I get e-mails from people all the time about the finer points of guest posting, and blogging in general.
So I thought I’d create this page, where you can ask questions in the comments and I’ll answer them.
(Or, if you need anonymity, you can e-mail me. I’ll post your question without your blog url etc)
(I may get help from other bloggers to answer them, too.)
How to Write Guest Posts (and Get Them Accepted!)
Please tell me your questions:
What do you want to know about writing guest posts for other blogs?
Question from Maria Brophy:
I hate asking this question – shows how wet behind the ears I am – but one reason I haven’t been doing guest posts (though I want to) is I question how GOOD of a writer I have to be??!!! I mean, do I have to write some knock-your-socks off guest post for it to be worthy? And am I capable? I guess we all ask that question…..
Maria, have you read some of the blogs out there? They consist of words strung together in something resembling sentences but that’s the extent of the art of it. Very few of bloggers are writers.
There. I said it.
So let’s put that question aside for a minute.
What I think you’re really asking is:
Where do I get the confidence and the moxy to submit my work when rejection is my nemesis?
This was MY question, too, before I started guest posting.
The answer: you just try. And if someone says no, you won’t die. Promise.
This is what I did: I made friends with other bloggers, and talked to them ‘behind the scenes’ about wanting to guest post. I asked for advice.
And then I did nothing. Because I am a fragile flower, honey, and deeply afraid that someone would say: you think you can write? For ME? hahahahahahahahahaahahaha.
Or just reject my piece. Same dif.
Finally, Josh Hanagarne e-mailed me and demanded a guest post from me, for his blog.
I can be reasonably obedient at times – when the demand coincides with my own will – and so I sent him one. He used it, every one who commented was extraordinarily kind and full of praise, and then I was hooked.
My next submission?
Darren Rowse accepted it right away and for that kind of encouragement, I am eternally grateful.
So here’s my advice, via Nike: just do it, honey.
You’ve got a blog. You’ve got thoughts in your head. You’ve got the ability to express them in writing. You’ve got everything you need to submit a guest post.
And guess what?
You’re doing the other blogger a favour.
You’re writing hot content for them, for free.
Don’t lose sight of that.
Guest posting provides mutual benefits. You’re contributing, too.
And it doesn’t have to be A Grand Work of Art. It simply has to be clearly written, useful and provide value to the audience.
Where to start:
- Make a list of the blogs you want to guest post on
- Look for their guest post guidelines, if they’ve got them
- Read all the recent guest posts and look for a theme or similarities
- Look for The Gap: what has not been covered, but needs to be?
- Draft your idea into a pitch and send the blogger an e-mail explaining how your idea for a guest post would be useful to their audience…
and now you’re on you’re way.
Let me know how it goes, Maria. And thanks for your question.
How Do I Figure out to Which Blog(s) I Should Offer a Guest Post?
My first question is how to determine a good target to guest-blog on. My blog doesn’t have a specific niche, but a lot of the blogs I read do. How can I pick out someone and convince them that my voice can be a benefit to them and their readers?
Ryan, I’d start with the blogs you read. What do you wish they’d cover? What post would you like to read, there?
Offer to write that piece – the one you wish you could read.
How to you convince them that you’ve got something useful to say?
- Start by reading a lot of the recent posts and some of the archives. Figure out what that blog is offering to its audience, and how you can support that mission.
- Read the comments: what questions are people asking? What needs to be covered?
- And then, in your pitch, (quickly) walk the blogger through the process. How do you know this piece would be useful to her audience?
Well, you know because you researched it. You know people are asking for it. You know it fits with the mission of the blog, and it is helpful and/or entertaining.
Or…you know because you’re an expert in this field. If your offline credentials help your case, use them.
But the beginning of persuasion – and that’s what we’re talking about – starts with research. Identify The Gap, and fill it.
I’m curious to see where you go with this…please do let me know!
Thanks for your question,
Question from Jonathan Wondrusch:
Should I pre-write a Guest Post or Pitch an Idea? Do I need to know the blogger to guest post?
Should you write the post before you send it to them? Is it kosher to solicit guest posting ops if you don’t have a relationship with the blogger in question?
Jonathan, the categorical, definitive answer to your first question is…
I generally write the piece and then send it for consideration – but this is more about me, and the way I work than about The Rules of Blogging Engagement.
I know my blocks, and pressure-to-perform is one of them. (I’m so thankful I’m not a man.) For me it is considerably less stressful to pitch a completed piece than it is to pitch an idea and then try and write it to spec.
And if the blogger says no? I just rework it, or pitch the piece to someone else, or run it on my own site.
It takes the pressure to write-on-command off of me and allows me to just be creative. I write my best stuff in flurries of inspiration. As soon as I HAVE to do something, I’m stuck.
But that’s just me. I work to work around my weaknesses.
Some bloggers like this approach: they can see what you’ve written and decide if it is for them or not. No back and forth, waiting, angsting, and so on. Just yes, or no.
Other bloggers and editors however, want to be included in the brainstorming part. They know their site and their audience; they know what subjects need to be covered; and they’d often like to share that with you. (Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, for example, says that it increases the chances that he’ll accept your guest post if you pitch an idea rather than a completed piece.)
The categorical, definitive answer to your second question is…
I didn’t have any existing relationship with ProBlogger (other than Queen of the Lurkers) when I submitted my first piece. So you don’t necessarily need a relationship. Sometimes the quality of your work will unlock doors for you.
And sometimes it won’t. Most of my other guest posts grew out of relationships – and these organic opportunities are so much less stressful than cold-calling or cold-pitching someone. I definitely recommend it.
Start commenting on the blog, e-mail the blogger, talk to him on twitter, and just generally engage with the community and the conversation.
Sometimes guest post opportunities will emerge out of a comment you leave. I wrote a long, unwieldy comment on Dave Doolin’s intensely useful all-about-wordpress blog, Website In A Weekend, and he promptly asked me to turn it into a guest post.
Having a genuine connection to – and investment in – the blogs for which you want to guest post is an invitation waiting to happen.
Thanks for the question, Jonathan. Please let me know how your first round of guest posts turns out!
Question from Ami Kim:
Do I Need to Have A Self-Hosted Blog In Order To Guest Post?
Do I need to be a grown up (self-hosted) to guest post? I’m feeling a little shy about having a little kid’s (hosted) blog site.
Let’s take a look at one of the URL for one of the most popular blogs that I read on an almost-daily basis:
Do you see that? TYPEPAD.
I mean, clearly Seth Godin is NOT a marketing/publishing/blogging genius after all. He uses a hosted blog.
WTF, Seth Godin?
SOMEONE TAKE HIS PURPLE COW AWAY.
So no, Ami, you don’t need a self-hosted blog to guest post. You just need to write a great guest post.
**That being said: if you’re worrying about it, and you want to have a grown-up site and not a little kids’ site
– and check out a REAL little kid’s site, Belli’s Blog of Fashion, while you’re at it. Isn’t this 11 year old fashion blogger something? Isn’t her site hot? Amanda Farough of Violet Minded created that super sassy site for her. Amanda created my site, too, so I might be a bit biased when I say that Amanda does GORGEOUS work –
then please, dahlink, get thee a self-hosted site, already. I promise it isn’t hard and in fact that it is intensely satisfying. I could write poems about the ways and intensity with which I love wordpress.
And they would be naughty.
And yes, it does – at least in my opinion – make you look more grown up and professional when you have a self-hosted site. (Don’t tell Seth Godin).
My only caveat: if you already have a lot of traffic and people linking to your pieces, you’ll need to strategize about how to carry forward/redirect all of your links from your hosted site to your new site. It can be done. It MUST be done.
And, Ami, if you’re serious about switching over to a wordpress, self-hosted blog, you can probably already guess where I’ll send you…to my friend Dave Doolin’s wildly useful, step-by-step, FREE online course in how to set up a website in a weekend using my beloved WordPress.
(I know this is starting to look a little shrine-to-Dave-Doolin-ish but I had to do it. His Website in A Weekend is incredibly useful and thorough and I’m continually learning stuff that makes my blog more effective and sticky. In the good way.)
Thanks for the question, Ami. Hope the guest posting goes well…
oh, and if you DO launch a new, self-hosted wordpress blog, a great way to drive lots of instant traffic to it would be to…
But I know you knew I’d say that.
Questions from Jade Craven:
1. When you start posting on popular blogs, people start asking you to help connect them with the blogger. How do you tastefully deal with these enquiries?
2. You can’t bitchslap the trolls when you are a guest on someone elses blog. How do you deal with them?
3. As I got busier, I found it more difficult to write guest posts on blogs, despite their popularity. How do you maintain your blogging groove?
Jade, I’m swooning a little that you’re asking me these questions.
(My dearest darlingest readers, Jade Craven has written a TERRIFIC e-book on how-to-guest post, The Guest Posting Mini-Guide. I’ve read it. It is excellent. It is pink. It is comprehensive, and I recommend it. I’m an affiliate.)
(I’d also like to mention, too, that I’ll be coming out with how-to-guest post e-book, soon, and this column is my research. Jade doesn’t mind – there’s lots of room for everyone to do their own thing.)
And here are my answers to your three questions:
How do you NOT abuse a relationship with a very popular blogger?
Like you, Jade, I do get lots of e-mails asking me to hook them up with This Blogger or That Blogger.
Usually what I do is tell a little story of how I got a guest post featured on that site, or how I connected with that person. The idea is to gracefully give the person the tools they need to do the same thing, without abusing my relationship with another blogger.
Or, if I know, instantly, that these two people MUST KNOW EACH OTHER, then I do a little match-making. I send a DM or an e-mail asking The Blogger to connect with the potential Guest Poster.
BUT: this is rare, and usually only happens when I know both of these people really, really well and am sure that they should be collaborating with each other. And I ALWAYS ask permission before I start sharing personal contact details.
How do you deal with evil troll commenters on your guest posts?
Trolls. Ah, trolls.
Yesterday, as my daughters and I traversed a footbridge over a pond, my little one asked me what we should do about the trolls that may or may not be hiding under that bridge ready to scare us/eat us.
You know how trolls are. Even three year olds know how trolls are.
I told my daughters that “Don’t worry, there’s no such thing as trolls” while silently adding “except on the internet.”
Here’s how I handle trolls. I handle them by not handling them:
- If they say something particularly egregious or offensive, I write “thank you” and trust that my saintly restraint speaks for itself.
- Or I ignore it.
- Or, if they’re simply mistaken about what I wrote, I gently re-frame My Message in a reply.
- Or I content myself with a visit to their (comment-less) site and then compare their stats to mine on Alexa. Usually I win and I feel much better.
- Or I send my friends distraught e-mails. Someone inevitably offers to kick the troll’s ass, and then I say, no, no I can handle this myself, it is no big deal, and in that moment realize: why, that’s TRUE. I must be a grown up, now.
How do you manage the workload of maintaining your posting schedule AND guest posting, too?
Actually, I don’t guest post a whole lot. I guest post at ProBlogger almost-weekly, and that’s pretty much it.
I’ll do one-offs here and there if someone I love asks me to, but I’m not muscling through a huge to-do list of guest posts owed.
I believe in The Power of The Guest Post, but I’ve been thinking really carefully about why I guest post and why people should guest post. Here are my conclusions:
- When you’re first starting out and don’t have a lot of traffic, guest posting is your calling card. Guest posting is how you’re going to get attention and traffic and connect with new audiences. It has done WONDERS for my site. Cleavage owes its popularity to guest posting – no doubt about it.
- But ‘traffic’ in and of itself isn’t really a goal for me. Traffic is a means to an end. I want to make a living from my writing, and having a popular blog helps me make that happen. But guest posting is a promotional activity, and now that I’ve got steady traffic, works best when I have something to promote. Right now, I don’t have any products for sale – so what am I doing with all this traffic? Why do I need more traffic? What I need is to develop some useful products and then, when I need to promote them, go chase traffic using guest posts.
- Drilling down to managing the workload: I try to write in flurries. I like to settle in for a weekend and produce a whole bunch of pieces. That’s why I like submitting finished pieces instead of pitching ideas. Having pieces in reserve takes the pressure off and allows me to get through my daily tasks without having a nervous breakdown on a daily/weekly basis. (I’m down to a nervous breakdown every 3-4 weeks! Progress!)
- The key to managing a demanding workload is really simple: work a lot. I do. I’m often at the computer at 6 am and still here at 11pm (or later). There’s no magic system, no cool tricks. It is just work, and lots of it.
These were really great questions, Jade. Thanks for asking them.
Question from LPC:
What if My Writing Style/Voice is Very Different than The Blog For Which I Want to Guest Post?
Kelly, this is a somewhat personal question, so I understand if you have any reluctance to answer in specific. Your writing style is quite different from Darren’s. Did you and he have any discussion in which he wanted you to sound “more like ProBlogger”? Or was he happy with your voice from the outset? In general, how do you feel about the advisability of changing one’s voice for guest posts? Thank you very much for your time.
LPC, this is a very interesting question – and it is one I asked myself, repeatedly, in December and January.
I asked my friends, too: My stuff is weird and wonderful. I rarely write lists, I purport to resist pretty much every blog rule, and most of the time I don’t even know what The Rules are. So what’s up?
So what you’re wondering – well, I was wondering too.
Let me tell you the story.
I submitted my first guest post to ProBlogger in October of 2009. Darren told me really liked the piece. I sent him another one. He liked that one too, and told me that he’d publish as many pieces as I had. I sent him three more. Then, in December, he offered me a weekly spot.
Since he offered me the gig, I assumed that he liked my wiggy, wiggly guest posts, just as they were.
Still, I’m conscious that I might be pushing the boundaries a little bit. A couple of times, I’ve sent him a quick note that says “piece is ready. It’s a bit out there…” just to tip him off that it might raise eyebrows.
But Darren’s never said anything to me about modifying my style or my voice – in fact, he’s always been really encouraging and I think that he likes that my pieces are a little wacky.
That, I suspect, is one of the great perks of having a multi-author blog like ProBlogger: you can have many different voices embroidering upon the same basic themes and experiences. It both widens and deepens the well of knowledge (and style!) to draw upon.
And maybe makes it fun, too.
And so my advice would be: let your own voice ring out.
Great question, LPC. So glad you asked it.