Why I Don't Publish Guest Posts
Photo: William Iven on unsplash.com
Here on Lovebirds Vintage I like to get involved in all kinds of collaborations, whether that’s with brands, other bloggers, photographers, friends, or small businesses. One thing that I don’t normally do, and haven’t done for a long time, is publish guest posts – at least under most circumstances.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, a “guest post” is exactly what you’d expect it to be. It’s a post written for a blog by a third party that isn’t usually involved in writing for that blog. Typically they are published for a number of reasons: perhaps the usual writer of the blog is busy and needs help creating some new content, or perhaps they want to feature an article written by someone whose blog they particularly enjoy. Guest posts can also be done on a paid basis, where a brand or freelance writer will pay the blogger to feature an article on their behalf. So in theory, guest posts are a really great idea: they allow you to take a break from blogging whilst still providing readers with new content, feature a brand or blogger you love, and maybe even get paid into the bargain.
So why on Earth would I not want to be involved? Well, despite all the benefits on paper, in practice guest posts in my experience are rarely a good idea. Firstly, if you’re accepting guest content from an unknown third party, there is no way to guarantee the quality, length, or suitability of the work that you’ll receive. If you agree to publish someone’s work on your blog and then receive a post that’s a few lines long and riddled with spelling and grammar errors, you have the choice to either publish it anyway and compromise the overall quality of your blog (maybe even damaging your own reputation too), or let the writer know that you don’t want to publish their post. The second option is obviously difficult, and many bloggers may feel under pressure to publish the sub-standard post anyway to avoid conflict.
And what about that issue of suitability? Despite my “niche” or genre clearly being vintage fashion, I still receive emails assuring me that my readers would “really love” a post about where to buy cheap mobile phone cases, or how to get rid of Japanese Knot Weed from your garden. While I’m sure that these are fascinating topics to someone, they clearly have no place on a blog dedicated to vintage clothing. And while I do write the occasional post that’s a bit “off topic”, they’re posts that I’ve written to my own standards because I was interested or passionate enough about the topic to write about it. I’m not offended if readers who are just here for vintage fashion stuff want to skip over these posts – I understand that they’re not going to be appealing to all my readers, but they still feel authentic to me and therefore suitable for inclusion (which I do try to keep to a reasonable minimum as they’re not the main focus of my blog). At least they’re not completely impersonal and written on a topic that not even I can feel excited about!
"I'd prefer to keep complete control over what I'm posting"
Secondly, you can’t be sure that the guest post you’re accepting isn’t some sort of scam. Guest posts may include links to dodgy sites or otherwise ones that you’d prefer not to endorse, which may or may not be placed into content that has been ‘scraped’ from elsewhere on the web, or which they write themselves but send out to many different bloggers, all of which may damage your integrity or Google ranking. I’m sure some of these people are just trying to promote their own work rather than linking to dodgy external sites, but either way I’d rather be able to be more discerning about backlinks. I’ve included some more useful resources about guest post scams at the end of this post but basically this issue boils down to the fact that I’d prefer to keep complete control over what I’m posting and not take the risk that I might end up with either a quality post from a genuine source OR a badly written piece full of backlinks that I almost certainly don’t want on my site.
In addition to this, most of the people who get in contact wanting to guest post are clearly wanting to get their work or badly disguised advert posted for free. I have a few thoughts about bloggers working for free that I might sometime write about in another post, but my feelings on this particular issue are that most guest posts (especially those that are coming from unsolicited emails ) should be subject to some sort of fee. This is because, to me, many of these guest posts are simply advertising (for the writer or for a product/business) and should therefore pay to advertise in the same way that I expect people to pay for other forms of advertising such as side bar adverts. I don’t actually make any money off Lovebirds Vintage in terms of profit, but I do need to make a small amount of revenue if I want to break even as I incur costs such as keeping my domain name, travelling costs to get to locations, buying clothing and props, etc. Since I consider myself more of a hobby blogger than a true professional (as running Lovebirds Vintage isn’t my full time job), I don’t really mind if I don’t make my costs back but every little helps and I also think it’s just good manners to pay for that kind of service and not expect a cheeky freebie.
In any case, I have a whole section on my website detailing what I do and do not undertake in terms of different forms of advertising, collaborations and sponsorship, in which I specifically state that I do not accept guest posts that I haven’t personally commissioned. I get numerous emails from people who haven’t read that information and then when I don’t reply, also send me follow up emails wondering why they haven’t heard from me. In an effort to cut down on this type of email I recently added the same information to the “contact” section of my website AND to the “about” section on my Facebook page. I suspect this ultimately won’t help much, but if you can’t be bothered to read the information that appears multiple times in different places on the site, then I’m probably not going to be bothered to publish for free your poorly written irrelevant and possibly spammy/scammy guest post. Sorry, not sorry.
"Occasionally I will accept a speculative request, but only if it comes from and known and trusted source"
So when do I accept guest posts? Sometimes I will ask someone to write a guest post for me if I’m going to be unable to produce my own content for an extended period of time, or if I have a particular blogger or business I want to feature. These are the posts I consider “personally commissioned” and I do not charge a fee if I’m the one contacting someone else to see if they’d be interested in guest posting for me. Occasionally I will accept a speculative request, but only if it comes from a known and trusted source – for example a blogger whose work I enjoy and respect. In this case, I can guarantee that the post I’ll receive will be good quality (because I have probably been reading that person’s blog for a long time and know what their work is like) and unique (rather than scraped from elsewhere on the web). Generally I’m more likely to accept these requests because they are actually worth my time – they’re relevant, well written, and I have seen plenty of examples of that person’s work before I decide whether to go ahead and accept. I’ve linked below to an article from Forever Amber that discusses quality guest post pitches which is very informative.
I’m sorry for the very long blog post but I do hope it was informative. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and refer to the links below for related reading.
The Alpha Parent - Bloggers Beware: Guest Post Scams!
Your Media Moment - Guest Posts as Scam?
Forever Amber - Why I don't work for free
Forever Amber - How to persuade people to let you guest post on their blog