5 questions to ask before accepting a guest post

Guest blogger cautionGuest blogging is a hot marketing tactic right now. Blog owners love it because they get free content. Bloggers love it because it’s a way to build links and drive traffic back to their site. It seems like the perfect win/win for both parties, right?

Well, not necessarily…

Recently, especially post-Penguin, I’ve seen a lot of so-so (at best) guest posts. What do I mean by so-so? Grammatical errors, obvious sales pitches, poor writing…you name it. The overall blog may be strong, but some individual guest posts are definitely lacking.

That’s not good. The writer may “win” (they get a link, after all.) But the site owner is left holding the (stinky) bag. Now, they have content on their site that people don’t like, don’t link to, and don’t share.

What’s the answer? Vet your guest bloggers carefully. It’s like dating – you don’t have to (or want to) date everyone who asks you. Just the ones you “click” with and who meets your requirements.

Here are some ways to make sure that a blogger “clicks” with your site – and you should bring them on as a guest blogger:

How did you hear about them? 

Do you have a relationship with the blogger? Were they recommended by someone else? Or did they pitch you out of the blue? If they pitched you, how does their email read? If I find a typo or grammatical error in a guest blogging pitch, I tend to delete it immediately. Why? I figure if they can’t get their act together when they pitch me, their blog post isn’t going to be any better.

Why does this person want to blog for you? 

Guest blogging is about building relationships. I laugh every time I read a variation of, “I would like to provide you an original article in exchange for a link.” If I get an email from someone who is (obviously) more interested in what’s in it for them rather than building a relationship, I tend to be pretty unimpressed.

The pitches that I pay most attention to are from folks who take the time to say, “I noticed you had a great article about X. Have you considered a follow up article on Y? I can write that for you.” That shows me that the blogger has actually read my blog, they understand my audience, and they’ve taken the time to write a specific pitch. That’s way more impressive than just asking for a link.

What does the blogger’s site look like?

This is important stuff.  Recently, Matt Cutts released a video called, “Does Google take action on spammy guest blogging activities?” Matt says, “If your Website links to sites that we considered low quality or spammy, that can affect your site’s reputation.” Always review the blogger’s site first. Ask yourself: Would my readers be happy if they landed on this site? Does this look reputable? If the answer is “no,” pass on the blogger’s request.

What else have they done? 

Of course, the Holy Grail of guest bloggers is to land a high-profile blogger with a huge network. At the same time, “unknown” writers can churn out some really fantastic stuff. If you don’t know their work, ask to see past blogging samples. Read the samples very critically and look for things like typos, grammatical mistakes and overly long, “fluffy” writing. Ask yourself if their writing style would resonate with your audience. If the blog post doesn’t meet your requirements, pass.

How responsive are they to your email/phone calls?

So, the blogger passed the initial “smell test” and you’re interested in working with them – great!  But let’s say that you sent an email (or called them) and heard…nothing. For days. Not even a “I’m swamped, and I’ll get back to you soon” email. If you find yourself sending notes that say, “Um, did you get my last email,” you may want to reconsider working with the blogger. Why? If the blogger can’t be relied upon to get back to you via email, do you think that they’ll hit a deadline? Maybe…or maybe not. And that’s a chance that you may not want to take.

As a side tip, always have a few posts “in reserve” just in case. You may find that you need to edit a guest post much more than you planned. Or, your guest poster may send an “Oops, I can’t send the post on time” email (ah, I love it when that happens.) Having some “just in case” posts in your back pocket means that you won’t have a gaping hole in your editorial calendar (or you have to run a so-so post because you don’t have anything else.)

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7 replies
  1. Stephen says:

    Great post here Heather! I’ve had similar concerns with the format. Unless the person writing the guest post is thorough, credible, etc. you’ll be spending more time going behind there work to ensure that it is fault-free. Which, honestly, I don’t understand why someone would post something they haven’t checked for these credibility-busting errors. But like you said, it happens ALL THE TIME.

    • Heather says:

      Hi, Stephen! Yup, it happens all the time – I think this happens because:

      (1) editors don’t have any “back up” content, so they have to run whatever they get. And…
      (2) the content is free, so they figure – hey, this may suck. But at least we didn’t pay for it…

      Thanks for your comment and the kudos! :)

  2. Suzanne Delzio says:

    Thanks for the script of how to pitch: “I noticed you wrote a great piece about X; I could writer your follow up about Y.” While I write very well, boy verbally, I can get tongue tied. I’m not the best self-promoter either. Working on it!!

  3. Colette Bennett says:

    I agree with this wholeheartedly. I have run many blogs in the past, and I find that “free” content often comes with its own price. Rather than accept guest bloggers at random, I personally made a choice of checking out writers’ online presence first and seeing what other work they have done. If the voice fits, a guest post is a good thing, but if not, I pass. I do NOT agree that mediocre content is better than no content.


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