If you want it done right, you better do it yourself, right?
What if I told you there was a way to consistently produce click-worthy content for your blog… without having to do all the work yourself.
Throughout my career as a content marketer, I’ve learned the secret to consistently produce click-worthy, authority-building blog content — fast.
And I’m sharing that with you today.
This is the four-step process DigitalMarketer uses to run their content creation like a machine…
…without going crazy…
…without sacrificing quality…
…and without wasting time with poorly written, irrelevant, unusable content.
If you’re looking to create high-quality content on a regular basis, start here.
The Secret to Consistently Creating High-Quality Content
This “secret” is actually a twofer:
1. The best way to create a constant stream of quick click-worthy content (without succumbing to blog stress) is to NOT do it!
Instead, have someone else do it.
We’re talking subject matter experts and ghostwriters here. But regardless of how smart, seasoned, and eloquent someone is…
2. Without a well-defined editorial process in place, there’s a good chance that the majority of your outsourced content will end up unpublishable… but I’m going to share how to avoid that.
Let’s break that down.
Finding great writers to write for your blog is not as easy (or as simple) as many people assume. Outsourcing your content creation to new blog writers can cause an entirely new set of issues that you’ve never faced before.
- Poorly written or irrelevant content
- Content full of unwanted pitches and “fluff”
- Contributors who lose interest halfway through writing a post
- Burning bridges and angering writers who send you posts you can’t use
- Late submissions that cause you to miss deadlines
To sidestep all the issues you’d potentially face above (ask me how I know), let’s dive into the four-step system we use at DigitalMarketer to source writers for our blog…
How to Find People to Write for Your Blog Step 1: Create Your Editorial Guidelines
The first step in successfully outsourcing your blog content is to invest some time creating a system of editorial guidelines.
This is the most important step.
Unfortunately, it’s also the step that most people skip. And that’s why they end up having to throw away 99% of the content they outsource.
On the other hand, however, having a clearly defined editorial process will improve your quality and turnaround time while minimizing abandoned posts and other time-wasters.
So, how do you do it?
It’s simpler than you might think. You just need to create a document (your editorial guidelines) that specifies exactly what you are looking for in your published content.
Send that document to new potential writers to make sure they are on-board with the guidelines before they start writing anything for you.
While different blogs in different markets will have different needs, here are the general sections your editorial guidelines should expand on:
Editorial Guidelines Element #1: Topics
What is your audience interested in?
This is probably fairly obvious — a sports blog is looking for sports-related posts, while a marketing blog is looking for marketing-related posts — but in many cases, you can give potential blog writers a more specific idea of the topics you’re interested in.
At DigitalMarketer, we’re looking for content related to:
- Driving Traffic
- Boosting Conversions
- Increasing Engagement
Notice how these topics are a lot more specific than “digital marketing?”
While the blog content on our blog will come in different shapes, sizes, and types, they can all be traced back to those three categories.
By listing out specific topics like this, you are making it easier for your writers to choose an appropriate topic for your blog…
…while simultaneously increasing the chances that you’ll get content you actually WANT.
Editorial Guidelines Element #2: Style
What’s the “voice” of your brand? How do you want your articles to sound?
At DigitalMarketer, our voice is a little snarky. We get straight to the point, with no fluff. We tell our writers to get to the meat of the content right away.
Other blogs have a different voice. Some prefer to take their time with a longer introduction that sets up the rest of the article. Some have a more professional-sounding voice, while others have a laid-back style.
Take Social Media Examiner, a company publishing content around using social media for business, for example. About 90% of the articles on their blog open with one to two short questions, such as:
- Do you share images in your social media marketing?
- Wondering if you’re violating copyright laws?
For SME, this is probably done to qualify their audience. By giving a short, punchy question, it will hook interested readers right off the bat with a pain point.
This is the sort of thing you should include in the “Style” portion of your editorial guidelines.
Editorial Guidelines Element #3: Images
Different blogs have different image needs.
Some blogs don’t have much of a need for images and may use only a few stock photos to break up the text. For other sites, say a photography site, having high-quality images is absolutely essential.
On the DigitalMarketer blog, we typically include a lot of images. Most of these are screenshots providing step-by-step instructions and visual proof that our techniques — or the techniques of our contributors 😉 — actually work.
Like the one below, where we demonstrated in our four-step podcast launch post that our technique for quickly generating reviews actually worked…
This is important in our niche because we know that many less-than-scrupulous digital marketing blogs are known for promising wild results based on unproven tactics.
That’s why we make an effort to go against that trend by showing proof, whenever possible, that what we’re saying is credible and trustworthy.
At DigitalMarketer, we refer to this as “eating our own dog food.” You can thank Russ Henneberry for that one.
It’s OK if our contributors want to blur out company names, but we want the numbers — because that’s what matters to our audience.
What about you? Does your audience care about high-quality images, or not? That’s something you’ll need to think about for your editorial guidelines.
Finally, you should also tell contributors what size images to send you.
We ask for files that are at least 600-720 pixels wide, high-resolution, with a one-pixel black border and legible text.
We ask that they use callouts, like arrows and circles, around the important information in the image, so our readers’ eyes know exactly what to look at. As we do in this post below…
You can also include a maximum file size to help keep your website load times fast.
Editorial Guidelines Element #4: Rules
If you have any rules you want to establish, this is where you should list them out.
For example, we don’t allow any pitching in our blog posts.
We do allow writers to cross-link throughout the content, but they cannot link to a landing page where readers have to opt-in. The only exception is in the writer’s byline where we allow them to insert any kind of link they want — but more on that in just a second.
When you’re first getting started, you might not know what kind of rules you want to establish right off the bat.
Over time, you’ll start to get a better feel for what you do and don’t want writers doing on your blog.
And if you keep track of those rules in your editorial guidelines, then it will be standardized going forward — and that will make your life a whole lot easier.
There’s nothing worse than a writer putting in the time and effort (and absence from their own business) to write you a piece of content, just for you to return it back to them with angry red pen scratches through all the things they aren’t allowed to do.
Disclose the rules of the game before anyone starts to play and everyone will end up a winner.
Editorial Guidelines Element #5: Deadlines
My favorite thing!
(I’m not kidding. Ask the DigitalMarketer team how they know.)
No editorial guidelines are complete without a discussion of deadlines.
Mark my words: your deadlines need to be super clear.
Establish expectations upfront about when you need content delivered. Otherwise, your outsourced content will arrive late… if it arrives at all.
In our experience, you should expect the process to take around three weeks from beginning to end. From agreeing on a topic all the way to turning in a final draft.
Depending on your market, you may want to communicate specific deadlines on your drafts, such as…
- First draft
- Contributor revisions
- Final draft
Can you guess the most important draft to establish a hard deadline with?
Yep, the final draft.
Here’s a best practice tip that took us many moons to figure out (But shouldn’t have. I’m not bitter, you’re bitter.)…
Require the final draft to be submitted several days before the publish date to give you time to:
- Load the post into your website
- Verify all numbers add up
- Make sure all images are perfect quality and legible
- Fact check
- Ensure appropriate credit has been given to all external sources
… and so on.
DigitalMarketer is now working eight weeks out from the publish date. But our standard practice is to require all loose ends, dotted i’s, and crossed t’s to be submitted and completed, at the very latest, five days prior to publishing.
Anything submitted within five days of publishing will be bumped from its guaranteed publish date and be assigned a new one.
As far as determining what the publish date should be, we usually ask our writers if they have a preference. If so, we’ll do our best to honor that publish date. But in return, THEY have to honor it as well.
And if you’re clear about that, they will. In our experience, when you establish deadlines upfront, you should get about 75% of people who stick to that deadline.
In general, you want to plan your editorial calendar as much as possible to minimize surprises and keep things running smoothly. At the same time, there will still be situations where you have to be flexible.
Editorial Guidelines Element #6: Benefits / Payment / Byline
Keep in mind, just because you reach out to a contributor, that doesn’t mean they will agree to write for you.
They will only do that if they think it’s worth their time.
So what do you have to offer your guest contributors? Will you pay them in money? Will you give them a byline and give them a chance to pitch their product or service?
Don’t forget to leverage ALL your assets here.
For example, maybe you will allow your contributors to insert a link back to their own site. Maybe you will promote the blog post to your email list and social media channels to help bring them maximum exposure.
At DigitalMarketer, we often send paid traffic to our blog to drive people to our new posts.
You might even allow some contributors to place a retargeting pixel on their posts — allowing them to retarget anyone who reads their content on your blog. However, this should only be offered to contributors you have a consistent and trusted relationship with. One that you know will treat your audience as well as you do.
Write down everything you have that might be valuable to a potential guest contributor and decide which of those things you want to offer them in exchange for their time and expertise.
With all that said, there’s one element of your editorial guidelines that is mandatory and the true linchpin in your content creation success, it would be…
(NOTE: Want to create a blog content plan in 60-seconds or less by filling in 5 simple blanks (yes, it’s really that easy)? Get instant access to the Blog Content Planner spreadsheet so you can track your plan, plus 55 different blog post ideas to get you started so your blog will never get stale. Check it out now.)
How to Find People to Write for Your Blog Step 2: Determine Your Magic Questions
We call them magic questions because they’re the questions that help lead to magical content!
Basically, these are three to four questions that will help give you an idea of what each blog post is about… so you can give the post a thumbs-up or thumbs-down BEFORE the guest contributor actually writes the content.
At DigitalMarketer, we have three magic questions that we require our writers to answer before we approve their idea for a blog post. Our magic questions are:
1. What’s the Promise?
In other words…
- What will the reader know when they’re done reading?
- What will they be able to take action on?
For example, the original Promise for the post you’re reading right now was: At the end of this post, you will know exactly how to outsource your content creation to guest contributors and ghostwriters to quickly create high-quality content for your blog.
2. What’s the Hook?
In other words…
- What makes this post different than anything else like it?
- What is the WHY that will make people want to take action on this?
- The benefits, the value, the “sizzle” (Your hook will likely make it into the blog post headline.)
For example, the original Hook for this post was: The four-step process we use at DigitalMarketer to quickly create click-worthy content (without going crazy).
3. What’s the Outline?
This is where the writer will lay out the overall structure of the post and give a few brief details for each section.
For example, the original Outline for this post went like this:
- The secret to creating a constant stream of quick, click-worthy content without going crazy is to have other people do it. But to do that you need a good editorial system.
- 2 types of writers
- Guest contributors
- Combining the 2
- Editorial Process
- Explain the importance of having an editorial process (improve quality & turnaround time while minimizing abandoned posts)
- Creating your editorial guidelines
- Magic questions
- How do you get started?
- Determine what kind of writers you need
- Find your writers
- Approach them
- Create your editorial guidelines
- Decide on your magic questions
If you compare the Hook, Promise, and Outline for this post against the published version you’re reading now… you’ll probably notice that we changed a few things.
And that’s the point — it’s a process.
The original answers to these magic questions aren’t set in stone.
You’ll review what’s sent to you by your contributor and you’ll start a dialogue about…
- What you love
- Need to be expanded on
- And want to remove
…until the Hook, Promise, and Outline are set in stone.
Using this method will allow you to immediately know if the post isn’t a fit for your blog before the writer goes through the trouble of creating a post for you. You’ll be able to quickly determine and can honestly say, “No, this isn’t something my audience is looking for.”
These magic questions help cut down on…
- The turnaround time because the writer has already created the skeleton for the post
- Submission abandonment rates because the writer will be more likely to finish the post knowing that you’ve already approved it
Finally, and most importantly, it allows you to spend more time with the writer upfront… rather than having to waste time fixing things later on.
How to Find People to Write for Your Blog Step 3: Determine What Kind of Writer(s) You Need
Before we dig into the details of how to find writers for your blog, we need to talk about the different kinds of blog writers available.
Basically, there two types of blog writers you might be looking for: guest contributors and ghostwriters.
They’re content experts in your niche who publish content under their own name on your blog.
If you scroll through the DigitalMarketer blog, you’ll notice that we work with a number of different guest contributors such as Tom Breeze, Keith Krance, Mike Rhodes, and more. (We have about 25 total guest contributors.)
One of the great benefits of using guest contributors is that you can publish a high-volume of content from many different viewpoints — bringing a variety of different angles and expert opinions to your website.
We’ll talk more about how to find and work with guest contributors in Step 4.
These are talented wordsmiths who will write your blog post for you so you can publish it under your own name.
It’s a perfect choice for anyone who has great ideas but doesn’t have the time to turn those ideas into a fully fleshed-out article.
After all, this process isn’t saying that you never want to create content and be featured on your own blog — it’s simply an alternative option for creating quality content that leaves you with time to run your business. 🙂
Here’s how DigitalMarketer works with ghostwriters:
- Come up with an idea for a blog post (whether that means using existing content, identifying gaps in your content strategy, or just good, old-fashioned ideation)
- Record an audio file of yourself talking through the blog post and send that file to your ghostwriter. (This content could also originate as a podcast, webinar, YouTube video or stage presentation)
- The ghostwriter turns that file into a well-written article and sends it back
- Pay the ghostwriter (we’ll cover fees in Step 4 of this post)
- Publish the article on your blog
This doesn’t mean that they do all the work for us. We still need to create a valid Hook, Promise, and Outline, gather our images and resources, and present the content well over audio.
The huge benefit of using ghostwriters is that you can still publish the content you want to publish, under your own name, using your own ideas…
…but without going through the time-intensive process of writing it all yourself.
Finally, you can also combine ghostwriters and guest contributors.
Combining the Two Together
So how would this work?
Basically, you follow the same process we outlined above under “ghostwriters.” But instead of you recording an audio file explaining the outline of the post, you have your guest contributors create that file.
Then you send the file to your ghostwriter to turn it into a well-written blog post.
The benefit here is that it makes life easier on your guest contributors.
See, influencers are busy people. If you’re asking successful experts to provide content for your blog, chances are they don’t have the time to actually sit down and write an entire blog post themselves.
Writing out a blog post is incredibly time-intensive (as you know). The upside here is that most people never get talker’s block, but they sure as hell get writer’s block. 🙂
So instead, simply ask them to record a 30-60 minute audio/video file of them talking through a blog post.
You’ll make the process much easier on them, and you’ll increase your chances of getting more experts who are willing to write for your blog.
How to Find People to Write for Your Blog Step 4: Find & Approach Your Writers
Once you’ve figured out what kind of writers you need — ghostwriters, guest contributors, or both — the next step is to actually FIND those writers…
And then, you know… actually work with them!
How to Find & Work with Guest Contributors
Finding good guest contributors for your blog can be tricky.
That’s because guest contributors need to be field experts who have also shown an ability to write great content.
And some of these experts are going to be too busy writing for their own blog to help write outsourced content for you.
So, how do you find guest contributors who are willing to write for your blog?
The best way I’ve discovered is to find writers who are already writing for other multi-writer blogs.
These are good people to reach out to because they’re experts who have already demonstrated a willingness to write for other websites.
Here’s how to find these people:
You’ll see a list of results like this:
Visit the articles on this first page of results. What you’re looking for are multi-writer blogs.
Next, you’ll want to check out some of these blogs and learn a little more about the writers. Visit the writer’s website, their Twitter, and so on. Get to know them.
Do they have many followers?
What kind of content do they seem to prefer?
It will take a little time to sift through these writers, but trust me, it’s worth it.
You don’t want to waste your time reaching out to someone who’s not a good fit for your blog.
Eventually, you’ll narrow down your list of potential writers.
And now you have to reach out to them and ask them if they’d like to contribute to your blog.
Don’t be in too much of a hurry to email these writers, though — you’ll want to take your time here to make sure your outreach is well-crafted and persuasive.
In the email, make sure to…
- Reference the specific post(s) of theirs that you liked
- Tell them that you speak to the same demographic and that you think their content would produce a lot of value with your audience
It definitely helps to stroke their ego.
If your blog reaches a large number of people, that’s definitely a plus and is something you should mention in your email.
Here’s a sample outreach script that you can use to get you started.
I’m __________, the ___________ (Managing Editor, Content Marketing Manager, Founder) of __________. I found your article ______________ (article title) on ____ (site or blog name) and really admired how you _________(what did you admire?)!
I think something like this would fit perfectly on our site. Our company caters to _______, with our blog focusing on __________, ________, and ________.
Are you interested in creating an original piece of content for us? Let me know, I’d love to hop on a quick call to discuss how we work with guest contributors!
After you make contact, the next step should probably be to have a phone call to learn more about the writer and see if they would be a good fit for your blog.
During this call, give them a brief rundown of your editorial guidelines.
Then, make sure to send them the official guidelines once the call is over, and you’ve established that this could be a successful arrangement.
Ask them to let you know if they have questions about the guidelines that you can answer or clarify for them — this will be your best attempt in encouraging them to actually read the guidelines, besides asking them to send over a confirmation signed in blood. 😉
How Should You Pay Guest Contributors?
OK, at this point you’ve researched and contacted several promising guest contributors. The final thing to keep in mind is: How are you going to pay them?
With ghostwriters, the payment question is straightforward — just about every ghostwriter you meet will want to be paid in cash. Many of these writers make their living by writing content like this.
But for influencers, that’s not necessarily the case. With influencers, you need to think about what will move the needle for them.
Take DigitalMarketer’s Ryan Deiss, for instance. If you offered Ryan $300 to write a blog post, do you think that would move the needle for him?
Nope. Not even close.
So what would move the needle for Ryan? One word: exposure.
Well-known influencers and experts put a much higher value on exposure than they do on a little bit of extra cash. And if your blog has enough reach, that means you have something that is very appealing to those influencers.
This is one of those things that will depend on where you’re at.
At DigitalMarketer, we used to pay our guest contributors a flat fee per blog post.
But today, our blog has grown big enough that we “pay” in exposure instead. Basically, our reach has grown enough that reaching our audience is more valuable than the money.
How to Find & Work with Ghostwriters
When looking for ghostwriters, your main goal is to find someone who is a solid writer. It could be someone with a background in journalism, blogging, copywriting, etc.
They don’t necessarily need to have any domain knowledge regarding your industry or niche, although that certainly helps. (A writer who DOES have that domain knowledge can help to expand your content, though you may need to pay a little more for those writers.)
One of the more popular places to find ghostwriters is outsourcing sites like Upwork. And you can find some great workers on Upwork — but you can also waste a lot of time if you don’t approach it the right way.
When posting a job on a freelancer site, the trick is to keep your project closed.
Instead of allowing anybody to apply for your job, it’s better to go out and invite people yourself — in other words, cherry-pick the best writers (those who have a lot of hours inside the platform, a solid portfolio, and good reviews).
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself wasting a lot of time just filtering out unqualified prospects.
Once you’ve made contact with at least one promising writer, the best way to get started is to send them a single test article. Let them know that if it goes well, they can expect steady work from you in the future.
How Much Should You Pay Ghostwriters?
One of the most common questions we get regarding ghostwriters is, how much should you pay them?
The quick answer is, it can depend a lot on your budget and your needs.
But in general, you should be able to find a solid writer for $100-$200 per post (or an hourly equivalent).
You might be able to negotiate a lower price than that, especially if you can guarantee the writer a high volume of work. (Typically a higher volume of work can help justify a lower price per project.)
On the other hand, you might need to pay more than that if the writer is really experienced, or if they’re experts in a particular field of study. (For instance, if you need a writer with dual Ph.D.’s in brain surgery and rocket science, expect to pay a lot more than $200 per post.)
How to Get Started
The prospect of creating editorial guidelines and outsourcing content might seem overwhelming right now, but remember that all this up-front work will save you massive amounts of time and sanity down the road.
And the nature of that up-front work will probably depend on where you’re at with your blog.
If you’re still trying to get some traction with a brand-new blog, then you might not be at a place where you need guest contributors just yet. But you probably can still benefit from hiring a ghostwriter to take some of the work off your plate.
If your blog is already fairly big and established, then you should definitely be looking to recruit new expert guest contributors to save time while expanding your blog with new perspectives and outlooks.
Either way, I highly recommend taking some time to create your editorial guidelines.
They’re super helpful, even if you’re the only one currently writing for your blog. They’re a great way to help keep you focused on creating high-quality, consistent content that will keep your readers coming back for more.
…. And that’s the point, isn’t it?
(NOTE: Want to create a blog content plan in 60-seconds or less by filling in 5 simple blanks (yes, it’s really that simple)? Get instant access to the Blog Content Planner spreadsheet so you can track your plan, plus 55 different blog post ideas to get you started so your blog will never get stale. Check it out now.)