I can always tell when spammers and black hat link-baiters are mass-mailing my friends. Because the emails, tweets and Facebook requests come pouring in to my inboxes:
- What is this pitch?
- Is this legit?
- How do I respond?
- Should I accept this?
My pal Lindsay from Cotter Crunch, who is a very savvy, very successful and very white-hat blogger, forwarded me one request this week that had her stumped. And my other pal Emily from Fit And Free With Emily had another one that had her scratching her head. These ladies get pitches all day every day and if they’re confused, I’m certain you are as well.
These spammers are GOOD. They know the right keywords to use, they know how to craft an email that can be sent to hundreds of people at the same time but still have a ring of personalization, and they understand that even a very small number of conversions can give them extremely valuable inbound links to their website, their sales page or worse, their black hat site (see this great explanation from Blog Clarity).
How to Identify Spammers Posing as Guest Posters/Advertisers
- No personalization or obvious merge tags in the introductory words:
- Dear BLOGURL.com
- Dear blogger
- No link/portfolio from the person making the pitch:
- “I’m an expert in A, B and C and I would love to write a guest post that will inspire and entertain your readers.”
- Referencing a recent or random post to try to show familiarity:
- “Your post about ‘Fun With Food Charts and the Prep Pad’ was so interesting!”
- Offering links as a service to you
- “The only thing I ask in return for this great content is that I be allowed to include one to two links to my website
The people behind these requests know that most businesses need inbound links to grow in SEO and sales, and rather than get them legitimately, they prey on people who don’t know to ask the right questions, or who are willing to trade their valuable real estate for a few bucks or even worse — they mask their request so well that if will confuse a good blogger into giving away valuable real estate. Here’s a real life example:
Subject: Katy Widrick Guest article inquiry
My name is XXX. I am part of the outreach team at XXX. I came across your health focused website and was wondering if you would be interested in receiving a high quality authoritative guest post from us. We specialize in producing high quality content focused on Health, Wellness and Fitness vertical.
I feel, not only your readers would appreciate such high quality content but also search engines give more value to your website if it finds new and interesting content. Of course our website is mutually benefited because it helps people recognize our brand too and some trickle of traffic from any links pointing back to us.
I would love to hear back from you positively! Feel free to visit us at XXX.
Subject: Guest Post Submission
Hope you are doing well !
My name is XXX and I have enjoyed reading your blog “http://katywidrick.com/” for some time now. As a fellow writer, I would like to first thank you for the sheer volume of useful resources you have compiled for authors in your blog and across the web. I would like to write a piece of article for your blog, may be around 400-500 words which your readers would love to read.
And also I wanted to have a clean back link either in theauthor bio (or) in the article. Is it okay for you? And also I’m sending a few article titles or if you have any suggestions please let me know.
See how it’s kind of hard to tell if it’s a real pitch or something spammy/scammy? I GET IT. I have fallen for these tactics in the past, and gotten burned. So, what should you do if you get something like this?
- Have guest posting and advertising policies in place so you can easily respond. I, as a rule, return EVERY email I get, even the clearly spammy requests! Canned responses in gmail make that super easy. (I do that because it seems like the nice thing to do and I try to give someone the benefit of responding with follow-up information that might change my mind.)
- Have standards! Guest posts can be great ways of getting new content from different perspectives, and it’s also nice to be able to offer friends a chance to introduce themselves to your audience. But before you let someone into your blog house, make sure that you recognize him/her, that you’ve vetted his/her previous work and that he/she has a site you don’t mind sending people to.
- Ask yourself: is this a topic that only this person can blog about? Or would it be better off coming from me, in my voice? I don’t need someone to come in and talk about how to teach PiYo — I’m an expert in that. But I’d be open to someone talking about how to teach CrossFit, or ride horses.
- When in doubt, delete. If you are suspicious about the pitcher’s intentions, and you don’t see an immediate benefit to your blog or your readers, move on.
FYI, here’s the canned gmail response I use:
Thank you so much for your email — I appreciate you taking the time to stop by my website and learn more about what I do.
I’m struggling with making the connection between this topic and my blog, but if you can provide more information, I’d be happy to consider your request.
My blog is about staying healthy while living a hectic life — typically, I share information about using social media tools and technology to be more efficient, although I also share my experiences with triathlon training, strength training and other fitness ventures. How would your blog post fit that mission? And why could I not do a better job writing it myself?
I do not, as a rule, accept guest posts of any kind. I find that my voice and my perspective is what readers come for, and if it’s a topic that resonates, I prefer to do my own research and vetting rather than turning over my blog to someone else. Particularly as I don’t know you or your background and have no confidence that you’ve ever visited my site before (based on this pitch, which appears to be copied, pasted and mass-emailed to a list of health and fitness bloggers), I’m not inclined to accept this project. If you’re interested in working with me as a sponsor, I have several options including advertising and event sponsorship. Depending on your timeline and budget, we can certainly find a project that supports your goals and also compensates me for the time I’d spend in reaching them.
As you can imagine, my blog is very valuable real estate, and my first commitment is to my readers. If you are interested in talking more, I would be happy to provide you with a proposal for a project that fits your parameters. If not, I understand, and wish you the best of luck!