If you blog long enough, you’ll begin receiving guest post solicitations from those hoping you’ll allow them to contribute to your site.
When you spot those guest post solicitations in your inbox, you can feel flattered. There’s someone out there who likes your blog enough that they want to be part of it.
At least, that’s what you might like to assume right off the bat.
In most cases, however, your assumption would be incorrect.
It’s not that these would-be authors think your blog is so great. They’re just looking for one more site that will link back to their own. We call it link building and it’s one facet of SEO.
SEO stands for search-engine optimization. It’s a fancy way of referring to the little steps to get your site’s articles higher in search results. If you’re doing a good job of SEO, your article should be on the first page of search results. If you do a great job with SEO, your site might rank at the very top of the list. It matters. Think about it: When did you last scroll to the seventh page of search results to see what didn’t rank on the first page?
Search engines like Google look for several things when deciding how high (or low) to rank a site. One of them is backlinks. When I link to an article on a different site in a post, I create a backlink to that site. Google sees the number of backlinks a site has. It figures if there are a lot of sites linking back to one article, it must be worth some attention. So the search engines might move those articles higher in search results.
As Moz puts it, a backlink represents a “vote of confidence” from one site to another.
But isn’t content supposed to be “king”?
Yes, that tired old cliché does remind us that it’s content, not SEO tricks, that is king. It’s well-written, useful content that attracts readers and keep them coming back for more. If you create content that only seeks to complete the SEO checklist, it probably won’t be pleasant to read. It might be so full of keywords and links to other sites that it might not be readable at all.
You have to place a priority on what you’re writing about, not the mechanics of SEO. Yes, SEO is always important. But it must take a backseat to the content itself.
Example 1: The pitch with the wrong priority
I received a pitch at my real job for a guest post at my real job’s website the other day.
The first line was the standard, “I browsed your site and think it’s great.” A little buttering up never hurts, right?
They then jump right to business with this:
We would like to do an article with a contextually integrated permanent link (do-follow) to our partner’s website.
The partner we are looking to link is a well-established and trusted online gambling site offering sports betting, poker, casino games, and betting on horse racing.
They tell me the reason they want to write the article. But curiously enough, they do not tell me the topic of the article.
Right off the bat, they’re more focused on getting that backlink. They are not nearly focused enough on creating usable content.
They come right out and confirm that with the next line:
Please keep in mind that the article does not have to be gambling-related and the anchor text will be contextually linked with the rest of the article’s content. We are very flexible in this regard and can adapt the article to your website’s niche.
So if the topic of gambling is an area your website does not cover, no problem. They’ll write an article on something else — apparently anything else. But they’ll keep that link to the gambling site they’re looking to promote. The assurance that the link will be “contextual” is a concern. If your blog is about cooking, they might have to really stretch to come up with a post about cooking in which a link to a casino might be “in context.”
But the fact that they don’t even suggest specific topics of interest clearly displays their focus. (And their lack of focus, for that matter.)
It’s worth noting that this solicitation involved a proposed sponsored post. But I’m sure they wouldn’t want to pay the ridiculous fee I’d charge for something presented in this manner.
Example 2: Well, who’s writing this thing?
The other day, I received another of the infamous guest post solicitations that make me chuckle. This one was not a request for a sponsored post. This, on the surface, looked to be a post to written out of the goodness of the sender’s heart.
It began, as most always do, with a compliment to my site and its content. The writer even includes a link to one of my specific articles he claims to “particularly like.” Then he says this:
I write on similar topics at [redacted], and I believe we’re on the same page on a lot of things.
My idea was that, since we have a similar writing style, your audience might be interested in what I have to say. Would you be open to collaborating on a little guest post? I can send over some topic ideas if it sounds interesting.
At the end of the last sentence, instead of a period, he ends with a face-with-sunglasses emoji. People typically use it to convey someone or something is cool, chill, easy-going, or carefree. What I saw next made me think of a different adjective: shady.
When I clicked the link to the email author’s blog — assuming it was actually he who sent it — I get taken to a start page of an impressive-looking blog. I am immediately met with a sales pitch. This guy, who happens not to be wearing sunglasses, invites me with large headline text to learn his secrets.
Secrets to what, you ask? I knew you would.
I am to learn how he managed to build a blog portfolio, as he puts it, “without typing a single word myself!“
So this guy, who manages a blog (or blogs) worth seven figures took the time to visit my site? And this guy, who came to manage this seven-figure site (or sites) without writing any part of it is suddenly going to write for me?
Somehow, I doubt that. I seriously doubt that.
Am I judging these guest post solicitations too harshly?
Perhaps I’m jumping to unreasonable conclusions. That’s one reason I specifically did not identify the sender in either case.
At the same time, when you’re on the receiving end of such a solicitation, all you can do when it comes to deciding whether to accept, decline — or even reach out for more information — is to judge based on what’s in front of you.
What’s in front of me, in both cases, tells me that neither my blog nor its readers are things either is putting first.
That’s enough for me to send those emails straight to the trash can.
I’ve tried to make my position on accepting unsolicited guest posts clear. I even posted a guest post policy that, in a nutshell, says, “Sorry, not interested.”
Oddly enough, even though that page is linked at the top of the site and is visible no matter where on this site you go, those who write these guest post solicitations never seem to make it to that page.
I wonder why.