Hosting a guest blogger? 5 fairy-tales around best practice.

As the host of a popular blog you’ll get all kinds of pitches for guest posts. Of course you’ve issued guidelines and suggested approaches, but the search engines keep changing their minds about what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to guest blogging best practice. In fact it would seem that the Brothers Grimm had a better idea of fairy tales surrounding blogging even though it wasn’t called blogging back then…

This post will explore the best practice guidelines and what the reality is like. Remember they be guidelines (as croaked in her best The Pirates of the Caribbean voice).

Guest posts are great for SEO purposes.

Okay, I’ll start with this fairy tale: Guest posts are great for SEO purposes. Sure they are, along with posts that have lots of social signals, posts that are optimised for the reader and many other variables. Guest blogging for me has always been about attracting readers and growing my audience. I know many other bloggers who think the same way. It seems the only people who use guest blogging for SEO purposes are SEO companies and SEO writers.

Search engines however cannot tell the difference (it would seem) between writing for another audience and writing for SEO. And that’s because search engines are about algorithms and automation. You also have to take into account that the site that’s hosting the guest post is the person responsible for optimising the posts on page, and not the actual writer of the content. That means the hyperlinks appearing in the content may be placed their by the host blog rather than the writer.

Guest posts that are genuine guest posts stand head and shoulders above the bland, boring and generic content issued by agencies for the purpose of generating links. They have more chance of arranging a marriage between Snow White and one of the seven dwarfs than writing 100 posts to generate 100 back links that will boost their client’s site up the search engine rankings long term.

Guest posters that attract a lot of attention should be invited to be contributors

Sure they can. But the very best guest posters have a guest posting strategy in place and contributing on your site on a regular basis may not be part of it. Extend an invitation but remember it may not get accepted by everyone, Cinderella may have other ideas and need to get home on time before she turns into a pumpkin.

Contributors have different needs to a guest blogger, they need more support and over time they become part of the fabric of your blog. I’ve lost count of the times that people have told me they will grow their blog through contributors and then expect the contributors to follow the 500 page guidelines they’ve issued. Heck, I don’t have a fax machine and can’t send back the agreements that I’m asked to sign on a regular basis.

Then the contributors need a group to ask questions in and before you know it when you remove non-contributors you have a revolution on your hands.

Regular contributors need leadership and management. Provide it and all will work out well for you.

Advertise your guest bloggers on Facebook and Twitter to build anticipation

If you have big names as your guest posters then this may work wonders for building awareness of your site. Of course it can be another part of your promotional strategy and if you have a magazine style blog to build anticipation isn’t a bad thing. However if you are a part time blogger this may take up more of your energy than you are prepared for. If no one has heard of your guest blogger then you might find it generates some discussion. Of course the post will live up to the build up your creating, won’t it? The last thing you want is a post that’s anti-climatic leaving your audience feeling let down.

Setting up guest blogging guidelines will cut down the amount of emails you receive.

Of course it will, and if you clap your hands Tinkerbell will appear. Yes, this seems to be another best practice around guest blogging that’s handed out and believed. It’s an out and out  fairy tale.

You have to ask guest bloggers to read your guidelines and then assume when what they send through was garbled by their email client or yours. Very few guest posters want to comply with your guidelines. If you ask for no sales pitches if you are lucky you’ll get just one. Sometimes you get an entire post that’s a sales pitch. Other times what you get is so far from what your audience responds to that you have to ask what they were smoking when they wrote the post…

They be guidelines…

Sure rules are meant to be broken but only when you understand them in the first place. Do not deviate from the path little red riding hood, or the host blogging wolf will eat you up for breakfast after he’s finished digesting grandma.

Allow the blogger at least one link in their author bio back to their website.

Sure, that’s no problem. Phew, I was starting to think all guest blogging best practice was hokum and there was not guest blogging equivalent of  and they lived happily ever after.

There’s a but though, you need to make sure you actually get the bio from the blogger. Sometimes this isn’t a problem, other times it is. The author won’t send through a bio in time. They won’t send it in HTML like you ask and they won’t hook their email address up to a Gravatar so the bio box looks good. Sometimes they send through a bio that’s longer than the post they’ve written.

The guidelines you issue have been ignored but the post is a good one…  so you publish the post after they’ve ignored your 17 emails begging for  the correct bio and they miss out on all that gorgeous traffic that comes from pitching a perfect post to the right site.

Occasionally you’ll get a message back about the bio that goes along the lines of… oh just link to anything on my website which doesn’t really help any of the new audience want to get to know the guest blogger any better.

Putting all the pitfalls to one side, hosting other people’s articles is a great way to give your readers a different perspective on what you blog about. Whilst you don’t have to agree with everything your guest poster shares, it almost always shows that you are a leader in your niche as you share differing opinions.

Sarah Arrow

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Sarah Arrow

Blogging an issue for you? Social media not quite working how it should be?That's okay I understand. I started blogging back in 2006 and grew into a kick-ass blog coach as well as creator of Birds on the Blog (listed 3 times by Forbes as a top 100 website for women), I'm frequently listed as both a top content marketing expert and as an influential marketer.
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17 Comments

  1. Hi Sarah, what a great post, and as a guest host I can relate to everything you say! I get guest requests frequently, they have never checked the guidelines and more often than not they haven’t even visited my blog! How do I know? well…

    Yesterday (for example) I receive an email from some guy, telling me how he’s seen my site and thinks his articles will fit great, giving me titles of 2 articles who would like me to publish. He even says he appreciates I’m busy so he’ll be quick.

    The 2 articles he was having had no connection with the topic of my blog, so I emailed him suggesting that it would be a good idea to check a blog first, but assured him that he was right on one point – Yes I am busy and I don’t appreciate having my time wastd!

    I enjoy helping others and hosting posts, but why are so many so lazy?

    Reply
    • Hi Liza I feel your pain! I think the same one must have emailed us as well ;)
      It takes about 30 minutes to go through a blog and see if its a good fit for the post, why do they try to skip this part of the process? They must think every blogger is so desperate that they will take anything!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)

      Reply
  2. There’s been a lot of talk here and there and products and programs about guest blogging. i suspect that when there is a rash of requests for guest blogging opportunities, that a new program has been released or sometimes re-released. Then the pitches tend to sound the same.

    Kind of like those canned emails you get when a new product launches and you start to wonder how one person can have so many “good friends” offering “secret discounts”

    I don’t know for sure, but I think a blog will attract decent writers with post pitches if the terms are laid out in a simple to understand way. I am more of a pragmatic sort of person, though, positive for sure and pragmatic, and if I wind up with someone who just keeps ignoring the “rules” I don’t need to spend a lot of time figuring out why or how to fix their understanding. I just don’t run the post.

    I feel the same way about Facebook posting and commenting, I don’t need to be spending time fixing what somebody wrote, if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. The truth is, it might never have been in the cards in the first place, and that is OK too.

    Reply
    • Hi Michael, I’ve found that many would be guest bloggers don’t read the guidelines at all. On Birds ours were quite simple – no less than 300 words, we’ll find the image, one link in post one link in bio, do not pitch via the submission form… we get 130 pitches a month via the submission form…

      Reply
      • I hear you there, I don’t get that many on 250, so that’s good. When you get the content is king trumpets blowing and multiple “how to do guest posting” programs at various price points, it makes for even more people looking for opportunities.

        Reply
  3. “Sometimes they send through a bio that’s longer than the post they’ve written.”

    Hah, I can truly imagine that on Birds, however, with scientists it’s like pulling teeth just getting their company/institution out them never mind a paragraph for a bio!

    Love the points, really needed a smile over my afternoon coffee today :)

    Reply
    • Yeah we had one on Birds that sent a ten line post and a 37 line bio with over 20 links in it. I think she took the bio part to mean complete biography…

      Reply
  4. I can’t decide if its a good idea to promote you take guest posts or not. It seems like an administrative nightmare. I’m erring on the side of inviting people I like who will add value to my readers. What do you say in this …?

    Reply
    • Inviting people is good, but you still have to see that they comply with your rules :)

      Reply
    • I’ve generally invited people to guest post and found it works fine with careful selection, but Sarah has a good point. The biggest challenges have been length of the post (too long) and mostly have to chase them even though they said yes. Allow a week or two before you expect to get the posts :)

      Reply
  5. Rules were made to be broken lol

    Seriously though great and very honest post. I’ve experienced all of the problems above on my site but the thing really grates me is that whenever I guest post for someone I always promote the post and respond to any comments. I think it’s just common courtesy – the amount of people who have guest posted on my site and haven’t done that I find rude! It’s also embarrassing as I have reply to a comment on their behalf.

    I’m trying to get stricter and lately have been but since I’ve put more rules in place I’ve had less people wanting to post.

    Reply
  6. I’ve been wanting to add at least one guest blogger to my site for months now, but honestly, I will be surprised if I find the right person. Thanks for outlining these ways to avoid disaster. :-)

    Reply
  7. I think I need to write a clear set of guidelines for guest blogging – but as you say, I doubt it will stop the emails I get offering me guest posts that are obviously only for the purpose of generating links to their clients’ sites. They’re not really guest posts at all – they’re adverts.

    I had a post sent to me quite recently that was OK apart from the fact that it contained several links out to posts on another site; posts that covered the exact subjects of posts already available on my site :-)

    Reply
  8. Sarah,

    I learned quite a bit from your post. I have been getting requests for guest bloggers and many of them don’t have a clue about how to write for my audience. I am going to take your suggestion and write a clear set of guidelines for guest blogging and send them to anyone who wants to write for my blog. Thanks for the great tips!

    Reply
  9. As I said in another comment on another post, I am very strict. I get a LOT of inquiries every day and have refused more than 2,000 requests since putting my guest form. I even refuse people who do not fill out the correct form… like my regular contact form.

    I want guest bloggers that care about their audience, because it is not about SEO, it is also social. Your blog is a community in itself and regardless of whether you or a guest writer is posting, that content is fuel to engage.

    Reply
  10. Great post very informative. I am new in doing a guest blog and I needed more things to learn in order for me to do guest blogging the right way.

    Reply
  11. Hi Sarah,

    Well said :)

    For me, I rather give a little bit more flexibility when it comes to sharing links. Maybe up to 4 links with 1 dofollow and 3 nofollow in the post. And you can have a dofollow author’s profile too :)

    What makes guest blogging challenging is when we doesn’t really speak native English. English is so widely used and each country tend to have their own ‘slang’. This makes it tougher but more fun as well!

    Thanks for sharing and have a great week ahead!

    Reginald

    Reply

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