The Inside Scoop On Accepting Sponsored Articles And Guest Posts On Your Blog

I don’t think there are enough people talking about what really goes on behind the scenes of building a popular blog, so from now I’m going to let rip on just what it takes to build a blog that matters and that makes you money.

In the two plus years I’ve been blogging I’ve learned so many things about all the moving parts involved in blogging, you can’t even imagine. Yet I rarely see those topics written about so I think it’s time I stepped up to do more of it right here.

There’s nothing better than getting the inside secrets and strategies of how you can turn your blog into a key business tool, it’s just that sometimes us bloggers take what we know for granted and forget to pass it on to you!

First off then, let’s establish that VERY FEW people make money purely by blogging.

You make money from:

  1. Offering services like consulting or coaching to your readers
  2. Selling your own digital or physical products and services
  3. Recommending other peoples products or services as an affiliate and receiving a commission (50% on average)
  4. Accepting advertising on your site and in your email newsletters

There’s no need to overcomplicate it. It comes down to those four key ways.

The Powers of Guest Posting and Sponsored Links

Today I’d like to rip the lid off guest posting and being paid to publish posts on your site. I’m not talking about whether you should be guest posting on other influential sites – that is an absolute no brainer if you want to attract a new audience and skyrocket the reach of your blog and subscribers.

I wrote Grow Your Blog Traffic Exponentially Through Guest Posting on Social Media Today on exactly how to do that.

What I want to discuss today is the flip side of that. Being on the receiving end of guest post requests and making the serious decision on whether it’s right for YOU to accept these on your blog.

What I’m about to tell you is controversial, enlightening and fully transparent. I trust you can learn from this and apply it to your blog strategy in the best possible way.

The Benefits of Accepting Guest Posts on Your Site

Let’s face it, blogging can be a full time gig when you consider every aspect you need to deal with to keep it running, let alone thriving.

You have to implement a content marketing and social media plan, an editorial calendar, and at the same time be engaging with your community, both on your blog and on social media.

Let’s not forget the constant ongoing tweaks and improvements you’ll be making to optimize your blog posts and pages for search engines and updating and researching the 10 best time saving apps and plugins to optimize your blog… and so it goes on.

So you soon start to realize that accepting guest posts on your site has some upsides to you doing it all yourself.

Here are a few key ones that spring to mind, you:

  • Free up your time to write more guest post content for other sites!
  • Introduce your community to new perspectives and different writing styles – from this you can gauge what they like and do more of it in your own blog posts.
  • Include valuable information and knowledge in an area of expertise you don’t normally cover.
  • Ensure your blog content is spread to new audiences by the guest post author who will link to and share their article.
  • Create reciprocal relationships to guest post for them or to work on collaborative projects in the future.
  • Spark further ideas for your own content creation based on the comments your community leaves on these posts.

Up until February this year I had previously accepted just a handful of guest posts. Sometimes they went down well, but they were never as popular as posts I wrote.

Like you are probably feeling, I was very nervous about `handing over control’ of my blog and my style to others, especially after all the hard work I’d done in building it based around my writing in the first place.

Then it came time for me to go on the ride of my life across Africa, and I realized that being offline for over 2 months meant I absolutely welcomed quality guest posts from authors I trusted.

It was not only super helpful, it was in fact a relief. It alleviated the pressure for me to write all those articles in advance and introduced some great people to my readers, who were far more talented at writing than I was.

How Do You Choose Who To Have Guest Post?

Firstly I reached out to a few people I knew already, who wrote great content, and would resonate with my audience. I simply asked them if they’d be interested in writing on specific topics. Naturally they were. Win-Win situation right there.

I also went back through my Gmail Guest Posts folder (yes you should have a folder for all elements of your blog), and looked at requests from people who’d recently written to me and chose the best ones.

I vetted their posts they sent in, asked them to make changes if it wasn’t epic enough, and made the final edits where I saw fit so that, when it came time to publish it on my blog, I was completely confident my community would like, even love it.

Some of the most popular posts during that time were:

Why I Am No Longer Accepting Guest Posts or Sponsored Articles

In the last 6-9 months the number of email requests I get through my contact form on my site for guest post requests has quadrupled.

I handed this over to my virtual assistant Margaret some time ago when I couldn’t deal with the email traffic.

Just this month I made a tough decision and took a firm stance on not accepting guest posts any more.

Why? I just don’t feel they are doing my blog any justice and are in fact taking away from all the great content I want to share with you. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not exactly short on ideas!

Don’t get me wrong, recent guest posts have been well received and shared, and I think the authors have done a great job; it’s been an honour to have them write for me. There are still guest posts scheduled for November too.

I just realized the following negative effects:

  • My editorial calendar is now jammed full of other peoples’ posts and has no logical sequence or order in my content marketing strategy.
  • It’s made me less focused on writing on my own blog and that’s not cool, especially when I have initiatives and launches going on I want to write about.
  • It takes extra time (even with my virtual assistant’s help) in sorting out where to slot them in and how it best fits with my plans for helping you build a portable business you love while traveling the world.
  • It’s still time consuming – I personally like to oversee the posts, edit them, check the formatting (even if provided in HTML format).
  • My decisions for accepting posts have often been based on wanting to genuinely help that person out, not because I needed a post to fill up my editorial calendar
  • Other times my decisions were purely based on the financial incentive I’d be offered*
  • The people who write for me often don’t have an audience themselves and fail to follow up by sharing their own post so I was doing most of the work.

*I’m referring to sponsored posts. More on that below.

Making Money from Sponsored Posts and Links

As these emails kept rolling into my inbox I started to get more and more requests for paid advertising or `sponsored links’. In short, these are:

When a company wants to swap out a link in a previous article you’ve written, that gains high traffic, with their own, and pay you for it.

Earlier this year I even accepted very few sponsored links in previous content but am no longer doing that. Despite the fact it’s easy money, it doesn’t sit well with me to point to some spammy link that’s not entirely relevant in the context of my article.

These things take time to learn, and you must establish your own set of values about what opportunities you are willing to accept.

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I’ve not set up my blog to be a content hub. People have done this successfully like Natalie MacNeil with She Takes On The World and Kristi Hines from Kikolani,and Social Media Examiner, where they have featured writers and contributors all the time.

This is a great model that works because they’ve set it up this way. Their audiences have come to expect it, and they syndicate their content to other online outlets.

The Guest Posting Process You Can Swipe

I wanted to share with you the process we used to go through up until last week when it came to dealing with these email requests.

It took far too long for me to do this, as the requests increased. I should have gotten on to it sooner, so I hope you take action and get this set up today for yourself.

You’ll also soon start to realize the genuine emails from the mass marketing `I wanna get featured anywhere and include a tacky sponsored link’ request’.

Start With a Set Response

We use the Gmail extension `Canned Responses’ to insert a pre-written response and this can be tweaked slightly based on the nature of the email. It’s a lifesaver and a brilliant way to optimize your time as you start to get similar requests through your blog contact form or email.

I’ve shared my response below with my `fuck off’ prices as Natalie MacNeil likes to call them. I got these based on reading an excellent article Are You Being Conned? Fair Sponsored Blog Post Rates and Best Practice Guidelines by Annabel Candy

Feel free to steal it and tweak it for your own purposes using your own blog statistics and reach:

Dear XXXXX,

Good to hear from you and thanks for reaching out.

We would be happy to accept a quality guest post in a style that fits with ours, that has a ton of value and great content.

Depending on the nature of your post, if you’re wanting to provide links to your company or your clients to get more leads then we understand this, but this would then be considered a sponsored post.

Our fee for this is US$500* if you want Natalie to write this post for you. Otherwise it’s $250 if you’d like to provide your own post and this will be edited and checked by Natalie before publishing.

*This is based on the current rate card for sponsored blog posts.

We have close to 10,000 unique visitors per month and PageRank 2 on Google along with a highly targeted audience of mobile entrepreneurs who look to Natalie to provide recommendations on social media, online tools and outsourcing. We also do not accept many sponsored posts in a given month so you can be sure this a selective process.

For your post to be considered please make sure you adhere to the guidelines and specifications at

http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/press/guest-posting/

Examples of bad guest post requests:

What I’d like to show you now are the types of emails we get all too often which seriously piss me off and led to me making my final decision on not accepting guest posts.

These aren’t even the worst ones by the way…

 

Example One: The no information email

 

Dear Natalie,

I’ve been reading your blog and I would like to ask if you are open

to guest articles? I have written for other sites and I would like to

contribute an original article of mine to your site.

Thank you and have a great weekend Natalie,

Outcome: Ummmm, who the heck are you, what do you write about and why should I care? And yes I will have a great weekend, regardless of this useless email.

 

Example Two: It won’t cost you a thing

 

Hi,

I hope you do not mind me contacting you like this but I have just been on your site and think that our styles of content are pretty similar. I write posts for sites that I like free of charge and was wondering if you would like me to write you a free 500 word post.

I am trying to get our work covered on great sites and you fit the bill. The article would be 100% unique to you and all I ask in return is that I include one of my sponsors in the post as a hyperlink. They are totally relevant to both article and your site so I am sure you will be fine with it.

I look forward to hearing from you soon and hopefully getting started for you.

Kindest Regards

Who do they think they are saying they can write something free for me – as if I’d pay them! I highlighted the parts that really make me laugh for your reading entertainment.

 

Example Three: Complete Failure

 

Dear Suitcase Entrepreneur

Your site is great with good articles.

We have a guest post that is 100% unique and we will not charge you to publish.

It is `7 Ways Hairdressers Can Cut Their Costs’

Let us know at your early convenience when you can publish this on your site.

Regards

Ok so I made this up as I couldn’t find the original one, but trust me I get these a lot. This is pure spam, no research of my site, no understanding of what I do and what I write about. Just a big pile of `don’t waste my time’.

 

I hope this gives you some great context on how you can go about sorting through the shit emails that you will ultimately get, and finding the rare gems from people who are actually legit.

I also trust it will give you an inside look at how you can go about NOT approaching people to guest post.

Example of How to Approach a Blogger for a Guest Post

Because I like to help you out here are some people who did a fantastic job on approaching me that I accepted.

Here’s the guest post example:

Hi Natalie,

My name is Owen McGabEnaohwo and first of all thanks for showing entrepreneurs creative ways to run their businesses from anywhere. I would love to add a unique perspective to the discussion on your blog.

I empower entrepreneurs to find more time each day to focus on the important tasks in their business by creating Standard Operating Procedures for them and providing them with Virtual Assistants who then take over the work.

Are you open to any one of the following guest posts? I’ve already begun outlining the guest posts that would fit well into your site and once you choose one then I will complete it and send it to you:

7 ways a Virtual Assistant can save you at least 2hrs each day to focus on your Income Producing Activities!

How to get your business to run without you by having a Virtual Assistant create Standard Operating Procedures for your business!

The 7 online tools to use to run your business from anywhere in the world while managing a team of Virtual Assistants

Let me know which of them you are interested in, and I will send it to you shortly.

 

 

Outcome: There are several things Owen did well. We started off using my actual name. Then he gave me a compliment. Always a winning strategy. He then told me what he did and better yet gave me some great blog post titles that showed he’d done his research and knew what I’d be open to accepting.

The result was pretty clear when I published 7 Ways A Virtual Assistant Can Save You At Least 2 Hours Each Day To Focus On Your Income Producing Activities

Wrapping Up On Guest Posts and Sponsored Links

So a long post, I know. But I really felt I had to get this out. I am sooooo done with the spammy guest post requests.

I’ve since set up my entire content planning and marketing calendar through ’til the end of the year, and my editorial calendar feels back in control.

I can’t wait to take you through my two themed months of:

November: How to find your sweet spot and start something special

December: The foundations of building a portable business

I am still `open’ to accepting outstanding guest posts for my themed months but probably only one.

You have to take a stance when you’re building your online business, and this is mine.

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Tell me what you think about guest posting and your experiences below!

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    This is seriously epic. You could probably make the post into a free book to giveaway. On allowing guest posts, I think it’s a double edged sword. In some cases lately, my guest bloggers have been way more popular than I have. On the flip side my audience doesn’t take too kindly to guest posts. They want me. But as BlogcastFm has become a bigger priority to me, I’ve actually been ok with the guest bloggers

    Now on the crappy guest post pitches. I should reply that I’m charging $500. The worst things I’ve had are things like “an infographic on the dangers of drinking milk.” Some of these people never cease to amaze me with their load of BS.

    As far as my content marketing strategy, the Skool is more like a hobby, while BlogcastFM is the business. So I guess right now it’s not as perfectly planned. But should I hit the road for 2 months to do some surfing I might have to change that.

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    Thanks Srini. Yes I probably should and will. It’s quite epic I agree and I wrote it in the heat of the moment after receiving yet another crappy request. I hear you though. Some of my guest posts here have been really popular and way better then I could ever post on the topic, so I’m not totally ruling them out in the future, just much fewer of them. But paid blog posts are a total waste of time on this blog. I sometimes wish I had a shite throwaway blog that got traffic but didn’t have my name to it as I’d happily accept their dollars to put it there! And you’ve hit on something there, as I allude to in this post, when circumstances call for it having guest contributors is really handy to alleviate your own pressure to keep up. So off you go surfing!

  • http://twitter.com/kristinabreeze Kristina Brzezinski

    Thank you so much for this post! I agree with Srinivas – seriously epic! You’ve given me so much to think about as I build my blog, and I love some of the tips and resources you mentioned – Canned Responses, pros and cons of sponsored posts, the sample canned responses, and how to approach blogs for guest posting. Amazing stuff!

  • http://www.shetakesontheworld.net Natalie MacNeil

    Great post Natalie. Even as someone who has a lot of featured writers and accepts guest posts, it’s something I’ve been struggling with because 1) My audience keeps asking for more of me and 2) It is incredibly time consuming as you said. Moving forward I’ll likely be keeping a very select roster of our best contributors and committing to 1-2 posts each week myself. We’ve already started saying no to a lot of guest contributors, which doesn’t always go over well, but like you said you’ve got to take a stand. It’s my baby :)

  • Angela

    Superbly epic Natalie! And hilarious too…I’m so using that “fuck off” strategy then next time we get one of those spammy emails! Nice one, thanks so much for taking the time to share your knowledge, know-how and strategies with us. :-)

  • Sandy Sidhu

    Epic! You definitely ripped the lid right off! It’s amazing that people can pitch like that and hope for a response, let alone results. Building your brand with credibility is so important, the last thing you want do is be associated with a cheap online get your diploma ad..I was pitched that recently and didn’t even waste time responding. And woohoo for having a popular post while you were away :)

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    Thanks so much Kristina. Really glad you found it useful. I like to give people lots to think about too :) Canned Responses is a lifesaver, you’ll love it

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    I think you do a great job of limiting your featured contributors to quality writers who know the value you provide on your blog. But I also know that when you write your own posts and even more so publish your videos, you get a way better response from your community.

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    The fuck off strategy is a goodie, one I learned from Natalie MacNeil’s fuck off price. And you’re so welcome Ang. It’s there to be shared, not kept in my brain that’s for sure!

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    I know right. I guess they’re working off mass volume and hoping for a positive response. When I first started receiving these responses I’d actually take the time to respond to them nicely can you believe. Silly me. The cheap online MBA one seems to be coming up a lot lately. It’s a growing market so I can see why.

  • DaisyHdez

    Loved this Natalie! Really said it like it is. I haven’t reached the point of getting requests for guest posts really but the points of how to approach others is very helpful. I’m happy to say I haven’t made those mistakes and now, I’m aware not to :)

  • http://twitter.com/laurasimms Laura Simms

    I have received some almost identical crappy requests, and I don’t accept any guest posts! I just reply with a quick “I don’t accept infographics/sponsored posts/our branding is not a a good match” email and move along.

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    Yes Laura they’re sending them on mass. I think it’s lovely you reply personally. I hope that’s not taking too much time. I’d either used Canned Responses (Gmail extension with a blanket customized response) or just hit delete from time to time

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    Yes I think it’s good to know upfront, tempting though it can be it’s just not worth the hassle or the adverse effects it can have on your blog, even in the early stages.

  • heatherlyone

    This is a great post Natalie – super thorough and I think it’ll help people on both sides of the coin a lot (people pitching big blogs and people running them). I don’t have any guest bloggers nor have I been approached (yet) by anyone, but I do get random people pitching me often to be ‘guest experts’ on my Adventure Retreats. It just kills me because every single time it’s been so poorly done. They wait until the retreat is already being promoted (the roster of experts is already decided at that point, people!) and not one of them has told me why they’d be a good match with my business, or to present to my clients, etc. It’s so painfully obvious they see it as an opportunity for a free trip. This experience, combined with your logic above for not accepting guest posts anymore has pushed me in the direction of never accepting guest posts in future. Sounds like too much of a headache. Thanks for a great post!

  • http://www.Makana-Mai-Akua-Inc.com/ Debi

    Wow! Kudos to you for one heck of an epic post (not that that’s unusual for you). Thank you for sharing such valuable inside insight from both perspectives. Very cool. Amazing some of the spammy requests. I’ll admit, I shake my head, laugh and delete. As someone who is very new at guest posting though, I appreciate the info to improve the submissions. And totally psyched to have had a popular guest post while you were on your charitable journey… gives me some confidence! Thank you for the opportunity and for sharing so much with your peeps <3!

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  • http://twitter.com/HarrisonAmy Amy Harrison

    Great practical detail in here Natalie. What’s comforting to know is that with so many poor practices and approaches out there, it isn’t difficult to stand out from the crowd for the right reasons. Well researched, polite and sincere complimentary approaches stand out a mile in a sea of mass produced spammy requests.

  • The Secret Insider

    Thanks for making me feel better Natalie, I oversee a blog for my boss and I get a lot of guest post requests that are poorly written articles with links to sites that have nothing to do with the exact niche of the site. I turn them all down as they will not benefit the site at all. I fear that people are taking guest posts to lessen their own work load but it will have a seriously detrimental effect on their site.

    I have yet to be offered a paid writing post but I would have to seriously consider whether it was in keeping with the content or not. I don’t like the idea that I could ruin the future of the blog for a few dollars.

    Regards

    SI

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    Thanks for your comment. I agree it’s all about decision making and thinking of the long term future of your website and blog. Sounds like you’re doing all the right things.

  • http://www.smittenbybritain.com/ SmittenbyBritain

    I get example no. 2 all the time from guest bloggers who want to write for me. I love how they try to say that they are actually doing me a favor, when in reality I’m actually doing them a favor! It’s my page rank and audience they want.

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    Yep you’re totally right and I with a name like Smitten by Britain I can see why! Who wouldn’t want to steal that :)

  • http://twitter.com/Maoomba Stormy Sweitzer

    Natalie, I admire you for exploring the path, being open to guest posters like myself while it was manageable to do so, and then deciding to narrow your approach based on your experience. Ultimately, it’s about what’s best for you and your readers. Thank you, also, for both recommendations on how to approach sites that allows guest posts and for the inside view of what it takes to manage a site that does so – I’ve often thought about it, but then refrained for fear that it might overwhelm the original reason I started the blog. Kudos on keeping the bar high!

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurie.rosenfeld Laurie Tenenbaum Rosenfeld

    Natalie, as a newer blogger, I found your honesty and specificity to be both refreshing and valuable. The specific examples of requests that worked and didn’t, and why, was really helpful. I see how I have made some mistakes of my own by providing too little information (oops!) and I also see how on several recent occasions when I have been approached by others about guest posting, I had a sense of confusion but could not pinpoint exactly what I needed. This post helped clarify things and helped me outline my own blogging values and strategy. I know Amy Scott and found my way to this post through her guest post (shows the power of collaborative blogging). I am new to your blog but love what I am reading here and am subscribing. Thanks for this post and I look forward to reading more of your work.

  • http://www.yTravelBlog.com/ yTravelBlog

    Great tips. I have recently pulled the plug on guest posting on my site for the exact reasons you state above.

    I still publish guest posts but it is from request via myself. So I look at what holes I need to fill and think of the best person I know who can write me a post to fill that gap.

    That way, I am getting the content I want and I am asking someone to write it who I know is really good and has an audience.

    I am so much happier with doing it this way.

  • gwsrtr

    rty

  • http://www.smittenbybritain.com/ SmittenbyBritain

    Sorry I didn’t see your reply to this comment. Nice of you to say. Many thanks!

  • Kerstin

    This is a post with so much confidence, encouragement and insight into the requests you receive from commercial interests that all I can say is THANKS! Really helpful – I’m just at the start of experimenting with guest posts and happy to experiment, but it’s good to have so much knowledge from someone who’s already been there, done that.

  • Sine Thieme

    Natalie – I just came across this (via your post about accepting guest bloggers) and loved it! My family and I recently returned from an expat posting in South Africa and many of the challenges you write about sound very familiar. But also the beauty of it. Right before leaving I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with my son, and I also competed in one of South AFrica’s largest bike races, the 94.7 Cycle Challenge in Johannesburg, even though I’d never done a bike race before. Somehow what you did sounds like a combination of both of these – the challenge, the rewards of doing something physical, the terrible toilets, the interesting people. Thanks for sharing, I will now have to put Tour d’Afrique into the back of my mind!

  • Sine Thieme

    Oops, sorry, just realized I posted this on the very post I first read, not the one I meant to:-) Will go over there now and re-post, sorry! I also liked this post by the way, as I’m also a blogger. thanks for sharing your insight!

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