Since I manage our websites at SkyVerge and Sell with WP, I get lots of emails from authors wanting to contribute content or guest posts. We don’t typically accept most guest content to begin with, but I’m even less likely to respond to a pitch when it gives me none of the information I’d need to make a decision.
Here’s an example of a typical pitch email I get, along with what changes I’d make if I were submitting it.
This is a modified and generalized version of the typical pitch email.
First of all, you’ve never read anything I’ve written, because if you did, you’d know I think it’s subhuman to omit an Oxford comma. If you disagree, read Strunk’s elements of style until you agree.
Grammar-lynching aside, this pitch has no clearly outlined goal, no content that makes me want to support that goal, and no actionable steps for me to take next.
While it’s really easy to fire this email off to hundreds of websites, all this email has succeeded in doing is ensuring I don’t think twice about archiving it, then never think about it again. Almost no quality website takes this pitch seriously.
The goal here is (or should be) to get guest content published. When I submit guest content, my goal is two-fold:
- I want a link back to my site, bonus points if I get it anchored with relevant keywords.
- I can be introduced to a new audience and have a chance to get them interested in my site, product, or service.
- (Icing on the cake) I can help the new readers learn about some really cool stuff, because karma and all that. I have knowledge to share and help to provide.
Every piece of my email should be working towards those goals. To get the link back and be introduced to my ideal audience, I need to ensure this post is publish-worthy, and that the reader can say yes immediately to my pitch.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having goals for your guest post. I don’t expect any writer to do something for nothing; if you’re submitting good content for free, I know you want something in return, like a link back. That’s totally fine.
The problem is most pitches forget I want something, too. And it’s not “content”. I want relevant, well-written content that my readers will find value in, that’s not duplicated to high hell across the internet, and that comes from authors who understand my site’s goals.
Take the steps needed to get to “Yes” down to one. Make it simple for me to say, “Let’s do this,” by showing me you can provide value to my site in exchange for the link back, exposure, guest writing fee, or whatever you’re getting.
Now let’s look at some specifics.
If I’m going to accept your writing, I want to see your work. I’m not going to say, “Sure, I’ll commit to reviewing a draft without having any idea of what it will look like.” A lot of the time, I get some version of this:
I’ve written for several popular sites and I have high quality work samples I can send over to you for review.
Why do I have to ask you for this? Why aren’t they included now? Instead, you should be sending something like this:
I’ve written high-quality content for several sites like yours, and here are 3 examples of articles I’ve written that relate to your site’s focus:
(3 examples or so listed)
I’d be happy to send more samples upon request as well.
There’s no reason that I should have to track down your work samples if you want to write for the site. Send me examples that will be like what you intend to write. Make it easy to say yes.
This suggestion is terrible:
I would be happy to put together a post on a topic of your choice.
Why am I doing the legwork for you? I have lots of topics I’m happy to write myself or send to one of my regular contributors. I want to know you can put together an outline and execute.
Even worse, I get this most of the time:
I will write high-quality, unique content for your site.
Houston, we have a problem. It’s like saying, “To be honest…”. Why weren’t you in the first place?
I won’t accept anything but high-quality and unique content, so obviously if you can’t meet that benchmark we’re not going to talk further. This is where sending me your previous examples would have spoken for themselves.
Let’s go past content quality — it should be a given. I need to know specifically what you want to write about.
I know your readers care about ____, so I’d be happy to submit an article on:
(a couple topics relevant to the site)
but would also be open to other ideas if you have some posts you’d like written, but haven’t had a chance to tackle yet.
If you can’t think of a couple topics my readers would find useful, you probably aren’t going to write something worth publishing. Make it easy to say yes.
Along this thread, show me that you know my target audience. Just because I’ve written something that relates to your business loosely does not mean that any old post that you submit would be something I’d publish on my site.
For example, I once had a theme marketplace get in touch with me, and had great conversation back and forth about them potentially submitting guest posts on a recurring schedule, and it seemed like they got what we were trying to do at Sell with WP.
I asked for a list of specific topics, and then proceeded to get a list of generic WordPress-related posts that had nothing to do with eCommerce or selling.
I proceeded to ignore any email I got from anyone at that domain again. Not just the original emailer — everyone. I really hate having my time wasted.
Illustrate that you know my audience, and I’ll know you won’t send me garbage to review that doesn’t align with my site’s goals. Make it easy to say yes.
The final note, don’t send me this generic nonsense.
I have been following your blog for quite some time and really admire everything you share on it (BTW, thanks for creating such a wonderful writing group. I’m really happy I found your blog).
No you don’t, you spam-mailing gremlin. If you did know anything about my blog, you would have said something specific about what you like, or even better, used any of the strategies above to show that you like my blog. After all, if you can’t show me you like my blog vs telling me, what kind of writer are you?
In this vein, while you should be specific about my site and your topic, you should be specific about what you want. For example, I was once sent this:
I would love to explore opportunities within the content on your site.
I have no idea what that means. What do you want?
Do you want me to write a review of your product? Do you want to submit a guest post? Are you asking me to join your affiliate program?
Sometimes people are hoping that they’ll get free promotion for their product or service, but they’re worried I’ll say no. Sometimes they want me to publish content their team has written. Don’t be ambiguous: ask for it. If I have no idea what you want, I definitely can’t say yes, so I’m almost certainly just going to say no.
Say it with me, now — Make it easy to say yes.
That’s the key. Specific and relevant.
- Be relevant: Send me writing samples that would be relevant to my audience so I can gauge the quality of your work before I commit to reading an unfinished draft of something and spend the time emailing back and forth.
- Be specific and relevant with topics: show me you know my audience and that you’ll help them.
You would not believe the pitches I get at Sell with WP that have nothing to do with eCommerce using WordPress — I blacklist those emailers and stop reading their emails. Forever. They do not care about my audience, or enough about their own pitch to know who the audience is.
Be specific about what you want: just ask for it. If I have to spend mental energy reading between the lines, I’m moving on to the next email and deleting yours.
Help me say yes. Make it harder to say no than it is to say yes.
If I have to do more work to reply to your email or gather information than you did in writing the email, then it goes directly to the trash without a response.
While you may send hundreds of generic emails and get one or two responses, instead you could be sending 10 specific, relevant emails, being accepted for half of them, and getting published on better-quality sites.