Blogs are increasingly important to companies for lead generation and nurturing. HubSpot even found that 55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.
With growing content needs, marketers may be inclined to invite guest bloggers to contribute content, thinking it will save time and fill a content gap. Although guest bloggers are a great option that can yield tremendous value for your brand, they are not right for every blog, and they can be more resource-intensive than you think.
If you’ve been considering a guest blogger program, use these four steps as the foundation to assess if your blog is ready for guests, and how to get your guest blogger program off to a good start:
1. Assess if Your Blog is Ready for Guest Contributors
If you only view guest writers as a way to flood your blog with content, you’re approaching the relationship from the wrong direction.
Guest bloggers must provide value for your audience with their posts. They also should mesh with your brand’s overall tone. And, most importantly, all content should ladder up to the goals for your blog.
If you don’t have an established brand voice or you do not have documented goals for your blog, you should not begin engaging with guest bloggers. Traffic can be another indicator of whether your blog is ready to support external authors. If your audience is not engaging with your existing content, you cannot say that you have honed in on your ideal brand voice or content strategy. Adding guest bloggers to the mix will only muddy the waters further.
Take the time to optimize your blog content to see if it is moving the needle for your company and resonating with your audience. If it is, you can move to step two.
2. Create Your Guest Editorial Guidelines
Once you’ve established your brand voice and see an increase in views and engagement with your blog, you’re ready to start exploring guest bloggers.
Before you should reach out to folks you’d like to partner with, you need to lay out your editorial guidelines and define what you expect from guest bloggers.
These guidelines can be as detailed or concise as you’d like, but they need to provide a complete picture of who you accept posts from, what topics you want to publish, and how you want to receive content.
Things to include in your guest blogger guidelines:
- Word count: how long do you want the content to be
- Image requirements: what images do you want them to submit, and in what format
- Submission format: how do you want the blog to be shared, and where (an upload form, an email address)
- Your company style guide: what guidelines do you have on word use and tone that you ask contributors to follow
- Republishing policies: how do you typically expect to use the content. This can vary based on your agreement with individual bloggers, but a disclaimer on your general policy can help bloggers assess early on if they still want to engage
- Typical review times: how fast should your guests expect to hear back on any edits to their post, and how quick do you expect them to make those edits
- Topic areas: list the general topics you are looking for (those that will ladder back to your goals), however, do not view this as a rigid list. One of the greatest values of guest bloggers is that they can bring new ideas to the table on how you can elevate your blog
- Link requirements: specify how many times your guest can backlink to their own content, and clarify any requirements about links to outside sources
- Content value expectations: depending on your blog, you could ask that guests achieve a quantifiable value benchmark, such as “3 key takeaways” or “7 tips”
- Key contact for additional questions: who do you want to direct folks to if they have questions
You can check out the guidelines for Content Marketing Institute, HubSpot and Social Media Examiner for some examples. Once you’ve created your guidelines, post them as a blog or a webpage that interested users can easily find. This is a solid, passive way of starting your guest blogging program.
3. Connect With Your Ideal Guest Bloggers
After you publish your submission guidelines, you may start to see submissions roll in. But you don’t want to leave your guest blogging program entirely in a reactive mode.
Get proactive in finding guest bloggers—it’s easier than you may think. Here are a few sure ways to find great blog guests:
- Ask within your existing social networks, and pin a post that notes you are looking for guest contributors
- Many industry Slack groups have channels where you can share that you are looking for writers
- Ask within your existing partner networks
- Conduct keyword research to find people actively writing about your key topics and reach out to them through social
- Tools like BuzzSumo or Klear can help you ID bloggers that frequently write about your topic and provide contact details
The main focus here is to find people who can help meet your goals and provide a genuine value for your readers, while also providing value for them to contribute. Focus on communicating to guest bloggers the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) to build a loyal roster of guest contributors.
4. Negotiate Terms and Conditions
Once you assess your potential guests and find the right fits, it’s time to discuss terms and conditions. It’s important to be completely transparent in this process and find an agreement that will be beneficial for both you and your blogger.
If you’re paying for the content, you are able to request more rights to the content, such as exclusive rights. In most cases, though, you won’t be paying and should default to requesting first rights of publication with a “this post first appeared on” note as the content is syndicated across other publications.
There is a benefit to allowing your guests to post the content on other sites, especially if it includes a link back to your blog, since it can drive new visitors who may not have otherwise found you. In the negotiation phases, you should determine a set timeframe that the content will appear exclusively on your blog. And for SEO purposes ask if your blogger is willing to tweak the content slightly for other sites it appears on.
In getting your blogger to get onboard, be sure to highlight the organic value you can provide them. This can include:
- Access to your blog audience or email list
- Amplification of the blog across your social channels (be sure to disclose the anticipated reach and audience demographics)
- Free subscriptions, event registrations, or product discounts if you are able to offer them
Once you find an agreement that works, you’re ready to partner on the content!
Guest Blogger Pitfalls to Look Out For
With the above foundation in place, you’re all set to kick off your guest blogger program. If you’re new to managing a guest blogging program, there are a few things to look out for:
- Plagiarism: It’s critical to cut ties with any contributors who are plagiarising content. A simple Google search with sections of the post in quotes can help catch if that exact phrase has appeared elsewhere, and there are also tools like Copyscape to help. One indicator of potential plagiarism is if your email exchanges with the author sharply contrast with the submitted work. Trust your gut, and if something feels off, double check the work.
- Content quality: As you open the floodgates of contributed content, you may start to get pitches from SEO farms trying to place low quality content just to get a backlink. Always revisit the goals for your blog before accepting any content. If you begin to let low quality content flood your blog, it will tarnish your audience’s view of you as a trusted leader on topics relevant to them.
- Review timelines: As with any written projects, review timelines and deadlines are critical to stay on top of. Ensure you have a clear review cycle that both you and your guests adhere to so that you don’t get off cadence in your publishing.
Unlocking New Relationships with Guest Bloggers
With the right foundation in place, your blog can thrive with a guest blogger program. You should continue to create your own content at a more frequent cadence than you publish guest posts, but the outside perspectives can bring new traffic to your site and deepen your investment in the spaces important to your readers.
Make sure to regularly revisit and revise your blogger guidelines based on feedback you receive from interested contributors to keep the process as seamless for both you and your guests. Over time, you’ll start to establish steady relationships with your bloggers, creating value for your company, your blogger, and your audience.