Which vital actions need to be done before pitching for guest blogging

guest blogging

Whilst doing research for guest blogging, I came across so many posts telling you how to guest post, how to find suitable blogs and how to successfully pitch for a writing slot.

However, most of them gloss over building a relationship with the blog's author beforehand. And as a result, the majority of approaches I get for guest blogging are out of the blue.

Does this matter? Actually it does. These pitches vary from being absurd to forthright, abrupt to flattering, sub-standard to very clever. But about 99% of them I have never heard of before.

And this is a problem. I don't know the quality of their writing prowess, the validity of their websites they link to, or the relevance of their subjects they wish to blog about. And all of them need to be checked out and sent my guest blogging rules.

Whereas whenever I have guest blogged for anyone, I have always been recommended first. The reception is far more welcoming and I know the author will expect the best quality I know I can produce. Which is what it should be.

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Which vital actions need to be done before pitching for guest blogging

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It seems that common courtesy and politeness have gone out of the window when it comes to pitching for guest blogging. And many of my requesters expect me to immediately comply.

Most of these emails are from young enthusiastic would-be writers from a variety of backgrounds, or worse, content marketing agencies. My first reaction is to glean how they write from reading their emails. Of those who look like they've been through Google Translate a few times I'm afraid get short shrift.

Know the subject

One of the questions I ask guest blogging applicants is to tell me what subject my blog is about. Many of them are confused by this, even though their email has made no indication about my blog and what it stands for. Some eventually send short, curt answers in reply, which means the poor things have had to actually read my blog to find this out.

Those who work from a more practiced script may offer a selection of their work. The more clued up ones may provide a selection of titles for me to choose from. This shows me if they do have an inkling of my blog's subject. The headlines I choose are the ones which have not been used before, or stand out which some sort of originality.

Invariably the quality of copy will fluctuate. There are very few writers to whose posts I hardly have to do any editing, and these get invited back again. But many give the impression these have been cut and pasted from other sources, or if this is original work, the writer has little knowledge of the art of rewriting other material.

The submissions which I loathe the most are ones which are barely 300 words, say extremely little about the subject, and are obviously written by people with very little expertise. I wonder how they had the gall to send these to me in the first place!

Know the author

I don't know about you, but I get very miffed when I receive an email with the salutation "Hey!" or "Hi there!". Today I received an email in which the sender didn't even bother to include his name! So I replied with "Dear Yours Sincerely". I also sign off with the same hail they used to address me. (Sometimes I suspect this sarcasm is lost to the majority of them.)

I take great pains to make my name very clear. There is a very visible bio box at the bottom of each post. The About Page is also extremely accessible. I don't hide behind a pseudonym or a company name, and I have a gravatar for all my comments. So why do these guest blogging pitchers fail to use my name? It's because most of the emails are cut and paste without actually checking the blogs beforehand.

If you want to make a good impression on a blog's author, for goodness sake greet them properly. It's only polite to use a name correctly, rather than the familiar alternatives we see so much of nowadays. Not every blog author is a young whipper-snapper who will readily put up with this abuse.

A guest blogging applicant worth his salt will also take time to read the biography of the blog's author and scrutinise their description on the About page. They may even venture as far as the social media profiles to find out a bit more about them. This is in addition to reading the most recent posts to get a better idea of the blog they wish to guest post on.

Know the audience

Another factor about guest blogging is not only to satisfy the blog's author, but their readership as well. Therefore a continuation of your research into your chosen blog would include understanding who reads this blog and what are their likes and dislikes.

I am very particular about the subject matter I post on my blog. The last thing I want to do is to confuse my readers, or turn them away by publishing content which strays from my original purpose or recognised topics. Readers are very valuable to me and I wish to retain them as much as I can.

Therefore any would-be guest blogger needs to carefully check whether the blog's audience is suitable for their content. This means you need to actually read the posts, and the comments, to see what you can glean from this. Offering a guest post about toilet training a toddler to a blog which focuses on marketing strategies will certainly not be welcomed.

I still receive requests from parent-based companies offering a post about holidaying with children or the latest alternative to disposable nappies. This is because they see the word 'Mother' in my blog's title, and assume I am a Mummy Blogger. It is totally obvious their research stopped there; if they had bothered to look at my blog, they would have soon seen it's about blogging, not motherhood.

Know your writing skills

Writing is a skill which improves with practice. Even though it is something which can be learnt, this doesn't come naturally to everybody. I find this is particularly true with younger writers, who still have a very long way to go.

I am very tolerant of the majority of guest blogging submissions. Not all of them are expected to be perfect. On the rare occasions I receive a well-written contribution I am extremely grateful, as this means less editing for me.

However, once in a while I receive something which is so badly written, an algorithm could have done a better job! These have to be rejected, as no amount of editing will transform them into anything understandable let alone readable. The last writer I let down arrogantly stated she had written 28 pieces which had all been published. I replied I had written well over 800 posts so I can easily recognise a terrible example of writing whenever I see it.

It seems there are some blogs who fail to check the quality of their guest blogging submissions, and will publish any old rubbish presented to them. I am not one of those. I wish to maintain the quality of my content, and the respect of my readers. Which means writers need to up their game if they want their posts to be accepted by me.

Know when to engage

Now we come to the crux of this post, and a task sorely neglected by would-be guest bloggers. I mentioned at the beginning that 99% of my guest blogging requests came from people I didn't know. In other words, I am regularly subjected to cold calling by complete strangers.

Would you employ a builder off the street to build you a new extension? Surely you would ask for recommendations from your friends and neighbours first? Check out the trade magazines or their website for testimonials? So why is it OK for marketing agencies to subject unsuspecting blogs with inappropriate guest posting suggestions from out of the blue?

It is unnerving to let an unknown into your domain. Someone who hasn't bothered to make contact with you beforehand. When it's obvious nobody has bothered to read your posts, comment on them, engage with you on social media, or find out anything about you in advance.

I ask for an introduction before I submit a guest post. It's also important to scrutinise the quality of the host blog's content, subject choices, writing styles and reader engagement. I also check whether the readers are the right target for me. And above all I comment on the blog first so the author knows who I am, notices I write well, and realises I understand their blog perfectly.

Know how to reply

There is a huge amount of both selfish and altruistic acts within the blogosphere. Guest bloggers who selfishly dump their inadequate posts on blog authors without so much as a thank you. And the altruism of the host blog owners to accept this content from elsewhere to further their audience exposure and supply backlinks to their websites.

At the very least guest blogging authors should return to see their posts, and engage with any readers who comment. They should make an effort to publicise their post amongst their social spheres as well as the original source. And they should continue their engagement with the blog's owner to give and receive feedback.

Guest blogging should not be considered as a one-night-stand. Especially one drunkenly picked up from a bar, dealt with, and then abandoned without even a text. I often feel violated by the way I am treated by content marketing agencies who subject me with crappily written material for practically no recompense.

The relationship building shouldn't suddenly stop just because you've won a guest post slot (unless you were totally rubbish!). Good writers could not only increase exposure to their writing skills, they could use this experience to practice writing better posts in different environments.

What's your experience of guest blogging?

You may have gathered from this post I have have plenty to complain about regarding guest blogging. It seems I am subjected to more inappropriate and irrelevant writers and agencies than good ones.

It isn't guest blogging per se I am discontented with, but the way I am approached. There is practically zero relationship building. Nobody makes an effort before cutting and pasting their bulk emails. They are behaving like professional trolls spamming blogs left, right and centre just to get a quick fix with their content.

What is wrong with commenting on the blog you want your guest post to appear in? Why can't you find out the name of the blog's owner before you send your email? Is it so difficult to check whether the subject of the blog matches your post? And why can't writers bother to check what they write actually makes sense?

Now it's your turn to let me know in the comments below your gripes and groans about guest blogging. Or whatever successes or failures you've had, or funny stories you've come across during your attempts to guest post on various websites. We would love to read them.

Alice Elliott
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