December 29, 2016

Guest PostsAllowing guest posts on your business blog is effective for building relationships, increasing the amount of content you publish, and attracting incoming links and increased social sharing. But, as any editor will tell you, accepting content submissions can be a lot of work, especially in light of the embrace of “guest posting” by spammers and content creators for whom quality isn’t a priority.

If you don’t want to spend too much time proofreading, editing, and arguing with writers, you should implement an editorial calendar, strict guest blogging guidelines, and a low-friction submission and editing workflow. You should also be sure you understand the difference between guest blogging and native advertising — they aren’t the same thing.

Rules And Standards

There are definite benefits to allowing third-party content creators to publish on your website, but it can involve a lot of work. If your blog is relatively popular within its niche, you’ll be bombarded with posts from the moment you announce your guest blogging program. In fact, you’ll probably be bombarded with email from SEO and inbound marketing companies even if you don’t allow guest posting. Guest blogging can be spammy, but if it’s done right: it’s effective and no different to what thousands of publishers do every day.

The challenge is to publish high-quality content in a world where quality is outweighed by quantity. In short, you’re going to be sent a lot of junk, so you shouldn’t be afraid of rejecting content without remorse. I advise sites that intend to accept guest blogs to create a number of “filters” that clearly express what will be accepted, and to quickly reject anything that doesn’t conform.

Editorial Calendars

Filter number one is an editorial calendar. Editorial calendars establish the topics that you’d like to publish over a particular period of time. With an editorial calendar, you can synchronize guest posts and in-house content. This doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming: a simple list of topics that you’re interested in is all it takes. Everything that doesn’t conform to those topics can be rejected.

Guest Post Guidelines

Filter number two is guest post guidelines. These are permanent guidelines that specify exactly what you expect.

You might consider including:

  • Rules about language, grammatical correctness, and style (although a style guide is great for this too).
  • Word counts. What’s your minimum and maximum word count?
  • Should posts submissions include images?
  • How many links leading to the writer’s site can be included?
  • Is nakedly promotional content is permissible?
  • Should the content be unique and original, or are you prepared to repost content that has previously been published elsewhere?
  • Do you prefer direct submissions of completed content, or to have summaries sent in advance that you can “commission?”

If a submitted guest post doesn’t conform to the rules, reject it or bounce it back to the submitter for editing.

Editing And Submission Workflows

If you accept guest posts, you’re going to be doing some editing, even if it is just deciding which posts to publish and making sure they’re in the right format for your content management system.

To make this process as smooth as possible, set clear submission criteria: for example, you will only accept posts written in Markdown, with correctly formatted headers and links, and you’d prefer the posts to be submitted to a dedicated email address.

Some site owners use a WordPress plugin like TT Guest Post Submit to accept guest posts, but the likelihood is that it will fill your WordPress database with huge amounts of spam. I prefer to deal with submissions via email, so I can set up rules and filters and manage submissions more efficiently.

Don’t be afraid to reject low-quality submissions. You don’t have to justify or explain why you are rejecting them. It’s your site and you can publish what you choose. However, you should keep an eye out for submissions from high-value guest bloggers that might be worth a bit more work. If they’re an influencer in a niche you care about, it’s often worth the time to work with them to get their post into shape.

Guest Blogging Is Not Native Advertising

Finally, be clear on the differences between guest blogging and native advertising. Guest blogging is the acceptance of third-party content to the mutual benefit of the creator and the publishing site. The purpose is promotional, but the content should not be a disguised advert.

Native advertising involves a content creator paying your company to publish promotional content “disguised” as editorial content. Both are useful marketing tools, but you can get in trouble with Google and the law if you aren’t honest about whether you’ve taken money to publish content.

Guest posting is an effective marketing and relationship building strategy, and if you follow the guidelines I’ve discussed here, you shouldn’t have too much trouble attracting high-quality content creators.


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