Post Panda and Penguin, guest blogging has become a more popular tactic for link-building, and I see the evidence of this in my inbox every day.
We value the contribution of guest bloggers on this blog as they have been responsible for some of our best content, but it's important to manage guest writers well for the benefit of both parties.
Here are 15 tips to help you to make the most of guest posts...
Why guest bloggers are useful
We have a small editorial team, and guest bloggers allow this blog to produce extra content.
While the majority of our articles are written by the blog/editorial team, with some great contributions from elsewhere in the company, guest bloggers have been very useful in the blog's development.
It also allows us to get different perspectives on digital issues from people 'in the field', both client and agency-side. They can also become 'cheerleaders' for your blog, promoting your content to their followers and networks.
In short, guest bloggers can be a very valuable asset for a blog.
How to get the most out of your guest bloggers
For the editor, the trick is to get the most out of guest bloggers and to make the right choices.
This isn't always easy, but here's how I try to achieve this:
Ask for ideas
The tricky thing is to assess how good a guest blogger will be before they have written for your site.
If they have a track record of blogging, this is a big help as you can instantly assess he quality of their writing.
If not, then another way is to ask the potential guest blogger to submit several ideas for the articles they'd like to write for you. This also allows you to provide some early feedback.
Agree topics and themes in advance
Our problem can be that, while everyone wants to write about content marketing or social media, the gaps are often in the less 'glamorous' areas: RTB, affiliate marketing etc.
Agreeing topics in advance helps the guest blogger to find their niche on the blog, and should help avoid duplication.
Given the volume of guest blogging offers we receive, being selective is vital. In fact, the volume does make it more difficult to actually respond to all the requests and sort the wheat from the chaff.
I can understand Bas van den Beld's frustrations on guest blogging, and his decision to stop accepting guest posts. We don't want to head down that route, but the number of low quality requests is annoying.
So, my advice is to only accept posts you know are going to be good, and of interest to your audience. Sometimes you can't tell until they have submitted a post, but don't be afraid to reject or ask for re-writes.
Set the standards
We are sent a lot of articles which are obviously written just to tick the guest post box, not to write something of value.
I've seen plenty of posts which are just four or five hundred words of waffle, or some very basic tips with little in the way of examples to back them up. This stuff doesn't work, and actually shows the blogger in a poor light.
Make it clear what quality level is necessary to write for your blog. I tend to show examples of some of our best guest work, such as Kelvin Newman's excellent Edgerank article and Paul Rouke's post finding the method in the madness of Ling's Cars.
I have been referring people to lists like this, which explain our guest blogger criteria, but I'm coming up with a new checklist as it's clear that some people aren't reading it.
It's best to make expectations clear from the start, so people can decide there and then if they're happy with that before they start writing.
If you have expectations on the type of content you want, frequency of posting etc, make it clear.
In our case, we want best practice tips and insight from guest bloggers, not news, infographics, interviews etc.
Encourage the use of images
Posts look better with screenshots and charts to illustrate the points that guest bloggers are making. It breaks up the text and makes it more likely that people will want to read on.
Getting guest bloggers into good habits like this reduces the workload of the editor.
Make sure they know your blog
While I don't necessarily expect every single guest blogger to be an avid reader of our site when they begin, it certainly helps if they're familiar with your content.
In fact, I'd wager that most of our best guest bloggers are successful because they have an understanding of the audience, what works, and which gaps need to be filled.
If people are randomly searching for guest blogger opportunities and arriving that way, then they are likely to be lower quality.
Have a clear style guide
Style and formatting is important to us. Posts should be informative but also easy to digest. To this end, we have a blog style guide which sets expectations on language, how posts should look, and of course, which hateful marketing jargon to avoid.
In fact, if I see the word 'paradigm' or 'leverage' in a guest post that has been submitted, it's a sure sign they haven't read the style guide!
Speak directly to the guest blogger
I don't want to dismiss all guest blogger requests which come via an agency or PR, but I find it helps a lot to have a direct conversation with the guest blogger.
This way you can ensure that you have gotten your points across, and any feedback can be quickly passed on.
It also ensures that posts aren't ghost-written.
Avoid the self-promotional
Despite making the 'no self-promotion' point upfront, I still get articles submitted with contain phrases such as 'using our industry-leading solutions' or which are little more than press releases.
I do understand that it can be tricky to pass on tips and advice without talking about your own work and experience, but blatant self-promotion should be avoided.
Use Google Plus
I encourage our guest bloggers to use Google Plus and I add their authorship mark up to their guest profiles. This helps the guest to improve their profile, and helps results to stand out in the SERPS:
Don't work too hard on guest bloggers
You can set out expectations, provide feedback on posts, but if they still don't get it, then don't be afraid to cast them aside.
Why spend too much time getting guest bloggers into shape when this time would be better spent writing your own articles.
A standard author bio
Standardising author bios ensures that no-one can request juicy anchor text on the phrase 'leading SEO agency' or try to describe themselves as some sort of 'social media guru'.
Here's our standard bio. It allows the guest blogger to explain their job title and company and provide readers with a few ways to contact them after reading the article.
Make sure articles are exclusive
There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, you don't want to risk any potential duplicate content issues with Google and secondly, who wants the same post that has already been used on other blogs?
Also, I suspect that this will raise alarms for Google if they look more deeply into guest blogging as a link building tactic.
It's worth entering the title or the odd paragraph from articles into a search engine just to check posts haven't been 'recycled'.
Provide constructive feedback
You can't expect guest bloggers to submit perfect posts first time, and if they are looking to improve, then they will appreciate your input.
Let them know why you have changed certain aspects of posts, and the kinds of things they could do to improve next time.
It often takes a few posts for guest bloggers to get into their strides, but once they are, this should mean less work for the editor and a consistent quality of content.