While most WordPress blogs around the world are just like every other WordPress blog, they are not all equal. And not every WordPress Theme is equal and the same across every blog. So there are a few things guest bloggers may need to know about your blog in order to guest blog that I want to cover as part of this ongoing series on Learning the Art of Guest Blogging.
Darren Rowse of Problogger covers a lot of these in “How to be a Good Guest Blogger”, but I want to go past the surface of making a good impression and adding value to the logistics of guest blogging. The little annoying things that you’ve become accustomed to you on your blog that you need to warn your guest bloggers about.
Every blog has little quirks that you may have learned to work around. You may have to share these with your guest bloggers, along with tips on how to blog on your blog, in order to make their experience comfortable and with no surprises.
I’ve started putting together a list of things you need to tell a guest blogger before they blog on your blog, and that a guest blogger should ask about before they blog. Here are a few I’ve come up with so far.
Scheduling Guest Blogger Posts
I thought I’d create a calendar on Google to allow everyone to sign up for a day in which to blog so there wouldn’t be anyone overlapping another.
Providing an editorial calendar for your guest bloggers allows you to set your own content over the next few weeks or so, leaving gaps where you want the guest bloggers to “fill in” the empty spots. It also helps them see what content topics you may be coming out with, so their post content won’t overlap with yours.
Since I am inviting so many guest bloggers to blog, the calendar quickly became too time consuming and too controlling. It was a lot of work to add each one to the calendar so they would have editing access. It was too “first come, first serve” and I felt it was too confining. I’ve decided to take a chance and ask them to blog as much or as little as they like, and any time or date they want, as long as the constraints for blogging about blogging in August and WordPress Tips only in September is adhered to. The when doesn’t matter.
It’s taking a chance, but I’m trusting these expert, long time bloggers to play nice. You might not want to give up that much control over your blog.
Hinting That This is a Guest Blog Post
It’s so frustrating to read a guest blog post only to have the commenters respond as if it is the host blogger and not the guest blogger. You need to make it clear to your readers that this is not “you” blogging but a guest, and you need to help the guest blogger publicize themselves and their blogs.
If your WordPress Theme has a prominent byline under or near your post title and before the content begins, this will help introduce readers to a new name.
You can also get the guest blogger (or you give them the template) to write an introduction and set it in bold or italic for emphasis, such as:
I like having a line between the intro and the content, but that’s up to you and your blog’s design.
If your blog does not have a byline at the top of the post, you can manually create one at the top of the post such as:
At the bottom of the post, make sure the guest bloggers knows that they can add a short bio about themselves and their blog(s). I recommend that a horizontal line be used to separate the bio from the content and to call attention to it.
This is often the last thing people see before they comment, so it’s a double reminder that the author of the post is different from usual.
You can also ask the guest blogger to include a graphic of their blog logo or identifying graphic image, or even a photograph to their bio footer. It’s another eye-catching way to say “Hey, I’m the new kid!”
Help The Guest Blogger Promote Their Guest Blogging
Help the guest blogger promote their guest blogging activities by providing them with information on how to link to their posts, and to their author page views, as well as the feeds for your blog and their posts.
For example, if you would like to see all the posts I’ve published on the Blog Herald, you would use the link:
<a href="http://www.blogherald.com/author/lorelle/" title="Posts by Lorelle VanFossen on Blog Herald">Posts by Lorelle VanFossen on the Blog Herald</a>
Also offer them the feed links to their guest blogger author pages:
This helps them provide this information to their readers to help them keep track of what they are doing with their guest blogging.
Also, blog about them, introducing them before and after the guest blogging events. Before the event, it helps your readers to know in advance that a guest is coming to visit. Afterwards, it’s a great way to remind your readers to check out these great guest posts, and to thank your guest blogger(s). Make sure both of these posts include links to the guest blogger’s blog so trackbacks and referrer links will help them get the most benefit from their experience.
Spellings and Writing Style
It is important that the guest blogger use their own unique writing style when they guest blog. It helps introduce the readers to what they can find on the guest blogger’s blog.
Still, you may have writing style policies and spellings that are particular to your blog and your blog topic and industry. For example, on my blogs, WordPress is spelled WordPress, the proper way the trademarked name is to be presented. Not WordPress, Word Press, nor wrodpress. The same applies to WordPress Plugins not plug-ins (what you stick into the wall for electricity).
I also appreciate it when they spell my name right, but that’s not such a hard core spelling policy.
If you use trademarked or specific spellings on your blog, make sure they know what they are before they begin to blog. You can edit the post and fix them, but why not let them know right off the top.
Does your blog allow swearing? Few guest bloggers will use inappropriate language, but if your blog allows it, and in fact encourages it, then your guest bloggers should know your policy unless they are very familiar with your blog.
In general, guest bloggers should be familiar with the blog and its writing style and topics. Read through random posts over the past six months or more to make sure you have a feel for how the blogger writes and how topics are covered on the blog. Then match your guest blog post style to the general format, while allowing your personality to come shining through.
This also helps you to not blog about something the host blogger just blogged about two weeks ago. Play nice with content by researching a little before jumping in.
Handling Comments and Comment Spam
If you have a comments policy, make sure your guest bloggers have read it. Different blogs and bloggers permit different levels of interaction. While one blogger might allow swearing and nasty comments, another would delete those in an instant. It’s important they know what your policy is regarding comments, and comment spam.
Control over editing and deleting comments and designating comment spam usually resides with the post author/contributor, not the administrator. But if the blogger wants total control over the conversation on his blog, and allow guest bloggers to only comment, not edit comments.
Personally, I have a fairly open comment policy, though if you attack me directly and not my post content or other commenters or guest bloggers, or don’t play nice, I have a very quick delete button finger. However, this is rather vague. What one blogger will allow, another will delete. You have to be clear with your policy so they know your limits.
Think about what you will or will not allow in your blog comments. Since comments are content, it’s critical that comments speak well for your blog.
Do you fix misspellings or let them sit there? Do you fix minor mistakes in the comments to help the commenter out? If someone posts a comment with keywords in the name form, do you edit the comment and change the keywords to their name or blog title? I do. I hate that! If someone swears, do you delete the comment, edit the swear word out, or ed*t it so it still says what it says, but looks “safer”?
There are a lot of little details involved in administrating comments on your blog. Let your guest bloggers know if they should do the same, and how to respond to other little annoyances within your blog comment policy.
Monitoring Comments Options
WordPress blogs have multiple methods for monitoring blog comments. You can monitor blog comments by:
- Feed for the entire blog’s comments.
- Feed for a specific blog post’s comments in a feed.
- WordPress Plugins for subscribing to a blog post’s comments.
- Email through the blog’s comment email service, if available.
- Email through the Email Comments option in the WordPress Administration Panels.
WordPress blogs can be set up to have comments emailed to the blog’s author, or all the comments on the blog emailed. If you sit on your inbox, this is a great way to get an alert that someone posted a comment on the guest blog.
However, if the guest blogger doesn’t sit on email, or has a bandwidth or storage space limits on their email, don’t enable this without asking. The first post I did with Problogger, my inbox was inundated with over 60 comment emails in a couple hours. Between that and other server problems I was having, it locked up my main site for hours. If I had known this option was turned on, I would have turned it off immediately before the problems began.
Let your guest bloggers know the various blog comment monitoring options to track comments on their guest blog posts, and choose what works best for them.
Copyrights and Licenses
My blog is has a serious copyright policy. Does yours? How do you want to cover content from guest bloggers?
Any content of published on a guest blog is covered in two ways. By the policy of the contributing author, and the copyright policy and license on the publishing blog.
If you are the guest blogger, check the blog host’s copyright policy. Do they have an “open source” type copyright that says “it’s free – take it and use it”, or are there limits on the usage rights? If you don’t like the policy, don’t guest blog. The odds are that the blog host won’t help you if the content is scraped.
If you are the guest blogger host, make sure your copyright policy plays fair, honoring the work of your contributors and protecting it as much as you can. Whatever your policy, let the guest bloggers know so they can rest easy that you won’t abuse their content, and won’t let their content be abused by others.
Post Content Structure for Guest Bloggers
When a guest blogger approaches a blog from the publishing side, they need to know some important things about how the blog works, especially how to handle the design elements within the post content area. These design elements may include links, tags, categories, blockquotes, images, headings, tables, and post sidebar content boxes.
Writing Titles: It’s my policy to write titles which use keywords, search terms, and clearly state the content within the blog post. I would love to write cute titles, but I understand how important they are to getting your blog posts found.
Do you capitalize most words in the post title, or make it like a sentence, with only the first letter capitalized? Do you have a special method for writing post titles?
Guest bloggers need to know what your policies are for your blog’s post titles. If you don’t care, then they need to know that. And if you, they need to know that, too.
How to Write Links: Links on my blog meet web standards for accessibility. They include descriptive text in the anchor tag “title” attribute and the links are to be spelled out in the link text. I will not accept here as an acceptable form of creating a link.
I also use absolute links not relative links, so the links will work easily from feed readers.
Guest bloggers need to know your linking policies, not just on how to write a link but how to include a link, if you have strict policies on the types of links or sites you will permit, or not permit, linking or referencing. For example, I’ve had bloggers tell me that they refuse to link to Wikipedia as they don’t trust the integrity or consistency of the content. Don’t want links there, don’t let guest bloggers link there.
Post Headings: Headings are critical to help break up a post’s content into readable chunks. They also help pull the reader through the content to the end of the post.
Are the blog’s headings in
h4 HTML tags? Are they progressively smaller in size going down the list? Are heading tags even styled in your WordPress Theme?
If headings are used in posts, don’t let the guest blogger hunt and experiment, wasting their time trying to find out which heading tag to use inside of the blog posts. Tell them.
Blockquotes: The use of blockquote tags in blog posts is supposed to be limited to highlighting quotes from other reference resources, but many use them to create indentions in their post content, or highlight some important point.
How do you handle the citations for a blockquote? Do you typically put the citation link before or after the blockquote, or within it? Does it go into a
cite tag as is web standard, or do you have another method?
How blockquotes work on your blog must be spelled out to the guest bloggers so they understand when and how to use them in their guest posts.
Images: How are images handled on the blog?
What does the blogger have to do to align the image so the text will wrap around the graphics or photographs? Does your blog use CSS style classes in the images to float them to the right or left of the text, or force them to sit in the middle, with text above and below, but not next to the image? Or does your blog design not feature image alignment styles or your blog hosting service won’t allow CSS styles or classes within your blog posts and you are forced to use the deprecated
align attribute to move the images to the right or left?
What types of images are permitted? JPG, GIF, PNG, or all three? What about video types? How is video or Flash added?
What about the file and image sizes? Are there any size restrictions the guest blogger needs to know about?
What about storage locations and restrictions for the images? How are they uploaded? Do you have specific folders for specific images?
Why make guest bloggers guess and experiment. Tell them.
Categories and Tags: What are your blog policies on categories and tags? How does it work? The guest blogger needs to know how your categories work, maybe even which content goes into which category, and how to add tags to blog posts.
Can they add categories to your blog? Or tags? Or are they required to work within the boundaries of categorization you’ve established?
Some bloggers believe in the “one category per post” categorization. Others allow as many categories to be selected per post as suits the needs of the post content.
How you handle categories and tags on your blog is different from how others do it, so make sure your guest bloggers understand which categories and tags to use, how to use them, and what their limits are for their guest posts.
The MORE and Feeds: Does your blog use the MORE option to truncate posts to excerpts on the front page of your blog and/or feed? If so, the guest blogger needs to know what is your criteria for using the MORE feature on their posts.
How long should the excerpt be? Or should the guest blogger use their best judgment?
Make sure you inform the guest blogger on how this works, if you use it. If you don’t, then tell them anyway as they may be familiar using it.
What Else Does a Guest Blogger Need to Know?
I’ve only scratched the surface of what information you need to tell a guest blogger or a guest blogger needs to know before they blog. If you’ve guest blogged or hosted guest bloggers, what was important for you to know that you wished you knew before you started?
Don’t inundate your guest blogger with too much information, but give them the guidelines that will help them blog on your blog. I sure wish I’d had these when I guest blogged. It would have saved me a lot of time to know how they handle headings and images. Now, I ask them for this information.
If you are asked to guest blog, make sure you ask.