The more you feed your blog, the hungrier it gets. The paradox makes sense; as you post more and more remarkable content, you rise in search rankings, your traffic increases, and your audience of followers grows. So how do you keep that voracious marketing machine fed? Thrifty bloggers have made use of guest blogging as a way to not only keep the stream of content flowing, but to also increase inbound links, reach a new audience, and strengthen important industry relationships.
That all makes it sound like guest blogging is the bees knees...and it is, when done right. But without a guest blogging procedure in place, it's possible that soliciting and accepting guest blog contributions could take more time than just blogging yourself. Just as bad, you could find yourself with content that isn't on par with what you normally publish, forcing you to reject content you asked for in the first place. Now you have an awkward conversation on your to-do list, and you could possibly even jeopardize an important relationship. But if you follow these steps the next time you solicit or receive offers for guest blog posts, you'll save plenty of time and hurt feelings, and still end up with the high quality content your blog deserves.
Before you and an external contributor put in any time developing blog content, make sure they are up for the task. Tell them about what you expect (in a nice way, of course!) from contributors, such as number of revision cycles, the level of quality you expect, and deadlines for submission. Setting these expectations up front will ensure they're ready, willing, and able to be a great contributor to your blog and prevent any shock and confusion as you work together.
Give Some Context
To set your contributors up for success, give plenty of background information about your blog. This will require some time investment up front, but if you plan on having your contributors write on a regular basis, it will be well worth it for both of you. Explain the personas for whom you are writing, the tone and style you write in, the types of posts that typically perform well and why they are so successful, and just as importantly, the types of posts you purposefully don't write. If your contributor is not a frequent reader of your blog, ask them to read a few of your more recent posts so they have a big picture understanding of the type of writing you publish.
Approve Topics in Advance
The success of any blog post lies in the topic. When you take the time to think of a great topic, you can ensure that your post is focused enough to stay relevant for your audience. The problem is, guest contributors won't necessarily understand the nuances of what topics make successful blog posts. They might write a post about a relevant subject matter, but the angle could be all wrong.
Save your contributor the time of writing a post that you can't use by asking them to run topics by you in advance. They'll appreciate that you respect their time enough to work with them on solidifying the perfect topic before they begin writing. Plus, knowing the topic about which they plan to write lets you keep your editorial calendar organized and prevent writing about similar subject matters back to back.
Ask for Rough Outlines
After settling on a topic with your contributors, ask them for a rough outline of what they plan to cover in the post. This does not have to be an in-depth outline; just a few bullet points that detail some of the points the post will make. Doing this helps ensure the content of the post aligns well with your audience's needs, and helps identify questions about what should and should not be covered in the blog post before your contributor begins writing. You'll find doing this helps cut down on the number of revisions necessary after the first draft.
Set Linking Guidelines
Many business bloggers choose to be a guest contributor for the inbound link opportunities. A writer can subtly insert a link to his or her own website or blog in the post, and have complete control over the anchor text and page to which it links. Make sure you discuss your protocol for this up front, though. Some contributors may get link-happy and sprinkle exorbitant amounts of links to their site, and your readers will see right through it, dramatically diminishing your credibility. Remember that while your blog is indeed a sales tool, it's first goal should always be helping its readers. Never sacrifice a great user experience to scratch your contributor's inboud link itch.
Set a Sales Pitch Limit
Just as excessive linking can make a contributor's post look more like a sales pitch than a helpful piece of content, including too much of a hard sell in the copy will certainly raise a few eyebrows. Clarify with your contributor whether you're open to them including a soft sell, and if so, how often it can be done. It helps to include a sample of a soft sell that's not too disruptive from previous blog posts to give them a frame of reference for what is acceptable.
If you get some push back from the contributor, tell them that people are coming to your blog for education and thought leadership, so any product or service mentions must not detract from the value of the post. Similarly, their contribution should also not detract from your own blog's lead generation goals, which you achieve through your own targeted calls-to-action.
Don't Settle for Low Quality Contributions
After all of this, you still may find you receive content that simply isn't up to par with what you usually publish. Start by asking for revisions, and give extremely specific feedback about what needs to be fixed, and how it can be remedied. If after one round of revisions the content isn't at a place where you can quickly edit and publish it, it's likely no amount of work will save the piece. Have the confidence to politely decline the piece, thank your contributor for their time, and encourage them to use it as a contribution to another blog. As a blog manager, your responsibility is to uphold the quality of the content you publish. It's the only way you can keep your blog readership growing and maintain your status as an industry thought leader.
Are you leveraging guest posts for your blog, or are you an active contributor on other blogs? What other guidelines help make the process of writing and accepting guest posts easier?