In January of 2018, the digital content team at Elephate — one of Europe’s leading SEO and content marketing agencies — began the process of reinvigorating the agency’s blog. We achieved this by designing a content creation process for our in-house writers and consistently publishing quality content.

Three months later, we quadrupled our pageviews and established ourselves as a trusted voice in the industry.

Our hard work didn’t go unnoticed by outside writers, as we received over a hundred emails from people all over the world inquiring about writing for our blog.

And I’ve rejected all of them.

WHY ARE YOU SUCH A JERK, CHRISTIAN?

In my defense, it’s basically the same email sent over and over again:

[General greeting]!
Hope you are having a productive week.
My name is [insert] and I have written posts for [site that doesn’t exist] and [site that doesn’t exist]. I am a big fan of [Elephate spelled incorrectly]. I recently read the article “[Title of article that does not exist on our blog]” and I enjoyed it.
[Sentence letting me know that I am busy, so they will get to the point]. I’ve decided that I would love to contribute with a high quality, informative guest post.
Here are some posts I have written:
[Broken link]
[Broken link]
[Broken link]
Having written for a few weeks now, I already have a few great ideas in mind which your readers would find valuable. I should also add that my guest posts get up to [an impossibly high amount of traffic and links]. This could help you bring new traffic to your blog and increase the readers’ engagement.
[Awkward closing sentence].
Love,
[Mom]

In the event that the mistakes aren’t obvious from the example above, let me give you the eight major reasons why I’m always saying no to these emails.

1. CUTTING AND PASTING

I get that writers and content creators need to hustle to get their work out there — those links aren’t going to generate themselves. It’s an SEO world after all. I also get the temptation to cut corners in the pursuit of saving time.

But if you’re going to cut and paste the same email for multiple sites, the very least you could is fill in all of the necessary information first.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe X and Y are fairly reputable sites that writers strive to get their work on. Have I been missing out?

2. NOT FINISHING WHAT YOU START

This is an extension of #1.

In this case, the writer has cut and pasted a previous email and didn’t bother to take the time to find a blog post to add to the sentence. It’s not like we don’t have over a hundred articles to choose from.

If you want to show that I can trust you to write for me, at the very least prove that you’re the kind of writer who’ll always finish what they started.

But there’s good news: our blog post was really well written!

3. NOT GETTING TO THE POINT

The writer eventually mentions that I am very busy, that I don’t have a lot of time (what do they know that I don’t?), and that they will be sure to be quick.

In one email, all of this was mentioned in paragraph five, and I still didn’t know what they wanted from me.

The point I’m making is that I’m very busy, I don’t have a lot of time, and I need you to get to the point. Yeah, I get that you want to write for me, but what do you want to write about? What makes you different from everyone else? Will your article be as long-winded as your email?

4. LYING

I know emails like these are basically a formality and that you’re going to stretch the truth here and there to get noticed. I understand that you probably never read the post that you claim to love so much. I also understand that those flattering and weird comments about my appearance weren’t heartfelt (but if we’re being honest, yes, my ass does look good in these jeans. Thanks for noticing, Jim).

But don’t flat out lie, especially about something easily provable. In the above example, the writer starts the email by thanking me (again) for the article we published “a while back.” Spoilers: we never published an article by this writer.

You’re probably thinking, well, this writer clearly cut and pasted this from another email, so it wasn’t meant to be a lie. And I’d agree. However, I also believe that you should own whatever you send out into the world, whether you meant it or not (do you hear that political meme-slinging Facebook users?).

5. NOT BEING SPECIFIC

This is especially true in regards to the email subject line. Tell me what you want instead of a general hello/what’s up?/interested? subject line. It’s literally there for you to tell me what the subject is.

Telling a content marketing blog that you liked the article about “online marketing” is like telling a chef that you really liked the “hot food” they prepared for you that one time.

You’re all better than this.

6. NOT BEING ORIGINAL

When I got the email above, something struck me about “and without any plagiarism,” so I cut and pasted the email and found an exact copy of it online.

This told me everything I needed to know about this particular writer.

7. BROKEN LINKS

I always appreciate it when writers send me samples of their work to look at (yes, I actually look at them). But more often than not, the links they provide are broken, which is an awful lot like sending me nothing at all.

8. SPELLING ELEPHATE WRONG

This is my absolute favorite.

Most people can’t seem to figure out how to spell Elephate. Elephant is the most common alternative, which is most likely autocorrect working its magic.

Autocorrect or not, writers have gotten incredibly creative with Elephate over the last year:

  • Elaphate
  • Elephante
  • Alephate
  • Elephad
  • Elevate
  • Elephint
  • Epephante

WRAPPING UP

If you want me to consider publishing your work on our blog, then show me that you’re serious and not some amoral link-generating monster cutting and pasting your way towards your next link-filled score.

Would I give a writer a chance if they sent a cut and paste job that avoided all of the above mistakes? Sure thing, because that means there’s a link to their work that really shows me what they’re capable of. But that said, if writing is truly Your Thing, then I’d like to think that it’ll show in everything you write — emails included.

The reason I’m pointing this all out is because these issues are indicative of a much bigger problem which I covered in an article where you have a large chunk of the SEO and content marketing industry functioning at a level that would be deemed unacceptable in traditional publishing: White Hat SEO/Black Hat Publishing. And I think it’s time we started to address it.

Anyway, I know you’re busy, so I’ll keep this quick.

Christian A. Dumais is the Creative Director at the award-winning Elephate, one of Europe’s premier SEO and Content Marketing agencies.

Feel free to yell at him on Twitter: @PuffChrissy.