How to build an internal content team: Do this, not that

PuzzleYes, you can source low-cost, quality content by leveraging your internal resources (I talked about this last week.)

If you follow some basic guidelines.

The key to a strong internal team is putting the right puzzle pieces together the right way. I’ve helped a number of companies tap into their teams and uncover some fantastic “diamond-in-the-rough” SEO writers.

For some companies, the process has gone smoothly. Others faced a rough road, full of missed deadlines, resentful employees and a failed content effort.

Here’s what separates the smart companies from the rest:

Yes! Do this!

- Hire an editor. The editor can be an employee or a vendor who double-checks the content. This role is extremely important, so choose wisely. You need someone who can develop and assign topic ideas, has worked with writers before and knows how to provide smart feedback. Plus, your editor needs to be super-knowledgeable about SEO. He’ll often be researching the keyphrases and optimizing the content – so he needs to know what he’s doing.

- Tell your team why their contribution is important and give them frequent kudos. If you say, “You need to start writing blog posts,” you will face resentment. Instead, share why you’re turning to them for blogging help, watch their progress and reward their successes (such as a top Google ranking or lots of social shares.) The more invested your writer is in the process, the better content she’ll create.

- Train your writers. This is important even if an editor is inserting keyphrases and writing the title and meta description. More knowledge means your writer can create a better work product – one that your editor won’t have to red-line, rewrite and tear her hair out over. Your subject matter experts don’t need to be SEO whiz kids. But they should know the SEO content basics.

- Create an SEO content style guide (or hire a firm to create this for you.) Outline the general blog post format, the reading audience, how headlines and subheads are used and how many words you expect per post. If you have a list of things that can’t be mentioned (for instance, if you’re in a highly regulated industry,) outline these expectations and make them clear. A style guide gets everyone on the same page and helps standardize the content’s look and feel.

Need more direction? Here’s a great post by Ian Lurie that discusses how to create a style guide.

Want to virtually guarantee failure?  Don’t even think about doing this!

- Send your team to an SEO conference with the task of “learn how to do SEO copywriting and come back and teach the rest of us.” Most conferences don’t delve deeply enough into SEO content writing fundamentals to really provide any actionable knowledge (especially for newbies.) After all, what can your team realistically learn in a one-hour session?

- Assign blog posts without providing a deadline. Your team members are already busy with 1,000 things on their plate. If you don’t tell them when something is due, it’s going to get pushed to the back burner.

- Bring someone on who isn’t a good writer and/or hates writing.  Just because you’re an enthusiastic blogger doesn’t mean everyone else is too. Some people would rather hear fingernails on a chalkboard than write a blog post. Do not have these people write your web copy. It will not go well.

- Assign unrealistic deadlines. If you tell someone their newly-assigned blog post is “due tomorrow,” her head will probably explode.  Sure, you may only need 400 words. But know that it can take a lot of time to write 400 words – especially for non-writers. Give them time and space. The end product will be much better (and the writer will feel better about it, too.)

- Take the post without editing it first. Yes, you need to focus on making sure the right keyphrases are in the right spots. But you’ll also need someone to check grammar, spelling and general flow. If the post quality is low, don’t post it – even if you are on deadline. The only thing worse than no blog posts is a bunch of crappy ones.

- Let other priorities get in the way. Many companies outsource their content because they know it will actually get done. Internal teams may shift the content priority from, “This is highly important,” to “Well, we have a trade show next week. Let’s skip all blogging until we’re back.” Keep calm and keep blogging on – no matter what’s swirling around you. The momentum alone will help support your success.

Does your team need writing examples, SEO copywriting training and some hands-on help? I can customize a solution that transforms writers from “meh” into “marvelous.” Contact me with your requirements.