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Inside YouMoz: How To Guest Blog for Moz

SEOmoz June 12, 2013 Comments Off

Posted by KeriMorgret

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at YouMoz? Here’s an explanation of what we’re looking for, how to put together a good post, and some frequently asked questions.

I’ve had the privilege of being at the helm of the YouMoz editorial team for almost two years now, and have been amazed and awed by the content that you all have shared. On an average weekday, we get 5-10 submissions, and we publish about 10% of our submissions. I wanted to share more about who we are, what makes for a good YouMoz post, and how to get in that top 10%.

Who Reviews Posts?

  • Miriam Ellis is a Moz Associate specializing in copywriting and Local SEO. She provides the initial review of your post.
  • Melissa Fach is a Moz Associate with extensive editorial experience in the industry. She is one of the people who will closely review your post and provide you with feedback.
  • Keri Morgret (that’s me!) I’m a Moz employee on the community team. I also will closely review posts and give you feedback, as well as do a final check of your post before publishing it on the YouMoz blog.
  • Erica McGillivray, Jen Lopez, Ashley Tate, and Trevor Klein also help with the review process as needed.

What is the Review Process?

  1. All posts are reviewed for obvious spam and if the post has already been published. In these cases, we decline the submission and leave a note for the author.
  2. Miriam makes an initial review of the post and leaves internal notes for the team. The post status changes from “Pending Review By Editor” to “Pending – Reviewed By Editor”. This doesn’t mean it’s going to get published, but please know that only about half of the submissions even make it this far. To check the post status, go to Manage Posts (visible when looking at the Moz Blog), click the Posts tab, and then look for the status and any notes from the editor.
  3. Melissa or I do an in-depth review of the post, with other people from Moz giving additional opinion or reviewing posts as needed. We’ll make a decision to decline the post, return the post to the author for edits, or to publish the post. We will either leave a note in the editor comments field of the post, or (usually) email the author at the email address on their profile with our decision.

    Don’t panic if your post was returned to you! Many of the posts on the YouMoz blog (and even those that have been promoted to the main blog) have gone through the revision process. This means we think your post has potential, and there are some things that could be improved to make it a great post for YouMoz.

  4. When a post is approved for publishing, I do one final check for spelling, grammar, valid links, image attribution, and several other details. We try to notify the author of publication at least several hours to a few days before we publish. It is beneficial for the author to be able to respond to any comments by our readers, and to promote their post (Roger will also share the post on Twitter).

What Content is a Good Fit for YouMoz?

Actionable, detailed content with references tends to do the best on YouMoz, and case studies or examples are particularly popular. Think about the readers of this post, and try to make it so this is something that the reader could take to their boss and say, “Let’s give this a try. Here’s a post where this person tried it, they got good results, and they explain how to implement it.” This post is from a security company, but a wide variety of people could follow their tutorial using Google Analytics to develop an FAQ strategy. This post used screenshots of GA to explain step-by-step what they did complete with an example to cut and paste, and provided information about how it impacted their company.

We want to publish original content that has not been published elsewhere. By original, we mean both “don’t submit an exact copy of a post that is already online” and “don’t take the outline of a post and change word order enough to pass Copyscape”. YouMoz readers are looking for new information that they haven’t already read on another site.

Include enough details so others can replicate your actions or your processes. Try to anticipate the questions someone might ask or alternative explanations and address that in your post. Here are two examples:

  • If you’re discussing a tactic that increased your traffic, include additional information that might be relevant. For example, if you’ve been revising content about pumpkin carving and state the increase in traffic is due to the authorship you implemented, yet the traffic comparison is the month of October (the end of October is Halloween in the US and when people carve pumpkins) to the month of September, readers are likely to comment that it was increased search queries that led to the traffic rise, not the inclusion of authorship. Instead, in this case you could compare October this year to the previous October, and compare pages with authorship implemented to pages without authorship implemented.
  • If you’re examining a search engine result page, include information about which search engine you were using (google.com? google.co.uk?), your location, if you were logged out (generally, it’s best to use an incognito window in a browser to help minimize personalization based on your search history and cookies), what query you ran, if you modified any parameters in the URL, if other people saw the same results, and any other relevant information.

Back up the “what to do” statements with information about “how to do”. References are often key to a good YouMoz post. You don’t need to explain how to do every single step, but give enough context and a brief explanation, then link to where there is authoritative information. A good example is this post about spring cleaning your website. If this same post with no links had been submitted, it would not have been approved. Instead, the post did well and was promoted to the main blog.

I want to write a case study, but am not able to share sales figures or visitor data. What can I do?

Find out what data you can share. Perhaps you can’t share the exact number of visits the site received or the raw dollar figure of the sales, but you can share that traffic increased by 10% compared to the previous year, or that the time on site increased. This post about opening up content on their website doesn’t have exact visitor information, but does include enough information to show that their experiment had a positive impact.

If you don’t have any data you can share as an example, consider sharing something that you’ve built to help you learn something or be more efficient. This post breaks down how the author reviewed job descriptions to build a list of topics to learn more about, and how he prioritized that list.

Google just announced that they are doing XYZ, and I’d like to write about it for YouMoz!

We usually don’t cover general industry news on YouMoz. There are a number of other blogs that are quite good at covering the latest announcements from the search engines, including Search Engine Land and Search Engine Roundtable. What works for YouMoz is a post talking about what Google is doing, and how it impacts the business, what you can do to take advantage of or mitigate the latest development, or other actionable information. An example is determining how the shutdown of Google Reader might impact your bottom line, example spreadsheets, and how to explain this to your C-level executives.

How many words should I write?

We don’t have a minimum or maximum word count. Generally posts run from 1000-3000 words, but we have published posts that were fewer than 500 words and posts that were over 10,000 words.

What about links?

Relevant links are encouraged in posts. The previously mentioned post about spring cleaning your website had a considerable number of links to resources. You can link to your own site or a client’s site in your post, if it is relevant and on-topic. In this post about lessons from a 100k pageview post, the author links to content from his company’s blog. The YouMoz is all about how that post got over 100,000 pageviews, and is a very appropriate example.

Unfortunately, we often see posts that start out “My coworkers at our Springfield SEO agency were having coffee the other day” with a link to the SEO services page of their agency and a post that has no inherit need for that link. If your post only links to your own properties, that’s going to be viewed by many users as a bit too promotional for your own site. There is a Blog Bio section of your profile where you can have a link back to your company in your bio that will show at the bottom of the post (it’s not displaying at the moment, but it will be fixed shortly).

Affiliate links are not allowed.

Do I need to have a degree in writing to write for YouMoz? What if English is not my first language?

You don’t need to have perfect spelling and grammar to have a post published on YouMoz, nor does English need to be your native language. However, we are not a college writing lab. We will give you feedback about what could make your post work better for our readers, and we will check for spelling and obvious grammar mistakes, but we are not able to go through a post line-by-line and help you rewrite it.

Give yourself plenty of time to research the post (including finding the examples, references, and images), write the post, have others review what you’ve written, then come back and look at your writing anew after you’ve had a break from it. Take in the feedback other people have given, and do one last review in a word processor for spelling and grammar mistakes. This post about Author Rank needed only two typos fixed out of 2600+ words, and needed very little work from the editors. The author later revealed that four coworkers had reviewed his post and given feedback. The post has 166 thumbs up, only one thumb down, and from the first comment had requests to promote it to the main blog.

Be aware that people from all over the world read YouMoz, and may not understand references that are regional in nature or specific figures of speech. It can be helpful to avoid some idioms, and add additional information for context.

Technical Details

Finding Images

Images are great to have in a post! If you’re not making screenshots of your own material (info on that below), please be sure that you have the right to use the images you are submitting. Here’s one post on finding photos for your blog post, including using stock photos, Creative Commons pictures, and commissioning your own photos. Including a note at the end of your post about your image sources would be really helpful! We will erase before publishing, but this saves us from having to email you asking about the image source.

Adding Images

Here are some tips that will help your image look good in the post, and minimize the amount of back-and-forth needed with the editorial staff.

Our biggest request is that you resize your browser or your spreadsheet before taking screenshots. Often a computer screen is set at 1200 pixels wide, and the site (or application) adjusts to fill that whole space. When you take a screenshot and that width and then need to reduce it to the 730 pixels wide for the blog, the image can be hard to read.

If you adjust column headings to remove extra horizontal space (wrapping the text can help), or adjust the width of your browser before taking a screenshot, it can make a big difference. The two images below are before and after examples of removing extra space in a spreadsheet. Both are the exact same width, but one is much more readable.

You don’t need Photoshop or fancy image editing tools. I’m on a PC, and use a combination of Paint and Irfanview (free) to resize images, automatically crop extra white space, and with the RIOT plugin you can “save for web” and have a reasonable file size for your image.

To insert an image in your post, you’ll first need it hosted somewhere (your own site, or a free hosting site like imgur.com (if your post is published, we’ll automatically copy your images to our CDN). In the post, click the Insert Image icon, then paste in your image URL. Your image will now appear in the post.

Formatting your post

Using headings is a great way to help organize your post! If you’re using our editor to compost your post, headings can be found when you click the paragraph icon. Text alignment is adjusted when you click the icon shown below.

If you’re accustomed to our old editor and resistant to change, you might give this editor a try. We have no relation to and do not support it, but it may be a more familiar interface for you. You can paste the source code from that editor into the source code view of our editor (click the </> button in the toolbar for that view).

Spelling and grammar checking

After you’ve finished your post and had it reviewed by some trusted people, do one last check for spelling and grammar. One method that works well to catch many mistakes is to paste your post as plain text into Word, then select the language as your local language, and make sure that “do not check spelling or grammar” is unchecked. I’ve often found that Word decides that part of the text is a different language, or that you somehow don’t want it to check all of your document. Here’s a handy page on setting your language in Word that will help you find this semi-hidden setting.

FAQs

How does a post get promoted to the main blog?

This is the most common question! There is no exact formula, but instead we look for how the community has felt about the post. Some indicators of this are the number of thumbs, the number and type of comments, reaction on social media, and post analytics. If you wrote an awesome post that got on Hacker News but didn’t get a ton of thumbs or comments on the post itself (because it was discussed on HN and those users didn’t sign up here just to thumb), we’re going to notice that and take it into consideration.

Did you know that we have post analytics that are available on every post? Take a look!

We generally promote posts within a week or two of them going up on YouMoz. We’re considering looking back a couple of months and evaluating posts that were slower to catch on with the audience but did well and were not time-sensitive. Please give us your feedback about this in the comments! 

Why do some posts go straight to the main blog?

The technical infrastructure we have is responsible for some “YouMoz” posts going straight to the main blog. For our regular main blog authors, we have special permissions for them to be able to post directly to the main blog. For authors doing just a single post on the main blog, having them submit to YouMoz and promote it right away is the easiest technical way to do things.

Why is the review period so long?

We strive to be TAGFEE in our reviews, and give quality feedback to all legitimate posts, even the ones we decline. Sometimes it takes a while to read through the post and get into the author’s head and understand where they are coming from, what they are trying to say, and compose an email back to the author explaining how their post could be improved.

The editing team has a wide variety of knowledge, but we sometimes need to send a technical post off to another Moz employee or associate for them to review. We don’t want to publish a post that has incorrect information that could do harm to a site, for example.

Various things can interfere with author communication. The email address in the profile might be sales@somecompany.com and the email doesn’t get passed along to the author, or the email goes into a spam bucket. Sometimes we have posts that are 90% there and just need a couple of small tweaks, and we never hear back from the author for whatever reason.

Sometimes we’ll be short an employee because of a vacation, we’ll launch a new product, migrate domains, or need to email every single Moz user and answer their questions. Sometimes, it all happens in the same week. The awesome thing about this team is that we’re cross-trained and can pitch in to help each other. At times, it means we’ll have a bunch of people tackle YouMoz and the review period is nice and short, and at other times it means that we need to devote our energies to other tasks and the YouMoz queue grows again.

We Want You to Write for YouMoz!

Are you ready to write a post? We hope you can take what you’ve learned here and decide to Submit a YouMoz Post!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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