though our traffic dropped back down, consistent links and mentions over a long period of time will build up our own recognition in the industry, reputation in the niche, and our website’s authority.
A lot of the time, backlinks and mentions aren’t free. Leaders in the industry and high authority website owners are savvy to their power, so they’ll often charge a fee for that outbound link. This can range anywhere from $50 to $1000+ depending on the site. It depends on things like their traffic, the page that the link is going on, if you’re asking for an image or other content to accompany that link, etc. Sometimes you can get lucky, or you have a buddy with a high authority site that owes you a favor, but, more often than not, this is one more thing that you’ve gotta work into your marketing budget. (P.S. Don’t spend $1000 on a backlink.)
And then we tried something new.
Nowadays, it seems like every guy and his cousin run a podcast out of their garage. (“Hey, we are geniuses about Bill Murray movies and classic rock history—let’s start an Americana Movie & Music podcast!”) An April 2018 news article from Fast Company states that there are currently “over 525,000 active shows, with more than 18.5 million episodes available, including content in over 100 languages.” In the world of business, digital media, and marketing, there are literally thousands upon thousands of podcasts available. Plus, most of those include interviews with leaders in the field. So, with this in mind, my brain started spinning some ideas:
I had to test it. So I took to UpWork (my favorite place to find freelancers) and posted a couple of jobs. This was an initial trial, so we wanted to cover all the bases; we needed someone with some podcasting experience, maybe some PR experience, and digital media connections. Here’s the strategy: Offer this ideal person $50 for whatever podcast they can get us booked on. For someone who’s in a network of podcasters, it’s easy money.
After a couple of hours, there was radio silence (pun intended). 24 hours went by–still crickets. So I started actively searching on UpWork for freelancers who fit the description. I just searched for terms like “podcasting”, “podcaster”, “PR”, etc. A ton of people with good looking experience showed up right away. I invited them all to the job, and within about a day I had a few people working away! I asked them to look for podcasts that were specific to our field (in this case, ‘digital marketing’, ‘entrepreneurs’, and ‘start ups’, etc.).
The person doing this outreach usually has a tracking system, like this spreadsheet, where they can keep a record of everything. It’s a good way to make sure they’re following up with opportunities, getting things booked on schedule, and take notes of any new ideas.
Two months later, we’ve recorded FOUR podcasts! There are a few of these ‘podcast specialists’ working for us, actively seeking new shows for us to record on, and they’re happy to get $50 per booking. It’s perfect for us, because they do all the time consuming work, then we get our company name out there at a low cost, with in depth interviews about our company’s origin story. We also get to add a new podcast appearance to our media kit, which looks great. Plus, we get a backlink from the podcaster’s website. All this for $50 each.
This podcast hack has gotta be one of my favorites. If you give it a shot, leave me a comment about your experience!