Is guest blogging still a good marketing tactic?
It depends on who you ask.
According to Social Media Today, it’s “the most powerful and ethical form of link building.” Businesses have found it to be a great way to get the word out about a product or service—and build brand authority and exposure at the same time.
In the wake of Google search algorithm changes (Panda and Penguin), more people are sending guest post requests to bloggers, but the quality of those pitches is declining, making it harder for these bloggers to find high-quality content for their blogs.
Gather round the virtual water cooler with the owners of even moderately successful blogs and they will share stories of the terrible guest post pitches they have received.
Here are some of the worst annoyances that result in guest post rejection. If you’re doing it right, these may seem ridiculous, but you’d be amazed how often they happen.
1. You Didn’t Have Me at Hello
Let’s start right at the beginning of a typical guest posting approach, with the greeting. That’s assuming there is a greeting at all. I’ve personally seen guest post approaches with:
- no greeting.
- a greeting and no name, like a breezy ‘hi.’
- a traditional salutation but the wrong gender (being called Mr. does nothing for me).
- the wrong name (a clear sign of a failed copy-paste campaign).
The fix: First check the blog to see who’s running it and who guest posts should be sent to. Or do a bit of social media research to find a name. It’s not that hard, these days.
And if there’s no indication of a person behind the blog, is it a good place to market? Probably not!
2. Who Are You Anyway?
Blog owners don’t want a full bio with every pitch, but they DO want to have some idea who you are and why they should consider a pitch from you. Before they even get to the meat of your pitch many people will:
- use a tool like Rapportive to check out your social media profiles and activity (if you’re not active and not posting interesting, relevant content that will make it harder to win your pitch).
- use the built-in features in Gmail/Google Apps Mail to check out the Google+ profile.
This second point is important. Google makes it easy for you to wrap up your online presence into a single profile—a bare profile with little activity is a warning sign for those who could be hosting your post.
The fix: Make sure you—or the company you represent—have a rounded online presence before making the approach.
3. Don’t be Formulaic
Most bloggers can recognize a form letter at a thousand paces, so don’t use them. There are five or six common guest blogging approaches going around. Here are a few recent examples:
The first example omits my name, uses the “unique content” phrase, which is a warning sign of a link chaser and offers to “whip out” anything I’d like, a sign that it comes from a guest post factory and may even be a spun version of a previous post.
The second tries flattery, and despite coming from a so-called “professional writer” contains several errors.
Then there are the pitches that have:
an attitude of entitlement that sounds like you owe them something just for writing a shitty post for you. And they make it sound like all they require is a measly little backlink on your site to theirs. (Jill, Screw the Nine to Five)
All of those approaches add up to a big marketing fail!
The fix: Do some research and check out your target bloggers on social media to find their name, and if you’re going to mention reading their blog, then make sure you’ve actually done it. And read Google’s advice on how not to do guest posts.
4. Irrelevant Pitches
So, if you shouldn’t use a formula, what should you do? Kathryn Aragon recently published a dissection of a great guest post pitch which is a good starting point. For most bloggers, a good marketing pitch is like a good pitch for a feature article in a magazine. Here’s what they care about.
- The title – make it interesting or you’ll lose your audience.
- A description of what you plan to include – either bullet points or a paragraph.
- Why it’s right for the audience or my blog (does it relate to something they have previously published; is it a novel viewpoint?) – no one’s interested in the same old, same old.
- Why you’re the right person to write it.
That third point is particularly important—everyone’s looking for relevant, interesting content and it helps both the guest post author and the host.
The fix: See guest posting as not only about link building but about offering something of value to the host’s audience so you can build a relationship. Looking at it this way, it’s just good marketing.
5. Spammy Linking Practices
Most ethical marketers avoid spammy linking practices, but sometimes a few suspect approaches slip through. I know of a couple of cases where a chain of outsourcing led to linking practices that weren’t aligned with companies’ brand values.
Most blog owners are wary when a formulaic pitch offers to link to “a few relevant resources.” That’s usually code for dropping links at every turn to build links to irrelevant sites.
The fix: Follow these guidelines:
- DO include relevant links, citing the name of the company rather than a chosen keyword phrase unless it really, really fits.
- DO include related content from the target blog.
- DO include links to authority blogs with related content.
- DON’T use the post to self promote, you have the bio for that.
- DO include your links in the bio (including your Google+ profile so you can claim authorship), making sure that you don’t fall foul of the latest Penguin guidelines.
6. Poor Writing
Remember that virtual water cooler for blog owners? Another frequent topic of discussion is poor writing, both for the pitch and the final post. That’s why the examples shown above led to rejection.
And if you do a good pitch but submit a poor post, then it won’t be published—there’s nothing that ticks off blog owners like bad writing.
Most bloggers won’t publish ungrammatical, error-ridden posts. Blog owners love posts that are well-written and polished, so they don’t have to do any more than proof and upload.
In contrast, they hate posts that make them work hard before publication.
This often happens when marketers outsource post writing to inexperienced writers and bloggers, who have misconceptions about what’s required. That may result in keyword-heavy posts of the minimum length that Google deems acceptable.
Unfortunately posts like that can be hard to read, which makes them less desirable to leading industry blogs.
The fix: If you can’t write your guest post in-house, hire a professional blogger to craft an engaging and shareable guest post that will enhance your reputation. And edit and proofread just as rigorously as when you produce your other marketing materials.
7. Being Unsocial
Marketers who negotiate all the other hurdles and get a guest post accepted still have two more things to do when the post is published—share and comment.
Sharing the guest post via your own social networks is part of the deal. Think of it as your part of the barter arrangement.
For blog owners, there’s nothing worse than getting loads of comments on a great guest post, only to be met with stone cold silence from the author.
If you’re looking to build a relationship and post other content on that blog in the future, don’t post and run. That’s a one way ticket to getting your next guest blog pitch deleted unread.
The fix: Share, show up and respond to comments. You’ll most likely be invited to guest post there again.
What other annoying aspects of guest post pitches have you found? Please share in the comment box.