This post is about how you can leverage the writing of others through interviews and guest posts to grow your audience - for free!
This is Part 3 of a multi-part series. If you haven’t read the previous posts, start here:
Who am I? My name is Pat Walls and I am the founder of StarterStory.com and I have built a successful business interviewing others. This blog attracts 70k monthly visitors and generates $4K/month in revenue.
A lot of people have asked me for advice on this, so I figured I would write a series about how you get started and use these tactics to grow your blog, business or side project.
This is in conjunction with my new product, Pigeon, which is the tool I’ve built that has helped me scale and automate these interviews. If you’re serious about doing interviews to grow your business and want to try out Pigeon, please reach out.
If you read Part 1 & 2, then you are ready to take your drafts and turn them into luscious pieces of content.
All of this logic can also work for guest posts, paid writers, or cross posts as well. The same processes apply!
Here’s what we’ll cover in this part:
- How to have an easy, repeatable revisions process.
- How to get more out of your writers.
- Simple things to make your blog posts look and feel beautiful.
A simple, repeatable revisions process
To have great content consistently, it all comes down to the revisions process, especially if you’re not writing your own content.
As an editor-in-chief/founder/blogger you are the gatekeeper and it is your job to keep shitty content from being published on your site (though you will never be perfect).
For me, revisions are the cornerstone of where good content turns to great. It’s where you can turn a bad piece of content good, and where you can turn a great piece of content into something amazing.
If you’ve read the previous posts in this guide, you’ve already done everything in your ability to promote great content with a good template. Now it’s time to provide feedback on that content and make it even better.
Once the writer submits their first draft, I will go through the google doc and do light editing/formatting and heavy comments markup.
Here are some of the things I do:
Always ask for more. Always.
If you’re only going to follow one of my tips, you should follow this one.
I read through the entire interview and look for places where I think the writer missed something, or they could elaborate more.
As a reader, if someone says that doing X made them more successful, I want to hear more about X. I want to hear more insights.
So, I will highlight X, and leave a comment, asking the writer to elaborate more on that topic, and sometimes explain why I would like them to talk more about it.
I try to be as specific as possible, and even add example questions to make it easy for them to add more.
Don’t be afraid to ask for more!
Writers will respect your comments. It shows that you care.
Here’s an example of what this might look like (this is an old draft I pulled up):
Know where the content is lacking
You should push your comments and revisions requests towards the areas of the content that you think need the most improvement.
For example, if the writer did a great job in the first section about how they came up with their idea, but only a few sentences about how they market their products, then I will mark up that part of the interview substantially.
In other words, the content should be balanced.
Over time, and as your content, messaging, etc takes shape, you will start to see patterns, and be able to easily identify where your drafts are lacking.
Ask for photos / screenshots / videos
When the writer mentions something that could be visually displayed, such as a successful Instagram post, or early prototype design, I will leave a comment asking for photos, screenshots or videos of this.
I don’t need to explain why photos/screenshots are important, but readers love them. It makes your content much fuller and creates a more impressive piece.
Apparently, Google likes content with more multimedia as well.
Google docs is a great tool because they can easily drag photos in / paste them right in.
Shamelss plug: By using Pigeon, all the photos from your Google doc draft will be transferred to Markdown with one click.
Link to everything possible. Based on (very light) SEO research I’ve done, Google tends to like articles with a lot of links.
Since I use Google Docs, it makes it super easy to add links without doing any research. All you need to do is highlight the word and hit Command+K.
This pulls up a google search for that term you’ve highlighted which usually gets the right hit. You no longer need to open a new tab to find the link.
(Thank you Google, such a killer feature)
Break up big paragraphs
Maybe it’s just me, but as a reader, I hate giant paragraphs.
So this is a really easy thing to make your content feel more fuller.
If the writer has put together really big paragraphs, you can easily break them up in a matter of seconds.
I don’t ask the writer to do this, I do it myself. Same goes for all spelling/grammar/anything I could easily do myself.
As I’m reading, I look for really great quotes. If something catches my eye, I will immediately copy it and paste it somewhere else in the story as a blockquote (with markdown syntax in the google doc).
I usually add 2-3 blockquotes per post.
Again, blockquotes are a really easy way to improve the look and feel of an interview.
If you’re not familiar with what a blockquote is, it’s a large quote, like this:
Kindly ask your writers to make changes
Once I go through the template and do my thing, I send it back to the writer, kindly asking them to take a look at my comments.
Here’s what that email looks like:
^^ This is Pigeon’s canned responses feature. With Pigeon, you can use a keyboard shortcut in Gmail to pull this bad boy up and you’ll be sending emails faster than 99.9% of the population.
After that, it should be ready to publish
I try to do all of the “hard stuff” during that first review - I even create the title of the post.
That way, once I get the revisions back from the writer, it’s 100% ready to go and I can publish and schedule the piece with one click.
I almost never go back for more revisions after that.
Sometimes the writer won’t take your comments to heart, but that’s OK.
But 90% of the time, just a little bit of work on your end will substantially increase the quality of every piece of content.
Enjoy the revisions process
This isn’t really a tip, but an insight after publishing so many of these:
I’ve learned to really love the revisions process.
Sometimes it feels like a total drag, but other times it’s a really rewarding feeling, but when I’m actually deep in reading this content, I feel so lucky that I’m getting paid to read the insights of successful entrepreneurs.
I’ve learned so much and made amazing connections just by reading and revising Google docs with some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world!
Also - over time, you’ll start to see the same concepts and patterns of success, you can really understand people and where they are coming from by their writing style.
It’s a really cool “behind the scenes” kind of thing, I guess.
You will get really fast
Over time, you will get really fast at this revisions process.
Nowadays, it takes me ~12 minutes to mark up a 3000-word interview.
You will just start developing an eye for good content and where things need improvements, as it’s often the same things over and over again.
And to reiterate what we talked about in Part 2 - if you see something coming up, again and again, make sure to tweak your template and/or process so you can spend less time asking for it in the revisions process.
For example, if you notice your writers never talk about email marketing, but you really want them to mention it, add it to your template and make it stand out! That will save you a couple of minutes on the next go around.
All of these little tweaks will contribute to your overall content machine! Improving it day by day and allowing you to release hundreds of pieces of content with the minimal work possible.
That’s why I built Pigeon and it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.
Coming up next
In the next chapter/piece, I will talk about how to create excellent content and how to turn OK content into great content.
That is included but not limited to:
- How to share your content around the web & social media
- How to get your interviewees to share your content for you
- Sharing assets
- Follow up with your interviewees
See you next week!