The Real Reason Your Guest Post Flopped

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Tommy Walker – Enjoy!

Better guest posts

Image credit: WhatTheCell


You did it!

You got past the discomfort and pitched a popular blog – and they’ve agreed to showcase your magnificence. You poured hours forging the most epic work of writing. Gods will weep and babies will smile.

You’ve read it, re-read it, and read it some more, and truly, this is the apex of your craft.

Surely this will be your ascension to the pantheon of popular bloggers because YOU got a guest post on an A List Blog.

But when it goes live… crickets….

What Happened?

Like a teenager waiting by the phone desperately trying to believe they’re not being stood up, you stare at your computer –  waiting for any sign of life. But it’s like high school all over again.

Your traffic barely spikes and the comments trickle like a leaky faucet..

At first – you just sit and scratch your head. But when happens on the next guest post, and the one after that, it eats at you.

Are blogs dead?” You ask yourself. “Maybe people just aren’t reading blogs anymore.”

They’re reading. You’re reading this now, aren’t you.

When a guest post doesn’t quite hit, it is usually lacking in one of four departments.

Your headline didn’t break reader’s guessing machines

You’ve heard it a million times, headlines matter.

In 2012 and beyond, standard headline templates still work, but they’re getting a little played out. That’s why it’s more important than ever to stop relying on templates and start understanding the fundamentals of what makes a headline work.

Sites like Upworthy, Lifehacker and Gizmodo consistently write headlines that break your guessing machine and make you just curious enough to wonder what you’re missing out on.

For your consideration:

Notice how each of these headlines makes you ask yourself a question?

Really, what movie could be so intense even Hollywood wouldn’t make it? Why would a website give away a detailed blueprint on how to destroy the internet?

Now consider the A.D.D inducing speed Twitter feeds and Facebook Tickers update – the only way to convert passive eyes into readers is to interrupt their patterns and get them to ask themselves a question.

Co founder Eli Pariser has stated the editorial team at Upworthy will start with dozens of headlines for any one article and work on it until they create “a curiosity gap” – or the must read impulse that makes the headline impossible for you not to click.

You didn’t promote it

A single tweet and Facebook update does not a promotion make.

Often times, guest authors rely on popular bloggers to do the promotion for them. Why not, they have the bigger reach, right?

But your guest post is something to be proud of – you should be sending out emails and DMs to anyone you can think of to get the word out there.

If you’ve referenced another popular blogger’s work send them an email with a link to the article.

You should be sending private messages to any of your friends who might be interested encouraging them to check it out.

Yes,it might be uncomfortable sending out so many private messages, and this may even toe the line for you on what’s ethical, but really the information fire hose makes those who are thirsty for good content appreciate you’ve taken the time to filter out the good from the rest of the noise.

But don’t abuse this – if the material isn’t something that’s truly great, don’t bother. Also, there is a fine line between sending Dms to good content and spam. If all you’re doing is sending Dms to your own stuff, it won’t be long until you’re abusing that relationship.

Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything you can share for them too.

You Weren’t Writing like Pandora

One of my favorite things about the music site Pandora is that showcases new music based on the common traits of a musician or song I already like.

This is how guest posting should work. Unfortunately, many guest posters will sacrifice their own voice and do everything they can to sound exactly like the blog they’re posting on.

Yes, it’s true that you’re supposed to analyze successful posts for copy structure, tone, etc and incorporate that into your writing.

But don’t lose your own voice in the process.

Like Pandora, one of the best things about guest blogging is that it exposes you to something that’s new based on something familiar.

 Your Close Was Weak

Starting a conversation that really gets people talking, pretty much guarantees you’ll get invited to post again. It’s also no secret that most comments come from a successful close.

There are many theories on how to close a post successfully – like being inspirational (Jon Morrow is the master at this) – to “write full and detailed articles…but don’t finish them.” to end with a thought provoking question.

But guess what, it’s all crap, there is no one right way.

The only universal truth for a good closing is that it can’t be weak.

Do your research, you’ll know what works best.  But you must also always remain true to yourself as a writer.

You don’t need to rely on gimmicks, like “end with a thought provoking question” if all you come up with is something flaccid like “so what do you think?”

You got the guest post – which means you’re doing something right, now prove it.

Forget about traffic. and act like your blogging career depends on:

  • All the conversations you want to start.
  • All the connections you want to make.
  • All the lives you want to change.

All of this can hinge on a few short words.

So choose wisely, we’re counting on you.

Tommy Walker is on a mission to mainstream online marketing by making it entertaining (if not a little silly) to learn. When he isn’t hosting Inside The Mind, he’s guest posting on every popular website known to man to raise $100,000 in 30 days via an experiment with crowd-funding.

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  • JudyAnn Lorenz

    The great writing points are valid. Also, give it some time. Posts don’t self-destruct in a few hours or even days. If your keywords are on the money, someone can find you down the road. Meanwhile, don’t give up.

    • ducttape

      That’s right Judy and that’s also why it’s good to work with blogs that do all they can to optimize the posts!

      • Tommy Walker

        That’s very true, I’ve had more than a few posts get picked up after the initial publishing date, which is always nice :-)

  • Aaron

    I would add, add value and make it actionable. I am going to re-tweet this article because I think its interesting, and is actionable for folks. I think that folks in my tweet stream might be interested in the topic, and they could actually do something after they have read it. A great headline gets folks to open, a strong to-do gets folks to share.


    • Tommy Walker

      Aaron, I think you’re absolutely right, now the question is what is “value?” I know what you mean here, but that’s one of those tricky phrases that get thrown around a lot, but isn’t always well defined. How do /you/ define value?

      • Aaron

        Most definitely. But perhaps that is what separates the good writers from the average: Understanding what your readers will think is useful, practical and actionable. And the reality is we probably hit and miss, but the good news is that with social tracking we now have some signal to measure “value,” though even that requires some context. Tweets/Shares/Likes should give you some feedback on what people thought of your article, but as you write, some of that is driven by how good the site is and the “base level of engagement.” Just because I had an article tweeted 350 times doesn’t mean it was better than this article that has been tweeted 156x as of now. But if the average post on this site is tweeted 50x, and your article is being engaged with 3x more than that is something. (You would expect that the folks who blindly retweet without making that value judgement would normalize itself out in both numbers)

        Ok, I now have an idea for my next article, brilliant!

        • Tommy Walker

          Now that’s what I call “value” 😉

  • Coach Comeback

    This is why I am SOOOO much better LIVE. I can just talk without thinking. Although that is what gets me in the most trouble. All websites should just convert to live streaming only. I would surely dominate, according to my Lovely Gal Cece, I would never ever run out of content…… EVER… she says, lovingly.

    • Tommy Walker

      Lol that would be pretty awesome :-) You should get on it now with Hangouts or Vokle while not a ton of people are doing it, I really believe that’s what’s next in content marketing!

      • ducttape

        Tommy – thanks for jumping in and responding to the readers of your post – another great tip by the way – I’m a big fan of Hangout with integration to YouTube, even if people don’t tune in live you get instant archive on the site.

      • Coach Comeback

        I will be testing this out this month! Thank you Tommy

    • ducttape

      Another great approach is to simply record yourself and get it transcribed – makes great content in several formats.

      • Coach Comeback

        That is brilliant. Thank you!

      • Tommy Walker

        Or take what you’ve recorded and get the audio turned into kinetic typography… or into a slideshare presentation. Yay multiple formats!

  • Vikas Singal

    Thanks Tommy for the great post. when I read your post It confirms my thoughts and I feel I begin thinking like big people in this industry. Stuff Great content and value the mainstream of a great Guest post…till date.

    • Tommy Walker

      Thank you Vikas. The most important thing to remember is to always be improving and sharpening your skills :-)

  • Joey Thomas

    Fantastic piece. I like your no bullshit approach. There is never a formula that will work every time. You have to work out what works best for you and your audience. I like the fact that you acknowledge this. I personally haven’t done a guest post yet, only interviews, which I guess are similar in some shape or form

    On another note:
    I just thought I’d give you a quick heads up that there’s a typo in the following setence – “A single tweet and Facebook update does not a promotion make.”

    • Tommy Walker

      Thanks for the heads up :-)

      And yes, I believe that it’s very important that we become comfortable using our own voice. When we try to emulate others, the entire space just becomes bad carbon copies of carbon copies. Interviews are a great way to build credibility (and a network) though, so keep that up. You’d be surprised how often people would love to add their 2 cents on a situation and further how much someone else would be more than happy to publish that.

      The secret to a good interview is all about how well you research your questions. Protip: make your interviewee look wicked smart, and if you’re doing something pre-recorded ALWAYS give your questions at least a day or two ahead of time so they can prep their answers 😉