Guest blogging has had a few ups and downs over the years.
Early on in the blogging world it was a great way to increase direct traffic to your own blog or website.
Then something interesting happened…there was some SEO benefit. It seems that Google was using links to gauge the importance of websites and webpages. Those that were doing a lot of guest blogging, and including links in their bylines, were seeing their Google rankings increase.
As you would expect, this started a little surge in guest blogging specifically for link building purposes. Relatively quickly, Google fixed their algorithm to not totally discount links in guest blogs, but find a way to weed out the bad posts.
Anyway, guest blogging still offers great benefit for those writing and those hosting the posts.
I like comparing it to the actor that goes on late night TV. The show needs entertainment content. So they have a popular celebrity come on to tell stories or participate in a fun skit or game. The established audience is entertained.
In return for their appearance, the actor gets to raise awareness for themselves and for their movies. Usually they talk a little about their current film. Those watching get to know the actor and they often learn about the movie for the first time. And many see the film as a result.
You see this also with podcasting. Book authors are often guests on podcasts. Especially around the time they release new books.
And guest blogging still serves this purpose well.
For this post, we’re taking the view that you’re a blog owner with an audience. You want to create even more great content for that audience. You’re thinking about guest blogging.
One of the most important things is Guest Blogging Guidelines.
Here is how you create them…
1. The Form
I like having a form for this type of thing. I think it’s the first step and potential barrier to spam. Even the little effort required to fill out a form is enough to deter those least likely to provide content you want.
The next layer of filtering is when people fill out the form. You can quickly see if they fit your standard. Did they answer all your questions? Are they able to spell decently? Did they ignore your basic instructions?
If you’re seeing red flags, delete the submissions. Little effort on your part.
I like having a form versus providing an email address. I like including at least a few questions. Let’s say 5 questions. Each question with some type of requirement. Name, email address, pitch, etc.
Speaking of pitch…
2. The Pitch Requirements
The pitch is another good next step. The most efficient way I’ve had success with guest blogging is to focus on getting 3-5 potential titles for a blog post.
So as the blog owner, have potential authors pitch you their ideas for posts. This doesn’t require you to do anything more than to scan the title ideas and gauge your interest.
In your guidelines, though, you can provide some guidance on how to come up with title ideas. Tell the person that it’s good to see what is popular on your blog. Topics, types of posts, styles, themes, etc. Tell them to look for gaps in those areas that they can fill.
But you could also encourage them to provide totally new ideas.
3. Response Expectations
In guidelines, I think it’s good to include what the person pitching should expect in terms of a response. You can state that if the person doesn’t fill out the form entirely that they most likely won’t get a response.
You could decide to say that if you don’t like their ideas that they won’t get a response. You could also say that you might respond saying you don’t like these ideas, but that you think there is potential and want to hear more ideas.
You could decide to respond to every submission. That can get tricky, though, because you better then respond to every submission or you could get a reputation for breaking a promise. Even if it’s a small promise.
I like taking the stance that, if you don’t hear from us, we didn’t like your pitch.
4. Self-Promotion Expectations
Some guest authors want to really sell their products and services. Usually the best type of guest content doesn’t have anything to do with what the person is selling.
For example, I think Will Ferrell is one of the best late night TV guests because he doesn’t really focus on the movie he’s promoting. He really understands the point of guesting, which is gaining attention for himself. The more people that see him, the more people will likely see his films over the long run.
That’s why he does guest spots like this one and totally disregards his current movie.
So in your guidelines, tell the person that they will have a byline explaining their name, job, and a little bio information. Even offer a link to their website.
I think just that is enough. You could offer a little more, but in my experience the byline is enough for everyone.
5. Editing Process
This might be a requirement for after someone gets through the form process and you like their submissions. They have an idea for a post.
Now you can discuss word count thoughts, internal links, points to include, etc. It’s a balance. You want to provide a little direction while also allowing the person to bring their expertise to the post.
After you do guest blogging for awhile you can get a feel for the number of revisions necessary. A good starting point might be that most good posts are good as the first draft or after one round of feedback. After that, you’re usually not going to save a post and it’s not worth revising more than twice.
Guest blogging still has a lot of value. Both for blog owners and for writers. As the blog owner, your goal is to provide content that keeps your current audience coming back and that brings in new people. But try to remember that your guests are also looking for attention and to build their audience. Keep that in mind because the better you treat your guests, the more guests and more high quality guests you’ll get in the long-term.