We’re seeing a lot more guest posts across business blogs, and that’s a welcome trend. Guest posts help give a voice to people who might deserve a bigger platform. It helps expose them to a new audience, and it gives the blog a break from its usual voice. If that break brings a new perspective, it can keep things from getting stagnant (read: boring).
Delivering strong content is only part of being a stellar contributor. If you write a guest post and want to get invited back, be professional in your process, too.
When people pitch us with compelling post ideas, that’s just a foot in the door.
Here are tips based on what our best partners have done:
1. Familiarize yourself with their style
Get ready to read. Start by browsing their site to get a sense for how they want to be seen. What matters to them and what value are they trying to convey? But then really jump in and read their blog. Watch their videos.
Your objective should be to understand the tone of voice they use: casual, formal, conversational, etc. Prepare to model your contribution in a similar way.
That doesn’t mean that you have to load your article with gifs to match their meme-filled articles, but you should understand that they value humor and/or visual breaks.
Their style stretches into visual territory, too.
One of the things we try to avoid is long paragraphs. We might put 2 lines together and move on. It’s just a preference for visual breaks.
When you read their blog first, you’ll notice uses of short paragraphs, bullet points, and even quotes. Some blogs are formatted so that quotes get visual priority. Write for that.
If they’re consistent, you might get the idea with just 3-4 articles or videos. (And read the video transcripts, too.)
2. Send an outline of what you’ll cover
Once you get the approval of a topic, send your contact an outline of what you plan to cover. Don’t wait to be asked.
Sending an outline before you start writing will accomplish two things.
- It helps you be on the same page with your hosts.
- It keeps you from investing too much time in the wrong ideas.
good great pitch, the writer has suggested a few topics that would work for our audience.
Topics (or suggested titles) are enticing by nature: “Why We Hired a Dog to Run our Accounting Department.” The same thing that makes you want to click on an article to read it is the same thing that makes a blog manager approve a topic.
Just as you’ve been let down with click bait, the same thing happens with topics full of promise. Sometimes they fizzle.
Sending an outline helps give the blog manager confidence in what you’re writing. And if it doesn’t feel right to them, they can at least direct you to a better path.
It’s better to learn that now before spending hours on an article that won’t work.
Don’t worry about it being formal or getting vibes from 6th grade about proper layout. All you’re doing here is expanding on your topic and where you plan to take it.
3. Confirm guidelines and details
This will set you apart from other contributors. Apart from the blog’s overall style, the site manager likely has preferences on how long the article should be. You don’t want to deliver 1500 words and find that they like to keep it under 800.
If you really do your homework, you can finesse some brownie points by confirming details instead of asking up front:
“I noticed that you run a single featured image for each article. Unless you prefer to set them yourself, I will be happy to provide one.”
Here are some details to cover before you turn in a draft:
- Length of the article (word count)
- Images throughout the article? A featured image?
- Image format and sizes
- Do you need a featured quote?
- How many external links are acceptable?
If you get agreement on those details up front, there’s hardly room for confusion or mixed expectations.
If it feels like you might be pestering them with too much up-front approval, then rest assured that there are some things you can safely assume. For example, whether or not they include guest author bio will depend on how they format their blog.
Do don’t ask. Send a bio-ready headshot and a short summary of yourself. Just assume they’ll use it.
If they use it, you’re saving them from having to chase you down for that one final step. If they don’t use it, no harm done.
4. Submit your draft as a Google Doc.
I’ve said it before, the collaborative element of Google’s docs and spreadsheets only grows in value.
When you submit your article as a Google Doc, you can get instant and specific feedback about the article. It helps to see that they want a question answered in your 4th paragraph where they can mark the sentence right on the page.
Your changes are instantly available, and you don’t have to send updates back and forth. Just a quick note that “I’ve made the edits you requested” is all you need.
We like Google docs because they’re free to use and universally understood. Microsoft’s Office 365 also provides online collaborative software, but we’re in the camp that it’s a bit clunky.
5. Be on time
This matters. This matters so much.
The up-front tip is to set a reasonable deadline. That’s the easy part, however…
We miss deadlines. It happens. What’s most memorable is how you manage it. If you’re going to be late or unable to deliver a well-fleshed article by the time that you promised, then address it early. If you can give notice (before the deadline is hours away), that gets a lot more mileage.
- Explain that you won’t be able to deliver a quality article on time.
- Suggest a new deadline and ask if it’s okay.
Do the same with feedback, too. You’ll need to set expectations for when you can turn around edits based on the comments they give you on your first draft.
6. Share and Engage
Pull your weight and help promote your article. Share it across your social media channels. A well-performing piece of content will go far in getting you invited back.
Another thing that’s important is to engage with comments. We set up our blog’s guest authors by their email address so that they get a notification with new comments.
That’s a great scenario for you to not have to babysit the comments. However, it’s not always a guaranteed setting. Check back occasionally throughout Day 1 (publish day) or create a system so that you can stay on top of comments and answer questions or get people to expand on what they wrote.
Bonus points: Include extras
Blog managers and the site’s content team have a lot of housekeeping to manage. If you can provide them with a few extra bits of content, you’re going to shine in their eyes.
Write a short, actionable summary of what the article is about. Keep it under 160 characters.
Anyone who wrote a sample Facebook post to share along with the article would be a golden child in my book. Write a few short tweets while you’re at it. And though Twitter lets you expand into 280 characters, some social media managers insist on the original 140 (counting the link). Keep it short.
Contributing a guest post might be a strong move for your brand this year. It helps with exposure, writing practice, potential links, and being able to bounce your ideas off a new audience. We strongly urge you to reach out to people one-on-one so that you can “match with” a relevant brand. However if you want to try submitting to larger publishers, you might have luck through this extensive page of blogs that accept guest posts and contributions.