Yesterday, we published the second post in a series of guest posts written by author Greg McFarlane here at ProBlogger. And recently you’ll have noticed our multi-author series on generating blog comments.
So today I thought it might be interesting to talk about the thinking behind trying out series, and step through some of the pitfalls you’ll want to avoid if you consider hosting a guest post series on your own blog.
A little history…
If you’re a regular ProBlogger reader, you’ll know that we really love to feature other bloggers here. This is something that’s really important to me, as a way to give back to the blogging community by providing a platform for exposure and learning opportunities.
Over the years I’ve tried a variety of approaches to publishing guest posts, as I’ve found that audience preferences and interests change over time, as the industry and technology evolve. In an effort to go more deeply into specific topics, I decided to try building series into my guest posting schedule this year. I’m hopeful that this approach will have a few advantages for my readers:
- a deeper, richer look at certain topics
- the chance to publish curated content written by topic experts, which would put my readers in direct contact with bloggers who focus specifically on the questions that you have
- more coherent opportunities to learn from experienced bloggers
- stronger opportunities for readers to connect with others who were also following the same series closely, and so share your interests or issues.
Commissioning a series
If, like me, you rely on would-be guest posters to come up with the topics that they want to write about, creating a series will probably require you to change your approach a little.
Firstly, and most obviously, you’ll need to commission the series—ask a blogger, or group of bloggers, to write the content. This can be a big shift for some bloggers, but if you’ve established a good rapport with your guest posters, and know where their interests lie, you should be able to come up with a good plan for a series, and put a name against each post (or the series as a whole) fairly easily.
My plan for the single-author series we’ll start publishing tomorrow began with a goal I gleaned from my ProBlogger census: teach some methods for selling blog products in a tough economy.
From there, you could map out the series yourself, listing the topics you want each article to cover. That’s probably a good way to set your own expectations of what the series should contain, to make sure it meets your readers’ needs.
However, my content manager Georgina decided to take a looser approach to commissioning the series. She got in touch with a blogger she felt had expertise in the field of monetization and finance, explained the goal to them, and invited them to submit a series outline if they were interested.
This can be a riskier approach—especially if you’ve never commissioned content for your blog before. To give you an idea of how she pitched the idea to the author, I asked her to forward me the email she sent. Here’s what it said:
“A few people in the ProBlogger census commented that they’d like to get ideas for selling products during hard economic times. Some are selling luxury items; others aren’t, but say they target “frugal audiences.” I’m not sure where I’d go with this, but I’m guessing the series might cover issues like:
- audience targeting and close segmentation
- understanding needs/getting inside the heads of readers so you can understand what they might buy
- understanding actual buying motivations
- trying different approaches to pushing hot buttons with everything from marketing strategy to product strategy to copywriting in the effort to hone the approach to be most effective
These are just some ideas off the top of my head; I’m sure you’d have plenty of others. What we’d be looking for would be structured, prescriptive, perhaps tutorial-style content that readers could work through at their own pace.
I’m not sure if this is the kind of thing you’d enjoy working on, or if it sounds like too much work. I have another author in mind for it if you’re not keen, but I thought I’d run it past you first in case you are. Let me know either way.”
From there she was able to work with the author to map out a coherent series, but if she’d been inviting a number of authors to write the series, a clearer brief for each piece would probably have been needed.
Managing series submissions
Creating a guest post series requires you as the blogger to take on a lot of responsibility—perhaps more than with usual one-off guest posts. This is because you need to make sure that each piece in the series fits the need you’ve identified within your audience, and that it works with the other parts of the series to form a coherent whole.
A good, clear, bullet-point series brief will help you to make sure the author or authors stay on track, and should make it fairly easy to see if anything’s missing. You might want to set a schedule for delivery of the content with your author or authors, just so everyone knows when to expect the content, as well as what to expect.
Setting the publication schedule
When you contact the author/s (and when you’re planning the writing schedule with them) you might want to give them a rough idea of when you’d like to run the series on your site, as this will help motivate you toward getting the job done.
When we decided to schedule this series, we had to consider the rate of publication, as well as the dates themselves. With the comments series we ran, we decided to publish the posts on consecutive days, but with this single-autho series, we opted for weekly publication of each article—and to publish the pieces on the same day each week (Friday) for five weeks.
The reason we did this was that we didn’t want to swamp the site with a single voice for five days straight. For years, ProBlogger has presented multiple voices over the course of each week, so it didn’t feel right to narrow that scope to a single author for a week.
Also, I know that not every ProBlogger reader is interested in monetizing their blog, or monetizing through products. So to publish on such a targeted topic for five days straight would risk boring a portion of readers—which is the last thing I want to do!
Finally, as Georgina’s original email explains, the series is intended to be practically helpful, so we wanted the people who were following it to have a chance to take on and digest the information the series presents. Daily publication of a series like this might overwhelm readers—again, not something we wanted to do.
If you’re publishing a multi-author series, however, daily publication may be appropriate, especially if the ideas are simple to grasp (as was the case with our series on comments). Ultimately, how you schedule your series will depend on the topic, your audience, and your regular publishing schedule.
Tips for a successful series
- Know what you want, and be clear about communicating that to your author or authors.
- At the same time, let the author develop the content using their knowledge and skills—you chose them for their expertise, so let them use it.
- Don’t start publishing a series until you have all the parts of it in hand, and you’re happy with all of them.
- Don’t forget to interlink parts within the series as they publish, so that the content remains useful for as long as possible after publication.
- Work with the author/s to get as much traction from the series as possible, perhaps using social media, comments, etc. to maximize exposure and conversation or buzz.
Have you ever run a guest post series on your blog? Do you have any tips you can add—or questions you’d like answered? Let us know in the comments.