It is a commonly accepted practice that the first step in guest blogging is to send as many cold pitches as possible. The thinking behind this is that most of the emails will be ignored, but at least a few will be read and accepted.
Almost everyone does this, and it is in fact widely encouraged by “experts”. But this process doesn’t work very well, does it?
I mean, most pitch emails are ignored.
Did you ever wonder why that is the case?
If you are a blogger who gets pitch emails, you already know why, but judging by the “experts” who recommend the practice, no one else understands what things look like from the viewpoint of the recipient of the cold pitch emails.
The simple truth is bloggers are pitched endlessly by marketing agencies pretending to be writers. The pitches are often irrelevant, and if we accept a guest post it will usually be badly written.
Here are four problems I have encountered, and suggestions for how you can change your methods to avoid the issue.
1. I am inundated by cold pitch emails.
I get around ten to fifteen cold pitch emails per week. Given that I also get hundreds of emails every day, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but the steady drip of pitches has left a permanent impression. Past pitches have proven to have little value, and yet new ones keep showing up in my inbox.
This affects my opinion of your cold pitch email, which is why I am not going to view it favorably. Frankly, if I don’t know you from Adam then your pitch is going to be about as welcome as a door-to-door salesman.
Solution: Don’t send a pitch email if you don’t know the recipient at least well enough to chat with them on social media or by email.
2. The pitches are often from fake people.
You are a real person, but what you might not realize is that a significant number of cold pitch emails are sent by people who don’t exist.
Back when I still considered accepting pitches, I used to investigate the senders to make sure they had the requisite experience. I often found that a lot of the emails were coming from people who had no online footprint. They had no LinkedIn profile or presence on social media, they used a generic email address, and for all intents and purposes they did not exist.
My best guess is that the emails were actually coming from marketing agencies pretending to be freelance writers who wanted to work for free. While that might sound crazy, I also know there are companies that offer SEO services, including getting an article published on a site with a high Google rank. For them to create a fake writer as a front is not the craziest trick I have encountered. (Some of these agencies have created fake blogs, and one even pretended to be a college in Pennsylvania – seriously).
Solution: Make sure you have established an online identity. Look like a real person. Connect with the blogger you want to work with, and let them get to know you before you try to pitch them.
3. The pitches have nothing to do with the content I publish.
When I set out to write this post, I quickly polled my blogger friends. They told me that the biggest reason they stopped accepting cold pitches was that so many of the pitches were irrelevant. The blogger might cover book publishing, and the pitch would suggest a post about yoga, or bitcoin, or kid’s toys. (I just got one from a vaping blog.)
I would call this one of the lesser problems I have encountered, but I have seen it. In fact, I usually thought it was amusing, and often found myself snickering for the 5 seconds before I deleted the pitch email.
Solution: Research your target blog, and know what they publish and for whom. Ideally you should already be writing for that blog’s audience, only on other blogs.
4. The posts are poorly-written.
The fourth and final reason I don’t accept cold pitches is that so many of the draft posts I have received were written so poorly that it would actually take me more time to fix the submitted post than to write my own post.
It’s not just the posts that were often written for another audience or cover problems that my audience doesn’t have, but also that some were written in generic business terms, were unintelligible, or lacked a clear thesis and argument.
Solution: Research and write the guest blog post, and then send a link to it in your pitch. Only submit your best work.
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So what should you do?
Well, you could start by not being a spammer. Instead, get to know each blogger you want to work with, what they write about, and who their audience is, and how to help that audience.
This takes time, I know, which is why it isn’t going to work for those who use guest blog posts to generate backlinks for SEO purposes. (That is okay by me because I fully expect that Google is going to one day notice the spammy guest post practices and take action against it, just like they did with content farming and the companies who used negative reviews to reach the top of Google’s search results.)
My guest blogging strategy is aimed at building an audience, not SEO, which is why I have always written my best work. I usually write a post first, and then go looking for a home for it. I do on rare occasion send a pitch email based on a summary, but even then I have a good idea what the final blog post will say.
This has earned me a near 100% acceptance rate, which is unheard of in many circles.
Oh, and do you know what else sets me apart from the spammy operators? I usually republish the guest blog posts on my own site two or three months after they are published elsewhere. (My posts are great, so it would be a shame to waste them.)
Nate has been helping people fix broken tech since 2010. He repairs and maintains WordPress sites, and acts as a virtual IT department for authors. He also blogs about the Kindle and indie publishing. You may have heard his site, The Digital Reader, mentioned on news sites such as the NYTimes and Forbes.
You can sign up for Nate’s The Digital Writer newsletter here.
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