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Avoid the Biggest Guest Blog Post Boo-Boos

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

A guest blog post gives you the chance to meet and greet a whole new audience in your niche. But to get the nod to write for another publisher’s site, you need to pass muster. First impressions matter – big time.

I write as many guest posts as I can. In the process, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. Plus, I’m on the receiving end of inquiries from writers who pitch guest posts for my websites – and I’ve learned a great deal from them. Here’s what you can take away from my experiences so you can increase your chances of nabbing a guest post slot.

Avoid the 6 biggest guest blog post mistakes with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #blogging #WritingTips

What is a guest blog post?

It’s a blog post, article, or piece of content that you create for a website other than your own.

Why publish on another owner’s site? If you’re working to build a following, a guest blog post is a proven way to build backlinks to your own. Plus, you extend your reach. Guest posts typically offer a brief bio and backlink to your site when you write an article or share content on a site other than your own. A guest post on an established site directs traffic and SEO goodness to your online home.

Grabbing a guest blog post slot is a helpful way to build your readership. It starts with your pitch. And this is where a classy writer stands out … and so does an amateur.

How NOT to write a guest blog post pitch: an example

I recently received the following pitch. Unfortunately, it’s typical. It’s also a good example of how not to get the go-ahead for writing a guest blog post. Note: I’m replicating the pitch word for word with its original formatting.

Subject line: Page suggestion

Hi there “default,”

Happy !

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to follow up on the email I sent recently regarding my comprehensive guide on Navigating Cancer And Fentanyl Dependence.

I believe that this guide will provide valuable information and support for those fighting cancer, and I believe it would be a great addition to your website.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Thank you again for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you.

The 6 biggest boo-boos I found in this pitch

1. A vague subject line

It read, “Page suggestion.” I’m always open to improvement. But “Page suggestion” could mean a referral to a page with a pecan apple cake. Or it could mean an idea for an extra page I could add to my site.

In this case, it was a pitch from another writer.

If you want to grab my attention and stand out as a potential guest blogger, then a bit more detail in the subject line would be helpful.

2. A generic salutation

I opened the email to read, “Hi there, default.” Literally. No first name. No evidence the writer had done her homework to find my name (which is listed on the home page and on the About page, along with my bio).

Just an indication that the email was sent en masse to every decently-ranked site — and with zero personalization. Don’t be that writer. If you want the shot at a chance to write content for someone else, use their name.

3. An ambiguous opening hook

Happy !

Note the space just before the exclamation point. Evidently, this opener was meant to be “Happy Monday!” or “Happy Friday!” or a similar, too-familiar greeting. Not only was it a cringingly friendly greeting from a stranger, but it was also a blatant typo. Not a great way to impress.

4. A disastrous pitch

The email’s opening mishaps and now took a dire turn with the pitch.

  • The sender referenced a previous email. None had been sent.
  • The proposed topic was inappropriate for my site. The writer suggested publishing a comprehensive guide for navigating cancer and fentanyl dependence. I’m sure this is a worthy topic. Unfortunately, my site is not health-related. The sender believes it would be a “great addition to your website” — but hadn’t bothered to study my content. Big oops.

5. An absent closing

There was none. Nada. Zilch. No “Sincerely yours.” No name, no contact number.

Even if I was interested in the pitch, I had no credentials to review … no sample content to skim … no sense of why this writer wanted to write for me … no way to contact them other than to hit “Reply.”

Plus, the writer left the responsibility to communicate in my hands (“Please don’t hesitate to reach out”), rather than indicating they’d follow up.

6. An inappropriate assumption

Beyond these assorted writing faux-pax, the sender violated a cardinal guest blog post rule: they didn’t check my site to see if I welcome guest writers.

I’ve got a “Submissions” link on every page. When clicked, the page explains that I’m not accepting guest posts at this time. The sender marked themselves as an amateur by assuming that I accept guest content.

Blog Post Worksheet cover with Word Wise at NonProfit Copywriter #blogging #printables

Use this handy, fillable blog post worksheet to write your post in steps.

How to write a guest post pitch: top tips

Here’s what you can learn from this unfortunate query.

1. Study the publication.

Find out if a site offers guest writers.

  • Make sure your subject matter aligns with the site.
  • Study the writer’s guidelines and use a writing style that matches what’s already published. If the content on the site is folksy with lots of anecdotes, write a lead about a hometown hero. If it’s littered with research and data, then cite the latest statistics about your topic.
  • Suggest a blog post topic that’s not been thoroughly covered on the site. Mosey around a bit and see what’s needed or what’s missing — and how you can fill a need for the site’s specific audience. Do that and you’ll stand out as a pro, increase your chances of publication, and show yourself as a helpful writing partner.

2. Write an engaging subject line.

How often do you skim through your inbox and click “Delete” just after reading a subject line? Yes, me too.

“Inquiry” and “Submission” as subject lines don’t cut it — unless the publisher has specified those on the site’s writer’s guidelines. Bring to bear all your persuasive writing skills and put together an email subject line that’s specific, intriguing, and benefit-oriented.

3. Use an individual’s name in the salutation.

Find the name of the site owner or the name of the person who manages submissions, even if takes some digging. Address your email content to that particular individual. It’s worth the effort. Publishers notice when writers see them as people.

4. Get to the point with a powerful hook.

Forget all the usual throwaway opening lines. You’re writing a pitch and you’ve got mere seconds to capture the reader’s attention. Open your email with a powerful statistic … a gripping, one-sentence story … an enticing quote.

5. Write a one-sentence summary.

If you can’t summarize your proposed post in a sentence, then you haven’t spent enough time on it. Yes, after you present your pitch, go ahead and flesh out your proposal with some bullet points or a short paragraph … what experts you’ll quote … what examples you’ll use. But lead off with a clear, engaging summary sentence. Doing so demonstrates to your reader that you can write.

6. Close like a pro

Publishers are busy. Include a link to your published clips so they can check out your credentials. State that you will follow up in three days … a week … whatever time frame that works for you. Then do so. Include your email signature so that a publisher can email you or pick up the phone and contact you when they’re wowed by your pitch.

Guest posting opens doors — including your own

There’s no question: guest posting opens the door to writing opportunities. It builds your traffic through backlinks. Plus, when you publish content with a byline on other sites, you accumulate a list of clips. Your credibility grows.

But while you’ve got pitches out to publishers, go one step further. Grow your online home. Build your site by adding at least one post a week. Make sure those pieces of content are optimized for search engines and targeted to a specific audience.

Do that, and soon your guest blog posts will simply add to your blossoming site traffic. And you’ll find that you won’t be sending out as many pitches. 

Because other writers will be pitching to you for the opportunity to contribute to your publication, instead.

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