How to get started with a guest blogger program. Bonus: 13 rules to use today.
No doubt you've heard of the term "guest blogger" or "guest posting" if you've been paying attention to content marketing trends over the past several years. This has actually been a thing for a very, very long time. My earliest exposure goes back about 10-ish years, when I ran a popular (traffic-wise) blog. Without boring you with the details of said blog, I'll give you a little background on the world of guest posting, such as it was back then, to give you a richer understanding of the current guest posting/blogging situation.
Unless you had a paid media budget or significant SEO skills, getting traction for your new website or blog has always been a little bit of a challenge. One of the most effective ways to build readership and drive traffic to your blog circa 2005 was by seeking out other blogs that were relevant to your topics, which had an active and engaged audience of its own. So I became a regular reader of these blogs and started commenting on posts. How I approached the comments I made was important. I wanted to attract the audience of the blogs that I regularly visited, never overtly expressing the desire to have them visit my site, but provocative enough to generate interest...with the hope that maybe they'd click through and see who was behind that comment.
Equally important was how you engaged with the owner of the blog. Some of you might remember the old side navigation on Blogger.com that offered you the option to have a Blog Roll or a set of links to sites you liked, right? Adding someone's site to this was a signal to the owner (if they were paying attention and tending to their site/audience) that you enjoyed and respected their content. At that point, I would usually engage in some back-channel email communication, light flattery, etc. In my case, I actually met several bloggers in person, in far flung cities around the US and the world during down time in my professional travels. I'd offer to buy beers when I was in Seattle or London and build the relationship further, which led to guest or co-posting on each other’s sites or linking back to my blog with an account of what it was like to meet me in person, at the minimum. I was interviewed by other bloggers several times, which were published on their sites. Ultimately, it was a lot of fun and productive audience development for all involved. This was the most innocent version of this tactic and squeaky clean, from a best practices perspective.
There were many, many others that were weaponizing guest-posts and networks of blogs (and the linking opportunities that come with them) at a scale to help drive affiliate or eCommerce transactions back then, too. People are still doing this sort of thing today. There are plenty of interesting examples of that, but that's not the point of this post.
In 2018, large swaths of blogs and articles do not allow comments because of the toxic nature of the discourse that often occurred in the past. So the approach that I took, is largely impossible. Most of the large-scale guest-posting opportunities like Huffpo, Business Insider, or Inc. are just terribly overt SEO plays that don't provide much topical value to humans, and as such, humans are unlikely to remain engaged. They long ago set links to No Follow. There are companies that have literal armies of low-cost resources writing content that is then optimized to death, peppered with links and posted. Don't be part of the problem by mimicking these low-value techniques.
Guest-posting/blogging is ripe for a very serious looking at from Google and I personally think it’s coming–sooner than later. So how should you approach guest-blogging or posting with the knowledge that Google is likely to take action?
Where to start getting quality content from people in your industry?
- Reach out, via Linked-In or Twitter, to high quality thought leaders. Ask them if they are interested in collaborating with you.
- Find 100 people that seem appropriate, send them an In-Mail explaining what you're up to.
- Ask if they would like to be involved. Explain very briefly what's in it for them (authority, exposure, leads, sales, links, etc.).
Yes, it’s actually that simple to get started. There is some complexity on the horizon, when you start thinking about how to maintain your guest-blogging program and ultimately avoid the consequence of a Google algorithm change or other action from the engine. A very stringent set of guidelines for guest-posters to follow is one of the best ways to help your brand grow and set yourself up to rise above the ocean of spam that is guest posting. I've created a set of guest-posting guidelines that I think are reasonable, but also very strict. In the example below, "mysite" represents YOUR brand name. Feel free to take these guidelines and use them when you're building your guest-posting program; they should keep your guest-blogging program from being considered spammy or black hat by the search engines (Google).
- Mysite has the sole discretion to post (or not post) content provided. Further, Mysite may at any time and for any reason remove posted content. Maximum review time for articles is _ days.
- Links within content, itself, are approved at the sole discretion of Mysite if you would like to insert links, they should be helpful and supportive of the content with appropriate anchor text.
- Content must be greater than 1,000 words and be topically relevant for the audience.
- Content should be in plain text or markdown format for ease of posting in a Content Management System and sent via email, with any special instructions called out.
- Provide at least one image. This image should *NOT* be stock photography and attached to the email with your content submission. Public domain images are acceptable. Please include a citation of source in the case of public domain images. Screenshots, charts, graphs, created artwork and infographics are all acceptable - actually preferred.
- Content must be unique and not duplicative or derivative.
- Mysite will provide an author page within our site that can contain your photo, bio and links to your website or location of your choice (Linked-in, Twitter, etc). Please submit this information at the same time, in a separate email, as your first article.
- Once submitted, Mysite holds a world-wide, irrevocable, exclusive right to your work-product. This seems strong but, bear in mind that our posting your content provides a de-facto endorsement not just in the most obvious of ways but, by linking to your website with highly relevant anchor text we're endorsing your business to search engines, as well.
- It is a condition of your guest posting that you promote the piece via your media channels, own blog or site, etc and your submission should include links to the places you intend to promote the post so that we can help amplify. Website links should NOT be tagged as No Follow or No Index.
- Under no circumstances will you have access to Mysite website, or social media accounts. All content will be posted by Mysite staff, exclusively.
- Content must be thematically appropriate & rooted in thought leadership.
- Pure promotional pieces will be rejected. Please do not use quotes from your own staff or employees, exclusively.
- Have fun and let your personality shine through. Use real world and personal examples whenever possible in your content.
Getting started is straightforward. Keeping up the momentum is another thing all together; some content creators are overly ambitious and will provide a single article. Some will agree to provide content, then never provide anything at all. This is why reaching out to a large number of potentials, people whom you’re in no way invested in, ultimately will net you a few gems that will become very strong content partners. Remember, seeking content partners is not a onetime behavior. Create a cadence where you solicit new partners every quarter or every six months…or every year, whatever works for you. Just keep going.
There are also myriad issues that you'll want to look at from a technical perspective on your site, to ensure that all of this content you're creating works as hard as possible for you (and your contributors - remember this is a partnership that should be mutually beneficial).
That, however, is another article, for another day.