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!
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!
As your business grows and your team expands, there could be a lot of passwords that need to be shared across team members. But what happens if you fire one of your team members? How do you know what passwords to change and how it will possibly affect your business?
Over the last year, I have thought about this dilemma and have tightened my teams security levels across all business’ and have worked hard to put in place systems so that if one member leaves, it can easily be mitigated and the impact to myself and the businesses are minimal. There are a lot of moving points in my businesses but password protection is something that can be fixed with the proper hand holding the start. The solution; password management system.
Don’t get me wrong, this process took a bit to get into place and took a while to get all team members on board and using it correctly. But at the end of it all, our security when it comes to passwords is stronger than it ever has been and the ability to deal with people leaving has become a lot easier and less worrisome.
Before when someone left, we would have to change all passwords ever shared with them, then we would have to send the new passwords out to team members. Now with a password management system, we just upload the new password in one spot and those that we have allowed to use that tool will have the updated password there for them the next time they need it. No need to send passwords over emails!
Below I have listed 3 of the top password management systems you could use to implement into your systems.
LastPass is a great password management tool to use. It works with a variety of different browsers and is also available on iPhone, Android and Google devices, which is convenient if you are not at your computer. LastPass upon signing up makes you and your team members set up a your master password, this will be the only password anyone on the team will need to remember and this is set by the individuals so no two team members will have the same master password. Upon signing into their account with their master password, they will also need to set up two-factor authentication. This will provide even further protection because if someone can guess your password, they would need the two-factor authentication code in order to enter your account.
With LastPass, you will have a central control system where you will be able to setup, manage and edit different teams and team members. You can only share specific passwords with them members that need it.
The passwords are all encrypted with AES-256 bit with PBKDF2 SHA-256 and salted hashes to ensure complete security in the cloud. This means even people at LastPass will never be able to access any of your passwords, keeping it safe. The two things about LastPass that are unique and very helpful is it seems to have the best activity audit and can have people use the password without actually being able to see it.
Here is the pricing for LastPass:
1Password is quite similar to LastPass in terms of features and usability. 1Password doesn’t have a Two-Factor Authentication factor available, however upon your team members setting up their account, they will be provided with a 128-bit identifier which will be their secret key. And since it never gets sent to you or your teammates, your secret key can’t be reset, intercepted, or evaded, unlike two-factor authentication. Another differences is with 1Password, it allows you to delegate responsibilities to your business leads so they can manage their own teams with custom groups and vaults. Again, just like LastPass, it works on all types of browsers through an extension or computer app, as well as it being available for most phones through the app store and is accessed by the team members independent master password. 1Password major difference is it is a more user friendly and slightly less expensive when compared to LastPass.
Here is their pricing:
TeamPassword is also available on all different types of internet browsers and mobile devices just like LastPass and 1Password. Like, LastPass, Google Two-Factor Authentication is required in order to access your account after you input your master password. Get email notifications whenever someone adds or removes any team member, you can also use this to get notified whenever new passwords are added. You can also view an activity log of all passwords which, allows you to see when passwords were used and by whom. TeamPassword also uses AES-256 bit encryption which is the top of the line encryption for passwords when storing them in the cloud.
Here is their pricing:
As with any new system, it takes some getting use to and takes a little hand holding to get setup. But once setup, sharing passwords with team members and revoking passwords has never been simpler.
If you have used any of these which ones your go to? If there is another one I should add, please let me know!
Well it has been a weird few weeks here!
I am going to share some personal painful stories here…
Two businesses (not adbank) have both had issues of employee theft which is a first for my business! We are not talking hundreds of dollars but over 6 figures!
I won’t get into the exact details but one is solved and one is in the process of being solved.
The key anytime we have a major f-up in our business is to dig in and understand why it was allowed to occur, if the risk of it occurring again is worth putting in stronger systems.
This article will cover the 2 scenarios the systems that were in place and why they failed plus the 5 keys everyone should do if they have any team members with access to hurting your business financially.
One of the ways I like to think about the risk mitigation systems inside my business is the Hazards – Losses path through multiple layers of swiss cheese. No system can be completely bulletproof but the idea is if all layers are in place and working the probability of all holes lining up is very low.
An employee wired himself funds, oversight was not in place fast enough.
There were 3 layers of mitigation
In the end we were not pushing the pace fast enough on the 2 financial oversight systems resulting in a window for theft to occur.
Although this was the far larger of the 2 thefts it is one where no major systems upgrades are needed as there was some acceptance of risk due to prioritization and low probability of someone repeating with the systems that were too slow to get in place now in place.
Although the dollar amount is smaller than failure/theft #1 this one has me much more upset.
This was a known risk we had put many barriers against but the systems all failed in the same way to allow this to occur.
Note – All funds have not been recovered, the length we will go to will be unreasonable 🙂
I hope you haven’t experienced any issues like these. My hope is sharing these unfortunate events and what I have learned will be helpful in preventing future problems for you or if problems do occur arming you with what you need to resolve quickly.
Please share any other suggestions on how to help protect your business!