Guest posting is not an easy thing to do, especially at a rate of 5 per week. Doing it, however, is a massive part of any content marketing strategy.
You have to be able to generate enough ideas, record them, and have the required research to come up with high quality posts consistently. After all, you’ll get nothing published if you write 500 words of rubbish and just fill it with backlinks.
With 5 per week, there’s no breathing room – we don’t have the luxury of not being able to think of what to talk about.
Thankfully, we created a system for how to organize research and document our ideas before they slip away, making it not only possible but relatively simple to keep up our pace.
This is that system.
Set up a Trello board
First things first – you can’t expect to consistently create guest posts (even low quality ones) without some sort of tracking or organization. For us, this meant creating a separate Trello board for our guest posts.
Think of a Trello board like a notice board that you can pin individual tasks to, and organize into columns.
So we set up a board with columns such as “Ideas”, “Pitch accepted”, “WIP”, “Needs review”, “Post sent”, “Post live”, etc. Once the columns were set up, we created individual cards for each of our ideas, which would later become posts.
This makes it incredibly easy to track the progress of any given guest post, and also see how many we have sent in a given week – it’s the core of our system for how to organize research. We don’t miss our 5-per-week target, because we can see exactly how many have been sent by just checking the “Post sent” column.
Record ideas on the go with Evernote
The home base was set up, but the structure would be useless without a way to easily jot down our ideas when inspiration strikes.
Our whole team uses a reading system which makes the most of any time we have, meaning that a lot of great ideas come to us while we’re away from our computers. Whether we’re listening to a podcast during a walk around town or catching up on our RSS feeds during a commute, we need a way to record the ideas we have without need to access our workstations.
One option would be to use the Trello app, but I guarantee that we wouldn’t bother to open it and make a new card every time we get a new idea – most of them would be consigned to “I’ll note it down later”, and then be quickly forgotten.
However, by using Evernote we can quickly record anything and everything when inspiration strikes. All we have to do is open a new note and scrawl a few words or, better yet, even record a voice memo to better explain what we’re talking about.
Then, when we’re back at our laptops, we can quickly drag and drop those notes into a Trello card. Some of us even automate the process of moving the notes into Trello by integrating Evernote with Zapier.
Use a time tracker
So, our ideas are in Trello. Great. Unfortunately, we’re writers through-and-through, which means that unless we have a time limit, we can easily spend 4 hours straight researching a topic which should take an hour max.
This isn’t sustainable when writing 5 guest posts every week (especially on top of writing for our own blog and dealing with other tasks or projects), so we all started using Pomello to track the time we spend on each Trello card.
This means that it’s impossible to lose sight of how much time we’re spending to research any given article – Pomello stays on top of your windows at all times, quietly ticks away to remind you that you’re on the clock, and chimes at the end of each half-hour segment you work.
Not only that, but it integrates with Trello, meaning that all time logged must be assigned to a Trello card.
Having the time you spend publicly visible adds a sense of accountability to the rest of your team. Everyone can see that you’ve just spent 5 hours working on a post that should take a fraction of the time, which keeps us extremely conscious of the time we spend.
In short, we use a time tracker to avoid losing track of time.
Block out research, writing, and editing time
Another killer for any kind of consistent workflow is having no set start and stop points – tracking your time does nothing if you don’t set a limit on it.
Hence why our team all block out their time to spend on their various tasks. For example, I could block out an hour to spend on researching a guest post, 45 minutes for writing, then a 15 minute break.
This is fantastic for kicking yourself into moving to the next task, rather than allowing yourself to pool over and finish up small details (which take time off your next big task).
Research time should not be spent editing. Writing time should not be spent cleaning up your previous paragraphs to perfection. Editing time (unless you find a hole in your argument) should not be spent researching.
After all, multitasking is bad news.
Also, if you know what your most productive time of day is, then make sure that you work on your big tasks (like guest posting) during that time. Filling your productive hours with multiple smaller tasks to “get them out of the way” will leave you too drained to focus properly when you come to the ugliest frog of the bunch.
Don’t complete a post in one sitting
Finally, just because you’re on a set time limit doesn’t mean you should force yourself to research, write, edit, and send a guest post in one sitting. Research and writing time can go together as they feed into one another, but adding editing to the mix will only cause despair.
To see all of the flaws in your work, you need to spend time away from it. Editing needs perspective, and if you’ve stuck your head in a guest post for four hours, you’re not going to have the fresh head you need to catch every mistake.
Research and write a post to the best of your ability, then leave it and don’t come back until at least the next day. Edit with a fresh head, and get a teammate to look through it too – they’ll spot things that would never occur to you.
There you have it – the system we use for how to organize research and publish 5 great guest posts every week. Obviously you’ll want to adapt this system to how you and your team works best, but as long as you keep these core ideals, you’ll make mincemeat out of any task in your way.
Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Process Street, a SaaS app for managing and automating company processes. He writes on SaaS, startups, and workflows. In his spare time he runs the obscure entertainment blog Secret Cave.