Inside: What you need to know before you accept guest posts on your blog, and if you should take them at all.
“Hello! Do you accept guest posts?
I recently discover your website this week and enjoyed reading some of your articles. I’m writing to you because I’d love to contribute a guest post to your blog! I’ve been brainstorming some topics that I think your readers would get a ton of value from.
My article will be a well-researched, original piece of content and tailor to your audience. Here are some examples of my work.”
The above is a sample email like many I receive on a daily basis asking to guest post on my website.
Today I’m going to show you how to decode these emails: what’s spam, what’s a scam, and what might actually be a legitimate guest post offer.
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2 Red Flags that are Deal-Breakers (aka DELETE)
- Did they address me by name? If the email starts with a generic opener it lets me know that it’s likely been sent to dozens, if not hundreds of other bloggers. It could be coming from a bot, but even if it is from a real person, if they didn’t take the time to look up my name I delete it without another thought.
- Are there grammatical errors or odd language choices? These are clues that the email is from a bot or from a spammer in another country. If the email seems like it is written by a real person, if they can’t write a professional email then they shouldn’t be writing a post for your website.
The Next Step: Evaluate the Source
The majority of guest post submission requests come from the following sources:
- Spammers and/or bots (which you will hopefully catch and delete with the two major red flags discussed above)
- PR Agencies and businesses
- Bloggers and freelancers
SCAM? The first thing I do to evaluate the source of the email is to look at their email address. Many times, these request emails will come from a generic-sounding gmail address. If there are no other clues given in the email as to WHO the sender is, it could signal a spammer or scammer. If either of the 2 major red flags are met AND the sender is a generic gmail address, delete.
SPAM? However, sometimes you might notice a sender actually includes a signature block at the bottom of their email. If their job title shows that they work for a PR agency or another type of business (possibly un-related to your blog/audience), and they ask specifically for a “guest post,” be wary. They are likely looking for a free advertorial and/or links to their business website. Feel free to respond with your rates for a sponsored post.
BLOGGER? Finally, you might be dealing with a legitimate blogger or freelance writer. They’ve likely read an article from an “entrepreneur” advising them to email established bloggers asking for guest post opportunities.
However, legit or not, you should be extremely selective with all content on your site. You are under no obligation to publish someone else’s work. If their writing isn’t up to par or the content isn’t quite a fit, politely decline with a simple “Thank you for your interest, but I am not taking guest posts at this time.” No biggie!
If after vetting their examples, you love their writing and think it fits with your blog theme and audience, this can be a way to get quality content and traffic for your own site. It could even turn into a longer-term collaborative relationship that will benefit both of you.
But you’ve got to weed through the junk first!
Other Watch-Outs for Guest Post Submission Requests
- Check their work examples — Believe it or not, I’ve had some bloggers send me “work examples” that were not even written by them! Check the author credit for any work example provided to make sure the names match.
- Look for paid links — While you’re checking their work examples (and assuming the author name matches), scan for links within their post. Do the links lead to helpful, relevant articles? Or do the links lead to a business (related or not)? If a work example provided contains business/brand links, then this person may be trying to sneak links into the post they create for you. They might be getting paid for these links, but you won’t be.
- Visit their own website/blog — If the sender claims to be a blogger, but doesn’t provide their own website address, this is a potential red flag. If they do give a link to their blog, take a look at it to see if it is updated, their own original content, and contains professional-sounding writing.
NOTE: When checking work examples and websites, ALWAYS copy and paste the URL from the email into the browser. Never click on links from senders you don’t know. These can be phishing scams.
Things to Keep in Mind if You Do Accept Guest Posts
- NEVER NEVER provide passwords or direct access to your blog to a guest post contributor. I work with contributors regularly (some are real life friends), but they don’t have access to my site. It’s not because I don’t trust them, but more usernames/editors = more opportunities for hackers to gain access too. Accept email submissions only.
- Outline exactly what is expected up front, in writing (an email should suffice since no money is changing hands). That way there is no confusion or conflict later.
- Specify original content only. Content that is duplicated on multiple websites (yours and the blogger’s original website, for example) can hurt you both in search results. At the very least, you want a completely original intro paragraph.
- Retain final editorial control. Make it clear that on your blog, you have the final editing power. You should’t accept content that requires major edits, but you want to be able to tweak things that aren’t correct or don’t quite fit the “feel” of your site, if necessary.
- Create your own images. A contributor may offer to create their own images for the blog post. However, copyright infringement is a big deal, and you don’t want any part of that! If you don’t know your contributor or exactly where they source their images, make your own to be safe.
One final thought
This is the ONE question to ask yourself before you even consider accepting a guest post:
What’s in it for me?
Here’s why — even though it is written by someone else, a guest post is still work for you. You are the one that edits, creates images, uploads to your blog, publishes, and promotes. Your name and brand are on this post, as it is on your site.
The guest poster gets quite a few benefits: backlinks and potential SEO boost, potential clicks to their website from the post, author credit, and access to your fans and following.
If a guest post is truly awesome content (perhaps from a new blogger trying to gain a little traction) and you think it will bring traffic to your blog, then go for it!
However, you should never feel like you have to publish work for someone else or do anyone else a favor, especially if you don’t know them. This is your blog, your work, and your business. Protect it!