The Two Sides of the Guest Post Story

Guest posts are one of the hottest strategies for increasing online visibility. Like most marketing strategies, there are different opinions on how to do it right. I am not a fan of the do it this way, not that way mantra. You need to find what works for you. However, there are two sides to the guest post story – the side of the guest blogger and the one of the host blogger. And, therein lies the problem. If the two don’t mesh, it’s not going to happen.

The Host Blogger

I appreciated Jennifer Mattern’s guidelines in Accepting May Guest Posts. It provides clear instructions and sets the expectation of what All Freelance Writing accepts in the way of guest posts. I liked them so much, I plan on using them to develop my own Guest Post Policy.

I’ve been remiss in posting guidelines. Let’s be real. It’s only been fairly recent that I had any need to post a Guest Post Policy. I figure you can’t complain about the garbage requests you receive if you don’t let readers know what you accept. That doesn’t mean you won’t still receive garbage requests, but at least you’ve tried to provide guidelines.

Here are guest post recommendations for a host blogger.

  1. Post your Guest Post Policy
  2. If there are sites you do not accept, list them
  3. Include your contact information
  4. Identify acceptable forms for submission (e.g., Word document)
  5. Include general instructions on content (e.g., fits one of your blog’s categories)
  6. Specify an acceptable post length (e.g., 300 to 500 words)
  7. Provide bio requirements regarding length/photo/links
  8. Detail your acceptance of links throughout the post (e.g., see Jenn’s #3)
  9. Advise of any expectations regarding the guest blogger responding to comments
  10. Indicate if you accept/expect photos/images

Tip: Request the link of the image and spell out it should be from a creative commons/public domain site. Many newbies do not understand image Copyright laws. Sure, it’s not your responsibility to educate them, but a brief reference in your guidelines may raise awareness and protect you in the process.

You do not have to justify your Guest Post Policy. It’s your blog – your baby. For me, I think about it as if it was my home. Would I feel comfortable letting the person into my home?

One last recommendation – send a response to guest bloggers who follow your guidelines – whether it’s yay or nay.

The Guest Blogger

Shortly after reading Jenn’s post, I saw a guest post at Daily Blogging Tips, The Frustrations of a Guest Blogger. That got me thinking about the two sides of the guest post story. The guest blogger had some valid points regarding unclear guidelines and communication.

Simple, clear guidelines help eliminate frustrations on both ends. If you require a specific format for submission, say so. Do you want it emailed or submitted on your online form? Guest bloggers who ignore your guidelines are like guests who ignore the RSVP on your party invitation. They should not be surprised when they show up and find an annoyed host who guessed wrong on the number of servings.

The second point of the guest blogger about communication is a bit stickier. Spammers have made the online world more suspicious. In freelance writing years, I’m still a pup. (At my age, I love being able to say that). I did not start blogging until 2008, so I am not that far removed from newbie status.  I have empathy for the guest blogger who does not have a clear lay of the land. In the beginning, I answered every request for a guest post and even offered suggestions for improving their request. I’m either a frustrated teacher or a total putz – perhaps both.

My inbox creaks with the load of guest post requests. I admit that I have taken to ignoring the spammier-looking requests. Then my guilt sets in that maybe it’s a newbie. So, on behalf of newbies everywhere, here are some guest post recommendations for guest bloggers.

  1. Look for a Guest Post Policy – if there – read it
  2. Follow the guidelines
  3. Do your homework – review the categories, read the posts, understand the audience
  4. Suggest a topic(s) – provide a brief description
  5. Explain why you think it fits the blog
  6. Do not ask the host blogger for ideas (unless you know them well)
  7. Do not take rejection personally
  8. Thank the host blogger for ANY response
  9. Before submitting a request, become part of the community
  10. Leave thoughtful comments

For me, and many of my colleagues, those last two points are huge. Remember, our blog is our home. We want to know who you are before we open the door to a guest post. Have we ever made exceptions? Sure, but only if you follow our guidelines.

What are your recommendations for guest posts?

Profile image for Cathy Miller

Cathy has been writing professionally for over 30 years. She loves making the complex simple and offering business communication tips at her blog, Simply Stated Business. She also loves walking 60 miles in 3 days for the Walk for the Cure, which Cathy has done since 2003. Visit her Why 60 Miles site to read about this passion.

Cathy Miller has a business writing blog at Simply stated business, a health care blog at Simply stated health care and her personal blog, millercathy: A Baby Boomer's Second Life.

27 thoughts on “The Two Sides of the Guest Post Story”

  1. Cathy,

    These are excellent points! It can be frustrating if a blogger doesn’t post their writing guidelines. Heck, even some magazines don’t publish writing guidelines for writers. You have to search for them.

    My tip is for guest bloggers to ‘read’ blog posts (at least 20 or more) and comments before pitching ideas. Get a sense of what readers want. What problems do they need solving? Which blog posts received the highest traffic? What can you add that’s different? Brainstorm for ideas and then pitch a blogger. Make sure to write eye-catching headlines too.

  2. Thanks, Amandah. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s really frustrating when someone approaches you who obviously knows nothing about your blog. On the other hand, I did not have my guidelines on my site so I have to take responsibility for that,

    It’s now on my business writing site. Now I have to get it on the other two (although they don’t get the guest posts like my business site). Uh-oh, I probably jinxed myself. 🙂

    Thanks for commenting, Amandah.

  3. Hmm. I don’t have a policy- but I have asked one or two folks for their note, letter, or newsletter to be adjusted to fit on my blog. And, they have honored me- and my readers- by doing so.
    If someone approached me to write for my blog, I would need to know the subject matter (if it’s technical, I would have to check to see how they communicate information), if it were non-technical, I would need to review it AFTER it’s written to insure that the message meets my standards.
    I don’t plan to have many guest posts (I’ll know it when I see it), so I don’t think a policy is necessary. But, if you want guest posts, Cathy has it right (write?)- a policy helps all concerned.

    • Thanks, Roy. I didn’t think I needed one either, but then I started getting buried in requests. I guess I should take that as either a compliment or that I’m a sucker for spam. 🙂

      I’d be afraid to do a guest post at your blog, Roy. It’d require too much studying. And I mean that in the nicest way. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Roy. I appreciate it.

    • Thanks, Sharon. Like I said, I liked Jenn’s so much, I stole-er-emulated it. 🙂

      I like your policies, too, Sharon, and admit I used a bit of it in my guidelines.

      There – full disclosure. 🙂

  4. Having clear expectations is the key. When I know what is expected then it is just a matter of following directions. I haven’t had any requests for guest posts so this is good information for the future.

  5. Hi Cathy, I get a ton of requests for guest posts. Most of the requests end up getting rejected because. I don’t have a special page for guest posting instructions because quite frankly I know that most people will never read them. However, I did record an audio version of the requirements and the instructions for guest and added it to my contact page. This helps because even for those who don’t take the time to read, they can listen to my instructions and perhaps come up with some ideas.

    • I bet you do, Ilene. What a great idea about the audio. You’re right – people seldom read the guidelines. You are the Queen of Video/Audio, Ilene. Thanks for a great suggestion.

  6. This is an excellent post and very well written. I love that you include that people should become part of the community first. That will definitely help me when wanting to guest post. 🙂

    • Hi Alicia: Thank you for the kind words. That little thing – being part of the community – makes nearly all other guidelines unnecessary.

      Thanks for stopping by, Alicia, and sharing your view.

  7. Great post, Cathy. I actually prefer (as annoying as it can be) when sites have crazy long guest post policies, because it means I’ll have a better chance of making it, since most people wouldn’t bother following all those rules.

    I need to start accepting guest posts on my blog at some point, so these tips definitely come in handy! Thanks!

  8. Cathy, I have not asked for guests to post to my sites in a general way, but I have asked a few specific people to write things for me. Recently my boss got a request from somewhere of some people who wanted to guest blog, but that we were not to use the posts as guest blogs. And they wanted to pay us $10 each post. It made me nervous and that’s what I told my boss. Do you have a clue what that was about?

    • Hi Ann: That’s a post for another day, but there are businesses that do marketing site promotions. They basically try to get the sites linked up all over the place. I excluded them in my guidelines because that’s not how I prefer to run my business. It doesn’t fit in with my business plan.

      I’d be interested in how others feel about marketing promotion sites that offer to pay you for guest posts.

      • The kind of post Ann’s talking about counts as paid links in Google’s eyes. So if you don’t want to risk having your own site penalized, it’s best not to accept those offers. In my experience they often aren’t open to open disclosure of paid placements — another big no-no for many bloggers (especially in the US where FTC guidelines cover disclosure of paid placements like those). It’s weird that they didn’t want to be treated as a guest post in Ann’s case. I’ve never seen that particular issue. They want to appear just like other guest posts, but essentially pay to get past your guidelines or guarantee placement. If they’re totally irrelevant to your site, I’d just reject them. But if they seem like an otherwise good match, I’d simply invite them to contribute as a typical guest post without having to pay. Then no ethical lines are crossed.

          • P.S. I hadn’t even thought about the disclosure issue (probably because it’s a moot point with me since I don’t accept those guest posts)< but great point.

          • Not officially back until Tuesday. Just peeking in on things once in a while during downtime. 🙂 And you explained it just fine Cathy — you nailed those requests for exactly what they are.

  9. Hi Andrew – thank you! That’s a great way to look at it. I know I for one am totally appreciative of those who actually make the effort. 🙂

    Glad you found the tips useful, Andrew.

  10. Really good points and tips here Cathy. I think the most important thing is making clear the guidelines and what you want from a guest blogger or what you can expect when you are the guest blogger.

    I enjoy asking others to guest author especially if I can see their sites are well written and that they can add value to my audience. It is a win, win for both me and the guest author so I think it is so important to incorporate guest blogging into a business plan.

    • Thanks, Lynn: I think guest blogging is great as well (obviously :-)). As a matter of fact, my marketing plan includes regular guest posting for 2012. It’s unfortunate that some have converted that into mindless linking, but there are plenty of great guest post bloggers out there.

      Thanks for stopping by, Lynn, and sharing your point of view.

  11. Love it, Cathy! Super post.

    Having just called for guest posts on my own blog, I see why one might want to have policies. I had a simple policy – the post had to be about some aspect of building a sense of worth within oneself when it comes to writing. Every one of the guest posters followed that policy to the letter. It wasn’t tough, but I always wonder if someone will push the boundaries. 🙂

    • Thanks, Lori, I think most would follow a specific topic if given one, but it’s those unsolicited requests where they want you to tell them what to write about that can get annoying when you’re hit with a ton of them. My Shoulder Satan wants to reply, Do you want me to write it for you, too? 🙂


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