Since the introduction of penguin and panda updates, bloggers have tasted both success and failures when it comes to pulling traffic from organic sources. If you fall in the latter category, incorrect guest post publishing system present on your blog may be one of the factors that may have contributed in the decline of traffic. While guest blogging, both the parties (guest blogger & host blogger) look for their benefits and sometimes both pay for their mistakes instead of gaining something out of it. Probably, this is the right time to reevaluate you entire strategy of accepting and publishing guest posts on your blog. If you've not opened up your blog for guest posts but planning to do so, you may consider all the critical points discussed here to avoid any kind of penalties from major search engines.
Beware Of Affiliate Marketers and Spammy Link BuildersIf you're a seasoned blogger, you're probably aware of marketing and PR professionals looking for getting backlinks for their clients and campaigns through guest blogging. Newbies often fall in this trap and end up accepting guest posts full of affiliate links or links to irrelevant domains of guest blogger's client.
This is one of the biggest reasons your blog may negatively get affected when it comes to SEO and authority. While analyzing guest post submissions, you must carefully check all the links embedded in the post. Links to product review sites, links to products and services squeeze pages and links to completely irrelevant sites should not be accepted at any cost. They're going to damage your blog's traffic building efforts in the long run.
Evaluate Post's Usability and RelevanceThere's no point talking about bonds and shares on a food blog. That's what you have to evaluate and check while approving the submissions. It should be targeted towards your audience. It should provide something useful that your readers can apply and benefit.
And last but not the least, it should not deviate from the primary niche or peripheral sub-niches of your blog. For example, if you're meta-blogging, apart from accepting guest posts about blogging, you can also accept submissions related to social media marketing. If the guest post doesn't meet these criteria, it's better to reject it straightaway. To keep the quality of guest posts high, usability and relevance are two of the most critical factors.
Apply Minimum Post Length CriterionEvery blog has its own unwritten rules and regulations when it comes to length of blog posts. Some bloggers love to write extremely lengthy posts, while others prefer short to medium-sized articles. Whatever is the case, you must clearly decide the minimum post length you're going to accept by the guest bloggers.
Mention it clearly on the guest post guidelines page so that you do not receive unnecessary guest blogging pitches that doesn't fulfill this important criterion. Anything less than 300 words should not be accepted, although you can further relax this limit up to 250 words depending on your niche and requirement. Short posts don't build up healthy keyword and link density and contributes in accumulation of thin content.
Ask For Web-Optimized Images (if any)Images are used liberally nowadays within website's content and you must encourage it too to make your blog posts more sticky and readable. If a guest blogger is using images in his post, you must ask him to compress them before sending you along with the content.
In fact, there are two important factors related to images used in guest posts. First is the maximum image width and second is the optimized version of the image. Include these two details too on the guest post guidelines page. This way, you'll receive the optimized images that will gel well with your template as well as will be downloaded quickly at the reader's end. You may consider asking these images separately as an attachment while receiving guest posts via email.
Decide Guest Blogger's Author Box StructureGenerally, an average guest blogger is most interested in the author box than anything else on your blog. This is the place where he receives a short biography and a link to his website & social media accounts. A thumbnail image within this box also lets readers' see how the person looks who's shared his valuable stuff with them.
There are two popular approaches of creating author boxes for guest bloggers and contributors. First approach involves creating a generic guest author profile supplemented by adding relevant credits and bio towards the end of the guest post within the content area, and the second approach emphasizes on creating separate WordPress user profiles for each new guest blogger. If you're publishing high volume of guest posts, the former approach is more convenient else you can go ahead with the latter option.
Now comes the important part of deciding the content of the author box. You may consider including thumbnail images of authors, but it is not mandatory as some writers prefer not to share their photos. The next important element of the author box is the number and type of links that must be included in the author box. You can safely allow one primary website's link and a secondary link to the primary social media account. I wouldn't suggest increasing the number of links more than this.
Encourage Linking To Authority WebsitesSometimes newbies boast about their own blog or their services instead of providing some useful stuff in their guest post. You must clearly mention about avoiding such kind of post structure on the guidelines page. If fact, you can explicitly ask them to link to authority websites and blogs, if required. You may also consider allowing them to link back to their own blog once in the entire post provided the linked page is highly relevant to the topic.
But, excessive or dense linking by the guest blogger may backfire and you must be ready to prune these extra links to optimize the post. This pruning activity must be mentioned clearly in the guidelines page to avoid any kind of confusion or dispute. You may also provide links to existing guest posts as an example showcasing linkage to great content across the web.
Trash Pitches with Fake Names and Incomplete DetailsWith passage of time, newbies learn to recognize spammy and low quality guest blogging pitches. Identifying such kind of submissions is not that hard. If you receive a guest blogging pitch that simply start with "Hi!" and doesn't address you by your name, press the trash button instantly. Such kinds of mails are generally sent by an automated system.
Secondly, look for guest blogger's name, website and other details that may help you in identifying his presence on the web. Guest blogging emails devoid of this important information should not be considered for evaluation and should be trashed immediately. I may sound harsh, but things have changed and you cannot take risk of publishing poor content from marketers and spammers that will bring down your blog's traffic in no time.
Do Not Hesitate To Ask For an Improved VersionSometimes, you like the submission but want some improvements in it. These optimization steps may involve further extending the length of the post, or adding some illustrations or simply correcting some facts and figures. Whatever is the case, you must not hesitate to ask for a revised and improved version of the submitted guest post. You must explicitly state the improvements or corrections you're looking for to avoid any kind of ambiguity related to post optimization.
This also indicates that you've not only accepted the guest post but you're also looking to make it successful and beneficial for both the parties. In rare cases, it may happen that you're not satisfied with the improved version. In such conditions, there's no harm in asking again for making the necessary corrections. If the corrections needed are minor, you may edit the post on your own before pressing the publish button.
Ask for Author's Thumbnail ImageIf your author box includes thumbnail image of the guest blogger, you must ask for the same on the guidelines page. But I'll suggest you to relax this criterion as some bloggers simply do not want to share their photos for various reasons.
If you're using WordPress, you may pull guest blogger's thumbnail image from their Gravatar profile. This way, they do not need to submit it explicitly with their guest posts. You can configure your guest author box in such a way that it automatically pulls Gravatar image associated with their accounts through email addresses provided by the guest bloggers.
Keep Guidelines Page Updated and Easily AccessibleCreate a dedicated guest post guidelines page tabulating all the prerequisites mentioned in detailed and in easy-to-understand language. You must not forget to highlight this page prominently at key locations on your blog. If you ever decide to change some the requirements, you must update it without any fail.
You may consider including the benefits of guest posting on your blog to encourage more submissions. This can be supplemented by a small testimonials section giving potential guest bloggers a reason to provide some great content for your blog. Include a form right within the guidelines page to ease the submission process.