FYI: about those unsolicited guest post offers

Dear Internets,

I don’t care what that SEO manual is telling you about how offering your guest posts to other bloggers (on condition that there’s a link back to your blog) is a fine and dandy way to increase your readership and your search engine ranking. In principle it would be, so long as the bloggers have the faintest idea who you are (as internet persona), or else so long as they are one of those heavily monetised blogs, just itching for daily click-fodder, who transparently welcome randomly proffered content so long as it’s vaguely on theme. But how many blogs operating online actually have such an open-slather guest posting policy? This may not be blackhat territory, but it sure looks pretty greyhat from this angle.

Now, this is a blog that likes publishing guest posts, definitely. We’ve done quite a lot of it over the years. But we have always made clear in our blog policies that those guest posts are solicited only from people with whom we already interact – our frequent commentors, and/or people whose blogs we regularly comment on, or very occasionally someone we’ve known offline for years. Occasionally we go off-piste ourselves and ask people who don’t comment here whether we can crosspost a piece just because we are overcome by the awesome, but that’s our call alone. We figure we owe it to our readers and commentors to at least offer this much quality control on the guest posts we publish, because frankly to do less seems rather disrespectful of their contributions to the ongoing conversations on this blog. Because, after all, interaction is the point, right?

So, if you’ve never even left a single comment attempting to engage with our commenting community, then asking us to publish a post of yours on spec is simply downright rude. It also makes any claims that you are in fact a regular reader and huge fan appear more than a little duplicitous, and is likely to discourage us from ever even visiting your blog, let alone publishing any of your posts.

A yellow handled sledgehammer with BANHAMMER written on the handle, in front of a grey cloud.  Caption reads TODAY'S FORECAST: CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF BANHAMMERWhen your website is an obvious marketing tool plastered with ads for online diploma mills, multiply that reaction x1000. It may even inspire us to add your splog’s URL to the spaminator filter.

At round about this point, if you’re someone who recently offered HaT a guest blog post following advice from one of those “Grow Your Blog” articles yet you had nothing but good intentions of reaching out across the blogosphere, you may be feeling rather appalled. Relax – if you’re a genuinely interested fellow blogger, you won’t be banhammered here just for emailing us about a guest post. We understand that feeling of wanting more readers only too well, and nobody’s going to judge you harshly just for that. But you need to apply different tactics to growing your blog if HaT really is a blog you enjoy reading and not just a blog that you want to link to you.

Start by interacting with commenters here and being interesting/entertaining enough that they want to read more things that you write, and so will click on links back to your blog, and feel inspired to leave comments on your posts there. Post links to your articles in the linkfests threads – that’s what they’re for. Entice us to explore your reading(oops!) writing.

Then maybe we will link to it, guest post or not.

Categories: ethics & philosophy

Tags: ,

7 replies

  1. OH GOD. I was reading one of those “how to make your blog totes the most popular ever” “guides” and it was terrible. I could not believe the “find academic blogs and spam them with comments so your blog looks like it has cool friends” tips. How is this even meant to work? Sure, you might pop up more on Google but in the meantime you’ve pissed off a bunch of your own community and/or people with a much wider audience that you.

  2. It seems like there has been a great disturbance in The Force confusion about what is actually great advice for newbie bloggers wanting an audience, which is to engage in the comments threads of blogs with bigger audiences so that readers there get to know you and become interested in your opinions. But the crucial point there is engaging, not just drive-by linkdrops with nothing substantive added to the discussion.
    Also, pretending to be engaged won’t work, or at least not for long enough to make a difference to your readership. If you’re not engaging in those discussions on bigger blogs because you have a genuine enthusiasm for/against the blog’s special interest areas and/or really enjoy the writing of the authors/commentariat there, it soon becomes blindingly obvious to that blog’s regulars, and it won’t work.

  3. I am getting so many of these requests at the moment so it is kind of a relief to hear that others are too. And to see that yours are as insultingly half-arsed as mine are… sigh.

  4. The half-arsedness is the most irritating part, deffo.

  5. I find myself wondering how many of these people who are looking to become “big bloggers” (with the large readership and all it implies) could actually handle the demands of the job. For one thing, it means having to put out content on a regular basis. For a second, it means having to maintain a consistent minimum standard of content – it has to be interesting, it has to have some semblance of reasonable spelling and grammar, it has to be at least vaguely thematic. For a third, it means doing this even when you don’t seem to have an audience (for context: I’ve been reading through the back issues of Grog’s Gamut lately, and he doesn’t start to get consistent and regular comments on his posts until about six months back at best -so for the first year and a half of his blogging career, Grog was basically throwing marshmallows into a black hole and waiting for an echo…).
    I know I get moments where I think “oh yeah, I could do that” with regard to setting up a successful blog. But then, I regularly get moments like that approximately once a month anyway – it’s part of my hormonal cycle, and the way PMS manifests for me. Once a month, I wind up with a surge of energy and positivism, and I’m convinced I could take over the world… right up until the day my period starts, when the whole shemozzle collapses in a heap. These days, if I’m having one of those “taking over the world through blogging” fits, I use it to write something I can post later (and hey, it’s only taken me about twenty-five years to recognise this is the way my hormones play merry hob with my life… by the time I hit menopause, who knows, I may actually have figured out a way to harness the whole phenomenon in a useful fashion). I figure if I have about a month’s worth of content (for a daily posting schedule) I can possibly use it as the core of a weekly posting schedule… spaced out with bits and pieces as I get the impetus to write ‘em.
    But as for trying to build my audience… I think that’s a long way down the line.

  6. This is somewhat bizarre. I was reading someone’s random blog the other day, and they were talking about how they used to get excited when 25 people viewed their blog – a week.
    I think I’m like this at the moment. Last week 42 people viewed one of my posts over a two hour period, and I am honestly baffled as to how or why.
    So this kind of behaviour when they want to go from nothing to wow, completely baffles me, and to an extent worries me. Because frankly, I kind of think that if you haven’t worked for it, it’s not worth much. But that might just be me 😀 And of course if you were an instant success, you wouldn’t want to boast, lest you be hit with the Curse of the Smug Girl.
    Lol. I have no idea how to build an audience. I don’t even know if I want to build an audience. I know I’ve got like, 5 people who read my blog, and only one follower, so 😛 But mostly I write for me, so anything else is a bonus!

  7. Wow. I didn’t even know this was a problem. I guess I’m more like Julie, so I’m not important enough to spam. I’ve had a couple of guest bloggers, but I invited them.
    Julie, I’ve recently gone from 20 or so hits a day to 200+ and it feels so weird. I’m getting a kind of stage fright every time I post. I sometimes miss that coziness when I only had a few followers and knew they were forgiving friends.

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