My first foray into social media and search was via writing copy. I worked for a design firm and often wrote and tweaked website copy for clients to make it appealing to both humans and web crawlers. Later, when I moved more into SEO, part of my job became guest blogging. This changed the game, as I had to generate leads for writing opportunities on top of creating good content.
In a recent blog post from the Google blog, Matt Cutts discusses upcoming algorithmic changes focused on identifying webspam and “content farms,” which are sites that contain junky and unoriginal content. Those changes are now in effect, which means it’s imperative that writers pay close attention to the relevance and quality of their words.
But we need to go a step further. Writers represent the company they work for, as well as the client. Showing professionalism from start to finish is important. Here are some guidelines I follow for guest blogging, which have earned me writing opportunities, solid search results, and client praise. These standards can be applied to any kind of writing, not just guest blogging.
Know Your Audience:
No matter what kind of writing you do, understand who you’re pursuing: not only the blog’s readers, but also the blog owner for whom you are writing. Remember that you may want to write more than a single post for this site, and that a relationship is formed over a series of interactions. There may be times when sending a form letter out to multiple bloggers is appropriate, but I prefer the pitch letter. It’s more personal and invites a relationship. In it, I include the name of the blog owner, the title of the blog, and something that I like about it. Then I pitch my idea, including how it will fit with other posts, or fill a gap in the blog. For example, I recently pitched an idea to a travel blog mentioning that while most travel blogs are posting about ways to save money on travel, I was interested in writing a post about splurging instead.
Do Your Research:
Why this blog? There must be a reason you chose it. It must lend some sort of relevancy to your cause. But it shouldn’t solely be about what the guest blog will do for you. What are you offering to the blog? You may want to briefly highlight any publicity you can gain for the article you write, as well as the fact that they are receiving unique and quality content. A word of caution: always make sure that the blog you are writing for holds the same or similar standards as your company and clients. Look for questionable language, poor quality inbound and outbound links, and other red flags before pitching your idea and wasting everyone’s time. And when you finally go to write that post, make sure your information is solid. Be trustworthy. Be an authority. Write what you know.
In your research, you will have noted the style of the blog. Are the posts first-person accounts or third person articles including lists and tips? Follow the style of the blog, but let your own voice shine. At the same time, be careful not to overpower the regular voice of the blog. Remember you are a guest. It’s also important to adhere to the standards of writing style and format. No more double spacing after a period. Never duplicate content from another site. Check for misspellings and grammar mistakes. And finally, give your ideas time to grow and solidify. That first draft really is a draft. Resist the temptation to send it off right away. Let it sit for at least 24 hours before you edit and finalize it.
When you’ve hit send, it’s not over. Catalog your resources and keep good records of where you posted, what you posted, and why you posted. Keep up your relationship with the site owner, after you’ve kindly thanked them for the writing opportunity and he or she has provided you a link to your guest post. Follow them on Twitter, if they tweet, or get Linked In. Follow those that retweet you. It’s likely they may do so again. And don’t forget to check in for any comments your articles has garnered after you have publicized your post. There’s a reason it’s called social media.