The Huffington Post is one of the largest sites on the web today. They publish dozens of articles per day, and they have an interesting reputation. They’re leaning towards the liberal site of the political spectrum, and while they cover news and current events, they also have a significant amount of opinion publications. It’s a site used by celebrities, writers, bloggers, and publicly noteworthy individuals to get their point of view out there in front of an audience of millions. They have a wide range of quality, from random small bloggers to Pulitzer journalists.
So how can you get your content published on this massive site?
First Up: Decide If You Want To
The first thing you need to do is determine if you really want to be published on HuffPo. The site has received some serious criticism over the last couple of years, due to their lack of fact checking, their bias, and the fact that they don’t pay their writers. You won’t be blogging for a profit directly, you’ll be blogging for the link and for traffic and name recognition.
So, first of all, the link. Is the link going to help you? Chances are, yes, it will. It’s pretty rare that a link from a huge site like HuffPo doesn’t help the destination site. It’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll get at least a little bit of SEO value out of the link. The thing is, that link is something anyone can post. Anyone writing for HuffPo can link to your site and you get that value. You don’t necessarily need to be the author behind it.
So what about the traffic? Well, that depends a lot on the context of the link. Studies have shown that link clicks in blog posts, particularly guest posts, aren’t necessarily all that high. However, at he same time, you have millions of people visiting HuffPo, which means hundreds of thousands of people reading you post. If even one percent of those people clicked the link, it’s still probably a huge boost to your traffic. The numbers are just overwhelming. If you’re a large enough blog to not benefit from that traffic, you probably don’t need my help to get HuffPo’s attention.
As for the name recognition, well, that just means you need to go all or nothing with Huffington. One post alone isn’t going to do it, no matter how high quality it is. You need to publish enough that the volume makes your name and face recognizable as an author for the Huff.
So, at the end of the day, it’s a good idea for just about anyone to get a good writing position with HuffPo, assuming your writing style, your opinions, and your political bias slant in the right direction. They aren’t likely to want you if you’re writing low quality content or if you’re on the “alt-right” side of the spectrum, but beyond that there aren’t too many restrictions.
Getting Their Attention
The old way of getting a foot in the door with the Huffington Post was actually one you might not expect; tracking down Arianna Huffington and messaging her directly. As the owner of the site, she had the connections and was able to hook you up with their managing editors, and really, who are the editors to say no to their owner?
This worked surprisingly well. Personally, if I ran a site as huge as the Huffington Post, and people publicly published my email address to get a connection to my editors, I’d be making a blacklist of their names out of spite. I already have trouble keeping up with my inbox, and if I had thousands of people thinking I was their primary connection, I’d either be ignoring it entirely or outsourcing it to someone else.
These days, Arianna doesn’t have to worry about it quite as much as she used to. She still will forward on your information to a blog editor, but she doesn’t do much else than use her email as a pitch for her new company. See, Arianna stepped away from running the Huffington Post personally and has started a company called Thrive Global. It’s a site dedicated to content about the well-being and productivity of both individuals and corporations. If that seems a bit broad and general, well, it is. But that’s okay; just add it to your list of sites you wouldn’t mind to see a link on.
Now, the “standard” way of contacting the Huffington Post with a pitch for a blog post is to go directly to their contact form. It’s really just a skinned Google Doc, you can find it here, or just in their “contact us” link in the footer of every page. They ask for a headline, a draft of the post, your name, and your bio. You also need your email address and a topic choice for where the post should be published on their site. Once you submit it, you get to sit and wait until they decide if they want to accept and publish your submission or not. Most submissions are ignored.
Instead of sending a bland pitch through their contact form, or bothering Arianna herself in her new venture, you can track down contact information for some of their editorial staff instead. By messaging the relevant editor for a given section of the site, you show that you don’t need an order from higher up to get your foot in the door, and you show that you have the initiative to track down the right person rather than just anyone with clout. You can see a list of the individuals in their About Us page.
There is also the new contributor system. Huffington Post opened up signups for potential new contributors on this page and allowed people to submit applications. Wait times for those applications were long, and many people either never heard back or were rejected. Currently, registration is closed, but you can keep checking that page every few days or weeks to see if they open back up.
Creating HuffPo Content
As I’ve written about before, one of the most important aspects of guest blogging is creating content meant to live on that site. The guide I just linked to gives you a framework, but with the Huffington Post, a lot of it is already done. They’re a high tier site, and they’re willing to publish a wide range of content with disparate voices, so you don’t need to worry too much about matching their tone. What you do need to do is pick a vertical that matches your blog topic in general. If you write about political events, you want to be in their political channel. If you write about making a living online, you could be in entrepreneurship, you could be in marketing, or you could be in lifestyle.
When picking a vertical, you want to pick one that is most liable to jive with your site content. I could write posts about how to live with a small business income, but since this site is primarily about guest blogging and marketing, the people attracted to those posts on HuffPo wouldn’t transition well to this site.
One interesting element of writing for the Huffington Post is you don’t need to stick to entirely factual posts. Other sites might prefer case studies, valuable tutorials, and other such informational content, but HuffPo is primarily an opinion and editorial publication. That means you can get personal and you can give your opinions with some data to back them up, rather than relying on data and conclusions. It’s a more free-form way of writing that some people need to really play with to get the hang of for their contributions.
Be aware, however, that HuffPo has a rabid readership and, with all such large online communities, they are quick to dogpile people who don’t 100% agree with them. That’s not to say that you need to shift your bias or espouse opinions you don’t hold, but it does mean that if you write an opinion piece and the opinion is not popular, you will likely see a lot of negative comments, as well as some spillover to your blog. Be prepared for this, and don’t let it get to you. Frankly, it’s probably better to just avoid reading comments on your posts entirely.
Interestingly, blog posts published via the old direct system and blog posts published via the new contributor system seem to function differently. Old direct dashboard publications, those you would get if you’ve been an author for a while or got the hookup from Arianna, those have followed links. They were great for SEO and for traffic building.
New posts through the new contributor system are by default nofollow, and they are consequently less valuable. This system has actually turned Huffington Post into something more akin to Medium, which is to say, highly trafficked but not necessarily as valuable as other sites. It’s actually kind of sad that they have relegated a lot of new contributors to their oft-ignored blog section rather than their real verticals. I can understand the desire to segregate the people just looking for name recognition, but it makes it less effective to use the new system. Ideally, you’ll still be able to get in on their old system by talking directly to an editor.
Another thing to note is that, once you get your in and have a username and password for their dashboard system, you’re kind of left to your own devices. Your articles need to be set up according to their editorial guidelines, and they have an editor make changes before they are published if they’re accepted, but they don’t go through rounds of revisions or back-and-forth discussion. The editors are all firmly overworked and leave the writers to figure things out on their own. One thing that often gets new writers is the fact that images need to be creative commons or used with permission, and you need to pick them yourself. Submit a post without images and hope an editor will add them in? You have a post with no images.
One final note: once you’re in as a writer you will likely be using the new Athena posting platform. This platform is a little glitchy and works best using Google Chrome rather than any other browser. You’re free to use what you want, but if something is bugging out or not working as it should, try it in Chrome.
Promotion on the Huffington Post
Publication of content via the new contributor dashboard on HuffPo is a bit of a hole, unfortunately. The content is noindexed and unable to be seen by search engines until an editor decides it is worth featuring and put into real visibility. Think of it like a testing ground; authors publish what they want, and it’s visible to readers who visit the blog, but it’s not given to the search engines with the HuffPo brand attached until it passes muster. Editors watch for posts that perform, that aren’t stealth edited, and that have good content, and then they promote those posts. Only then are they pushed to the “real” HuffPo, and only then can you reap the benefits of those posts.
It’s entirely possible that your articles will not be promoted. There are many reasons why this may be, and they won’t tell you any of them. They simply don’t pick your posts for promotion, and that’s that. It’s pretty safe to assume that if a post hasn’t been promoted within a week, it won’t be promoted at all. The only reason an older post might be promoted is if it somehow goes viral without the Google visibility, which means you would have had to do a lot of promotion on your own.
Once your post has been picked up for promotion, it is published in one of the main verticals. It’s not promotion in the sense that it’s shared around and recommended; it’s literally promotion from a low rank to a higher rank, like a job promotion. The editors of the vertical can choose to give you further acceleration by featuring your content on their Facebook or Twitter accounts, as well, and that can be a huge boon. Generally, though, you’ll simply have to publish content and get it promoted, and reap what value you can get from it from there.