Most of us here are either marketers or entrepreneurs. We like talking about money. We build links. We optimize. We launch products. We promote, promote, promote.
But we often skip over one of the most essential parts of internet marketing: content.
And no: I’m not talking about that “content is king” B.S. I’m talking about content as an engine–an engine that needs to be built–but also an engine that can run totally on it’s own if you build it right.
I’m talking about content automation.
Here’s the difference it made in my business…
I started my current site in January of 2015.
I didn’t have much of a budget, and hadn’t experimented much with automation.
Sure, I’d outsourced before, but it was still a terribly inefficient process.
In the first two months of that site, I wrote 60,000 words of content.
That’s about as much as a novel.
It was insane.
It occupied every night and virtually every weekend.
More than that, though, I was totally and completely burnt out.
I then paid a couple writers to write another 50,000 words.
This saved me some time, but my training was crap, so I ended up spending almost as much time editing as I did writing.
By the end of February, I’d published about 75 articles, and I felt great about my site, but I knew that I would never ever do that again. I did not enjoy it.
I felt like a slave to my own business.
I spent the next couple of months focusing on marketing, and when the site started to earn a bit of money, I wanted to grow by adding more content.
I’d already decided I wasn’t going to write another 60,000 words, so I started to develop an automated content production machine.
I’ll tell you more about how exactly my machine works like below, but before I do that, I want to tell you what the end result looks like.
My site’s been live for just over a year now. This is my post section:
That’s actually not all the posts for the site. I’ll be publishing another 40 or so this month.
And here is the growth of the traffic
On average for the year, I’ve published about once a day. Remember, though, that I only really started making money and building a content machine around the 7-month mark, which means in the last 6 months, I’ve published roughly 200 posts.
I’m basically publishing as many posts as I can afford.
As the site grows, I’ll likely scale up content production even higher.
How is this possible?
Well, I built a machine. And, honestly, it took a long time. I spent about a month refining all the systems that make up my content factory.
When I was developing my machine, “hands-off,” to me, meant that I didn’t want to touch any part of the editorial process.
Writing. Editing. Posting. None of it.
I wanted other people doing everything.
In other words, I wanted my machine to eat keywords and spit out content.
I basically wanted it to be a Roomba: working around the clock while I was doing other stuff.
And man… let me tell you: it is a gooood feeling. The only thing I do these days is keyword research.
Then I hand off the keywords (and transfer some money, of course), and a couple days later, amazing, quality, edited, polished content appears on my site.
It feels like magic.
This is convenient, of course, but the most important part of this is that I’ve been able to focus 100% on marketing and growth, which has been a major factor in the success of the site.
Here’s the thing to remember: the growth of my site isn’t (or shouldn’t be) static.
Because I’m not writing, I can do more marketing and tweak monetization, so each piece of content will be (probably) earn more.
That will allow me to publish more–especially since I have a working content machine–which, in turn, will make more money…
…you can see where this is going. It’s a snowball. You just have to get it going.
Why should I even worry about automating content production?
To anyone who’s gone through the headache of scaling a site, this might seem like a stupid, obvious question.
In fact, I’d say automated content production this is one of the things people want most. I see questions like this all the time: “Can you outsource all your content?” And the next question is invariably, “How the hell do you do it?”
In other words, content is a major pain point for lots of marketers.
I suspect that’s because internet marketing often attracts a highly technical crowd–people who like solving puzzles and creating systems, and often, these are not the people who enjoy creating content.
And a lot of the time, site builders find themselves in situations where either (1) they are stuck creating all the content themselves, or (2) because they don’t understand content and writers, the systems they create require more resources than they save, resulting in a negative ROI.
So it’s painful. That’s a given. We all feel it. Having a 100% hands-off system that generates amazing content that appears on our sites by itself is… well, the dream.
But what’s the business case for content automation?
1 – Content is arguably the biggest time-suck for any site, and if your site’s making money, writing content is not a good use of your time.
Here’s a reality check: if you’re going to be a serious internet marketer, at some point, you need to transition from grunt work to higher-level strategic activities.
If you’re the guy writing all the content, you just won’t have the bandwidth to focus on real growth. You won’t be able to market as effectively. You won’t be able to build a serious brand. You won’t be able to develop a network.
When your business starts gaining traction, you need to be the engine of growth, and you cannot do that if you’re spending most of your day writing and editing blog posts.
2 – Automated content systems can produce way more content than you can on your own (and remember, content = traffic)
You’re just one person. There’s only so much content you can write. And, be honest with yourself, how much content could you realistically write every month?
Even if you were writing at a superhuman pace, how long could you keep it up?
And would it cut into your marketing activities?
Hint: no one person can scale content alone.
I’ve tried. Before getting into internet marketing, I was a writer for a living for almost a decade.
I spent 10 years learning how to generate lots of content, and even I burnt myself out on my own sites.
Systems are better.
Systems don’t rely on one person (not good ones, anyway).
A system can break the monumental task of scaling content into manageable chunks spread over a larger number of resources.
Here’s another way to look at it :
Suppose you have 10 articles to write, and each one takes an hour.
One writer operating at peak efficiency could write 10 articles in 10 hours (of course, realistically, there’s no way that would happen–it would probably be more like 15 hours spread out over a couple days).
But 10 writers could get all 10 articles written in about an hour.
Obviously, there are other things to take into account (e.g. the resources it takes to train and hire writers, making sure your writers have enough work), but I hope you can still see the theoretical value: systems scale. You don’t.
In other words, if you are your only resource, your content production has a built-in ceiling. If you have a good system with a positive ROI, you can scale it to the moon and back.
And, of course, if your content has a positive ROI, you want to hit the “publish” button as often as you can, since printing content is essentially the same as printing money.
DISCLAIMER: You should NOT automate content when you first start a site.
This question makes me so damn mad: “Can I just automate everything?”
Almost always, it’s a brand-new site builder who feels overwhelmed and just wants to pay someone to do everything for him.
So I want to set some expectations before I give you the keys to the Batmobile. You really should not automate content when you start a site.
Don’t hurt me. Let me explain.
Starting a site requires a lot more than writing a few articles and building a few links.
Starting a site is essentially a courtship between you and the readers in that market. You want to woo them. You want them to come to your site and like it enough to stay, read, and click–or even subscribe.
You can’t do that if you don’t know them.
You need to know what questions they’re asking. You need to know which products they’re buying. You need to know their general temperament. You have to know what makes them happy, and you have to know what pisses them off.
For my money, the best way to do that is to get your hands dirty and write some really well-researched articles.
Why is this the best way?
Because you learn so much by simply writing some articles–especially in a new niche. To write just one article, you’ll have to read 4 or 5 other blog posts, usually authorities in your niche. You may have to look at products and read reviews. You might review some of the most popular affiliate products.
And if you don’t know your own niche, you can’t outsource or automate ANYTHING. How could you? You wouldn’t be able to train anyone to do anything–or even know what was good work and what was bad work.
I typically recommend you write at least 20 articles for a new site to get to know the market and to get a good read on your audience. Here’s my point in a nutshell:
Can you automate everything? Yes.
Should you automate everything at the beginning? No.
When should you automate? When you’ve got a successful site and want to scale.
What’s the #1 rule of content automation? SIMPLICITY.
Real quick, I just want to show you some of the ridiculous content workflows I’ve seen. I’m not trying to put anyone down here. And the people who came up with these aren’t bad people.
I’m just trying to say that their content workflows are totally stupid, and they should feel bad. Check it out.
…because we all need a “listening” phase in our content workflows…
What in the living hell? It’s like Pan’s Labyrinth in here:
…and this is what happens when everyone in your department has to feel like they’re being productive.
Man… I can’t even tell what’s going on in the graphs. Can you imagine trying to automate every part of that process?
It would be a nightmare.
Before we dive into how to build your content automation machine, I’d like for you to take one piece of advice and file it away: for this to work, you need to keep your machine as simple as possible.
I see the opposite all the time, and it destroys what could otherwise be well-oiled content machines.
Instead of breaking the process down into a few easy parts, people create these gigantic workflows that take a magnifying glass and a graphing calculator to figure out.
If that’s you, stop.
Go simple. I’m going to show you my workflows below, but here’s a sneak-peek example just to show you how simple it is.
I keep it as simple as humanly possible. Here’s why:
- The fewer moving parts you have, the fewer people you’ll need to train and hire, which will significantly reduce your spend.
- Writers are very easily overwhelmed people. If you can make it easy for them, you’ll find it easier to hire, train, and retain great writers.
- Project management becomes an order of magnitude easier.
This really should be common sense, right? A workflow with three processes is much easier to automate than a workflow with a dozen processes.
But workflows are funny, man. People love to overcomplicate them–just… for the sake of making something fancy.
Just remember: our goal is to get this process completely out of our hands, and to do that, we need to make it as simple as possible.
Heck yeah, Big content costs a LOT of money. I understand we all want the best all the time but looking back now, I wish we had spent less on many pieces of content that had no particular goal in our content strategy and spent more in other areas like PPC or Design.
Here’s a quick overview of the 3 pillars of content automation.
In the spirit of keeping things simple, I break content automation into just three parts: sourcing your writing, training your writers, and editing & posting.
Of course, developing each of these requires it’s own explanation, process, strategy and tactics. But let’s chat about them all for just a minute, so you can have a picture of the overall machine in mind when we start diving into the details.
Sourcing your writing. This means finding some to transform keywords into content. We’ll talk about all the different ways you can do this below.
- Training. Training covers everything your teams need to create a blog post and post it. Almost always, this takes the form of an article brief (instructions) and a tutorial video.
- Editing and posting. This is everything that takes place after content is written to ensure it meets quality standards and goes live on your site.
Step 1: Sourcing Your Content
I want to give you a slightly controversial piece of advice: if you’re trying to automate your content production, either pay more for better writers or hire an editor.
It’s just so much easier.
Lots of people will disagree with me on this. Chris Lee, for example, infamously pays $5 for articles (Chris’s $5 articles turn out really well, by the way; he just spends more time editing–and, as another note, the last time I spoke to Chris, he told me his own content system has evolved, allowing him to hire a full-time writer).
And I’m sure you’ve seen a few sites out there throwing up hundreds of low-grade articles, hoping to ranking for anything.
In fact, most newer internet marketers go into their first attempts at automation trying to get the dollar-per-article cost as low as possible.
Don’t do that. Pay more.
If you hire good enough writers, you won’t have to spend any time editing them. None. And editing is probably the second-biggest timesuck after writing.
I tried to source articles for $5. It worked. And if your goal is to keep raw dollar costs low, you should do it. But I spent almost as much time editing those articles as I would have just writing them myself. That’s a massive trade-off.
Remember our goal here: we want to automate while making a profit.
If your operation is profitable, it’s not that important to spend more per article, and if your content is better, you have more chances to make your site profitable.
To do that, we’ll try to either (1) hire writers who can edit themselves or (2) hire someone to edit for us. Both of those will cost more than $5/article, of course, but they’ll also allow you to completely step away from the content creation process.
What are my sourcing options?
#1 Hire and train a single writer
The first way to source your content is to hire and train one writer. Most of the time, this means investing slightly more into one person (i.e. a bigger contract) and keeping them on for as long as possible.
To do this, it’s really important to focus on finding the right person. Since you’re essentially hiring an employee on a contract basis, you’ll be investing quite a bit of resources into them, and if you don’t get it right, or if they suck for some reason, it can mean a lot of wasted time, money and effort.
The major benefit of hiring one writer is that--if you can find the right person–they can really get to know your site, invest themselves in the content, and truly become the “voice” of your community. This can go a really, really long way toward creating true authority.
Remember, the more a writer writes, the more research they have to do, which means they’ll be picking up a lot of knowledge along the way.
In other words, if you hire just one long-term you’re not only buying content; you’re investing in that writer’s expertise. By the time someone’s researched and written 300 articles on a subject (more than most dissertations!), believe me: they have more expertise than 99% of the world.
Another massive benefit is that you get to form a relationship with them. Again, you really need to find the right person for all this to work, but if you do, you can develop a great working relationship.
And when you have that kind of relationship, it’s really easy to continually increase the quality of the content. You’ll be able to provide feedback more easily. You’ll understand your writer. They’ll understand you. You can bounce ideas off each other. You’ll both get excited. You’ll both get better over time.
It’s chemistry. And you can’t buy it.
The last benefit of hiring one writer is the potential for them to become a content manager if you grow. If you start doing really well, and you’ve got enough revenue to support a bigger content team, no one will be better equipped to manage that team than a writer who’s knows you and has been writing content for your site for a couple years.
The cons of hiring one writer are almost entirely logistical. First and most importantly, it’s not easily scalable. One writer can only produce so much content.
For most writers, I’ve found the ceiling is about 2,000 words per day. Many can write more than that, but it’s not sustainable (nor is it reasonable) to ask a writer to crank out more than 10,000 words a week. So if you want tons of content quickly, this probably isn’t the best solution.
The other major drawback, of course, is that your entire content machine will depend on one person. If that person gets sick, your content product stops. If they get burnt out, your content quality goes down. If they quit, you start over.
For this reason, if you hire one writer, you typically have to contend with other HR-type concerns, like employee retention.
Lastly, hiring one writer usually requires long-term contracts. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Writers do love long-term contracts (I wrote about this on NichePursuits a while back). Conracts don’t have to big, but to hire and retain a good writer, they do work best if they are long.
And that means you have to commit, which can be a leap of faith. It also ties up your money for the length of the contract.
#2 Build a small team of freelancers
If you don’t want to hire and train one writer, you can field a small team of freelancers who are essentially “on call”: people who know you and like working with you but don’t necessarily have a long-term contract.
You can find these folks in a number of places.
- Your own social network (I do this often, but I know a lot of writers)
- UpWork (I also use UpWork quite a bit)
- The ForHire subreddit (expect to pay more)
- Problogger’s job board (also more expensive, but higher quality writers)
One benefit here is the same as hiring a single writer: a small team of freelancers can still work with you enough to understand what you like and what your site needs. It will be difficult to develop the kind of truly authoritative voice a single writer can, but it comes close.
A small, regular pool of freelancers also avoids the pitfall of hiring one writer: your whole machine doesn’t stop if someone quits, gets sick, goes on vacation, or burns out. You have back ups.
It also allows you to be slightly more fluid with your money. Most of the time, if you’re building a small team of freelancers, you should let them know that work will likely be sporadic and come in batches. There aren’t any long-term commitments, so you tap into your team as needed.
Probably the biggest drawback here is that you risk pissing people off. Writers will often take any work they can, but they prefer consistent work, which means when there’s a quiet couple of days, they may ask you for work, and you may have to say no. That’s not a particularly great dynamic.
You also have to train more than one person. As you’ll see in a moment, training is both one of the hardest things about automating content and one of the most crucial. Training even one person can eat a good chunk of your resources. Training three or four or 10 writers can be downright costly–especially if you’re not going to give them consistent work, which means “wasting” the training is a real risk.
Finally, sourcing your content from a small pool of regular freelancers typically requires more management. If you hire one writer (someone who really knows your system backwards and forwards) or an agency (where you usually have a project manager), the management mostly takes care of itself.
Small teams of freelancers need more babysitting. If nothing else, it’s triple (or quadruple–or however many writers you have) the emails. And if your writers don’t know your system as well, that can really add up.
#3 Use an agency or a marketplace
Your last option is to use an agency or a marketplace. For the most part, there are two types of agencies
- Marketplaces. These are places like iWriter and TextBroker, where you submit article briefs to massive marketplaces of anonymous writers, who simply write the article based on your instructions and send it back.
- “True” agencies. A “true” agency is going to be something like LongerDays. Here, you’ll pay a premium, but you’ll also get a dedicated project manager who manages a team of their own and acts as a quality control.
The main differences between the two are going to be (1) cost and (2) the level of management required on your end. Marketplaces cost a lot less but require more management, while agencies cost a lot more but require a lot less management.
Still, whichever you choose, agencies and marketplaces have the same general pros and cons.
First, agencies and marketplaces are highly, highly scalable. There’s just no two ways about it: if you want to produce content on a massive scale, this is the easiest. It’s the only way to get access to a big enough pool of writers.
This is honestly one of the only areas where agencies and marketplaces beat hiring writers on your own, but it’s a huge pro.
Here’s the thing: when you get a site to a certain authority level, it becomes a content race. You want to publish as much as possible to target as many keywords as you can, which, hopefully turns into traffic. You can’t hire a writer–or even a team of writers–to publish several hundred articles.
More importantly, marketplaces and agencies (especially marketplaces) can do this while keeping the cost-per-article relatively low. In fact, agencies will often give you bulk discounts. Writers almost never will.
The main con here is quality. You can get loads and loads of content quickly, but you’re almost never going to get A+ content.
With marketplaces, you’ll likely have a different writer for every single post. These are people who just want to get the assignment done and move on to the next one. They are not invested in your site. They don’t care about you. They want to write something just good enough to get it accepted and never talk to you again.
Agencies can be a little bit better, since most of the time, you’ll have a project manager who’s monitoring quality (honestly, this is good enough most of the time), but it’s not going to be the stellar writing you can get from a couple highly trained writers who really love working with you.
Finally, agencies and marketplaces require extremely good briefs. You won’t be able to train anyone, so your instructions have to be absolutely exceptional. If they’re not, you’ll be spending a lot of extra time editing, or you’ll be sending a lot of stuff back, which will get a lot of folks angry.
What do we do?
Gael and I have different preferences.
Gael loves scaling. Gael also has a lot more money than me.
Gael used to source content primarily through marketplaces like TextBroker. He wanted a lot of content quickly, and with marketplaces, you can order hundreds of articles at a time.
However, TextBroker proved to be a bit too inconsistent. So, Gael hired two full-time writers and one full-time editor. Gael wanted people he could train to write the Health Ambition way, so he hired some awesome, professional writers from UpWork.
I have a lower budget and prefer a slightly more personal touch, so I use a combination of an agency (wordagents) + a small team of regular freelancers.
I use an agency with a project manager to source “easier” content (although it’s still great stuff–mostly because I have an awesome relationship with my project manager, and he takes care of me), and I use two top-tier freelancers for “hard” content (usually affiliate content or stuff I’m using for skyscraper campaigns).
How you source your content will depend on what your site needs, your tolerance for management, and your budget. Do what works for you.
Step 2: Training Your Writers
Training is arguably the most important part of content automation. It’s certainly what most people get wrong.
And most people get it wrong for the reasons mentioned above: they over-complicate it.
We don’t want to do that.
It’s crucial that your training is:
I’m telling you from experience managing dozens of writers over the last four years: that won’t happen unless your training is clear, simple and, ideally, short.
When I bring on a new writer, I give them three things:
- An article brief
- Article examples
- A video tutorial of both the instructions and examples
Let’s break these down.
What is an article brief?
An article brief is a set of instructions for a given article. It’s the outline. The roadmap. The checklist. It’s the single most important training document you’ll create, so it’s the most important to get right.
Here’s what I include in my briefs.
- General guidelines. These include purpose, tone, length and grammar/style.
- An outline for each section. What should be included in each section + word count.
- A list of sources and examples. Anything that will make research easier.
Here’s an example. This is for a short, informational article, and I like to give my writers a bit more freedom with these pieces, but it’s still a good example of the kinds of briefs I create.
Why a tutorial video?
A tutorial video is a visual walkthrough of both the article brief and examples. It’s meant to bridge the gap between written instructions and the final product so the writer can see it with his or her own eyes.
Again, these should be simple. And don’t explain everything. Remember: they have a copy of the instructions, and they can read. For the most part, draw attention to critical elements, and then discuss the structure of the article.
Here’s a video tutorial of my video tutorials.
Try to keep it under 2 minutes. It should be short and very to the point. It should not be you rambling for 10 minutes.
What about examples?
You’ll also want to provide your writers with examples. Be careful here, though.
Writers will often follow your examples more closely than your brief.
So make sure you show them articles that are very close to what you want them to write.
If I don’t have any examples of a certain type of article, I’ll create it myself.
In fact, that’s what I prefer to do; writing one amazing example article can save you hundreds–or even thousands–of hours of editing over the lifetime of your site
Where do I put all this stuff?
I prefer to put everything on my site.
First, it gives your writers one place with all the information. I typically create a brief, a tutorial video, and a list of examples for each type of article on my site.
Then, I’ll create a password-protected page writers can log into.
That page will have a section for each article type as well as a section for general guidelines (tone, style, grammar, etc.).
Your other option, of course, is to email everything to every writer when you hand out assignments, but we want to automate this thing as much as possible, and that takes more work. In my view, a simple training page is is the most efficient way to do it.
Training in a nutshell…
Let’s look at this from a bird’s eye view.
A writer starts working with you. They start with zero instructions. You give them
- a simple, one-page article brief telling them exactly how to write and structure articles
- a short, clear tutorial video where you show them exactly how the brief translates to a live article
- a list of examples that look exactly like what you want the final product to look like.
It’s not overwhelming. It takes 5 minutes to consume. And they now know exactly what to do. It makes it extremely easy to start right away, and it makes it extremely hard to make mistakes.
That, my friends, is how you arm your writers for battle, and they will love you for it.
Step 3: Editing & Posting
I hate editing and posting content.
It’s the bane of my existence.
For me, it eats up more time than anything else by far.
This is especially true if you’re using a service that requires editing and a high-end, front-end editor like Thrive.
In my opinion, this is one of the most important things to outsource.
That said, posting articles to WordPress is also one of the easiest things to screw up.
There are just so many things that can go wrong.
Every WordPress theme is different. Every article is different.
You might want things to look a certain way.
You may need someone to log into a stock photo account.
And the list goes on.
The solution, as it was with writers, is amazing training documents for whoever will be uploading.
Here’s what your training documents should look like.
First, you’ll need two documents, just like you did with your article training:
- Written click-by-click instructions
- A click-by-click video tutorial
When I say “click-by-click,” I mean it.
Show every single click. Every tiny option you take for granted. Everything you think is a given. Show it all and document it. This is the biggest difference between these documents and those you used to train writers: these training documents need to be as detailed as possible. They should still be extremely clear and very simple.
But they must show every click.
Here’s an example of my posting instructions (honestly, these are not as good as they should be; I just have a really good writer/poster who’s figured it out).
I’d then create a video walking through the instructions step-by-step, click-by-click.
However, since, while posting can be taught to almost anyone, editing is a “deeper” skill. Here are some of the ways you can combine the two.
Option 1: Edit & Post the content yourself
This is what I do at the beginning of a new site (when I have no revenue and a smaller budget). I’ll either write or buy content, and I’ll edit the content and post it myself.
It’s not ideal, and it shouldn’t be your end goal (if you’re working toward 100% automation, anyway), but it is the most cost-efficient way to get content cleaned and posted.
The obvious downside here is that it takes up lots and lots of your time.
Option 2: Train your writers to post (Perrin’s preference)
Another option is to train your writers to post content. This is what I do with my current sites. The idea is to have only one person processing an entire piece of content from start to finish.
I like this for its simplicity. It’s way fewer people to manage.
Additionally, I find that when you have writers post their own content, they do a much better job of editing. I have no idea why. It could be because they’re looking at content in a new way or skipping around or… something. I don’t know.
It’s also (sometimes) easier for writers to edit their own content that it is for an editor, since they know their own thought process and typically aren’t as afraid to make drastic edits with their own work.
That said (and per the theme of this whole article), this won’t work unless you have a good, talented writer who is trained very well.
Option 3: Hire a dedicated editor and poster
A third option is to hire an editor for your site: someone who’s only job is to get content from writers and onto the site. That includes editing, revising, and posting.
There are two main upsides to having a dedicated editor/poster: (1) quality and (2) scalability.
A dedicated editor can act as a built-in quality control specialist, and often, they do it really, really well because their entire focus is making the final product look really good.
Usually, these are people who understand both writing and presentation, which is a double-whammy of a skillset. And that’s awesome because it allows them to tweak all aspects of an article before it goes live.
Plus, having a regular, dedicated editor can be almost as good as having a regular, dedicated writer. It ticks all the same boxes: they get to know you, they understand your site, and they they can “edit in” a voice.
It’s also scalable.
If you have a dedicated editor/poster, you can, for example, buy a buttload of content from a marketplace (which is not the best quality), and have your editor just… make it awesome and get it live.
The downside is cost. Specifically, the downside is cost-per-article. Having an editor spend 30-60 minutes on each article to make it awesome (which is about the average, I’ve found) can add $10-$30 onto the cost of each article pretty easily–especially because most of the time, editors need to be native English speakers.
So you really need to know your ROI per article to hire an editor and poster.
Option 4: Hire both an editor AND an uploader / poster (Gael’s preference)
This is Gael’s preference. He likes to break jobs into their smallest discrete units.
Instead of training one person to edit and upload, Gael hires two people: one person to edit and one person to upload.
This mostly simplifies the training required for each person. It’s easier to hire someone to only edit word docs. It’s easier to hire someone to only post.
It also diversifies your risk, since it’s easier to hire and train for simpler processes.
Finally, while editors can be expensive, uploaders and posters typically are not. They’re only working with finished documents, and they have zero editing responsibility, so you can pretty easily outsource these to workers overseas.
Step 4: Refine Your System
That’s a lot to take in. I want to quickly review why we’ve spent so much time on this stuff before talking about how to turn it into a system.
There’s one reason.
If you’ve hit a bullseye ALL this stuff:
- You’ve found a good writer or a source for good writers
- You’ve trained your writers properly and created amazing briefs
- You’ve found and trained someone to edit
- You’ve found and trained someone to post content
..if you’ve got every single one of those things in place and running at peak efficiency…
Making a system becomes extraordinarily easy. You only need two things:
- A way to keep track of content
- A way to get content to the next person in line
To keep track of content, I use a simple Google Sheet. You only need two columns: (1) keyword/topic and (2) status. Do NOT clutter up your spreadsheet with a bunch of useless crap. All you need to know is what article it is and where it’s at.
Most of the time I handle this myself. If you’ve hired a higher-quality agency, they may even take care of this part for you.
To move content through your pipeline, it’s imperative that you train your team members to communicate. By that I mean that your writer should email your editor, and your editor should email your uploader, etc.
Remember: the goal is automation. So remove yourself when you can.
Importantly, that does not mean you should NOT communicate. You absolutely should check in with your team members. It just means that they should be the ones moving the content along. It should not have to come to you at every step of the process.
Here are a few sample workflows based on the systems described above.
The simplest possible workflow (and the one I prefer: just you and a writer who also posts.
Here’s an example of a workflow with a writing source and dedicated editor/poster.
And here’s one that includes both an editor and a poster.
Given the fact that we have a slightly bigger team and use Asana instead of email for Health Ambition, I thought I’d ask Mark to give you a little walkthrough of our communication system:
Wrapping it up…
This is just the way I do it. However, if you’ll allow me to toot m’horn, I do think my content machine is much more efficient that most.
All I do is email a list of keywords to my writer and everything else takes care of itself. It took time. It wasn’t easy. I had to go through bad writers, failed experiments, terrible agencies and crappy editors to find a system that worked.
But now, it just… eats keywords and sh*ts content. And it feels goooood.
I’ve honestly been trying to wrap up this post for like four days.
I keep thinking of other stuff to put in.
I also know this stuff is daunting.
So do me a favor?
Hit me with questions (or your own content-automation tactics) in the comments below, and we’ll use that space to flesh this thing out.