Alex Standiford

How to Run a Blog Without Using All of Your Time

☕️ 6 min read

I’ve started (and stopped) many blogs over the years. If you search for my name, you will find a veritable graveyard of things that I quit working on (also some guy who was into track, but that’s totally not me). I’m sure many of you have this in common with me. It’s so hard to keep up with a blog. When you really look at the stuff that needs to be done, it’s no wonder most of us give up after a few months of working on it.

  • Build the website
  • Fix the issues 
  • Write consistent content 
  • Brainstorm content
  • Develop email campaigns 
  • Curate social media content 
  • Write email campaigns for content
  • Post consistently on social media without looking like spam bot

Even if you’re only writing once a month (let’s see a raise of hands on who even writes that often!), it is still a significant challenge. After years of floundering with content, I finally realized it’s downright impossible to manage a blog to its full potential. Blogs are, in themselves, a full-time job.

At the time, I had a blog for a brewery niche called Fill Your Taproom. I decided that if I was going to do this right, I needed to automate some things.

Don’t Try to Do It Alone

You don’t have to do everything just because it’s your blog. As the person who “runs” the blog, your responsibility should be:

  • Selecting content ideas and developing a content schedule
  • Guiding writers to produce excellent content (e.g. Suggest backlinks, and resources)
  • Improving the content with small tweaks
  • Assisting with long-term content audits to-keep it organized
  • Discussing overall strategies for the website, and hiring a developer to build it. (This task I took on myself, however I do plan on outsourcing the design in the future.)

Notice that I did not say a thing about actually writing the content. I didn’t mention email campaigns, content curation, Facebook/Twitter sharing, or anything else. I hired people to manage those things for me. I stopped doing the groundwork, and focused on what how to improve the site.

Set a Budget

Find a good writer that you can trust. Most of us probably know someone who would be a good fit for this. Have a monthly budget in-mind, and decide how much content you can get for your budget. Don’t plan to pay your writer with peanuts, either. Remember, you’re building a long-term relationship with this person, so treat them with respect. I generally recommend at least 2 articles per month.

Write Down Content Themes

Create a system that allows you to manage the progress of content on your website. Personally, I use Asana to create a full-blown publishing schedule. I strive to give my team a vision of what needs to be published on the website through the next 3 months.

I focus on “themes” that I want to talk about on the blog, and then dig deeper into those themes to come up with content ideas. For example, in December of 2016, the theme for Fill Your Taproom was “Mug Clubs” (a rewards program for small breweries).

I knew I wanted to talk about Mug Clubs, so I added it to my “monthly theme ideas” list. The power of the theme ideas list, is that it is intentionally vague, and it provides a place for you to store any idea that comes to mind. When you get a content idea, stop what you’re doing and write it down. Pull over, stop the presses, get out of bed, I don’t care what you have to do, just stop and write it down before you forget it.

Apply the 5 W’s to Your Content Themes

The 5 W’s will allow you to take your content themes and convert them into blog posts. The 5 W’s are Who, What, When, Where and Why.

Take a theme, and combine it with each “W” to get a blog post title. Not all themes will work with all W’s, but you’ll find that some of these W’s will turn into solid blog post content ideas. For example, “Mug Clubs” could turn into:

  • WHO: These breweries have great mug clubs.
  • WHAT: What you need to do to run a successful mug club?
  • WHEN: When is the best time to start promoting your mug club?
  • WHERE: Where should people go to sign up for your mug clubs?
  • WHY: Why do you need a mug club?

Just like that, you have created 5 content ideas from your theme. As long as the theme is relevant, you should be able to pick 2–3 of these ideas and add them to your schedule.

Schedule Content

After you apply the 5 W’s to your content theme, it’s time to start scheduling the content.

Take each blog post title, and add any relevant information you would like to include in the article. The more information you offer your writer, the better the resulting content will be. Strive to provide the following information to your writer:

  • Relevant content links
  • 2–3 sentences describing what the article is about
  • Important talking points
  • Important pieces of information to include.

Again, you should try to keep 3 months worth of content ideas scheduled out. This will allow you to develop strategies for the published content. You’ll have time to email people in your network to gather information, extra resources, valuable backlinks, and more. Additionally, it will help to ensure that you have a content buffer in place should anything happen to prevent you from developing new content ideas.

What You Should Do Before the Content is Published

I have a virtual assistant who helps me with a lot of these tasks, but the system works even if you decide to do this yourself.

  • As soon as you know that you’re backlinking to another article (and you always should!), contact the owner of that blog to let them know. Odds are pretty good that they’ll share the content when it’s published because it helps you both. I’ve had several opportunities to work with other bloggers because of taking this important step.
  • Write up and schedule your email marketing campaigns based on the blog post.
  • Draft your social media content.
  • Figure out what (if any) related whitepaper you’d like to offer with the content. Get it written (or have the writer write it). 
  • Proofread the submitted content and offer suggestions on backlink opportunities or other bits of content you’d like to see included.

What You Should Do After It’s Published

  • Email everyone you backlinked, remind them about your article, and ask them to share the content for you. 
  • Post and schedule social media content.
  • Blast out content where you deem it appropriate.