André, Spotlight, Writing

How to Format a Guest Post

Photo by Michael Donovan

I had no idea what I was doing. My head was stuck in the age of the Word doc. I was happy just to see 20 page views; the science of blogging—and it is a science—wasn’t even on my radar.

But I saw that some things worked better than others. And by “worked” I mean led to more readership, farther sharing, and more reader engagement in the form of comments and response posts.

Every good blogger develops their own unique style, and we don’t need to be slaves to marketing advice. But I believe there are such things as “best practices”—especially when it comes to formatting—that make your blog more readable and more user-friendly. As a side effect, that also increases shares and traffic.

This is particularly true around guest posts. Most bloggers, including established high-profile bloggers, format guest posts in a way that’s awkward and hard to read or share. It basically kicks sand on the guest author’s face. Bad formatting means less clicks to the guest author’s site. Why did you even invite them?

Here is how I format a guest post to get the best results.

The Title Never Says “Guest Post”

The first line is in italics and says: This is a guest post by So-and-So. 

The very next line is their actual post. It dives right in with no prelude or commentary from me.

Their post goes on to say many great things in a snazzy, well edited style because I took the time to edit it before publishing. And since I’m not a jerk I made sure they were okay with the edits.

At the end, in italics again, is the complete byline or bio for the author: André is a philosopher who blogs about adventure. It always includes a link to their site and it can be as long as they want; chances are they wrote the blurb themselves.

This kind of post gets results. Again, “results” means traffic and sharing, but in this case it also means clicks through to the guest author’s work. Clicks are always low but should be as high as possible; your guest essentially wrote you free content. Hook a brother up.

The Reasoning

There are specific reasons for each of the steps I recommended. They are:

  • In the title, I never mention “guest post” because it reduces traffic. It does this twice over. First, because your audience likes you and doesn’t necessarily care what some other person has to say. Second, because most of your traffic is determined by how good your titles are. There are several ways to write a good title or headline, but none of them involve adding administrative clutter like “Guest Post.”
  • The first line is just one sentence for a reason. It’s a barrier between the reader and actually reading the post. The more blah blah you put here, the less people actually end up reading the article. Honestly I wouldn’t put anything here, except then people would think it’s my own writing.
  • Editing their post should be self explanatory, but often it’s skipped. You are a publisher. Make their post look the best it can.
  • The bio goes at the end because that’s where it’s most effective. At the beginning, no one cares who this person is. Let the post speak for itself. At the end, if the post was good, the audience wants to know more. Now you can put in their paragraph-long bio with links to their work.

Anytime I submit a guest post, I expect the blog owner to be professional enough to format it like this, or very close. And I always do it for the guests that I invite on my blog, because it helps lift up their great ideas and carry them to the most readers possible.

If you have improvements on my best practices, or if you do it differently, I’d love to know. Please leave a comment and share.

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