Unleashing your inner writer can be a bit of a tough job.
I used to spend a scary amount of time staring at my screen wondering where to go next. Is that the right sentence? Am I hitting the right keywords? Why is my structure all over the place?
Fortunately, you can make the job a whole lot easier for yourself with the right tools and processes.
At Process Street we write 3 guest posts a week alongside our other writing. How do we do it?
I’m glad you asked. Let me share with you the approach we take when sitting down to write. From the planning to the publishing, every step is crucial to keeping your productivity and quality high.
We Use Ahrefs for Our Keyword Research
Okay, so our keyword research is a little more complicated than one tool.
However, Ahrefs is crucial to us for researching our keywords to identify which ones we should be targeting. Ahrefs is one of the biggest and most powerful platforms available to you for finding out the volume and difficulty of keywords.
Ahrefs gives you exactly what you would expect. It provides data on volume, on keyword difficulty, cost per click, and parent keywords. You can also use other features within its Keyword Explorer to find related keywords for you to target.
Recently, Ahrefs have brought out a series of new features within their Keyword Explorer. The most useful of these in my keyword research process has been to bulk upload my keywords with far more ease than before.
This has sped up my research process and allowed me to optimize even better than before.
We take our keywords which we’ve identified within Ahrefs and import them into the cloud database service Airtable. From here we can sort through them and highlight the specific ones we want to target. This spreadsheet view of our data stored on the cloud allows us to share the keyword research easily amongst the team.
If you want to expand your use of Airtable, you could add specific dates to different keywords for your team to always know what terms to hit during particular timeframes. With Airtable’s new kanban view, you can easily track what you’re working on when.
If you want a more in depth breakdown of our keyword research practices then you can use our Process Street keyword research process checklist. Which brings us on to…
Process Street to Deliver Quality Consistently
We have processes for everything. Everything.
That’s because processes are vital for running your business.
We create checklists for all our recurring tasks which we optimise as we use. These checklists serve to keep us all producing quality work with consistency. They help us standardise our approach and teach processes to others.
For me, these processes allow me to increase my productivity and always know my next step. In the past I would have a million things racing through my mind which I knew I had to focus on. This brain clutter slowed me down and caused me to feel a little anxious about my work.
With Process Street’s checklists I’m able to focus on one task at a time, knowing I’m not going to have missed a step or forgotten anything important.
Check out our blog pre-publish checklist for an example of one of the processes I use to help ensure all my content is ready to be sent out.
You can also integrate Process Street with a range of other platforms to automate simple tasks and kick off new workflows. For instance, if you’re using a task management system and you move the relevant task to a section called “pre-publish”, Process Street can automatically launch the above checklist for you to run through. You can connect the two platforms using a task automation third party product like Zapier.
But which team task management platform could you connect with Process Street which could perform that exact function?…
Trello Keeps Us All Working Together
Teamwork is crucial for writers.
We sometimes think of writing as being a fairly solitary pursuit, but reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’re targeting keywords and specific topics then you don’t want to have a team of writers all writing about the same stuff on the same day. With poor planning, this can easily happen. Variety for your readers can increase how useful they find each article.
Planning is important in any field, and this is just as true for writing. Your team need to have a overarching purpose in what they’re pumping out day after day. Trello lets us all understand that end goal and divide up tasks accordingly. Then we can share our research with one another across the different cards, and keep each other informed as we plan forward.
We like to use the calendar view in Trello to know what deadlines are approaching and how we can combat any delays. This helps us all have an overview of each other’s work, while understanding how it fits together as a complete whole.
Trello keeps us updated with each others’ progress, resulting in good project planning and higher output.
Google Docs Helps Us Plan Together
Often, when coming up with ideas and plans for articles, you’ll find yourself staring at your screen questioning your approach.
We’ve all been there. I’ve been there and bought the t-shirt.
Using a collaborative word processing software like Google Docs allows you to easily share work-in-progress content like plans across your team. Its commenting and suggestion features also allow team members to critique as you go.
A second pair of eyes on your work goes a long way. It might be restructuring a sentence which you think is clear, and you understand perfectly, but others might possibly misconstrue because it’s overlong and contains multiple clauses resulting in a lack of clarity for a key point within the article which the rest of the piece is building off. Like that one. That’s the kind of sentence you want to avoid.
Google docs is great because it fits into the broader G-Suite, which we use across the company. However, it’s not the only collaborative writing platform. There are a couple of others we like in our team.
For a cool simple UI to help you maintain focus, Quip is a really useful writing tool. You can collaborate on work and show things off to your team. Not every tool feels right to every person, so it’s worth trying one or two more to see which fits for you.
One of my favourites which is worth a mention here is Workflowy. This one’s a little different to the others as it’s not a true word processor. It’s a bullet point listing tool. When you’re first concepting an article, being able to break it into bullet points and then build bullet points inside those bullet points – bulletpointception – allows you to build out an initial draft.
This flexibility and the teamwork capabilities of the word processing tools mean that you can go deep into what your article does well, and how it could be improved. The result: greater quality every time.
Hemingway App for Style Suggestions
Which brings us nicely onto the Hemingway Editor.
If you haven’t used it before, the Hemingway Editor takes your content and applies Hemingway’s writing style to it. It then tells you what’s wrong with all the lovely content you’re so very proud of.
The Hemingway editor focuses on making sentences shorter and simpler. It discourages the use of passive voice, and it really truly forcefully – dare I say – painfully encourages you to reduce the number of adverbs.
Keeping a simple style which is easy to read helps you convey information more easily. It’s also easier for you as a writer if you try to keep your sentences simple. You’ll make less mistakes and fret less about your decisions, increasing your productivity.
Though, Hemingway is not the only writer in the library and his editor is not the only tool on the market.
There are a host of different editing tools available. If you’re interested in keeping your own style and Hemingway be damned, then a simple online spelling and grammar checker is After The Deadline. This tool quickly and effectively does the business while not being too showy about it all.
Or, if you’re a fan of Microsoft Word, there’s an addition you can use called Perfectit from Intelligent Editing. One of the standout features of Perfectit is its ability to make you conform to the company’s writing style and standards. Instead of letting Hemingway dictate your style, you can set your own and be judged against your own expectations.
Grammarly Are, Good
There’s one surefire way to blow the reader’s trust. Basic spelling and grammar mistakes.
I make errors in my writing all the time. I’m sure my team are tired of picking up on them by now. Thankfully, they don’t often have to. Grammarly offers a chrome extension which checks your work for basic errors and makes suggestions on how to fix these problems.
As it runs in your browser, the benefits of Grammarly go beyond writing articles. I now have spell checking and grammar policing on my email to keep me looking professional. Never again will I have to look back on a Facebook post from 4 hours ago only to realise I added an apostrophe where it wasn’t needed. The shame.
Install grammarly to save time, make less errors, and avoid looking like an idiot on social media.
If you fall in love with Grammarly, as I did, you can consider upgrading to their premium version. This allows you to change the manner of analysis which Grammarly is using when evaluating your work. Because the Grammarly Premium features make complex grammar suggestions and vocabulary tips, they need to know what kind of writing they should be geared to. Do you want recommendations suited to academic writing, technical writing, or creative writing?
The only problem is that once you start playing with Grammarly’s advanced features, you’ll start to wonder who the actual writer in the relationship really is…
Format As You Write With Beegit
If you use WordPress or similar to publish your work, you’ll know the limitations of the rich text editor.
Writing in markdown is a simple way of preparing your copy for publication from the very first step. If you’re not used to markdown then don’t worry. It sounds a lot more technical than it is. It also looks a lot more technical. But it’s not.
You can find guides all over the web to ease you into it. When you’re feeling comfortable you’ll hopefully see that the simplified writing experience is calming and helps you keep focused. Moreover, the time saved formating your post in advance will either result in your future happiness or that of your editor.
Beegit is probably the best tool for writing in markdown. I like to use Beegit when preparing my final draft ready to send to my editor. This means I can send only the markdown and he can paste it into our blog with everything already correctly formatted.
However, Beegit is capable of more than this. It’s really easy to share your work to others and has a range of collaboration functionalities including a built in approval system, which can be really helpful when working in large teams. Moreover, it looks great on mobile and can even be upgraded to create dynamic templates which work with Shopify’s programming language, Liquid – for all you e-commerce junkies.
Give Them A Try!
So, there you go. The 7 key tools which turned our team into power bloggers.
It’s not all about which word processor you use or what productivity hacks you employ. The core to our effectiveness comes from having the right processes in place to keep us going and using the right tools to speed that up.
I’ve given you 7 tools (many more, if you look closely) and 2 pre-made checklists. What are you waiting for?
Save yourself time, save your team time, and be a real star and save your editor time. Editors are people too.
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- The 7 Writing Tools That Turned Our Team Into Power Bloggers - March 20, 2017