An interview with Ruud Hein, editor of Search Engine People Blog
As an editor of a well known blog in the search marketing and SEO space, what are some of your challenges?
We’ve grown to 3 posts a day; 15 per week; 60 per month. The challenge is to keep the queue filled and ready to go.
Thankfully I have the honor and pleasure to work with a very kind, very special team of over 70 contributors, all of whom know how to step up to the plate. For example, for the December holiday period a number of writers wrote several posts or wrote one even though they weren’t up on the schedule.
Another challenge is how to match content ideas with the best writers. It’s not because you have a link builder on the writing team that they are automatically the best person to write about it. Some folks prefer to — for once — write about something else than their main expertise. At the end of last year I’ve reached out to each and every writer to ask questions about what they like, what they know, what they want to write about and some pretty interesting surprises came out of that; and some really impressive content too, by the way!
Time management and planning are a big part of the job. You have to firewall your own time to ensure you can keep up with the planning and editing. You’re at the service of the writers; they shouldn’t have to think about when and what and how, so it’s up to me to send out a timely reminder with a topic idea and to format and schedule their post. Guest posters aren’t in the flow of the blog so at times you have to be kind, patient, and consistent in getting back to them repeatedly to get a post handed in.
You mentioned 70 contributors, how did you gather such a large group of writers?
We started out with a group of about 10 contributors. These were people that were well known and well liked in the industry. About half of them are still with the blog. Ann Smarty, to name but one.
Since then I’ve built relations with people on especially Twitter — my favorite social network — and when I come across smart, insightful, talented people I often ask them if they would want to become a contributor. I’m especially on the lookout for talent outside the regular cliques. People like Nyagoslav Zhekov or Aviva Blumstein, for example. I would wish to name all 70 here but I suspect you won’t go for that 🙂
Of course we also get our fair share of pitches. Writers who contact us with ideas and proposals.
What is the purpose and goal of the blog and how do you measure success and/or failure?
The first and foremost purpose of the blog is for us to show up. That’s 99% of what blogs are, of what social is; showing up. Being there. Not having and doing a blog, or not “doing” social, is the 2010’s equivalent of the 2000’s not having a web site: you don’t really exist.
The goal of the blog itself, outside of whatever Search Engine People would be or do, is to help site owners and in-house SEO’s; “OK, here’s what’s going, here’s how that impacts you, and here’s what you can do about it.” And because the blog’s purpose is not to be a lead generator there’s nothing we can’t get out there. There’s literally no tip, trick, strategy, plan, tactic, or tool that I can’t publish. In fact, if anything we get pushed to publish more, to be more specific, more detailed. I’ve never had Jeff Quipp, SEP’s CEO, call me to say “well, that was a bit too much, don’t you think so”; it’s usually “we should be telling Canadian business owners about this or that”.
As for success, the best measure is time. Time on page. It takes a reader 2 to 3 minutes to read a 500 word article. That’s your baseline right there. When I see people spend 5-8 minutes on a page I know the author did a great job. When we see people leave after 40 seconds — something’s left unsaid.
Time is the best measure. Time beats tweets, so to say.
Maybe you’ve already answered this to some degree, but how do you encourage your contributors to produce content that increases the average time on page?
I can’t really say encouragement is needed, normally, but when I have a specific topic idea in min it helps to ask the person best aligned with that, be it through interest, passion, hobby, expertise or a combination of those.
People tell me “this is what I do and am good at, this is what I love to write about, and this is what I’m passionate about”. Sometimes those 3 are the same, sometimes they’re very different. Some of the best content on the site comes from people writing out of what I would have considered their comfort zone.
The best content and the best ideas come from the writers, though. Sometimes I suggest “maybe a or b” and someone surprises me with a high C written in a way that I think “wow, I would almost be uncomfortable to have asked for that!”
Do you have another tip for blog editors?
You’ve read about editorial calendars. Those are fine and nice and all that but what you need to do is get yourself an author calendar. Map out who goes where, when. You need to have a place where with one look you can see if your bases are covered.
Also, make everything as effortless as possible. You’re the secretary of the writer: you handle the reminders, the heads-up’s, the follow-up’s, the formatting, editing, images, etc. etc.
Most importantly: all mistakes are yours.
Thanks Ruud, great stuff. Is there anything you want to say about your business?
Search Engine People has grown tremendously over the years. Providing other experts and writers a platform to get in front of a large audience by publishing on Canada’s largest SEO blog with the broadest reach is our way to help others launch equally successful businesses.
Feel free to connect with me on Twitter @ruudhein