January 31, 2022 Content Chat Recap: Why Brands Should Partner with Guest Authors

A #ContentChat header image featuring an array of flowers with a box overlay. The box contains text that says today's topic is why brands should partner with guest authors.

“I found your website really interesting and awesome. I am a blogger and want to write something for you. All I ask is for two backlinks and to become a recognized thought leader for your company.”

Most marketers have received a cold message similar to this (OK, probably not that last part). Some marketers receive these messages daily. Understandably, these low-quality, spam requests discourage marketers from partnering with outside “writers.” But there are many cases where it could be advantageous for a brand to partner with guest authors, as long as that author is a reputable member of your community.

In this #ContentChat recap, we explain why brands should partner with guest authors and how to manage a guest author program. Read the full recap below to learn about the potential brand benefits of guest-authored content, when a blog is ready for guest content, and our solutions to the common challenges of working with guest authors.

Q1: Why should brands partner with guest bloggers? What are the advantages of guest-authored content?

Guest authors can provide a variety of benefits for brands, including expanded content reach, boosts to engagement, strengthened SEO, and validation of your thought leadership strategy.

A1a: Pretty much every marketing survey finds that content marketers struggle to expand the reach of their content’s distribution and to drive engagement. Guest blog posts can help significantly with both. #ContentChat https://t.co/rKndQIddM3

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

A1b: Inviting guest authors to your blog validates your industry thought leadership strategy by showing the smart people your brand surrounds itself with. Sharing their expertise on your blog also provides valuable content to your readers. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

+1 great points here! Building ‘thought leadership’ status doesn’t always have to be about internal resources and voices. #ContentChat https://t.co/zrObn9m4ap

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

Partner with guest bloggers to;
πŸ‘‰Improve online authority
πŸ‘‰Increase social media shares
πŸ‘‰Strengthen back links
πŸ‘‰Bring more visits to your blog
πŸ‘‰Generate leads
πŸ‘‰Place your offering in front of targeted audience #ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) January 31, 2022

Contributed content with a relevant anchor link back to your site is so valuable for improving SEO. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Excellent points about strengthening backlinks! In 2022, it’s easier to backlink when you build relationships, rather than cold emails. #ContentChat

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

Guest authors can also support a healthy content cadence for your blog (especially if your team is short on resources).

A1: Having a variety of perspectives/POVs on your blog = more robust content that could potentially reach new audiences. Guest bloggers can also use their networks to spread the word about your blog + brand. It can also help support a resource-strapped content team. #ContentChat

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

It can be a huge win all around for friendly, non-competitive organizations to trade blog posts for all these reasons.#ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

It’s important to note that “guest bloggers” have become associated with spam and low-quality content. We do not recommend engaging with individuals that clearly will not provide valuable content for your community.

Honestly struggled with this.

If you’re building a media brand/content strategy, external contributors can make sense.

But “guest bloggers” have so long been associated with spam/low quality that it’s tough to justify (especially with that language). https://t.co/w1no6mNSGr

β€” Rand Fishkin (@randfish) January 31, 2022

Having been on the receiving end of some truly terrible guest blog submissions, I’m with you! I think it can work, but likely when it’s the brand reaching out to people they trust, versus getting lucky from a cold incoming pitch. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

…and of course, that also often means you’re paying for those guest blog posts too unless they are a viable partner for a content swap. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Agreed. Having an ongoing “relationship” with someone where they truly add value to your platform makes sense, but “guest posting” no longer implies a meaningful relationship.

β€” Eric Enge (@stonetemple) January 31, 2022

Q2: When is a blog β€œready” to accept guest bloggers? What elements should be in place before accepting contributed content for your site?

Your blog should have a defined voice before accepting guest content. Your team also needs to know what type of content topics would be best addressed by outside experts.

A2a: Although I have implemented and managed a number of guest blogger programs for others, we just kicked off ours this month. Why? Because I wanted to ensure we were ready. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

A2b: Specifically:

> πŸ’» I wanted our blog to have a defined voice
> ⏲️ I needed us to have the time to source, edit, and publish external content
> πŸ”Ž I needed to identify topics that would be better addressed by someone else#ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

A2. Certainly when the overall;
πŸ‘‰Objectives of the blog are well defined
πŸ‘‰Tone of voice is well established
πŸ‘‰Has a good following – not nascent stage#ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) January 31, 2022

Guest-authored content programs can take a significant amount of time to manage. You will likely receive many off-the-mark pitches that require refinement and coordination.

A2c: One popular guest blogging program I managed would get a new blog post pitch almost every day! And not all of them were on the mark. So it was actually a significant time investment. “Free” content never is!#ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

I’ve been there! Emails every day. And when you have that many coming in, it’s important to have an outline of what makes it to the next stage and what doesn’t. #ContentChat

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

Establish clear writer’s guidelines before accepting guest submissions. This can potentially reduce the amount of low-quality pitches that you receive.

A2: Make sure you have good guidelines in place for submissions. Outline the topics you’ll focus on and any parameters for self-promotion or linking. I also like to make sure we have a clear editing/review process in place that’s shared with the guest writer. #ContentChat

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

YES to all of this!

Without clear guidelines, you will get so many off-the-wall pitches. And documenting the editing process decreases the likelihood you spend your time editing a post only to have the author pull it at the last minute.#ContentChat https://t.co/4ZFEHrc0LU

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Q3: How can brands effectively field and review guest blogger proposals?

Create comprehensive blogger guidelines and post them on your website as a blog post, dedicated web page, or downloadable asset. Promote these guidelines on your social media channels and explain what type of content you are looking for.

A3a: First, create a comprehensive blogger guidelines document and post it on your website. Then share it throughout your regular communications channels, including on your blog itself. Spell out what content you’d be most excited to publish. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Excellent point about publishing the guidelines on your website. This can definitely streamline your process and (eventually) cut down on off-brand or off-topic blogging requests. #ContentChat https://t.co/dzP8m8Btzd

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

A3b: I’m a fan of creating a web form of some sort to solicit blog post pitches.

Why not accept contributed posts that are already written? It’s unlikely they will be 100% on target for your blog. Fine-tuning a topic at the pitch stage goes better. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

After you receive a viable content idea, agree on the general direction of the piece. Then, use track changes and leave comments to provide feedback on the draft post (once received).

A3c: After the pitch is agreed upon, and the blog post comes in, use track changes and leave comments for the author so they understand what questions you have, and why you are proposing certain edits. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Working collaboratively with your guest bloggers benefits both parties, and you are left with an asset that keeps giving! #ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) January 31, 2022

Be conscious to not over-edit the content. Your writer should still have their unique voice, just fit within your brand’s guidelines.

One of the (internal) guidelines I always use is to make sure your editing process doesn’t wash out the writer’s voice. It can be easy to over-edit, especially when it’s someone from outside your org. But their unique voice will bring value to the blog! #ContentChat

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

Shane recommends reading other blogs in your industry to see how they handle guest submissions and what sort of guest content they post.

A3 by reading others’ blogs! #ContentChat

β€” Shane Shaps (@520eastbrands) January 31, 2022

Q4: What should marketers prepare for when editing guest-authored content?

Every guest submission you receive will require some degree of editing. Some posts will be completely off the mark.

A4a: No matter how comprehensive and clear you think your blog guidelines document is, every blog post submission is going to have something that isn’t aligned with them. So be prepared to dispassionately return posts that are completely off the mark. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Don’t feel pressured to publish a subpar post, especially if the original content pitch is of a higher quality than the post itself. In some cases, writers use template pitches to appropriately convey an idea but then outsource the content creation.

A4b: Also, just because the pitch was well-written doesn’t mean the blog post will be. People often rely upon a template or professionally written pitch, but outsource the blog post to the lowest bidder. Don’t feel pressured to publish a subpar post. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Sometimes it is hard to say ‘no’ but it will only be valuable if the guest content meets the key criteria of your blog! So go ahead and request another edit! #ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) January 31, 2022

Exactly! And the goal is for the finished post to be something both parties are proud of. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

And i often find that the ‘piece’ that did not get approved fits well somewhere else, some other time. So its really not a complete waste of time! #ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) January 31, 2022

To reinforce Melanie’s point: find a balance between your editorial guidelines and the writer’s unique style.

A4: I may have answered this too early πŸ™‚ But be prepared to find a balance between your editorial guidelines and the writer’s unique style. The sweet spot will keep your loyal audience engaged and draw in new readers. #ContentChat

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

Editing cycles can spiral out of control if there are too many editors. Ideally, have just one or two team members review a piece of guest content, and use your brand guidelines to inform what changes you should suggest.

This is so important! You lose the value of bringing in new voices if you edit the personality out of them. I see this happen with clients sometimes. When they get too many people revising a guest post and the finished piece is so generic.#ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Editing “by committee” is a nightmare; best to have a partnership to perfect the fit! #contentchat

β€” Eric Vejby (@VejbyEric) January 31, 2022

And who even has the time/budget to say “Yes, we NEED 3-5 different sets of eyes on this post.”

It comes down to trust and control. #ContentChat

β€” Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) January 31, 2022

Q5: What are the common challenges you’ve faced when managing a guest content program and how did you overcome them?

There must be some “what’s in it for me” for your guest author. Allow a follow link to related content within the post and a link back to the author’s site in their bio (to a reasonable extent).

A5a: In addition to the brand owners who want to homogenize voice, I’ve also had situations where they didn’t want to allow any follow links. But here’s the thing: There has to be some WIIFM for the guest blogger tooβ€”not just the brand! #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Time management is a common challenge of guest content programs. However, remember that it can get easier to work with individual writers over time as you develop the relationship and establish trust in the partnership.

A5: Time management is certainly the biggest struggle I’ve had, especially when it comes to reviewing pitches and editing. If you’re the only one doing all of this, it can get a bit overwhelming and may seem easier to just rely on internal writers. #ContentChat

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

A5b: The first time you work with a new writer, you always are going to spend more time with your review, comments, and edits. It can feel too resources-intensive if you don’t plan to cultivate those relationships. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

I have a rule, i go for no more than 3 iterations before ‘go-live’ – after that no more edits. Get a new topic and i will happily write a new peace! No point wasting time over one topic that isn’t just hitting the mark #ContentChat

β€” Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) January 31, 2022

Some guest authors can be demanding in how the content is promoted. Ensure that your blogger guidelines clearly explain the full process, including planned distribution.

A5c: I’ve also had situations where the authors were incredibly demanding. i.e. lobbying for more social distribution, wanting to make ongoing revisions after the post was live, etc. That’s where the blogger guidelines can do some heavy lifting. #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Develop trust within your team about your guest content program. Brand leaders must give their content team the freedom to engage with guest authors and develop the program without hitting internal roadblocks at every step of the way.

Social media has forever disrupted the world of draconian control over brand voice/compliance. Brand leadership needs to take a deep breath … (former brand leader here) :-)#contentchat

β€” Eric Vejby (@VejbyEric) January 31, 2022

Q6: Do you have examples of some solid guest blogger guidelines? Feel free to share your own, too!

Check out these example guest blogger guidelines to inspire yours.

A6: @CMIContent has some solid guidelines, a submission form and FAQ page: https://t.co/RDc4glXjuS #ContentChat

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

A6a: Some of the best blogger guidelines I’ve seen are from @MarketingProfs https://t.co/hLGNEwtrjU#ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

A6b: I also like @Hubspot’s blog guidelines because they include some examples of guest content.https://t.co/I0cUeUj3Hk

#ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

I am totally borrowing the idea of having a what we don’t accept section from them! #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

Q7: For those of you who are currently/are going to accept guest blog posts, what are some of the topics you are looking for pitches around?

Melanie explains what type of content her clients are looking for, and stay tuned for Erika’s guidelines.

A7: We hear a lot of questions from our clients about content best practices for DE&I initiatives at healthcare organizations. We’d love to hear some unique experiences with this that our readers can learn from. #ContentChat

β€” Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) January 31, 2022

A7a: I wanted to have a couple of perfect guest blog posts on our site before publishing our guidelines and starting to accept pitches from the web at large. So, ours are coming soon. πŸ™‚ #ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

In the meantime, check out the first two posts:#ContentChat https://t.co/mBsroU9TP3

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

And another great example of what we are looking for:https://t.co/Nzn8QGl6m2#ContentChat

β€” Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) January 31, 2022

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