After reading Lisa Kilian‘s wonderful guest post last week, How to Nix the Fear and Pitch that Post, I wanted to write a follow-up article addressing guest posting from the other perspective—that is, the perspective of the blogger being pitched.
At the moment, I don’t receive a ton of guest posts, so it’s always nice when one turns up in my inbox.
Bloggers love guest posts because:
- It gives them a short break, which allows them to work on something else, or spend quality time with their loved ones
- It provides their readers with a different perspective and (hopefully) a fresh idea
- It allows them to help other bloggers promote themselves, and their sites/services
Although I’m grateful for every guest article that comes my way, there are some factors that make it more likely I will end up having to return your post to you, unused.
The following factors are not necessarily cause for automatic rejection, but the guest posts that end up being rejected generally commit more than one of the following offences:
1. Use a guest posting template letter.
Template letters seem to come from organizations that use backlinks to promote their online services. These organizations usually have a stable of writers who pitch posts around the internet, in exchange for links back to their site.
Fill-in-the-blank type of requests don’t usually make the cut because they are outrightly generic, so it’s likely the blogger has nothing more than generic information to share with your readers.
But, there are also individual bloggers who use form-type requests to find places to guest post. These are easy to spot because they usually say, “Do you accept guest posts? If so, could you please send me your guidelines. Is there something you would like to me write about?”
First, if you’re targeting a specific blog for guest posting, you should already have searched their site for guidelines. If there are none present, then it’s okay to email and ask for them.
Second, pitching an article has to include, well, a pitch. A blogger isn’t likely to tell you what they want you to write about unless you are on personal terms with them, they’re familiar with your work already, and they know what to expect from you.
When pitching your post, make it specific to each blog you target. In the same way literary agents dislike ‘Dear Agent‘ letters, bloggers dislike ‘Dear Blogger’ letters.
2. Ignore guest posting guidelines.
When a blogger goes to the trouble of putting together a set of guest posting guidelines, it’s only polite to at least try to follow them.
I often get guest posts where it’s apparent the writer has attempted to follow my preferred guidelines, which I’ll admit do get a bit complicated for those unfamiliar with WordPress and html. I always appreciate this effort, and never reject a guest post based solely on getting the formatting wrong.
Still, there are those who are aware of the guidelines and still make no attempt at conforming to preferred formatting. The trouble with this is that even if your post is great, the blogger might have to spend an hour reformatting it before she can use it.
Wherever possible, you want to make your article user-friendly for the blogger.
3. Embed affiliate links into your content.
Affiliate links are those for which the writer receives a commission for every click-through and purchase readers make.
It’s okay to use affiliate links in your own content where you’re forthcoming about being an affiliate for certain products (for example, I’m an affiliate for the A-List Blogger Club, of which I am also a member.) But, it’s not okay to include affiliate links in guest posts.
This is not usually a problem for individual bloggers, but the type of organization described in #1 above often use affiliate links.
4. Assume your post will be accepted.
It’s not uncommon for guest pitches (with or without a completed article) to close with something like, “I can’t wait to see my article posted on your site!” or “When you post this article, please let me know so I can share it.”
If you were applying for a job, you wouldn’t say in your cover letter, “I can’t wait for you to send me the contract!” Never assume a blogger will use your guest post. Instead, close your pitch or article with a line like, “Thanks for taking the time to consider my article. I look forward to hearing from you.”
Remember, under normal circumstances, a blogger cannot formally accept your article until he or she has read it in its entirety. Pitching is only the first step; a great pitch doesn’t necessarily equal a well-written article.
5. Send something that needs to be rewritten.
Obviously, you wouldn’t send a guest post somewhere if you knew it needed to rewriting. But if you’re not confident in your piece, try running it past a few people before sending it along.
I have made small changes in formatting or titles to almost every guest post I’ve ever used, but if I have to substantially rewrite an article for it to be considered well-written, engaging, and useful, then it’s just as much work for me as writing my own article.
Only, instead of me getting the credit, you get it.
6. Send something that isn’t original content.
When you offer someone a guest post, don’t send something that has ever been posted on your own blog or another blog, or that has appeared in any print media. Even material that has been deleted from your blog can still be cached on the internet.
Every so often, someone sends what appears to be a great article and asks to have it used on the site, without ever mentioning that the same article will appear on multiple sites. This is not considered a true guest post.
Also, although a blogger can’t prohibit you from re-using your guest post elsewhere after it has appeared on their site, it’s courteous to refrain from doing so. If you want to reuse the same idea later, give the article a substantial rewrite, add some extra material, and change the title.
How to Maintain a 100% Guest Post Pitching Average
If a post has one count against it, I try to overlook it. Two counts is marginal. Three is unredeemable.
I’ve written at least 30 guest posts for other blogs. I have a 100% guest post pitching rate, and I have never been asked for a rewrite. Not even when I pitched Write to Done and Men with Pens—two of the most successful writing blogs out there—during my first months of blogging.
What’s the key to guest posting success?
- Write something helpful and original. Write it in an engaging manner. Polish it.
- Follow all preferred guidelines to the last letter.
- Be professional, polite, and unassuming
That’s it, really.
If you’ve written guest posts before, what are the best lessons you’ve learned from the experience? If you’re new to guest posting, what mistakes have you made, or what mistakes do you most fear making during the pitching process?