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Accepting Guest Articles: How To Make It Work For Your Blog – Part 1

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Publishing a guest post means allowing someone to contribute a free article to your blog and even help you promote it and keep it active (by replying to comments and sharing). In exchange for the free article, the guest author gets a byline outlining his or her experience and linking to his or her sites and social media profiles.

In many cases, a guest author may become a recurring contributor which means more free content for your blog as well as better networking opportunities.

Accepting guest articles is not for everyone. Some bloggers prefer to only feature their own voice on their sites and that’s absolutely the right decision. Other blogs are like magazines: They feature the variety of articles that are provided by different contributors. Due to that variety, those blogs are usually very active and interesting to follow. And those blogs would absolutely benefit from guest contributions.

This article is not meant to advertise guest blogging. Instead, it aims at outlining the real benefits while making you aware of possible issues.

The Benefits a Guest Blogger Brings

While the benefits are pretty much clear (free content and free promotion are two things that make any blogger want to check guest posting out), let’s sum up:

1.  Opportunity to take a break from blogging: You will see a whole lot of positives to finding guest posters. The most frequently cited one is the opportunity to take a bit of a break, something that doesn’t happen often when you run a site. The majority of content is put on the shoulders of the owner, but when they have guest posters they can delegate posts at least a few times a month to someone else. This takes a huge strain off their time and energy.

2.  Feature an original perspective: Another benefit is the ability to get a fresh perspective and tone for your blog. When you are the only one who writes, you may suffer from the “Single Sound Syndrome”, where all of your articles start to sound the same: Whether that is because of the tone itself, or just because you are constantly repeating your opinions over and over again. A guest poster will freshen things up.

3.  Drive a writer’s following to your blog: Then you have the expanding visibility that comes from using a writer that already has their own readership. Since their byline is attached, any writer with even a mild instinct for self promotion and standard marketing will pass along a link to their own readers. This may be through a blog, social networking sites or different media channels like YouTube or Slideshare.

The Grain of Salt

One thing that many people don’t realize (and thus get quickly discouraged) is that guest blogging is not all about benefits. In fact, it has been largely abused over the past several years. So opening your doors to guest contributors, get prepared to come across people who don’t get it: spam, low-quality articles (you don’t need to publish or edit) and mass email pitches from people who have never actually even visited your blog (you don’t need to reply to those emails).

Shying away from guest authors simply because you are scared of low-quality is just the same as closing blog comments simply because you are afraid of spam.

***The benefits of meeting talented and passionate writers who are willing to take your blog to the next level way outweigh the disadvantage of deleting a few low-quality email pitches a day.***

What you really need is to learn to tell those authentic writers from spammers. It’s actually pretty easy to do — see if the person knows your name and the name of your blog, and see how original the tone of his article is (look for something that really stands out in style and perspective). All in all, just trust your gut feeling — if you really love the article, give this guest author a try!

The red flags you need to keep an eye on:

  • Non-original content — Use Copyscape to find out if this article has ever been published elsewhere. Remember that your blog deserves the article which is written specifically for you.
  • Too obvious a focus on links — Many link builders are trying to abuse guest posting. Their only purpose is to get a link back and they don’t care much about becoming part of your blog community. Stay away from those!

How To Handle Guest Posts

Before inviting guests, you should have a few things down to make sure the process runs smoothly. These are three steps you really need to know.

Step 1: Write Guidelines (and Stick With Them)

The first step is to know exactly what you are looking for in a guest post. This means content type, genre, formatting, how to embed links, your policy on quoting other sources, where you will get photos from, tone, personal versus professional, whether you will be working based on trending topics, and anything else that might be important based on your style.

All of this sounds like a lot of work. But it isn’t anywhere near as much work as having to tell a writer each time to change what they wrote to fit your standards.

Proper guest posting guidelines will also keep you from having to supervise too closely. Part of the reason you are seeking out other writers in the first place is probably catching a bit of a break. The last thing you want is to have to reformat or heavily edit a post before you accept it for publication. What would be the point of hiring someone to write it, if you just had to redo it anyway?

Instead of struggling with this, create a welcome page and checklist to send each new writer alerting them to your writing guidelines and what to check before submitting it for publication. Cover topics like what you are looking for, what they need to do by way of format, your policy on SEO and linking, how you feel about posts being published elsewhere, and what kind of writing it sure to lead to a post rejection.

Include the following:

  • How to use headings and subheadings in a post. Be sure to include an explanation about why these headings and subheadings are so important for easy scanning, formatting and SEO use.
  • All requirements for image optimization, such as size, naming policies, whether or not to make it a featured image, ALT attributes other than the standard title tag, hotlinking policies and more.
  • Internal linking and your policy for linking to posts outside of the site.

Remember that the clearer and more detailed your guidelines are, the less extra editing work each guest post will require on your part. Detailed guidelines will also help authors meet your quality expectations. Plus, it will allow all of your posts on the site to be uniform in format, which appears more professional. Here’s an example:

Guest posting guidelines at Forbes

Guest posting guidelines at Forbes

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Part 2 of this series will appear tomorrow, where Ann finishes up this guide with the remaining two steps to making guest blogging work for your website.

Image: Man With Laptop from Shutterstock

About the Author

Ann Smarty is an experienced blogger, Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, and owner of MyBlogGuest.com -- the ethical community of guest bloggers. Follow Ann on Twitter @seosmarty and @myblogguest

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