Run A Better Guest Blogging Campaign: 7 Things NOT to Do

by Sharon Hurley Hall

Last updated on January 15th, 2018

Is guest blogging still a good marketing tactic?

It depends on who you ask.

According to Social Media Today, it’s “the most powerful and ethical form of link building.” Businesses have found it to be a great way to get the word out about a product or service—and build brand authority and exposure at the same time.

Yet some big-name blogs (like Problogger and State of Search) are no longer accepting guest posts. What’s going on?

In the wake of Google search algorithm changes (Panda and Penguin), more people are sending guest post requests to bloggers, but the quality of those pitches is declining, making it harder for these bloggers to find high-quality content for their blogs.

Gather round the virtual water cooler with the owners of even moderately successful blogs and they will share stories of the terrible guest post pitches they have received.

Here are some of the worst annoyances that result in guest post rejection. If you’re doing it right, these may seem ridiculous, but you’d be amazed how often they happen.

1. You Didn’t Have Me at Hello


Let’s start right at the beginning of a typical guest posting approach, with the greeting. That’s assuming there is a greeting at all. I’ve personally seen guest post approaches with:

    • no greeting.
    • a greeting and no name, like a breezy ‘hi.’
    • a traditional salutation but the wrong gender (being called Mr. does nothing for me).
    • the wrong name (a clear sign of a failed copy-paste campaign).

The fix: First check the blog to see who’s running it and who guest posts should be sent to. Or do a bit of social media research to find a name. It’s not that hard, these days.

And if there’s no indication of a person behind the blog, is it a good place to market? Probably not!

2. Who Are You Anyway?

Who are you approaching?

Blog owners don’t want a full bio with every pitch, but they DO want to have some idea who you are and why they should consider a pitch from you. Before they even get to the meat of your pitch many people will:

    • use a tool like Rapportive to check out your social media profiles and activity (if you’re not active and not posting interesting, relevant content that will make it harder to win your pitch).
    • use the built-in features in Gmail/Google Apps Mail to check out the Google+ profile.

This second point is important. Google makes it easy for you to wrap up your online presence into a single profile—a bare profile with little activity is a warning sign for those who could be hosting your post.

The fix: Make sure you—or the company you represent—have a rounded online presence before making the approach.

3. Don’t be Formulaic

Most bloggers can recognize a form letter at a thousand paces, so don’t use them. There are five or six common guest blogging approaches going around. Here are a few recent examples:

Guest Post  pitch screenshot 1

The first example omits my name, uses the “unique content” phrase, which is a warning sign of a link chaser and offers to “whip out” anything I’d like, a sign that it comes from a guest post factory and may even be a spun version of a previous post.

guest post pitch 2

The second tries flattery, and despite coming from a so-called “professional writer” contains several errors.

Then there are the pitches that have:

an attitude of entitlement that sounds like you owe them something just for writing a shitty post for you. And they make it sound like all they require is a measly little backlink on your site to theirs. (Jill, Screw the Nine to Five)

All of those approaches add up to a big marketing fail!

The fix: Do some research and check out your target bloggers on social media to find their name, and if you’re going to mention reading their blog, then make sure you’ve actually done it. And read Google’s advice on how not to do guest posts.

4. Irrelevant Pitches

So, if you shouldn’t use a formula, what should you do? Kathryn Aragon recently published a dissection of a great guest post pitch which is a good starting point. For most bloggers, a good marketing pitch is like a good pitch for a feature article in a magazine. Here’s what they care about.

    • The title – make it interesting or you’ll lose your audience.
    • A description of what you plan to include – either bullet points or a paragraph.
    • Why it’s right for the audience or my blog (does it relate to something they have previously published; is it a novel viewpoint?) – no one’s interested in the same old, same old.
    • Why you’re the right person to write it.

That third point is particularly important—everyone’s looking for relevant, interesting content and it helps both the guest post author and the host.

The fix: See guest posting as not only about link building but about offering something of value to the host’s audience so you can build a relationship. Looking at it this way, it’s just good marketing.

5. Spammy Linking Practices

Avoid spammy linking

Most ethical marketers avoid spammy linking practices, but sometimes a few suspect approaches slip through. I know of a couple of cases where a chain of outsourcing led to linking practices that weren’t aligned with companies’ brand values.

Most blog owners are wary when a formulaic pitch offers to link to “a few relevant resources.” That’s usually code for dropping links at every turn to build links to irrelevant sites.

The fix: Follow these guidelines:

    • DO include relevant links, citing the name of the company rather than a chosen keyword phrase unless it really, really fits.
    • DO include related content from the target blog.
    • DO include links to authority blogs with related content.
    • DON’T use the post to self promote, you have the bio for that.
    • DO include your links in the bio (including your Google+ profile so you can claim authorship), making sure that you don’t fall foul of the latest Penguin guidelines.

6. Poor Writing

Remember that virtual water cooler for blog owners? Another frequent topic of discussion is poor writing, both for the pitch and the final post. That’s why the examples shown above led to rejection.

And if you do a good pitch but submit a poor post, then it won’t be published—there’s nothing that ticks off blog owners like bad writing.

Most bloggers won’t publish ungrammatical, error-ridden posts. Blog owners love posts that are well-written and polished, so they don’t have to do any more than proof and upload.

In contrast, they hate posts that make them work hard before publication.

This often happens when marketers outsource post writing to inexperienced writers and bloggers, who have misconceptions about what’s required. That may result in keyword-heavy posts of the minimum length that Google deems acceptable.

Unfortunately posts like that can be hard to read, which makes them less desirable to leading industry blogs.

The fix: If you can’t write your guest post in-house, hire a professional blogger to craft an engaging and shareable guest post that will enhance your reputation. And edit and proofread just as rigorously as when you produce your other marketing materials.

7. Being Unsocial

Marketers who negotiate all the other hurdles and get a guest post accepted still have two more things to do when the post is published—share and comment.

Sharing the guest post via your own social networks is part of the deal. Think of it as your part of the barter arrangement.

For blog owners, there’s nothing worse than getting loads of comments on a great guest post, only to be met with stone cold silence from the author.

If you’re looking to build a relationship and post other content on that blog in the future, don’t post and run. That’s a one way ticket to getting your next guest blog pitch deleted unread.

The fix: Share, show up and respond to comments. You’ll most likely be invited to guest post there again.

What other annoying aspects of guest post pitches have you found? Please share in the comment box.



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Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.


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  1. February 2, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I recieve guest posting pitches for my own blog constantly and you can tell that these people are offshore. How are you supposed to trust quality content from someone that can’t even compose an email properly? Pitching is an art and it’s 100% of the battle when it comes to guest posting.

    • February 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      So true, Sarah! I think it’s important to set editorial standards for your blog, then protect them like crazy. Even if you’ve agreed to let a potential guest writer send you something, if it isn’t up to snuff, you shouldn’t publish it. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s important to learn if you want a quality blog.

    • February 3, 2014 at 6:02 am

      You’re right, Sarah. It’s amazing how few potential guest posters understand the relationship of the pitch to the post – it’s all the potential guest blog host can check for writing style. And I don’t know about anyone else, but if I get a poor pitch and the examples cited are in a better writing style, I wonder who will actually be writing the content.

  2. Andrea says:
    October 17, 2013 at 10:22 am

    That’s a really useful reminder post of all the things you shouldn’t do when attempting to guest post. I started into it quite blindly a few months ago and made a few foolish errors, but I’ve learned! What I didn’t anticipate was how slow momentum would increase around my name. It’s still low. I hear many bloggers say they hit 250 blog posts before they became known for anything. It’s also pretty tough to guest post because of all the spammy and selfish posts out there, making it very dissuading to even try. Now, I spend almost an hour just on the 5-line pitch email! But quality speaks for itself.

    • February 3, 2014 at 6:00 am

      I’m sure that time pays off, Andrea. A great pitch can be the start of a beautiful relationship and when you nail that first post, it’s much easier to guest post another time.

  3. August 25, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I would also suggest contacting the blogger to add content to the original post, most bloggers just love it if you keep expanding on your original work. I also always stay in tough and subscribe to the comments to ensure I actually contribute to their communities!

    Adam Prattler

    • August 26, 2013 at 7:10 am

      Contribute to the community consistently and most blog owners will love you – great point, Adam.

  4. August 24, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Hi Sharon: Don’t know how I missed this one. Love it. I am soooo tired of these pitches. It has gotten to the point where I refuse to accept guest posts from anyone I don’t “know.” If you don’t comment on my blogs or interact on social media, I will not accept a guest post.

    It’s really sad because it wasn’t that long ago I was a newbie to blogging and I remember what it’s like trying to be heard. Great post, Sharon.

    • August 26, 2013 at 7:09 am

      Thanks, Cathy. It’s sad, I agree, but there’s still some great guest post content out there which will be published if people can make the right kind of approach. I also agree that building a relationship before you make the approach is a great idea.

  5. August 21, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Totally spot-on post, Sharon!

    “For blog owners, there’s nothing worse than getting loads of comments on a great guest post, only to be met with stone cold silence from the author.” You can say THAT again!! Sorry to report I’ve had this experience with guest bloggers. This kind of behavior is a real irritant, it’s unprofessional, rude, and it definitely shows the guest author’s TRUE COLORS. 🙁

    • August 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      Yes, I was speaking from the heart on this one, Melanie. I’ve had that experience too and I’ll never take a second post from someone who’s not responsive.

      • August 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm

        Kinda figured I wasn’t alone on this one, Sharon. At least we can hold our [blogging] heads up high as guest authors in knowing we treat fellow blog owners respectfully.

        • August 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm

          We certainly can, Melanie. I sometimes wonder if inexperienced bloggers/guest bloggers don’t realize that they are supposed to respond – perhaps this will help make it clear. 🙂

  6. August 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    This is such a good resource that I think all bloggers who ACCEPT guest posts should include this link twice: first time on their Guest Blogging Guidelines page; second time on the rejection email reply to those zealous wannabes who didn’t read the Guest Blogging Guidelines.

    I only wish this would apply to comments, as well…



    • August 16, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      Oh, comments are a whole other story, Mitch. I tried some of the alternatives to the native WordPress system a few years back, but didn’t stick with them. With the recent increase in spam, I’m reconsidering.

  7. David says:
    August 16, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Hi Sharon,
    Great blog post. I liked your point about doing research before pitching. As a writer, I know how important it is to guest post on blogs and websites that I want to appear in. I try to do as much research on that blog or website as possible before I forward my proposal. And of course, each pitch is unique and the use of formulaic pitches is definitely a no no for any serious and professional writer.

    • August 16, 2013 at 10:38 am

      Good to know, David. A professional, well-researched pitch goes a long way in getting attention.

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