The many faces of guest posts

Many faces of guest postsGuest posts are a common practice in the blogosphere, and a common marketing tool for new authors. However, there are many other uses for guest posts as well.

In this post, I will examine various types of guest posts and the benefits they offer for the post authors and the blog hosts.

Benefits of guest posts for the host

One reason for authors to write guest posts is marketing. However, the host also needs to receive some benefits from publishing guest posts, otherwise this practice could not have begun.

One major benefit is that guest posts reduce the workload of the host while maintaining a steady publishing schedule. This is especially useful for daily blogs, and good examples of popular blogs that utilize guest posts to keep publishing content at a steady pace include {grow} and Problogger. Hey, it might even let these guys have a vacation sometime.

Another benefit is that guest posts bring up different points of view on your topics that you could not have written yourself. Want to have an important hub? Give your readers more than they know to ask for.

Furthermore, guest posts are social networking. Even an A-list blogger can benefit from making friends, having them contribute over at his blog, and contributing in their blogs in turn. The exposure to slightly different audiences can be beneficial for both. Furthermore, being social does not have to be about benefits: guest post opportunities can be offered to friends for no particular gain.

One benefit that is less commonly sought is that guest posts by recognized experts increase the credibility and traffic of your blog. A good example of corporate use of this is the American Express Open Forum that includes contributions from people like Guy Kawasaki and Shel Israel.

I realize that some people consider guest posts to be essentially free, and would not consider paid contributions to be guest posts at all. However, I do not think this distinction is necessary or even particularly useful: a guest post is simply any post by a visiting author. If the host considers the benefits important enough to pay for a guest post, that’s perfectly fine.

However, I don’t think this applies the other way around. Guest posts where the author pays the host for a chance to publish a guest post can be extremely harmful, as they either are advertisements in disguise or will be suspected of being such.

Guest posts as a marketing method for new authors, established bloggers, and even companies

The traditional use of guest posts is for less known bloggers to post on a more popular blog, which allows them to gain access to a wider audience and possibly gain more readers for their own blog as well, because guest posts usually include a short description of the author and a link back to the author’s blog.

Guest posts do not have to appear only on highly popular blogs. Guest posts on less popular blogs can also be beneficial, both through the audience as well as SEO benefits, and guest posting between less popular blogs can even turn them into more popular blogs.

Usually, the road to writing a guest post starts by building a relationship with the host, for example, by commenting regularly on the blog in question. Cold calling can work too, but popular bloggers receive so many pitches that it is unlikely.

Guest posts can also be utilized as a marketing method for established bloggers or even companies. For established bloggers, this can take the form of writing a guest post over at another blogger’s blog, and having him contribute to your blog in turn.

As the corporate world has come to realize the influence of blogs, corporate attempts to gain guest post opportunities are on the rise. However, I would recommend against cold calling, especially by companies. Whereas a cold calling individual blogger may seem inexperienced or ignorant (or even succeed and get to publish a post), a cold calling company almost invariably comes across as pushy.

Companies can build relationships with bloggers, but these relationships have to be created by real people, not brands. Guest posts can be a part of a thought leadership marketing strategy of a company, but the thought-leading individuals need to establish their credibility first, whether by blogging, participating in discussions, or out there in the offline world. Without some previous credentials, guest posts by company spokespersons do not come out as authentic.

Guest posts as social networking

Writing guest posts can help deepen the relationships you have with other bloggers. This may bring about new readers or income, or it can just help you make some friends who are interested in the same things as you are.

Guest posts as freelance gigs

If you are famous enough in your field, you may even get paid to do a guest post, for example, for a corporate blog that attempts to establish its credibility or for a regularly published blog whose main author needs a hand.

Guest posts and copyright

When publishing a guest post, it is important to agree on copyright. Unless otherwise agreed, the author of the post owns the copyright.

Most large sites that accept guest posts have a set of guidelines you agree to in order to get your post published. The most important ones are agreements on whether the post has to be previously unpublished (it usually does), whether you can republish the post elsewhere (you usually can’t; unless your submission is rejected, of course, in which case you can do whatever you want with it), whether the host is allowed to edit your post (usually yes, however, major changes may need your approval), and where the host is allowed to publish your post (usually in the blog you submitted it to, but not, say, in a book).

Here are some examples of guest post submission guidelines: Michael Hyatt, 12most.com, and kikolani.com. As you can see, the answers to the above questions vary.

It should also be noted that if you get paid for a guest post, the copyright may belong to the company that hired you (copyright of works made for hire). Then again, if you do get paid, there should be a contract that makes this clear.

Do not be intimidated by copyright issues. It is merely good sense to be clear on what you are agreeing to so that there will be no bad blood in the future should the author or the host desire to reuse the material.

Guest posts are not for every blog

Well, I can’t really think of any good reasons for a blogger not to write guest posts. Copyright issues are something to keep in mind, and lack of time can be a reason too, but there are so many good things about guest posts that you should certainly consider them.

However, the same can’t be said for all blogs. Some blogs are simply written in such a way, with such a clearly identifiable voice, that guest posts would look really out of place in them. Some examples that come to mind include Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik and Seth’s blog by Seth Godin. Still, even Seth’s blog has published at least one guest post. No, that does not mean it is a good idea to try to make your post the second one.

Other reasons to write or publish guest posts?

What do you think about guest posts? Are there still other reasons to write or publish them? Are they a useful tool for you?

Photo: norfolkdistrict on Flickr (cc)

Author: Ville Kilkku

I run my own consultancy business, so if you find the ideas on this blog intriguing, contact me at consulting@kilkku.com or call me at +358 50 588 5043 and we can discuss how I can help you solve your business problems. I am currently based in Turku, Finland, but work globally. Google+