The best blogging tips are likely to come from a blogger who’s been at it for years, publishing thousands of articles — again and again. I know someone who fits that description. His name is Eric Dye and he agreed to be interviewed about his blogging experience. What follows is a great story and a series of blogging tips that you and I will both benefit from.
An American living abroad in Italy, Eric has his hands in several projects including Finding Justice and Live Theme but is best known as editor of ChurchMag. Originally started by John Saddington, the blog has for several years been owned by Eric who has worked it into a fine oiled machine with thousands of articles published every year. Yes, thousands.
Surprisingly, when I asked if he was a busy blogger, he said, “Not as busy as I used to be.” How can that be? Mr. Dye’s blogging tips shed some light on how we can be more effective at blogging too.
You’ll miss a great story and the finer details but you can skip to Blogging Tips Summed Up if you’re short on time.
Eric’s Story and Blogging Tips
First of all, what is ChurchMag all about?
ChurchMag is all about the church, technology, creativity, and all things awesome. We are a community of passionate geeks who want to see churches, ministries, and non-profits use technology effectively to fulfill their mission.
Could you give us some history? I notice John Saddington wrote the first post in 2008…
ChurchMag first started as Church Crunch back in 2008 by John Saddington. It eventually grew into a network of blogs in 2010 called The 8BIT Network. There were several arms of the network, focusing on several different areas. The 8BIT Network included: ChurchCrunch, ChurchCreative, ChurchIT, ChurchDrop, ChurchCode, and ChurchChMS. In 2013, The 8BIT Network rolled the entire network of blogs into one, and it was then that it became what it is known today as: ChurchMag.
I first started writing for The 8BIT Network in 2010, became the Editor in 2011, and it was at the end of 2012 that John Saddington and 8BIT decided to let ChurchMag go. They offered to sell it to me before moving forward with other buyers, and as scary as it felt at the time, I am grateful that I acquired ChurchMag. It’s been an awesome ride.
Your archive navigation shows 1,472 pages listing posts. How many articles has ChurchMag published?
14,719 and counting…
And I know ChurchMag is not the only place you write. You are a busy blogger, no?
Not as busy as I used to be. Since bringing on a top-notch team of Staff Writers with ChurchMag, my time is can be spent more elsewhere. I look over all the posts, scheduling, team communication, website management, the bulk of social media, almost all the graphic design and featured images for blog posts, etc… for ChurchMag. I also take care of ChurchMag Press —the publishing arm of ChurchMag—, Live Theme, Finding Justice, my personal site, (I may or may not know something about ChurchMem.es), and I am the Programs Director for Open Church. But with over 5,400 blog posts attributed to me on ChurchMag, I suppose I’ve hit publish a few times. ;)
Tell us about bringing in other writers. What is the benefit and how do you find them?
Ever since I’ve known, ChurchMag has been a community blog. It’s never had an official central figurehead and I’ve continued with that tradition. We don’t cover one particular niche, but several. It would be very difficult for ChurchMag to carry on and have any kind of authority if it was a single author blog. While you might be able to cover everything in a general sense, talking more in-depth on the various topics would be really difficult for one person to pull-off. Having multiple authors also gives it many more voices and perspectives, which as a reader, makes it a more interesting read.
The ChurchMag Staff Writers have been writing regularly for ChurchMag for many years. But just like our guest authors, they had to start sometime, right? We “put out the word” every once and awhile via our social media channels or a blog post here or there. There’s also a link to our “contribute” page on our main menu. Since ChurchMag is fairly well known—rated 23 of the top 300 Church and ministry blogs—I think we have an easier time connecting with talented, knowledgeable authors.
In short, we don’t find them as much as they find us (even though I’ve been known to nudge a few authors here and there).
How do you manage your writers and their submissions? Are there plugins that can help with that?
For sure. These plugins save me time as well as make the functionality more conducive for a multi author blog:
Of course, just having them installed isn’t going to do it. It’s how you use and configure them. Having different levels of roles is really key. I trust my Staff Writers with almost full Admin privileges, for instance, whereas you might want to prevent someone who is really new to WordPress from having access to your media library. Tweak and test to your hearts desire.
WP Status Notifier keeps me, the Editor, informed about new posts being submitted and can be configured to notify authors about moderation status as well. Of these three plugins, this is the most likely to be eliminated.
My favorite, Edit Flow, is killer. While it has plenty of cool tools and options that I could talk about, it’s the ability to communicate with the author via the WordPress admin that has been awesome for me. I always send a comment, through WordPress, to the blog post author of the date and time I’ve scheduled their post—which is really slick. I can also request changes and edits as well, which is really nice when someone wants a post looked at for editorial reasons before it’s submitted for publishing.
What’s your strategy for building an audience? Are there plugins or tools that help you with marketing?
Other than the obvious social media share plugin, I would say that CoSchedule has been a great time saver. There’s no better time to schedule your social media shares, then after having written or read a post—and that’s exactly what you can do with CoSchedule. And if you want to really refine your approach, you can even customize your message to each social media network that you’ve wired-up, too.
We’re all about the plugins at PPD. Will you share what other plugins are in your arsenal?
Sure thing. There are some plugins that come and go, but there are a few that will always remain:
- Gravity Forms
- Jetpack by WordPress.com
- Public Post Preview
- WordPress SEO
- SEO Smart Links Business
- WordPress Zero Spam
Do you have any other blogging tips for us? Success is elusive, but it looks like you run a fine oiled machine with ChurchMag.
Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.
Blogging Tips Summed Up
Let me sum up the blogging tips Eric provided.
- Buy a blog, perhaps. Eric didn’t start from scratch with ChurchMag. Starting from scratch is the way to go most of the time but Eric gave himself a head start by buying a blog with potential and taking it to the next level. Having credibility with an audience and with Google is a great foundation to build on. The added cost to start could be worth it in some cases, such as in Eric’s.
- Build authority with multiple writers. Is it a coincidence that Eric’s most popular blog is a community blog? It’s bigger than one writer. Not only does publishing articles from other writers save him time but it makes it possible to publish in-depth articles on various topics, something difficult to accomplish when going it alone.
- Pay some writers, don’t pay others. That sounds odd, but it’s not. Eric has Staff Writers who are paid to provide consistent, high quality articles. But he also accepts guest posts. A popular blog is able to attract submissions from people who enjoy the exposure (like me). Build your audience to earn such a luxury.
- Take advantage of key plugins like User Role Editor, WP Status Notifier and Edit Flow to make managing a multi-author blog easier. Really learn how to use them. I gave Edit Flow a try and could see how useful it is. At this point in summing up Eric’s blogging tips, I’m starting to understand why Eric is not as busy as he used to be.
- Leverage social media plugins to build your audience. Sharing buttons on your article are a must (I like Jetpack Sharing and Simple Share Buttons Adder). CoSchedule lets you schedule blog posts and share them on social media automatically. The drag and drop scheduling calendar looks like a joy to use. Pricing starts at $17/month.
- Don’t forget SEO. Eric recommends the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin and SEO Smart Links. If you’re not using WordPress SEO by Yoast now, you certainly should. Every WordPress website should take advantage of it.
- Back your site up automatically with VaultPress. You can read more about that in my last post, Best Backup WordPress Plugins According to 21 Pros (one of which was Eric Dye). All your hard work would sadly amount to nothing if your site is destroyed with no backup to restore.
- “Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.” I’ve read similar blogging tips from others who have had success. I take this as meaning don’t give up too soon. It takes time to get a handle on writing, to be effective, to get in a groove and to build up an audience. I recall Chris Coyier saying something about his success with CSS Tricks being the result of blogging consistently for several years. That’s commitment to success.
So there you have it, blogging tips from a man who’s published thousands of articles and who has figured out how to streamline the publishing process on a popular multi-author blog. Want to build up a popular blog? Learn from people like Eric Dye. Ask them to share their blogging tips. It’s amazing how open people are to sharing how they have had their success.
A big thanks to Eric Dye for doing this interview and sharing his blogging tips.
What are your blogging tips? Please share your story and encouragement by posting a comment below.