Some Guest Blog Owners Need A Reality Check
Today, while browsing through LinkedIn, I came across a post from somebody whose professional description described him or herself (cryptic I must be) as the manager of a guest blogging program at a relatively well-known website.
The post adjured those thinking about starting their own guest blogging initiatives to raise their standards.
Don’t make it too easy for them, the post exclaimed! Filter out the dross! Demand originality! Make your submission guides watertight! And so on and so forth.
Although I’ve been trying to limit my LinkedIn feed screen-time, the post caught my attention.
Had anybody written anything controversial in the comments, I thought to see?
Unsurprisingly no (LinkedIn isn’t really the best ground to start picking fights!)
So instead of starting a fight with the marketing managers of LinkedIn, I decided to bring my dissenting opinion here.
Guest Posting Has To Be A Two Way Street
Everybody’s heard the phrase ‘beggars can’t be choosers.’
But when it comes to guest posting, it seems as if that concept has been inverted and then stretched to the furthest bounds of belief.
Firstly, let me make a few things clear:
- I realize that countless marketers do abuse guest posting programs to attempt to shove terrible content onto unsuspecting webmasters solely to accrue backlinks. Believe it or not, even as a humble freelance writer with a website (which has never hosted a guest blog), I regularly receive spam from backlink-pushers that are completely irrelevant.
- I realize that guest posting can be a powerful part of an inbound marketing strategy. It exposes authors to new audiences has ancillary SEO benefits (namely backlink generation), and allows webmasters to grow their own audience. In other words, I’m not anti-guest blogging at all. And that isn’t the point of this post.
However, there’s an elephant looming the room that those who would have writers adhere to incredibly detailed submission requirements would do well to understand. This goes for Medium publications as well as blogs, by the way.
Wait for it:
YOU’RE ASKING FOR A FREEBIE!
Or let me put that another way:
YOU’RE NOT OFFERING ‘DEM WRITERS NO CASH!
Clearly, this doesn’t apply in the case of guest posts that do pay contributors.
But those are in the slim minority.
After my attention was piqued, I dug a little deeper into the submission requirements of the organization which this individual represented.
There, I found the usual exacting laundry list of requirements, delivered in the usual condescending and sometimes even hostile tone that could be summarized as ‘do this or else….. back to the garbage heap your blog post goes’
- Your submission has to be completely original
- We’ll be checking every submission for plagiarism! Be warned! (OK, it didn’t really say ‘be warned,’ but I’m pretty sure I’ve come across those that do!)
- You’ll need to write at least 2,000 words with X external links
But the best was yet to come.
The guidelines stated that the team regularly purges old writing from the blog to prioritize the latest and greatest thinking.
So if they’ve decided that your post isn’t quite fresh enough — boom! Your freebie — and backlink — go out with the morning garbage.
How’s that for a fair deal?
Collectively Punishing Authors Isn’t Fair
When you stop and think about it, today’s guest blogging landscape has turned into something of a theater of the absurd.
This is particularly true for anybody whose interest in contributing an unpaid blog stems from a personal rather than a commercial desire.
There are those of us out there who just like having places online to share ideas among all the backlink hunters.
Writers are asked to abide by conditions that are often delivered in a tone that feels downright adversarial. To be up for consideration for an “opportunity” that offers no financial benefit.
Or look at it this way.
First, they paid writers to write. Then writers wrote for “exposure.” Now — sometimes — guest blogs ask for writers to pay for the privilege of having their words published. It would be funny if it weren’t true.
Blog managers are understandably aggrieved at the volume of rubbish they need to sift through whenever they add the keywords ‘guest blog’ or ‘write for us’ to their homepage. That’s understandable.
But it’s also relatively easy to differentiate thoughtless web scam from sincere contributions to add value. Rather than put writers at pains to jump through hoops, it’s a skill they should consider developing themselves.
Assuming, as the default position, that everybody that wishes to contribute to your website is a parasitic backlink leech that needs to be kept in check through a demeaning list of requirements isn’t the way to go.
Because ultimately (excuse the Caps Lock shouting) even if you think that what they’re likely to send on is junk:
ALL YOU HAVE TO OFFER IS EXPOSURE!
And guess what? The people keeping your guest blog alive can’t pay their mortgage with that.
A Fairer Paradigm For Guest Blogging
I think that both webmasters and content producers need to figure out a new paradigm for guest blogging that works for both parties (this goes for Medium publications too). Irrespective of whether the latter work for companies or just represent themselves. Things have spun out of hand and it’s time for a recalibration.
In this revised paradigm, both parties could pull their weight so that guest blogging is a fair deal for both sides and not just for the publishers.
Here’s what I think a reasonable set of conditions might look like:
- Should offer something of substance to the website owner’s readership which delivers value relevant to their audience
- Should submit writing that is high quality, well researched, and non-promotional in nature
Guest blog hosts:
- Shouldn’t shift the responsibility for complying with a huge list of submissions requirements onto writers. If they want to benefit from free content, they should be prepared to invest in editing resources to ensure conformity to a style guide
- Shouldn’t arbitrarily remove guest posts from their blogs
Promotion should be a shared responsibility — not foisted entirely on the authoring party whose reach is almost bound to be smaller.
Guest blogs that do pay their contributors should feel free to be as demanding as the New York Times in terms of specifying what they accept.
Although for some guest blogs, even that would be asking for them to turn things down a notch.
Many guest blogs have shifted the blame for poor quality submissions onto the world at large, trapping sincere authors in a hopelessly large and unfair dragnet.
As a guiding principle, I believe that submission requirements should be commensurate with the compensation offered.
And if that’s none at all, then guest blog hosts should be modest and reasonable in what they ask of those writing for them for free. They should also treat them with courtesy.
Writers that support guest blogs with unreasonably stringent demands by continuing to contribute free writing to them are creating unreasonable expectations among clients and doing their fellow writing professionals no favors.