How to be smart about guest bloggers

Updated on March 9, 2015

Guest Bloggers Ahead!
Every week, I receive two or three requests to publish guest posts on my blog.

The requests come by email from people I don’t know who almost always have a Gmail address, not a recognisable company domain. And there is usually nothing in the email about the person other than a name (which often doesn’t quite match the name in the email address), and no links to any presence on the social web.

They offer to be guest bloggers, writing posts for my blog on a wide variety of subjects, some of which match topics I am interested in and/or have written about myself in the blog. More recently, many of the emails that arrive offer to create or post infographics.

Are such requests worth considering, even accepting?

In a word, no. I’ll explain why in a minute.

The typical email I get is like this one I received this week:

Hello,

My name is Chris and I have been a pro guest blogger for a number of years. I currently have a couple high-quality original posts that I think would be a good fit for your site. One is called “Social Marketing Trends in 2014.” The other is called “Copywriting Tips and Tricks in a Digital World.” So if you’re interested in either one, I can send it right along.

Thanks for your time,

Chris

That was it. No links to anything, just the email text. Nothing to make me drop everything and get back to Chris.

And this one:

Hi,

As an energetic writer and keen web enthusiast, I have the habit of browsing through informative and well-written posts and articles. I have recently come across your website (nevillehobson.com) thought that the posts are quite interesting and informative.I was just wondering, if I could contribute something to your site or not. If yes, then as a guest blogger for your site,I promise that I will be producing articles that will be entirely unique, written just for your blog and will not be posted elsewhere.

I also promise that I will comply by your rules and regulations meant for guest posting and hope that I can produce work that is in conformity to the desired quality sought by you.

Will be eagerly awaiting your response. Looking forward to forge a meaningful collaboration.

Thanks & Regards,
Samantha Jones | Writer & Editor

Samantha Jones included her Twitter handle. But no profile information there, no photo, no link to anything anywhere… nothing there would prompt me to get in touch.

And this:

Hello,

My name is Angelina and I’m a writer and editor that has a real passion for Infographics. I am associated with many communities and sites and have been providing them infographic based content on finance since quite a long time now.

I came across your site http://nevillehobson.com/ and I really liked the way you have presented it. So I was wondering if I can contribute an infographic for your site too?

The infographic would be designed by me with a short description and a link to my site [redacted].

If you agree, please let me know and I can start working on it.

Awaiting your positive response.

Until about a year ago, I used to politely reply to such emails thanking the sender but declining the offer.

I soon realized that this was a waste of time. It became obvious to me that nearly all of the people sending me email about guest blogging weren’t really interested in my blog at all – this is purely an outlet for their content that would enable them to ride on the reputation this blog offers, its readership (and content syndication via RSS and other means), and potential traffic-driving to wherever any links would take a reader.

In short, I soon figured it was more about search engine optimisation and manipulating Google PageRank than supposedly creating great content for my blog.

Now I either ignore or delete such emails that make it through the email spam filters (and you’d be surprised at how many don’t make it through: more than 60 percent).

All of this comes to mind after I read “The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO,” by Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, on January 20 in which he rings a loud alarm bell on the risks to bloggers of allowing guest blogging on their blogs, and engaging in guest blogging themselves.

[…] In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

[…] I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there.

[…] I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.

Cutts makes it clear where the risk is. It’s not guest blogging per se, it’s SEO and Google PageRank manipulation that’s the issue. And doing that can have serious consequences for the blogger on whose blog the ‘bad’ content is published.

I encourage you to read Cutts’ post in full, and watch the four videos he made that are embedded in the post. You will get a clearer idea on the full scope of guest blogging and the pros and cons.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t usually take guest posts on this blog. The few times I have, I either know the person who asks or they made a pretty good case for doing it.

I would consider one from a guest blogger I don’t personally know who has credentials and fits this profile:

  1. The first thing I’m going to do is Google your name. So I’d expect your name to show up in a Google search, with links and references to it and your work across the social web, suggesting a credible presence that I’d expect to see for someone who says they’re a “long time guest blogger” or similar.
  2. If you say you have written guest posts for other blogs, I want to see some of the posts on those other blogs that show that your content is a good contextual fit for those blogs and what they cover.
  3. Any links in guest posts to relevant content or specific sites elsewhere on the web are full links, not shortcode links, and do not include the ‘rel=dofollow’ attribute.
  4. A presence on the social web – you should have at least a Twitter handle complete with profile info, a photo and a link to another presence online, and with some longevity of being on Twitter, plus a good balance of followers and following.
  5. A presence on a mainstream social networking site such as Google+ or Facebook in addition to LinkedIn.
  6. I give more credence to someone with a domain email address rather than a Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook or Yahoo one.
  7. If your email is a mail merge one, at least make it look kind of personal, eg, consistent font formatting, no spaces between words and punctuation in the merge fields, etc.
  8. Last but not least, there must be something in your email that suggests you have at least read my blog and demonstrate that you have a pretty clear idea of the relevance of your proposed content to it.

I wonder what the next email that makes it through the spam filter will propose.

[Text updated 9-Mar-2015.]

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Laura Davies

    Hi Neville, this is a really useful and timely article from my perspective. In recent years a number of people have told me that I need to blog for professional development and I must admit whenever I think about it, the prospect is a bit of a turn-off, particularly as I think there are plenty of people out there in comms-land who are better informed than I am and much more immersed in social media than this ‘late adopter’ with ‘laggard’ tendencies. Maybe it’s a little of cutting off one’s nose, but I think it’s why I use (possibly over use) Twitter because I like its immediacy and speedy exchanges. I don’t tend to follow that many blogs because what I’m interested in is great writing and insightful opinions, not yet another “10 things you need to know about….” list.

    Recently I read a great piece about blogging (if only I’d saved a link to it) and how it’s really a very selfish process.

    Receiving unsolicited and poorly written requests such as the ones you’ve referred must be a pain and you have my sympathy. The price of success, eh?

    Of course it would be remiss of me not to mention my one and only guest blog to date for @allthingsIC Rachel Miller who invited me to write about my Masters course last year. This has given me a very convenient calling card when people ask about my career and professional background (cheers Rachel!) http://bit.ly/1l5cgMA

    Laura
    @lauradavies24

    • Neville Hobson

      I like your assessment of blogging, Laura, from your pov of the landscape. If blogging doesn’t really feel right for you – meaning, you’;re not too interested in writing content such as this blog post for the reasons you mention – that’s perfectly fine.

      There are alternative tools like Twitter as you mention, that offer you a different way to express an opinion on something, no matter the length of that content, in a way that does feel right for you.

      And of course, commenting on blog posts, such as you’ve done. Your comment is part of the social web now, with its own unique address, the URL. All part of the blogging landscape.

      • Rachel Miller (@AllthingsIC)

        Hi Neville, great post, I know we were tweeting each other only the other week about these “requests” and ways to deal with them.

        I’ve certainly seen an increase in the number of lazy messages that appear via my contact form – “Dear blogger” being a particular favourite approach. Ahem. Plus messages that make it crystal clear they have never read the site let alone looked at my guest article guidelines.

        I received an article request recently via a third party, that when I searched for the author’s name, didn’t appear to be a real person. A basic search for their social profiles revealed nothing and when I asked for clarification, the alarm bells that had already started, suddenly got a lot louder. Needless to say, that article did not make it into my publishing schedule.

        Thank you for the mention Laura, I enjoyed sharing your story via my blog. Great to hear it’s a calling card, it was a pleasure to feature you.

        I’ve published 80+ guest posts over the five years I’ve written my blog and I echo your point about author choice Neville. They have all been people I have approached or who have approached me that I’ve known of through my network, or at least have had a shared contact.

        I like your six point idea listed above, will give that some thought.

        Rachel

        • Neville Hobson

          Thanks Rachel. I agree, these requests are increasing. Maybe it’s now getting simpler to decide what to pay attention too: a cursory glance at an email will tell you in seconds whether you’ll read it or hit delete.

      • Laura Davies (@lauradavies24)

        Hi Neville, I’m not sure it’s necessarily about interest, it’s about the value I place on my time… combined with (as I said I my original comment) my recognition and appreciation of great writing. I live with a professional writer, so maybe I’m spoilt!

        Maybe I don’t feel a need to blog because I like to talk to people… though as a recent CIPR member in Cumbria, it gets a little lonely (and I’m going to do something about that)

        Or, if I could put it another way, I like your Saturday morning tweets about your breakfast shopping at Waitrose, if only ‘cos it reminds me of ‘times past’ …

        Laura

        • Neville Hobson

          Good to point that out, Laura – it’s not only about interest, as you say. Each of us defines what is our own priority and focus with these things.

          I’ll make sure I keep up the flow of Saturday baguette tweets ;)

  2. Chris Norton

    Good lord I get these same people approaching me every day and quite frankly I find blanket emails like that irritating. You are right when you say they aren’t interested in your blog or what you write about.

    It is far easier to count the ones that are from real people using real email addresses rather than these people that dare not send you their contact details or details of their own social media channels. I find it odd these people don’t want to be seen in public it makes you feel like they have something to hide.

    I still think good quality guest blogging will rein supreme. After all we like sharing content with our online friends and we want to celebrate the best writers.

  3. Tom Murphy

    I agree, I get these requests all the time, and unlike you my blog isn’t exactly a bustling center of content. I typically delete them, I know they’re part of a large spam mailing list. Thought if they keep sending them, I suspect some people must reply… sadly..

  4. Phil Szomszor (@theredrocket)

    Good piece. I get these too (I think most bloggers probably do). Like letters from Nigerian princes, you wonder if anyone actually takes these people up on their offer for great content. Somebody must do, I guess.

    It’s a shame in a way, because actually the concept of guest blogging is a good one. Although if I ever decided to do it, I’d probably go out and ask someone rather than offer. Kind of smacks of desperation imho.

    • Neville Hobson

      Guest blogging can be very good, Phil, I agree. You have to do it the right way, whether enabling others to blog on your blog or you to blog on others’. Matt Cutts’ advice is sensible.

  5. Steph Riggs

    After the Matt Cutts post about guest posts, SEO persons are looking for alternate ways of linkbuilding. Different people have different views about guest posts as some says it is still effective and some other says it is dead. I think guest post has great value today too but if these are built upon relevant websites. Your post sounds good to be a smart guest bloggers and attain top ranking quickly.

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