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How to Fill the Giant Guest Post Hole On Your Blog

This guest post is by Joel Zaslofsky of Value of Simple.

Is there a sign on your blog silently screaming, “Please don’t help me grow?”

It’s a shame that most of us put that sign up without even noticing.

From the newest bloggers to the most well-established ones, that’s what happens when you don’t have clear and public guest post submission guidelines.

Even if you don’t want guest posts right now, this is still crucial.

And it’s vital for publishing that first guest post on your blog or breathing some fresh air into a stagnant posting pattern.

There are surprising benefits to creating or updating your guidelines, not to mention huge perks in making them public. Here, I’ll share these hidden benefits with you and explain how even little blogging fish can become bigger, stronger swimmers.

A sad and frustrating story

I don’t need to remind you of the value in guest posting for others. But how many times have you wanted to guest post somewhere and given up because you had no idea:

  • what the submission process was (e.g. who to contact and how)
  • what topics they’re interested in
  • items to include in your pitch to increase your chance of a “yes”
  • when to expect a response and what will be in it
  • what the post specifications are
  • how they will promote your guest post if it’s published
  • whether they’re even taking guest posts right now?

It’s annoying when this happens, right? “Well, it’s their loss,” you think as you lament how much they’re missing out or resent the unnecessary barriers they put up.

Don’t make other people think this about you! Don’t scare away great guest posters and make people give up without you ever knowing.

My experience

When I first started guest posting, I was ripping out the little hair left on my very bald head. Why couldn’t someone take a few minutes to let me know how I should approach them, what to include in a submission, and if they even take guest posts?

You’ll never have to worry about this again by creating (or updating) your guest post submission guidelines.

Now, some people have accused me of going overboard in my own guest post submission guidelines.

Yeah, they’re long. But navigation is easy and I cover dang near any question someone could dream up. When I scare people off, it’s not because I didn’t set expectations or tell them how it could all go down.

Benefits of creating guidelines

As I fused my own guidelines from the best ones I could find—and with the help of the awesome resources for creating your own coming up at the end of this post—I became better at pitching guest posts.

How? Here are just a few ways:

  • Steve Kamb’s guidelines at Nerd Fitness say I should have credible examples and sources to back up my writing? I better promise my guest post will be more than just my opinion.
  • ProBlogger’s guidelines say it can take up to 10 days to review a submission? I better not annoy them with a quick follow up asking for a status.
  • Tyler Tervooren’s guidelines at Advanced Riskology say he does field reports instead of guest posts? I better prove how I’m a pillar in his community and explain the story I plan to tell.

I also became a better writer by seeing what was important to some of the best writers around. If writing a post in a certain style, voice, or format was essential to the top dogs, maybe it should be essential to me too.

As you explore other people’s guidelines, you better understand how certain topics are huge and why they’re  relevant to being a great blogger. Your knowledge about word counts, picture formats, writing a good by-line, and the appropriate use of links will skyrocket.

You also realize there are some mandatory parts of good guidelines—like how the submission process works and what topics you’ll consider—but much of this is personal preference. While there are many wrong ways to write your guidelines, there certainly isn’t “one true way” to do it.

So what about the benefits of publishing your guidelines?

Stellar perks of publishing guidelines

This is where the real magic begins. Polished guidelines have more perks than you can shake a stick at! I’m tempted to list them all, but here’s just a sampling.

1. Heighten legitimacy

If you went through all that trouble to write awesome guidelines, it must be because people are banging down your door to guest post. Right? *Wink wink, nudge nudge* And everyone wants to run with the cool and popular kids. Newer and smaller bloggers take note.

2. Reduce poor quality, poor-fit pitches

People know you mean business with your guidelines and therefore need to step their game up. You’ll still get an occasional poor pitch from someone who didn’t read the guidelines, but at least you’ve done your part.

3. Limit annoying back-and-forth

If a person gets the submission right the first time, you won’t have to exchange twenty emails setting expectations and getting what you need.

4. Avoid formatting hell

When you spell out how you want an accepted guest post formatted, you spend less time and generate less stress manually tweaking it.

5. Reject submissions using objective criteria

It’s much easier to say no to someone—and they’re less likely to be offended—when you rationally justify why their pitch isn’t a match for your blog. Just point them to the guidelines.

6. Get more breaks

Ultimately, getting more guest posts you want to publish means you can work on something else. Or perhaps do something we all need more of, like take a breather.

Amazing guideline resources

I promised some awesome guideline creation resources a moment ago and now I’m delivering. If you want to learn how to create the best dang guidelines in the business, you want to read all of these articles.

This isn’t where the story ends

After you publish your guidelines (which you’re going to do now, right?), don’t feel the need to justify them. Your blog is your platform. It’s your online home. And nobody comes into your house and tells you how to run it.

I’ll just add one more thing that Georgina pointed out to me in an email exchange.

Guest posts on your blog get shared, get noticed, and help you attract people to your community who might never have come otherwise. My first guest post hosted on the Value of Simple was humbly promoted by an author who just so happened to have a large community. And by following my guidelines, we knew his guest post was a perfect fit for my community and would have the greatest possible impact for both of us.

You could get amazing pitches for guest posts without guidelines, but the odds are stacked against you. Why cause needless pain and frustration when guaranteeing welcomed, qualified, and inspired submissions are just a guidelines page away?

Joel Zaslofsky is the architect of the free Personal User Guide and helps people like you Start Investing with $100. When he’s not enjoying nature or chasing his son around the house, he’s doing a Continuous Creation Challenge at Value of Simple to help you cultivate a simplified, organized, and money wise life.

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This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you'd like to guest post for ProBlogger check out our Write for ProBlogger page for details about how YOU can share your tips with our community.

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Comments

  1. Dave Rowley says:

    Hi Joel,

    What a great and fresh take on the topic of guest posting. I’ve read a lot about putting together guest post for other blogs, but given little thought to the other side of the equation. Your point on building legitimacy for your own blog by having guidelines up was an aha! moment for me.

    It got me thinking, and I recognized that after coming across a great blog my first instinct is to check for guest post guidelines, so I can see if I might be a fit. It’s kind of a reflexive vetting thing I do.

    I really see the value in putting my own guidelines together, thanks for the great resource links, too. I look forward to checking them out.

    • Hey Dave,

      Different people will key on different aspects of this post. But one of the most important ones is what you touched on: building legitimacy in a rather simple way. I’ve seen and personally felt the added respect that comes along with great guest post guidelines.

      If only I could only get some people to follow them…

  2. Kevin Ocasio says:

    Great tips Joel! I’m looking to begin accepting guest posts on my blog so your post comes in real handy ;) And thank you for “guideline resources” … off to read those next!

    • You got it Kevin. Some of this post was original thought, but a decent chunk was the curated and synthesized wisdom of others. The resources I link to here are just as valuable – if not more valuable – than the post itself.

  3. Very nice post, Joel, and thanks for the shoutout!

    I have to say that having clear, thorough guidelines really helps us, as a blog. If someone has read through them, they know exactly what to do, what we accept and what’s expected of them (and of us in return!)

    And we certainly get higher quality guest posts because of it, which creates a fantastic win-win – our blog delivers good content to our readers, and readers are very happy with the content they receive. That helps the guest posters out phenomenally.

    True, each guest post we receive goes through a very tough process (fondly known as The Gauntlet over here), but the advantage is that landing a guest post on Men with Pens has become a mark of honor.

    Anyways, all that to say… great post, and anyone trying to land a spot on their preferred blog should pay attention to your post right here!

    • Hi James,

      Men with Pens was the first resource I came across when trying to put together my guest post submission guildelines. I could have easily just tweaked yours a bit, called it a day, and have been happy. The aggregator in me wouldn’t make it that simple though.

      Perhaps I’ll have something worthy of running “The Guantlet” soon. A mark of honor – but more importantly being able to provide a ton of value for someone else’s community – is always a challenge I’m up for.

  4. Bobbi Emel says:

    Wow, great tips, Joel! This gives me a lot more structure for when I create my own guidelines. Which better be soon according to you and your research!

    • Bobbi, you don’t seem to be having trouble landing guest posts in prominent places. :)

      You’re quite a catch yourself, so people would be well advised to know what you’re looking for on The Bounce Blog. I’d be interested in reading your guidelines and having the privilege of sharing something with your community. Hop to it please!

  5. Cathy Miller says:

    Thanks so much for the shout-out, Joel. I love being in such great company.

    If I could give one tip to potential guest bloggers it is to participate by adding comments and being involved in the blog’s community. You improve your chances immensely to have a guest post published if the blog owner has gotten to know you you first.

    And my tip to the blog owner is what you explain so well here – have clear guidelines and post them. Thanks again for sharing my guest post on guest posts. :-)

  6. Great resource, Joel!

    Now I feel vindicated, so thank you, sir. When I began to flesh out my new site, one of the first pages I completed was “Submission Guidelines.” Because the site emphasizes the community of writers, I knew from the start that I wanted to share viewpoints from other authors — for all of the advantages you mention, as well as the content variety.

    Thanks for doing the research and rounding up these sources and guidelines. Before I leave, I’ll be sure to bookmark this page for future reference.

    ~Jim

    • I’ve mentioned it before, but the curator in me loves doing research and sifting through all the junk so the remnants can be valuable to others.

      I like that you put such an emphasis on your submission guidelines Jim. I doubt you personally needed much of the knowledge from this post which means your comment is even more appreciated.

  7. Ces says:

    This is a really great post Joel! I’m still new to guest blogging and it’s really not that easy. But I’m not giving up and I am looking forward to writing my own guest posting guidelines

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  8. Thanks! This is probably the most useful post I’ve read on any blog. I guess I know who I’m going to start following.

    • Wow Nisha, that’s seriously flattering! I’m glad the post had such an impact on you and please let me know when/how you implement some of the actions I recommend here.

  9. Hi Joel,

    I also accept guest posts on my blog to provide an opportunity for other small blogs like mine. I actually experienced receiving guest post pitches from advertising agencies instead of pitches for sponsored posts and the like. And it’s only now, with the help of your post, that I realized, they may be getting the wrong ideas on what I accept for guest posts. I guess, I’ll need to fire up my pen in a day or two to make the guidelines clear cut. Thanks Joel :)

    • I know what you mean Jovell. I get guest post pitches that are pretty wacky all the time. I have a response specifically for those pitches that I can just copy and paste into a reply and that saves a lot of time. However, the guest post pitches to Value of Simple that were clearly copied and pasted in a generic way get no response. Those are disrespectful to the blog owner’s time and don’t deserve to be acknowledged.

      One thing I didn’t mention in the article is having a separate email address for people to send guest post pitches to you. I know right away if someone read the guidelines due to what email address they send their pitch to. You might want to try that tactic too.

  10. rahul says:

    Superb tips joe….
    I am just begin accepting guest posts on my blog so your post will surely help me.

  11. Ali zia says:

    Hi Joe
    You have mentioned very useful tips In the post for guideline.It helps me in creating my own guideline
    Thanks for sharing nice article

  12. Emily says:

    In my guest post guidelines for one of my blogs, I give potential guest-posters a specific subject line to write in the e-mail subject line when they contact me. that way, when I get an email from somebody wanting to guest post, I know for a certain fact that they have actually read my guidelines and aren’t just some spammer using a bot.

    It works.

  13. Tony Page says:

    Guidelines are certainly desirable, but as Joel Zaslofsky comments above, getting people to follow them is a different matter. I’ve found this particularly true with the growth of guest post spammers after Google’s vaguely successful attack on spurious back links. Of course, the advent of automated software aimed at locating blogs that take guest posts and bombarding us with those stilted, obviously templated offers to supply amazing content (often on a subject totally unrelated to our sites) which – mirabile dictu – will “not cost you a penny” has not helped…

    • Good point Tony. I only try to get people to follow the guidelines. Robots and spammers don’t play by the rules and make it harder for everyone else in the process.

  14. Tammy R says:

    Oh boy, Joel. I am favoriting this one. It is everything you need to know all in one place. We just had our first guest post with no guidelines or expectations. Luckily, Patty is a pro and wrote a piece that really “fit” our site. We are definitely going to be discussing this information for future implementation. Many thanks!

    • You got it Tammy! I’m a big fan of the “one-stop-shop” blog post and my intention here was to create one on guest post submission guidelines. Sometimes I think I need to leave a more up to the imagination, but at least people at Value of Simple are used to it by now. :)

  15. I’ve been meaning to add blog posting guidelines to my website for a long time; this post just gave me the motivation and information I needed to actually get the job done. It took me less than a half hour and now I’ve got the guest-post guidelines published and available for potential guest posters and posterity.

    Thanks for the information and a kick in the pants. Now there’s one less item on my to-do list!

    • I just checked out your guidelines Kevin. It’s a great start! Way to cross something off that to-do list that will serve you well for years down the trail.

  16. Wow, this is so timely for me and definitely one to be bookmarked. Thanks Joel for your thorough research. I’ve been hesitant to put up guidelines thinking it might invite inferior writers to pitch guest posts – but you’ve nailed it, it’s all ABOUT the guidelines. A good set will actually attract awesome contributions to my site. And since I love connection, for me an added benefit is making more connections!

  17. Lee J Tyler says:

    Great, great post, Joel. I was even half way through with my Guidelines Page before I finished the article. And the links are wonderful. You give a fully rounded perspecitve of the guest post process. One thing I would emphasis is that just as you wouldn’t want to send in a manuscript to an editor with typos, you don’t want to send one to a blog administrator with typos, or ‘wrong words’ ie: words that pass the muster in the spelling checker but don’t mean what you meant to say. It is always best to print out a copy and let it sit for awhile. Even if you have a deadline. Then when you look at it on a different medium, the typos will try and scratch your eyes out. Remember, we all do it. It is the professional ones that (re) write. This is my teacher talk; just wanted to add to your great article. I am keeping this in my digital files as one of the top dog articles for reference. When you visit my blog you will see one more page on the header. ;) Many thanks for yet another great post from you!!

    • Hi Lee,

      It should go without saying that communicating with someone for the first time should require your “A” game. And when that’s sending a pitch for a guest post, making sure your writing is technically correct is almost as important as a compelling idea. Your reminder is a good one.

  18. Greg C. says:

    Great tips Joel. They were delivered with such precision, that even a “caveman” should have no problem understanding. I totally agree with # 5 – “Reject Submissions Using Objective Criteria.” One can’t say enough about that particular issue. Well I’m off to read some of the articles you provided above. Thanks again for sharing such quality content.

  19. Philos says:

    A simple way to help you reduce the number of times you spend replying to every email that asks about your guidelines and what is a good fit for your blog. Thanks for the tips Joel.

  20. Literally just minutes before reading this, I was thinking about inviting people to write guest posts for my blog.

    I did have doubts about whether or not people would want to write guest posts on my blog because I’m so new and small right now. But if there are other bloggers at the same stage that I am, we may be able to form coalitions of beginning bloggers, or something.

    I’ll have to begin thinking about my approach.

    • Hi Sarah,

      I’ll leave the rest of the massive guest post philosophy up to others. But I can assure you there are people interested in writing a guest post for you. Make it easy on them and your odds of landing your first pitch from someone else will skyrocket.

  21. Patti says:

    Joel, thank you! I’ve bookmarked this to use in creating my own guidelines. I can see the wisdom now in creating thorough and detailed guidelines. I like the pointer too, that reading through the guest post guidelines on other site can also help me with my own writing and blog post layouts.

  22. Amit Amin says:

    I was inspired to action and just wrote my guidelines. Thank you Joel!

    • Cool Amit. How about publishing them so I can take a look and know what it takes to get my guest post on Happier Human. :) Odds are I wouldn’t be science-y enough for your audience though.

  23. Emma Green says:

    I love this post, and I especially love the guidelines for guest posting on your website, Joel. They are wonderfully written, and so clear, – it would make things so much easier. The last site that I worked on had guest post guidelines posted, but I should have added a few things to them like “If you don’t follow the guidelines, your post will probably be marked as spam, and I will not respond to you.” I feel like 95% of people who contact me about posting on that site didn’t take the time to read the guidelines. And if you don’t take the time to read them, then why should I take my time to respond? I think I will go and make a couple of revisions right now!

    • Excellent Emma! The goal with my post was to get people to take action and I’m encouraged by all the people commenting that they are acting.

      I’m glad you think my post and my own guidelines are clear. If only I could combine clarity with being concise more often…

  24. Thanks Joel. Unlike Amit I haven’t got to the action part of my inspiration yet but I intend to. Thanks for doing all the research for us and then serving it up and an easy-to-digest post!

  25. Joel,
    It’s become an annual tradition for me to revisit my guidelines for guest bloggers at Managing Modern Life so it’s with great interest that I read this post. Many thanks for rounding up the best of the best ideas and putting them in one brilliant post.