A collaborative blog is a blog with many authors around a central theme; that central theme is the framework that holds the blog together.
The first thing needed when setting up a collaborative blog is your central topic, so have a good brainstorm on that – this will help you when you invite people to join. Google Trends can help you see any patterns of what is popular and becoming popular if you need some inspiration.
When you have your main topic, you need to invite contributing bloggers and you will need to do the best selling of your life here. You need to be able to sell the concept of working smarter, not harder and you need to be able to take the rejections.
You also need to be able to deal with the questions that your prospective bloggers have, including:
- What’s in it for me?
- How many links per post?
- How often do I have to blog?
- Can I publish something I have previously written / published?
- What’s in it for me?
- How many words do I have to blog?
- What topics can I blog about?
- What happens when I want to leave?
- Who pays for the site upgrades?
- Who pays for images or where do I source them?
- What’s in it for me?
When blogging together it helps to have the answers to these questions and more, on hand, so you can answer them with confidence.
When you have your bloggers in place, you need to decide on your posting frequency – daily, thrice daily, thrice weekly and at what time. Time is important, if you audience is US based and Moms then you may find posting at 7am works for you.
If you are UK based you may find the after lunch slot is perfect for your business blog. Work out what times work for your audience and then commit to posting at that time. Showing up is half the battle won.
You will also need a way of managing your bloggers – decide whether to add a forum or a chat room to your blog. My 6 multi author blogs are managed via Facebook groups, and I find that works really well. Other people use Google groups (we do this at FBBB) or a private Google+ circle. A group gives you better overall management of your bloggers and enables them to learn and grow from each other – it’s a great benefit to multi author blogging.
On my multi-author blogs we use the Studiopress Magazine theme. This makes the site very visual and attractive.
This was the third or fourth theme we used before we settled on it, so be prepared to be looking for a new theme within a week or so of starting your multi author blog.
Birds on the Blog is now using the Journey theme by Gabfire. FBBB uses Headway to great effect. I find Studiopress themes are perfect for multi author blog sites and can highly recommend using them.
Plugins – when you have a blog with a lot of bloggers you will need some plugins to help manage the site.
Editorial Calendar, Future Posts and Smart SEO Links are the vital components of each of our collaborative blogs. The editorial calendar to manage the scheduling; Future Posts so you can see what days are empty and start planning; and SEO Smart links as you will have a lot of common things that need linking to. Previous posts, authors, pages – you name it and a link is probably desired, and this plugin manages it all neatly for you.
I find these plugins not only make my life easier, but also make it easier for all the bloggers that are involved.
- Editorial Calendar Plugin – if you could only use just one plugin ever… it should be this one.
- OIO Publisher for adverts
- RSS Footer - foiling scrapers of content and rewarding your subscribers.
- SEO Smart Links - see paragraph above
- WP Greet Box - personalised greeting for your readers
- Category Page - For better management of posts written by the authors.
The Editorial Calendar is the easiest way to manage a multi author blog, without this then you may as well give up before you start. It makes it easy to move blog posts around, adjust the timing of a post and move from draft to schedule. You will want to move blog posts around if a blogger posts in advance, or if something becomes topical you need to move it up the schedule to take advantage of the potential search engine traffic.
OIO Publisher is how you manage your advertisers – at some point you will want advertising on your site even if it’s just affiliate ads for products you love. This plugin is the way to go. Nothing quite does it like OIO Publisher
RSS Footer is how you add a link to your feed that doesn’t show on your blog post. If your post gets scraped via your RSS feed, this will link it back to your site.
SEO Smart Links - I love this plugin almost as much as the Editorial Calendar. At the end of each blog post, the blogger signs their name. Their name is hyperlinked to the individual page about that blogger and how to get in touch with them. I don’t have to remember to do it, neither does the blogger. It also hyperlinks to other blog posts if they are mentioned in the post, and to the other bloggers. It adds a lot of value to the reader, they can easily find the author, look at related posts and see who is mentioned with ease.
WP Greet Box is what personally greets the visitor, hopefully making them feel welcome and wanted. These can be personalised. In one forum I use it’s personalised with “Oi, leave a comment and don’t slink out…” That fascinated one reader who had left without leaving a comment but asked how it worked in the forum.
Category Page is useful for listing the blog posts by category within a page. We’ve used this to good effect for the bloggers’ individual pages, listing their posts by each having their own category (useful if you don’t register each with their own user name).
There are of course plenty more plugins that can be useful for you, but these are the ones we install on all our multi author blogs to make life easier.
Calendar: You can start scheduling after you have decided how you are going to manage the posts
- Will bloggers upload them directly?
- Or will they send the posts by email to you?
- Do you need a gravity form uploader?
Make sure right from the start of the blog that images are sourced ethically and legally - no bandwidth stealing, no image stealing and give guidance to your bloggers about images. The Photo Dropper plugin can help with this but most themes only pull images directly loaded into WordPress onto the home page, so Photo Dropper is useful for more than one image in a post but not the main image.
Another thing you need to consider is editing, I have a light hand on the editing – obvious typos and obvious grammar edited. Style of writing will be left untouched. Writers are very precious people, and so are journalists (see, in one swoop I have managed to annoy 95% of the online world). They don’t like being edited and most of us struggle to write a decent headline but won’t admit it.
This is where the group comes in handy, as you can share writing resources and help the blogger understand why you have changed “get more traffic” into “3 secrets to gaining more traffic”. It helps them become stronger and better. The best way to improve your writing is to be edited by others – you get a writing education and you get to improve ten fold. Don’t resent it, embrace it.
Consider what you need evidence for – will your bloggers be asked to cite sources and resources used? Will you encourage them to link out to these sources? And bear in mind that you, as the blog’s owner, are ultimately responsible for the content. Yep, they will sue you the publisher and not the blogger if there is a problem. I like people to cite resources and encourage linking out to other sites – not to get there attention but to make it much easier for the reader to navigate around.
You need an exit strategy and you need a plan for what happens if something goes wrong, you also need to be upfront with your bloggers about costs, and about advertising revenues and whether they are allowed their own affiliate links in posts. These are all areas where you will need your diplomacy skills. Multi-author blogging has cost me friends who wrongly assumed I was getting rich off of their work.
A multi- author blog is a great way of working with other bloggers and raising all of your profiles. It is hard work and can be very rewarding.
“But there’s no money in multi author blogging” is something I hear all the time.
Ok, let’s dispel that myth. There is money in all kinds of blogging including the multi-author variety. You can monetise faster than a “normal” blog and that needs to be prepared for before you even buy your domain name!
Back to money – It’s not enough to give up my day job, retire disgracefully in the Bahamas or pay the bloggers more than 11p for contributing. Yet. So instead we take the money we make and put it to good use, we educate twin girls in Africa, Patience and Princess. Our bit of money here, makes a big difference there.
Part of the monetisation issues are my fault. I didn’t realise that I would be copied, yes, we have had copycats start up and fall by the wayside! I should have had the affiliate links in place, and I should have had a post outlining exactly how to set one up and how we did it much sooner. Money was not my priority then. I learned that lesson the hard way.
So what are the benefits( if it’s not cold, hard cash) of multi author blogging?
- Together, our voice is amplified
- Our reach is extended
- The community is different
- You improve your own writing
- You learn to comment
- You learn to educate and inform rather than preach
- You learn to converse
- You learn diplomacy and patience
- You learn a whole new skill set when it comes to the technical aspects of a blog.
- You learn to swear in several languages.
It’s not easy to blog as a team, so think of it as a team game. You are only as strong as your weakest link.
People have told me that my own writing has come on leaps and bounds. I have watched people start to blog and struggle, and near give up and then carry on and go from strength to strength. Some did give up. Some thought they could hack the pace but found that they couldn’t. Some have built strong bonds and found each other jobs. Some found strength from being part of a group, others found discipline and I found my niche – helping others.
Opportunities have sprung from the blog, along with radio slots and other media opportunities.
Joint promotional opportunities - by promoting each other, consistently we are extending our influence. We can also help others by reviewing products and books. I have a transport blog, and Essex blog and several sandpits to play in. Those are very niche, not everyone will be interested in a review on those blogs or having me write one on despite the traffic they get. So by working together we can carry out reviews and help others by boosting their sales if it’s a great product or gently guiding people away if it’s not so good.
Very important… I get huge, mega bragging rights… Stephen Fry told Ann it was a fine blog. Martha Stewart invited me to a party. The disability content gets a bigger, mainstream audience. Did I mention we educate girls in Africa? Oh and we recently achieved 1,00,000 page views in just 5.5 months, did I mention that? On Birds on the Blog, every woman’s voice is heard.
I also get caned if it goes wrong. With the power comes the responsibility. I think I am doing OK, being solely responsible for the content and editing it for 2 years has been interesting, I now have a deputy editor in place, the fiery Canadian writer Suzan St Maur. She now deals with the sponsored posts queries and making sure the content is consistent across the site.
Yes, you can do all of this blogging malarkey by yourself. I was doing all of this by myself, for years. Now I am known for the multi -author blogs, the boss over at Birds, because working together lifted us all.
We are now a force to be reckoned with, and in terms of size we are the biggest site of it’s kind outside of the US. In fact 78% of our traffic comes from the US, and I was told that will never happen as we have a co.uk domain name.
And you can’t really argue with that…