How to Find and Keep Great Writers for Your Blog

As a web marketer you’re probably already familiar with the concept guest blogging. This “content for links” strategy works so well because both parties are receiving something truly valuable.  As the writer of the article you receive a link to your domain from a trusted source while the host site receives a chunk of (hopefully) quality content that may bring the site traffic, social shares and precious, precious links. We often give advice on to how to initiate this process from the perspective of the outreach specialist looking for a home for the article. Today I want to focus on the flip-side of that relationship.  How do you get writers to consistently create quality content on your domain?

We’ve all seen them— blogs with a veritable pantheon of writers, all from seemingly different walks of life.  The blog in question may not even be a particularly powerful domain but somehow they’ve managed to convince a handful of enthusiastic individuals to continuously churn out content— for free! There are several reasons you want to make this happen for your blog. Sure, you’re a certified hustler but most bloggers aren’t always able to cover every news story or follow up on every creative idea that warrants a kick-ass blog post.  With multiple authors, you’re able to keep your site’s blog humming when you’re on vacation or simply too busy to pen that “Top 10 Cat Videos of All Time” article you just know would shatter your personal traffic records.  Having multiple content authors is also a great indicator of your site’s virility and an actual requirement for inclusion into Google News if acceptance there is important to you.  Massive sites such as The Art of Manliness and SEOMoz engage heavily in the publication of recurring authors and are reaping the rewards in the form of social shares, links and free marketing.

Over the years I’ve managed several teams of writers and have learned a few things about doing so along the way.  Here are some tips to help you start your own den of crack writers.

Recruiting - “Why would anyone want to write for my blog?”, you ask.  I’ve found that there are several types of users who want to contribute to your site.  There’s the guest blogger looking for a link, the super-fan who wants to publish on their favorite topic, the ego-ist who just wants to argue about something and even the occasional reluctant scholar who feels it’s their duty to respond to your controversial post.  People will come to you for one of any number reasons and as your reach grows you’ll see even more interest in using your platform.  Any decent writer can offer up a blog post of some quality but remember that as the editor in chief you’re always able to change or reject their content as you see fit.  Don’t be afraid to give someone a chance to prove themselves.  I’ve posted some rather odd guest posts that ended up getting links from niches I’d never considered before.

The first step is create a “Write for Us” page on your domain.  Link to it from somewhere Google is sure to crawl because you’ll certianly want that page indexed.  This page needn’t be complicated but it should state exactly what you’re looking for.  If you want professional sounding writers who can help with news-y articles be sure to specify as much.  If you’re looking for more long-form, quality, evergreen articles make sure you’re clear on that too. If you’re like many bloggers you’re just looking for great content that people will want to read, share and possibly link to so try and be as open-minded as you can as great content comes in many forms.  If someone wants to create a comic or produce a video on your site don’t rule them out by being too restrictive.  I usually offer links to their personal projects and mention any incentives I may be offering for writing on this page.  As a web marketer who has probably played this game from the “guest blogger” perspective you’ll be familiar with what what a write for us page looks like. Think about what you would want to see on that page from the potential guest poster’s perspective.

Here are a few examples of quality “Write for Us” pages: Cracked, Onextrapixel, Pragmatic Bookshelf

Use your social media accounts (you have those, right?) to promote your new Write for Us page occasionally.  Link to your Write for Us page at the end of a controversial article asking for a rebuttal.  Add a question about guest blogging in your FAQ and link to your new page.  This page may even show up as a sitelink in the SERP depending on its place within your site architecture.  If you’re lucky you might even receive a few links from marketing or writer’s forums who often compile lists of potential guest blogging opportunities.  Use language that you would search for if you were Googling for guest posting opportunities.  (’SEO Blog Guest Post’, ‘Marketing Write for Us’, ‘Guest Blogger Technology’ etc)

It seems all too easy but the simple step of creating this page and giving it a pinch of promotion is often all it takes to create a steady stream of applications.  Build it and they will come!

Retention - So let’s assume you took my advice and a handful of writers have offered you their services.  Their posts have been generally well-received and you’ve even gotten a few incoming links out of the deal.  All at a cost to you of... one page on your domain!  You don’t want this content party to end, do you?!  Most of the time it will take more than a few words of encouragement and a social media shout-out to keep your writers content.  And honestly, you should want to reward individuals who’ve added so much to your blog’s strength.  I usually offer incentives to loyal writers or authors of articles that perform particularly well. I would try to avoid offering cash as they may end up doing the math and realizing that their 10,000 words and countless hours may not be worth the $50.  Instead, reward your authors with “Any video game they want!” or “Any season of television they’d like!”.  Offers of prizes more suitable to your niche are also appropriate, even better if you’re in ecommerce and can offer them your own supply! Either way, make sure you have rewards for quality content and mention these to your authors before, during and after their tenure with your blog.

Now, I realize this goes against my earlier declaration of “free content” but if you think about it, sending a $50 video game to one of your writers in compensation for 10 quality articles that would never have existed otherwise is almost theft.  Would you write 10 quality articles for $50?  Probably not.  Honestly, this is more of a token of acknowledgement than an actual, equitable payment for services rendered.  Their content will most likely make up for the 50 bucks in the form of links, social shares and fresh, keyword rich content.  Don’t get greedy or take your new pen pals for granted!

Almost as important as proper compensation is the simple acknowledgement of your guest poster’s hard work and dedication to the site.  Don’t forget your English manners as they are not your employee.  Give their twitter account a shout out when you eventually tweet the article URL, create an author’s page with links to your writer’s social accounts, comment on their posts and remind them that they’re a cherished part of the team.

Reaping the Benefits of Multiple Authors - You are no longer alone. Lonely nights of autonomous labor on your blog are a distant memory with your new writing crew at your flanks. One way to maximize the benefit of your new team is by creating a newsgroup or forum specifically dedicated to brainstorming and discussing site-wide issues as they arise.  Google Groups is my preferred method but a hidden forum on your site or elsewhere would serve the same purpose.  I’ll often pop into my writer’s forum and throw down 10 blog post ideas to have a couple of them inspire actual blog posts.  Lack of a solid idea may be the only thing keeping your authors from writing their next piece.  As your biggest fans, the people in this forum will be valuable assets for pitching ideas, beta-testing new tools and generating blog post / landing page ideas for you, yourself to take on.

These days it’s important that all sites have fresh, consistent content added to their indexes on a regular basis since Google now sees these as heavy indicators of site quality.  Many of us wear an array of hats including server administrator, head of marketing and web designer so we often don’t have time to give our ‘quality content creator’ hats the love they truly deserve.  With a handful of great writers you can lessen that burden and keep the content flowing to give you more time to spend wearing your ‘Scrooge Mcduck’ hat... or just watching cat videos. I hope you’ve found my experiences helpful and I wish you luck on your quest for great content!