A lot has been written about how to pitch a guest blog post, and rightfully so. Many widely used pitch techniques are awful.
Nevertheless, on the publisher’s side of the fence, improvements can be made as well — improvements that would help bloggers get far more relevant and useful guest submissions. I write a lot of guest posts, and have been fortunate to work with terrific publishers such as Carol Roth, All Business.com, Smashing Magazine, Crazy Egg, Salesforce and many more. Here are a few things that these top publishers do well, and make it easy for me, as a guest writer, to do the job right.
- Top publishers explain who their audience is and why they read the blog. Some publishers expect potential guest authors to figure this out for themselves, I suppose as a way to demonstrate motivation. However, it’s not always easy to figure it out. If the author’s guess is even a little off, the topic and angle of the proposed article will also be a little off, leading to more editing down the road — or an outright rejection. Seems to me a waste of time, especially since the publisher can convey this information with perfect accuracy in a couple of sentences. In short, good publishers make it easy for writers to be on point.
- Top publishers have high, documented standards. I love getting my hands on a publisher’s editorial guidelines, ideally before a pitch. It’s extremely helpful to understand issues such as word count, voice, image requirements and linking policies in advance of doing creative work. Editorial guidelines are also a great filter for the publisher. Writers may find that certain style, word count or other requirements make the publisher a bad fit. Knowing the ground rules before the game starts saves everyone a lot of wasted motion.
- Top publishers want writing, not SEO. Although SEO drives a lot of guest pitches, I don’t think it’s a good practice for publishers to have guest authors do the SEO work for them. For instance, some publishers want (or demand) guest submissions to include several links to their on-site content — it’s hard enough to research and write a post without having to worry about the publisher’s internal link structure. In addition, I’m not sure how well this policy supports the publisher’s SEO anyway, since it inevitably leads to a random, overblown collection of internal links, which is not what Google wants. Another common issue is when publishers insist on inclusion of certain keywords that may make sense for their SEO campaigns but aren’t particularly relevant to the guest post. And, incidentally, a lot of the keyword requirements that I see are badly outdated anyway, and will do the publisher more harm than good.
- Top publishers treat guest writers like team members. Every great publisher I’ve worked with has diligent, professional, enthusiastic and skilled people who help me improve my submission. These people not only make appropriate edits, they explain why the edits are necessary. Explanations accelerate the writer’s learning curve, so the second, third and fourth submissions will (let’s hope) require fewer edits and be stronger overall. When writers feel this kind of love, it inspires confidence and creativity. When writers don’t feel it, quality suffers. Loving writers is good for business!
Yes, pitch techniques need to be continuously improved, but I hope publishers are continuously improving their pitch reception techniques, as well. Teamwork and high standards is the winning combination all the way around.