This guide should tell you everything you know about editing for the 99designs blog. If you have a question or something seems incorrect, let your managing editor know.

Who’s who on the team

  • KelMo: Publisher and team lead
  • Antonia: Managing editor of English blogs
  • Monique: Managing editor of German blog
  • Victoria: Managing editor of Japanese blog
  • Sam, Marisa, Johnny: English blog editors
  • Brea, Lindsey: Associate editors of English blog (campaign articles)
  • Kelsey and Sasha: Associate editors of English blog (designer articles, including top 9 and profiles)
  • Derek and Logan: Formatters

Resources

  • Content calendar spreadsheet. This gives a quick overview of the articles to be published each month. Look here for:
    • What type of article each piece is
    • Brief send dates (hint: they’re due a couple days before this!)
    • Writer pay
    • Author/editor of each piece (includes new authors)
    • Target keywords for cornerstone articles
  • Article ideas and accepted pitches. Where we put ideas collected from various sources on blog topics (that aren’t cornerstone topics). Lists of accepted pitches are on another tab. This is mainly a resource for writers to get ideas and see which of their pitches we’ve accepted and how many other pitches are in the queue. Look here for:
    • List of accepted pitches that haven’t been calendared or published yet
  • Pitch response spreadsheet. Shows all of the articles pitched by writers. Look here for:
    • Magazine article pitches that need to be turned into briefs.
  • List of freelance writers. Notes on writers we work with regularly, are considering working with regularly, or who we know we don’t want to work with again.
  • CoSchedule. The most up-to-date calendar of content publication and production. Check lists of each step of production for each article. Used by all blog teams. All editors should be checking this daily. Look here for:
    • Updated publication deadlines
    • To-do
  • Blog formatting guidelines. All the technical nitty-gritty to make sure everything is formatted properly.
    • PW: 99bl0gz
  • Blog writing guidelines. Everything writers need to know to create good content for us (including sourcing images). Please feel free to share this document with writers, just remember to give them the password!
    • PWL 99bl0gz
  • Blog categories.
  • Blog tagging structure.
  • Cornerstone blog articles (blot posts that matter). These are the articles that consistently bring in traffic and/or net revenue to the site, or which address topics that are central to our purpose. This list is updated approximately once/year in Q1.
  • Google drive blog folderWhere many of the other documents listed here live. Look here for the following:
    • Brief templates (up to date ones are in the most recent “posts YEAR” folder. If someone accidentally deletes a template, there are backups in the Duplicate brief templates folder.)
    • Briefs and drafts for basically all of our articles are found in the year/month folder when they were originally slated for publication.

Types of articles

Cornerstone articles (includes ultimate guides & annual trends)

Cornerstone articles are created with a very specific goal/purpose in mind. Usually they are targeting specific keywords we are hoping to rank for in search engine results, but occasionally are written for other purposes.

If you are editing a cornerstone piece, you are responsible for:

  • Knowing what the goals of the piece and targeted keywords are
  • Researching the targeted keywords and writing the brief accordingly
  • Letting Managing Editor know when the brief is ready to send
  • Editing an outline plus two drafts
  • Letting formatter know when article is ready to be formatted
  • Finishing the article in WordPress (see below)

Cornerstone articles are generally looked at with more scrutiny than other content. We want these to be the best of the best. If you’re unsure what a piece should go after, chat with your managing editor to make sure you’re on the same page.

Magazine articles

Magazine articles are those that are pitched by writers. They should be on the topics listed on our Write for Us page. These are generally the only types of articles that new writers can write. We generally only publish 2-3 new writers per month, max.

If you are editing a magazine article, you are responsible for:

  • Finding the pitch in the accepted pitches spreadsheet and translating that pitch into a brief. It’s generally a good idea to do a little googling and/or reading of the “competition” articles they listed. If you want the writer to focus on something specific, or tweak their approach slightly, please let them know in the brief.
  • Letting Managing Editor know when the brief is ready to send
  • Editing two drafts
  • Letting formatter know when article is ready to be formatted
  • Finishing the article in WordPress (see below)

Inspiration articles

Inspo articles are image-heavy pieces that show off many examples (most—if not all—from our platform) of a specific type of design. These articles are usually produced to go after specific keywords and are based on SEO research. Occasionally, however, a writer will pitch one of these topics and we’ll choose to publish it because (1) it’s interesting or (2) they’re an expert in a specific subject matter and can bring a unique spin to the article.

While there is some flexibility in how they are structured, we’ve found a formula of introduction, 3-6 sections of grouped designs & brief, insightful copy, brief conclusion works the best. A few examples:

Agency, campaign, designer and other articles

These articles are usually not edited by a regular blog editor, but for the most part they go through a very similar process as a magazine article, with the exception that the editor is responsible for doing the research and creating the brief.

The general process and timeline

Writers submit pitches: ~25th of each month

Usually the Managing editor will email writers and editors (and possibly put a call out on slack for anyone at the company with an idea) around the 20th, telling them that pitches are due around the 25th.

Blog calendar creation: last week of the month

Managing editor will consider all pitches and decide on which articles to publish. This happens about a month in advance (so at the end of January we plan the calendar for March). The managing editor will sometimes work with editors to select pieces and will sometimes assign them. She will email the completed schedule to editors and writers around the first of the month and make any changes as necessary.

Briefs

Briefs are due approximately 5 weeks before the publication date (depending on the type of content and whether or not it has an outline). They are usually due on Mondays and will be assigned to you in CoSchedule so you know what is due when.

Save your briefs in the correct Google Drive folder (see resources above).

Let your managing editor know when the brief is complete. She will send an email to the writer copying you (usually on a Wednesday).

Brief naming convention

MONTHDATE (numerical) – Writer name – Editor name – title/topic

Example: 0108 – Mila – Antonia – Color trends 2018

(This article was originally set to publish on January 8th, it’s written by Mila and Antonia is editing). This format makes it really easy to search for documents a number of ways and sort them by date in their Google folderes.

Outlines

Writers should put these in the brief document. When editing you mostly want to look for structure: are all the included sections in the right order? Is there anything missing? (This is a great time to go back to the brief and/or do some light googling to see what else is out there. Is the outline missing anything that’s included in other top-ranking pieces?)

For inspiration articles take a look at all images and make sure they make sense in the section the writer is putting them in (e.g. is that really a vintage logo?). Do you notice any trends/sections that they didn’t see within the images?

First drafts

You edit them! (Make sure to think about structure and images as you’re doing this.)

Use “suggesting” mode and comments in Google docs so that the writer can see what you’re changing. For the first draft try to do line-edits sparingly, instead focusing on bigger-picture, structural notes, or feedback like “I’m not sure what you’re saying here” or ” can you elaborate?”. This allows the writer’s voice to shine through a bit more (and takes the burden off of you).

Final drafts

Writers are paid for two drafts, so at this point it usually doesn’t go back to them (if you think it needs to, discuss with your managing editor). You should feel free to make whatever changes necessary to make the post great, but try to keep the writer’s voice.

Some things to double check before you send it to the formatter:

  • Do images all have captions and are they properly attributed? Make sure the links to the profiles/sources are there! (See the top of the brief for the best way to format attributions.)
  • Are all the links to the images provided? (If they’re not linked, do you have access to the files so you can upload them to coschedule or share them with the formatter another way?)
  • Are all the headers/lists/other special images properly formatted so that the formatter knows what to do with them? (Guidelines are at the top of each draft). Note that some writers instead use Google doc headings instead of the bold underline that is suggested. This is fine as long as it’s clear.
  • What is the CTA?
    1. Add gated download relevant to post
      • Posts on branding should have the Brand Identity Email series email capture
    2. Link to a corresponding product/category page (e.g. /book-cover-design, /logo-design, /product-packaging-design). Product/category pages should filter users into Contests or Projects accordingly.
    3. For general graphic design topics, point to Projects page or Find a Designer search or /categories
    4. Articles about finding graphic designers (i.e. specific direct work posts) should point to /projects or Designer Search
    5. Articles about an individual designer (profiles/interviews) should direct to the profile page of that designer with copy about “working with this designer”
    6. Articles specifically targeted to agencies should include an email signup proposition (note we’re currently experimenting with the impact of the gated lookbook download vs. “give us your email for more info”)
    7. For articles that don’t fit any of the above, give a CTA to encourage engagement. This can be:
      1. Read another blog article
      2. Make a comment
  • Do you have all of the CTA text needed for the button. Please include:
    • Title
    • Sub title
    • Button text
    • Link URL

When your final draft is in tip-top shape send the assigned formatter (in CoSchedule) an email or CoSchedule message letting them know it’s ready for formatting.

A note on featured images

As part of the CoSchedule flow you’ll probably see Cheryl upload a featured image. She concepts and creates these, but you are ultimately responsible for giving feedback. If it’s totally not working, let her know (and make sure to give her time to come up with something else).

As a note: starting in ~Feb 2018, for inspiration posts only, Cheryl will be creating a Pinterest social image instead of a featured image. Choose your favorite image from the article as the featured one.

Finishing your article in WordPress

Almost there! Here is a list of things you need to do/check before finalizing:

(Note, both the editor and the managing editor should go through all of these steps. It should go quickly once you know what you’re looking for!)

1. Finalize the title & URL

Your writer may have give you a suggestion (there is a section for it in the brief doc) but you have the ultimate say. The most important things to have in a title are:

  • Your primary keyword
  • Clarity (you should be able to tell immediately what the article is about)
  • Length (not too short, not too long)

Title conventions

Titles are somewhat flexible, but we do have a couple conventions for inspiration and ultimate guide articles that are good to follow:

  • Inspiration posts: XX keyword things that clever pun
    e.g. 32 farm logos we really dig
    (note that there is no capitalization after the number)
  • Ultimate guides: How to design a thing thing: the ultimate guide
    e.g. How to design cosmetics packaging: the ultimate guide

URLs / slugs

URLS (sometimes called slugs) are very important to SEO. You should always be checking these, and not relying on the auto-generated one. A couple rules of thumbs:

  • Simple is better, with a focus on keywords.
    • “What is stock imagery? (And how to use it right.)” becomes /stock-imagery/
    • “How to design a t-shirt: the ultimate guide” becomes /how-to-design-t-shirts/
  • Leave out numbers and years unless you’re absolutely sure this is an annual thing (e.g. annual trends, 99awards, Top 9 should have a year, most other things probably won’t).
    • “30 simple logos that speak volumes” becomes /simple-logo-design/
    • “99 flyer design ideas that will give you wings”becomes /flyer-design-ideas-inspiration/
    • “47 beer and brewery logos to drink in” becomes /brewery-beer-logos/ (note how this slug inverts the keywords from title to slug—if the term is not that competitive and you’re going after multiple similar ones, this tactic can help you rank highly for both).

2. Look at the overall structure of the page in preview mode

  • Is everything formatted how you imagined it?
  • Are things aligned properly Is there a good image flow? (If they’re not center-aligned or in a gallery, images should alternate left-right down the page.)
  • Are there too many images or not enough? If you see a large bock of text that takes up the entire screen and some scroll, consider adding an additional image there.
  • Adjust your window size so you’re viewing the page like you would on a mobile device. Everything still okay?

If you need to make changes, add a CTA, fix a block quote, etc, all of the information on how to do that is in the formatting guidelines (PW: 99bl0gz)

3. Do a final proofread

Make any last minute tweaks as necessary.

4. Check headers

Make sure that the structure of the article is represented clearly. Unless there’s a very specific reason not to, you should always use the following structure:

H2 (with a shift-enter, emdash after it)

H3 (always nested under an h2)

H4 (always nested under an h3)

If your article has h3s or h4s with no h2 that’s an error.

Header capitalization

Check to ensure everything is in sentence case.

5. Check images

Check captions and attributions again.

Make sure that each image is cropped how you’d like it. Sometimes the formatters will leave extra space around an image, or not focus on the part you wanted, and you’ll need to fix it. To do that:

  1. Click the image, then the pencil icon to edit
  2. Click “Edit original” under the image.
  3. Click and drag on the image to get it how you like it. (Pay attention to the selection dimensions in the right column. Nothing smaller than 450px wide for a half-width image, ideally nothing smaller than 930px wide for a full-width image.)
  4. Click the crop button
  5. Click save
  6. Click update

Check alt descriptions

Make sure that each image has an alt description that accurately describes it. This is important for SEO and for being ADA compliant.

6. Check links

  1. Make sure links to 99designs are relative (meaning they won’t work in preview mode).
  2. Make sure links to external sites work.
  3. Add links to old articles if there’s a good spot for it.

Adding a table of contents

All Ultimate Guides and some other posts that are lengthy should have a table of contents at the top of the article. Each item should anchor-link to the corresponding section of the article. The formatters should know how to set this up as long as you tell them you need it before hand!

If you need to edit or set one up, check out the formatting guidelines.

7. Duplicate for the UK

Before you do this step, you must save!

If you’re publishing a post in English, we must duplicate it on the UK blog. Check the box, then hit duplicate. Easy peasy.

Special note for ultimate guides/trends in terms of navigation/headers.

8. Select categories

Select 1-3 categories for the post (ideally 1-2). Refer to category descriptions if you’re unsure. Make one of these categories the primary category—this is what will be used for the post url, so choose the most fitting.

  • Inspiration posts should always have Design Inspiration as their primary
  • Trends should always have Trends as the primary category
  • Ultimate guides should have the topic they fall under (e.g. Packaging for Ultimate guide to Packaging)

9. Select channels

You must select categories before you select channels.

Refer to the “**Categories by channel” tab of the blog categories spreadsheet. Find your primary category in column A, add all channels your primary category falls under.

Select tags

Please refer to this tagging document and input tags from the list that fit. Aim for 1-4 tags. (Note these will likely be changing in 2018.)

Add a featured image

Cheryl should have uploaded a featured image to Coschedule. Download that and upload via the featured image box in the right column. If this is an inspiration post or she didn’t add one, choose an attractive image from the body of the article and add that.

Choose a featured color

The fun part! You should pick a color that:

If your selected color is light, go down and to the right a tad to find a color thats very similar and will still match but is a little easier to read.
  1. Ideally comes from one of the first images in the post. (Occasionally this just won’t work, or there’s a color that appears in a lot of images, but not the first. Use your discretion.)
  2. Doesn’t look terrible with your featured image. This is a secondary priority, as they will only be seen together the first day they’re published on the blog homepage.

You will need to input the hex code for your chosen color. You can find that in Photoshop, or a website like imagecolorpicker.com.

Pro tip: if the color is light, select something a little bit darker in the color window. It will look like it matches but be much easier to read.

Pro tip #2: the document must be saved before the color will show up in the wordpress preview.

Finalizing for search engines & social

Last step! Almost there!

Again, both editors and managing editors should be doing this.

Add a meta description / snippet

  1. Find the Yoast plugin at the bottom of the page.
  2. Click “edit snippet”
  3. Write a description of the article. This should not be clever and full of word play. It should be concise and descriptive. Use your keywords here!

Check keywords (optional)

Enter your primary keyword into Yoast and check to see if there are additional ways you can optimize the article. Usually this is when I go back and:

  • Adjust headers so that at least one has the keyword in it
  • Make sure your alt tags are accurate
  • Double check that your slug is set for the primary keyword you’re going after
  • Make sure the keyword is in your title
  • Make sure the keyword is in the first paragraph or two of the article.
  • If the article is answering a question (e.g. “What is a logo?”) make sure that there is a very clear, brief answer in the introduction of the article (e.g. “At the very basic level, logos are symbols made up of text and images that help us identify brands we like.”)

Note that the Yoast suggestions are just that: suggestions. Getting an orange or a red dot is not necessarily a terrible thing. If you want to learn more, setup some time with your managing editor or with KelMo to learn what to look for.

Add social image and description

This will mostly be taken care of by the social team. The one exception: inspiration posts. If you’re editing one of these, please add the Pinterest image created by Cheryl as the social image in the Yoast plugin.

  1. Click the social tab
  2. Upload your image (which will be in CoSchedule).

Set to publish

The publishing date should automatically be pulled from Coschedule, but the time is often wonky, so set your article to publish at the correct time of day. While there aren’t any hard and fast rules around this, it’s best to publish so that the article will go live in the morning in America, but not too late in the day in the EU.

Note that the times on are blog are on Greenwich Mean Time (in England). When I am at least a day ahead I set articles to go live around 16:00.

Save as pending!

Managing editors are responsible for hitting publish on all articles with a few exceptions. Chat with them if you need to set that up.