Whether you have a bunch of sites or just one, it’s always an easy task to outsource your publishing to a VA. The one main reason why most VA’s fail is because they don’t get clear or proper instructions on the tasks you are looking for them to complete. In order to help you out, we are going to share with you the SOP that my team uses when uploading the content to my money sites.
We also have a template of the document we send to the VA to ensure each step by step is taken that you can download.FREE VA Step by Step Template
***** We have now switched to using photo stock images as sometimes these photos are labeled for reuse but have some fine print that states otherwise so please be careful.
I know when I first started off I was publishing all my content because I wanted it to be done properly and didn’t thing that a VA could handle it. After a while I found that it was eating up my time, time that could be spent focusing on other aspects of the site such as link building or other outreach strategies. I decided I would test out a VA and for the first few, they just weren’t doing what I was expecting them to do, however after I created the SOP for them, they were easily able to pick up the skills I was looking for and was able to execute perfectly. This showed me that a lot of tasks can be outsourced if an SOP is created.
What task would you love to outsource? If it is one I have created a procedure for I would be happy to share!
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!
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!
In January of 2017, I took over a site that was on a decline. Most of the time people run away from sites that have a downwards trend because they believe the site is a goner. More times than none, the site is just lacking quality, consistent links as well as good content. This article will go in detail on the “Dead Cat Strategy” and how you could turn your site around.
I was like most other people when it came to buying sites that looked like these. I was very hesitant and in most cases refused to buy, or put too low of a price tag for the seller to sell. This site fell into my lap and so I decided to do some digging and find a system the could help turn the site around. What usually happens when sites start to do a decline is owners build it up, set up the monetization and then leave it for a while, only to go back and look to see it plummeting in the rankings.
When I bought the site, I wanted to do small tests to see if there was any possibility of turning the site around before I put more of an investment into it. At the time of buying it, the site was only ranking for 461 keywords and according to SEMRush, only had 3 as its traffic. So, I went through the rankings and picked out the landing pages for some keywords that the site was already ranking well for (10-40 ranking).FREE Upgrade Content Template
I then asked my team to go to those landing pages and check out the content and run it through MarketMuse. Through MarketMuse I ran each article to see how they compared to other articles going after the same keyword. I found a lot of the content was very thin, and needed more words added to it. Once I did this within a few weeks I was able to see a few good bumps in the rankings. If you haven’t read my guide on how to do content upgrades, you can view that tutorial here.
After we saw the rankings increasing, I knew this site wasn’t a goner and just needed a bit hand holding to get it back on track. My team then did a bunch of keyword research and competitor analysis to find other keywords that my team could go after. Once this was completed, we put a good solid 10 additional articles on the site and have been rolling out 4-5 articles per month since then.
In conjunction to the articles being published on the site, I also had my team creating Done For You PBN sites as well as getting Use My PBN links pointed to keywords that were seeing a good increase in the rankings. After a few months (June 2017), we were seeing some great increase in both rankings and traffic.
After seeing the great results for this site, I bumped up the article creation to twice a week so 8 articles per month. I also continued to get the PBN links pointed to the articles but on top of that, I also did some genuine outreach and got a few good backlinks from other quality sites. Over the next 6 months, we continued with the links and the articles and almost tripled in traffic.
Overall, the site that I thought was doomed, has turned out to be a great test. Within 1 year, the site went from having traffic of 3 to over 20,000 as well as only ranking for 461 keywords to well over 6,000 keywords, a lot, which are in the top 1-3 position.
Now when I come across sites that are for sale that have a downwards trend I look at it more as an opportunity as in more times than none, the sites just been left alone for too long. There are still going to be the sites that are banned, deindexed or have spammy backlinks so make sure you check all of those before you buy but if everything looks clean, it may make a great investment.
Note – buying a site on a decline often stays on a decline so definitely a risk that needs to be sufficiently priced in if you are looking to buy. Sometimes I call this my “dead cat” strategy… if you can buy a site for cheap enough… kick it and see if it moves and if it moves give it some TLC… if it doesn’t move you can put it in the dumpster.
Over the last few weeks I have gotten quite a few emails asking me how my other businesses are going due to the fact that my attention has been focused on my adbank.network project. If you haven’t had the chance to check it out my “long overdue update”- you can that here! Well, I thought that this would be a really great opportunity to shed some light on how we’ve managed to keep some of the other businesses going strong without a whole lot of involvement on my end. This blog post is going to be about the success of Content Refined which has scaled consistently over the last year and a half and is a solid business on its own.
Madeleine Taylor, the Co-Founder with me at Content Refined shared some useful hacks at a conference a few weeks ago, so in this blog post I want to go over those hacks with you and share some of the valuable lessons my team and I have learned about growing service businesses online.
The 4 hacks that we’re going to talk about are the following:
1- The Importance of building your teams properly and managing them effectively
2- The Importance of recruiting the RIGHT management team to run your business
3- The importance of proceduralizing your business to optimize output
4- The importance of collecting and creating data to prove the value of your product to your audience
If you do these 4 things consistently and effectively, your business will be Solid and Scalable
Back in November 2016, when we launched Content Refined, we started with 3 beta clients. One manager- which was Madeleine, one writer, and one VA. Our criteria for hiring our freelancers was:
1- Are they the cheapest rate I can find?
2- Do they have good reviews?
3- Have they done it before?
Our very first hire was a writer that we found on upwork for 10$ per article. We had our first client- they were a beta client . The very first article the writer wrote for us- she absolutely knocked it out of the park and we thought- wow this is going to be super easy! Client #2 – we used the same writer. This time it’s a train wreck. Madeleine had to rewrite the entire article herself. Actually, she had to submit 3 times before it was suitable for the client. At this point we’re wondering if this is just a one time fluke or if we had a real problem on our hands. Client # 3- This time we get the copy back and we’re a lot closer to what we had received for client #1. We were super stoked. Problem solved. UNTIL it was checked it for plagiarism and it scored almost 80% exact copy from another online article.
So what’s are our overall takeaways?
#1 Freelance contractors are all over the map. – Some are good, some are bad and some are criminal
#2 Doing this by trial and error is an error!!!
#3 We better put some systems in place or Content Refined isn’t going to last very long
And so that’s what we did and here’s what we came up with:
We created a system where we hired about 5 writers at a time, tested them out over several weeks and then fired the bottom of the talent pool. Now we kept doing this over and over again and put systems in place where we were culling the good from the bad at all times. So what was the result? The bottom 10% would ALWAYS get sifted out and that was our very first SOP. How to cull the talent so that we got consistency and quality from our freelancers. This is still an SOP we use with every hire! On a monthly basis, we let go of the bottom 10% of our performing freelancers. This is how you build and manage effective teams out of contractors who possess skills that are not unique to THEM. Don’t waste your time on flaky contractors- they are the worker bees of your company and they are replaceable. Building systems that will save you MANAGEMENT time is crucial to the success of your business or else you’re going to constantly get bogged down with managing people who are always going to have some sort of BS excuse as to why their stuff wasn’t submitted on time.
Takeaways from Hack #1:
So- At this point, we’ve got a nice system in place and we’re scaling up- but here comes our big problem #2- Madeleine’s time has now been extended to a point where the customer service is suffering. In other words- she’s pulling some really long hours and still not getting everything done. So what do we need to do? We need to hire our first Project Manager to help with clients. Unlike hiring a bunch of freelancers, this is the first permanent employee of Content Refined. Now you might be thinking that it was probably time to create SOP #2- but no, we didn’t. Instead of creating an SOP, we created an interview methodology for the things that we wanted to learn about our potential candidate so that we would feel comfortable working with them. Unlike the freelancer -who essentially works for the client, this hire works for us. They’re representing our brand and making big decisions on our behalf. The idea behind the methodology is that if you don’t get to know someone on a human level, especially when you’re working with remote teams, you’re not going to be able to make informed decisions about WHO you’re hiring. So my recommendation is to take this very seriously when it comes to permanent staff and get to know your candidates really well. If you do this and empower the right people, you’re going to build impactful teams within your organization. So this is how we proceed with Management hires. These hires are treated differently than freelancers and we take a really long time getting to know the character of people since we need to place so much trust in them. The benefit of making this hire early is that you’re going to be able to increase production capacity which will allow you to scale your business.
Takeaways from Hack #2:
So, now we had a nice operational fulfillment side of the business with a team in place and so this is when we ran into problem #3. How does Madeleine shift her responsibilities and start working ON the business rather than IN the business? She felt like we were at a major turning point in the business and we needed to take a step back and really take a look at where this organization was going to go- so at this point, we sat down and created an org chart of the business with the idea that many of the roles would be delegated to Madeleine, and other roles on the org chart would be filled later down the line. This gave us a solid framework and an idea of what staff we needed to hire next. The good thing is, we had a business and had real revenue but needed to see and understand where this business was going to be 6 months- 1 year – 5 years down the line. By the way at this point we were at 7 months since launch and we were at about 25k in Monthly Recurring revenue.
Now we’ve got our org chart and Madeleine’s name is splattered all over it which is normal for entrepreneurial businesses so don’t freak out if this is your reality too. But In addition to that, throughout the entire the build of the business we’d been writing SOP’s like crazy. In fact at this point in time we had created 42 SOP’s. We are of the opinion that there is absolutely no way we could have been successful if we had not done that. Every time a new situation arises in your business- you need to write an SOP about it. If you don’t do that- then every time you do something you’ll be creating a new procedure and you will stunt the scalability of your business. With that being said, these SOP’s are organic living documents and need to be reviewed and updated all the time. If your SOP’s aren’t getting better over time, then your business isn’t either and that’s a problem. So with this in mind, we plugged all of the SOP’s that we’d created into our org chart, to expose fundamental structural gaps in my company. SOP’s- just like the plans that you would use to build a home- are the glue that are going to hold your company together.
The simple task of getting to plugging in SOP’s and missing SOP’s for the business allowed us to take the business to the next Level!
Takeaways from hack #3:
Okay so now we have the business set up- we’ve got several teams in place, our org chart, our procedures- but our business CANNOT scale unless we ’re getting new clients in the door and keeping them around! So think about it for your business. For Content Refined, the 3 most important things our clients want to see are:
#1- Quality Content
#2- Increased traffic to their website
#3 Return on Investment
So what did we do with this information? We started putting processes in place that would give our clients what they wanted so that they would have no reason to leave. We even took it one step further with this and we started collecting and creating data to prove the value of our content marketing service to our clients. We created a SCIENCE around content marketing so that we could point to some TANGIBLE data and say
Now in order to make this work we actually had to be legitimate! So we did a lot of work and used the DATA with the help of a whole bunch of different off the shelf tools to create data analytics. If your IDEAL CLIENT requires data analytics- then you need to be prepared to provide those. So if you’re wondering what I’m talking about and want the details, take a look at the posts we wrote last summer about these studies:
So these case studies were designed to prove that we had a formula around our content creation process that would rank your content with certainty. We compiled a year’s worth of content marketing data from our clients’ projects and analyzed it against several keyword research tools and content optimization tools. We then had that data analysis reviewed by a contractor that has a Master of Science in Statistics from Texas A&M University. The results showed which tools are most effective in determining the probability of ranking, and what measures you can take to improve the quality of your content.
1- Competitive Keywords Matter!
2- Content Quality Matters!
3- Word Count
4- Show some success stories.
It doesn’t matter what business you have- get creative and find ways to show your ideal client that you’ve SOLVED their problem!!
Takeaways for hack #4:
So since we’ve built out our businesses this way, I have been able to step away and focus on other projects such as adbank.network, without it impacting our bottom line in a negative way! If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment!