The contributor guidelines page for your brand can be “so what?” or “so amazing.”
An extra bit of effort can distinguish you from the crowd and attract the type of contributors that can enhance your brand. The stakes for quality contributors are higher now that Google is penalizing sites that have spammy guest posts.
Josh Slone, content manager for LeadFuze — a lead generation software platform that gives users more than 3 million monthly sales leads — offers three ways to improve your contributor guidelines better.
Screen Out What You Don’t Want Early
Like any brand that accepts contributor content, Slone sorts through hundreds of pitches each year. He wanted the contributor guidelines to weed out the weak story ideas that didn’t fit with LeadFuze’s content strategy, which is to be a hub for expert sales advice.
“When I started off with the contributor guidelines, I thought about everything we wanted to see in a good contributor, but also the things we would never want to see again,” says Slone, who started running LeadFuze’s content program more than three years ago as a freelancer.
LeadFuze’s guidelines make clear that the author should work in sales or run a company that is actively selling. “I’m not interested in career guest posters,” Slone says.
Slone wants LeadFuze stories to be comprehensive and at least 1,500 words or longer for SEO reasons, which he spells out in the guidelines.
Take Contributors Inside Your Editorial Process
Slone gets into the nitty-gritty with his contributor guidelines. He wants his writers to understand how to use H2 and H3 subheads, how many external links and internal links should go in a post, and what the expectations are when it comes to social media promotion. LeadFuze guidelines also give examples of successful guest posts.
“The hardest part of it was putting everything in there that would essentially train someone to write a good article if they didn’t know how,” Slone says. “Essentially, we’re hoping to find people who know how to use supportive imagery or how to cite research or how to include hyperlinks that make sense.”
The contributor guidelines aren’t just for guest bloggers. Slone sends the page to onboard paid contributors for LeadFuze, as well. He even asks them to answer a question found in the guidelines to test whether they read thoroughly and filter out people who don’t follow directions.
Putting in the effort to make your contributor guidelines as comprehensive as possible is still no guarantee that it will you won’t take time to build a strong stable of freelancers. “Even if it’s working well, it’s not clean,” Slone says. “The process is messy and the inbox is a jungle for anyone who accepts contributor content.”He has found the top contributors to LeadFuze mainly through the company’s network of partners they integrate with or people working in sales.
To save time managing contributors, Slone automates as much as he can. One of his favorite time-saving tactics is using Wordable, which allows him to draft and collaborate in Google Docs and export into LeadFuze’s WordPress seamlessly. “If you’ve ever tried to copy and paste a Google Doc into WordPress and you can’t move the images over, you’ll realize Wordable is an awesome tool,” he says.
Update Guidelines as Your Strategy Changes
Contributor guidelines should evolve with the content strategy. Slone is taking part in a content audit run by LeadFuze founder Justin McGill and will adjust the guidelines if the content strategy changes. Right now, Slone is focused on updating LeadFuze’s most popular content and refocusing underperforming posts to boost traffic and increase page rankings.
“After this content audit, our hope is to ramp up the amount of content we publish, and we will need high-quality contributors to do that,” Slone says. His goal is to raise monthly site traffic from 60,000 to more than 100,000 sessions.
Slone also wants to experiment more with audio and video content this year. He is inspired by video series put out by Wistia and Mailchimp. “That type of content is fun to watch and gets me excited about the future of how to stand out with content marketing,” he says. Eventually, Slone says he may have to update LeadFuze contributor guidelines to cover more than written content.
Great contributor guidelines reflect the brand and can accomplish their goals in a variety of ways. The guidelines at tech marketplace G2 include endorsements from contributors, FAQs and an online submission forum. TalentCulture’s contributor guidelines supply the top content themes the HR network is interested in for the year. Social media monitoring platform Mention details its target audience, its favorite topics and asks contributors to share their content once it’s published.
Examples from LeadFuze and other brands can inspire you to make your contributor guidelines better.