15 No-Brainer Tips for Getting Your Guest Post Submissions Accepted
Want to get more eyes on your project or website, but you haven’t built a huge traffic following yet?
Maybe you’ve signed up for John’s fantastic How to Create a Blog to Boost Your Career email-course, and now you are waiting for readers to show up and learn from your brilliant insights and pithy wit.
If they aren’t on your site or downloading your app yet, then you are going to have to go where the people are.
That might mean the people are on other websites and media outlets.
I’ll give a few moments to let that sad trombone of reality dig deep into your soul with its cold, brassy arm.
Are you feeling a bit sad for yourself? Wondering how you find those people, share your ideas, and begin building an army of devoted fans?
Good news — there’s something you can do about it!
Guest blogging, or in the literary world “submitting pitches”, is a long-standing and popular way to put yourself out to the world, and direct people back to your project or website, after they fall madly in love with your words.
It’s going to require a bit of work to do it well, with websites and media outlets you respect and want to be featured on. If you are looking to throw words on the internet and get as many backlinks as you can, then it will be a lot easier, and you really don’t need to read the rest of this article.
If you want to learn where to find the perfect places to submit your guest posts or even become a regular contributor, how to craft the perfect pitch, working with editorial and review teams, and what to do after the fact, then my programming friend, you are in the right place.
What You Need To Know
There are four key steps to getting your articles and posts submitted and approved on various websites and media outlets.
- The Basics – Before you even start drafting the pitch, have you considered these vitally important things?
- How to Pitch – What you say and how you say it matters. In fact, at this stage it is the only thing that matters, unless you already have an in with someone who is willing to publish your work without a formal inquiry.
- Working With the Editorial Team – Most websites that accept guest posts and submissions these days have at least one person, if not a team of editors, proofreaders, and other word monkeys, to review your writing and make sure it is a good fit for the site.
- After the Piece is Published – The process doesn’t end when you sign off. There are some things you should do to make sure that you maintain a good relationship with the website or media outlet. Who knows, you may want to write for them again!
How do you navigate through these key steps?
Find Websites or Outlets That Are Accepting Submissions
There are a few different ways to do this.
One of the most popular is to do a search on Google for the area you are interested in (programming, development, Java, mobile apps, etc) and one of these keyterms (“write for us”, “guest post”, “submit a guest post”, “guest post guidelines”).
Your complete search might look something like this: mobile apps “write for us”
This will likely pull up a number of pages from relevant websites that will outline their guest posting guidelines and process. We have one here at Simple Programmer, that also appears right at the top of every page. Choose the ones that you are most familiar with to start.
You can repeat this process with social networks well, using hastags (#mobileapps #guestpost) to see status updates and discussions.
Be Familiar with the Website or Outlet
As I mentioned above, you want to choose websites and media outlets that you are familiar with if you are just starting out. Get a few successful pitches and pieces under your belt before going for a higher weight class.
You’ll want to read through a few recent articles, their About page to learn what they are about, and any products or services they sell on their site (if you can help direct traffic that will put money in their pocket, that’s a post worth looking at.)
Added Bonus: If they have a Start Here page or Popular Posts widget, absolutely check those out! These are the top performing articles on their site. Figure out what topics and post styles (lists, How-To, deeply researched and technical, etc) resonate with their audience.
Follow The Submission Guidelines
I get it, this already is a lot of work. It’s about to get a bit harder.
Those annoying, seemingly useless guidelines and processes for submitting a guest post? They are there for a reason! Likely, the site owner(s) spent a lot of time figuring out exactly what message they want their site to send, and stylistically how their content should look and read.
When you don’t adhere to the submission guidelines, you are establishing a dangerous precedent — that you don’t like following directions and will possibly be a terror to work with throughout the entire guest posting process. Or that you are not going to be a good fit for the site, as you are unable to write in the appropriate tone and voice.
Of course, no reader of Simple Programmer would ever be a terror to work with, so don’t let that be your first impression. A couple things to consider quick when going through submission guidelines:
- How does the site want to receive submissions? Via email? Through a form? Attached to a carrier pigeon? Again, there’s a reason!
Here at Simple Programmer, we request all guest posts are submitted via Google Forms, because there are unfortunately a lot of spammy development companies out there that like to firehose the internet with their barely comprehensible and rarely original content.
When we receive submission inquiries that do NOT go through the form, it’s an immediate red flag that they are either blanketing programming blogs with canned templates (see below) or they will be cranky every step of the way. Not a great prospect either way.
- What are the style guidelines? What language is the site in? How do they use headers and images? Is their site technical or conversational?
This is a chat conversation I recently had with someone as we were planning dinner:
Obviously this was not about guest blogging (though if anyone would like to pay me to guest blog about wine, my editorial availability calendar and I would like to chat with you!) but it is a prime example of how different linguistic styles can be, even when everyone is speaking “English.”
- Do they have a particular length or content requirement? Some sites are fine publishing articles that are 500-750 words. It used to be good enough for Google, so it should be good enough for the rest of the internet, right?
Many sites are shifting to a higher content standard, which means longer posts that involve a lot more research and thorough analysis. Here at Simple Programmer, most of John’s written posts come in between 2-3K words each. For guest posts, we like to see at least 1000 words.
How To Pitch
Don’t Send Canned Templates with Minimal Personalization
I’m not sure how this trend came into being exactly, but as someone who manages the editorial content for a number of clients, I can tell you right now: WE KNOW.
With all the how-to and hacking pieces out there, it’s easy to get lured into the “here’s a template that will unlock the keys to your blogging kingdom” trap. Some of the templates actually aren’t so bad, and they definitely work for some very prominent folks.
But if you aren’t a very prominent folk, your unoriginal email that you’ve copy and pasted to fifty different email addresses is going to be discarded and never returned.
Some of the ways that I can immediately spot a canned template job?
- If I’m Bcc:ed on a submission, I can’t even. I see what you did there, and since I’m not an 80-year old nana, I know how the internet works.
- When you bold or capitalize a site name erroneously, you’re likely scanning the text quickly to “personalize” the submission and make it seem like it is for the receiver’s eyes only.
- When you spend the entire email talking about yourself, with lots of bullet points and vague language (“I write about programming because I’m a programmer and I do program things.” ← Don’t do this.)
- When you offer 5 vague post titles, that are loosely related to the other site content, like this guy:
Pitch a Story, Not a Topic
This is going to sound cruel, and it is. Sometimes you gotta hear the cruel truths.
Site owners and editors do not want to hand-hold you through your guest post. We’re often working with a slew of other writers at the same time, as well as working on the content we are charged with creating.
Don’t make it harder for me to do my job.
If you have a vague idea of a topic that might be relevant, do the legwork and figure out a few angles you could cover. If it is a matter of helping you brainstorm which story is best, or how to suss out a particular angle well, I’m more than happy to jump on email or chat and figure it all out with you. In fact, I love that kind of stuff. It's what I live for, bringing ideas to life.
But I’m likely not going to take well to “I’d like to write about coding for classes. What do you think?”
Lead With That Story
We get a LOT of guest post submissions that spend a LOT of time telling us all the things about the writer and their experience. Which definitely has a time and a place.
But that place isn’t in the first fleeting moments of my determining whether you have an interesting story to tell on the site that would add to the audience’s experience.
In less than one sentence, introduce yourself (“Hi, I’m a programmer who specializes in automated-testing content, and have a few classes about it on Pluralsight”) then immediately follow it up with what the site owner is about to get for bringing you into their world (“I’d like write a post for you about why black box testing can improve a developer's process and how it compares to white and grey box testing.” (an actual approved submission.))
Include Your Previous Experience and Expertise
As I said, a time and a place.
After you’ve written something up about the brilliant post you are going to (or have already) written that is going to blow my readers’ mind, now is the time to tell me why you are the person to be that mind blower.
Link to your website, other guest posts on similar topics, your LinkedIn profile — whatever you have that will show the person on the other end of your submission your experience.
Also, if you can dive deep into the content with research and resources and examples, do that. I dare you to find a well-written, well-researched, highly-technical article on a subject on the internet that people won't devour.
This is the time to let your expertise shine!
Follow Up. Respectfully.
We try to reply to every submission that has made it this far through our vetting process within 24-48 hours.
Alas, even the team at Simple Programmer is filled with mere mortals.
Sometimes, submissions slip through the cracks, or we don't understand exactly what you were pitching in the first place.
A simple follow up email, stating “I submitted a guest post to you on March 1st, and haven't heard back. Though I imagine you are likely swamped with other submissions, I wanted to make sure there were no lingering questions or clarifications you have on the piece. I really like what you guys are doing on Simple Programmer, and would like to be a part of it. Thanks for your time.” will do wonders.
Happily Accept Rejection (SWSWSWWN)
Sometimes, it doesn't have to be a bad fit to not be a good one.
The site might already have a very similar article to what you are pitching, and may have published it recently. Your style might not be a perfect fit for their audience. They might not understand the story you are trying to tell.
After you've respectfully followed up, if your article is rejected, accept the rejection happily. We once had a writer who told us, after we let him know that the article was not a good fit for our site and didn't meet the style guidelines, that we were wrong and it most certainly did.
I don't blacklist too many folks, but when you are trying to fight with me about fit, that's not a great place to be.
Adopt this important acronym into your pitching mindset: SWSWSWWN. Some will, some won't, so what, who's next.
Because your article might not be good for one website doesn't mean that it isn't good for another. And it doesn't mean the door is closed to you for future submissions.
Unless you're fight fit guy. Sorry man, but we run a tight ship here, and look for the best.
Working with the Editorial Team
When John decided to start having other writers contribute to Simple Programmer, as well as creating various mediums of content himself, he knew he was going to need help. While he is probably the most likely on the SP team to transcend mere mortal status, he still ends up in the human realm on occasion.
That's where my team comes in. Not only do we manage the incoming submissions and approval (aligning them with the style guidelines John created with us), but we also put all the articles through an extensive editing process that often goes 3-5 rounds.
Like I said, we look for the best. So we include this step, as it is part of what sets Simple Programmer apart from other blogs for programmers.
Don’t Expect a Piece to be Published on Your Timeline
Most sites that accept guest posts and submissions have a full editorial calendar that is running in the background. This is reviewed regularly to determine the content that is going out, how it matches up with current products and launches for the site, and keep things fresh.
We try to publish a highly-technical article at least every two weeks (note — if you have an idea for a highly-technical article to submit to Simple Programmer, we should talk) so those are sometimes given priority and other articles are “bumped” to make space.
If you have a particular timeline you are working with (like a launch or big upcoming interview), let the editor know. I can almost guarantee they will do everything in their power to work with you and get the piece out as close the date as they can.
Deliver the Piece When You Say Your Are Going To
This happens too often, and as a writer, I will wholly admit that I have been an offender on numerous occasions.
You submit a story idea, it gets approved, and all is happy in the world.
Then, the writers block hits, and you can't get that article finished for the life of you. The editor emails you, and you write back that you'll have it done by tomorrow at the latest. Because with your best of intentions, you want to get that article to the nice editor by tomorrow.
Days, sometimes weeks creep by.
The editor is beginning to get a little less…nice…about their follow up emails.
Be honest. Let them know if something is going on, and a realistic timeline that you'll be able to get a draft to them. Then, sit your butt down in a chair and write until something that more-than-vaguely resembles the idea you originally pitched is written and ready to be sent.
Life happens to the best of us. But you still have some control over it.
If The Site Doesn’t Have an Editorial Team, Hire Someone
One of the first thing I tell new writers and clients is this: “People will often be faster to point out a typo or error in your post than have a discussion about your ideas and thinking.”
When you are guest blogging or contributing on someone else's site, you are like the substitute teacher for the day. The class is sitting there rolling their eyes, perturbed by the fact that they are being told to learn from you, instead of watching Die Hard on that TV they strapped to a stand from 1997.
They're looking for a reason to not have to listen.
Most sites have someone to review content they are publishing (especially if they are actively seeking other writers), but occasionally it's just you and that Word Press schedule button.
If you are guest posting to other sites to build your credibility and authority, don't give folks an easy target to question those things. Even a proofreading gig on Fiverr can save you some embarrassing conversations in comments about why you used the wrong their in your analysis.
Know When to Say “No” to an Editor
Remember how we told you to explain why you are the person to write this piece?
How your experience and expertise is an asset, and the audience will be better from having read your work?
Well, that nasty editor is likely going to come crashing into your piece to slice and dice it with suggestions, revisions, and corrections.
First, understand and acknowledge that this is their job. And they are doing this to work with you to publish the best darn article on whatever it is you are writing about.
Still, there will be times when you are the expert. You know their revision is flat-out wrong, or doesn't make sense with the rest of the piece.
Respectfully (there's that word again) offer the editor your reasons for keeping a particular item, paying attention to why you wrote it this way and how it fits with the rest of the piece.
This happens sometimes with the Simple Programmer writers. I have a “just enough to be dangerous” understanding of programming. That dangerous part means I know so little about the exact mechanics that I break simple Word Press sites weekly.
Often, when I make suggestions on how to re-write a technical portion of an article so it sounds better grammatically, the revision makes the technical portion less effective or that bad flat-out wrong problem.
Fortunately, we cultivate an open communication editorial process, so writers feel free to write back and explain their point of view, to find a happy medium where everything is still correct, but conversationally flows like a beautiful piece of lyric poetry. (At least that's what we go for!)
After the Piece is Published
Share the Article and Reply to Comments
One reason that other sites are willing to let you write for them, taking a chance on your ideas and voice, and hawk your wares, is because they want to grow their networks as well.
If you can share the post on your various social media channels, with your newsletter or subscriber base, and make sure your Mom knows you wrote a great piece on a prominent blog (Moms love gushing about that stuff!) then the site is going to notice.
Likewise, if the site has comments enabled for their posts, they will likely ask you to keep track and engage with their community. While they might be able to chime in, the person who can explain your thinking and writing best is you.
Make sure to “Subscribe” to comments on the post, so you'll get an immediate notification of new discussions. Reply as soon as you are able. Again, the site owner is going to take note of this.
If You Want a Continued Relationship, Interact Digitally
Many sites are happy to accept a one-off guest post submission, but they are really looking to cultivate an ongoing professional relationship where you contribute at least every quarter or two, and at most once or twice a month.
Depending on what you are willing to sign on for, and how you enjoyed the process, you may want to keep in touch for future opportunities.
First thing you'll want to do is let them know that you enjoyed working with them, and would be interested in writing for them again in the future. Ask what the process for this is, and when you might be able to submit again. Once you get the greenlight and know the timeframe, you've got an open opportunity to continue.
Next, connect with the key people on their key platforms. While social media might be a dying entity, it is still a reality for many content marketers and brands with a platform. I keep a Twitter list of all the regular contributing writers here at Simple Programmer, so I can see what they are up to, and if it might be a good topic for the site.
Many had already added me before, eager to keep an open line of communication. And, of course, everyone should follow John.
Go Forth and Conquer Guest Blogging
Wow. For a no-brainer post, this certainly covered a lot of ground!
That's what we wanted though. To make it so easy that creating your next guest blog submission would be a no-brainer.
That's what we do here at Simple Programmer…make the complex simple.
As long as you understand the four key steps to guest post submissions, stay respectful and informative in your communications, and write for the good of the website or media outlet's community, you've got it made.
Looking forward to seeing some great submissions to Simple Programmer!