Did you ever wonder how big bloggers keep publishing posts daily year around? Some days even several times a day. How come their publishing machine is so well oiled? Are they online all the time? Every day? Or do they have assistants working for them not only writing but also publishing their posts? The answer for many of these questions is that they schedule and automate as much of their tasks and work as they can.
Automation for holidays or for work efficiency
For some bloggers automation and scheduling are especially important during the holiday season. They have many plans for how they want to spend the days off. Some of us spend time reviewing and creating plans. Some spend time exploring new places or enjoying time with family and friends. In most cases holidays mean less time for blogging. It might be easiest to just go off the grid and forget your blogging activities for couple of weeks but that may negatively affect your blog’s future prospects as your traffic could suffer.
Going away on holiday and forgetting your blog can result in a lost momentum. Your site would become inactive, there would be no new content and no recent activity on your social media profiles. This may result in a decrease of traffic, decrease in revenue and will not give the best impression to your visitors or to the potential advertisers. It might scare them from subscribing, following or contacting you.
It is a very good idea to take a break to travel or just to relax and get new inspiration. We all need a break once in a while. Taking a break does not mean that you need to let your site die because of a prolonged period of inactivity though. Bloggers take unnecessary breaks from blogging when traveling or when being on vacation.
I was on a trip last week without much time dedicated to blogging and even without internet access but with a bit of planning, scheduling and automation I was still able to keep my blog alive and active. Regular visitors would not have been able to see much or any difference from a week when I am concentrating on the site full-time.
For others automation is all about being more efficient with the way they spend their time. Using scheduling and other automation tools can help save you a lot of time. Following are the steps that you can take to keep your site active and keep your blogging momentum going using automation.
Get your setup ready if you’re going away
These days I normally only take a mobile phone on my travels (other tools I use are here). I use it for everything from checking mails, managing social media and doing blog updates when necessary. WordPress has a nice app for both iOS and Android. The app syncs with the web instantly so you can start a post on your mobile, save it as a draft to continue editing in your computer browser.
I’m not too comfortable with creating new content on a phone, the smaller screen just feels too slow to write on and is more suited for consuming content, for marketing or slight editing. My uncomfortableness about creating content on small screens is why steps below in which I plan and schedule the content in advance are key in order to have a relaxing vacation but keeping my blog active at the same time.
Create your content in advance
You know how long you will be away for. You know if you will have an internet connection while on vacation. You know if you plan to have time to get some writing done while you are away. Analyse these factors and plan in advance. If you won’t be able to get online or if you will be busy with other activities do create the needed amount of articles in advance, edit them, style them and get them ready to be published according to your normal content schedule.
Source guest posts
If you want a real break you could source some guest posts to publish during your time off. This will save you from being too stressed and needing to create a large amount of content in the weeks up to your trip. You can either ask bloggers you are connected to to submit something for your site, or you can announce on your site or in social media that you are taking guest post submissions.
A lot of bloggers are very active guest posters as there are many benefits of doing it so as long as you have a site of decent popularity you should be able to get some posts.
Schedule posts to be published
WordPress has this great built in feature that allows you to schedule your posts to be published in the future. You can write your post today and set it to be published automatically at any time you wish. It’s called WordPress TimeStamp.
Write your post as you would normally. All the same process. The only difference is that instead of publishing right away when your post is ready, you schedule it to be published at a future date and time.
To schedule do take a look at “Publish” section in the right hand side of your post writing screen. Where it says “Publish immediately” click on edit. Now you will have the option to select a date and time in the future that you want your post to be published. Select the date and time and click on OK.
When you have confirmed the future date and time you want your post to be published on, the “Publish” button will become “Schedule” button. You will also have a “Scheduled for” date and time there for you to see. If you click on the “Schedule” button your post will be automatically published at the chosen date and time.
In some cases your scheduled posts might not go live and you will see an error message saying “Missed Schedule”. This “Missed Schedule Fix” plugin helps fix that error. If you have a lot of posts scheduled and want to quickly change the dates use this “Bump The Schedule” plugin. Another nice touch is you announcing what posts are coming up in your sidebar. This “SOUP” plugin shows off upcoming posts.
Set your comments free
Comment sections are the lifeline of many sites. Some bloggers prefer to manually approve comments, but that might be impossible to manage when you are going away. As you do not want the discussion to die out while you are away do set Akismet WordPress plugin to do all the work for you.
In WordPress settings in “Discussion” some bloggers usually have “Comment author must have a previously approved comment” checked. By removing this you let Akismet automatically approve comments. There is a tiny risk that one or two spam comments might go through the filter but I find Akismet generally does a great job. See more on fighting comment spam.
Plan your marketing routine
Having a large established audience is a great promotional tool for your content. As you are set to publish several articles while you are away your audience will help you spread the word as they normally would. Help your visitors do the promotion for you by including social media sharing buttons in your articles.
There are several good plugins for this, for example this one. I use my mobile phone to go through my after publishing marketing routine on social media when on holidays. This would take me some 10-15 minutes a day.
Schedule your social activity
If you prefer you can also schedule your social media activity. You can for example write your posts in advance and schedule Twitter and Facebook to send out messages announcing your new articles.
It results in clicks to your site from your followers, and helps the promotion as people do retweet, like and share interesting articles. You can schedule your posts directly on your Facebook page and use a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to schedule on Twitter.
Automate your social media marketing with IFTTT
If you prefer to be completely hands off you can get all your new posts to be posted automatically on social media without needing to do any work. One great service for automating social media posts is IFTTT (If This Then That).
It connects you to more than 100 different platforms and allows you to set “recipes” like: IF I publish a new post on my blog, THEN automatically post the link to my Facebook page. These are the most relevant recipes for keeping your social media profiles updated:
- Post on my Facebook page
- Post on Facebook with an image
- Post to my Twitter profile
- Post to Twitter with an image
- Post to my LinkedIn profile
- Post on my Google+ page
- Publish on my Tumblr blog
- Submit to Reddit
- Post to Blogger
Outsource some of your tasks
A blog is normally a company of one employee. You are the jack of all trades. You do everything from creating content, improving the design and doing the marketing. You have the complete knowledge of everything about your site, you do not need to communicate to anyone else and you make all the decisions yourself.
But as your site grows you might run into challenges by doing everything yourself. A single person project cannot scale. Especially if you want to achieve big things. You might need to get some help in order to grow and scale your site. This means relinquishing control and delegating your work to virtual assistants.
Many bloggers struggle to make this leap and grow beyond the one man show. The first time I hired a virtual assistant to run my site was a disaster. Even worse, it was all my fault. I was running a site about email marketing. I was writing posts every day to try and get it off the ground, with the dream of eventually quitting my full time job to become some kind of highly paid email marketing consultant.
Unfortunately, I had hardly any free time. I had a full time job doing copy writing for an online gaming company, and I had a very young daughter to take care of. I’d lie awake unable to sleep – burning with all the plans I hadn’t had time to do! So, I decided to hire a virtual assistant. All I knew was:
- You can hire a virtual assistant in the Philippines for $300 a month
- Filipinos speak great English
- They can do tasks that you don’t have time to do yourself
So I hired a virtual assistant called Kim for $300 a month. Within 48 hours, I realised I’d made a huge mistake. It was clear that outsourcing my site to Kim wasn’t going to work. The posts I asked him to write were okay, but they were formulaic and not up to the standard I wanted. Kim’s English was good – but by the time I’d thought up an idea for a post and outlined the content, I could have written it myself.
Looking back, my mistake was obvious. I was asking him to do something unrealistic – writing my posts. I didn’t know it at the time, but trying to outsource the core activity of creating useful content is a huge mistake.
Interestingly, that’s not where my outsourcing story ends – in fact, it was just the start. Instead of giving Kim writing tasks, I decided to throw him other building tasks that would give me more time to spend writing. This turned out to be hugely successful – and has massively freed up my time to this day. The hard part is knowing what tasks to outsource. So, here’s 4 building tasks I recommend giving to your virtual assistant:
Task 1: Post research
The best way to get value from a virtual assistant is to have them help you with research. Say you’re writing a post about the top 10 screen casting applications on the Mac. You’d ask your assistant to create a document featuring all the software he can find in this category. Next to each piece of software, you’d ask him to list the name, price, and website address – as well as the main features of the software.
Or, let’s say you’re planning to write a post about how to barbecue a trout. You might ask your assistant to find other articles about barbequing trout that you could read before you start writing. You’d ask him to find somebody a YouTube user who’s posted a video of themselves cooking trout on a barbecue – and set up an email interview with them, so that you have some quotes to put in your article.
You want to get to the point where when you sit down to write a post, you’re basically walking into the kitchen and finding all your ingredients washed, chopped, and laid out – so all you have to do is assemble the parts and serve up the result.
Task 2: Finding posts to comment on
Another great job for your virtual assistant for is finding posts to comment on. When you know your topic reasonably well, the hard part about commenting isn’t cranking out the comments – it’s is actually keeping up-to-date with other people’s posts. So, ask your virtual assistant to create a list of sites in your niche that you want to monitor.
Then, have your assistant look at them two or three times a week and send you a daily or bi-weekly email with a digest of what’s been posted. Then you can quickly dash off your comments, and your assistant can post them on your behalf – under your name, with a link back to you.
Task 3: Interviews
One problem you have as a blogger is finding fresh content to post. Interviewing other authors is a brilliant way to get expert content quickly. You can ask your virtual assistant to spend one or two days a week finding other bloggers in your niche to interview. Usually, fellow authors are happy to be interviewed – and they’ll often share the resulting post with their audience too. If you give your assistant this task one two days a week, then pretty soon you’ll have a steady flow of autopilot interview content for your site.
Task 4: Reviewing other sites
One tactic that I’ve tried with one of my websites was reviewing other websites in my niche. It works really well – it was great content and it won me a lot of respect and gratitude from fellow bloggers in my industry. He’s what you do. Ask your virtual assistant to go out and find other sites similar to yours and write out a quick 40 to 50 word summary of what’s on the website.
When she has 10 of 12 of these, you can combine them into a list post that can sit on your website as a great piece of cornerstone content. Make sure you link to all the sites featured of course. It’s good SEO to link to other pages in your corner of the Internet, and it also encourages other bloggers to reciprocate and link back to you – which never hurts.
Automation and outsourcing is not the same as auto blogging
A word of warning: You should automate and schedule tasks you can but you should still remain engaged with your site on a consistent basis. The goal of scheduling and automation is not to remove your blogging work completely. Outsourcing is here to help you delegate some tasks to allow you more time to focus on the tasks that only you can do.
The goal is rather to help you do your blogging more efficiently, saving you time and letting you use your time more wisely. You should also avoid all the salesmen selling courses, software and automated tools to “help” bloggers get rich quick.
That dream sounds great except that it doesn’t work and doesn’t do any good to your readers or to your site. Don’t use any auto blogging software (these tools normally create posts based on RSS feeds from other sites). If it is not obvious, this is why:
- It’s not great content. If you a want to be successful at blogging, you need to create unique content that people love to consume and share with their friends.
- Google hates spam and all these sites are just copying content, and they provide no value to the user.
- Your host will eventually shut down your site because of the copyright infringement.
Following these simple steps can assure you that you work more efficiently and that your site is not inactive (even while you are away on holiday). Your visitors will always get fresh content, comments will be moderated, traffic will be coming in and your blogging momentum will keep on going.