When I first met Brian Massey, I had just attended a presentation he gave about his success with The Conversion Scientist Blog. I learned a lot during the presentation and was impressed by the analytics he shared about the blog’s readership and subscribers.
I knew as soon as the presentation was over: I wanted to write a guest post for this guy. Luckily, I got a chance to chat with Brian afterwards and I offered to send him a post for his blog. Sure enough, about a week later, I got an email from Brian asking if I’d like to send him the article we had discussed.
If only this was the way guest blogging always worked.
Far too often, I associate the term “guest blogging” with spammy emails and crappy content. This is despite the fact that Google has been penalizing sites that use guest blogging solely for SEO for over a year now. I also tend to associate guest blogging with the infuriating assumption that good content can be acquired for free. Let me be clear: good content is not free. It may not cost you money per se, but you had better be prepared to offer something of value in exchange for good work.
As both a writer and a manager of several different blogs, I’ve had experience on both sides of the guest blogging scenario: contributing guest posts and seeking out guest contributors. Here are some Dos and Don’ts I’ve discovered about finding guest contributors for your blog.
Don’t: Be vague or beat around the bush.
I can’t tell you how irritating it is to get an email that basically says, “Hey! Are you interested in an opportunity to do free work? You’re a total stranger but I thought you’d like to do me a favor for no reason!” What’s worse is when you write back to politely find out what’s in it for you and you get a canned response that:
- Tells you nothing about the blog’s readership, the person’s willingness to pay for content, or whether you will even get attribution for the article, and
- Repeats the same vague message of the original email no matter how many times you respond with a direct question, leaving you with no choice but to ignore them entirely.
On the flip side, I once received a vague email from someone requesting to contribute a guest post to a site that I manage. When I asked for details, they responded that if I didn’t like their content, could I please just hide a backlink in my site for them? Um, no.
Do: Be clear and direct about what you want and what you are willing to give in return.
If all you’re offering is attribution and space for a short author bio, that’s fine. In several cases, that has been a good enough reason for me to contribute a guest post to a site. It all depends on the author’s goals and priorities. Just don’t expect it to work with everyone.
Do: Be willing to offer original content in exchange.
If you’re contacting a blogger, chances are they have a responsibility to create content for their own site on a regular basis. If that’s the case, they probably don’t have much time to write a shiny new post for your blog, no matter how much they want 30 minutes of your audience’s precious, undivided attention. That might not be an issue if you offer to provide content in exchange. Guest posting on each other’s sites is a great, symbiotic way to expand your audience and add variety and a new perspective to each other’s blogs.
Do: Tell them about your readership.
Before I sent my first guest post to Brian, I already knew that his blog had a significant number of readers and subscribers. Nobody had to convince me that guest posting on the Conversion Scientist Blog was a good idea. I was excited for the opportunity because it was a way to get my name in front of people, and by doing so, start building readership for the blog I had just launched.
Just remember that everyone can get their work “out there” online. When you’re convincing a writer to contribute content, give them the data that will make it worth their time. If you’re still building a following, tell them about your target audience. Some up-and-coming bloggers may actually care more about your niche than your current numbers anyway.
Don’t: Expect guest posts from established writers.
There’s a reason successful writers have become successful. It’s not just because they’re good at what they do. It’s also because at some point, they started asking to get paid for their work. If it’s in your budget to pay a freelance writer, then start reaching out to people. If it’s not, then those emails you’ve been sending out may just seem random and irritating. Which leads to my next point…
Do: Nurture relationships with bloggers and experts in your field.
This is a golden rule of guest blogging (and of any sort of influencer outreach). As you work on building content and readership for your blog, reach out in person or online to people whose work you admire. A common way to do this is by commenting on their posts. Don’t just do this as a spammy ploy to get backlinks to your site (bots are doing that enough as it is). Leave thoughtful comments that show interest and engagement and continue a dialogue. Once it seems appropriate, invite them to check out your site and go from there.
In building your network, you may have established a relationship with a subject matter expert who doesn’t have time to contribute a guest post. If this is the case, ask them if they’d be willing to do a phone or email interview. It could mean the difference between 15 minutes of their time and several hours.
Do: Let people help on their own terms.
Many writers have a strict editorial calendar to follow. Don’t add to the burden. Instead, offer them as much flexibility as you can. That being said, if you have certain guidelines and requirements for the content on your site, don’t be shy about sharing that. It’s not worth compromising the quality of your site just to for the sake of featuring guest content.
Don’t: Expect free content to be good.
There are a handful of guest blogger networks such as My Blog Guest, which have survived the scourge of Google Panda. In a few rare cases, I have connected with some talented writers on these networks. But, like I said, this is very rare. The vast majority of the time, I receive guest post submissions from these sites that at best, are off topic, and at worst, not even written by a human.
Unrelated to these networks, I also receive frequent emails and comments on the blogs that I manage in which people are offering to send me a guest post. I could be getting these emails for one of several reasons:
- The person is trying to jumpstart a freelance writing career and is looking for exposure.
- They have started their own blog or are managing a company blog and are looking to grow readership.
- They are passionate about a topic and just want an opportunity to talk about it (yes, this actually happens).
- They do SEO marketing for a company and are looking for ways to get backlinks to their site (a.k.a. guest blogging “just for SEO”).
Just as the reasons for wanting to guest blog are all across the board, so is the quality of the content you will receive. Moral of the story: don’t rely too heavily on guest content, particularly if it is acquired from guest blogging networks and out-of-the-blue emails.
Wrapping it Up
While Google has been trying its darndest to squelch the practice of guest blogging “just for SEO,” the practice still tends to dwell in some shady territory. Cut through the noise and the spammy emails by building relationships with bloggers whose content you love. Remember to be choosy about the content you post, no matter the source. (If you use your blog for brand building or lead generation, nothing destroys your credibility more than a high volume of bad content.) If you play your cards right, guest posts can be a great component of a high quality, high value blog.
About the Author
Colleen Ahern is a copyrighter at Page Agency, an independent marketing and advertising agency in Dallas, Texas. You can read more of her thoughts on the Page Agency Blog. Follow her on twitter @ColleenAhern.