Guest Blogging: How to Keep the Editor Happy & Get Published
I have been the Managing Editor of Tweak Your Biz for nearly four years. Previous to that I was involved from the beginning (remember Bloggertone) writing for the site. As Tweak Your Biz is a guest blogging site I obviously deal with a lot of blog posts from guest writers. I roughly worked out that I’ve proofed, formatted and edited over 3,000 posts in that time. And that’s just for Tweak Your Biz.
I’m also the Content Editor for Egg Marketing and have been for just over a year. So with that and some other proofreading gigs I get you can probably add another 500 posts. That’s a lot of reading … and editing. Lucky I like my work. In this post, I’m only talking from my experience with guest posts on Tweak Your Biz – the others have staff writers and that’s a completely different (and much easier) story.
Here are my suggestions for becoming successful, and likeable, with your guest blogging and I have also included some quotes from friends and colleagues in the business too. So you don’t have to just take my word for it.
Why should you keep the editor happy if you are guest blogging?
So with all this experience I feel qualified to write this post about guest blogging and how to keep the editor happy. A lot of people don’t realise the importance of this but think about it. The editor is the person who has the final hands on your post. They are the people who make it look good for you. The editor will actually decide when to publish your post, or not as the case may be. Editors are the ones in control of what happens after you’ve written your piece (your baby) and it is handed over. So it makes sense you want to keep this person happy, doesn’t it?
Shawn Hessinger, is the Executive Editor of Small Business Trends and has some great insights, “When writing for another website, try to think of them as your client — even if you’re not being paid. By agreeing to publish your post, a website editor is, after all, giving you the opportunity to gain additional exposure in front of a unique audience you might not have reached otherwise. For this reason, try hard to think about a post that benefits the editor and his or her website, not just your own short-term business interests. After all, writing posts that truly serve another site and its audience is the best way to create successful content and to be invited to do it again, two things that will benefit you in the end as well.”
Look for the Guest Blogging Link
Before you hunt out an email to contact the site about writing for them why not check out the link “write for this site” or similar on other sites? Makes sense to check that first as it may actually lead you to apply to write for the site … fancy that! I think I reply to at least 4 emails daily from people asking if they can write for us. I always send back a template email with the link to write for us. Approximately 1 out of the 4 will still keep emailing me, ignoring the link and instructions I have sent. This then makes me wonder if they have enough common sense to actually be involved writing for us!
Susan Payton of Egg Marketing & Communications says, “My pet peeve is when people don’t bother to read our blog and send pitches that have absolutely nothing to do with our topic: Marketing. If you want to not waste your time, only pitch blogs that target our audience. Google won’t give you a boost if you get a link on a site unrelated to your industry anyway.”
Read the Guidelines – Makes Sense, Yes?
You can imagine that I see all sorts of posts coming through TYB. I’m afraid a lot don’t make it to publication and that’s mainly due to people not following the guidelines we set out on sign up. I get quite frustrated sometimes as people are eager to write for us but then don’t read the Welcome Email which explains all they need to know about writing a post for us – style, content, profiles, do’s and dont’s – I’ve even had people reply to the Welcome Email asking simple questions which are answered in it. This happens at least once every couple of weeks and does worry me about the “possible” guest writer.
So without reading the guidelines people plunge in and write something that we just can’t accept. I’m hoping this post – which will be highlighted to newbie writers – will help our guest writers and ultimately myself and other editors when faced with guest posts they feel they have to tackle, rather than coax, to publication.
Adam Connell, of Blogging Wizard, has lots of sage advice about blogging and you’ll see more from him later in this post too. He says, “Knowing the rules is critical. Sure, there are rules that might be thought of more as guidelines (e.g. post length), but some rules are hard and fast rules that shouldn’t be broken.”
Check Before You Ask … Doh!
Make sure you read the information provided to you before asking questions – consider you aren’t the first one not to read the instructions and asking the questions … daily. For our site, a TYB Welcome Email is sent out on sign up which explains everything you need to know about creating your profile, what type of posts we require and the minimum number of words, plus how to actually add a post. It’s all explained with pictures … simple. You’d think!
Understandably due to firewalls not all the automated Welcome Emails are received, however, it is all mentioned on the sign-up page too. So you can imagine how I feel about that writer when I’m asked the same questions, over and over, that are answered already. If the writer would just take the time to read what has been presented to them already they wouldn’t need to ask.
Follow the Style and Get With the In Crowd
Each and every guest blogging platform has a different style:-
- Number of words – 1,000+ for us
- Subheadings – H2’s, H3’s etc,
- Picture placement
- Numbering – we use #1.
- The type of links allowed
- Bullet points to break up a block of text
- Bold for highlighting, but not too much
Most guest blogging sites will provide a style sheet. Previously ours was dealt with in the sign-up process but we now have this Tweak Your Biz style sheet for writers to refer to. However, the best way to get a feel for what is required just take a look at the posts published already. They will all follow a certain layout which the editor puts into place. Just think that if the editor didn’t have to put a lot of work into doing that because you’d done it already then that may give you a gold star and push you up in publication. Result!
I’m currently setting myself a rule where if I have to work on a post more than 15 minutes then I’m afraid it’s put back to draft for the writer to sort themselves. For new writers, I’m happy to spend some time hoping they will learn from what I have done with their post when they see it published. For established writers, they should have learned by now. You’d think!
Guest bloggers, take this suggestion on board wisely. Compare the draft copy you submitted to what is actually published – better yes? Remember the simple tweaks and changes that are done for future reference. You won’t believe how much more kudos you will get from the editor when they see that you have made that effort.
Amanda Webb, of Spiderworking.com, has this advice, “I find it harder to write guest posts than posts for my own site. Although it’s still important to have your voice and your style you need to create something that fits the publication you are writing for. Take a look at other posts on the site, do they have a format? A style of language? Make notes and ask the editor if there is a style guide they need you to follow. This saves the editor time and means they’ll be happy to take posts from you in future.”
Spelling and Grammar. Oh My!
I have the unfortunate habit of seeing poor spelling and bad grammar jump out at me when I am reading something. I’m not saying I don’t make mistakes myself, mostly when my mind is working faster than my fingers on the keyboard – and, of course, social media updates made in the spur of the moment. They say that the best proofreaders will only spot 85% of mistakes (and I’m sticking to that). When I am proofreading as my job (I’m not talking about TYB work) then I will read something three times at least. I can guarantee you that I will find something on the third read-through that I have missed before.
When I write something myself I will read through it at least ten times; this blog post probably more, as I’m trying to make a point about good writing.
Use Spellcheck on Word and apps like Grammarly, but don’t just rely on them. We all know that words can be written that aren’t correct for the context but they are correctly spelled. So sometimes these auto checks won’t pick up on them. Every post needs a human eye on them to check everything – more than once. My dog-eared Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus lives within reach of my laptop at all times.
If you class yourself as a writer good enough to guest post for sites like Tweak Your Biz then your grammar and spelling must be top notch. Which brings me to …
Ghost Writers. Beware!
We are all aware that ghost blogging is highly prevalent, especially with countries that don’t have English as their first language. If the site you want to guest blog on is written in English and you hire a ghost writer then make sure the English is pitch perfect as it can be spotted a mile off if it isn’t.
Too many adjectives and superlatives give the game away and it doesn’t make for easy reading. Tell-tale signs – using the word “surely” a lot, missing out generic words like, “the”, “at”, “on” etc. The minute I see these I start backing away from the post as I know it will take some work changing words and sentence structure to make it read well. This is the writer’s job, not mine. More importantly, it is in the best interest of the person who has his name as the author to make sure it is written well.
I have nothing against ghost writers, I proofread staff writers that ghost-write after all. In this day and age where blogging is a necessity for most in the public eye, it cannot always be expected that everyone can write, or actually has the time to do it. However, if you are hiring a ghost writer, then make sure they represent you correctly.
Kimberley Crossland explains, “Maintaining the integrity of a person or company’s voice is the top priority for a ghost writer. To do this, I imagine myself sitting across the table from the author having a conversation. This gets me in tune with their communication style so I write in a way that honors their natural voice and the one their reader is most likely to hear if they too sat at the table with my client.”
Lorna Sixsmith, of We Teach Social, explains her approach to ghost blogging, “One of the critical aspects of ghostwriting for a client is being able to write their web content and blog posts in an appropriate tone for their “brand voice”. Proofreading, using targeted keywords and good imagery are also highly important of course. Establish with the client if the tone is to be formal or conversational, if the aim is to provide information, give help or/and be humorous, and if it is what your target customer really wants to read. Not only should the brand’s tone of voice be appropriate but it should be recognisable to readers so it stands out. Therefore, it should be consistent.”
SEO … or no!
If you are an online writer these days you have to know a bit about SEO. Now, I am certainly not an expert but I have learned some simple tips along the way which I can share with you here.
- Choose your keywords and use them – they don’t just have to be one word as longtail keywords work better too
- Consider trying link diversity as this can really help with your SEO
- Use Google Adwords Keyword Planner
- Use the keyword in your title
- Use the keyword in your first paragraph and scattered throughout the post – don’t overstuff though
- Use the keyword in one of your subheadings
- If you are adding a picture, copy and paste the title of the post (including keyword) as the Title and Description too
- Don’t overstuff your tags and use ones that have been used before on that site
I know there is a lot more to SEO so I’d appreciate some comments from SEO experts here: Help! This post – 5 Things Content Writers Should Know About SEO – will help too.
On Tweak Your Biz we actually provide a very useful tool – Yoast SEO (see snapshot below) – which, if you fill in properly, will point out what is missing and give you a hint to what you need to improve on with SEO on the post. You want your post to be seen don’t you? You want it to rank on Google? Then why wouldn’t you do your best to make this happen? I do wonder sometimes!
If you are struggling with a good title we also provide a really handy Tweak Your Biz Title Generator which has been praised in many publications.
Don’t Copy Other’s Words. Very Bad!
It is a huge no no to plagiarise other people’s words and posts. Unless there is a good reason for it with us then the writer won’t be accepted to write for us again. It’s not only a poor representation of the person writing but it is also very bad for the site and SEO if the content is copied. This is another reason why we request our posts aren’t published elsewhere unless done according to Google’s guidelines about duplicate content and only by a request to us.
Every post submitted to TYB is checked via Copyscape Premium for plagiarism. You’d be surprised how much is copied sometimes. A recent post submitted was put together via four different posts – I wouldn’t have spotted it without Copyscape so I rely on it hugely. If you can’t write your own words then you’re not a writer in my eyes – and a lot of others.
Links. Just Stop With Them Please!
Yes, we know you want to get a link in for your company or whoever you are writing for. However, if a site allows this then they will possibly be penalised by Google and probably not worth writing for anyway. If you don’t believe me then maybe you’ll listen to Matt Cutts in his article on Guest Blogging and SEO.
Most sites like TYB allow a bio and profile which you can include your web link in. We specify many times on sign up that these links won’t be allowed in the posts so when a guest writer adds a dodgy link then it will be taken out. They haven’t followed the guidelines after all. I’m sure other guest posting sites follow the same rules, or they aren’t worth their salt if they don’t. Watch this video from Matt Cutts to understand more.
Links to reputable sites providing extra information, like to another blog post, are fine. Links to a site providing advice on all they can help you with are a no no. Us editors aren’t stupid, we can spot these links a mile off and will delete so don’t bother even trying. At TYB we point out on sign up – NB. If you are just after links then please don’t bother signing up – they will be taken out – but it still doesn’t stop people trying. Every post is humanly edited (by me). If a site doesn’t do this then it’s not worth writing for.
And I’d like to think you guest writers aren’t stupid either. You know the links you’re trying to add in which shouldn’t be. And the minute you argue with the editor on email about them then you can be guaranteed they won’t be allowed. If a link is so important you need to argue about it on email then it’s obviously an affiliate or advertorial link and I know I’ve done my job in taking it out.
Don’t Bug the Editor. So Annoying!
Bear in mind you are not the only person contributing to the guest blogging site. There are hundreds at any one time for most high ranking sites like TYB. Don’t expect your post to be published immediately or within one or two weeks even, because there are many posts queuing up to be published. Therefore, don’t keep emailing the editor asking when your post will be published. You have it queued up, it is there to be edited, it won’t be published overnight, it won’t be missed. And the more you keep emailing the editor asking, the more annoying you get and no gold stars for you.
Most of us editors don’t work full-time on a site and spend only a couple of hours a day working on the editing. An editor’s job is to edit – not deal with constant emails. Leave them to do their job, check the guidelines and posts like these and stay calm. Your post will be published and if it doesn’t you will be told why.
BIG HINT FOR GUEST BLOGGERS (hence the bold capitals) – if you have read the guidelines and submitted a post according to them you will get published quicker as there is less work for the editor to do when scheduling a post. Simples!
Add a Call To Action. You Want a Response Don’t You?
You’ve written something and want some reaction to it, yes? Nearly every post I see lately doesn’t have a call to action at the end and therefore there are no comments. Comments mean traction to your post people – you must understand that? I comment on every post published on TYB and I rarely get a reply from the author. Shame on you as it will only help your post with the more interaction on it. Unless you don’t want anyone to see what you have written???
Sharing is Caring … Right?
So you have your post written and your editor has worked on it to make it pretty for publishing. It’s time for sharing on social media once it is published. I don’t get how some people write a post then forget about it. You’ve written something you want seen, yes?
We have social media links on TYB for guest writers to fill in so they can be connected and contacted, plus so that we can link to the writer when we share the posts. We share every post on social media – Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn and if we can link to the writer all the better. It helps the writer expand their network which is what TYB was originally set up to do and we have helped a lot of bloggers. Help us to help yourselves – add your social media links plus share posts! Don’t just share your own post either, share other people’s posts and you’ll find this will be reciprocated more often than not.
Comment … Why Not?
The best way to network online as a blogger is to comment on others posts and ensure you reply to comments on yours. You’ve written the post and should expect comments, which also helps traction, so bloody answer them!
I wrote something for a medical site a few years ago about a private procedure and whenever a comment pops up in my email, to this day, I reply to it. I feel like it’s rude and I’m ignoring someone speaking to me if I don’t, The hoster of that blog still lets me know how much she appreciates my responses, plus how it keeps the post “alive”.
You’ve written something so why not react to comments, good or bad?
Adam Connell, of Blogging Wizard, says, “When it comes to blog comments, I aim to reply to them all. What if the blog owner doesn’t? I don’t have to either right?! Wrong! That’s even more reason to reply to them – it creates an even better impression and the blog’s readers will appreciate it.”
If you’re still with me then thank you for reading all of this post. I’ve been thinking about it and making notes for almost six months now. As I spend so much of my time proofreading and editing I don’t get to write much anymore. Probably because I’m such a perfectionist it takes me ages to write – this post has taken me almost three days to write and approximately thirty previews and revisions to get it how I want it. I’d also like to thank the experts who have given me comments and their tips to use too. I really hope this post provides help to writers and also makes an editor’s job easier.
So, you’ve guessed it, this is my turn for a CTA. Please leave your comments and advice on being a guest writer, hosting a guest blogging site or being an editor. There is a lot to cover here. All points of view and advice will be much appreciated.
Images: ” Man Hand writing Guest Blogging with black marker on visual screen. Isolated on sky. Business, technology, internet concept / Business woman writing blank Style list. Office background. /Ghostwriter – dices containing the word ghostwriter, a book, glasses and a fountain pen. / Shutterstock.com“
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Sian Phillips is the Managing Editor of TweakYourBiz.com and Content Editor on EggMarketingPR.com. Sian is also the accountant for her clients Clearwave.ie and Comserv.ie but is moving more and more into the content editing world; proofreading and editing blog posts, eBooks, novels and anything that is written. With over 25 years’ worth of experience in business and accounting Sian provides help to her clients with accounting and credit control. The other half of Sian’s day is spent working in the Social Media space; proofreading, copyediting, sharing posts and advice or conducting interviews for TweakYourBiz.com. She is a qualified Accountant with an Honours Diploma in Journalism too.Read Full Bio