Tips and Tools for Managing Multiple Blogs

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on May 11, 2011 in Blog Management
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Yesterday we talked about when it makes sense to have multiple blogs, and I shared some information on some of the main blogs I run. But even if it makes sense for you to launch several blogs, that doesn't mean you have the time or energy to stick with it.

Having done this for years -- managing multiple blogs and knowing when to launch more vs letting them go -- I want to share some simple tools and habits that have made multi-blog management easier.

Blog Development

First let's look at the early development, which can be time consuming and push some people away from the idea of multiple blogs. Here are a few tips for making that process a bit easier:

  1. Use pre-developed themes or hire a designer. I recommend premium themes or having a designer create a custom one for you. It's an investment if you don't want one so common that everyone and his brother is using it, but it's worth it for the time it saves.
  2. Then customize those pre-made themes so they appear more unique to your site. Change font styles, colors, and images and you can quickly turn a theme several people use into a unique option that ties to your brand.
  3. Put together a blog launch checklist to help you streamline the setup process. For example, if you like to use a certain permalink format, include that in your checklist you can quickly copy / paste that information into your settings for each blog you launch. Don't make decisions all over again every time you go through the setup process.

Writing Blog Content

This is the part that seems to worry bloggers most. How will they ever find the time to regularly write for another blog? Here are some tips and ideas to make it more realistic.

  1. Decide on a posting schedule up front, and know that consistency is more important than frequency (not that higher frequencies will hurt). If you can only post once per week or every other week, acknowledge that up front and don't pressure yourself to do more until you see how that works out.
  2. Create a master post idea list. Sometimes the most time-consuming part of blogging is deciding what you want to blog about on any given day. You might spend a while browsing the news and other blogs to see what people are talking about or do keyword research to see what people want to know. You won't always have time for this. So create a blog idea list with evergreen content ideas. If you can't come up with another idea quickly on any given day, turn to your list. Personally I like having these ideas saved as drafts in the blog. Then I can just pull up the post draft list, open one up, and start writing.
  3. Accept that short posts are okay. You don't have to write epic posts every time you blog. Shorter updates are okay and they can keep the blog active and readers coming back. If you're used to writing longer posts on your main blog (like I tend to do here), then try a different style on other blogs (for example, my personal blog usually includes much shorter posts, making it more manageable).
  4. If you know you can't post as frequently as you'd like, go in with a plan. Either recruit guest posts (which can be tough for a new unestablished blog) or go in with a budget so you can hire occasional contributors.

Blog Admin and Promotion

Writing blog posts isn't enough. You still have to deal with backups, upgrades (which can be all too frequent as any WordPress user knows -- and something I need to do this week on several sites), managing comments, and promoting the blog. Here are some tips and tools to help with that.

  1. Come up with a marketing plan for the blog, but it's okay to keep it short-form. I provide two tools you can use to do this, and I use both of them (varying depending on the project) -- a one page marketing plan and a project planner template. They'll give you direction and you can turn back to them when you feel off track.
  2. Consider switching your browser. I've found Chrome to be the best for managing multiple blogs. With updates recently, other browsers may now offer the same functionality. But there are three reasons I love Chrome. First, it's fast. When I pull up a half dozen or more blog admin pages at once, it can handle it flawlessly. I also love that I can set more than one startup page. For example, I can tell Chrome to open several different blog admin screens in different tabs whenever I launch the browser in the morning. I can get that admin work done without having to pull up any bookmarks. And when I'm in the middle of my day I can click the new tab button in the browser and get a list of visual bookmarks using the Speed Dial extension. It makes it absurdly fast and simple to open up blog admin screens with just two clicks.
  3. Go assembly-style. Open the admin screens for each blog in a new tab. Then cover the same tasks for each at the same time -- clearing spam, reviewing pending comments, running blog updates, exporting your backup files, etc. I've found this is be much faster than trying to get from A-Z for each blog one at a time. And I can deal with things like comment management for my own blogs and client blogs where I'm hired to handle them seamlessly.
  4. If possible. set your server to run automatic backups. If you can't do this yourself, your host might be able to (or they might already do it and make them available for download). But be sure to test those backups once in a while. When we recently moved things to a new host and upgraded server, they handled backups differently and for some reason we only got partial database backups. I had to manually restore over a month's worth of content after a catastrophic failure because the backups created during that time were impossible to restore as they were incomplete.
  5. Check stats at the same time. Here's another good time for streamlining. Add all blogs you run to a single analytics program (generally you can track multiple sites; in some cases you'll have to pay for each). Google Analytics is one popular free version, and your host probably includes stats programs for free as well. When you get an overall feel for the success of each blog side-by-side, you can make on the fly decisions about how to adjust your schedule, what needs less emphasis because it isn't working, and what needs more time dedicated to it.
  6. Don't be obsessive about blog promotion. No one likes a blogger who constantly throws their marketing in their faces (yes, we notice you promotion whores). And frankly the best marketing you can do is to create content people give a damn about. So spend less time tweeting and yapping and "sharing" on third party sites and spend more time on your blog with your community. The more you give them what they want, they more free promotion you'll get out of the deal as they spread the word for you.
  7. That's not to say you should completely ignore blog promotion. You'll still need to get the word out yourself, especially in the beginning. Just don't be a dolt about it. Streamline your marketing and networking just like you streamline your admin work. And don't promote things constantly that your audience doesn't care about. If you run different blogs much of your marketing will be separate (or should be). For example, you may use more than one Twitter account. If so, try to manage them all during a set block of time each day instead of fluttering about between your writing and your networking and one account to another. And automate where possible, but without pushing the spam boundaries. (For example, we offer a feed-specific Twitter account for those who want to get links of every post, and I don't feed every link into the main networking account which is, frankly, spammy -- I reserve that for the better content, things others are already talking about, or posts that tie to conversations I've had there recently.)

There's nothing complicated about managing multiple blogs. It's all about basic organization and streamlining the workflow. Some of these tips might work for you. And you'll probably have other ideas based on your own work style. I don't like to incorporate too many external tools into my blogging because I find they cause more hassle than they save in the long run for me. But I know some bloggers are tool addicts. So if you use others or know of some good options other bloggers might want to try out, feel free to tell us about them in the comments below.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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13 Comments

  1. Cathy Miller May 11, 2011 Reply

    Hi, Jen. BTW-thanks for the suggestion about my health care blog. It’s a good one. I have been using Chrome and love it, You’re right about the speed.

    You gave me some great ideas here. I have my 3 blogs on the bookmarks bar. I didn’t know about SpeedDial. I haven’t taken the time to learn about extensions.and all the other great tools Chrome offers. I think I have my homework assignment. :-)

    • Jennifer Mattern May 11, 2011 Reply

      What’s great about the visual bookmarks is that you get a screenshot of the sites. So it’s clear where all of my WP admin pages are (they look the same) as opposed to other things I keep there like Twitter, client sites, etc. You can squeeze in an awful lot, but if you start using a crap ton of them, you’ll only display the favicon instead of a screenshot for lack of space. I try to keep it to a number where the screenshots stay clearly visible.

  2. Sharon Hurley Hall May 11, 2011 Reply

    I’ve just checked out the Speed Dial screenshots, and it looks like it offers the advantage of keeping more sites at your fingertips. I currently keep 8 of my most opened sites pinned to the Chrome home page, but being able to store more would be great. Your tips for managing the same tasks on each blog at the same time sound interesting – I’ve never tried it that way, tending to go for the ‘one blog at a time’ approach. Thanks for this, Jenn; there’s food for thought here.

    • Jennifer Mattern May 11, 2011 Reply

      You’re welcome.

      And that’s exactly how I came across Speed Dial. I had more sites than Chrome let you add and they didn’t allow you to increase it (at least not then, haven’t checked more recently since I’m happy with the extension). I wasn’t sure I’d like the setup early on, but it grew on me quickly. :)

    • Jennifer Mattern May 11, 2011 Reply

      Just checked, and I have 40 up now. You can see the screenshots very well even with that many. And you can go as high as 81, although then you’ll see just favicons so it would be a lot harder to find things quickly or remember where they are.

      • Sharon Hurley Hall May 11, 2011 Reply

        I can see that Chrome Speed Dial is about to become one of my must-use tools. Even at the default setting it helps a lot to have it.

  3. Kimberly May 18, 2011 Reply

    Thank you for suggesting Speed Dial! This is about to be my new best friend. I’m currently managing three new blogs. I got overwhelmed toward the end of 2010 and let them all lapse, but now I’ve created a monthly “editorial” calendar to keep me on track with posts. Hootsuite is great for helping me promote multiple Twitter accounts for each blog.

    • Jennifer Mattern May 18, 2011 Reply

      No problem. :) Sharon discovered that the Speed Dial extension won’t work with the Chrome Apps setting. But there’s another one called SpeedDial2 that will work with them if you use Chrome Apps.

      Also, my b/f is a programmer and we’re slowly but surely working out editorial calendar software (mostly for bloggers, but also for freelancers). So if you can think of specific features you’d like to see in something like that, do let me know and I’ll pass the requests along to see if they’re possible. We’re looking for ways to make it more tailored to writers than generic calendar software is, especially for those trying to manage multiple blogs. So we’re definitely open to suggestions. :)

  4. Kimberly May 23, 2011 Reply

    I’ll definitely be checking back to find out more about the editorial calendar software you’re working on. If I think of any suggestions based on my experience using Google Calendar (which is not the best option for managing multiple blogs, I know this), I’ll be more than
    happy to email them to you.

    • Jennifer Mattern May 23, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Kimberly. :) I haven’t tried using Gcal for that yet, but on my to-do list. One of the big things I’d like us to have is the ability to import past posts, so you can have a “from the beginning” edcal for all of your blogs in one place. We’ll have to see if it’s possible on his end.

  5. Rebecca July 11, 2011 Reply

    Wow! This is great information. I have multiple blogs and recently revamped one of them. I haven’t tried Google Chrome because I wasn’t sure if it was worth the time and effort. I also created a schedule for my blogs and have stuck to it. Shorter posts are something I’m toying with. I’m used to writing blog posts between 500-700 words. Writing a 250-400 words post makes me feel like I’m not writing anything. Lol!

    • Jennifer Mattern July 12, 2011 Reply

      Oh, I’m with you on that one! I can handle shorter posts on some sites, but on ones like this where I’m used to longer content it’s a real struggle to settle on something quick. I’ve done a terrible job so far of changing that too. :(

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