The follow jaw-dropping (seriously — that’s what I did while reading it) email apparated in my inbox:

My name is[deleted] and I am the online editor at [deleted]. I, along with the rest of the writing staff, write expert advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs. We have written for, SCORE, American Express OPEN and many others.
Are you currently accepting contributors for Digital Web Magazine? I see you are the editor on that site. What’s involved and how can we get started? Please let me know what information you need on my end.

Before I tell you what’s wrong with this email, take a close look at the home page of said magazine. Here’s a screen shot as of this writing:

Digital Web Magazine

Click to view larger in a new window.

Figure it out? Publication shut down. Last update was 2008. Person writing latest post is Nick Finck. The site also has a contact page. Yet, the sender emailed me. My name appears on the site, but I don’t stand out from the many contributors.
The slogan does a good job of giving you an instant idea of who the publication targets. The email says the staff writes articles for small businesses and entrepreneurs. While web professionals can certainly fall in those categories — a smart writer would provide a more detailed topic instead of a high level one that could apply to many careers.
Smart writers and editors research a publication first. Experienced editors get these emails and would know better than to submit an irrelevant query. People have sent me emails offering to write content that has nothing to do with the publication’s topic.
It’s more time consuming to contact a bunch of publications with a generic email like this than to read a publication and send a targeted, personalized email to the right publication and the right person behind it. Taking the former approach leads to zero results and aggravates a lot of editors who will put the person and company on their garbage list. I’ve saved the email so I can be sure to avoid the person and company.
What else should writers do before contacting publications?