We know that placing your guest posts on other people’s blogs and hosting other people’s guest posts on your blog is A Good Thing. It increases traffic to both of your websites, gains you social capital, and gives you new, fresh and different content for your blog.
But how do you make sure that you do it right – for both you and your guest? Here are ten top tips to help you get the most out of hosting guest blog posts. If you only read and apply two of these, please make them numbers 7 and 8!
1. Know what you want
It’s all very well deciding to welcome guest posts onto your blog, but what do you want to achieve? Do you want to show different angles on your line of business? Allow so-called competitors space to talk? Give your clients some publicity? Help other people in your geographical area? Start to formulate a policy rather than having a scattershot and random approach. This will help your readers to understand why you’re hosting guest blog posts, and will help potential guests match their posts to your blog.
I accept guest posts on writing, especially on editors as writers and writers as editors. The more random ones I’ve posted up in the early days didn’t get many hits, because they didn’t really mesh with what I write about. The most popular – ones that chime with my experiences, and the odd Troublesome Pair or Be Careful post that someone has written from the heart.
2. Know what you don’t want
Once your blog has a certain reach, you’ll find that people get in touch regularly wanting to place guest posts. Many of these seem almost completely random, with almost no (or absolutely no) relevance to my blog. I might give these people a second chance, but not often. I realised early on that there wasn’t room on my blogs for random links to unconnected companies, or links to companies doing things that I didn’t quite approve of – I get a lot of requests for “guest posts” which are just ways for a company to place their client’s URLs in popular places and build their SEO, and a good number for links to student proofreading companies that I wasn’t entirely sure about.
3. Be clear on what you will and will not accept
Once you know what you want and don’t want, you can narrow this down to what you will and will not accept. Most of the guest blog posts you publish will probably be suggested to you rather than commissioned, and it’s up to you to say yes or no to these ideas. Personally, I will accept trial copies of relevant software or hardware but I’ll say if that means my review is effectively a sponsored post, but I won’t accept requests to place blatant ads. I might in future accept ads for products that I have reviewed, found good and am happy to recommend. I have got a few links that earn me an affiliate fee on my Links page, but I make it clear that I earn a fee from purchases coming from those clicks. Some people won’t take any ads, some will take anything that pays. I don’t mind what you do but it’s best to be clear about it.
So, once you know what will and won’t accept, get clear about it. I have a Guest Post Guidelines page on my other blog (linked to from this one) – I put it there because it linked in with my policy on reviewing books I’m sent. I refer enquirers there when they want to place a guest post with me.
4. Commission guest posts
I get a lot of requests for guest posts, but I’ve also commissioned them (and been commissioned to write them too – I was asked to write this one after chatting about exercise with a fellow attendee at a networking event). Commissioning doesn’t mean paying: it means asking someone if they’d like to contribute.
I have done this recently with a fellow editor who is less far along her business path than I am. She’s got a specialism in which I’m interested, and fits with what I do, but isn’t something I do, personally. So I’ve asked her to contribute a guest post on it, which will be interesting for my readers and get a link to her website on mine, too.
Another aspect of this is reciprocal posting. I did this recently with Tammy Salyer. I asked her to write a post on being an editor/writer, and she then commissioned me to write about 10 top tips for fiction writing. I’ve noticed a good flow of hits and referrals between the two posts – win-win for the two of us!
5. Don’t be afraid to give feedback
Once the post has been written and sent to you, rather than just publishing it as is or rejecting it wholesale, if there are aspects that I think could be changed, or I think the post needs major work, I will feed that information back to the poster. If there are minor spelling and grammar errors in Small Business Chats, I tend to change them silently (my initial instructions should make it clear that I’m likely to do that), but if there’s a more major content change, I will send a note to the poster before I publish (or reject)
6. Help people out
I try not to use guest posts just to give me me me more content, more hits, more interest. If I can give someone an opportunity to promote their book, service or specialism, AND it fits in with my blog and its readers, I’ll offer them a guest post or accept their proposal. I do care about hits, but I also care about helping people and promoting things that are of value. That’s why I’ve turned my own posts over to topics like Kiva and the Soberistas, and am happy to work in guest posts on topics that I feel are valuable.
7. Format the post
Most people will send their guest post to you in one of two ways: text in an email, or a Word document attached to that email.
Probably, like me, you usually write your own blog posts straight into the blogging interface you use – you hit “new post” and start typing. Fine, that’s all new text and it should format OK. If you copy text straight from an email or Word document and dump it into your blog interface in a “new post”, you are likely to end up with a mess.
This is because most emailing programs and definitely Word documents contain all sorts of invisible formatting commands that will carry over into your blog post and run paragraphs together, put it all in unfeasibly tiny print, and all sorts of other sins.
It’s easy to avoid this. Copy the text that will form your blog post and paste it into a text-only editor – most PCs will have Notepad installed as standard, for example. Paste it in there and then copy it and paste into your blog editor. Job done. You may have to reformat any links that the guest blogger has given you, but see the next point for how to work that one out.
8. Include links and an author biography
In my opinion, this is the most important one of the lot – and something that sadly I see going wrong quite a lot of the time.
If someone is decent enough to provide you with a guest blog post for your blog, be decent enough to tell your readers about them, and put links to their product / service / book / cat pictures / whatever they want to promote – and that’s LIVE LINKS, not just URLs that you can’t click through with – on the post.
This is a good example (I won’t share a bad one to save people’s blushes, but I’ve come up against this with my own blog posts). It includes an author bio with proper links that make sense and are in a different colour, so readers can find me and the book I wanted to promote easily.
It’s great to reciprocate, but the effort someone has put in to writing a guest post for you will be simply thrown away if you don’t provide links so that people can click through to them and their websites.
So make sure you ask your guest blogger for a quick biography and links to the things they want to promote (don’t assume!), and then place the links in the article.
If you don’t know how to create live links in your blog posts, read this article. Now.
9. Share and promote
Once you’ve published your guest post, make sure that you share and promote it just like you do your own ones. It’s nice to include the author’s name and link in any posting you do on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ etc.
This extends to telling the author that you’ve published the article and where they can find it – send them a link to the URL. And ask them to promote it, too. That way, you can leverage the social capital of both of you – or in simple terms, get more people to look and click. And that’s really what guest posts are about!
10. Say thank you and feed back again
Once someone has been kind enough to provide you with a guest post, do say thank you publicly and privately. It’s also nice to let them know how many hits the post has had – say in the first week. You look at your stats for your posts, right? You can also let them know how many click-throughs they got to their website or other resource. Also let them know if there are comments on the post that you think they should see or even reply to – not every guest will bookmark it and check obsessively for comments. But don’t leave them to do all the responding – take part yourself, too. Again, this one is a good example – look at the comments, where both I and the guest poster respond to them in turn.
This post has talked about how to be a good host to guest bloggers. Next week I’ll look at how to be a good guest. In the meantime, if you enjoyed this post, please click some of the share buttons below or post a comment yourself – all are welcome!