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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.