How To Use Google Docs To Simplify Your Blogging And Marketing
Google Docs is where I do my blogging. I’ve mentioned it before, and listed my reasons, which include everything from interface to how it fits into my blogging workflow for both myself and freelance clients. Let’s not forget to mention that it is free.
There are a lot of other places you can do your blogging (Evernote, OneNote, WordPress), and there are good reasons to use them. Some of those tools, such as WordPress, can be extended through plugins to get them to do all that you need them to.
But now that you can easily attach your Google Docs into CoSchedule, let’s take a look at why Google Docs is a great place, from both writing and cooperative standpoints.
The Writing Experience
The experience you have when writing matters. This means the actual writing as well as everything else that goes into writing your blog post, such as research.
Less distracting writing.
I love, love, love distraction-free writing. The appearance of the tool I’m using has an effect on how well I write.
While Google Docs isn’t technically “distraction free” (it actually has a lot of formatting options available on the writing screen), there is a strong semblance to it. Google has been steadily adjusting all of its products across the board to a more consistent and user-friendly appearance, and Google Docs is no different.
Part of removing the distraction of writing is removing the decisions you have to make to get to the actual process of writing. Google Docs, particularly if you are already a Google Drive or Google products user, makes it easy to get going on writing without having to deal with much beyond a few clicks.
Portable writing and copy.
Portability is more than a handy feature, especially if you are working either outside the geography of a typical office or outside of your blogging platform.
Freelancers and those with writing clients, especially, have this experience. Not everyone is using the same blogging platform or wants to give access to their blogging platform to outside writers.
There are two approaches to portable copy that I want to cover: working offline and flexible copy.
- Working offline: Using Google Drive apps on your Chromebook or mobile device, you can write blog posts when you don’t have an Internet connection. I frequently write on my Chromebook in the offline mode on airplanes or in hotels without an Internet connection. While you won’t have access to online research tools, you can get basic writing done.
- Flexible copy: Yes, Google Docs can export your copy in several formats, but what you’ll probably do most often is copy and paste into a blogging platform. Google Docs does a good job of exporting clean HTML right into WordPress (save for adding the <b> tag to the <h> tags). Unless you get really fussy with your text styling, Google Docs has improved a great deal when it comes to copying and pasting text without excess formatting.
There’s some additional good news regarding just how portable copy is for CoSchedule users, and we’ll cover that at the end of the post.
Built-in research tools.
While doing research with a search engine is easy enough, Google Docs has some tools that make it possible to do it all right from your Docs screen without having to hop into other tabs.
- Tools: Google Docs comes with a lot of built-in tools. You can access these from the main menu as well. The handy one is the “research” tool, which allows you to do sidebar Google searches. You can do a general search, or break down many specific kinds of searches (for example, just Google Images or just Google Scholar). If you’re doing all of your writing in Google Docs, you can even do a personal search of your own content on Google.
- Add-ons: You can grab add-ons from the main menu. There’s a pretty good selection depending on what you need. I have added a bibliography creator, document navigator (for the longer writing projects), one to manage workflows, and so on. Adding them to your Google Docs is done while in an actual document.
It’s not as if you can’t do these searches or find these tools elsewhere in standalone tools, but again, if you’re like me, you have enough tabs open at any given moment. Sometimes its nice to be able to do the research in the same place without always jumping back and forth. That’s part of simplifying your blogging workflow.
Organizing Your Workflow And Your Work
While research and writing tools are handy, Google Docs really shines when it comes to working with others. Whether with team members or with clients, it has both discussion and organizational tools that are helpful.
Setting up folders.
Google allows you to write a basic description of the folders and files found in your Google Drive.
As a freelance blogger, I give each writing client their own folder. I then use the description of their folder to add notes about client requirements, such as word counts, contact information, and other copy specifications. This makes it easier to keep important information straight.
For your blogging team, you might organize your folders based on blogging category, content campaigns, or workflow process (e.g. Ideas, In Progress, Review, To Publish). You can use the folder description to alert your team to what that category of content should be about, notes on the campaign from a team meeting, or the “rules” of using your workflow properly.
Even if you are a solo blogger, using folders properly in Google Docs will keep your Google Drive from becoming a huge mess. You may have a folder for images, ideas, for research—whatever fits how you work. The descriptions on each folder are a great place for notes of things you need to remember for any content that goes inside. While Google Docs has a great search function, that’s no excuse to be haphazard.
How I Set Up My Folders:
Being both a solo blogger and a freelance blogger, I put folders to work. I have the following top-level folders in regards to my blogging:
- Clients: I changed the color to red for this folder so it stands out. Each folder inside of it is a client. The description of those individual client folders tells me, at a glance, word count and important client expectations.
- Blogging: This folder is for my own blogging. I have subfolders for actual blog posts, ideas (blog posts started or outlined but not yet written), and research (where I save PDFs of websites using the Ctrl-P and “Save To Google Drive” option on my Chromebook). I also have, not in a subfolder, a few spreadsheets (analytics, headline ideas, etc.).
I save research as a PDF because sometimes Web pages and ebooks disappear, and I want to be able to reference them in future blog posts.
I have a few subfolders in the research folder to organize those PDFs by category so when it comes time to write on a related topic, I just have to hop in and see what I’ve discovered while surfing the Web earlier. I also have a Google Doc in each subfolder where I save quotes and interesting snippets from books and magazines I’ve read, with bibliography.
In this way, when I find interesting content even while “off the clock”, I can still help myself out later when it comes time to write. I just hop into the subfolder on the topic I need, find PDFs or quotes to build content around, and writing just got easier. It’s similar to people using Evernote or Pocket, saving Web content for later.
Working with your team.
One of the big struggles when creating content with a team is the discussion around the content, versioning controls, and making necessary edits. Having that kind of discussion and activity happen alongside the actual content (instead of in an email with references to “changes in the fourth paragraph” or something similar) is very helpful.
There are four basic ways you need to work with your team when it comes to the actual content you’re all trying to create:
- Editing: The default setting, when you open or create a doc, is full-on editing. You can change this, though, to suggestions so that the actual edits don’t change the copy but suggest the changes. You can accept or reject those changes with a click.
- Commenting: By highlighting portions of copy, your team can ask questions and carry on conversations.
- General review: Sharing the Google Doc with your team is easy, whether you want to give them full-edit access, or just need to let team members in on the content but not have the ability to make changes. For example, your graphic designer and social media manager may need to see the copy but you don’t want them to be able to edit it.
- Revisions: You can always see or revert back to an old version by checking out past revisions. This control is found under File > See Revision History. It will bring up a listing of revisions in the right sidebar, using color to show you what has changed since the latest version.
Of course, you’ll need notifications when things happen on your document. Each document has notification controls (all notifications, only yours, or none) so you get an email when someone leaves a comment.
You can alert specific team members by tagging them in your comments with @ or +firstname.lastname@example.org, but you’ll have to have shared the doc with them, of course. If you haven’t, you’ll be asked to do so. You can also email collaborators on a specific document that you’ve shared with them earlier through the “File” menu.
Working with clients.
There are a couple of ways you can work with blogging clients who might need to approve your copy before it can be published. You can do it within the standard Google Docs setup, or you can use an add-on.
- Share and review: By sharing your finished blog post with your client, you can give them access. If it is read-only, they can preview it and offer feedback via email. If you give them edit access, they can leave comments on specific parts of your copy.
- Approval workflow: If you need more to your client approval workflow than comments and edit suggestions, there is another option. The add-on that you could put to use for a more standard client approval workflow is called “Workflows.” Its aim is to establish read-only versions, send emails to those you need to approve the content, and stay on top of the approval process. It isn’t a perfect solution, by any means, but if you aren’t using any other app or system for such approvals and you’re already doing your work inside Google Docs, it may be an option for you.
For most clients, the share and review process is enough, particularly if you’re using an app like CoSchedule where things like tasks and discussion are also happening. If you aren’t using CoSchedule, Google Docs also integrates with most of the popular project management tools (Trello, Asana, Zapier, etc.) and much of that workflow can be handled there.
Why Use Google Docs?
Why not just use WordPress instead of writing in Google Docs?
- All your writing in one place: As a possible control freak, it lets me keep a copy of everything I’ve written in one place. I also downloaded the Google Drive app to my computer so that it is backed up for offline access, too.
- Easy to rework content: If my content isn’t locked inside WordPress, I can easily turn it into an ebook or something else. Google Docs is more portable.
- Flexible for multiple clients: Freelancers are going to discover that each client uses their own project management tools. Using Google Docs has helped me cut through the hassle of creating content to fit so many tools since most have Gmail and are familiar with Google Docs. A client’s WordPress may or may not be an option to you, depending on the access you are given.
- Multiple people working at once: WordPress wisely only allows one person to edit a post at once. Gone are the days of lost copy because someone else was in a post. Google Docs lets you all in, notifying everyone who is in there and coloring your cursor to pinpoint your location in the document. You all can edit live.
- Cleaner interface: This is a personal opinion, but I’m not keen on the new distraction-free WordPress. The latest version does not allow for the “quick save” of the old, but instead refreshes the whole page (as well as some other annoyances). Google Docs saves as you go.
- Better editing experience: The editing tools and ability to accept or reject suggested edits right there in the copy is a huge help. No one will miss the agony of long email chains or conversations held in places away from the actual copy, causing you to jump back and for from tab to tab to make the changes.
Great News For CoSchedule Users
CoSchedule now integrates with Google Docs as part of an all-in-one editorial calendar feature! You can write your posts—and any other kind of content—in Google Docs, and sync it with CoSchedule.
With this integration, Google Docs is combined with the great workflow tools available in CoSchedule. Freelancers can still manage and organize their content from their end, but easily send that finished copy right to CoSchedule without having to manually copy and paste.
That’s exciting stuff!