Guest posting. Guest blogging. Call it what you want, you have probably heard of it and already have an idea of what it looks like. You might have also heard certain people rave about it who built their entire businesses on the back of guest posting, or you might have listened to people grumble about why it is a big, huge waste of time and simply doesn’t work.
I will tell you this: Guest posting works. It works wonderfully IF you know how to do it right. IF you are hundred percent clear on your outcome. IF you execute everything well enough – notice I didn’t say perfectly. Well enough is fine.
So okay, let’s start with what guest posting is. For those of you who are new to online marketing, guest posting simply refers to the process of getting your name published on another site/blog to drive their people to your site and have them sign up to your email list. You want to get in front of audiences that belong to someone else.
The process begins with identifying the blogs you want to write for, making a pitch and getting published. Sounds simple enough, so then why do so many people make such a big fuss about it?
People make a big fuss about it because they make a number of mistakes when it comes to their guest posting strategy. They don’t know what they want from their efforts in the first place. They do not understand it. In this guide, I am going to walk you through the entire process of guest posting so that it makes sense to you and will leave no stone unturned.
First things first, when you start guest posting (or blogging), you need to think about your purpose of getting published on a blog. Sure you want to reach more people and build backlinks to your website, but there are three main reasons for engaging in guest posting.
1. Build your credibility
There are some sites that are huge credibility boosters. If you get on these sites, you don’t necessarily drive a lot of traffic to your own website, but you do elevate your status in your audience’s eyes.
You are looking for sites that are highly reputable, sites like Lifehacker, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur, etc. It is a great idea to get on these sites to raise your authority. These sites are also good for sending you a stream of small traffic over time but you may not want to focus all of your guest posting efforts on these sites.
2. Create connections
There are some places that are ideal for you to post on because you want to build a relationship with the site owner or the blogger. You want to provide them with highly valuable content and create a long term relationship.
These can be the influencers in your niche. Eventually you want them to share your content with their huge audiences, maybe send out a tweet or share it on their Facebook page. You might also want to approach these people for strategic partnerships and affiliate relationships along the way.
3. Drive traffic
This is the goal that most people are familiar with. They only think of guest posting as a means to generate traffic and drive people to their websites. This is fine and if you want to pursue guest blogging for this reason alone, you are better off choosing super targeted websites that have a great relationship with their own audience. For example if you are a life coach, consider targeting sites like The Daily Love, Tiny Buddha, Mark and Angel Life, etc
Look for sites with high level of reader engagement and social media sharing. Pay attention to the comments they receive. By publishing your content, the owner is endorsing you and so their readers are more likely to follow your byline link and check you out. Also, target mid-sized blogs for better ROI rather than the ones with huge audiences but less engagement.
So if you work your tail off and get yourself published on a big site but hardly get any traffic or signups from it, don’t go ahead and complain to others. Put up a big ‘as seen on …’ banner on your site. You have earned it. If you publish on an influencer’s blog and don’t get much ROI, think of it as investment. Some of the sites will offer all three benefits. Competition to get on sites like these are often huge so don’t set your heart on only getting published on those.
Include these different types of blogs in your promotion strategy depending on which stage you are at. Are you looking to build credibility, connections or your list? By looking which area in your business currently needs boosting, you’ll be able to come up with a great mix for your success.
So, clear on your guest posting strategy? Great. Now let’s look at how to begin this process and avoid the big mistakes a ton of people make.
Shortlist sites to guest blog for
The first thing you need to do is to picture your ideal client or customer (not your peers, but your target audience). And then think about what sites they are hanging out at. Which blogs are they reading? What online magazines do they subscribe to? What catches their attention? Where are they spending time online?
You might already have a list of websites to approach that belong to the key players in your industry and that’s fine. I would like to offer one piece of advice at this stage. Don’t start with the A-listers.
One, they are inundated with pitches and requests from everybody crying for attention – first you need to differentiate yourself from them and stand out from the crowd. Secondly, if you haven’t had much practice pitching or writing for other people’s blogs, you might want to get your feet wet. Start off with mid-level websites where the completion is not fierce, engagement is higher, which is actually a good thing, and where you get to experience success initially so you don’t end up getting demotivated and disillusioned.
So, how do you actually make a list of blogs to post on?
- Alltop.com. Alltop is a massive directory of blogs that lists blogs by categories. If you go to their website, you will see blogs categorized by topics. Search for blogs on your topic area and you are bound to come up with many great options.
- Google. Use your personal research assistant – the handy Google. Do ‘Top 50 … blogs’, or ‘100 best …. Websites for …..’, or ‘The best …. Websites for … in 2014’ type searches and see what you come up with. Also run searches for phrases like ‘ … blogs that accept guest posts’.
- Your own RSS. Which blogs are you following? Are there any that your ideal audience is also following?
Just by using these three methods, you can easily create your first list of 30-40 blogs to write for. And you don’t even need that many. Many people have grown their email lists and built their businesses by just regularly posting on the authority blogs in their industry. Now you have to start narrowing it down.
Start going through each blog individually and try to get a sense of the size of their audience. They might state it clearly saying something like ‘Subscribe and join 50,000 awesome readers’ or you might have to do some snooping around. Look at the number of comments their posts are getting, and other forms of social proof such as social shares and media mentions. Look at the number of followers on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+. You want to choose blogs with at least a few thousand subscribers. It is fine to guest blog on a friend’s site but don’t make a habit of it.
One final step before we move on, make sure that the blogs you are going to short-list accept guest posts. For now, just have a quick look to see if they do and if they accept completed posts, or do you have to make a pitch to get your idea approved first. Some do it by invitation-only and that’s fine but make a note of that.
I suggest creating a spreadsheet with the name of blog, what to send (pitch/completed post/invitation only) and pre-pitch status which I am going to explain next.
This is going to be immensely helpful if you are going to pitch to the influencers in your industry – the A-listers, people who attract tons of guest post pitches.
Your goal here is to never pitch cold. Meaning, you should have some relationship with the blogger before you mention guest blogging, no matter how rudimentary it is, for example, a blogger- commenter relationship. This is fairly simple to do.
Most popular bloggers read their comments religiously, even if they don’t reply to them. You can leave a few thoughtful comments on their blogs and this will really give them a chance to remember your name when you make a pitch. Validate what they have said, tell a story, talk about something they may have left out, and generally show that their writing has an impact on you.
Secondly, follow them on social media and try to have a real-time exchange with them. Even if you can’t manage that, retweet their posts with additional, thoughtful comments that add value to it. If they don’t allow comments, interact with them on Google+ if they are active there.
Have you been following them for a while already, and even seen some results by taking action on what they teach? Email them and let them know about it, or share it publically but don’t follow to tag them (Facebook) or include their Twitter handle.
Finally, if you really want to connect with someone who has clout, consider becoming a customer. Buy a service or something that allows you to have access to them. Your want them to recognize your name when you send them a pitch. Or, if you can get them to offer you a guest post, even better. Maybe you have left a detailed comment that added immense value to their post, maybe they loved it that you implemented what they teach and saw results and want you to do a case-study.
Done? Great. Now it is time to actively research the blog and come up with a fail-proof pitch.
Research the blog
Time to do some homework. And this step is really crucial because it is going to set you apart from rest of the bloggers also pitching their posts. I am going to assume that you know that they accept guest posts and you been commenting on their blog and connecting with them over social media. You are not a stranger to them but a loyal reader. It is time to dig even deeper.
Before you think about pitching an idea you have got to make sure you find out answers to these questions.
- What are the most popular posts on their blog?
- What do they love to write about?
- Which posts receive the most reader engagement?
- Is there anything they haven’t talked about in a while?
- Was there any post that would benefit from a follow-up post?
- What is their writing style like?
- Which experts do they look up to or are closely connected to?
How to you find all this information? Well, bloggers often display their most popular content or best across on the sidebar or in a prominent position. Make sure you go through the list and read through some of those posts. This exercise alone will answer most of these questions. Also go through some of the reader comments to get a sense of what their audience are talking about.
If you need to look more, go through their content. Scroll down and read through a few latest blog posts. Note how they like to perceive things, what is their communication style like, make a note of their tone. If they are linking to other experts, who are they linking to?
Bookmark at least one post written by them that you really enjoyed reading and may or may not have left a comment. This will make sense when we are writing the pitch.
Write a pitch that will work
Before you begin the process of writing a winning pitch, you can increase your chances of getting accepted by coming up with an idea that is a sure-fire winner. How do you do that? Glad you asked. This is where all your homework and research will come in handy.
The winning idea is of course an idea that gets accepted, but more than that it is an idea that is mutually beneficial to their audience as well to you. This is where most guest bloggers go wrong and then they wonder why they didn’t see any return on investment.
This is what you need to do:
Choose an idea that is new to this blogger’s audience but also makes sense for your business. There should be a nice overlap happening.
Based on your previous research, come up with an idea that adds tremendous value to their audience (a new angle, a follow up to a recent post, a popular topic not covered on the blog for a while, a popular topic related to an emerging trend). But make sure it will appeal to your ideal customer as well.
You don’t want these people to come check you out and discover something that is totally irrelevant to them and their needs and especially unrelated to the topic you just wrote about.
The trick is to find that sweet topic so you can convert most of the people who come to check you out and sign up to your email list, or even purchase something on the spot.
- Always make sure you address the blogger by the name and not by a generic salutation such as Dear Webmaster, etc.
- Really personalise your pitch. It shouldn’t sound like a completed template.
- Do not gush in your pitch, come across as an equal and a peer. Be friendly and casual so you don’t freak them out.
- In your subject line make it clear that you are submitting an idea for a guest post or a completed post. GUEST POST: Your headline.
- Introduce yourself briefly. Tell them you have been a long time follower of their blog, or discovered it recently. Be honest. Link to a post of theirs that you really enjoyed reading. Make sure it is written by them and not another guest blogger (as I explained above.)
- Tell them you would like to submit an idea for a guest post, unless they require a completed post upfront, in that case attach the post.
- Explain how they will benefit from publishing it. Give evidence based on your research. For example, I noticed this topic was quite popular last year but it hasn’t been covered for a while. Or, this post got a lot of social shares and I have this new information to add it. Don’t skip over this, it is crucial to your success.
- It might be okay to send 2-3 ideas but I think submitting one really strong, fail-proof idea that they can’t say no to (because you have done the homework) makes it easier. You are then not asking them to make a decision and choose. On the other hand, they may pick a totally different one. Go with your gut on this one.
- Get a nod of approval from them before you go ahead and start writing the actual post.
- Make a strong case for yourself. Have you been published on other leading sites? Give a link to your most relevant or impressive post. Work published on a different site always carries more weight than something you published on your own.
- Include any information that is going to encourage them to say yes. Your credentials and experience in your industry, your track record, and any other piece of information that is relevant.
- Keep your pitch as short as possible. Not more than 3-4 short paragraphs.
- Let them know you will follow up in about two weeks – and then do it.
If you don’t hear back from them in 10-14 days, depending on how popular they are, remind them gently. Acknowledge the fact that they are busy and probably didn’t get a chance to look it over yet. If you still don’t hear anything, move on for now. Try again with a different idea.
If you hear back, that’s fantastic. Respond immediately and say thank you. Ask them if they require the post in a specific format and by when.
Set your guest post up for success
I am not going to go into the details of how to write a guest post as it is outside the scope of this post but I would say to give it your all. Do the best job you can and only send it when you are happy with it.
- Refer to it as a draft, even if you have spent hours creating and polishing it. You want to indicate that you are willing to make any changes if necessary.
- Let the blogger know you are open to any changes in the headline. Or, they can even come up with one on their own – and most bloggers are quite finicky about headlines – they will be sure to appreciate it.
- Don’t make them do any work. Make sure you send your finished post in the word document as well as html formatted text if they have requested it.
- Attach any photos if required. This will include images with Creative Commons License, screenshots, or any other visuals.
- Send 100% original and unpublished content.
- Follow their guest posting guidelines for length and other specifications.
- Don’t insert any affiliate or third-party promotion links.
- Link to relevant posts published on their own blog. They will also appreciate this tremendously and you will earn serious brownie points.
- Add a killer author bio or byline. Make a clear CTA – call to action. For example, grab your free ebook ‘title’ over at ‘website’.
- Don’t make a mistake of linking to your homepage, instead either create a specific squeeze page for this blogger’s audience and welcome them and offer a freebie for sign up, or just link to your standard squeeze page with your opt-in offer. Make sure to optimize your anchor text (words with hyperlink) and use keywords to get the SEO benefits.
So there you have it – the complete guide to writing successful guest posts. Guest posts that bring you credibility, build relationships and attract super-hot leads to your website. Guest posts that give you the maximum ROI. Try it and you won’t regret this.