Guest blogging? Bring your "A" game!

I really enjoy guest posting on other blogs. It's like being invited to come to a dinner party at a friend's house where you may know some people, but probably not everyone. The dinner party is your chance to meet new, interesting people with fresh perspectives and you might even walk away with newly formed friendships. Let me step away from the analogy now and say it in plain English. Guest blogging gives you:

  • exposure to a new audience
  • backlinks to your site
  • the opportunity to share your expertise
  • potential for increased credibility

Now, let's go back to the dinner party.

Would you show up unwashed in your Saturday schlepping clothes? 

Do you come in poised to sell to every human with a pulse you interact with?

Is the bottle of wine you brought as a host gift worthless or wonderful?

Don't squander guest blogging opportunities 

The guest who walks in prepared to socialize, with their most charming anecdotes and winning personality on display is a guest who will draw the interest of others and have a greater chance of creating meaningful connections.

Understand the rules of etiquette 

Dinner party etiquette is fairly standard. Most people know about BMW (bread, meal water) and using the outside fork first, and waiting until everyone at the table has been served. Blogs are a tad different. 

Know what is expected of you as a guest blogger - from language to content to engagement. Blogs that welcome guest bloggers regularly probably have comprehensive guidelines that will help you get to know their community and what they expect from content on the blog.

When you deliver on those expectations, you leave a good impression of your host and the community you're interacting with. 

It is better to give than receive

Inviting someone to share their expertise on your blog is a risk. Granted, editorial veto power is a must - always. But you also hope you don't have to exercise that all-important veto power. As the host of this guest, you're rooting for them to give you great quality content that resonates with your community.

It's deflating and disappointing to see an email that contains a blog post-sized sales pitch that has no redemptive value. It's too much like opening a bottle of your favourite wine only to find the cork is black and the wine is undrinkable.

Re-gifting isn't a good idea

When I guest post, I will sometimes re-publish a version of the post on my own blog, but I like providing original content. I'm not going to bring an already-open bottle of wine to the dinner party that I got from someone for my birthday. No, I provide new, original, fresh content and if I want to repurpose it for myself later on, so be it (if the blog is okay with that practice).

Impressions matter

All of these things serve to give your host and their audience an impression of who you are as a person, as a business, and as an expert. If you don't bring your "A" game, chances are most blogs simply won't publish what you provide. If they have to heavily edit, they may be slightly less reluctant to invite you back. But if you bring your best work and dress to impress, you will make an impression that won't be forgotten.

Quick tips for successful guest blogging

  1. You're there to give value, not a sales pitch. You have to earn the right to pitch and you're nowhere near that point in a guest post.
  2. This audience is not your audience; make sure you understand who you're talking to, what will help them, and how information is usually presented to them.
  3. Pay attention to social media and the comments on your post. Reply to comments and say thank you for shares. (Your parents will be proud.)

Brutally honest tip: If all you want to do is publish all of your blog posts on a higher authority site, you're better off syndicating. That is not guest blogging.

You can be a highly valued guest blog contributor fairly easily if you keep all these things in mind. Those are the contributors who are asked to come back over and over again. And eventually, they build relationships that cross over into their own audience, which is lead gen gold. 

So, bring your "A" game, and go for the gold. It really does pay off.

The dating game of web content

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Do you remember what it’s like to be mutually “in like” for the first time? You click with the person so well that you want to see and talk to each other all the time. The connection is so strong that you feel like you’ve found a kindred spirit, or maybe even THE ONE!

Fast forward a few months and things are still somewhat rosy, but you’re starting to see the not-so-perfect side of this human being, but it’s okay because they have so many positives you can overlook it. Besides, humans are imperfect.

Time moves on and things change. The tarnish really starts to show. Maybe they change. Maybe you change. Maybe you just get to know them better. Either way, you hit that stage where staying together becomes a conscious decision you have to make.

Content marketing tools evoke similar emotions in marketers and business owners who use them to grow their business. We’ve fallen for what they can do for us and somehow expect that the tools will never change. Then they do and we scream and cry and fight for things to go back to the way they were in the good ol’ days.

Raise your hand if this story sounds familiar: Facebook actually invited us to move in, gave us free room and board, and then cut us off when we they didn’t have the money to pay the rent and utilities. How dare they make us pay for the milk!? And after they gave it to us for free for so long – now what do we do?

This is where too many are getting it wrong. If your content isn’t reaching people anymore, there’s a good reason and it’s highly likely you won’t like the answer. (Your audience possibly just isn’t that into it.) Knowing this is the best possible thing that will happen to you, though. Because it will give you the freedom to experiment with new, different and better content thatwill reach your audience.

Break the co-dependency

Tools will come and go, but over-reliance on them is simply not healthy for your reach or your content. Focus on your content first and use the right tools for promotion and building relationships. The tools are where you make the pick-up. Now that your audience is interested, take them somewhere nice that has the right vibe they’re looking for - like your website.

Be realistic with your expectations

Not everyone’s going to see your “come hither” looks from across "The Twitter". Facebook probably feels like a meat market where no one is paying attention anymore. But if you don’t show up, you might miss your perfect match. Of course, you have to look your best once you’re there. Looking good online is about creating great content. When people see it and check you out even further, they’re going to be attracted to how useful your content is to them.

Content needs to be better than ever

If your content isn’t written for your audience, you won’t attract them. If the content isn’t valuable to your audience, you won’t engage them. Yes, they need to be able to see you, but first they have to want to. You’re competing with over a billion other people and many, many millions of pages on Facebook alone. The numbers across the social web are staggering. Why should anyone give their time and attention to you?

There are plenty of other networks in the sea

Some people like being in a crowded, noisy room filled with potential. Others like to go to a quiet café to find someone who likes obscure everything. It’s nice to be where everyone is, but sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name. That’s where smaller networks like Instagram or Pinterest may be more valuable. But don't let the bigness of Facebook and Twitter stop you from building a small, engaged community there. (Even big cities like Toronto have lovely small, tight-knit communities.)

Focus on quality, not quantity

Dating a bunch of different people at once is hard work. Eventually, it gets so overwhelming, you have to just break it off with most of them. Getting to know someone as friends makes it easier to know if you want to take that next step. By the same token, getting to know a network’s value through research first can keep you from getting spread too thin. That means you’ll have more time to create stellar content!

It’s time to let go of all the ways the tools are letting you down and focus on trying new ways to communicate and build content that will make the tools work for you.

Don’t be a complainer. Be creative. Be courageous. Be compelling. You can create brilliantly awesome content!

A version of this post originally appeared on Feedblitz.

Your website is home - don't rent space somewhere else

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I visited Canada for the first time in 1995, the summer after I graduated high school. I went on tour with a singing group and for three months, we toured and performed throughout the Northwest United States and Canada. For the first time, I got to experience Canadian retail. I went to Eaton's in a mall in Vancouver, and saw three Gaps, three Guess, three of everything it seemed, at West Edmonton Mall. (I spent most of our day and a half of downtime at the mall hanging out with friends in the amusement park being amused.)

Fast forward 5 years and I moved to Canada. Eaton's, which hadn't impressed me all that much in in Vancouver, was a brand trying to revitalize itself and become known as the premium mainstream department store. When they re-opened at the Rideau Centre in Ottawa, the store was gorgeous. I had portraits done at the photo studio with Matt right after our wedding in 2001. 

But ultimately, Eaton's went away. They couldn't survive for reasons that don't matter to this analogy. They were a tool for consumers to get things they wanted or needed and nothing more. When not enough consumers consumed, the stores closed. It's happening over and over in Canadian retail these days.

Aren't you glad you got your shopping done and took your purchases home?

It seems like a strange question, right? But think about it. What if you bought things and rented space in the store to keep them? What happens to your stuff when the store suddenly shuts down? 

Content is your digital clothing

A few years ago Facebook increased the maximum number of characters in posts to 60,000. Someone figured out that is equivalent to several of the first few books of the Bible - just to put it into context for you. One of the digital marketing service providers I followed at the time decided to shut down their website because they were moving everything onto Facebook.

I stopped following them, because that one decision made me distrust their advice in other areas.

Your website is your home online. You own it. You control it. You decide what goes in the closets. You get to put out the fun and funky accessories. You get to dress it to suit your brand. You get to decide whether to stay or leave. 

Your website is a home. Your social networks are rentals.

In personal finance, the decision to buy or rent is far from simple, but when it comes to your web presence, always BUY. Do not make the mistake of renting space on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (a perfect example given recent changes), LinkedIn, Tumblr or anywhere else. Why?

Because, just like Eaton's, Target and others have shut down and left people without a tool to get what they need and want, so can any and every social network fall to the whims of change or shut down. Changes can temporarily short-circuit your efforts to reach and grow your audience. A shut-down means starting all over.

Social networks are tools

You share content to social networks to drive traffic back to your website. That's the goal. Here's why:

  1. Your website shows the real you with no interference from Facebook, Twitter, or other social network elements. It reflects your brand (or it should).

  2. Your website is usually where your service offerings live. It's the place that prospective clients can peek in your kitchen drawers to find the right tools or ingredients to cook up what they need. Or - at the very least - it's a starting point.

  3. Your website is owned by you. As long as you're paying the mortgage (hosting) and maintaining your site, it isn't going anywhere. Even when the power goes out, it will come back on because it's yours.

You don't own Facebook, Twitter or any of the other hundreds of networks you use as tools for promotion. Renting is fine when you need physical shelter, but it's only a tool when it comes to your web presence.