This guest post is by Alexis Grant of AlexisGrant.com.
But smart ideas are only half the battle. The difference between pitching a thought-provoking post and pitching a thought-provoking post that gets accepted is making it easy for your editor to say “yes.” In other words, go beyond providing awesome, unique content and make accepting your post a no-brainer.
As editor of Brazen Life, I see aspiring contributors make the same mistakes again and again—mistakes that make me groan and delete. Here’s what you’ve got to remember: the editor you’re pitching is a person with a job to do, just like you. And the easier you make their job, the more likely they are to publish your post.
Here are five steps you can take that will make it easy for editors to say “yes” to your guest posts.
1. Write in the “you” voice, not the “I” voice
Readers want to feel like you’re talking to them, offering helpful advice and ideas—not like you’re talking about yourself. While the occasional anecdote can be effective, your best bet is to start out your post by talking to the reader, and writing about how what you’re about to share will change their life. Then delve into your personal anecdote.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Writing in the “I” voice might turn out a post that begins like this:
“I’ve always had trouble paying back my student loans.”
Writing in the “you” voice would look more like this:
“Having trouble paying back your student loans?”
The “you” there is only implied—“[Are you] having trouble paying back your student loans?”—but it’s still there. Here’s another option:
“Lots of students are having trouble paying back student loans. If you fall into this camp, listen up.”
That’s not the catchiest intro, but you get the idea—it’s written with “you”s rather than “I”s. This concept is essential throughout your piece, but most important in your introduction.
2. Don’t bury the lede
The biggest problem I see with guest posts is that they fail to have a focused introduction that tells the reader what they’re about to get—and tells them right away. In journalism, we call this “burying the lede.”
You only have a few seconds to catch and keep the attention of your reader. That means you can’t spend two paragraphs getting to the meat of your idea. Instead, you’ve got to get a running start, at least hinting at your main point from the very beginning.
If you’re having a hard time with this, see what happens if you chop off the first graph or two. Is it possible the piece would actually be stronger if you started with the second or third paragraph?
Even writers who offer fabulous ideas throughout their piece often have a weak introduction. Give your first few paragraphs extra care; they’ll make or break your post. And your editor will be particularly happy if s/he doesn’t have to rewrite your intro.
3. Write a great headline—even if you don’t have to
You may not be required to write a headline for your post, but guess what? It makes your editor’s job easier. The headline can be the hardest part; it’s got to be catchy, relevant and SEO-optimized. And it should match the voice of the other headlines on the site.
That means it will probably take some time to come up with a good one. But rather than completing your post and pitching it straight away, consider the extra effort it takes to create a fabulous headline part of the assignment.
There’s an added bonus here, too: if your headline is great, more readers will read, share and comment on your post. You’ll get more clicks on the link in your byline and more return for your investment. If you leave the headline up to the editor, there’s a chance they’ll come up with one that will serve you well, but if you take the time to do it yourself, you know you’ve done all you can to maximize eyes on the post.
Of course, it’s always the editor’s prerogative to change the headline, but that shouldn’t keep you from giving it your best shot. And take it from me—your editor will appreciate it!
4. Follow the publication’s link policy from the get-go
Each publication has its own policy about including links within the post¸ So either look for those requirements within the publication’s guest post guidelines, or ask the editor ahead of time.
At Brazen Life, we love to see links within the post so long as they’re relevant and helpful to our readers; in fact, we don’t run posts without links. But some publications have different preferences, often asking, for example, that the writer not link to his or her own blog. Getting this right the first time will make your editor’s day that much easier.
5. When in doubt, create a list
Having trouble getting your ideas across succinctly? Lots of us do, and lists can be a great help with that.
Here’s the good news: lists are popular with readers, too. Most posts with “5 Tips” or “5 Pieces of Advice” or “5 Reasons” get lots of clicks, which means if you’re good at writing list posts, you should do it.
I hate to advise this initially, because it’s so refreshing when a writer offers an awesome post that’s not written as a list or in bullet format. But bullets do make posts easy to read online. And if you’re struggling to write a helpful post, bullets can make it easier for you to convey your main ideas.
Following these tips—and making your editor’s job easy—won’t just help you land one guest post. If you abide by these suggestions, write a clean post and offer thought-provoking content, they’ll want you to write for them again down the line. And that means lots more guest posts in your future.
Do you have any tips you can add to this list? We’d love to hear them in the comments. And if you’re looking for other ways to use guest posts to attract new readers, stick around—later today, we’ll see how accepting guest posts on your blog can boost your traffic levels.