Many blogs are skittish about accepting guest posts these days.
Much of this has to do with Matt Cutt's announcement about Google's crackdown on guest posting. Let me clarify that a bit. It's a crackdown on "spammy" guest posts — posts that exist only to gain backlinks and that are used primarily or only for SEO.
But according to Copyblogger, guest articles are still effective and safe as long as they contain useful, relevant material. In fact, if you're an industry expert, many companies could use your insightful articles in their own content marketing strategies. They're great for building relationships, and for promoting trust and expertise.
Many big blogs still accept guest articles. Mary Jaksch's Write To Done site is one of them. But not every site accepts them; those that do will often have a very concise set of guidelines. That's why the link to WTD goes directly to the guest post guidelines, by the way. Read each site's guidelines.
Suffice it to say that if your only intent is to gain traffic to your site and not to provide quality information for the blog's readers . . . move on. And don't come back. That's spamming.
Step one: Get to know the blog and blog owner
And understand their readers as well.
Blogs exist to give their subscribers useful information. Spammy content loses readership and that's detrimental and counterproductive. Here's the very first bullet point in WTD's general guidelines:
Write a post with insanely useful content. Always ask: "How can readers benefit from this?"
Blog owners are very protective of their audience. And justly so. If you have content that does not directly benefit their readers, forget it.
There's only one way to know for sure.
You've got to become familiar with the blog. In other words, become a reader yourself. After all, if you don't know what the blog's about, how will you know if your content is relevant?
Read several posts from the site, and I don't mean just two or three. Many blogs provide categories, so check out several articles in the areas in which your ideas fit. Yeah, I know. It's going to take some research and reading time.
I didn't say this would be easy, now did I?
Study the blog owner and if they have an editor that serves as "gatekeeper," learn about them as well. For goodness' sake, at least learn their names and spell them right!
Nothing irks me more than getting a request that says, "Dear Sir or Madam. We are a person that writes good blog contents and would like to provide same for your blog/website. We are guarantee good results."
(Yeah, I actually got that one. My name was nowhere to be found. And besides that, I'm a B2B content writer myself and not currently seeking guest posts. Obviously, no research was done!)
I get the same form letters from other web "experts" like SEO mavens and web designers. Want to know what happens next?
You guessed it . . . Delete!
Actually, I have an email program that checks my emails periodically, giving me just the headers and first few lines of body copy. This happens before it even downloads to my main email client's inbox. I mark them for deletion and often mark them as spam for auto-deletion.
If you don't want your guest submission deleted, then read on.
Step two: Write a good submission request
I'm often asked if there is a good template or form letter for blog submission requests.
Templates and form letters are used for unsolicited mass mailings. And you already know the word for that, right? If you want a "fill in the blank" solution from me, don't bother asking. In my opinion, each request should be individually "handcrafted" for the blog site you're contacting.
But I can give you an outline of what you should include.
Just like an article headline, a good subject line gets you noticed. But do follow any stipulations the blog owner requires. For example, WTD asks you to start the subject with GUEST POST in all caps. I'll bet money they have a filter set up for that.
Start the email body copy with the blog owner or editor's REAL NAME. I don't mean to shout, but it's that important. If you write "Dear Sir or Madam" like in the above example, don't expect a response.
The good news is that you haven't wasted any paper and ink.
The order of these next items may vary by personal preference, but include them in the submission request:
- Tell them a bit about yourself, but don't overdo it. They're not interested in your life history, just a little about your qualifications.
- Let them know why you want to post for them. Include links to posts on their site that interested or helped you. (By the way, becoming a subscriber REALLY helps on many sites.)
- Give them a brief synopsis of your proposed article. DO NOT include the entire article in the body or as an attachment. To be honest, at this point you probably shouldn't have even written it yet. I, for one, do not accept unsolicited attachments. They get trashed immediately.
- Submit your best headline and give a brief outline of the article in bullet points.
- Some sites want you to include the lede (introductory paragraph(s)).
- Don't forget to include why and how their readers would benefit from the article.
- Thank them for their time and then hit "send."
Step three: Handling the good/bad news
A lot of articles would end with the submission and not cover the "aftermath."
But it's not done until it's over, and even then, you still aren't finished. You'll get either a Yes or a No. Let's cover No first.
If they tell you why your submission wasn't accepted, pay close attention. It could be that their editorial calendar is full. Or that your topic was just covered recently. (Didn't do your homework, did you?)
Whatever the reason, realize that rejections are not failures, but learning opportunities. Thank the blog owners for their time and move on. If you go ballistic on them, you'll never write for them.
Fine tuning your perfectly pitched post
If your article idea was accepted, the work begins. Be sure to meet the deadline, if set. In fact, try to get it done early because they may want to edit it.
What? Edit it?
That's right. The blog owner will often have suggestions to strengthen the piece or revisions they might want. Don't be a prima donna and think they have no right to ask for changes. Instead, realize that you are getting free training and, in some cases, even getting paid for it.
They might have suggestions for a more powerful headline. Or they might see a better order for your points. And above all, realize that they have their readers' best interests at heart and know what they need and expect. Take these suggestions to heart and you'll become a better writer.
And you just might be asked back, capiche?
Now, this ought to be a no-brainer; but don't change your submitted post idea. The article you submitted is the one you write. If you get a breakthrough idea, you might be tempted to use it instead.
Save it for another day and concentrate on the article you promised. If you don't, your great new idea will probably get rejected no matter how great it might be.
The end of the beginning
You've made a successful pitch, gotten your article published and maybe even got paid. You're done now and ready to move on, right?
Not so fast, Bubba. You're work's not over yet! There's still more to do, my friend.
You would like to be asked back, correct? And it would be great if the blog owner recommended you to her colleagues. The hard part, getting your foot in the door, is done; but don't leave the house just yet.
If you've done a good job with your article, you might find that people will start leaving comments. Don't ignore them. For the first few days after publication, monitor the post and answer every comment you can. Some blogs require that you do that anyway and it's good PR for both them and you.
I wrote a couple of articles for Linda Formichelli at The Renegade Writer website a few years back. People still leave comments, one as recently as last week. And yes, I still reply. Does this make Linda happy?
Can you say, "smiley face"?
Always read the host site's guidelines and follow them to a tee. Craft personal, thoughtful submission emails and be willing to work with the host blogger's suggestions. Write great articles and learn from the entire experience.
After all, you may be the one getting guest submissions one day.