10 Reasons Your Guest Post Pitches Get Ignored

on February 25, 2016 in Blog Content Marketing
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5

10 Reasons Your Guest Post Pitches Get IgnoredEvery week I receive dozens of guest post pitches across all of my blogs, and it's not uncommon for that to creep over 100 in a week (and those are just the ones making it past my inbox filters; imagine how many bigger blogs must have to sort through). Yet I respond to less than 10% of those pitches. Even fewer result in guest posts appearing on my sites.

The vast majority of guest post pitches are crap. As a blogger, it's a waste of time even having to skim them. But if you're having trouble getting bloggers to accept your guest post pitches, I want to help you out.

To do that, I'm going to share the ten biggest problems I see in the guest post pitches I receive.

10 Reasons Your Guest Post Pitches Fall Flat

If you want more of your guest post submissions to be approved, try to avoid these common mistakes.

1. You didn't read the guest post guidelines.

If a blogger took the time to write up guest post guidelines, take the time to read them.

Remember, you're not doing that blogger a favor. You're asking them to do a favor for you so you can promote yourself to the audience they've put the time and effort into building. Unless they solicited a post from you rather than you approaching them, they owe you nothing.

I have a simple way of knowing if a potential guest poster even visited the guidelines page on this blog: I have a separate email address set up for pitches. And my Contact page says not to use my contact form to pitch guest posts. It's the very first thing on the page. It then links you to the guidelines. So if you haven't even read that much, and you use that form instead of the guest post address for your pitch, you get filtered right into my trash (or at least you don't get auto-filtered into my guest post review folder).

2. You think you're a special little snowflake.

One thing even worse than a pitch making it clear you haven't read the guidelines is a pitch letting a blogger know you did but you think you're above the rules set for everybody else.

If your pitch contains a line like "I know your guest post guidelines say X, but..." you need to stop right there.

I received a good example of this a couple of weeks ago. Someone pitched a post for this site and they went so far as to praise the guidelines themselves. I suspect they thought praise would make up for the fact that they were trying to blatantly disregard the very guidelines they were talking about. They were trying to promote an online education site -- something my guidelines go out of the way to ban here.

3. You sent a copy/paste form letter pitch.

I don't know what it is about pitch emails, but people must think bloggers are stupid. We really can tell if you just plugged our names and blog information into your form email. Don't do it.

One of the most obvious tells is when you copy / paste names from your pitch list into your emails and don't even bother checking your fonts. What you paste is often formatted differently, and it makes this guest post pitching sin glaringly obvious.

No matter how good you think that guest post pitch template you found online is, don't use it. We've seen them all before.

4. You haven't done your research.

Another common problem with guest post pitches is when you make it clear you haven't spent any time on the blog you're pitching. For example:

  • You pitch an article that already exists on the blog.
  • You pitch a guest post on a topic the blog doesn't even cover.
  • You pitch a post that's directly contrary to the mission or sensibilities of the blogger (such as pitching a pro-content-mill post to this blog).

If you know nothing about a blog, you're not ready to submit a guest post there.

5. You're not an authority.

I've noticed this doesn't bother all bloggers -- even some bigger ones -- because they seem to have no qualms about exposing their readers to unqualified "expert" guests. But it's something that leads to pitches here being ignored, and it's the reason for one of my new guest post guidelines covered below, so I'm going to mention it anyway.

Bloggers take the time to build trust among their readers. And if they let you publish some half-assed guest post about something you're not really qualified to talk about, they jeopardize those relationships.

For me, the issue is mostly on the freelance side. Too many new freelancers follow the advice of marketers to build a false sense of authority  before actually gaining experience. They try to use more established blogs to do this through guest posting (trying to pull more value than they can actually provide).

These folks often group together in true circle-jerk fashion with other new-ish freelancers, regurgitating each others' advice (which is usually ripped from an actual authority and passed off as their own) and calling each other "experts" until they, and their own readers, start to believe it. The idea is to turn that false authority into courses, membership sites, or e-books.

That's all well and good if you know what you're talking about. Guest posts can help you be seen as an authority through increased visibility.  They just aren't a substitute for real-world experience. Those two things have to work together.

Here's the thing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about half of small businesses survive their first five years -- a statistic that's remained fairly consistent over time. If you haven't made it that far, you don't know enough about running a sustainable business to teach others how to do the same yet.


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In that situation, you're not helping anyone by giving quick-fix advice with no significant track record. You're a part of the problem (what amounts to a near-plague in the freelance community these days). And I won't allow someone to use this, or any other site I manage, to forward that kind of agenda. If you pitch a guest post offering advice, you damn well better have experience to back it up. And no, linking to a bunch of more trusted bloggers in your post -- who are often secondary sources to begin with -- is not the same thing.

The point? Don't pitch guest posts offering someone's readers advice you aren't qualified to give. Either find something you are qualified to talk about or look for another guest post angle, like a limited case study, highly-specific tutorial, or interview. A lot of us go out of our way to support newer writers and bring them into our networks, and we're happy to host an occasional guest post. Just don't abuse that goodwill by putting our readers at risk with your ill-informed "advice."

6. Your ideas are generic.

Another common guest post problem is the generic pitch. This is bottom-line beginner-level content that can already be found on dozens, if not hundreds, of other blogs.

For example, a post on "ten places to find freelance writing jobs" wouldn't fly here. "What is an LLC?" wouldn't fly for my small business blog. Your pitch needs to add value to the reader and to the host blogger. Generic guest posts don't do that.

Instead, find a way to tailor those ideas to the blog's mission or readers. For example, while a generic pitch to list job board websites wouldn't cut it here, a follow-up to my 7 Unconventional Ways to Find Freelance Writing Jobs post where you share your strategy with another unconventional method most freelancers don't use would be a much better fit.

7. Your writing, in the pitch itself, is atrocious.

There isn't much I can say about this. Proofread your pitch emails. If English isn't your first language, have someone else look it over for you. If it's painful to read your pitch, no one is going to want to read your guest post.

8. Your guest post is self-promotional.

I can't think of any bloggers I know who allow direct self-promotion in guest posts (aside from sponsored posts, but that's a different beast). Yet pitches regularly come in with self-promotional links and references peppered throughout the articles.

Host bloggers aren't stupid. If a link looks questionable (such as pointing to some obscure site instead of a recognized authority), chances are good we're going to look it up. And if you have a tie to that company, we might very well find out about it -- happens more often than you'd think.

Once in a while I'll give a guest poster the chance to change the links to a more reputable, non-promotional source. But more often than not, the pitch gets trashed. Again, this is about reading and following guidelines. Don't try to get away with something the guest post guidelines don't allow (like having third party clients pay you to include their links in your guest posts).

9. Your guest post idea isn't relevant to the blog's readers.

I touched on this briefly earlier when talking about researching a blog before pitching them. But this is a big enough issue to deserve its own mention.

Always, always, always make sure your guest post pitch is relevant to a blog's readers. Sometimes it's an issue of being lazy and not seeing what a blog does or doesn't cover. Sometimes it's outright spam where you're targeting a blog solely for perceived link value and not to actually reach its readers. Neither is good, and either could get your guest post pitch ignored.

An example I sometimes deal with here is the issue of traditional publishing. I don't target authors looking for traditional publishers. But potential guests will see I talk about book marketing, not look any further, and then pitch posts about things like querying publishers.

10. You think ass-kissing is a substitute for relationships.

Very little bothers me more in a guest post pitch than someone trying to kiss my ass with generic bullshit praise because they think I'm stupid enough to let ego-bait influence my decisions. Some bloggers eat that up. I'm not one of them. And I'd bet some of those "big" bloggers you want to pitch have heard it a million times before too.

No one wants you tossing in a reference to some random post on the blog, followed by glowing praise for it. Even if you did read it, no one cares (unless it's directly related to the post idea you're pitching).

Instead of kissing ass, build an actual relationship with bloggers you want to pitch. Follow their blogs for a while. Comment on their new posts. Send them an email with a question for their blog, or to chat (briefly) about something they wrote. Link to them from your own blog. Share their work on social media. (I can tell you the easiest way to get my attention is by repeatedly interacting with me on Twitter -- it keeps your name in front of me, I'm more likely to connect there and follow what you have to say, and that in turn makes me more likely to check out your own site and want to get to know more about you.)

Bloggers are more likely to accept your guest post pitch when they already know you. So, rather than lobbing generic praise their way, put the effort in.

Changes to the All Indie Writers Guidelines

While I'm on the topic of guest post pitches, I should note a few new changes to the guest post policies here at All Indie Writers. Some of this was introduced quietly in December, and other changes were just made.

  • If I don't know you at all, chances are very good I won't accept your guest post. You can still follow the full guidelines and I'll consider your post, but your chances go way up if we've actually had a one-on-one conversation. If I know you well (we've been in touch at least periodically over the last few years or have exchanged posts in the past), you can pitch an idea or outline instead of sending the full post with your pitch.
  • I'm putting a hard cap on guest posts to two per month (that's two posts published -- not per-person). I rarely post this many, so it shouldn't change things. This is just an effort to make sure I don't follow the example of some bigger bloggers I've lost a lot of respect for in recent years as they trade their readers' trust for a blog dominated by free content from (often unqualified) guest contributors. That will never happen here.
  • I'm not currently taking any company-focused guest posts. In other words, they need to link to your writer website -- not a client's or employer's website or some other type of business (like a publishing company, invoicing software company, etc.). This may change in the future, and I may allow it occasionally if I solicit posts or interviews from companies I want to feature. But for now, I'm simply tired of these pitches and want to focus on writers sharing their thoughts with other writers.
  • I won't entertain advice-oriented guest posts on freelancing from anyone who has been in business for fewer than five years. Read the fifth point in the post above if you aren't sure why I'd set this guideline. If you're a newer writer, you can still pitch a guest post. You just can't use this platform to offer unqualified business advice. Share a case study or tutorial. Interview someone else. Or pitch a personal story or anecdote relevant to my readers.

You should read the full contributor guidelines before submitting any guest post for review. At some point in coming weeks I'll be simplifying the guidelines page a bit (though the overall rules won't likely change).

Avoiding the ten all-too-common mistakes I've mentioned here can help your guest post pitches stand out in an ocean of rubbish and lead to your content reaching the right kind of readers. Do you receive lousy guest post pitches all the time too? Which of these mistakes do you see most often? Do you have any other pet peeves? Share them in the blog comments.

Thanks for sharing!
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. Through her company, 3 Beat Media, she operates All Indie Writers, NakedPR.com, BizAmmo.com, and numerous other blogs.

Jenn has over 15 years experience writing for others, over 11 years experience in blogging, and 9 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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25 Comments

  1. Sharon Hurley Hall
    Sharon Hurley Hall February 25, 2016 Reply

    These are exactly the problems I have with guest post pitches, Jenn, and it’s why most of them get deleted by the time I read the second line of the pitch. If people spent a little more time thinking about what might work instead of following quick fix templates, we might see more quality guest post pitches.
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted…Storytelling: The New Black Of Marketing [Guest Article]My Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern February 25, 2016 Reply

      Agreed 100% Sharon. I can’t help but wonder where these pitch templates are coming from. Someone deserves to be slapped upside the head. I’d love to know who. These lazy-ass marketers have no respect for bloggers’ time, and that pisses me off to no end. Even if we trash your pitch after reading a couple of lines, you’re taking time out of our day and littering our damn inboxes. Multiply that by every other lazy waste of space we deal with and it adds up! This sh*t pisses me off. Can you tell? 😉

      What we should do is start taking note of the most common phrases we see in these pitches and create a database bloggers can use to set their email filters. Right now it’s tough to filter them because legit guest post pitches often have similar elements.

  2. Gill February 25, 2016 Reply

    Loved it!

  3. Allenaa February 25, 2016 Reply

    Thank you Jennifer for a detailed research. I totally agree, Copy/paste are now a days very common, I use to receive many pitches of same content/mailer. I am sure they are not professional bloggers they are just working on something for a backlink.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern February 25, 2016 Reply

      I still get that a lot Allenaa. The worst offenders scan servers’ ip addresses to find all sites sharing an address. Then they send the same pitch to the contact address for every site on the server. I have my sites spread among something like 8 ip addresses right now, so I’ll get hit with the same email for several sites at once quite often. The nice part is that they make it easy to identify their spam and just delete the whole lot.

  4. KeriLynn Engel February 25, 2016 Reply

    #3 a million times. Everyone seems to use the same template, too. Like telling you how much they loved a particular blog post (that just happens to be the latest one you posted).

    Also #5 kinda pisses me off. It seems like EVERYONE is coaching and teaching courses after just a few months of freelancing. It just seems like they’re trying to make money taking advantage of people who don’t realize that everything they’re teaching is very basic information that’s freely available on the web, anyway.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern February 25, 2016 Reply

      Exactly. One of those “coaches” was flat out ripping off a few of us a while ago — asking us for advice, then turning around and giving that advice as their own on their blog (to promote their e-book). No credit of course.

      Another (who would constantly point out they barely had more than a year of experience) contacted several colleagues asking for free content from actual experts so they could assemble it and charge for it. And this was after they ripped off one of those more experienced colleagues’ branding. I kid you not. The gall of some people amazes me. They built a pretty shitty reputation for themselves among more experienced freelancers too (and probably don’t even realize it). Quite a few of us noticed and word got around pretty quickly.

      I don’t know why it’s such a difficult concept to understand that if you try to screw over your colleagues, word’s going to get around. Just because we work alone usually, it doesn’t mean the freelance writing community is some isolated little bubble. Many of us have known each other for years. And of course we’re the ones who have to clean up the mess when the newbies you screw over come crying for real help. So this issue goes well beyond guest posts. And sadly it’s been a huge problem for the last 2-3 years in particular — many of the offenders coming out of the same groups and programs.

      But I’d better stop now. I could rant about this and spew out examples all damn day.

    • Lori February 26, 2016 Reply

      Bingo, KeriLynn. Free on the Internet.
      Lori recently posted…Writers Worth: This Job, Not That JobMy Profile

  5. Lori February 26, 2016 Reply

    I can’t tell you how hard I laughed, how much I agreed out loud, and how much I love this post, Jenn. It should be laminated and mailed to anyone considering pitching a guest post.

    #1 — I’ve seen it too often. I get pitches from companies or from writers trying to meet some quota so they’ll get paid by a company (weird scenario there altogether).

    #2 — I nearly choked on my tea when I read this. LOL And yes, there are way too many people who think “But you really need to be covering THIS.” Like I need to cover healthcare legislation on a writing blog…

    #3 — They lose me at “Hi,”.

    #4 — Again, healthcare legislation. On a writing blog.

    #5 — It’s a small, small world we build when we take on way too much authority and convince new writers to tout our praises. I have no confidence that a writer like you describe would be able to teach effectively without causing harm.

    #6 — I got one saying “I’d love to show your readers how to start a freelance business!” Great, except most of my readers HAVE freelance businesses, so who is this post really for?

    #7 — I’m reminded of a pitch another writer shared with us yesterday: “…my goal to writer screenplays…” Spell Check alert!

    #8 — They really do think we’re stupid if they think we’re not going to see the self-promotion — the link to shoe companies, drug companies, designer handbag companies…

    #9 –It’s when they say “We can guarantee targeted content. All we ask is three dofollow links back to our site” — broke two rules there. No companies (“we”) and no link bait.

    #10 — You made my day with this one, too (though #2 is still my favorite subhead). “Your content is amazing! You handle the subject very well” (not mentioning the subject at all, either). “We would like to offer a guest post on cranial surgery…”

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern February 26, 2016 Reply

      Always happy to amuse Lori. 🙂

      Regarding #5 (again), you touched on something important that I didn’t mention in the post. These blowhards always do the same thing — they exclusively target newbies. They don’t want more experienced folks around because we call them on their bullshit. Unless they want something of course. Then comes the “schmoozing and using” until they think they can’t get any more out of you.

      And you’re absolutely right. This is about causing harm! And it’s not just bloggers. I’ve seen it from membership sites too — two in particular have a bad habit of leaving members unsatisfied. I hear about it all the friggin’ time from writers who invested time and money based on promises made and left with nothing to show for it, having to start their freelance careers over from scratch because of the shit advice they were given (which they share with me — and yeah, it really is awful!).

      You know I can tolerate a lot of nonsense thrown my way. But I get extremely defensive of newer writers when I hear this kind of thing because these are people I’ve been working hard to help for years and they’re so often exploited. Some of us genuinely care. I just wish it was easier for newbies to find those pros instead of the hacks (who often go out of their way to be the “loudest”).

      So, for any new writers out there, pay attention to the comments here. There are a couple of faces you should get to know — specifically Lori and Sharon. If you aren’t familiar with them, you don’t know nearly enough about the freelance writing community. Get to know them. Also, Peter Bowerman. There are plenty of others, but those three actually give a damn and won’t steer you into a gutter to make a quick buck off your back.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern February 26, 2016 Reply

      And as for #7, that email was friggin’ hilarious! That was the least of its problems. But again, good example of how word gets around (sort of what happened with the Upwork debacle — something that would have gone ignored if we didn’t talk to each other and realize there was a larger issue at play).

      With #10, my favorite is when they just randomly pick a post and it’s something stupid like a sale announcement for an e-book (from years ago). They still rave about the awesome content. I imagine it’s far funnier on news sites where everything’s outdated pretty quickly. Maybe comedy’s their real end game?

  6. Cathy Miller February 26, 2016 Reply

    Amen, amen, amen. Like many blog owners, I have completely stopped accepting guest posts. The rare exceptions are from trusted colleagues.

    As you know, Jenn, I don’t market to freelancers, although many follow my business writing site. Your #5 resonated with me. As someone who started freelancing in 2008, I still consider myself a newbie in many regards.

    When I first started, I would seek the more experienced for advice (still do). When I researched the background of some “experts” (or gurus, rock stars – choose your term) and found out they had less time under their freelancing belt than even I did, I was astounded that they felt justified in presenting themselves as experts, offering courses, ebooks or whatever. I have no problem with a sharing of “what worked” for them but don’t present yourself or your ideas as “expert.”

    Giving the devil their due, I appreciate when a site is honest about their lack of experience but I have also been blown away to see some blatant rip-offs of more experienced freelancers’ work.

    I’ve been around long enough that I found myself muttering, “This sounds very familiar.” My boomer brain is not always clear on the specifics. 😉 So I did what every memory-challenged person does – I Googled course/ebook titles. That’s when I’d find the same title (with perhaps one word changed) done in the past by that more experienced freelancer.

    Again, I have no problem with doing your own version. But make sure it is that and give credit to your “inspiration.”

    Obviously, you touched a nerve. Sorry for my own rant. 😉
    Cathy Miller recently posted…Who Cares About Your Business Communication?My Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern February 26, 2016 Reply

      “I have no problem with a sharing of “what worked” for them but don’t present yourself or your ideas as “expert.””

      Or your damn friends! That’s the other trend these days — writing “expert roundups” featuring a bunch of relative newbies because you’re too damn lazy to actually get to know the experienced folks in your niche. So you tap your pals — and only your pals. You call them “experts” when they’re not. You stroke their egos. And then they do the same for you. It’s so nauseating. And it’s so friggin’ obvious!

      This got me wondering exactly how long I’d been at it before I started offering advice to other freelancers. 7 years. I’d been writing for clients for 7 years before even launching a blog targeting other writers. And even then, this was a group blog based on a challenge where we shared what we were up to and how certain things worked out for us, and the closest thing to advice was encouraging brand new writers not to get sucked into garbage penny-per-word (and worse) markets by showing them better options. So it was closer to 8 years before the blog became more of what it is today. I can’t even imagine being so full of yourself that you think you should be offering business advice when you’ve basically just been trying to figure your shit out for a year or two.

      I can’t blame you for not wanting to accept guest posts. Every now and then I consider banning them altogether and filtering anything with that phrase right into my trash. I’m so over these lame pitches.

      Your rants are always welcome here Cathy. 🙂

  7. Starr February 27, 2016 Reply

    Until recently, I believed that bloggers invited experts to be guest writers onto their blog because they were experts on certain topics. I expect that most readers think that’s how it works.

    As someone who is learning about Freelance writing, I find this information opens a host of possibilities – once I discover where my expertise lies!

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern February 28, 2016 Reply

      That certainly does happen. But bloggers are often sent pitches as well from people who want to be seen as experts (or those who simply want links to their website). It goes both ways, but most contact tends to come from people pitching bloggers these days.

  8. LoriWidmer February 29, 2016 Reply

    Cathy, you are by no means a newbie. You’re forgetting your many years as a corporate writer. If anyone understands the corporate client, you do.

    Jenn, thanks for the shout out. Appreciate it. 🙂 It bugs me, as well, to see newer writers being sucked into the vortex — the one where they get splashy-header/subheader advice that impresses if only in formatting. Then the free advice pulls up right before anything useful is shared…oh, but you can have that just for the low, low price of $19/$29/$59…

    Worse, these are people who are basically spinning existing content. It’s nothing original. Newbies who don’t know where to turn think they’ve found a mentor. Newbies — do a quick Internet search. Much of what you’re about to pay for exists for free. And chances are, it’s been covered by a writer with a ton more experience than the one in front of you. Not that experience guarantees good content – I’ve seen plenty of moronic, one-liner advice that sucks coming from the so-called A-list writers.

    Here’s a great measurement: if the post takes 1,000 words to get to the one-sentence explanation, you may want to consider a different writer. That one is either 1) following the long-post-is-best trend that’s boring the shit out of everyone, or 2) doesn’t understand how to craft a useful post, or 3) is withholding info to get you to pay for it.

  9. Anne R. Allen March 7, 2016 Reply

    Amen! This is such basic stuff, but 95% of pitches I get are awful. My #1 rule is READ THE BLOG. Don’t pitch a post for a blog you haven’t read. The sad thing is, the pitches are so similar, they must be following some kind of bad-advice guru. I wish they’d get a clue!

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 7, 2016 Reply

      It’s so easy, right?

      I’d love to know who’s passing along these stupid templates. Sadly this is what happens when marketers try to take over good old PR strategies and tools (guest posts on blogs are just an updated version of free company exec features for trades). They run them into the ground and turn them into little more than spam. It’s a shame.

  10. Greta Lamfel March 10, 2016 Reply

    Hi All,

    Just a different perspective, some of those writers have just started making money off their words and might not know the best way to send a pitch.
    Bloggers sometimes make pitches a tedious process with endless pages of rules. Give them a break.

    Greta

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 10, 2016 Reply

      Ignorance is never an excuse. Nor is laziness. If they can’t (or won’t) abide by guidelines, they have no business sending the pitch. And given how similar these pitches are, they’re clearly getting templates from somewhere (along with obviously-bad advice). If they want to make money from their blogs, they need to learn how to run, and promote, one properly. This isn’t it.

  11. Kristy Bernales May 13, 2016 Reply

    Awesome post Jennifer! Now I know exactly how to write irresistible guest post pitches.

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