How Not to Request A Guest Blog Post – A Real Life Example

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UPDATE: I was contacted by the company that sent the emails outlined below, and was informed that the person who contacted me was new. I was also offered a prompt apology. For that reason, I have removed the references to the individual and the company he works for from the post.

The following article is two parts: The first part is the story of how someone working on behalf of a well-known university went out of his way to insult and annoy me in the course of requesting I publish a guest post. The second part is the free marketing advice.

If you’re not interested in the story (and I don’t blame you if you’re not), feel free to skip to the marketing advice  in the “What We Can Learn From This Story” section.

Some Background

One of the services we provide at Spork is guest blogging on behalf of clients. For a fee, we will:

  1. Generate article ideas that incorporate our client’s business focus and the keywords that they’re trying to rank for
  2. Massage these ideas to fit the focus of a specific blog (or type of blog)
  3. Pitch these articles to bloggers and hopefully, place them all quickly and easily

It’s been my experience that most bloggers will be happy to accept a guest post if it’s relevant, interesting, and of course well written. To date, we’ve placed 100’s of guest posts on a wide variety of topics and sites. I’m not saying we’re the best of the best here, but we’re definitely not bad.

What’s more, because of my experience with this process, I always take the time to seriously consider “pitches” that are sent my way.

The Story

Last week, I was pitched an article about Six Sigma inventory control methods for auto parts retailers. The article was well written, and while it was perhaps a bit on the long side, I liked it well enough to publish it.

However, the person who pitched the article (let’s call him Grant) wanted me to publish the article on AccurateAutoAdvice.com (a site I own that I created years ago and now just sort of sits), and I declined. My reasoning? AccurateAutoAdvice.com is a website that offers car buying tips and advice to consumers – not really a resource site for parts retailers interested in using six sigma.

However, rather than dismiss the article out of hand, I instead offered to publish it on the SporkMarketing.com blog. Grant’s response to my counter-proposal was off the mark – and the start of where things went wrong. First, he offered to write me another guest post for Spork and reiterated his interest in placing the post on AccurateAutoAdvice.com. Next, he talked down to me a bit saying:

When I visited your site accurateautoadvice.com, I took the time to read through the site to make sure that the article I provide you would fit well. To be a bit more specific, accurateautoadvice.com is obviously about auto advice which is the premise behind the article I wrote and provided to you. Sporkmarketing.com is a well built site and I do see the value in it but this particular article does not fit this site at all. I try and write articles that fit the sites where they will be posted as Google gives more link juice/credit when articles are related to the site itself or they give you less credit or even demote page rank when links point to sites coming from unrelated sources.

This was wrong because:

  1. It’s silly to tell a blogger whether or not a guest post is good for their site, especially as in such a way to make it sound like I’m missing the point. It’s my blog, it’s my call, and even if I’m wrong (and I don’t think I was in this case) this isn’t a good way to get me to reconsider.
  2. The explanation of how Google treats links is a bit condescending considering my background. When we contact bloggers, we try to learn about them first so we communicate to their experience. That way, we don’t try to explain how SEO works to an SEO consultant.
  3. None of the business about link juice matters here. When you contact a blogger about a post, you shouldn’t try to teach them about the way SEO works – you should focus on providing quality content that sparks their interest and that’s it.

At this point, I’m over it. The post doesn’t work for AccurateAutoAdvice.com, and since Grant doesn’t seem to understand why, I’m not interested in either his original article or anything else he would write. We’re just not on the same wavelength. I sent an email to Grant saying thanks but no thanks.

Grant’s response was, at a minimum, uncalled for. Here it is word for word:

Your site, “accurate auto advice” is all about giving accurate auto advice. This is literally posted within the first few lines of your “about section”. The article I spent time writing  is very relevant and does speak to the correct audience. It seems you’re looking for low quality content that you can simply use to occupy space on your site but I I can’t help you with this so I will have to decline your request for a post on sporemarketing.com (sic)

Since it seems you’re looking for low quality content that’s free and packed with random keywords, I would suggest mass spam content sites like keywordacademy.com. They probably will have more of what you’re looking for.

If you change your mind and would rather have a quality post that has focus, let me know.

Good luck

I’ve pitched a lot of bloggers before, and I’ve been turned down or ignored by a lot of them. Frankly, I appreciate a decline because it gives me an opportunity to engage them and – hopefully – build a relationship. Just because they said no today doesn’t mean they’ll say no next month.

But Grant’s response, telling me that my site is full of keyword spammed low quality content? Explaining to me what my own site says in the ‘about’ section? Wishing me an obviously insincere “good luck” at the end? Personally, I thought this was very rude, but more importantly (for this discussion) it’s just wrong. This is no way to get a guest post placed.

What We Can Learn From This Story

1. Target your guest blog post topic to match both a blogger’s interests and his or her audience. Personally, I’m interested in parts inventory control (no really, I am) but it’s not what the audience of my blog wants to read about.

2. When someone offers you a placement, take it. There’s this myth going around that bad links can hurt you. While there are some special cases where bad links could, possibly, under the right circumstances, hurt your site (regular blog readers hopefully chuckled at that), 99.99% of the time they’ll be neutral or beneficial.

More importantly, when you place an article with a blogger, you can use that fact to place another. Email them and say “Hey Jason – thanks again for posting that article for me. I have another one here and I thought of you – what do you think?”

3. Don’t argue with a blogger. This should be common sense, but if I ask someone for directions on the street, and then I start to argue with them, I’m being rude, aren’t I? It doesn’t help me get a guest blog post placed to argue, does it?

4. Rejections are a good thing. When you’re pitching a guest post, the worst thing that can happen is nothing. No response, no interest, nothing. It means that the time I took to come up with the idea, and then craft an email pitching that idea to a blogger, was completely wasted.

Therefore, when I get a rejection, at least the lines of communication are open and I can try another pitch or two. When a blogger says “thanks but no thanks,” don’t get mad. Ideally, you’ll have another idea ready to go. When you send that second idea along, you could even try asking them for a suggestion. Something like:

If you don’t like this article/idea, I would be very happy to write something up on the topic of your choosing. I just really want to get a post on your blog! 🙂

5. Don’t, ever, under any circumstances, annoy or insult a blogger. Guess what happens when you annoy a blogger? They blog about you and your company. It doesn’t ever end well. Don’t accuse them of using keyword laden low quality content, or act like they don’t know what they’re doing…it doesn’t help you and can absolutely backfire (as it has here).

Anyways, something to learn from.

3 Comments

  1. While I couldn’t help but laugh a bit, I think this is just a classic example of poor communication. In my experience, good relationships sit on foundations made of precise communication and an understanding of mutual needs. They are the rebar and concrete of relationships. It seems that while Grant could effectively convey his thoughts via email, he missed the part that your needs and his needed to align. Hopefully Grant got a chance to read your post. It probably served as a great learning experience for him.

    Thanks for sharing your experience here Jason. I think as more SEOs and first time bloggers get into guest posting there will be a lot to learn about our own personal communication styles. One of my favorite communication frameworks is Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Anyone interested in guest posting should check it out.

  2. Thanks James!

  3. Oh dear… the lack of appreciation haha! And why would he start talking about SEO? I would have thought the real aim would at least to have a place his article posted somewhere and then worrying about the backlinking later. Make links, not war! But before that, create a relationship first and make that the most important aspect. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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