For the busy blogger, accepting the occasional guest post can be a real win-win. They get a break from their normal writing routine and the guest blogger gets exposure to a new audience and some great promotion.
But while guest blogging can be mutually beneficial, it also comes with a new set of risks. Unlike comments, which are posted without any editorial control or initial oversight, bloggers who accept guest posts also accept both legal and professional risks.
So, before pushing a guest post live on your site, it is worthwhile to take a few moments to check and see if there are any potential problems with the work. After all, it only takes a few seconds to check a work for flaws but the headaches caused by unwittingly publishing something dubious can last the life of your site.
All one has to do is know what to look for.
When you accept comments or forum posts on your site, there are laws that protect you. Since you are posting data solely at the direction of the user, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects you against any copyright infringement claims and the Communications Decency Act protects you against any defamation suits.
The problem is that, once you have editorial control over the content posted, those protections are severely eroded. Depending on the nature of the infraction, it is very likely that you could be held partially liable for any damages that the guest post does. This is especially true if there is any reason to believe that due diligence could have prevented the mistake from being made.
However, even if there are no legal issues with a faulty guest post, there are plenty of professional concerns. A bad post, even a guest one, can leave a black mark on a site’s reputation. If your site has made its name on providing high-quality, factual information, it is not worth risking that to post one dubious guest post.
Furthermore, should a questionable post go up, more people are going to see the problem with the post than the name attached to it. To many, the post will be affixed with your site and your name, even if you didn’t actually write the work.
With your reputation and, potentially, your livelihood on the line, it makes sense to take a few moments and guard yourself against any potential problems. Fortunately, doing so is as simple as taking five simple steps that are not just good business, but good ethics.
If you’re looking at accepting a guest, it is important to take the following steps before you hit the “Publish” button.
- Work With Those You Know: The first piece of advice is the same as the one you received as a child, don’t accept candy from strangers. If your site becomes popular enough, you’ll likely have a lot of people offering you guest posts. However, it is best to work with people you know and trust. At the very least, make sure that the person is reputable and known for more than submitting thousands of guest posts.
- Read the Work Carefully: It is amazing how many sites accept guest posts without ever reading them thoroughly. In doing so, check the work for grammar and spelling mistakes and try to get a feel for what is being said. This is important as the next steps require an understanding of the work.
- Fact Check the Work: Opinions are one thing, but anything stated as a fact should be checked. Ideally, the guest blogger should have provided linked reference for all non-obvious facts. Be especially careful of anything stated as a fact that might harm the reputation of a third party as those could open up a defamation suit if they can be proved false. It is best to check and recheck anything you are unsure of.
- Check for Copies: Once you’ve done a “sanity check” on the work, it is worth taking a few moments to check the work for any copying on the Web. The process is as simple as typing in a few unique quotes from the article into Google but can be achieved quickly and freely by using BitScan’s plagiarism checking tool. The goal is not just to check for plagiarism or copyright infringement, but to ensure that the work is not just a recycled copy of an early post by the submitter. You want to make sure that the guest post is not only free of potential copyright issues, but also unique and original.
- Clearly Attribute the Work: Once you’ve confirmed the the work is at least relatively accurate and copy-free, it is important to clearly mark the work as a guest post. This can be done by putting the words “Guest Post” into the title of the piece, writing a brief introduction for the work and including a full author profile at the end. This greatly behooves the author of the work and, should a problem arise with the post later, offers you some distance from it. As with most things, it is in everyone’s best interest if we are clear as to who wrote what on the site.
The problem, however, is that far too few sites do this when accepting guest posts. They take the work, publish it and then check out for the day. Many fail to realize that accepting a guest post does not relieve you of your duties as a Webmaster, but rather, that your role changes from that of writer to editor.
It is important that, when accepting guest posts, you take them as serious, if not more so, than your own works. You are letting someone else, probably someone you’ve never met, use your site, your name and your reputation to spread their message.
That is not something you should take lightly.
Fortunately, problems with guest posting are relatively few and far between. The vast majority of guest posting arrangements are executed without any problems and the biggest issues lie with authors recycling their own posts on as many sites as will take them.
Odds are, if you follow the first step above and work only with those you know and trust, the chances of a problem arising are slim to none. Still, it pays off to go ahead and use due diligence when accepting the post, not only to head off any legal issues, but to maintain a high quality of posting.
Considering the consequences for not doing so and the minimal amount of effort it takes to be sure, there is little reason not to be safe.
After all, as the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry and if a guest blog post goes awry, you could find yourself with many reasons to be sorry.