Cautions and Advice for Guest Bloggers & New Content Marketers
This post starts as a bit of a rant. It isn’t so much aimed at Content Marketers, as those who talk about Content Marketing (but probably don’t do it). It is also a friendly nudge to would-be guest bloggers, searching for the right blog for their content.
How Not To Do a Guest Post
As COO and Editor-in-chief of Curatti, one of my functions is to field many of the guest author requests we receive. I have to tell you, the rejection rate is getting up there these days! It isn’t because worse writers are contacting us. It’s because of the constant repetition!
HOW MANY TIMES DOES ANYONE NEED TO READ ABOUT THE HEMINGWAY APP!
I tell people that our readers are sophisticated and the main reason we turn people down is because their writing is at a level some way junior to our readers. And there they come back with “Many companies are finding that they need a blog” or “All companies need a good Content Marketing strategy and here’s why”. Sometimes I force myself to read a little more. After all, some writers have problems with their openings. We’re happy to work with them if the article picks up. Often, it doesn’t!
It becomes ever more difficult to write a polite refusal letter. Believe me, I’ve wanted to write “I got two lines into your submission and had to stop”, or “I’ve seen this exact same article 500 times, and 100 of them were submitted here.”
Let’s get this straight, people. In the B2B world, too many seem to have lost track of what Content Marketing is. Every time you see the term in a title, it is about how to do it. And how to do it always seems to be a rehash of everything that preceded it on the same subject.
Ecosystem Turned Echo Chamber
Remember: We’re talking about a very small, self-perpetuating ecosystem turned echo chamber here. You read about something that interests you. You learn it and write it once. Then it bounces between not so distant yet almost perfectly reflective walls with little-to-no distortion. On its frequent returns, it has different names but most of the same words
What Content Marketing Really Is
Content Marketing is about establishing trust and leadership in a market niche, without actually (overtly) selling anything. The idea is to show prospective clients that you are knowledgeable in an area, and to at least partly educate them in that area.
You give people enough information so that a few can do it for themselves. Meanwhile, you establish a clear perception that you can do everything you are writing about and more, for a prospect.
Well that’s the short answer anyway. You will give away plenty of knowledge along the way. But the end goal must be that people should know and like you, and trust you enough to either partner with you or hire you to do something for them.
If what you know about is how to write about what tools will help real content marketers write great articles, how are you going to take that to the bank?
Or to put it another way, if you re-write an already overplayed article and you inject nothing new into it – no sense of humour, edge or spark of originality – just an obvious regurgitation of articles you just read…. What can I say except….. Yawn!
How To Talk About Content Marketing (even if you don’t actually do it)
Know your audience (or that of the blog you are trying to submit a guest post to). The first important thing here is to know more about the subject (or any subject that you write about), than most of those you are aiming your article at! Seems obvious, right? Somehow, it isn’t always so.
Yes, B2B companies are also content consumers who sometimes buy services. But you aren’t establishing knowledge, trust or leadership if you are adding nothing original. For fear of missing a couple of names, I won’t mention any of the many people I would contact for help if I needed it. These are mostly people who preceded me into this field. They have long since established themselves as the leaders and ‘first line communicators’. Suffice to say, they have my respect and that of many others.
If you want to reach a specific niche within B2B, you must attempt to become what I’ve previously termed a ‘second level communicator’. Unless you have an inside track on current trends, you take the content from the thought leaders, and add niche specific context.
How To Actually Do Content Marketing
This section is not aimed at experienced marketers. You know this and more, and might as well skip to the next sub-heading (unless you want to add some thoughts of your own in the comments?).
My best tack here is to simply link to perhaps the leading authority on how to do Content Marketing – Copyblogger. They do indeed make money talking about how to do it. You can download their white paper here.
This is their lead quote:
“CONTENT MARKETING means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.”
As with all sites and bloggers, they don’t reach everyone (and aren’t affordable to everyone they do reach). So there are opportunities for others to reach a niche if all you want to do is write about how to do content marketing
How To Really Do a Guest Post
First of all, don’t get comfortable and stuck in one writing style. As Ana Hoffman says, each niche may require a different delivery. The rule of thumb though is:
Write as much as the subject requires. True, 1,000+ words are optimum, but if the subject you’re writing about can be explained in fewer words then don’t pad out your article. There’s nothing worse than an article padded out for the sake of it. (OK, you got me. There are lots of things worse!)
Before submitting content to a blog, do a few searches on that blog. Has your chosen subject been written about? OK. That may be good and may not be so good. It will allow you to gauge the level of expertise the articles were written at. If you look further, it may give you an indication as to whether the subject matter gets a decent amount of shares on that blog (*).
Use your search results to determine if you are right for a given blog, or if your expertise is below that of the other writers. Be honest with yourself on this one, as you can be sure that whoever reads your submission will know it if that’s the case. And I have it on good authority that most don’t bother responding when this happens.
There are plenty of other hints I could pass on, but these should spare you from a lot of false hope.
(*) Caution: Republished posts should have canonical links. When these are used, most tweets of the article (it should be all but somehow isn’t quite) will register on the original article, not on the blog posting them. So factor this into your calculations.
Words Of Encouragement
PLEASE don’t let my words discourage you. Everyone has to start somewhere. My advice is, don’t try to retrofit your writing to subjects you have no comfort with. We all find ourselves in situations where we are out of our comfort zone and stretching to achieve as we learn. And sometimes it works.
The best advice though is to consider what you resonate to and start blogging about that – or something close. You can always branch out once you’ve found your style and confidence.
Over To You
Do you have any thoughts on this subject? Any advice to offer? We’d love to hear it!
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