Dealing With Unwanted Guest Post Offers As A Website Editor

By Steve Higgins
October 05, 2022 1:04 PM

This article is more than one year old.

Website Development
Sometimes running a website can be frustrating due to the time-wasting emails I receive. Other times I think, 'what the hell, I'll waste their time.' So when an email dropped into my inbox out of the blue offering me free content for the website with no strings attached, I accepted.

The email was from someone calling themselves Lance Cody-Valdez. He wrote, "I'd love to write a complimentary article for your site. Perhaps on the topic of the nuts and bolts of knowing when it's time to sell your business. What do you think?"

I get a lot of emails like this, often they're better targeted and not completely irrelevant. Normally they want to write an article so that they can include a link to their client's website. Many writers are willing to pay to have this article and associated link on the website, something I will allow if the content is good enough and the website it's promoting is ethical.

So, free or paid-for, I wouldn't allow an article about business on the website. I replied simply saying, "this doesn't sound like a good fit, sorry."

Lance quickly replied saying, "I'd be happy to adjust my approach to mesh better with your audience and interests. Do you have any special topics or concerns you would like to see addressed?"

Now bearing in mind that in his first email, Lance said "I'd love to write a complimentary article for your site," this implies some familiarity with, but further correspondence confirmed the truth that he hasn't even taken the time to look at the website and find out which niche it sits in or the type of content we publish.

I quite bluntly replied, "I'd expect you to have gained an understanding of the website and come to me with suggestions rather than asking for help. It sounds like your niche is business, which just isn't a good fit."

But Lance didn't go away. He replied, having obviously now finally had a look at the website, saying "apologies, I see that a business topic isn't a fit for you. Would you allow me to write around the paranormal topic?"

Of course I could see right through this and was fully aware that he just wanted to promote a business on my website for free, which again I would allow even for free if it's relevant, but Lance wasn't being open and honest, so I didn't want to give him an easy ride.

I replied to Lance saying, "a switch from business to the paranormal doesn't fill me with much confidence. Is it a topic you know much about?"

He responded, "with regards to the paranormal topic, I always do research to make sure I write proper and factual information. I back it up with sources as well."

Back it up with sources? I'm sure you do, Lance, but pretending his concealment of the truth wasn't as obvious as a fart in an elevator, I said, "that would be fine. I'm just a bit unsure about your motives. Are you wishing to include back links or commercial messages? What's in it for you?"

Lance replied, "yes, I am wanting to include back links, but they'll only be sources that I'll cite. What's in it for me is that I'm trying to gain experience in writing and exposure."

Could this be true? I'm sure we'll find out. I told him that if links are only cites then he could go ahead and write something and that we require at least 500 words.

A few days later Lance sent through an article, which contained some questionable "cites" including one to a blog for an American real estate company. The article was entitled 'Plan Ahead to Lower Stress and Enjoy Your Haunted Getaway'. It was awful. It was poorly written and other than a few crowbarred words in the introduction it had nothing to do with the paranormal. It was nothing to do with a "Haunted Getaway" and it didn't make sense.

Of course I told Lance this and added, "thanks, but I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to run this article as it adds no value to the website."

Lance apologised for this and asked if he could have another attempt at writing an article. I said, "sure, if you feel it's worth your effort." Knowing full well that it probably wouldn't be worth his effort.

I didn't hear from Lance for a while, then out of the blue a few months later he sent an article entitled 'The Ins and Outs of Working in the Paranormal Industry'. Lance had gone full on paranormal this time, but clearly knew nothing about the topic. What he had written was complete nonsense and of no value to anyone.

Further more, the article contained another suspicious link. It was crowbarred into a horrendously out of context paragraph about writing a resume detailing your paranormal investigation skills ready to send to potential employers and then using an online tool to convert it to a PDF. Of course he gave a link to a website that offers this service.

I broke the news to Lance, "I'm afraid I won't be able to publish this. I don't mean to sound rude but it reads like a joke or parody of the paranormal field." But I didn't mention the suspicious cites, after all he'd promised me there wouldn't be any commercial links included.

Unperturbed, Lance asked if he could write a replacement article. I said, "well you can try if you want." Which he did, a week later he sent through an article entitled 'How to Include Your Pup in All of Your Halloween Fun'. The article wasn't too bad. It didn't really offer any value to the reader, but it was topical and there was the opportunity to use lots of cute photos of dogs.

However, once again there was something fishy about it. This time the post included links to both the real estate company's blog and the online PDF conversion tool.

I published the article, but buried it away on the website a little. I also changed these two suspicious links. I then emailed Lance to say, "the page is live now. Obviously as your aim is to gain experience in writing and exposure I've included a byline crediting you for the article. Thanks again for sending it through, I hope it works out well for you."

What would Lance think of the published article? Maybe he'd compliment me on presenting his writing well, or my choice of photos. He might thank me for the credit and my support of his writing career. Nah.

Predictably, Lance replied saying "thank you for sending the link. I just noticed that you replaced some of the sources in the article. Why is that? And would there be a way my original sources be the one cited?" Finally, Lance revealed his true intentions.

I politely replied saying, "as the editor of this website I reserve the right to editorial control and feel the links I have included are better suited. Good luck with your writing career."

The irony of all this is if Lance had been honest about his intentions up front he would have had a much better chance of getting his clients' links on my website and we could have worked together to produce something meaningful. Instead, he wasted his time writing three articles and failed to secure any promotion for his customers.

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