5 Elements of a Kick Ass Guest Posting Program

Jessica Thiefels on Sunday, October 14, 2018

kick-ass guest posting program

A guest posting program could be the game-changer your blog needs. Not only does it allow you to feature new voices and perspectives, but you can get fresh content without writing it yourself. Not to mention, guest posting drives natural branded sharing—guest authors will share the content to their audience when published—allowing you to cast a wider marketing net.

If you’ve never built a guest posting program, you may have no idea where to start. I’ve been building and managing guest posting programs for seven years, however, so I’ve experimented with a lot and know the in’s and out’s of what makes it valuable for a brand. That’s why I’m sharing the five elements of a kick-ass guest posting program with you right now.

P.S. If you’re frustrated with not being able to create enough content, I’d love to help you get the ball rolling by implementing guest posting. All you have to do is take one simple step: email me!

More: 5 Reasons Guest Posting is the Missing Piece

#1: A Strong Editorial Plan

Your guest posting program is only as strong as your current editorial plan. You won’t be able to keep your guest authors on brand and on message if you don’t know what that even looks like. If you don’t have a content calendar, don’t worry. Spend time fleshing out what your brand messaging is and how that fits into 3 to 5 topic areas or genres.

This will dictate what article ideas you accept and ensure that you can weave your brand into every one. The latter is critical; every article should naturally support your brand or product. As you develop these ideas, know that you don’t have to be as specific as: I sell brooms so every article needs to be about brooms.

If you sell brooms, your main content themes are likely:

  • Cleaning hacks
  • Housework
  • [Maybe] Family
  • [Maybe] Eco-friendly cleaning

Now, you know that all guest author content must fit within those categories to ensure you’re staying on brand and creating the content that’s most applicable to your audience.

#2: High-Value Qualifiers

If you’re looking to contribute to other sites as part of your guest posting program, you need to have high-value qualifiers to make sure the placements are worth your time and providing actual value to your backlink profile.

As you look for sites to contribute to, there are a number of metrics you can turn to as a way of qualifying whether the site is high-value. Some data points you’ll want to check include:

  • Domain authority
  • Monthly traffic
  • Consistency of publishing
  • Trust flow
  • Do-follow linking
  • Relevance to your industry

I use a spreadsheet to organize all of my research and pitching and include columns for the metrics I track. This makes it easy to say, “Yes, we want to pitch this site” or “No, it’s not worth our time.”

More: The Organic Content Marketing Mistakes Every Business is Making

#3: Picky “Application Process”

Guest posting is only as valuable as the writers who are submitting content. If you have to edit each piece for an hour, only to have a somewhat good article, it’s likely not worth your time. As you reach out to new guest authors, or field email requests to write for your blog, remember to be choosy with who you accept. Look for:

  • Expertise in the field: Should your authors believe this person? Are they known within or intimately familiar with the industry?
  • Links to previous work: Always ask for links to previous work so you can gauge their writing style. This will also tell you if they’ve written about similar topics or contributed to other sites within your industry before.
  • [Optional] Social following: I’m not a fan of this one, since some really great writers may have a small following.
  • [Optional] Guest swap: The idea being: You write for us, we write for you. This allows you to continue building your backlink profile without doing the pitching to find great sites. I always like to keep this as an option if you have the capacity to write for other sites.

To facilitate this process, many brands use a basic Google Form for potential authors to fill out. This streamlines the process for you and makes it easier for them to share everything in an organized fashion. You could also great a page on your site like this one from The Budgeting Wife or this extensive landing page and form from Auth0.

#4: Clear Guidelines

Running a guest posting program can be time-consuming if you don’t have the right guidelines in place. Your guidelines ensure that guest posts are delivered to your inbox as close to finalized as possible and should include:

Word Count: This is critical—many people will try to get away with thin content. While I don’t advocate for adding words just to add them, a flexible word count ensures that the content will provide value. My preferred range is usually 700-1,100 words, and always looking for every piece to be on the longer side. If you don’t have a preference just yet, turn to your data. Look to see how many words your most popular articles have. This likely reflects the length your audience likes.

Link Rules: With this, you’re specifying how many links the guest author can include that point back to their website. You can also specify a certain number of internal links that need to be used—though you can always add those in during editing if you’re a control freak like me.

Tone and audience specifics: You don’t need to send potential guest authors your full branding deck, but it makes your life easier if writers are using with the right voice—and of course speaking to the right audience.

Sharing: I like including a requirement to share and tag the brand on social media once the post is published.

Republish or no: I don’t allow guest authors repost their content for any of my clients—and I never have. When requested, I may make an exception by allowing them to post just the first paragraph or intro with a link that says, “To read the rest, check out the full article on [Insert website and link].

Images/Graphics: I’m not a fan of adding images to an article just to go along with the text. However, Yoast does make a good point that images (when optimized properly) can rank in Google Images and therefore drive traffic. I’m a big fan of using screenshots and graphs where appropriate. This is valuable to the reader and likely makes a text-based explanation of data or a process easier to understand.

With all of that in mind, your final guidelines may look like this:

  • Word Count: 800-1,200 words
  • No linking to sales pages; all links must add value to the article.
  • You’re allowed one resource-based link back to your website within the text.
  • You can include up to three website links in your bio, along with those pointing to your social profiles.
  • Guest authors are required to share their guest post on Twitter and tag us in the post.
  • Include at least one value-add screenshot.
  • Follow our tone and voice guide, attached to this email.

More: I’ve Written More Than 700 Guest Posts, Here’s What I Learned

#5: Balanced Editorial

It can be challenging for editors to bring the voices of outside writers to their blog. This is especially true if you have a very specific voice and tone, and don’t want to deviate from that or risk sounding inauthentic. For many brands, however, the voice of experts only elevates the brand and what you have to offer for blog content.

To keep the quality of the content high, while letting the guest authors voice shine through, use the following as editorial guidelines for yourself:

  • Follow one style guide, like AP—you can even specify this in your writer’s guidelines.
  • Edit for flow and sound, only making small wording changes for the sake of the reader and understanding.
  • Edit for grammar as needed, again remembering the style guide you choose to follow.

Don’t forget to always check all the links that are included. You want to avoid:

  • Studies or data that’s older than 2 years old
  • Websites that appear spammy
  • Articles from publishers who are not the authority on that topic
  • Secondary sources of data—always require your writer to find the primary source

If you need more than a few small changes, it’s most respectful—and less time-consuming for you—to send the article back to the writer with the requested changes. In some cases, the writer may want to take the post elsewhere; most of the time, however, they’re open to make changes as needed.

Start Your Guest Posting Program

Guest posting is an invaluable tool for businesses and brands who are looking to expand content, increase publishing and drive natural social sharing. Keep these elements in mind a you build your first guest posting program.


Need help connecting the dots?

I’ll build your guest posting program for you—and even train your staff! Take the first step and get in touch.

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