Blogging provides a low-cost platform for demonstrating that you’re an industry thought leader, driving more qualified traffic to your website, and eliciting meaningful engagement from your prospects.
The magic word, however, is “active”, and that’s where the problems start.
After publishing a lengthy post outlining the reasons why blogging is an essential component of a successful Internet marketing strategy, I had a lot of small business owners contact me for advice on what they can do if they want to blog, but just don’t have the time.
As the son of two successful small business owners, I definitely sympathize. When you own a business, marketing is just one of the many responsibilities that you have to attend to each day, things like payroll, inventory management, customer service, and, you know, actually running the business!
To make the content acquisition and publishing process a bit easier for folks who are barely getting any sleep as is, I figured I’d share three tried-and-true ways of securing quality content for your company blog without breaking the bank:
IN-HOUSE BLOGGER / FREELANCE WRITER
If you don’t have the time to write your own blog posts on a consistent basis, hire someone else to do it for you! There are a lot of people who (try to) make a living by blogging, and they are almost always looking to take on more clients.
Many of these folks are former journalists, so if you look hard enough, there is some quality talent out there. When hiring a freelancer, be sure to spend some time looking over their portfolio, and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.
There are both paid and free options. For the former, be sure to check out the ProBlogger jobs board. Although I haven’t used it personally, people I trust and respect swear by it. A 30-day listing costs $50, but again, from what I hear, it’s more than worth it.
For free alternatives, consider posting a project on Guru.com, Elance, oDesk, and/or Freelancer.com. Each of these sites is unique, but the basic idea’s the same, employers post a project and companies/freelancers apply by submitting bids. At the end of the bidding period, you can either pick a winner or simply let the posting expire. A basic posting is free, and there’s no obligation to actually hire someone.
I’ve successfully hired freelancers from project postings on Guru.com, but here’s a word of caution: always do your research. There’s a lot of noise, and too many stories of people getting ripped off. If I was ever looking to hire guest bloggers, I’d pay the $50 for a ProBlogger posting. As the common saying goes, you get what you pay for.
The idea behind guest blogging is simple. There’s you, the business owner looking for blog content, and there’s the blogger, looking connect with new audiences and earn an inbound link pointing back to his or her website. Sounds like a match made in heaven, no?
The blogger provides you with a free, bylined post that you can publish on your own blog in return for a link that helps the blogger’s own search engine optimization efforts (links are a significant component of the algorithm that determines how high a website ranks in search results).
Here are two of my favorite (and free!) platforms that I use to find and connect with potential guest bloggers:
BloggerLinkUp -- essentially a guest blog mailing list, meant to be used by both bloggers and people looking for content. You fill out a short form with details like your blog URL, what industry you’re in, and what your specific needs are.
Cathy Stucker, the brains behind the operation, then compiles all of the requests into an email that’s sent out to all Blogger LinkUp subscribers three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Since it’s a really popular service, there’s a lot of noise, but in my experience, the hidden gems are more than worth it.
MyBlogGuest-- similar to Blogger LinkUp, but in a forum/message board format. You create a profile and then post requests in the relevant category. If you use WordPress, you can enable a feature that allows authors to submit a post directly into the WP interface (you still have to approve the post). This means you don’t have to spend time on proper formatting, which is a nice perk. As with LinkUp, do due diligence before you agree to actually publish something.
A quick note before we move on. Unless you are already a very established writer, it’s unrealistic to assume that you can sustain your blog with guest posts alone. Remember, the point of maintaining a blog is to showcase YOUR expertise, and to demonstrate to potential clients and customers that YOU are the authority.
If your blog is full of posts by people who are not you (at least judging by the byline), the blog will start to lose its purpose.
Not my favorite option, but definitely a viable alternative to websites like Elance and Guru.com if you’re on budget.
There are countless services that employ bloggers and freelancers as contractors. If you’re looking for a one-time writer, you submit a request that specifies the post topic and approximate word count. In most cases, you’ll also be able to indicate the level of quality that you’re looking for; the better the quality, the more you’ll pay, usually per word. The bloggers are employed as ghostwriters, which means that you’ll be able to publish the posts with your own byline.
There are quite a few platforms to choose from. I’ve had pretty good results with TextBroker.com, opting for the four-star quality rating (maximum is five). The key is to be as clear as possible in your description of what an ideal post looks like, and to submit constructive revision requests.
Before we wrap up, let’s talk briefly about a major concern that accompanies having someone else write for your blog (even if your name appears in the byline): sounding authentic. There are plenty of companies with in-house bloggers that run successful blogs, so rest assured, it can be done.
The goal is to cultivate a long-term relationship with a few select bloggers that you’ll be able to consistently rely on, regardless of your posting frequency.
If you’re hiring a freelancer, take the time to get to know the best applicants, and ensure that they fully understand your business and the brand that goes with it. This might take some time, but it’ll be more than worth it in the long run.
If you’re relying on a platform like TextBroker, be prepared for some initial hit-and-miss. Over time, if you identify authors that you can really connect with, start working with those bloggers directly. TextBroker provides this option via its DirectOrder module.
Finally, if you’re opting for guest blogs, make it a requirement for guest authors to read through past posts that you had written yourself, and which provide the best examples of the tone that you’re looking for.
All right, folks, that about wraps it up! If you have any additional tips that I didn’t mention here, feel free to share in the comments!
LukasPleva is a blogger, SEO enthusiast and aspiring inbound marketer. When he’s not a student at The University of Chicago, he oversees online marketing campaigns for St. PeteBagelCo., an online bakery specializing in the sale of NYC bagels and bialys.