Pardon the tangential reference to finance topics, but I thought I’d write something that might benefit the other online community I’m a part of. I thought this post might be timely, particularly as the authors of several well-known sites start looking for guests during this season of vacations!
If you’re a newcomer to blogging, you’re no doubt familiar by now of the importance of building up awareness and traffic on your site. And you probably also know that being a guest blogger can be a great way to do it.
I’m about to finish up a week of writing at All Things Financial (ATF) and thought I’d give a few pointers on what I learned. Granted, JLP’s way of having guest bloggers (having only one author, and giving me access to write whenever and however I wanted) is probably a little unusual, but I think the same concepts apply no matter if you’re writing one or all of the articles on another blog.
Step 0: How do you get a guest blogging spot? If you’re a newcomer, this is probably your first question. The answer is to keep your eyes open and watch the established blogs your niche for posts and forum threads asking for guest submissions. It’s quite common for well-known bloggers to ask for guest submission entries while they’re on vacation. If you blog regularly and do it well, chances are people will start to notice, and you might get an unexpected invitation, as I did.
Step 1: Know your own writing style and set expectations: I’ll admit that I was somewhat intimidated by the prospect of taking over JLP’s blog for a week. Our styles are very different. I tend toward writing timeless, essay-length articles, and I was concerned about whether this would be a good fit for his site. I also realized I don’t have as wide an understanding of personal finance topics as he did.
So what’s the solution? Communicate! I offered a few suggestions, like writing ahead of time, thereby allowing him to decide what he liked and didn’t, but JLP, in his usual confident fashion, assured me not to worry, to keep it simple, and that the opportunity would be great for both of us. He also told me what his expectations were ahead of time: post at least once a day, and he liked to keep his content “fresh”. Knowing what he wanted made my job easier to do!
Step 2: Know the other blog’s audience: Another concern I had was that the audience here and over at All Things Financial are fairly different. ATF has over 1000 readers a day, most of them through feed subscriptions, while I only get a tenth of that, and mostly via Google searches. I knew I had to find good, fresh sources of financial information that would be interesting to his readers, so I took some time to peruse his past entries, the categories on his blog, and which ones garnered the most comments. Try to find the answers to these questions about the blog before writing: Who reads the blog? What do they look for? How do they get there? How often do they expect to see a new post?
Step 3: Prepare your entries for the week: A bit of pragmatic advice. Double check your “About” page and make who you are or what you’re writing about come across clearly, and also use the page to show off your best posts. I think most people are like me, and when they find a new blog (or unknown author who’s taking over for someone), they’ll head to the About section to find out more about you.
Also, if you’re going to fully benefit from your guest blogging spot, the best thing to do would be to also prepare entries to show on your own blog that week that would be of interest to readers who come over. Here I have to give myself a B. I prepared a few posts, but not nearly the amount that I wanted. I’d wanted to write one on calculating NPVs and a review on a negotiation book, but I didn’t have time for the former, and I couldn’t review the latter because apparently it’s still packed away in a box somewhere!
Step 4: Respect the other author’s writing style: I don’t mean this only in terms of length of post, but voice as well. If the other author believes strongly about certain things, you’re probably better off not taking the opposite stance, unless he’s explicitly told you that’s what he wants you to do. Remember, you’re the guest! Honestly, suddenly changing the feel of a blog will jar the audience and its author. If the author doesn’t use profanity, don’t start. If he’s irreverent about certain topics, try to take that point of view, too, if you write about similar topics.
Step 5: Advertise your site: I admit to being a little shy about this one. JLP suggested I include a blurb about my site and a link at the beginning or the end of my posts, and I did when I started, but decided soon after that it’d be annoying and distracting to close off every little thing with “Ricemutt blogs over at …”. But it probably would have promoted my blog more, and you need to do this to whatever extent you’re comfortable.
Step 6: Apply what you learned to your own blog: This might be the most important step in this whole exercise. What did you learn from the experience? Getting the chance to guest blog is a bit like being allowed to play in a lab, especially if you’re new to blogging. You get to find out what works with that blog’s audience and a chance to learn what makes that blog so successful. Apply what you learn to your own site. For me, I realized that interspersing some briefer, more current posts and links might actually help my site, as would writing with a more personal voice. My blog tends to have a little more stilted/academic bent to it, and I think I need to move away from that a bit.
That’s about all I have to say on the subject for now. If you’re wondering about the results, my average daily readership has increased by 50%. (‘Course, my starting point was about 100/day.) And I’ve got a higher number of feed subscribers than I ever did before. Using other metrics, I received many comments on the majority of posts I wrote on ATF, and JLP’s readership level didn’t drop off a cliff when I was writing, which I consider signs of success.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful to anyone who’s considering being a guest author somewhere. Good luck everyone!