When you’re a new blogger, few words scare you more than the dreaded T-word.
Every bloggers personal Voldemort.
The fuel on which blogs run.
The word that makes and breaks blogs.
The word that has bloggers obsessed with numbers.
The word that has bloggers hanging up their capes every day.
You don’t need to tell me how disappointing it is to spend several days drafting and editing an article only to have just 8 people read it. Yes, you can play it like it doesn’t matter but you and I both know that you’re secretly obsessively checking your stats every second and have bookmarked every article there is about gaining traffic.
You’ve scoured the net for solutions and the words guest blogging keeps popping up.
What is that, guest blogging?
It’s when you write an article and publish it on someone else’s blog. As the name implies, you appear as a guest on that blog.
I can imagine you shaking your head and already moving your mouse towards the exit button.
Just wait a second.
Like many other bloggers, you probably read this post by Matt Cutts and think that guest blogging is dead and has been since 2014. Or maybe you read this post by Neil Patel and you know that it’s far from dead but you think you’re not good enough. You’re just a beginner. What do you know about anything? You can’t even manage to get more than 8 views on your posts. Why would anyone want you to write for them? And besides, 999,000 people have probably pitched post ideas already. You don’t even stand a chance.
We’ll address these concerns one by one.
First of all, regardless of what Mr. Cutts declared, guest blogging still works- in case you were wondering. In fact, according to Neil Patel, it is the best way to attract new visitors to your site.
Google did issue a warning way back in 2017 about the increasing low quality of guest posts but this referred to posts written solely for the purpose of ranking higher without any thought to content quality. In other words, while guest blogging is still very much good practice when it is to “inform users, educate another site’s audience or bring awareness to your cause or company” guest blogging just for links and outside google’s guidelines is not.
Second of all, who created this special timeline for bloggers? The one that tells you how much time that absolutely must elapse before you know enough to begin to guest post. Huh, my memo must have gotten spammed.
Whether we’ve been in the content creating game 6 months or a lifetime, we’re all still learning. What do you know about anything? Maybe nothing. But there’s this thing called the internet. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Why don’t you open up your browser and educate yourself? Here is a prime marketing opportunity. And you want to miss it because of something as trivial as lack of knowledge?
You’ve likely already read or heard about the wonders guest blogging can do for your blog. The words traffic and exposure and credibility probably keep coming up. Building your portfolio, gaining visitors and yada yada yada.
You already know all that.
What you might not know is how guest blogging can help you be a better writer. Maybe a good writer. Maybe, if you’re really really lucky, even a great writer.
Posts about the benefits of guest blogging usually solely concentrate on SEO. They don’t mention the lessons that could be gained from the back and forth experience with editors. In this post, I’m going to tell you what this author-editor dance involved in guest blogging can do for you.
In most cases, a blog is more or less a sole proprietorship. A blogger may also be a web designer, a graphic artist, a photographer, a content creator and an editor. The interaction with the editors of the host blog may likely be the very first author-editor experience a blogger might have. This spotlight on your content is an invaluable opportunity to get honest, sometimes brutal feedback on your writing.
I know. I know. The thought of someone scrutinizing your writing for errors. Ugh.
My most recent guest blogging experience was equal parts painful and insightful. I gained a wealth of knowledge from the incredible editors at craft your content.
It took a great deal of effort to curate them in an even remotely sensible form.
Check out these 6 non-traffic related benefits of guest blogging to bloggersClick To Tweet
In school, I got mostly As and Bs in English so I’d always thought I was- if not Yoda, then a close second at least. It was humbling to realize that my grammar is actually pretty much garbage. The red marks dotting nearly every line of my post after the first round of edits told me just how horrible I really am.
Just a few grammar lessons I learned.
BEWARE OF DEAD PHRASES.
Apparently phrases like ‘A lot of …’ and ‘Some of…’ just don’t make sense like they used to. They have now been lumped together with phrases like ‘On the flip side of things’ and “hold your horses’ which you either only hear in school or in old movies. I wonder if the next generation of writers would think of them the same way I think of “In the ketchup” and “Flub the dub” (People used to say this? Seriously? What exactly does it even mean?).
DOUBLE NEGATIVES: STEER CLEAR
As I read through my previous articles, I see that I’m fond of writing in double and even triple negatives. I found them everywhere.
This isn’t not a bad thing.
It seems that I often think in negatives. I think that when used right and sparingly, double negatives add a certain vibe to a sentence that just plain positive words can’t. But I do acknowledge that they don’t do much for clarity.
I’ll definitely be looking out for them in future.
AVOID INCOMPLETE OR AMBIGUOUS THOUGHTS
This is likely a side effect of writing the way I think. I have a brilliant thought in my mind, constructed into what I think is an utterly spectacular sentence. When I read it over and over again, it makes such complete sense to me that I can’t imagine it making any less sense to anyone else.
But sometimes, it’s possible to leave out a detail that may not be needed by me since I am the originator of the sentence but that may be crucial to the understanding of everyone else.
Also, several words in themselves are ambiguous. Phrases like ‘A lot of …’ and ‘Some of …’ are naturally ambiguous. Now we know why they’re fast becoming obsolete. Others are ‘Sufficient’, ‘Several’, ‘Ideally’, ‘Etc.’. These are words that are subjective and thus ambiguous. Of course, we can’t avoid these words aaaallll the time. The lesson is to be clear and specific when possible.
Something I’m trying is to read through my article from the perspective of my readers. If there’s a slight chance that my words could be misunderstood then I know that I have to be more specific.
KEEP PARAGRAPHS SHORT AND SWEET
I talk a lot.
I just have so many interesting thoughts that they just run out of me.
Sigh. The plight of an artist.
Usually, before I post an article, I put it through a Flesch-Kincaid Readability Checker which is a feature of a plugin I have. Nine out of 10 times, it says that my paragraphs are too long.
And then this conversation happens:
You want me to cut my words? Like literally delete actual sentences filled with real words? Me?
Needless to say, I usually ignore it.
Of course I could have just rearranged the words but I never really thought it was a big deal. I mean who cares how the words are arranged as long as they’re all in there.
Well, let me tell you, editors care. They care a great deal. Because my article was returned to me with red marks on several paragraphs that were ‘too long’.
At this point, I’m still not sure how long is too long. There are no hard and fast rules but 1-3 sentences seem like the average length of a paragraph so I’m trying really hard to stick to that.
Hopefully, this means I can finally get a perfect readability score.
PUNCTUATION IS REALLY REALLY CONFUSING
Ugh. Where do I start? From absent em dashes to unnecessary commas, I’m a complete mess.
When I was in school, I was taught only two uses for commas. For separating items in a series and when a dependent clause (which I totally had to google) begins a sentence.
And I don’t even know if em dashes existed then or if my teacher just didn’t think it was important enough to teach. Thanks a lot, Mrs. T.
Also, did you know that a full stop should always be put after ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’ and ‘Dr’?
And then, there are also things called ‘en dashes’.
To be honest, I have no clue if I’m even using all these quotation marks properly.
Safe to say that I felt like a moron with the amount of punctuation corrections I had to make. It’s a wonder they could read it in the first place.
CORRECT USE OF NUMBERS
Apparently, numbers below nine are spelled out except for ages and units of measures. I can truthfully say that this lesson never ever came up in all my years in school. What’s the point of school again?
So the correct use is ‘nine out of 10’, right? Right?
Keeping the target audience in mind is crucial for guest blogging. Because you’re writing on a different slice of the web, you need to take inventory of the target audience– Research! –and keep them in mind.
I’ve always known to do this. It seems obvious, doesn’t it?
What I didn’t consider is that writing in the same niche doesn’t necessarily mean writing for the same audience. For example: I write about writing. However, different kinds of people read about writing.
Aspiring writers, creative writers, professional writers, freelance writers, copywriters, novelists, short story writers, hobbyists, people who only think they want to be writers but really don’t.
While there’s a definite overlap in topics that could benefit these different categories, knowing the specific target audience would help to know what topics are off limits. A freelance writer may not need to know about world building and novel plotting.
Even the overlapping topics can be portrayed in different ways for different groups of people. For example organization for a novelist will involve talk of character notes, settings, plots and dialogue but for a blogger or freelance writer, it would be more about keeping individual posts separately categorized so that it’s obvious which post ideas need to be worked on first.
This was one of those things that I’ve always known generally but never really focused on. Now I definitely will
I’ve learned quite a bit about structure from editors.
ARTICLES SHOULD FOLLOW A PROPER OUTLINE
My process usually is
Write a bunch of words
Re-write a bunch of words until all those red and blue lines in MsWord disappear
No headings. No clear transition between points. No structure whatsoever.
However, all of the posts on Craft your content are visibly structured with clear beginning, middle and ends so I knew that if I submitted my usual jumble of words, I wouldn’t even come close. That and their guidelines practically said ‘submit a jumble of words and you’re out’.
They would have likely opened my article and be like ‘Ah, my eyes!’ and then dump it into the trash.
So I sectioned my post and gave it a semblance of order and it was… nice. It looked really professional and just… nice. They might be on to something with this whole outlining thing.
THE OUTLINE SHOULD INCLUDE A CLEAR INTRODUCTION AND CONCLUSION
I’ve realized that this has a lot of several many advantages (can’t just avoid those pesky ambiguous words, can you?).
It helps the reader slide easily into your article rather than just dunking splat into the centre of it. It also makes the post seem more relevant if you spend a few sentences explaining why in the introduction.
A conclusion gives closure to an article and determines what sort of impression your reader finishes your article with.
I think I might be good at introductions because as I said, I like to talk so it can take a while for me to get to my point. But I really do not know what should go into a conclusion. Like at all. I had to rewrite the concluding paragraph three times and even then I think it was more ‘good enough’ than ‘good’.
Definitely something I will be working on.Check out these 6 non-traffic related benefits of guest blogging to bloggersClick To Tweet
Search Engine Optimization. What a mouthful.
If ‘Traffic’ is the scariest word to bloggers then ‘Search Engine Optimization’ is definitely the scariest group of words.
The concept of SEO is complex, having to do with keywords, images, links, tags and much more.
Previously my approach to SEO was passive, something I hastily did right before I publish a post. But while working with the amazing editors at cyc, I had to settle at least a chunk of the SEO process upfront. Keywords, links, related posts all had their own little section above the article in googledocs.
So if like me, you don’t know much about SEO or maybe SEO was just something that you ‘let happen’ rather than ‘make happen’ then guest blogging may be what you need to get yourself in the right frame of mind. See how the experts do it.
Now I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of the SEO mobile and trudging forward– slowly. I’ve downloaded this free ebook on SEO. I’m hoping it’s a ‘Seo for dummies’ sort of guide. I’m not saying I’m a dummy but when it comes to SEO, well…
Exposure to an established working brand and blog gives insight into an organized workflow and pattern. Big blogs and brands usually have a strict schedule of posts. And when you have a post due in only a few days coupled with your own articles, you best get organized and prioritize.
Even if you don’t have many deadlines to meet, just by mere observation, you can learn so much. From ideas to drafts to edits to scheduled and published, posts are categorized. You see how each post moves from stage to stage, timed perfectly so a publishing deadline is never missed.
If you have problems getting organized or meeting publishing deadlines- like me, this can be a great experience for you.
Trello is the system used at cyc and it is a great simple to use organization software. It’s like having book shelves and placing different books where they belong. There’s even colour codes and everything.
Usually, I write everything down in the colornote app on my phone. It’s probably my most treasured app ever. If I use it like I should, then it should help keep my thoughts organized but I just use it as a braindump tool.
I can’t help it. I’m a braindump kind of person. But I’m going to try really really hard to be more organized. Hopefully it doesn’t go the same way as my 2018 resolutions to exercise. Those never even took off.
Writing is a great test in endurance. Usually, when you’ve spent energy on a post, it’s hard to edit it for anything and anybody.
The first round of edits on my post were hard. Really hard. Painful even. The punctuation suggestions were easy but the suggestions to alter my sentences, my actual thoughts. Those were hard to swallow. Remember my conversation with my readability checker? This was 10 times worse. My body physically rejected the idea of changing those words which I spent so long on. A definite physical reaction from me- some gut wrenching feeling as I deleted a few words. I had to take a long break to soothe myself after I had to delete a whole paragraph. And you already know my paragraphs run long so it was a whole bunch of sentences.
It got easier with each round of edits. Or maybe I got a better attitude.
I realized three things from this.
‘THE INNER EGO’ EXISTS
We hear all the time about the inner critic. That inner voice that haunts every creative, constantly and sometimes excessively criticizing every project.
What we don’t often hear of is the inner ego. And a writer’s inner ego is definitely something.
See, when you write an article, your critic will probably give you hell. But when you’re done with it– Revised and edited– and you publish the article, a truly spectacular piece –in your own words- your inner ego begins to rear its nasty head.
Sometimes, the sound of our egos are so loud that it blocks out every other sound.
You know what they say about empty barrels.
So you need to BE HUMBLE
Tuning out the inner ego should be as important as tuning out your inner critic. You need to quiet down your ego to listen to constructive criticisms. It’s hard but it’s necessary. They’re levels in writing as with anything. The more you learn, the better you get and then the higher you advance.
Every red mark on your writing is a new opportunity to learn from people who have been in the business of writing far longer than you have or from people who just happen to have been criticized earlier or way more than you have.
Ego doesn’t belong in writing. Don’t go thinking that you have ‘an extra special gift’ and thus everything that spewls out of you is golden. If I were to guess, I’d say that writing is probably only about 20 percent skill. The rest is hard work. You have no points for hard work if you’re not willing to take criticism and edit mercilessly. So you’ll have a 20 percent article. Is that what you want?
Because EDITORS AREN’T OUT TO GET YOU
As unbelievable as it seems, ‘the evil editor’ is a myth.
Sigh. One less argument for self-publishing.
Seriously though, editors really aren’t out to get you.
You and your editors have the same goal and that is to create a beautiful well-written article which will turnover to more traffic. Every correction made is borne out of that desire and so, you need to trust them. Sure, still keep your own vision for your post in mind- you don’t have to agree to evveeerryy suggestion. Defend your writing when you feel very strongly about a sentence. But be willing to compromise sometimes.
When my post was published, I was surprised when I read through it and I couldn’t even remember what I had to take out or alter. It seemed to me the exact article I had intended to write from the beginning. It was still so clearly ‘me’ that it seemed that it had never been touched, that it was directly conceived from my mind, completely unfiltered. Except, I know it had been worked on for weeks.
SO give editors a chance.
You might realize, like me, that your post isn’t watered down or mutilated or whatever other term is commonly used to describe the evils of an editor. You might just realize that your post is still completely yours, just… better.
Guest blogging. What difference does it make in a bloggers life rather than to gain new readers? Well short answer- it helps you write better.
So start pitching guest post ideas today. I’m telling you, afterwards, you will be categorizing your blogging years into the pre-guest-post era and the post-guest-post era.
What do you guys think of guest blogging? Have you tried it? How was your experience? Are you for or against the trend? Let me know in the comments.
Check out these 6 non-traffic related benefits of guest blogging to bloggersClick To Tweet
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Alright, it’s the end of the post which means: