I have been blogging for clients since 2008. Since that time, many of the websites and blogs I’ve started have gotten a significant amount of traffic and top rankings in google searches. Due to this, I have seen a TON of requests from people who have wanted to add a guest blog post in order to build their own website’s authority and rankings. I have HUNDREDS of emails from people saying “I would like to contribute a guest post to your website.” In every single case, I delete the email and move on. Let me say that again, in case you’re a guest blogger who missed it: I have deleted these requests for guest posts every single time.

Why? Because every last one of them is doing it the wrong way. I don’t understand how hard this concept is for people to grasp, but there are a lot of folks wasting time writing emails requesting guest blogging. They’re all making the same mistakes. Here is a list of mistakes people make when requesting a guest blog posting.

The wrong way to request a guest blog post

Not (actually) knowing anything about the blog, or what the subject matter is.

When people write to me: “Hello, I’m John Smith, and I’m a professional in the X industry. I’m writing to you because I’d love to contribute a guest post on your site” — it’s very clear that they haven’t even read the blog posts. They clearly just found an article or two I wrote or managed that ranks well using Moz or A Hrefs and copied and pasted this lame introductory paragraph and blasted it out to many people. It’s not addressed to anyone personally, and doesn’t even pretend to know what the blog is about. Total fail.

Not reading the policy on guest blog posts.

In some cases, I manage blogs that explicitly state: “We do not accept unsolicited submissions for guest blog posts.” Yet some spammers will ignore this and still request to write a guest post anyway. Do they seriously think I’ll change my mind? I just hit the delete button, knowing that not only are they bad at writing an email requesting a blog post, they also can’t read, or simply choose to ignore the policy.

Not (actually) knowing who manages the blog.

Here’s a hint: when an email intro starts with “Hey there,” “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Dear Sir,” it tells me that the person requesting to write a guest post is too lazy or isn’t smart enough to find out who actually manages the blog. At least when I get an email that says “Hi Ron, I was reading the article at example.com” I know they did a modicum of research to find out who to address the email to. It’s still not enough to pique my interest, but these people are one step ahead of the rest.

Not sharing an actual, written article, but only offering future suggestions.

This is a rookie mistake: anybody who has written professionally knows that you don’t pitch a publication on what you “could” write—you actually write the damn article and then pitch a publication on it. The way these guest post solicitations do it is totally putting the cart before the horse. Why should I believe that you’re going to write “a unique post with engaging content?” I don’t know who you are and I don’t trust you. Now, if you actually show me the post you’ve written, and offer it as an exclusive, that may be of interest. Note: nobody has ever offered this before, and I’ve wondered how long it would be before somebody does. Still nothing yet.

Not explaining what’s in it for me.

I often get emails saying: “Are you currently accepting guest posts for example.com? I’d love to write a post for you if so. All I’m looking to do is get links from your site to mine.” Ugh. There’s absolutely no value proposition here. I get it: asking to write a guest post is an inherently selfish thing, and that’s fine—but if you’re asking me for a favor, tell me what’s in it for me (or the client). Nothing? Simple: I’ll delete the email and move on. This is a basic “salesmanship 101” fail.

Linking to past articles in other industries.

This one confuses the heck out of me: I’ll get requests for, say, a home remodeling company blog, and a writer will say “Here are some articles I’ve written in the past” and share links to completely irrelevant industries, like moving, or gardening. This shows me the writer is just a freelancer writing on every topic under the sun. There are very few writers who can do this well: good writers know they should stick to what they’re familiar with. Guest blogging is not a “one size fits all” kind of proposition: it’s all about pairing experts with the topic they’re experts on. If you’re not an expert on a topic, you’re clearly just working as a content factory, churning out low-quality content quickly for linkbait. This adds nothing of value for me or my client. #delete

Offering to write an article on the exact same topic the blog claims to have authority on.

If I manage a blog that purports to offer authoritative advice on house moving and relocations, why on earth would you propose to write an article called: “Seven Things To Know Before Packing To Relocate Your Family”? If this case, you are proposing to step on my toes and steal my thunder, trying to make yourself look good on my blog. Why would I do that? Total fail. This makes you look completely ignorant.

Hopefully, you can see that these mistakes very silly, and actually very easy to avoid. If you wanted to actually make yourself look good when soliciting the opportunity for a guest post, here are a few suggestions I have on how to do that.

The right way to request a guest blog post

Write the complete article first, THEN offer it.

Do not ask for an opportunity then write the post—write the actual post in its entirety, then share it with me (or whoever else you’re wanting to pitch) and offer to modify it if needed. This way, you’re making me feel like I’d be a fool to pass if it is truly good. And research has shown that the fear of loss is stronger than the hope of gain. This means a blog manager is going to be more likely to respond if you show him something good and threaten to take it away, rather than offering something nebulous that may be beneficial in the future if he responds positively.

Make sure it doesn’t require any work on the blog owner’s part.

Do you really think a blog manager is going to accept your offer for a blog post if he or she has to help you come up with a topic, or provide photos, or offer other suggestions? That’s work. They already run a blog: if they wanted to do all that, they would write the article themselves. The whole point of having a guest blogger write a post is to take the workload off the normal blogger. Make it so simple that all they have to do is literally upload what you’ve sent them. If you can do that, then WOW. They may even ask for more content from you in the future.

Do the research to find out exactly who you’re making the request to.

And don’t lie about it, either. Don’t say “Hi Ron, I’ve been reading the blog posts on example.com, and think they’re great,” unless you actually, literally have read them and think they’re great. Note: it is very easy to tell if you’re lying.

Make sure you actually know something about the topic.

I don’t like requests from general purpose writers. That misses the entire point of blogging and writing educational articles: the goal is to showcase your expert knowledge. If you don’t have expert knowledge on the topic, don’t write about it. Journalists and reporters can write on a variety of topics, not you, and they do it by interviewing subject matter experts. That’s what a guest blog post is: opinions and advice by actual subject matter experts. Stick to your narrow niche: if you’re an expert on stamped concrete outdoor living areas, write about that. Do not try to branch out and talk about how custom pottery can make my living room feel more inviting. I don’t trust that you’re an expert on both topics, and neither does my audience.

That’s it for now. Hopefully, if you’re looking to find opportunities to write guest blog posts, you’ve found some helpful hints on looking better while doing it. Don’t look like a spammer! Make sure you’re adding value. Best of luck to you.