The Cold, Hard Truth About Guest Posts

The Cold, Hard Truth About Guest Posts

Guest posting is a great way to get known and gain exposure for your business. I know, because I used guest posting as a marketing strategy for years. I still guest post when the mood strikes me.

Heck, I even wrote an ebook about it.

But most days, I’m on the other end of the spectrum. This place is a popular blog, and I get hit with guest post requests at least ten times a week. (Sometimes more.)

Now in a perfect world, that’d be great news. I’d have lots of luscious content full of smart advice from rockin’ writers with something valuable to share.

Last time I checked, though, the world isn’t perfect.

In fact, if the average guest post I receive is any indicator of where perfection is going these days, I’d say it’s headed straight to hell in a hand basket.

And luscious content? She checked out about half a year ago.

That means it’s time for some cold, hard truth. I may get flack for saying it, but… most guest posts are terrible.

I don’t want to be mean or unkind, but most guest posts my peers and I receive these days are so slap-together bad that NO comes out of my mouth so fast I nearly burn my tongue.

The writing is low level, the grammar is awful grammar, typos are having a party, and it would be easier to let the post die than trying some serious CPR editing.

And I’m not even being a stickler, here. In fact, I’m pretty darned tolerant about those typos and awkward sentences.

But for the most part, guest posts these days are just flat-out bad. They’re poorly researched. The assumptions and claims are frequently downright wrong – even dangerous to the point that following the advice would probably cause some fast business failure.

This blog’s mission is about helping you get ahead, not get you dead.

Here’s my personal pet peeve: Incredibly scattered writing. It’s like writers submit thoughts that have been riffed off without any consideration to organization, structure or flow. They’re so full of tangents, irrelevant points and straying focus that they read like splatter from a smashed pumpkin.

I know everyone likes to joke about ADD, but some guest posters take it to mass epidemic extremes.

These posts aren’t coming from people who feel they don’t have the skills, by the way. Most guest posts I receive are from writers for hire, freelancers and people who actually want business exposure so they can charge people money.

Sad. Really, really sad.

Even sadder? The people who can write, the ones who really know how to work their words, the folk who may not have all the skills but who can pen a good piece nonetheless… well, they think they’re no good at it.

Despite all their talent and ability to write well, the good writers lack confidence and never guest post at all. What’s the world coming to?

Here’s another cold, hard truth: the average guest post isn’t a gift. It’s a burden. It lands in your inbox out of the blue, and it needs to be read, reviewed, edited, approved, formatted, scheduled, and distributed, not to mention commented on and moderated once it gets published.

And that doesn’t even include the back and forth emails between the hopeful writer and the blog owner.

This takes time, people.

Valuable time. And contrary to popular belief, successful blog owners aren’t lounging about on their recliners while beautiful servants feed them frosted grapes. They’re busy people with jam-packed schedules and businesses to run.

And time is money. Deny it as much as you’d like, but it’s true.

Here’s what really knocks me for a loop, though: Let’s say a blog owner spends his valuable time and reviews the post. The final verdict comes through, and it’s not looking good. The guest poster gets a “thanks but no thanks”. What happens then?

Surprisingly, in many cases the guest post gets published – warts and all – on another blog.

Now sometimes, that’s okay. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and we’re all well aware that what makes for good writing is often highly subjective to personal preference. It’s fine for a ‘no thanks’ guest post to find a good home.

But I’m not talking about a good post, here. I’m not talking personal preference or the wrong fit for the blog’s focus.

I’m talking about a bad guest post. A substandard, poorly-written piece that got turned down because it just wasn’t very good. You could say the guest poster didn’t know the piece was that bad, but I’ve seen writers who are well aware of the fact turn around and shop the piece out to someone else.

That’s a little like saying, “Well, looks like Aunt Nancy didn’t like this natty purple sweater… I guess I might as well give it to Gramma Wilson. She’ll take anything.”

How about taking a good, hard look at that natty sweater and realizing that maybe Aunt Nancy is giving you a big, fat hint that you need some help in the fashion department? Or how about having some respect for Gramma Wilson, who really deserves better than questionable castoffs that make people wonder about her sanity behind her back?

Here’s the big clincher, though… the strategy works. Gramma Wilson will wear the laughable sweater and other blog owners will publish the badly written post. I see them end up on all sorts of blogs, blogs with quality reputations and big readerships.

It stuns me. It shocks me. And it actually makes me wonder what’s going on out there.

Have we all given up on good, solid, well-written posts in favour of just having something to fill up Tuesday’s empty slot?

I haven’t. And other blogs – the smart blogs – haven’t either. They’re accepting less guest posts and tightening up standards, just like I have.

Because here’s the thing: Getting a yes on a guest post submitted to a reputable blog should be an honour, not a given. It should be a goal we strive for, something to work towards. An achievement that helps us learn and improve.

Don’t you think so?

So for guest posters and blog owners alike, here’s what I suggest: Stop lowering your standards. Stop saying yes to fill empty spots. People are tired of it. Start getting critical and picky. Demand more from what you read and what you write. Stick with what’s solid, what’s well-written and what’s clearly worth reading.

It’s the only way we’ll make this crazy blog world a better place, after all.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.