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Anatomy of a Successful Guest Post Pitch — Idea to Assignment

Carol Tice

Young Asian freelance writer pitching baseballHave you dreamed of guest posting on a big, successful blog — but haven’t been able to make it happen?

I think that’s a common experience, based on the dozens of pitches I pass on every month, and the few I greenlight.

Recently, my storehouse of guest posts ran dry, and I decided to make an exception to my usual rule of only accepting guest posts from Freelance Writers Den members or grads of Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging course.

I threw it wide open and started posting on Facebook and Twitter that I wanted guest post pitches, NOW. I also started nagging writers I’d already asked for posts to turn them in.

Then I posted a link to my writer’s guidelines and sat back to see what would happen.

How to blow a guest post offer

Despite this offer to take a post from any writer anywhere, I only ended up with one guest post that got approved.

Most of the offers went like this:

“Sure, I want to write for you! What topic would you like? I can write about anything!”

So. Here’s the deal. When you want to guest post, part of what you’re supposed to bring to the table is a post idea.

Not just an idea, but a headline.

When you give a generic response like the one above, I think you don’t really read my blog and don’t know my readers. You’re probably not a freelance writer or don’t have any success stories to share with my audience.

Also, if I have to think up the idea and write the headline all by myself, I might as well just keep going and write the post too, hmmm? The whole idea here is that you’re saving me time.

Especially since I am a paying market and I’m willing to pay $50 real American dollars for my post, I’m expecting you to bring me the whole package — a fresh idea that hasn’t been covered in the 500+ posts already on my blog, a strong headline, and a post outline so I can see where the post is going before I assign it.

The #1 thing that kills your guest post

The next big problem is that most headlines writers propose to me are total fails. Just going to be frank.

They often have no key words in them and/or you can’t even tell what you’d learn if you took the time to click and read them.

For instance, I recently got a pitch with the headline, “It Works If You Work It.”

What does? For whom? This sort of headline doesn’t get traffic for anybody.

Google doesn’t know what it’s about and can’t send any readers. Anyone who does stumble upon it on their own doesn’t click because they have no idea what it’s about.

You’ve got to learn to write headlines if you want to win at guest posting.

How to get in the ballpark

If writers have an idea that intrigues me, sometimes I will work with them to come up with the headline.

But you have to be resilient and willing to accept that I didn’t just bite on your first thought you threw out there.

Some writers run for the hills when I ask them to tell me their proposed headline…and then I tell them to make it better.

On this recent go-round, I only had one writer hang in with me, refine her headline, and get an assignment. As it happened, we were chatting on Twitter.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 9.28.00 AM

First, I put it out there that I’m looking for guest posts.

And I get a nibble from Cinthia Ritchie with the germ of an idea.

I gently remind her that I approve posts based on a viable headline.

And she gives me a fairly decent one. But it’s missing something…

So I ask for it.

In that last comment above, Cinthia explains a bit more about her concept, so I get a better idea of how we might sculpt the headline.
Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 9.28.19 AM

Then, I ask her to try again on the headline.

She is serious about this!

She reports she spent an hour studying my blog to learn about my headline style.

And she gives me a new headline. It’s not bad!

We’re getting there…but the new headline is too long. I have a rule that I don’t want my blog headlines to be more than two lines long.

I give it a tweak to shorten it…and an assignment is born.

This back and forth is typical for me when I assign guest posts. It usually takes a few tweaks before a guest post idea is ready to go. I want to buff it up until it delivers the most valuable information I can get for my readers.

Have you guest posted? Leave a comment and tell how you made it happen.