Photo courtesy of Liz West on Flickr
By Rob Swystun
I was inspired to write this post after getting burned recently by a blogger (who shall remain unnamed) who runs a mommy blog in western New York.
Using a guest blog posting service, I offered her a St. Patrick’s Day recipe blog post written by one of our clients. The mommy blogger contacted me and said she’d be delighted to run the recipe on her blog.
Great! She had a bunch of followers, so it looked lucrative. She was going to run the recipe and link back to our client’s site. That’s what guest blogging is all about, right?
Except she flaked out on me. After that initial email, not only did she not run the recipe on her blog, she didn’t even have the courtesy to reply to me when I sent a confirmation email. In fact, aside from that first email, I didn’t here from her at all. (And to rub salt in the wound, she went ahead and ran her own St. Patrick’s Day cupcake recipe.)
Obviously the post was timely and once St. Patrick’s Day had passed, it would have to sit on the shelf for another year before I could pitch it again.
Most of us probably don’t need this, but a little proper etiquette primer is always a good reminder. And, considering a lot of the extremely unprofessional-looking emails I get from supposed communications professionals, we could probably use more of these.
So, here are a few guidelines for both bloggers and publishers to keep in mind when guest blogging.
1. Don’t send out form emails. You’re not fooling anyone by saying you’ve read their blog and you like it and you think you’d be a good fit for it. Okay, you’ll probably fool a few gullible people, but anyone with half a brain can spot these things a mile away. The only thing a form email deserves is an immediate deletion because that takes as much effort as sending out a form email.
2. Don’t mention money. Guest blogging generally has no monetary compensation associated with it. You shouldn’t expect to be paid for your content and you shouldn’t offer monetary incentives to run it.
3. Actually research the blog, read some of the posts and know the format. I manage a blog for one of our clients that is news based. It’s never run a single how-to post. And yet, people send pitches all the time claiming they’ve read the blog and they have a great article they think would fit nicely entitled “8 Ways to …” or “6 Things You Should Know About …”. Considering they don’t even know the format of the blog, it’s doubtful they’ve even bothered to glance at it.
4. Include a name in your pitch. A blogger who has their name on their blog expects to see their name in the pitch. This is so easy to find and do, that it doesn’t even count as research. Not all blogs have a name associated with them, but those that do will be easy to find.
5. Follow the guest writer guidelines. If a site accepts guest blog posts, it will have a process in place for dealing with pitches and it will have a specific format for both pitches and articles. Some just basically say send an email with an idea while others will want you to send in the actual article you’re pitching with photos. Give the guidelines a read. They’ll tell you what kind of and how many links you are permitted with the piece and where they should go. They’ll also talk about basic format and word count.
6. Make sure the content is original. No blogger wants content that is identical to other content on the internet, as big brother Google will punish a site for that. Also, give credit where credit is due. Everyone borrows from everyone, and that’s fine. A shout out is much appreciated, though.
7. Do your part to promote the blog post. Each person should put effort into promoting the blog and the specific blog post to their followers. You’ll each be gaining from the other.
For the Publisher
On the other side of the coin is when you are the publisher of the piece. There are a lot of posts out there about the proper way to pitch a guest blog post — and these are usually written by exasperated publishers — but there don’t seem to be a lot about what the publisher’s role is.
1. Be clear about what you want and what you’re offering. Although a lot of people won’t bother reading your guidelines before pitching, for the ones that do, make the process clear and specific. Tell bloggers what they will get if they are published and follow up with that.
2. Respond to pitches that deserve it, even if you don’t plan on accepting the piece. The way I see it, a pitch deserves as much of your time as you think went into creating it. Therefore, form emails deserve as much of your time as it takes to hit the delete button (although, if you’re in a generous mood, a harshly-worded rejection also works). If a pitch was written with sincerity but it just doesn’t fit in with your blog, a quick thanks and a polite rejection with a brief explanation as to why you’re rejecting it will tell the blogger that they at least got your attention and warranted a response.
3. If you express interest, follow up. If someone has taken the time and effort to write a good pitch and you’ve responded to it positively and say you’ll run the post, then run the post. This is just common courtesy. If you change your mind for some reason, communicate that quickly so the blogger can pitch the post somewhere else.
4. Don’t make the links no-follow. Guest blogging has changed in the past few months what with all the talk of spamming and all. And it’s become more of a branding initiative than a purely link-building strategy like it once was. But high-quality incoming links to a site still matter and if you say you’re going to give links, give the ones that count.
5. Give the guest blogger a heads up about when the piece is to be published and send a link to the published piece once it is published. This is much more convenient than constantly having to check the site to see if the piece is up.
6. Do your part to promote the blog post. See above.
Again, these types of things should fall under common knowledge for people, but they don’t always. Guest blogging, like pretty much everything in life, should run on a principle of you get what you give. If you put in the honest effort, you should be treated accordingly.
Are there any other guidelines for guest blogging etiquette that you think I missed? Let me know in the comments.