This is a post by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke.
Are you (inadvertently) annoying bloggers you want to impress?
If you’re hoping to build a great relationship with a blog editor – maybe so you can land a guest post, or interview them on your blog – then this post is for you.
Because you might just be getting yourself on their blacklist without even realising.
For ten years, I’ve been the owner-editor of my blog Aliventures. I have an assistant for some admin tasks, but emails still come through me. And while my blog definitely isn’t the biggest out there, I still get a fair number of annoying emails.
Back in 2013–14 I spent some time editing Daily Blog Tips, where I fielded a lot of comments, enquiries, guest post requests, and so on.
With both Aliventures and Daily Blog Tips, I’ve had plenty of wonderful interactions with lovely readers. But a few readers obviously didn’t realise their comments or emails were guaranteed to irritate me.
Some of the mistakes I’m about to go through might seem fairly obvious; some might not. I’ve tried to explain why each one is so annoying to an editor.
If you’ve been making some of these mistakes, don’t worry. None of them are awful, just annoying. And all you need to do is avoid making them in future.
#1: Leaving a Comment With a Keyword as Your Name
Have you ever seen (or even left) a comment on a blog with the name field filled in as something like “SEO guru” or “India Travel Tips” or “Top Freelance Writer”? I can understand why people do this. Even though it won’t help you rank for that keyword (links in comments are no-follow), it might tempt a curious reader to click on your name and visit your site.
Using a keyword as your name is really irritating for the blog editor. It looks shady and spammy. And no-one wants any part of their blog, including their comment section, to look like that.
It’s also a technique often used by actual spammers. So for many blog editors, seeing a keyword in the “name” field of a comment is such a red flag that they’ll delete your comment altogether.
Instead: Use your actual name. (If you don’t want to use your full name, just use your first name). It’s not that hard. And don’t think you can get round this with something like “Ali Luke | Top Freelance Writer”. While a blog editor might let it stand, it doesn’t leave the best impression.
#2: Sending Vague, Unanswerable Questions by Email
While I welcome emails from readers, and an always happy to answer a question or two, sometimes their emails just leave me scratching my head.
They’ll be something like, “I want to write stories, please can you help?” or even “How do I become a writer?”
If I only received one email like this it wouldn’t bother me. But when I get similar emails regularly, I can’t help but feel a little exasperated. These questions could easily take me a whole book to answer. They’re not really something I can answer in a quick email.
I can’t imagine what response the emailer is hoping for. Maybe they think they might be able to strike up a mentoring relationship or similar. Or perhaps they think I have some special writing secret I only give out privately and won’t share on my blog.
While I’m not cross about these emails – I’m sure they’re well-meaning – I do find them a bit frustrating. I usually respond by sharing a link to one or more of my favourite writing websites, and giving my best wishes. But I’d really love it if these people would figure out one specific question I could help them with.
Instead: If you’re emailing a blogger for help and advice, ask something specific. (Check their blog first to make sure they haven’t covered it already).
If you’ve got a fairly broad question you want answered, you could frame it as “I’d love to see you blog about…” Most blog editors are happy to receive reader suggestions.
#3: Making Snide Remarks About Typos or Mistakes
With a degree in English Literature and a Masters in Creative Writing, I like to think my grasp of the English language is more than reasonable. But like everyone else I make the occasional typo or mistake. (And I don’t always proofread quite as well as I should.)
One of the most irritating things blog readers can do is to point out those errors in a nasty – and public – way. They may leave a comment saying, “Wow, I thought you were a professional writer, and you can’t even spell”. Or they’ll take issue with a particular word or phrase I’ve used that’s perfectly correct in British English (which is what I use for my own blog and many of my guest posts).
Instead: Do alert a blog’s editor to any typo or mistake you spot. Believe me, they’ll want to know. But do it in private (by email or direct message) and be nice about it. Something along the lines of: “I think a typo slipped through in your first paragraph (‘potatoe’ should be ‘potato’). Just thought you’d like to know.”
#4: Starting an Argument in the Comments
On large blogs, I’ve seen the attitude among some readers that the blog is a “public forum” and they should be entitled to have their say – even if they’re being nasty to other readers.
This is really frustrating for a blog editor. They’ll have to spend time checking the comments, and potentially deleting ones that fall foul of the blog’s commenting policy. (Even if the blog doesn’t have a commenting policy, editors will still quite rightly delete comments that are hostile and rude.)
Remember: even if the blog you’re reading is large, it’s still someone’s website. It isn’t a public forum or social network. (Even sites such as Facebook and Twitter can delete your posts if you write something truly outrageous.)
Instead: If you disagree with someone, there’s nothing wrong with saying so. But be civil, and if you wouldn’t say it in the blogger’s living room then don’t say it on their blog. If someone else attacks you, either respond calmly or not at all. (Sometimes, it’s best just to walk away.)
#5: Ripping Off Their Content
If you want to really wind up a blog editor, here’s a great way to do it: steal one of their posts and publish it on your own site.
While some spammers do this fully knowing it’s wrong, I’ve also come across occasional readers who are new to the blogging world and simply don’t realise they can’t republish other people’s work on their own blog.
So, just in case you’re wondering, here’s what is (and isn’t) okay:
- You can quote other bloggers. (Make sure you clearly identify the words you’re quoting, and that you name the blogger and link to the source of the quote where possible).
- You can link to other bloggers’ posts to recommend them to your readers. You can republish a short excerpt from the post (but again, make sure it’s identified as a quote).
- You can’t publish someone else’s entire post unless they’ve given you explicit permission to do so.
- You can’t publish images from their post without explicit permission to do so.
- You can’t take someone else’s post and rewrite it sentence-by-sentence to make it your own. If you’re using their structure and their thoughts, the fact you’ve switched lots of words for different ones or reworked some sentences doesn’t matter. You’re still committing plagiarism.
Instead: Normally, the best thing to do is to simply write your own original blog posts. That way there’s no danger of ripping off someone else’s work. But if you particularly love a post someone else wrote, you could write something inspired by it. (Make sure you link to and acknowledge the original.)
If you really want to republish someone’s post, email newsletter, etc. on your blog, then email them and ask for permission.
#6: Emailing Badly Written, Off-Topic Guest Post Suggestions
In my email inbox, I have a specific label for ‘bad guest post pitches’. Here are a few lines taken verbatim from various emails under that label. Note that these were all guest post pitches for my blog Aliventures, which is about the “art, craft and business of writing”.
“I can provide you 100% Copyscape protected the interesting and informative article that will be helpful to your readers. […] I have also articles published in some of the major websites.”
“I write excellent content with good information that will be appealing to your audience along with attractive images and infographics. I write on varied topics like health, marketing, gifts, travel, etc.”
“I`ve got some useful and unique content about Business Correspondence Skills, that would naturally attract the attention of the authors and the audience alike.”
I’m not sure what people hope to achieve with guest post pitches like this. I suspect they send out so many that eventually someone agrees to take a post from them.
As a blog editor, I’m not going to accept a post that’s off-topic for my blog. (It’s annoying that people email me without even checking what I cover.) And if the pitch itself is badly written and full of spelling mistakes, I won’t want even an on-topic guest post from that writer.
A milder (but still annoying) form of this is when people email me saying something like, “Can I send you a guest post to look at?” I need more than that to go on.
If you’re pitching a guest post, send an actual pitch. And don’t think sending a email like this to get a “Yes, send it on over” response will get you a foot in the door. It just makes you look a bit clueless).
Instead: Write a great guest post pitch. Tell the blogger the topic or title you propose to write about, and make sure it’s firmly on-topic for their blog. Don’t feel you’re “not good enough” or that your blog “isn’t big enough” for you to pitch a guest post yet. Trust me, your pitch will be far better than most of the ones coming the editor’s way.
#7: Asking for a Link to Your Post
This might seem a little controversial. But as a blog owner/editor, I find it annoying to receive link requests.
Yes, I know getting links to your blog is really important and a big part of offsite SEO. But I get so many link request emails that they always come across as an irritation, not a great opportunity.
The requests I receive often seem like they’re generic template emails, too. They either tell me they’ve linked to me and they’d appreciate a link back (reciprocal link exchanges isn’t a good idea in SEO terms), or that they noticed I linked to someone similar to them in a particular post and want me to link to them too.
(I assume they’re using a tool to find backlinks to their competitors so they can target bloggers to request links to their posts as well.)
However brilliant your post is, the truth is most blogger editors won’t have much time to invest in checking it out. Plus, if I wrote a post six months ago I’m not interested in going back and updating it to add more links.
Instead: By all means seek out links to your blog. But don’t email loads of big-name bloggers in the hopes of getting somewhere. Instead, build up relationships with blogging peers who write about your topic. (This is a great idea for lots of reasons, not just to get links.) Then once it’s appropriate, let people know you’d be happy to link to them any time they have a post they’re particularly trying to promote. Hopefully they’ll return the favour. But don’t be upset if they don’t.
Most of these mistakes are easy ones to make. You might think they’re all little things, and that editors shouldn’t get annoyed by them. But imagine receiving the 20th irrelevant, badly spelt guest post pitch in a week, and you’ll see why editors might not have much patience left.
Have you been inadvertently making any of these mistakes? What will you do differently next time around?
Image Credit: Ben White