Writing a blog with Google Docs has become enormously popular over the last four or five years. Travel bloggers. B2B content teams at tech startups. Gurus. Consultants. They all use Google Docs.
Drafting a blog inside of Google Docs and then entering it in your CMS (such as WordPress or Webflow) is standard, at least outside of the corporate world and inside the digital marketing startup world.
Standards are great until they're not.
So before you open up a new Google Doc today, I want you to ask yourself...am I blogging in the most efficient way possible?
Table of contents:
- Why you already switched from Word Docs to Google Docs
- Google Docs for blogging has a few key benefits for content teams
- 6 things Google Docs can't do
- Beyond Word Docs & Google Docs...what's next?
Why you already switched from Word Docs to Google Docs 👋
Most likely you've already made the switch from Word Docs to Google Docs. Just the sight of all these different versions is enough to make your head spin. 😵
These are the common reasons why B2B content teams and small business owners alike stopped using Word Docs:
- Version control - If the screenshot above gives you anxiety, you're not alone. Most content teams hate having to deal with multiple versions sent between multiple content collaborators.
- Formatting issues - Blogs don't require complex formatting. But Word Docs has a ton of features for formatting things other than blogs, like reports, flyers letters, newsletters, menus, and a whole lot more. Too many formatting options make things unnecessary complex, especially when passed between collaborators. (Ugh, more version control problems.)
- Large file sizes to download and upload - Particularly with long blog posts that feature lots of images, DOCX can get pretty big (5 MB or higher). With large file sizes, it takes longer to upload or download them for collaborating. Whether you're sending them via email or Slack, doesn't matter. It can take time, which is annoying for digital natives with short attention spans.
To be honest, it has a few key benefits for content teams
Google Docs solves those three common issues, and that's why so many bloggers and content managers love it.
- Just one version - There's only just one version of a Google Doc. When you're commenting and suggesting edits, you're doing it in one version. Content collaborators can work on it (even simultaneously) without ever having to create different versions. This solves a lot of hassle later on in the content creation process, especially with publishing and updating.
- Simple formatting - Because Google Docs has simple, rudimentary features, it's actually easier for digital content teams who just need things like headlines, subheadlines, bold, and bullet points (but not fancy tables or text boxes).
- Works in the cloud - No uploading or downloading! As long as your internet speed is decent, you can pop into a Google Doc, make a few edits, and pop out in seconds.
Are there more features that you love about Google Docs? Of course there are. Setting aside all of the other cool features, these three are the basic, foundational features that make Google Docs so life-changing compared to Microsoft Word.
When we look into ditching Google Docs, we don't want to ditch those three essential things: one version, simple, cloud-based. We also want to only consider adding important functionality — not complex features that we don't need.
But there are things Google Docs can’t do
1. Auto-publish to your blog
Let's say that a writer turned in a new blog post in a Google Doc. You've gone and back forth with the writer in comments inside the Google Doc, and now the piece is finished.
So what do you do next?
You either enter it into your CMS yourself or you have to assign it to your webmaster or virtual assistant and have them enter it into your CMS. No matter who is doing the work, the fact that Google Docs doesn't sync with your blog means you are spending either money or time on the entry process. Maybe you're spending both.
2. Publish to your other content channels or social media
In addition to not being able to publish content directly to your website's blog, Google Docs can't publish content to your other channels, such as Medium, a LinkedIn article, a content syndication or any of your social media channels. You can't schedule your blog to be shared on Twitter using Google Docs. That's a fact.
This is a problem because it requires you to use other tools and processes just to get your content across the finish line. After it gets entered in your website's CMS, it still needs to get entered in the many other channels that matter to your business.
3. Optimize your blog for SEO
Guess what else Google Docs can't do? SEO.
That's because Google Docs was created for any use, not for bloggers or content teams. Google Docs can't help you write an article that effectively targets a search term. It can't help check that you are using SEO best practices like:
- Putting the target keyphrase in the title, meta description and first paragraph
- Using internal and external backlinks
- Including the target keyphrase a good number of times (not too much, not too little)
Some content teams solve this issue by writing directly in Wordpress instead of Google Docs. But then you're faced with a few key issues. When using Wordpress, you have to give writers access to your main site, and it's not easy to repurpose or promote content across multiple channels. No bueno.
4. Provide multiple user types with different access levels
When you share a Google Doc with a collaborator, you have three options. The person you are sharing the document with can receive:
- View access
- Comment access
- Edit access
These settings are very helpful when sharing with collaborators and digital marketing team members. However, these are not user types, and they don't reflect the setup of content marketing teams, which include content creators, content editors or collaborators, and content managers.
This is a related issue to the fact that you can't publish to your site using Google Docs. With WordPress, for example, you can set user types such as Administrator, Editor, and Author. The user types aren't just about who can edit draft-mode content, but also about who can publish it and edit the content that is already live.
5. Manage your content approval process
With Google Docs, you can comment, respond to comments, suggest changes, or make edits directly.
However, when the review process is done, Google Docs can't help you with the next step, which is approving the content.
In your content team, who approves content to go live? Do they do the editing too, or do they approve a piece of content for publication, only after someone else has edited the writers' work? There are a lot of ways that content teams can be organized, and that can change based on the type of content. For example, certain topic categories might be approved by one person, and other topic categories are approved by someone else.
There are absolutely no features for approval workflows inside of Google Docs. A content manager can't track what is pending approval, or what has been approved and need to be published. Approval workflows can't be customized based on content categories. Content writers can't request approval.
Why does this matter?
- Requires you to use another communication method to request approval
- Wastes time communicating to request approval
- Makes it hard for content managers to keep track of in-progress blog posts
6. Google Docs can't update your content or help with version control after publishing
Compared to Word Docs, Google Docs is really helpful for version control up until the publishing stage. But after a Google Docs has been given to your webmaster, added to your CMS, and published, Google Docs can't help at all.
If something needs to be updated after it's published, here's what will happen:
- The writer makes edits to a Google Doc
- Then they either make the edits in "Suggesting Mode" so the edits are visible, or they write a comment to show what has been changed
- Webmaster must re-enter new edits in the CMS and anywhere else that the post has been distributed
Just like in the publishing phase, updates and edits create a lot of manual work for someone other than the writer. But why? What's the deal with all this manual entry...?
Beyond Words Docs & Google Docs...what's next?
If Word Docs is a nightmare and Google Docs is a manual chore, then what could be better?
As a former content manager and a current content writer on multiple remote teams, I can say with confidence that a centralized tool wins hands down.
Find a tool that maintains our essential basic features, all the things we love about Google Docs:
- One version
- Simple formatting
- Cloud based
While adding features that are essential for bloggers and content teams...
- Reviews and approvals
- Easy updates
Create. Collaborate. Publish. Promote. (All in one place)
If you're ready to keep the good parts of Google Docs and leave behind the bad, the next step is to choose the right tool that will help you create content and get across the finish line with less confusion, tracking issues and manual work.
Here's what to look for in a content tool:
- Multiple user types
- Commenting, reviewing and approvals
- Content calendar
- Integrates with the channels you need (or with Zapier) for fast publishing
- Social promotion scheduling
- Content performance analytics