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How to Assess Blog Content Submissions

When Darren announced he’d hired a Content Manager, one fan commented that she hoped this would ensure greater consistency in the quality of guest posts published on ProBlogger.

That comment points to a conundrum that every blogger faces: how can we assess guest submissions objectively? We probably find it easy to differentiate between a fabulous post and a terrible post, but it’s the gray areas that are more challenging.

Often, we’re too close to our content to be truly objective, and we can spend ages trying to workout what to publish and what to reject. The frustration associated with that can see us throw up our hands and decide to accept any submission that isn’t an absolute shocker.

Obviously, that’s not a great approach—if your guest posters aren’t up to scratch, your readership is likely to be disappointed. Over time, this can make it very difficult to maintain loyalty and, in the long run, it can damage your brand.

Who are you to judge?

If you’re early in your blogging career, you can take the approach that you’re not really experienced enough to judge others’ work. You’ve only been blogging for x months; who are you to reject someone else’s writing? After all, you’re probably trying to submit guest posts to sites yourself at the same time, and you’ll want them accepted. Should you be rejecting the work of bloggers who are in the same position as you?

I once faced precisely this dilemma on a site I was running. Who was I, I asked myself, to sort the good from the bad? There were plenty of approaches to writing that I didn’t like, but that didn’t mean they weren’t good, or valid, or worthy, right?

There was one author in particular who could clearly write, but I didn’t enjoy her work. It was nothing personal; it just was not my thing. I published her anyway—multiple times. The opportunity she gained through my site helped her to obtain book deals, and she’s now an internationally published author. She’s commented to me many times that her publication on my site inspired her to keep going—it gave her faith that she could succeed and helped increase her exposure to peers and publishers.

That might seem like proof that we should publish everything that’s not overtly awful, but it’s not. That one fabulously fulfilling success story is offset by the multitude of bad publishing decisions I made that reduced the overall standing of that site over time. It was the only site in its niche, yet it couldn’t lead the market, since it didn’t represent the best. True, it did include the best, but it also included a lot of less-than-best content.

Getting serious about submissions

If you’ve been less than stringent with your submissions acceptance policy, it’s probably time to get serious about guest submissions to your site.

The first step is to stop seeing your site as a channel (for the sake of this exercise, anyway), and start seeing it as a product in itself. Every piece of content you publish augments that product—for better or worse. Stop thinking “well, this post could interest my readers” and start asking if it will positively, actively develop your product.

In this context, it doesn’t take bad content to undermine your site. All it takes is content that doesn’t agree with your philosophy, support your direction, or speak to your readers the way you want to.

It might seem like this perspective will expand the gray areas of submissions assessment—even the good submissions can be bad now?!—but the fact is that having this as the foundation of your assessment process makes the job much easier.

Now that you’re thinking of your blog as a product, work out, in very specific terms, what it is about your product that people like. Perhaps it’s your practical focus. Perhaps it’s your emphasis on a certain specialization within your niche. Perhaps it’s your personality.

Once you’ve identified these aspects, you’ll effectively have a checklist that you can use as a very basic means to assess every submission you get.

Every time you receive a coherent piece of writing, you’ll get out your checklist. Does it have a solid, practical outcome? Does it address your specialization, or is it too broad? Does it have personality? If you answer yes to all three questions, you could be onto something.

The other great thing about this approach? It makes it easy to identify submissions with potential.

Perhaps you’ve got a good submission that just doesn’t quite have a strong enough focus on practical outcomes. Great. Now that you’ve identified this, you can write back to the blogger and invite them to add more practical information—you’ll probably even be able to suggest ways they might achieve that.

This is how I approach submissions acceptance for any publication I work with. What techniques do you use to work out which guest posts you’ll use?

About Georgina Laidlaw

Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer, and Content manager for problogger.net. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Mike says:

    I haven’t been to a point that someone could submit guest post to my blog but I see it’s valuable for many bloggers out there. I have visited blogs who accept large quantity of guest posts and truthfully, I think they don’t do a good job of keeping submission posts quality enough. Sadly, they haven’t recognized it. I wish they would, in some days, how they have hurt their readers really bad.

  2. Suzanne says:

    Excellent post, Georgina, and perfect timing for me. My business coach is getting me back to the basics because I’ve been heading in so many different directions over the years. I’m getting a solid picture of what my business is about, what it stands for, and what my philosophy for it is.

    Once I have that in place, she suggests I look at everything I want to do with my website through that particular lens to see whether it fits. It’ll be so much easier to make decisions that way and to stay on course, whether it’s guest blog posts or a new product, etc.

  3. Mars Dorian says:

    That’s a pretty cool way of addressing your submissions.
    I personally always go by feeling – with all of my decisions.
    Intellect can only take you so far.

    If I see something, and it flows with my inner being, then I go with it, no matter what my head might be telling me.

    It worked out brilliantly so far !

  4. James says:

    Some of these suggestions would seem obvious to look at something we might put on our blogs that someone else wrote. Not so obvious might be looking at the content we write the same way. I think we have all pressed publish at one time and later wondered what we were thinking.

  5. Another post I need to etch into my memory banks. Thank you, I was dithering about something that didn’t sit with what i want to present on my blog. This post clarified it so clearly for me that I reached a decision and have now formulated the rules that I will apply to myself when looking at any submissions.

    Well done and thanks again.

    Suzannah Burke.

  6. Joshua Noerr says:

    Georgina, while I rarely publish guest posts, I always make sure they align with my overarching values, and my mission statement.

    Now though, I think I need to consider it even further than that. This is excellent food for thought, and I appreciate it very much.

  7. Great article, and serendipitous timing for me! I don’t accept guest posts on my blog, but I’m in pre-launch build-up for a new site focused on creativity where I *will* be publishing guest posts.

    In fact, I’m right now madly scouring to find good writers!

    I’ve actually been concerned about how best to vet guest posts. I agree that being very clear about your focus is key. In my case, I’m also suggesting topics to writers I know.

    As submissions come in, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out! I’ll bookmark your post to reference again. :)

  8. Gues blog posts is something I too have been hesitant about. This post really clarifies some of the questions I had and gave me ideas for questions I didn’t have before. Thanks

  9. Riaz Sidi says:

    Having been an editor for a newspaper,I know this situation can be a difficult one to face – though It becomes easier over time.

    But accepting/rejecting a guest post for a blog is quite different. Although I have yet to be faced with this decision, I would imagine it to be much more difficult.

    This is obviously because as an editor of a newspaper, it would be easier to hide behind the corporate veil of the publication.

    That said, pity shouldn’t compromise the quality of a blogger’s virtual asset: their blog.

    I agree that we should treat our blogs as products with each post acting as a new outlet to channel increased readership who will be dependent on consistent high quality articles.

    And for that reason alone, there should be a level of standard for posts which are published on A-level blogs.

  10. I get daily guest post submissions for GoodlifeZen.com and WritetoDone.com. First of all I look at the pitch. Is it well-written? Does the blogger manage to engage, and sell the sizzle?

    Then there are 10 questions I ask:

    1. Does the post support the overall brand of the blog?
    2. Is the topic useful for my readers?
    3. Is the post thoughtful?
    4. Does it have original ideas?
    5. Is it well-written?
    6. Does the writer use a conversational tone?
    7. Is the post scannable (i.e. is it easy to read with short paragraphs, bolded sentences, bullet points etc)?
    8. Is the post well-structured, i.e. does it have an introduction and a conclusion (as well as something in the middle)?
    9. Is the length appropriate for the blog?
    10. Does it have a cracking headline?

    Producing great pitches and awesome guest posts is a skill that takes time to develop.

    I’ve actually now found a great way to get a string of fantastic guest posts. I mentor members of our A-List Blogger Club right through the process of writing a pitch and creating a great guest post. I do this publicly in a thread on our forum (it’s a bit like a reality show – everyone learns and it’s fun!)

    Once pitch and post are both polished, the participant gets to actually see their guest post up on Goodlife ZEN or WritetoDone.

    It’s a win-win situation: I get great guest posts and our members get thorough training.

  11. Dick Carlson says:

    I have to agree with the critics — if I follow your blog, it’s because of YOUR voice and writing skills. I’m not all that interested in someone else, so my bar is pretty high to start with when you choose to “introduce” me to another writer. (If I wanted to read someone else, I’ve got a lovely little clicker thingie right here on my desk.)

    And then, if they have a completely different “voice” than you do — even if they’re a fine writer — it’s jarring and uncomfortable. One of the skills of a mature writer is that we can write in multiple voices, versions, sounds and styles. If I’m going to guest post for Naomi Dunford I’m going to sound a little different than what I might write for Miss Manners.

    As to quality? Who defines quality? A dangling modifier here, an incomplete sentence there, some non-parallel thoughts or broken metaphors — are those knock-out factors?

    In a world where half the audience doesn’t even graduate from high school, that’s a hard sell.

  12. I love writing guest posts, I’m currently open to people guest blogging for me, I think basically although I haven’t had guest bloggers, I would just ask the person to send me their guest post and then I would review it first…

    It’ll depend on how successful your blog is, problogger will get loads of people requesting to guest blog wheras a less popular blog would have to seek out and find people

  13. I accept guest post that my readers will enjoy, I’m not that picky because everyone isn’t perfect when it comes to writing..not even me.

    Why I Hate Blogging

  14. Eric says:

    You know when I launched my first blog I accepted anyone and anything. I would spend hours at times correcting grammar and optimizing posts, but I needed content. 2 years later and I have become much more stringent about what and who I accept. I just don’t have the time anymore to sit down and correct grammar in dozens of guest posts. But if you are just launching your blog, I’d recommend taking just about anything and fixing it to your liking.

  15. usi says:

    I’ve a question that how many guest posts you receive daily?

  16. sperm hapı says:

    In a world where half the audience doesn’t even graduate from high school, that’s a hard sell.

  17. Mark Dykeman says:

    To be honest, I haven’t had to turn away any guest posts away from Thoughtwrestling yet – they’ve all been great. But I understand what you are saying here and, let’s face it, you’re dealing with a huge quantity compared to what most mortals have to read! :)

  18. This is divided in stages and we understand everything according to stages and matured according to that as well.

    You just need to keep clear what do you want in every guest post and how this guest post is going to help your readers.

    You will start learning about it once you know about the value of each post.

  19. Love the post! I would also argue that the kind of blog it is bears heavily into the quality of the guest posts. If it’s a business built around the blog, then a more free-flowing process including a wider variety of voices and perhaps looser standards would suffice.

    If it’s a company blog meant to generate leads and consulting gigs, keeping a much clearer focus on goals and the details of every recommendation in the post would be more critical, in my opinion.

  20. Carol Tice says:

    Well this is an interesting post for me! I have accepted a number of guest posts on my blog, but recently spiked one I thought was just awful.

    The post basically didn’t contain any knowledge from the author — she had clearly done a quick Google search on the topic, and then recycled a piece she saw in a major magazine, essentially.

    See it made me realize I do have one important standard for my guest posters — they need to bring fresh, original information to my readers that’s relevant to our topic. Nothing fresh? Nothing doing.

    But strange content recyclers aside, I have tried to be pretty open-minded about guest posts. I think the whole point of guests is that they present a new angle the blog owner may not have thought of. Most of mine get a lot of comments and seem to be good additions to the mix.

    Thanks again –

  21. Craig says:

    I think you definitely need to assess blog content submissions, as mentioned you need to keep the replies quality high as well as the quality of the posts/articles on the blog to keep your audience interested and returning.
    Sometimes you may not agree with a reply also, but these can get a reaction and take the blog post in a whole different direction or may produce a follow up post.

  22. Mind-boggling blog post bro. This valuable is just a really nicely structured page, just the information and facts I was hunting for. Kudos

  23. The point, that think of your blog as a product is really good because It makes you to look and examine every post objectively for high standards.