Guest blogging has many advantages, both for the host blog, and for the guest writer. The readers of the blog get to hear a new voice, and it provides excellent exposure for the guest blogger, with a link back to their own website. For the host blog, it provides a bit of relief from the constant pressure to create more content. It’s a win-win, all around. Here are some rules of best practice, which I think have made for my best experiences as a guest blogger, and as a host.
Expect to be edited.
The first time I submitted a guest post, I was quite shocked to see how much it had changed from submission to posting. There must have been at least a 20% edit. It wasn’t error correction – it was re-writing for length, and for style, and so on. Looking back now, I realize that not only did it make the post better, but that it’s completely logical that the blog owner should edit my writing, as that’s the best way to ensure that it meets the needs of their audience. They know them better than anyone else. Don’t take this personally – it’s about the needs of the reader, not you or your writing.
Be sure to submit on-time.
The best way to impress, and to be asked back, is to be reliable. Not only in the more subtle manner of providing great content, but also to be reliable in the most elementary way possible: to be on time. If you can give them a few extra days of lead time, so much the better, as that gives a nice margin for error.
Include good images.
As the writer, it’s also your job to source out great images to match your writing. Images for a blog post must have several qualities: they must help to tell the story, they must orient the user to the focus of the topic, and so on. (See a future post.) Be sure that these images are provided easily to the host, as it saves them the time to create and/or seek out images themselves. It goes without saying that the image must be correctly licensed, and not “borrowed” from another website. If you can take the photo yourself, or provide some original digital artwork, so much the better, and also, so much the cheaper. When sending or posting the image, be sure to send an eMail to the blog host with a link to the source of the image: if you bought it, show that link to the stock photo website, and so on.
Don’t be directly self-promoting.
While most guest blogging has a promotional aspect, don’t expect more than a byline with a link back to your own website or blog. There’s a fine line between explaining your experience with the topic, and tooting your own horn just a little too much. It’s all in the phrasing. One possible way to “brag” about your experiences is to use humour – if it’s a funny punchline, it’s OK to make your expertise clear. But things like going on and on about your other projects, your upcoming live event, and (I was shocked at this one!) including affiliate links back to products on which you make a commission (!!!) are waaaay over the line. It’s your job to make the host blog look good. Someone else will do the same for you later.
Meet the requested specification – or, ask for the specs.
Specs really should include at minimum things like a description of their audience, the word count they would like, and their associated or desired keywords for the post. It’s very important to get a “vibe” for things like the language and finer points of the blog and its readers. (Formal or informal? Is the audience business or consumers? Are all the readers experts, or are they looking for high-level, general information? Are they over 70 or under 17?) If they don’t volunteer this information, it’s best to ask for it. You’ll also want to ask what the submission process is: are you allowed (or able) to click “publish”? Or, do you simply “submit for review”? Some host blogs will tell you all sorts of lovely details about what they want: they might even send you an orientation document that explains their target market, their reader stats, their ad and display rates, and the plugins they want you to be prepared to use. As a host, the more info you provide for writers, the better.
Brag about being a guest blogger.
The host blog will love it if you tell all your Twitter followers to read your post, mention it on Facebook, put a link back on your own blog, tell friends to read it…
Say Thank You.
The absolute best experience I had as a host was when a guest blogger wrote me a personal Thank You note. With a pen. On paper. And mailed it. Seriously. They told me how much they appreciated the opportunity to write for my valued readers, and best of all, invited me to cross-post on their blog. Talk about awesome. Clearly, this person was raised better than I was. (Which reminds me, I should send Social Media Camp a Starbucks gift card…)