Most of the guest blogging advice available on the web focuses on how to pitch, send and ultimately get guest posts published on other blogs. And that’s fine, we can all benefit from such advice. But today, I want to take a look at guest posting from a completely different angle.
This post is meant for bloggers who GET guest posts from others (instead of sending them) and would like to manage all this content in a sensible and effective way.
I do understand that this is a much less popular problem than how to send a successful guest post pitch, but I still consider it quite a lively one because it doesn’t actually take much to get lost in this whole stream of guest posts circulating around.
I mean, even despite the fact that my blog is not the most popular site on the internet, I do get 7-10 guest post offers a week on average (sometimes 5, sometimes 20).
Some of them are cool, but a big part is an obvious spam/disguised-marketing/SEO/content-republish effort. In short, not genuine guest posts. Bottom line, I think I get like 1-2 worthwhile guest post offers a week.
What I’m trying to say is that, obviously, the more popular you get, the more difficult managing guest posts becomes (considering the overall increasing popularity of guest posting as a practice in general).
So to battle this, I’ve decided to do some research and also look at the sites where I’ve had the privilege to guest post (or be a regular contributor) and see how they are managing their guest contributors from a technological point of view.
Therefore, this is about:
- how to receive guest posts,
- how to communicate with your contributors,
- how to accept/decline offers,
- how to publish guest posts.
- This is NOT about how to deal with people on a personal level (the human interactions).
- This is only about the technology and efficiency.
1. The old school approach
This approach is still the most popular way of dealing with guest posts. In this scenario, the blogger publishes a guidelines page on their blog, links to the contact form (or email address) and gives everybody the green light to send in their submissions.
Even though this is the most intuitive way, it’s not always the most effective one.
These days, our inboxes tend to be cluttered with all kinds of different stuff and it’s really easy to overlook a cool post that’s been sent your way.
Also, if you start getting a lot of those emails, some of them are going to get lost in the spam folder (just because).
Furthermore, people will send you posts in all kinds of formats (DOC, Open Office, TXT, PDF – yes, PDF does happen too). Some of these formats are kind of hard to make WordPress-friendly.
In the end, despite the disadvantages, this old school method is a good start anyway. If you don’t have any info on your site regarding guest posting guidelines then this is the fastest way to provide some. And until you become somewhat popular, you should be able to manage everything in your inbox gradually.
One more hint. Try using a “safeword” (something I picked up at CouchSurfing). If you get a lot of offers, but you don’t have the time to go through all of them, you can place a safeword on your guidelines page and instruct every person pitching you to use this safeword somewhere in the email.
This safeword acts as an indication that they indeed read through the guidelines. Then every email that doesn’t have the word included can be deleted on the spot. Go Shakespeare-style here – invent a word instead of using a common one.
2. Google Forms/Drive
Google Forms seems like a sensible way to handle guest posts, but it requires some explaining.
The idea is that you create a template form and either link to it on your guidelines page or send the link via email to everyone who contacts you about the possibility to guest post.
The fact that you get to create a completely custom form means that you get some control over the specific types of information you require from guest authors. For instance, you can create fields like: title, excerpt, content, bio, Twitter profile, CC image link, and then make all of those fields mandatory, so authors must fill them all out in order to submit the form.
Essentially, Google Forms offer you a great solution for managing all guest posts in one place. You can easily see each submission and then decide what you want to do with it.
One hint though, in the summary view, Google doesn’t do well with HTML tags. But if you go over to the spreadsheet view, everything is perfectly visible. You can easily take the code from there and paste it into WordPress.
The downside here is that you still need to do the whole communication via email, you’re only dealing with content in a different environment.
3. Custom forms and submission managers
I first stumbled upon this when sending a guest post to Read Write Web. In case you don’t know, this is where you submit posts to RWW. The solution is powered by a tool called Submittable. In short, it’s a fancy web form with an advanced back-end that lets you manage every submission from one central location (edit it, change statuses, notify contributors and so on).
In the end, this might just be the best way to manage posts and their authors, provided that you actually receive many genuine offers.
If you use a tool like this, you can simply create a guidelines page on your blog, link to the submission form and then go ahead and ignore every submission sent through other channels (like email). In the end, a great productivity boost for you.
4. Guest author registration (WordPress)
I consider this being the best approach for blogs working with regular contributors.
If someone has proven that they can produce a great piece on a regular basis then they surely don’t need to go through the whole process from step one. Creating a contributor account for them, where they can submit posts directly to your blog, is a lot better approach.
That way, you don’t have to deal with re-formatting the posts from Word to WordPress or any other similar issues.
The only difficulty is that you still need to handle most of the communication via email or other channels. And if you get a lot of new submissions, you don’t necessarily want to create new accounts for everybody (or you’ll end up with 50 user accounts after two months or so).
However, this is still the best solution for some sites. For instance, this is how Lifehack.org works. Each contributor has their own author account.
One more hint. If you don’t want to create author accounts for every contributor, but you still want to have the possibility to manage their bylines pretty easily, consider installing the Co-Authors Plus plugin.
Apart from its main functionality, which is to manage co-authored posts, it’s also great for guest posts and one-off guest authors.
5. Online Forum
Using forums (like phpBB or something) may seem like a bit archaic way of doing things, but it’s actually great for really big sites, with lots of contributors and busy publishing calendars.
This is the method Cracked.com uses.
The idea is that each author gets to join the forum, where they can submit article ideas, get suggestions from editors and other members, and then have their articles moved to WordPress manually and eventually published. At Cracked, it works perfectly.
However, I don’t advise this method for small to mid-sized websites. Forums will perform well only for the big (mainstream) players. Besides, you will need a team of people just to manage the forums (and by team, I mean people with full-time jobs employed by you).
What’s your take?
So, there you go … five different methods of handling guest posts.
Depending on the type of your site and the size of the audience, some of these methods will be more suitable than others. Either way, I’m sure that at least one of them will fit your blog hand-in-glove. Feel free to let me know what you think.