If you are thinking of becoming a blog editor or are one now, I will pass along 10 tips from my own years of experience. On the one hand, serving as blog editor is about the same as serving as editor of a printed publication, as I had done for several years, but it is also rather different, with the speed of being able to post to the blog inspiring too much haste. Hopefully, these tips will help you manage both sides of the matter.
Blogs have been around online since the late 1990s. The word “blog” is short for “web log.” The entries (aka “posts”) are meant to be short, sort of like entries in a journal, ship’s log, or diary, and are displayed with the most recent one on top. A variety of multi-author blogs (MABs) have been appearing in the last few years, with one author usually serving as the editor and guiding force. The role usually encompasses the following tasks to some degree:
- Assuring that articles are in line with the blog’s course
- Assuring quality and readability by reading through articles and correcting grammar, spelling, and punctuation where needed
- Enhancing articles with photos or other images as needed (unless supplied by the author)
- Guarding the blog against charges of plagiarism and copyright infringement by checking if the articles are original to the author and the images/photos are also original or public domain
1 – Determine the Blog’s Course
As blog editor, you are essentially the navigator of a ship. If the blog belongs to a company and you are working for them, then they are the Captain. If it’s your blog, you are both Captain and Navigator. A company’s blog has a clear course: promoting them and their products/services. Your blog can be whatever you want, but don’t be too broad. Saying that you write about everything you can think of leads would-be readers to think the blog is just a bunch of ill-directed meanderings.
TIP: For the company blog, the course is obvious but doesn’t have to be too narrow; as long as articles are in some way related to the company’s business and doesn’t detract from that business, you should be fine. For your personal blog, list your own interests, then scout around in the blogosphere to see which of those topics seems most popular. Select one (or even 2 or 3) for the course of your blog.
2 – Know Your Budget
Getting paid to write for a blog is rather rare. Getting paid enough (that is, what your time and effort are worth to the blog) is non-existent. But if you do have a budget for writers, know how much it is and keep it in mind at all times. At one point, I had five writers submitting between 2 and 20 articles per month each plus my own articles and my fee as editor. This all had to be tracked carefully, since the blog owner didn’t want to exceed a certain amount per month (set when I assumed the role of editor). I never exceeded it. You can be just as successful in this.
TIP: Set up a spreadsheet (I used Excel) with the monthly budget amount, agree with each writer on how many articles he/she will submit in a monthly, list them on the spreadsheet with the number of articles, the amount each, and their monthly total. (The dollar amounts shown here are purely made up and not meant as a guide for what you should pay or be paid.)
3 – Choose Writers Carefully
Writing is grossly undervalued in the job market out there, with many people thinking it’s a quick way to earn a few bucks while they look for something better or mistaking their short blog entries as something deep, pithy, and meaningful. Worse yet, they clutter the job market and obscure blog editors and others from seeing really good writers. I have experienced this from both ends – as a writer trying to get seen and as an editor trying to find good talent. Even those who write well don’t always have a dedication to the blog like you, as its editor, do. Otherwise, the blogosphere would not be littered with hundreds (or even thousands) of abandoned blogs (nothing posted for 2 years or more).
TIP: There’s really no way to test a writer’s staying power, but you can just give them a try and see how it goes, encouraging those who write well by increasing the number of articles they can submit or, if your budget allows, by increasing the amount paid per article. Also, be sure to let them know how much the articles are appreciated (especially if you can’t pay for them).
4 – Be Sure Your Own Posts Are Well-Edited
You’re the editor. So obviously your posts should be well-edited. Words spelled and used correctly. Commas in the right places. And so on. It’s kinda tough, though, to edit your own work. I’ve done it for years and still cringe when I catch one of my own gaffs. I have even had a co-editor where we read articles out loud as a way to catch errors (but still missed some). It seems hopeless. But there is a way.
TIP: Write a draft of the article, getting as close to the final as possible, and then set it aside for an hour or more (a day or two is best). Go back to it and re-read. You will be amazed at the typos and misspellings you find (your brain is busy at first thinking of what you want to say in that draft) and the awkward wordings and twisted sentences.
5 – Know How Your Blog Platform Works
In the early days there was Blogger.com, and it was fine until Google bought it and wove it in with their other sites/applications. It has gone downhill ever since, with features being added but old problems never being solved. Now I’m on WordPress, since the blogs I currently edit, including my own, are on there. Having multiple authors is much easier, and incorporating videos is also better. Customizing, however, can be trickier unless you are well-versed in CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). There are other blog platforms out there these days besides these two dominators. Whichever you choose, examine the features carefully on a regular basis to be sure you are making the most of them and to keep current on new ones that are introduced. Pick and choose the widgets (or whatever your platform calls them) that you make visible on the blog. Too many is as frustrating to readers as too few. And be sure to have a search box showing.
TIP: If your other writers are entering their articles directly into the blog platform, be sure you have their permissions set (determined by the role you assign them) so that you have to review anything they submit. These platforms often have a Pending Review setting for this purpose. This is especially important for a company blog where they could be held responsible for libelous posts or copyright infringements.
6 – Link Your Blog to Your Social Media
Blogs don’t stand alone anymore. In fact, to some extent they are in danger of becoming obsolete, with many being abandoned in favor of posting on social media sites, especially Facebook and photo-oriented sites like Pinterest and flickr. A better option is to have your posts go out to your social media accounts at the same time they post to the blog.
TIP: Your post will not always show the photo you’d like, so be careful what photos you use in the article. If your other blog writers are adding in their own photos, share this tip with them. Something that is clever in the article may not look right when appearing on Facebook, for example.
7 – Pre-Schedule Posts to Help Stay Ahead of Things
Pre-scheduling is how I was able to continue posting to my clients’ blogs during our move across the country. I would still check in every night when we’d reached our motel en route to be sure the items had posted correctly and had also appeared on the social media sites. But even if you are not making such a major life change, you will find that having articles set up even just a day ahead helps you feel less rushed.
TIP: Be sure to verify that the articles have posted and have also gone out to your social media sites, if set up that way.
8 – Limit the Number of Tags
Think of tags as categories and even subcategories. If you are the editor of a fashion blog, your tags might be the following:
Your list might change over time, but do your best not to add to it any more than is absolutely necessary, and be sure other writers on the blog don’t add any.
TIP: The tags should be in line with how your products/services are categorized on your store site. Be sure you have a panel/widget in place on your blog for readers to see these tags.
9 – Use Meaningful Keywords
Keywords are very important to blogs and are one of the first things most search engines will look for. They should always be relevant to the article subject, or those search engines could block your blog from further searches for awhile (not sure how long – it’s a well-kept industry secret). You, as blog editor, should set these for the articles or at the very least make sure your writers are using ones that are relevant to the article. Don’t load up an article about auto transmissions with keywords about daffodils or even about auto body painting, which is, as the saying goes, “close but no cigar.”
TIP: Check writers’ articles to prevent “front loading” with keywords. Search engines, especially Google, are wise to this trick, and it makes the article awkward to read.
10 – Don’t Abandon Your Blog without Giving Notice to Readers!
This was addressed in a previous article, but it’s so important to you as a blog editor that I am re-emphasizing it here.
I have come across numerous blogs out there that haven’t been posted to for at least two years, including store blogs, and was under the impression that the blog owners had ceased posting online. A search on various social media sites, though, reveals that they have just shifted away from the blog to those sites. You, the blog editor, should do one important thing: post a notice that readers should instead go to whichever social media site(s) where things are now being posted.
TIP: Keep the notice short, such as “We are no longer posting to this blog. Please see us on [social media site 1] and [social media site 2].” Be sure the site names are linked to your account there.
As you dive into the wonderful world of blogging, especially as a blog editor, keep these tips in mind and feel free to comment back here to let me know if they helped or not and to add on any of your own advice.
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text