Guest Post Tips: 9 Top Online Editors Vent About Writers

Carol Tice

Guest Post Tips from Top Online Editors. Makealivingwriting.com

Are your guest post pitches getting ignored?

If so, there may be some concrete things you can do to fix that. And it’s worth taking the time to figure out how to make your guest post ideas better.

Why?

Plenty of writers I know get all their freelance clients from the exposure they get guest posting on popular blogs. You can slog away posting on your own little blog named “blog” that’s living under a tab on your writer website, but few prospects ever see that.

On the other hand, they’re usually impressed as heck that you’ve appeared on that big blog, and dying to hire you, in my experience.

To improve your guest-post pitches and get more posts approved, you’ve got to know how to please editors. So I asked a bunch of editors at popular sites what writers are getting wrong in their pitches.

Listen in as nine editors tell us their pet peeves — and offer tips on how to get a ‘yes’ on your guest-post idea:

Andy Nathan guest post tipsAndy Nathan, owner/editor at Smart at the Start

Andy is a digital marketing specialist who’s currently creating lead-generation funnels and in charge of social-media marketing for littelfuse.

Learn blog formatting. I ended up creating a format for my freelance writers, because most of them don’t know how to space content on a blog post.

Emory-Rowlands guest post tipsEmory Rowland, editor for the Leverable blogs

(Leverable SEO, Clickfire, Testimony Share) and also on occasion for The Home Security Superstore, Ted Turner Expeditions, and ClickHOST.

Don’t skimp on research. Doing good research is not just Googling your topic and finding articles that reference your anchor text. Why not cite stats, examples, and opinions in the article that support the point you’re trying to make? It’s kind of funny to watch, but almost every writer who contributes posts for my SEO blog links to one of these three: Moz, Search Engine Land, or one of Neil Patel’s blogs.

Don’t ignore the power of images. Using any old image doesn’t cut it. Why not get rid of that pixilated clip-art and find–or better yet, create–an image that reinforces the message in your post in a clever subtle way?

The less back and forth time editors have to have with writers, the more the editor likes the writer and wants to publish her work.

Gail Gardner guest post tipsGail Gardner, owner/editor at GrowMap

Learn to use header tags. When you write online, header tags tell search engines like Google what words are most important. It’s essential that bloggers always use header tags instead of just bold text for their subtitles. Search engines do consider bold text more important than plain text, but not as important as the header tags. There should be only one Header 1 <h1>, which by default in WordPress is the title. Major sub-sections are most important and should be header 2 <h2>. Less important sub-sections should be header 3 <h3>.

Remember to size your images. Look at the site where you’re submitting and resize your images to the appropriate width. If a site uses square images on their page, use a square image for that (unless the site provides images). And if file size is an issue, compress images before submitting using http://compresspng.com.

Write good headlines. It’s a skill that can be learned. Take the time to write a good headline for your guest post. Then test the title using the Coschedule headline analyzer.

Glen Long-Smart Blogger-guest post tips

Glen Long, managing editor, Smart Blogger

I receive a good number of guest post pitches and teach students how to pitch big blogs within our Guest Blogging Certification Program. My personal pet peeves include:

Don’t send pitch emails addressed to “Dear blog owner.” Too lazy to find out the name of the blog owner or editor? I’ll assume you’re too lazy to write a good post, too.

Stop sending post ideas that are off-topic. If your topics miss the mark by a mile, it’s a good bet you haven’t bothered to read the blog you’re pitching. So I probably won’t bother to reply.

Don’t send poorly written emails explaining how good your post will be. If you can’t write an email without typos, I’ll have to assume you can’t write a decent post, either.

Don’t send your inquiry email with the finished post already attached. This tells me you’re not interested in feedback on your topic (and I just know you’re sending the same post to multiple blogs at the same time).

Jane Flanagan - guest post tipsJane Flanagan, Content Director, FreshBooks

Don’t send mass-mail. I’d say the “wide blast” approach to pitching is the worst. So many people fire off indiscriminate copy-and-paste pitches to multiple outlets. An editor can really tell when something is pitched with their publication in mind and whether time was spent researching existing site content. When it comes to pitching, go for precision shots rather than wide blasts.

Don’t forget the basics. I would also add the things that should go without saying, but unfortunately don’t: Grammar, spelling,  the company name, and finding contact information. Just be a pro about these things!

Lexi Rodrigo-Mirasee guest post tips

Lexi Rodrigo, editor, Mirasee

Learn to follow guidelines. The world would be a better place if only guest writers would read and follow our submission guidelines, check their drafts for typos and grammatical errors, and write about fresh, not tired, topics. You’d be surprised how many times I have to point people to our Write for Us page–and then they still don’t follow the procedures we ask for!

Please follow instructions. Once, a guest blogger even wrote to me, “I’ve read and re-read your guidelines and I still don’t know what I’m doing wrong!” I had to point it out. So she already lost points with me for not being able to follow simple instructions.

Megan Krause guest post tipsMegan Krause, managing editor – ClearVoice

Please read over your work before you submit.

Then, strike the cliches.

Your editors will love you for it (and send more work your way).

Ronell Smith guest post tips

Ronell Smith, associate, MOZ.com

Understand the blog first. Most writers don’t, so they pitch ideas that are a poor fit.

Begin by building rapport. Most writers fail to build rapport with the editor, to better discern her/his needs and what role they can play in meeting them.

Use editors’ advice. Most writers don’t use the advice given with regard to their ideas, and content.

Sherry Gray guest post tipsSherry Gray, freelance writer and editor

I edit a group of paid content writers for one of my clients. My tip:

Learn to be concise. My top gripe is wordily-worded sentences that utilize (argh!) an extensive plethora of words and phrases to over-explain a concept that, in all honesty, could be written just: Writers use too many words.

Build a better guest post

And there you have it, folks — a ton of tips on what you’re doing wrong, and exactly how you can improve your guest posts and get more gigs. Now, get out there and connect with some great blogs!

Do you guest post? Share your experience in the comments.

Small Blog, Big Income: Earn Money from your blog!

74 Comments

  1. Carol J Alexander

    Great post, Carol. Can I add one? As editor of a regional lifestyle magazine I received a query that read:
    “Hey Carol,
    Dear Kurt,
    …”
    The writer obviously cut and pasted from a rejected query he sent another publication. That didn’t make me feel very special.

    • Carol Tice

      LOL, I get that all the time, too! Wrong name or just ‘Dear Editor,’ as Glen notes. Come on! You’re going to have to do better than that to get published anywhere prominent, writers.

  2. Sparkles

    Also, which editor is best to cold email? Like when I look at magazine/newspaper contact pages, they have multiple editors. Usually like an associate editor, a senior editor, assistant editor, media editor, or even managing editor. Or, they also will have multiples of the same type of editor…so who would be best to email, do you think?

    • Carol Tice

      It depends on what you’re pitching, but my default is either managing editor or if they have it an articles or features editor. Or if you have a particular topic like health and there’s a health editor, then that’s it.

    • Susie Rosse

      Thanks, but by managing editor what do you mean? I have seen that term, but mostly I’ve seen these 3: Editor, Senior Editor, and Assistant Editor…So Senior Editor would be best to email? Just want to clarify.

    • Carol Tice

      Really depends on the publication, Susie — these are the sort of questions that are great to ask in my Freelance Writers Den community, where you can hopefully find writers who’ve written for that exact publication.

  3. Sparkles

    I have a question about sending query letters. I read so many of your posts about pitching correctly but…Why would any editor accept a pitch from a new or unknown writer? Like even if I contact local magazines/newspapers, I’m sure they get at least several dozen pitches a day…why would they pick mine? I’m not established, as in I don’t have a site with lots of visits or a well known name…why pick me when they pay so much more?

    • Minuca Elena

      Hey Sparkles, 🙂

      You should give it a try. Send a personalized email and link to a couple posts you wrote, even if they are on your blog and not a guest post. It doesn’t matter so much if you are an established writer or not, as long as you can create great, in-depth content that provides value and bring something unique.

      Trust more in yourself and do an awesome job. 🙂
      Minuca

    • Sparkles

      Thanks, I like the idea of using clips from my own blog!

    • Carol Tice

      Sparkles, I’m allowing the set of comments you’ve already made, but you should know my normal comment policy is you need a real first and last name to comment on my blog. Please provide them in future!

      Why would an editor accept a pitch from a new writer? Because it’s a story they NEED in their publication. The strength of your idea sells you and gets you the assignment. You don’t have to be a big name, though a writer website would really help. If you need help with that, check out my Freelance Writers Den community, where we have some resources, or head over to Useful Writing Courses and check out Pitch Clinic (though there’s no immediate plan to teach Pitch Clinic again in the next few months, could be a longer wait to get in the door).

    • Susie Rosse

      Had no idea about your policy! Fixed it now…

      So, about pitching for an article…I guess what bothers me is that I don’t understand why publications would trust a random person. Like how do they know I wouldn’t be inexperienced and accidentally give the wrong facts from not enough research on whatever topic? Obviously editors would help with that, but…if I don’t have any credibility or liability from my reputation yet, then why would they pay me so willingly?

      Have your forum members had a lot of success even if they were new writers, and getting their pitches/queries accepted?

    • Carol J Alexander

      Susie,
      I am the editor of a regional lifestyle publication and I read all pitches that come my way and consider them based on our readership and tone of the publication. I welcome new writers because they often lend a fresh voice to the publication.

    • Susie Rosse

      Great! Do you have other editors? Like are you the Senior Editor, or just Editor? Or if I emailed an Assistant Editor, they’d read my pitches/queries too?

    • Carol J Alexander

      At our publication, I’m the only editor. But if you see multiple editors in the masthead, I’d first look for the one over the department you want to pitch. For instance, if you are pitching a home decorating story, send it to the home department editor. If the magazine isn’t that large, I’d start at the top, except for managing editor. That would be more of a management position, I think. And the biggest mistake is letting the decision paralyze you. Just send it. If you send it to the wrong person, they would most likely forward it to the right one.

    • Susie Rosse

      Alright then, thanks! They probably would forward it…

    • Carol Tice

      Exactly. I end each query with, “If you’re not the right editor for this, appreciate your forwarding it to the right person.” In this age of email, it’s an instant for them to send it along. No biggie. I say stop worrying about getting the exact right editor, and learn to write queries that sell.

    • Carol Tice

      If you know how to construct a query, you are not some ‘random person’ — you prove to them, in the query, that you understand how to execute the story.

      If you need to know more you might check out my Pitch Clinic course over here: http://usefulwritingcourses.com. We also have a forum inside Freelance Writers Den for reviewing queries where you get editor feedback and learn how to make them better. Most queries that go out are nonsalable, in my experience working with hundreds of Pitch Clinic students.

  4. Minuca Elena

    Hi Carol,

    Great topic. I especially like Glen’s answer. People that pitch for a guest post should make an effort to try to know the site’s owner and the topic before sending the outreach email. The first couple times when I received a pitch for a guest post on my site, I was excited. I was thrilled to have someone taking an interest in my site, and writing free content for me.

    Later, I noticed that the post, he wrote was nice, but average. It didn’t provide mind blowing info, the literary style wasn’t compelling, and the post didn’t get a lot of traffic or engagement. Now, I am receiving pitches from bloggers that don’t even bother to find out my name or what do I blog about.

    If you are pitching to huge bloggers, I suggest you comment and share their posts on social media, for a couple weeks before pitching them. If you want to get a guest post on a smaller site, then at least take 5 minutes, to check the about page and the last posts. Refer to the person you are writing by name and also mention a couple posts that you liked.

    This way, you will increase your chances of getting a reply. Also, your goal shouldn’t be a backlink. You should write the best content you can, so it can become viral and get you a lot of traffic back to your blog.

    Thanks to all the bloggers that shared their valuable experience here!

    Best,
    Minuca

    • Carol Tice

      I know! The minute someone says in their pitch email, “I just require one dofollow link,” it’s an automatic no from me.

    • Minuca Elena

      It doesn’t bother me that they want a backlink. I just want them to deserve it.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, it should bother you, Minuca, because Google is taking an increasingly dim view of link-seeking guest posts. That’s why it’s a no.

  5. Desiree Dow

    Thanks so much for this post! Carol, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I found you accidently on twitter several months ago. Your advice and tips help so much. I feel that I am a better “pitcher” and writer because of you. Please keep them coming!

    • Carol Tice

      Glad you found me, Desiree!

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