Let’s start with this: inviting experts to create articles that you’ll post on your business blog is a smart idea. After all, your goal is to provide your customer community with topical, relevant, and original content, and this certainly fits in this strategy. Well, sometimes.
That’s because if you take a quick tour of the business blogosphere, you’ll quickly discover that all is not right in the state of guest blogging. In fact, for every article that informs and impresses, there are a handful (or make that two handfuls) that, frankly, fail to deliver. What’s going on?
As you might expect or have experienced, the problem is rooted in the nature of guest blogging itself: there’s no payment involved, which means that enforcing editorial rules is extremely difficult — or in most cases, impossible.
After all, experts who get their article submission sent back to them with some pointed remarks like “rewrite this section” or, “you are contradicting yourself here” are unlikely to embrace the constructive criticism. On the contrary, they’re more likely to head for the exits; and maybe utter a few not-safe-for-work words on the way out. Indeed, as much as guest blogging requires strategic planning, it also depends on diplomatic intelligence.
And so, the critical question that you need to answer before you head out to guest blogging territory is, of course this: how do I avoid disaster? Here’s the game plan to ensure that you (and your contributors for that matter) find the experience rewarding instead of regrettable:
1. Choose Experts Wisely.
Before asking an expert to contribute one or more articles, do some background research to see whether they have good (or good enough) writing skills, and especially whether their area of expertise overlaps what your customer community is interested in. There are all kinds of experts out there, whether they specialize in orthopedic surgery, gourmet cooking on a budget, installing car wraps, and so on. You want contributors who are going to add value to your blog — not deliver content for the sake of content.
2. Have Editorial Rules in Place.
Don’t simply ask experts to contribute an article — because who knows what they’ll submit? It may be clear and compelling. Or, it may be confusing and chaotic. Have editorial rules in place that cover key aspects, such as word count limits, tone and style suggestions, and ensure that experts agree to them before they submit something. Also ensure that you point experts to examples, which they can use as a guide.
3. Set Deadlines.
This is easier said than done, but it’s nevertheless part of the deal: try to get experts to commit to deadlines. Not to be pessimistic, but it’s practical (and safe) to assume that most experts aren’t going to send you stuff as promised. As such, if you plan on posting something two months from now, give an expert a deadline of one month. If they send it to you on time, you’re a month ahead. If they don’t, then you have some time to try and get them back on-track.
4. Reserve the Right to Edit.
Last but certainly not least: make it very clear to experts that, as a standard best practice, you reserve the right to edit submissions for length, readability, grammar, style. Of course, you will avoid making any fundamental or material changes that would alter the message — for example, if an expert says that something is threatening or dangerous, you certainly aren’t going to change that. However, you can’t lose sight of the fact that your website is an asset, and it will be damaged if the content you post (regardless of the source) is incomprehensible, confusing, or just plain bad. In those cases, you’re better off not posting anything at all.
The Bottom Line
Guest blogging should be a win-win deal: experts increase their visibility, and businesses get informative, relevant and topical content for their customer community. If you keep the above in mind, you can expect to enjoy plenty of success. But if you ignore or overlook any of the above, you’ll likely find yourself shutting down your guest blogging experiment within months, weeks — or maybe even days.