“Come sit down, Child. Gently put your hands on my crystal ball,” I say, directing you into my dimly lit fortune teller studio. I’m wearing a Stevie Nicks-inspired black lace shawl and gold hoop earrings.
“You’d like to know if you should publish guest blog posts on your website, yes? Let’s ask.”
My long, blood-red fingernail taps on the glass, as a thick fog swirls underneath the surface of the orb for several minutes.
“Looks like I can’t help you. Good thing you paid in advance.”
And with a swift kick in the rear, you exit the studio without an answer.
My crystal ball couldn’t help you decide whether or not you should publish guest blog posts on your site because it depends on a number of specific circumstances.
This post will help you focus on the factors you need to consider before you start running a multi-author publication. (Who knew an article could provide more guidance than a crystal ball?)
If “multi-author publication” sounds advanced, don’t worry — we’ll get started with Editor-in-Chief 101.
If a financial accountant helps you keep an accurate record of your finances, as the Editor-in-Chief of your website, you’re a content accountant.
It’s your responsibility to publish accurate content that is beneficial for your audience. You set and manage your audience’s expectations and actively craft the best experience for them.
When you first create a content-driven website, the platform may just be an outlet for your own writing, as you educate readers who are interested in learning about your area of expertise.
But as time goes on and you’ve built authority and an audience, you have an opportunity to offer your readers a new experience.
You may want to expand the type of content that you publish by bringing in other voices to your digital publication.
Here are 15 questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not you should publish guest blog posts on your website:
- Will content from other writers help my audience learn more about the topic I teach?
- How can I produce more value for my audience?
- What topics would I want guest writers to cover?
- Could new content from other writers expose my website to a wider audience?
- Would I be able to offer writers more exposure?
- Am I able to offer guest writers any financial compensation for articles I publish?
- Am I looking for established experts or simply other perspectives?
- Will I publish writers’ drafts, or will I edit guest blog posts?
- Should writers format their articles to fit my publication’s style before they submit them?
- What rules will I have regarding hyperlinks in guest blog posts and author bios?
- Should I set a word count limit?
- Am I looking for text blog posts only or other types of media, such as infographics, SlideShares, or audio content?
- Will I allow writers to submit images to accompany their articles?
- What process will I establish for collecting and reviewing guest blog post submissions?
- Are there certain types of content I won’t publish, and why?
Your website represents your business, and your editorial standards will help ensure that your publication reflects well on your organization.
Whether or not you publish guest blog posts on your website, you should aim to produce valuable, useful, high-quality content.
Editorial standards are essentially rules that help you establish authority and uphold your reputation as a trustworthy resource for your audience.
Many print and digital publications — including Copyblogger — don’t publish the exact drafts that writers submit. Instead, editors adapt articles so that they fit the publication.
(Keep in mind that a writer’s version of a final draft is rarely an editor’s version of a final draft.)
When you edit a guest blog post, your goal is to maintain the writer’s voice and point of view while shaping it to be an article that a reader would expect to find on your website.
If you decide to publish articles other than your own, you may not want to heavily edit the content, but here are fundamental editorial standards that are important for any content you publish — simplified into the Three F’s: Fitness, Fact-checking, and Formatting.
The way someone writes on his or her own website may not fit with your publication, but if you value the information the person can teach your audience, you can revise the content accordingly to fit your editorial tone and style.
To provide supplementary information to the content your guest author provides, you may want to hyperlink text in your guest blog posts to relevant cornerstone content pages and other articles on your website — just as you normally would when you write posts.
As you assess the fitness of a guest blog post, you’ll check to make sure the article offers consistent, focused advice. You may need to delete text that goes beyond the scope of the topic and distracts readers from the main point. If an idea is tangential and doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the post, it’s better to cut it than risk confusing readers.
Also, while you might welcome other opinions on your site, content within a guest blog post may become problematic if it contradicts or disagrees with a practice that you regularly teach your readers. Look out for those red flags.
Since your loyalty is with your readers, you need to verify that you’re presenting them with correct information. To start, check:
- Hyperlinks. Do all hyperlinks go to the correct sites, and do you feel comfortable directing readers to those sites?
- Sources. Does the author support his or her points with information from trustworthy sources?
- Potential logical fallacies. If conclusions are deduced from research, is this valid information to present to your audience?
- Numbers. Do the numbers in a post match the source of the information? For example, the author may have accidentally transcribed “62 percent of people,” when the source of the information says, “65 percent of people” or “32 percent of people.”
- Spellings. Names of people, businesses, products, locations, and publications should all be double-checked.
Think about a print magazine that you read. While it may offer many different voices from a variety of writers, each article looks like it belongs to that print publication. The same concept should be applied to your digital publication.
For example, if you always publish articles with short paragraphs of one to three sentences, it will look strange to a regular reader if you publish an article with long paragraphs of five to ten sentences that can be tedious to read on a screen.
Even though a writer may have submitted a draft with long paragraphs, it’s your job to adjust the text to match your standard formatting.
Coming soon: how to collect and review guest blog post submissions
If you decide you want to publish guest blog posts on your website, the next article in this series will outline best practices for collecting and reviewing submissions from potential writers.
You’ll also hear from other members of the Rainmaker Digital team about their experiences working with guest authors — I won’t be consulting my Magic 8 Ball. <img src="http://s.w.org/images/core/emoji/72×72/1f609.png" alt="