Every week I receive dozens of guest post pitches across all of my blogs, and it's not uncommon for that to creep over 100 in a week (and those are just the ones making it past my inbox filters; imagine how many bigger blogs must have to sort through). Yet I respond to less than 10% of those pitches. Even fewer result in guest posts appearing on my sites.
The vast majority of guest post pitches are crap. As a blogger, it's a waste of time even having to skim them. But if you're having trouble getting bloggers to accept your guest post pitches, I want to help you out.
To do that, I'm going to share the ten biggest problems I see in the guest post pitches I receive.
10 Reasons Your Guest Post Pitches Fall Flat
If you want more of your guest post submissions to be approved, try to avoid these common mistakes.
1. You didn't read the guest post guidelines.If a blogger took the time to write up guest post guidelines, take the time to read them.
Remember, you're not doing that blogger a favor. You're asking them to do a favor for you so you can promote yourself to the audience they've put the time and effort into building. Unless they solicited a post from you rather than you approaching them, they owe you nothing.
I have a simple way of knowing if a potential guest poster even visited the guidelines page on this blog: I have a separate email address set up for pitches. And my Contact page says not to use my contact form to pitch guest posts. It's the very first thing on the page. It then links you to the guidelines. So if you haven't even read that much, and you use that form instead of the guest post address for your pitch, you get filtered right into my trash (or at least you don't get auto-filtered into my guest post review folder).
2. You think you're a special little snowflake.
One thing even worse than a pitch making it clear you haven't read the guidelines is a pitch letting a blogger know you did but you think you're above the rules set for everybody else.
If your pitch contains a line like "I know your guest post guidelines say X, but..." you need to stop right there.
I received a good example of this a couple of weeks ago. Someone pitched a post for this site and they went so far as to praise the guidelines themselves. I suspect they thought praise would make up for the fact that they were trying to blatantly disregard the very guidelines they were talking about. They were trying to promote an online education site -- something my guidelines go out of the way to ban here.
3. You sent a copy/paste form letter pitch.
I don't know what it is about pitch emails, but people must think bloggers are stupid. We really can tell if you just plugged our names and blog information into your form email. Don't do it.
One of the most obvious tells is when you copy / paste names from your pitch list into your emails and don't even bother checking your fonts. What you paste is often formatted differently, and it makes this guest post pitching sin glaringly obvious.
No matter how good you think that guest post pitch template you found online is, don't use it. We've seen them all before.
4. You haven't done your research.
Another common problem with guest post pitches is when you make it clear you haven't spent any time on the blog you're pitching. For example:
- You pitch an article that already exists on the blog.
- You pitch a guest post on a topic the blog doesn't even cover.
- You pitch a post that's directly contrary to the mission or sensibilities of the blogger (such as pitching a pro-content-mill post to this blog).
If you know nothing about a blog, you're not ready to submit a guest post there.
5. You're not an authority.
I've noticed this doesn't bother all bloggers -- even some bigger ones -- because they seem to have no qualms about exposing their readers to unqualified "expert" guests. But it's something that leads to pitches here being ignored, and it's the reason for one of my new guest post guidelines covered below, so I'm going to mention it anyway.
Bloggers take the time to build trust among their readers. And if they let you publish some half-assed guest post about something you're not really qualified to talk about, they jeopardize those relationships.
For me, the issue is mostly on the freelance side. Too many new freelancers follow the advice of marketers to build a false sense of authority before actually gaining experience. They try to use more established blogs to do this through guest posting (trying to pull more value than they can actually provide).
These folks often group together in true circle-jerk fashion with other new-ish freelancers, regurgitating each others' advice (which is usually ripped from an actual authority and passed off as their own) and calling each other "experts" until they, and their own readers, start to believe it. The idea is to turn that false authority into courses, membership sites, or e-books.
That's all well and good if you know what you're talking about. Guest posts can help you be seen as an authority through increased visibility. They just aren't a substitute for real-world experience. Those two things have to work together.
Here's the thing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about half of small businesses survive their first five years -- a statistic that's remained fairly consistent over time. If you haven't made it that far, you don't know enough about running a sustainable business to teach others how to do the same yet.
In that situation, you're not helping anyone by giving quick-fix advice with no significant track record. You're a part of the problem (what amounts to a near-plague in the freelance community these days). And I won't allow someone to use this, or any other site I manage, to forward that kind of agenda. If you pitch a guest post offering advice, you damn well better have experience to back it up. And no, linking to a bunch of more trusted bloggers in your post -- who are often secondary sources to begin with -- is not the same thing.
The point? Don't pitch guest posts offering someone's readers advice you aren't qualified to give. Either find something you are qualified to talk about or look for another guest post angle, like a limited case study, highly-specific tutorial, or interview. A lot of us go out of our way to support newer writers and bring them into our networks, and we're happy to host an occasional guest post. Just don't abuse that goodwill by putting our readers at risk with your ill-informed "advice."
6. Your ideas are generic.
Another common guest post problem is the generic pitch. This is bottom-line beginner-level content that can already be found on dozens, if not hundreds, of other blogs.
For example, a post on "ten places to find freelance writing jobs" wouldn't fly here. "What is an LLC?" wouldn't fly for my small business blog. Your pitch needs to add value to the reader and to the host blogger. Generic guest posts don't do that.
Instead, find a way to tailor those ideas to the blog's mission or readers. For example, while a generic pitch to list job board websites wouldn't cut it here, a follow-up to my 7 Unconventional Ways to Find Freelance Writing Jobs post where you share your strategy with another unconventional method most freelancers don't use would be a much better fit.
7. Your writing, in the pitch itself, is atrocious.
There isn't much I can say about this. Proofread your pitch emails. If English isn't your first language, have someone else look it over for you. If it's painful to read your pitch, no one is going to want to read your guest post.
8. Your guest post is self-promotional.
I can't think of any bloggers I know who allow direct self-promotion in guest posts (aside from sponsored posts, but that's a different beast). Yet pitches regularly come in with self-promotional links and references peppered throughout the articles.
Host bloggers aren't stupid. If a link looks questionable (such as pointing to some obscure site instead of a recognized authority), chances are good we're going to look it up. And if you have a tie to that company, we might very well find out about it -- happens more often than you'd think.
Once in a while I'll give a guest poster the chance to change the links to a more reputable, non-promotional source. But more often than not, the pitch gets trashed. Again, this is about reading and following guidelines. Don't try to get away with something the guest post guidelines don't allow (like having third party clients pay you to include their links in your guest posts).
9. Your guest post idea isn't relevant to the blog's readers.
I touched on this briefly earlier when talking about researching a blog before pitching them. But this is a big enough issue to deserve its own mention.
Always, always, always make sure your guest post pitch is relevant to a blog's readers. Sometimes it's an issue of being lazy and not seeing what a blog does or doesn't cover. Sometimes it's outright spam where you're targeting a blog solely for perceived link value and not to actually reach its readers. Neither is good, and either could get your guest post pitch ignored.
An example I sometimes deal with here is the issue of traditional publishing. I don't target authors looking for traditional publishers. But potential guests will see I talk about book marketing, not look any further, and then pitch posts about things like querying publishers.
10. You think ass-kissing is a substitute for relationships.
Very little bothers me more in a guest post pitch than someone trying to kiss my ass with generic bullshit praise because they think I'm stupid enough to let ego-bait influence my decisions. Some bloggers eat that up. I'm not one of them. And I'd bet some of those "big" bloggers you want to pitch have heard it a million times before too.
No one wants you tossing in a reference to some random post on the blog, followed by glowing praise for it. Even if you did read it, no one cares (unless it's directly related to the post idea you're pitching).
Instead of kissing ass, build an actual relationship with bloggers you want to pitch. Follow their blogs for a while. Comment on their new posts. Send them an email with a question for their blog, or to chat (briefly) about something they wrote. Link to them from your own blog. Share their work on social media. (I can tell you the easiest way to get my attention is by repeatedly interacting with me on Twitter -- it keeps your name in front of me, I'm more likely to connect there and follow what you have to say, and that in turn makes me more likely to check out your own site and want to get to know more about you.)
Bloggers are more likely to accept your guest post pitch when they already know you. So, rather than lobbing generic praise their way, put the effort in.
Changes to the All Freelance Writing Guidelines
While I'm on the topic of guest post pitches, I should note a few new changes to the guest post policies here at All Freelance Writing. Some of this was introduced quietly in December, and other changes were just made.
- If I don't know you at all, chances are very good I won't accept your guest post. You can still follow the full guidelines and I'll consider your post, but your chances go way up if we've actually had a one-on-one conversation. If I know you well (we've been in touch at least periodically over the last few years or have exchanged posts in the past), you can pitch an idea or outline instead of sending the full post with your pitch.
- I'm putting a hard cap on guest posts to two per month (that's two posts published -- not per-person). I rarely post this many, so it shouldn't change things. This is just an effort to make sure I don't follow the example of some bigger bloggers I've lost a lot of respect for in recent years as they trade their readers' trust for a blog dominated by free content from (often unqualified) guest contributors. That will never happen here.
- I'm not currently taking any company-focused guest posts. In other words, they need to link to your writer website -- not a client's or employer's website or some other type of business (like a publishing company, invoicing software company, etc.). This may change in the future, and I may allow it occasionally if I solicit posts or interviews from companies I want to feature. But for now, I'm simply tired of these pitches and want to focus on writers sharing their thoughts with other writers.
- I won't entertain advice-oriented guest posts on freelancing from anyone who has been in business for fewer than five years. Read the fifth point in the post above if you aren't sure why I'd set this guideline. If you're a newer writer, you can still pitch a guest post. You just can't use this platform to offer unqualified business advice. Share a case study or tutorial. Interview someone else. Or pitch a personal story or anecdote relevant to my readers.
You should read the full contributor guidelines before submitting any guest post for review. At some point in coming weeks I'll be simplifying the guidelines page a bit (though the overall rules won't likely change).
Avoiding the ten all-too-common mistakes I've mentioned here can help your guest post pitches stand out in an ocean of rubbish and lead to your content reaching the right kind of readers. Do you receive lousy guest post pitches all the time too? Which of these mistakes do you see most often? Do you have any other pet peeves? Share them in the blog comments.
Jenn has 18 years experience writing for others, around 13 years experience in blogging, and over 10 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.
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