Last week I switched off my email’s spam filter for a few days.
I get so much email – and specifically so much JUNK email – that most of the time my inbox has more layers of protection than the Queen herself. Or some other super-rich and incredibly paranoid person who basically hires an entire army to look after them. My inbox is like that: but this week I was expecting an important email, and I didn’t want it to get caught up in the spam filter forever, so I switched it off… and spent the next few days being bombarded with requests from people wanting to guest post on my blog. Hundreds of them. Maybe even millions, actually. And don’t even get me started on the invitations to London-based events: that’s a WHOLE other post…
OK, I’m exaggerating a little: I’m not getting millions of requests for guest posts, but I am getting enough of them to have added a statement to my “contact” page stating that NO, I DO NOT ACCEPT GUEST POSTS, and even explaining that I’m not able to respond to enquiries about them. (By which I obviously mean “I’m not going to respond to enquiries about them.” Call me a bitch (er, please don’t: I promise I’m nice, really…), but if I’ve said I don’t do something, and you ask me to do it anyway, you’re just wasting everyone’s time. And I don’t know about you, but I have important things to do with my time: like watching Neighbours, and buying things with stripes on them, and all that jazz.)
Still the enquiries come, though. And then the follow-ups come. And then the follow-ups to the follow-ups. And then the… I should probably just remove that “I won’t respond to your email about guest posts” thing, shouldn’t I? It’s pretty obvious no-one’s reading it.
And there’s the problem: people are applying to write guests posts on blogs they haven’t even read. They’re sending poorly-worded pitches, on subjects they don’t seem to know much about, to blogs that aren’t relevant to them anyway. Then they’re getting annoyed when they don’t get a response, and sending even MORE emails, in a totally pointless attempt to basically FORCE the person they’re emailing to reply to them, and to publish their guest post.
Well, guess what? It ain’t gonna work. And no, I’ve no idea why I’ve just adopted an accent to tell you that. I stand by my point, though: this technique just isn’t going to work, and there are SO many things you could be doing rather than spending your time emailing me, that instead of rolling my eyes at your fifth email of the week asking me why I haven’t snapped up your article on the best golf holidays for the over 60s, I’m going to tell you how you COULD spend your time pitching your guest posts, instead…
Read the blog you’re pitching to.
By which I mean ACTUALLY read it. Don’t just look at the home page, copy the title of the first post and then send them an email saying, “I love your blog! I particularly loved your post about <paste in title of first post you laid eyes on>: it was so helpful!” We can tell when you’ve done that, and – to be blunt – it makes you look lazy and insincere. (And if the title of the post you just spent 2 seconds copy-pasting is something like, “How to persuade people to let you guest post on their blog”, for instance, it’ll also make you look stupid, for real.) ACTUALLY read the blog. You don’t have to read ALL of it, obviously (if it was mine, it would take you like, a year: and that’s just THIS post…), but go back a few pages, and really try to get a feel for the type of things the author typically writes about. DON’T just read the post titles, either: read the actual posts. If you really want to write for someone’s blog, you should WANT to read it. If you DON’T want to read someone’s blog, you shouldn’t be trying to persuade them to let you write for it: simple.
Ask yourself if this blog is genuinely a good fit for your guest post
I know: this is SO obvious you can barely see because you’re rolling your eyes so hard at me right now, while thinking, “Seriously, why does this woman think I don’t know this?” And you DO know it, of course, but the fact is, the majority of people who send me pitches about guest posts DON’T know it. I’ve had people ask to write about golf on my fashion/lifestyle blog. About potty training. About online bingo. About all kinds of stuff that makes me scratch my head and think, “Seriously? Has this person even READ my blog? Do they even GO here?” And no: they have not read my blog. Because they don’t CARE about my blog: all they care about is getting their link onto my site. They’re making a big mistake here, though, because me? I don’t care about their link. All I care about is my blog, so if you want to write for it, you’re going to have to persuade me that YOU care about it, too: not as much as I do, obviously, because that would be weird, but enough that you won’t write something for it that will damage it in some way – either by boring my readers (Because if anyone’s going to bore my readers, it’s going to be ME, thanks very much…), annoying the great God that is Google, or doing something else that’s likely to make my readers think, “Wow, Amber really will publish anything, won’t she? Unsubscribe!”
Guest posts on relevant sites can be a great way to get more traffic to your own blog, or to promote your business/product/whatever. Guest posts on irrelevant sites are just a waste of everyone’s time. Sure, you’ll get a link back from the blog you’re posting on, so if link juice is what you’re after, yay you! Even in SEO terms, however, backlinks are more valuable if they come from relevant sites, so I’m pretty sure that posting your spammy casino link on my personal diary probably isn’t the best use of your time, really.
Now read the contact information on the blog
If you’ve got a feel for the blog you’re pitching to, and you’ve decided that yes, it really is the one for you, the next step is to read the contact page, and any other information the blogger might have published. Actually, this should probably be your first step, to be honest: let’s pretend this point was No. 1, OK? Bloggers who accept guest posts often state that they accept guest posts, and frequently provide helpful information on what they’re looking for, too. Bloggers who don’t accept guest posts, meanwhile, might also have done their best to make that clear: so you’ll know not to waste your time pitching to them.
Some bloggers, for instance, are never going to accept your guest post, no matter how amazing and well-targeted it is. I’m one one them. It’s nothing personal, and I’m sure you’re an awesome writer, but this is my diary. It’s a personal site, and while I do write advice posts etc, they all have one thing in common: er, ME, basically. My site covers a lot of different topics, but it is, at its core, a personal blog, so unless you’re planning to don a red wig and a big skirt and pretend to be obsessed with stripes (I mean, AS IF you’d have to even pretend!), you’re probably not going to persuade me to let you take the wheel here. As I said, it’s nothing personal: it’s just that, one day when I’m old, I want to be able to scroll back through this site and see my memories laid out before me. I’m probably going to be confused enough as it is when I’m old, what will all of the drinking I’m planning to do, so having your memories mixed in with mine is REALLY not going to help me much, is it?
Er, long story short: pitching to sites which don’t accept guest posts is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Don’t do that. Quite apart from being a bit annoying, it also tells me you’re the kind of person who doesn’t pay attention to detail, and who can’t follow instructions. Neither of those qualities would make me want to work with you, would they?
Double, triple and quadruple-check your spelling and grammar
It should really go without saying that if you want to guest post for someone, you should make sure your enquiry email is well-written, shouldn’t it? Yesterday, though, I got an email with the subject line, “I would like to write on your blog a guest post”. I was tempted to open it just in case it was from Yoda (because who WOULDN’T want that dude a guest post to write?), but ultimately I just deleted it unread, because if you can’t even write an email header, why would I trust you to write an entire post?
(Any time I mention good writing, I become paranoid that I’ve made some hideous grammatical error or typo in the post, which I’ll only know about when someone comments to say, “It’s pretty rich of you to be so snooty about other people’s writing, when YOU wrote <insert split infinitive, or whatever the hell it is>!” Look, I make mistakes, and I know it: I try NOT to make mistakes when I’m applying for a writing job, though, because OBVIOUSLY. Just to be clear, though, if I was accepting guest posts, I’m not saying I’d expect the writers to all be Booker Prize Winners. Actually I think blogging lends itself to a much more conversational style of writing, which is why you will never see me describe myself as a “Grammar Nazi” – and not JUST because people who delight in nitpicking over whether someone said “less” or “fewer” (and who think it’s way cool to compare themselves to Nazis) aren’t exactly a barrel of laughs, are they? I’m just saying check your spelling and grammar, and do your best to write in standard English, that’s all.)
Provide examples of your writing
There’s a saying writers use (and which I know about purely because I’ve read books about people who are writers), and it goes like this: “show, don’t tell.” In other words, I’m not going to just take your word for it when you tell me what an amazing blogger you are: you’re going to have to SHOW me what an amazing blogger you are by giving me examples of blog posts you’ve written. It’s not rocket science, folks! (Unless you’re blogging about rocket science, obviously, in which case it actually IS rocket science, and if I were you, I’d go around saying that A LOT.)
Relevant examples of your writing
I once had someone email me asking if he could write a guest post for ShoeperWoman.com. He said – and I swear I’m not making this up – “I’m not really interested in fashion – I normally write about fish – but I’m sure I could write something about shoes if I had to”. Then he linked to a bunch of articles about fish. Naturally I couldn’t reply quickly enough to sign myself up for those fishy fashion guest posts, except no, I didn’t, did I? The thing is, writing is competitive: yes, even writing for silly little fashion and lifestyle blogs. When there are dozens of fashion writers emailing me every week with offers of guest posts, why would I chose to go instead with a fish writer who admits he isn’t remotely interested in the topic of my blog, but who thinks he could probably throw something together if he absolutely HAD to? It’s like going to a job interview and saying, “Yeah, I don’t really want to work here, but I guess if I got the job I’d just have to give it a go: I mean, how hard can it be, really?”
If you’re sending me writing samples, make them relevant. Maybe it’s just me, but the fact that you can write an in-depth analysis of the mating habits of tropical fish doesn’t really give me much insight into your ability to write light-hearted fashion and lifestyle posts, you know? Oh, and if you don’t HAVE any relevant writing samples to send? WRITE SOME. Ideally on a blog of some kind. Because the fact is, if you email me asking to write on MY blog, and you tell me YOU don’t even HAVE a blog, I’m going to be all, “WHUT? Why U no have a blog?” It’s not that there’s something weird about not being a blogger, obviously (I hear there ARE some people out there who aren’t…): it’s just a bit weird to be telling me how much you want to blog for me, when you’ve apparently never even tried it, you know?
This is actually a tip for life in general, not just for blogging, but it’s amazing how many people fail to be nice, even when they’re asking someone to do them a favour. One of the emails I got last week, for instance, was from a girl who wanted to write a guest post on a topic totally unrelated to my blog. When I hadn’t replied to her email by the next day, she started sending demanding follow-ups, basically scolding me for not getting back to her fast enough. Now, I’d had no intention of replying at all, because if I replied to every single person who emails me about things I’ve specifically said I don’t do, I wouldn’t have time to write 2,000 word blog posts every day, but even if I HAD been in the market for a guest blogger, and even if her work HADN’T been totally off-topic, I still wouldn’t have allowed her to post on my site, purely because she sounded difficult and kind of rude, really, and who wants to deal with that? Not me: so BE NICE people – it’ll serve you well, I promise.