Content is King: Guest Blogging

Considerations for sharing your content elsewhere.

Guest blogging is a mixed bag for most of us — we don’t mind providing the occasional well-written article to another website in a bid to procure a nice juicy backlink to our own site. On the other hand, when accepting a guest article for a blog or website, not a few times we’re challenged with finding content that not only shines, but adds value to our sites.

Article Distribution

I recently finished writing more than two dozen articles that I purposely gave away as content for other websites. Those articles ranged in length as well as in depth of research, and were picked up by bloggers and website managers for sites of varying degrees of significance. I used MyBlogGuest to market all but five of these articles, sending the remainder to a website owner I was in contact with directly.

Over the past two years, I have also posted well over 200 guest articles to various blogs and websites that I manage. Each article has to meet certain standards and those requirements vary from site to site. Still, there are some essentials I require before an article can be posted. Read on and I’ll share my guest blogging basics regardless of website:

1. Articles must be relevant — If I am sourcing articles for a college and career website, then those articles must appeal to my readers. No reader wants to read a rehash of some “how to decorate your dorm room” article. What they are interested in is where you help them to solve a problem or at least make them aware of a problem such as campus security. Fluff pieces, even if well written, are basically useless.

2. The writer must know his/her stuff — I like to think that I can write about most any topic. However, there are some subjects I avoid. For example, a number of years ago I was approached by someone who wanted me to write about hair extensions. Now, I could have completed much research and come up with some basic information, but I told the inquirer that I believed that she would be best served by a woman and one familiar with hair extensions. I’ve had to reject several articles where the writer’s knowledge about a particular genre was lacking, inaccurate or both.

3. Give it some length – One writer proposed submitting an article that was just 250 words long. I turned him down. My minimum word count is 400 words or just enough to form an idea and to make a point. Ideally, articles of 500 words or more are better suited, offering detailed information and assistance. I routinely write articles ranging from 600 to 800 words with articles exceeding 1,200 words not too uncommon. Forcing word count is not what I am advocating as clarity and brevity trump are of importance.

4. Follow style guidelines — One website I manage has detailed style guidelines as it is primarily a news website. My contributors also follow the AP Stylebook with an occasional Chicago School of Manual article accepted for academic works. Why? Because I have set a threshold to discourage random bloggers and to encourage articulate writers. It has worked too as this site is often cited and attracts the highest caliber writers. For my other sites, general writing rules apply and I make that known before I encourage anyone to contribute.

5. Make a pitch, please — I mentioned MyBlogGuest earlier as a great way to find bloggers. If your site is established, has good traffic and is considered authoritative, then you’ll get inquirers too. This is what I want people to do when they make a pitch to me: know my site. Read my articles. Get a feel for what other guest writers contribute. Come up with an original story or at least an original perspective. I am not interested in “5 Ways You Can Lower Your Car Insurance,” a subject that has been exhausted. I might be interested in reading about current insurance scams if that story is fascinating and the information is verifiable. Oh, yes, include citations for me to fact check especially for any information supplied that requires such.

Are there other requirements that I have? Yes, use your spell check and carefully go over your article and make grammatical corrections. I may edit behind you, so don’t be offended. You’ll still get the links you want back to your site and you may come away with an article that is polished, interesting and citable.

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The Trials & Tribulations of Guest Blogging

With a little effort, you can score a guest blogging shot.

“So how is all that guest posting working out for you?” was the message emailed to me early one morning.

Yeah, that was it. A good friend of mine, not too well known in SEO circles–but very effective in what he does nonetheless—wanted to find out if I was still as bullish about guest blogging as I was earlier this year when I joined Ann Smarty’s site. Ann’s site brings people together to offer and receive guest posts, at least that is her intention with her bustling community.

My friend knew I had written and shared a few articles of mine own, but that wasn’t what he was writing to me about. Instead, the question was directed toward all the articles I have been posting on five blogs I manage and/or own. Just in the past two months alone I had accepted at least two dozen guest appearances, something not lost on my friend.

I had to pause for several minutes to reflect on his question before crafting my reply. Heck, I knew that there was too much stuff bouncing around in my mind and decided to connect with him by phone instead of sending scads of emails back and forth.

Sometimes you have to just talk directly to people if you want to cut to the chase. And that conversation certainly wasn’t conducive to email exchanges or instant messaging, so I picked up the phone and gave my friend a buzz.

I’m terrible about remembering exact words people say. If I’m ever called to testify in court, I know that I’ll give generalized answers, but usually nothing too specific unless something is said and repeated often. So don’t call me as a witness—my version of the events may be too conceptual, lacking specifics. You’ll do hard time in the pokey if I’m called to the stand on your behalf!

But I did come away from our conversation with some points, based partly on my friend’s advice in addition to my observations. Together, we came up with four one-word fundamentals when accepting what we agreed make for a “winning” guest article:

1. Relevant – Seems like an obvious point, right? Well, yes. But, you can write a story relative to a blog, but miss the mark. Allow me give you an example. On Auto Trends, my car blog, I frequently run news-based stories telling my readers about this new model or product available or soon-to-arrive on the market. That angle has helped my site immensely, drawing the attention of car manufacturers, parts suppliers, technology providers and publicists who want me to publish their news.

In most cases related articles from guest bloggers are spot on, but on occasion they miss an all important point: telling readers why the product is important to them. I thought about what my friend said and agreed. It isn’t enough to tell them about your product, but to explain why it could improve their lives. A rudimentary marketing concept, but something often forgotten.

2. Newsy – I probably should use the word newsworthy here, but that term sounds too broad. Newsy is lighter and doesn’t carry the baggage of a press release. But it does convey something my friend insists people really want to know: how is what they’re saying relevant to what is going on in the reader’s world right now? Offering car insurance tips is fine, but what are some of the current trends impacting rates? Specifically, how are today’s safety technologies such as crash ratings lowering the cost of auto insurance?

3. Meaty – I mentioned to my friend a recent article I received and rejected that was 214 words long. Sure, with the author biography it pushed past 300 words, but it lacked even the basics of what I require when accepting an article and that basic is meat. I tossed the article back, explaining to the writer where he fell short.

Yes, we both agreed that a lot can be said with just a few words, but you still need about 400 words to form a conclusive article. Beyond your juicy title and teaer you must offer a killer introduction; three or four meaty, information-filled paragraphs; and conclude it with a worthy summation. Leave that out and your article will be incoherent; your readers won’t even get past the opening paragraph.

4. Provocative – On this point, I had the upper hand in the conversation. Said friend scored well on the first three points, but I shut him up long enough for him to listen and agree that our last point should include a measure of intrigue.

Allow me to explain: Lots of guest articles give out good information and may be solid on the first three points, but do little to stimulate conversation. And conversation is best stimulated by saying something challenging, thought-provoking or even inflammatory. Why? Because that is what blogging is all about: engaging your readers and encouraging them to respond. We all know that SEO basics require us to write good articles, but those articles packed with lots of related and stimulating comments tend to get bookmarked, shared through social media sites and pick up good links.

And it is those links which raise your visibility with your readers, customers and the search engines.

Before ending our call I told my friend that I wasn’t going to single him out by name in this article. That’s probably good because he regularly employs a number of gray hat techniques that could get him in trouble with his customers. Still, when it comes to white hat SEO he knows his stuff, but if you think I’m going to pay him for his advice you got another thing coming.

He’ll have to settle for my guest blogging as a ghost writer in order to receive payment in kind.


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