I’m a pretty fortunate content marketer; my company is committed to the idea of publishing high-quality content that speaks to our audience. I get to spend the lion’s share of my time writing, editing, and publishing content for our blog and our podcast. In addition to the content we create inside our organization, I take advantage of some great guest contributions that cross my desk every day.
I’ve come to appreciate the work Steve Strauss and his editors here at TheSelfEmployed.com go through each day as they wade through the many content submissions they must review. Coordinating, reading, accepting, and rejecting contributor posts is no easy process. I must admit, there are some contributors that I look forward to every submission, but there are just as many (if not more) that are so unprepared that I’m surprised they have the courage to submit in the first place.
When creating content for your own blog, it takes about 50 posts before Google will take you seriously…
The opportunity to create thought leadership through your own blog, as well as contributing to others, is a great way to share your brand, build a reputation, and promote what you’re doing within your industry. With that being said, here are a few suggestions that might help make your efforts successful and rewarding:
- It’s all about quality, but it’s also about quantity: When creating content for your own blog, it takes about 50 posts before Google will take you seriously, so you’ve got to be committed to either crank out a lot of content quickly or be patient enough to give your blog time to grow. If you write a post a week, it will take you about a year before you see much serious search traffic. What’s more, you’ll get better with practice. The Russian’s say, “The first pancake always fails.” Basically, you’ll suck the most when your audience is the smallest (and I say that with a lot of love). The more you write, the better you’ll be able to do it; and the faster you’ll be able to do it.
- A good editor will make a good writer even better: Don’t be afraid to show your work to someone you trust to proofread it and offer suggestions. I’ve been writing every day for several years now and still have a second set of eyes look over what I’m writing on a regular basis. This particular piece is no exception. I’m often surprised at what I miss. To be honest, after I’ve been through something four or five times, it says what I want it to say even if it really doesn’t. However, if you’re going to ask someone to read your submission before you submit it, be prepared to be critiqued. You’ll need to grow a pretty thick skin because if you think critique from a friend is tough, they are usually much kinder than an editor you don’t know. Nevertheless, consider yourself lucky if an editor does offer some advice, most of the time, rejected submissions just get ignored.
- Make sure you’re submitting to the right publications: I’m often surprised at how many submissions to our blog have nothing to offer our audience. It’s a good idea to read a few blog posts to determine if what you have to offer will be of value to the blog or online magazine’s readers. Too many “professional” bloggers believe they can write about anything (which they can’t). We want to share advice and insight that will be of value to our readers. I often reject submissions because what they have to say is too superficial and doesn’t provide any real value to the conversation. People have an information need and you have information that they would perceive as valuable. Speak from your experience and expertise and you’ll find places where your content will be welcomed and appreciated.
- Take a point of view: Opinions are like, well…, everyone’s got one and their all different. Don’t be afraid to share yours. People may disagree or agree, but it’s your point of view that will make what you have to say interesting and relevant. Nobody will follow someone whose opinions are always changing. What’s more, editors want to publish authors who have a well-articulated point of view. I’m not suggesting an argumentative tone, at least that has never been successful for me. Arguing online is a lot like having an argument with your neighbor in the middle of the cul-de-sac, nobody wins and the rest of the neighborhood thinks you’re both a couple of idiots.
- Follow the directions: Over time we developed a set of guidelines for contributors that we send to anyone who reaches out to us. They talk about our audience, the type of content we’re looking for, and what we expect. We also request a short bio and high-quality headshot we can publish with the piece. I am amazed at how many people don’t include the bio and the headshot. I even mention both in my email when I send the guidelines to them. As a result, I don’t even look at anything that doesn’t include those items. Within days I often get a note asking, “How come you haven’t published my article yet?” If the publisher has a set of guidelines, whether or not they send them to you or just publish them on their website, follow them or expect to be ignored.
- Don’t be a pest: I understand the desire to reach out to a publisher once you’ve submitted content. You want to see your article published. I submit a lot of stuff every year and I totally get it. Nevertheless, don’t send annoying emails asking for an update. If they like your submission, odds are it’s in the queue. If they don’t, you’ll likely not hear from them. I’m often buried in so much stuff that I don’t have time to personally correspond with every author who doesn’t submit quality content or doesn’t follow the instructions. If you pester me, I’m likely to tell you exactly why you’re being ignored, and I’m probably not as nice as Steve and his colleagues.
- Don’t sell: This might sound counter-intuitive, but promoting your product or service is the quickest way to be ignored. I don’t think I’m too different from most places that publish guest content. I’m happy to give you a link back to your website and to put a little something about your company in your bio, but if the article you submit is a sales pitch, I’m not going to publish it. The idea is to share information my readers will find valuable whether or not they use your product or service. If you can convince our readers and me that you’re smart, we’ll all willingly make the leap that your company is too.
Culling through all the content submissions that cross my desk takes a lot of time. I wish I could say I’m always impressed, but most of the time I’m not. The above advice will help your content marketing efforts and might even get you published outside of your company blog. Don’t forget, the first pancake always fails and practice, practice, practice.
Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty writes about small business for Lendio.