In the first part of this two-part series on the perfect guest post, we looked at the SEO and linking elements of guest blogging. In this part, I now want to turn our attention to the actual content and sharing itself and uncover exactly what type of content makes for a good guest post. We’ll end by taking a look at the importance of social sharing and responding to comments.
Long Form vs Short-Form Content
This is undoubtedly a huge subject so we’ll sum it up by saying that content length should really be informed by brief, website, readership, and what you’re hoping to achieve. The nature of the content is also relevant: editorial and analytical content are often longer by nature, whilst how-to articles and top tens tend to be shorter, but there are always exceptions to every rule.
But what’s better; long or short content? Well, whilst long-form can do wonders for thought leadership and engaging with a switched-on audience, it does take a lot more time and effort to produce. What’s more, there is a tendency towards shorter online attention spans, and bite-sized content that lends itself well to short-form content. Of course, on the other hand, shorter content can be viewed as less weighty and substantial. There really is no right and wrong answer here.
In her excellent analysis of long and short-form content, Salma Jafri sums up the benefits of both long-form and short-form content and sharing. Factors such as what stage of your business you are in, the goal of your content, personality, and platform are all considerations when planning the length of your content. Jafri is also quick to point out that long-form content does not always equate to substantial content, something that many people still seem to overlook.
One of the big mistakes with guest blogging is to keep running with the same kind of content on the same subject. It’s a very easy trap to fall into when you’ve hit on a winning recipe and tempted to think that as long as you get a link out of it, it doesn’t really matter that you’ve created forty how-to guides on the same topic in the last six months. Try to mix it up by approaching different sites with different types of content. If you’re producing a lot of how-to guides then try pitching more editorial or analytical content.
Good guest bloggers need to be good content marketers and be able to create innovative and varying content month in month out. Any seasoned content marketer will tell you that this isn’t easy but there are well-documented methods to staying creative you can adopt to prevent your content from getting stale or hackneyed. Start each month by brainstorming new ideas or collaborate with other players in your niche. Given a bit of time and the right publisher sites, it won’t be long before people begin recognising you as a writer and eventually as a thought leader, which ultimately means more exposure.
Avoiding Self-Promotional Content and Advertorials
Traditionally an advertorial is an advert for a company dressed up as a journalistic article, once typically found in many newspapers or magazines. In 2013 Google penalised Interflora for its use of gaining links through advertorial content. Whilst the acquisition of links should now be a real no-no for all guest bloggers, the spectre of the bland self-promotional advertorial continues to hang over guest blogging.
Of course, it can be all too easy to overstep the fine line that exists between advertising and content marketing. Whilst it’s hugely important that you refrain from self-promotional content, defining this can be a grey area. Promoting one’s industry is fine but promoting one’s own products or services isn’t. But what if you’re selling a third party’s products as part of an overall service? Can you talk positively about someone else’s products if you’re selling them? This is largely a matter of judgement and of the editorial policy of the publisher. Wherever you decide to draw the line, it’s important to be aware that people are far less likely to publish, share, or link to content that is seen in any way as self-promotional.
Social Content and Sharing…and Comments
It’s often easy to overlook the post-publication process when guest blogging. With so much effort expended finding a good publisher site, approaching the editor or owner and then writing the perfect guest post, many people often overlook what could be argued is the most important stage in the process; the part where people actually start reading, sharing, and commenting on what you’ve said. It’s important to not only share across all your social media accounts but to encourage the publisher to do the same if they haven’t done so within 24 hours of publication. A good tactic is to mention the publisher in a tweet when sharing, perhaps praising his / her ‘excellent blog’. This can help build your relationship with them and often prompts them to share if they haven’t done so already.
Responding to comments is also crucial to building relationships with people in your industry and what you say here, can occasionally be more important than the article itself in terms of PR. Keep an eye on your newly published post in the hours, days, and weeks after publication as this is when comments are most likely to appear. If there are no comments after a couple of days, then get a colleague to ask you a pre-prepared question which you can then respond to. A single comment can often be enough to get the conversation started with other people more likely to join in on active comment threads. Ultimately, the more people you can get involved, the more attention your post will get. The one caveat here is to avoid controversy. Comment sections can be notorious for trolls and trouble makers, so if someone’s overstepping the line then avoid responding to them at all costs.
Joe Cox is Head of Content for Bristol Digital Marketing agency, Bespoke Digital. He has written about SEO, social media and video marketing for the likes of Smart Insights, Ad Age, JeffBullas.com, Social Media Today and Search Engine People.