I thought long and hard about revealing all of this in public, but it needs to be. It sucks when the "small guy" gets taken advantage of.

That said, it's almost 3 months after the fact and I've been able to turn my original negative article into a positive learning experience.

Originally, this article started off like this:

The beauty of Ridiculously Extraordinary Freedom is that I don't have to worry about if exposing what needs to be exposed will hurt me. I don't have to worry about book deals falling through, or advertisers dropping me, or revenue falling, or readers leaving.

Because I don't depend on this blog for income I have absolute freedom.

You can see, I was writing from a defensive standpoint. And while defense may win ball games, it's not pretty.

So I thought to myself: "How can I turn this negative into a positive?"

My answer: "Instead of exposing the culprits, expose the situation so we can all learn from it."

That way everybody wins.

After Accountability Statement #1 I got an e-mail requesting a guest post from a big site with a top 10,000 Alexa Ranking.

While I was excited, my first suspicion that something wasn't on the up and up was the e-mail: It was obviously cookie-cutter, sent to multiple (dozens? hundreds? thousands?) of bloggers.

It did have my first name and my blog's URL in it, but it was a lame, horribly impersonal pitch.

Lesson #1: If you're seeking guest posts personalize each e-mail instead of using the cookie cutter approach.

(This works for so many other communication situations, but I'll keep on track with the guest post topic.)

My second suspicion was that their "blog" is hosted at wordpress.com, but their Web site is on their own .com domain. But I checked out the blog, and it gets posted to regularly so I was cool with that. I'm not above writing for a blog hosted on wordpress.com instead of an actual domain.

Then I went to the company's Web site and clicked on their Blog link. It didn't go to their wordpress.com blog they wanted me to write for, but to their actual blog. Hmmm...

Lesson #2: If you're seeking guest posts for your Web site, make them for your actual Web site, not a "throwaway."

It seems like that would be a given, no?

My third suspicion came towards the end of the pitch: "X blog receives over 10,000 unique visitors each week."

While I have no doubt their actual blog receives 10,000 uniques/week, the blog they were asking me to write for had no comments. A blog with over 10k uniques per week should get comments, shouldn't it?

Lesson #3: Don't lie.

Again, that should be a given.

The Final Straw

By this point I should have ran the other way, but I convinced myself that it still might be a good opportunity.

After a few e-mails it was decided that I'd write an article about staying healthy while traveling. Although I had planned on writing a similar article here, I wanted to spread my best content out amongst the blogosphere. Keeping it all for this site would be selfish.

So I wrote the article in about 3 hours. And just before I was about to send it off I got this message in an e-mail:

"We do kindly ask for a link in return, do you think is feasible?"

I don't have a links section on this blog and I responded as such.

So I got this as a response:

"What a link within a post, informing your audience the guest blog and including the WEBSITEINQUESTION.com link in this instance?"

Can you tell they're outsourcing this particular part of their business?

I responded with "No thank you, you guys are shady."

Lesson #4: Don't outsource important aspects of business building without proper training.

What they were trying to do was get links to their .com from other bloggers by offering these bloggers a "potential exciting affiliation" (their words) that goes like this:

- Write a great article for us. - We will link to you from our unofficial wordpress.com blog that gets no traffic. - You have to link to our .com Web site which also hosts our official blog. Sucker!

What we can learn from this:

Simply: stick up for yourself if you think somebody is trying to pull a fast one on you.

As you can tell, I'm very trusting, and I gave the above company the benefit of the doubt until the very end. At that point, I called them out and never heard another word.

I hope this company has changed their ways by now and I hope if others were considering taking a similar route that they will reconsider.

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You'd think, by the title of this post, that I was a reader of the National Enquirer. :) Hint: Reading The National Enquirer headlines is a great way to learn copywriting.

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