Promoting Your Website? How to Screw Up Your Guest Blogging Campaign

This month’s Word Carnival is all on the subject of website mistakes. But as a writer, I’m going to take a different tack and discuss what happens when you’re ready to promote your shiny new website with a guest blogging campaign. I’ve received lots of guest post pitches on my other blog, and have talked to lots of small business owners. That’s why I know there are lots of ways to get it wrong. By the end of this post, you should be able to avoid the worst mistakes so that you can promote your website successfully.

SCREW UP GUEST BLOGGING

I’ve divided the typical guest posting campaign into three stages which I call Prep, Post and Pursue (hey, I needed a third P). All the examples are based on actual guest post pitches I’ve received.

1. Prep

At the prep stage, you are wooing the bloggers who you hope will publish your posts. A lot of the worst mistakes happen at this time. Some of the approaches I’ve received make me wonder whether the companies themselves are actually running the campaign or whether the person who approached me is at the end of a long, long outsourcing chain.

Greetings and Salutations

It’s the only thing that can account for rookie mistakes like:

  • Not bothering to include a name in the guest post pitch.
  • Including the wrong name, which is even worse.
  • Being overly formal (this is the 21st-century, after all, and not the 16th)
  • Using the wrong gender in the salutation (I can’t tell you how much riles me to be addressed as “Dear Sir”).

Make those mistakes and your guest post campaign will be dead in the water before it gets started. But there’s more. Another batch of errors undervalue the blog owners, assuming that the person providing the content is doing the blog owner a favor, when really it’s the other way round. While it’s true that bloggers always need new content, mostly they are not so desperate that they will publish any old thing. And they definitely want to know the credentials of the person who is writing the content.

Writer Credentials

Here’s another batch of guest posting pitch errors I have seen

  • No indication of the author is
  • An unprofessional email address (yes, I do check)
  • No website or a website that looks like a link farm
  • Empty social media profiles
  • Failure to include a couple of really great examples of previous work

If these are missing, blog owners know they are not dealing with a bona fide author and may reject the post. And on the last point, it’s worth noting that where those examples appear is as important as the examples themselves. If other reputable bloggers have published the writer’s work, then that’s a major trust signal.

The Body of the Pitch

If a potential guest poster manages the right greeting and has appropriate credentials, then I’ll look at the body of the pitch. Believe it or not, there are a few errors I’ve seen here too:

  • Several times I’ve had a form letter. I can tell it’s a form letter because I’ve got the same letter from more than one person. Sometimes I can also tell that it’s not a personal approach – cut and paste usually results in errors, like forgetting to remove the name of the last person it was sent to.
  • Some guest post pitches are more like academic essays. There is a limit to the amount of information that most bloggers need when considering a guest post. Titles, descriptions and suitability for the blog along with author credentials will usually do the trick. There’s no need for more.
  • At the other end of the scale are the people will think it’s okay to send a guest post pitch that looks like an SMS message – it just won’t work. If you can’t take the time to craft a proper pitch why would I want to see the full post?

2. Post

Assuming guest posters get to the point where I accept the pitch, the next set of mistakes provide additional grounds for rejection.

SEO

These days, search engines are more interested in posts that are relevant to readers and less interested in keywords. Sadly, some potential guest bloggers have not caught on. This results in posts that:

  • Are stuffed with keyword phrases.
  • Contain the minimum number of words that the writer considers acceptable, even if it means stopping mid-concept.
  • Are badly written.

Writing

Then there’s the writing itself. Some guest posts suffer from:

  • Poor writing – paying attention to spelling and grammar is a must.
  • Blahness – there’s nothing more disappointing for a blog owner than getting a post that had a great title and realizing that it just doesn’t live up to it.
  • Being in a totally different writing style from the examples that you saw and liked (or even being authored by someone completely different from the person who made the pitch.
  • Article spinning – yes, really!
  • Being formulaic.

Linking

There’s nothing wrong with building links to your site via guest posting as long as you do it right. Here are some of the mistakes potential guest posters make:

  • Filling the post with irrelevant links. (you’d be surprised how many people try to slip spammy links past the blog owner. It rarely works and damages your reputation.)
  • Including awkward keyword phrases as anchor text in the post or bio.
  • Forgetting to link to authoritative sources.
  • Not linking to other content on the host blog (if you can, it’s polite to do so).

A badly written post or a post with any of those errors will make it that much harder to get your post published next time. That’s one reason why it makes sense to hire a professional blogger to write the posts for your guest blogging campaign if you want to get content that will enhance your reputation.

3. Pursue

If you manage to get your guest post published then there are still a few more things to do if you’re looking to build a relationship with a particular blogger rather than post and run. Every blogger appreciates a bit of reciprocity so if a blog owner publishes your post it’s only polite to share the post via your own social media accounts.

And it’s even more important to show up and respond to comments on the post. If you don’t, it’s the final signal to the blog owner that you see this as a one way relationship and you won’t get a post published on that blog ever again.

Last Words

If the people running your guest posting campaign make errors like these, then your campaign is doomed to failure. In fact, it’s why many bloggers – myself included – have stopped accepting guest posts. Life’s to short to wade through dozens of unsuitable pitches every day.

Don’t despair though; there is always room for original, well written content – you just have to make sure that that’s what you’re using for your guest posting campaign.

For businesses of all sizes and stripes an online presence is a powerful marketing tool, but simply tacking a site on to your otherwise bullet-proof biz plan isn’t all there is to it. Our roundup of small business bloggers tackle the best ways to screw up your business by screwing up your website.

Photo credit: tindallfield2011

24 thoughts on “Promoting Your Website? How to Screw Up Your Guest Blogging Campaign”

  1. Oh, Sharon… where to start! The horribly impersonal notes (yes, Dear Sir is really too much), the form letters (“I have seen that you provide excellent content on your site [insert URL here]”), the ones barely written in readable English which makes you pretty sure that person could not actually craft a blog post, and of course the endless ones that come from Gmail addresses with no mention of where this person comes from, who they are, what they have written and why I would care.

    So I use this nifty little app called Text Expander and it lets you set up basically a bunch of macros with shortcuts to stuff you type frequently. I now have an entire rejection letter in macro form so the instant I get one of those requests I only have to tap a few simple keys and bam, instant rejection letter. Now the whole world knows my secret 🙂

    I wish the whole world would read this but sadly I don’t think most of the world cares. Legitimate people usually have more sense than this but spammers and fly-by-nights exist in far greater numbers. Although you did give me an idea to write a blog post about why I reject requests and then include THAT (all 2000 words of it) in my rejection letter 🙂

    1. Oooh, I like the sound of Text Expander, Carol Lynn. If it integrates with Gmail then it would be worth a try.

      No, sadly the people who read posts like this aren’t usually the ones making the errors. But if one business reads it and takes the time to hire a professional to run the guest blogging campaign, I’ll feel better. 🙂

  2. I get so many of these darn things I’ve stopped replying to them at all. Even with a macro response like Carol Lynn’s got, it feels like such a waste of my time. The thing that bugs the crap out of me most is that I’ve got INSTRUCTIONS on my site for how to submit a guest post idea. Nobody ever seems to find that page, even though I’ve linked to it from my contact page.

    1. Yes, I had those too, Tea – didn’t seem to help at all. Now they’re gone and won’t be back. I’ll still take guest posts from people I trust, but I won’t announce it any more.

  3. Melanie Kissell

    Somebody shoot me … please! 🙁

    I have this nifty little thing on my blog called a “contact form”. Some days I’m tempted to remove it. No, scratch that. Most days I’m tempted to remove it!

    I get the weirdest pitches from [alleged] bloggers. And I know I’m not alone. They usually want to submit a post that has NOTHING to do with the type of content I post on my blog. Cute, huh? I’m not sure what possesses people to insult my intelligence that way. I guess they figure they’ll just take their chances and play the odds. All I can feel is disdain and disgust.

    Wonderful, to-the-point post, Sharon!

  4. I get a lot of these requests as well, mostly from ESL writers, which I find very interesting. How did they even find my blog? Why do they want to write for it? And why in the world would I even entertain their offer if they can’t even use the correct version of “your” in their email? (“I love you’re blog” throws a pretty giant red flag in the air.)

    I do find something interesting in your point about not being overly formal in your introductory email: I work with a lot of British academic presses and authors, and they almost invariably address me as “Ms. McCowan” in emails, even after I say they can call me Molly. It has changed my email etiquette to the point that if I know the recipient is in the UK, I always use “Dear Mr./Ms. LastName” in my emails, until they tell me that using their first name is okay, or until they switch to using my first name. To not do this is considered rude!

    Anyway, I thought it was interesting that you pointed out not to be too formal, because Americans generally find those kinds of salutations a bit jilted and overly stiff. But other cultures find our way of doing things a bit *too* informal! 🙂

    1. I don’t know, Molly – when I was working in academia in the UK, I found most people pretty informal, though perhaps not as informal as Americans. And yes, there are some people who prefer to invite you to be informal, especially in the older generation. 🙂 If someone addresses a guest post pitch using my first name, that’s not a problem for me – grammar is a far worse one.

  5. I wonder if there are any bloggers out there who actually take the time to accept these form letter, copy-and-paste style Guest blog pitches.

    Even when I pick someone one-on-one for guest blog post, it’s difficult for me to imagine just using a copy-and-paste approach. Essentially, what you’re asking the author for is to borrow their audiences eyeballs and attention. To do that effectively, they got to be on board with everything that you’re asking them for, everything that you’re going to write, and they also have to be perfectly willing to help you promote afterwards.

    Nothing sadder than a guest post with no shares, no comments, and no interaction whatsoever. I really hope that Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm will significantly slow down these absent-minded guest post requests, since it’s all about questions, long-tail content, and social proof as opposed to appropriately linked keywords.

  6. This is great Sharon. I have read many a post about guest blogging and this has been on of the most informative yet. I guest blogged once over a year ago, on a pretty popular blog and only because the person asked me and I was so honored. I have been a little shy about it and I think I failed in continuing a relationship building with that blogger that probably would be very beneficial for me.
    After reading your great suggestions, I just may step out there again in the future and see what comes of it as there are some great benefits to it for sure.

  7. We’ve had different experiences! I wonder if it has to do with me meeting these people solely via email…are they more likely to be more formal because they haven’t met me in person? Who knows! It did throw me off the first few times I got emails addressed with “Dear Ms. McCowan,” since I’m used to everyone (even strangers) using my first name right off the bat…and I usually prefer it that way! 🙂

  8. One thing about writing about guest posts, it guarantees Comments. 😉 Like you, Sharon, I stopped accepting guest posts – unless I know the person. “Knowing” a person can mean sharing Comments or posts in the blogosphere and social media world. In other words, someone who at least attempts to interact with you.

    I laugh at the people who tell me how much they love my blog, then link to it (in case I don’t know where to find it), and proceed to offer ideas that are not even remotely related to my blog’s theme. And there are those who not only don’t get my gender right, but call me by a male name – thanks, George – uh, the name’s Cathy.

    It’s too bad that this effective tool has been totally destroyed by those who don’t know how to do it right. I wish I could believe that your post would help, but we all know the ones who need it most, won’t read it. 😉 But, I do appreciate the sentiment, Sharon.

  9. Hi Sharon,
    Since my site is evergreen, as in women empowerment, I’m open to women sharing their stories, however, when I get an email offering to write for the site, how they’ve visited the site, etc and their subject matter is about everything, but, what the site is about! 🙂
    Great points Sharon!
    Clara.

  10. Sharon, I am wondering what triggers a flurry of guest post requests. Is it the number of visitors your site has? If these folk are just cutting and pasting requests universally to blogs, what is their criteria for doing so. I imagine someone is paying them to do it, or is it robots at work here. It seems to me to be the equivalent of call centres working the phone lines around the world trying to sell insurance or steak knives and just as pointless.

    Seems to me that has heralded the end of the landline, well here in Australia at any rate. I wonder if this will kill the Guest Blog request as good blog owners will simply ignore all requests in future?

    1. I often wonder that, Sandy. Someone must be paying for a black hat link building campaign. I think it will kill guest blogging of that type – there’ll always be room for quality and authority, but it will probably happen in a different way.

  11. Sharon I think that the same people who are emailing you are emailing me to do blog posts. Although I’ve never been called George I have been Dear Sir a number of times. Or they misspell my name – hello it’s ON MY SITE!
    At first I did try to respond, but that led to email exchanges where I would ask for their blog name only to get more “sample” links. Well since the person was emailing me from a gmail account, and didn’t have their own website they could be anybody!

    My rule is if I don’t know you and your email address is @gmail, @ymail or a similar generic service I don’t even respond. Time is money and why should I waste it on someone who can’t even bother to act somewhat professionally?

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