The strategy sounds strange.
You have a big idea, and pour yourself into researching and writing an article about it to create what may be the best writing project of your career. Then, instead of publishing it on your blog, you give it away for zero dollars and zero cents.
You could describe guest blogging the way I just did. It is indeed accurate.
So what gives? Why is guest blogging such a popular and highly revered digital marketing tactic?
Guest blogging delivers significant benefits
“If you’re in the market for targeted traffic and powerful backlinks, guest posting should be at the forefront of your mind.”
— Neil Patel
As noted, the pot of gold for earning guest blog opportunities is not compensation from the publisher. However, you can be rewarded for your efforts in many ways:
- Expand your audience and fan base - Beginning business bloggers inevitably discover very few people read their content. The most practical shortcut to expanding your reach is to publish on blogs that already have the relevant audience you seek.
- Build authority in your niche - Getting published on credible websites can help position you as an expert on the topic.
- Generate quality, targeted traffic to your website - I’ve guest posted on 50 or so websites, because it’s is an effective strategy for sending traffic my way.
- Earn exposure via search - The websites for which you guest blog are likely to have higher domain authority than yours. As such, your content will have great potential to rank for keyword phrases you covet.
- Capitalize on valuable network opportunities - An underappreciated, but immensely valuable benefit of guest blogging is establishing relationships with industry leaders and their readers, which can open all kinds of doors.
Editors also want to publish your ideas.
Today’s mediascape is ripe for guest blogging. See, publishers want quality content they don’t have to pay for.
A report by Influence & Co., The State of Contributed Content, claimed that:
- 86% of editors planned to increase the amount of contributed content on their sites.
- Editors prefer unique insider advice, which is non-promotional and professionally edited.
How to target the right blogs
Far too often, wannabe guest bloggers turn to lame automation tools and email templates, fill in the obligatory blanks, and fire off hundreds of desperate-sounding pitch emails. They mostly fail - I reject multiple inquiries like this daily.
Successful guest bloggers put a planning process in place and do their research. Here’s what I recommend you focus on as you take your first steps identifying smart targets:
- Audience first - The editorial focus of the blog should be foremost in your mind before selecting the blogs you’ll approach.
- Quality - It’s subjective to be sure, but invest some time into reading recent posts, top posts and the most relevant posts. Are you satisfied with the quality of the content? Would you be in good company
- Performance - How does the blog perform? Examine its traffic ranking with Alexa. Take heed of the social share counters. Are readers sharing the content?
- Promotion - Look at the social media accounts of the blog. Does the publisher consistently promote posts by its guest bloggers?
- Interaction - Not all blogs feature comment streams and many that do fail to get comments. If interacting with readers is important to you take a look at this.
- Author bios - Some blogs give contributors ample opportunity to present themselves with author bios while others don’t. For the purpose of recognition, you probably prefer to have author bios that feature your photo, links to your website, content, and social profile, and a link to your other posts on the site.
Here are some tips for finding blogs in your niche that are receptive to guest bloggers:
Start by searching for blogs which promote the fact that they want new contributors.
Do a search for keywords that represent your niche, and the phrases publishers use to recruit bloggers, such as:
- write for us
- guest post guidelines
- guest bloggers wanted
- contributor guidelines
If I were to “sniff out” opportunities to publish guest posts as a dog training expert, I’d start with the search above, which worked like a charm.
Another search tactic you may find helpful is to simply search for “list of guest blogging sites.” Again, adding “+[niche]” is useful.
You’re bound to come across writers who make frequent guest blogging appearances in your industry. Connect with them. You might ask established guest bloggers for recommendations and/or referrals. They probably have relationships with the editors on your short list.
A variety of guest blogging networks exist and can be found via search. You can also join groups or other communities dedicated to guest blogging.
You’ll find tips and potential publishing outlets recommended by fellow bloggers on the popular Q&A site Quora.
Do you attend conferences? Meeting industry leaders and building relationships with them at industry conferences has helped me win opportunities to write for many top-notch blogs in the online marketing world. Do some research in advance looking for authors and speakers with reputable blogs and seek them out at conferences.
Get ready to get the guest blogging gig
You know where you want to get published, now it’s time to land the gig.
But wait - while sending a great pitch to the editor will clearly be key to your success, before you do so, set yourself up to succeed by:
- Following the leaders - You need to get a sense for what works on the blogs you’re targeting. Read many of the posts and pay special attention to the hits.
- Understanding the ground rules - Multi-author blogs often publish writing and style guidelines. Read them. If you can’t find guidelines, take it upon yourself to get a good feel for the publication.
- Using social media - Get on the editor’s radar first by sharing posts you found valuable on the site you hope to get published on. Go beyond just clicking the share button - say something thoughtful.
- Connecting - Try to connect with the editor and some of the blog’s most successful writers, Follow and interact with them. Work your way into their cyberspaces.
- Joining the conversation - If the blog features comments, join the conversation there with interesting feedback, questions, suggestions, and perhaps even rebuttals.
Pitch like a winner
If the publication you’re targeting has an application process in place for new writer inquiries, obviously you’ll want to abide by it. If they don’t, you’ll need to be more resourceful. Chances are, your pitch will be delivered via email.
At this point, your email is everything. Here are my tips for making it work:
- Trash the templates - Write a genuinely personal email, making it clear that you recognize the editor’s needs.
- Get to the point - Managing editors are busy. Don’t bore them with your resume or life story.
- Make it clear you read the blog - It’s easy for an editor to tell if you’re trying to bluff your way in with false claims of affection. Don’t write to editors unless you can demonstrate you value their blog.
- Get over yourself - I get self-serving pitches from guest bloggers all the time containing mentions of “what’s in for me” (WIIFM). I delete them. Tell the editor what they’ll gain by publishing your post - make it clear you understand how your contribution furthers their cause, not yours.
- Highlight your headlines - Editors think in terms of headlines. Will they resonate? Do they have pulling power? Offer your ideas in the form of headlines. If you’re pitching just one idea, lay it out in an ultra-tight synopsis that’s just one or two sentences.
- Prove you can write - Mention where your work has been published, and link to the best guest posts you’ve written. If you’re a first time guest blogger link to the best posts on your blog (if you don’t have great posts on your blog, you’re not ready to guest blog).
- Show some search savvy - If you believe you’ve identified a search term for your prospective guest post that may rank high on search, explain as much. It’ll be music to the editor’s ears.
- Be a team player - if you believe publishing your guest post comes with benefits, say so. If you have a substantial following on social media or a solid email list, tell the editor you’ll further their cause by promoting your guest post.
Deliver like a pro
You got the gig - uncork a bottle and celebrate. It’s an exciting breakthrough in the life of a blogger.
But you don’t want to just pitch like a pro; you want to deliver like one too.
- Write an amazing article - Write something original and outstanding. Make it your best work. You want a steady stream of “yesses” in all your future guest blogging endeavors.
- Be a great guest - Do all you can to comply with the site’s standards. Structure the post correctly, triple check for errors and iInclude everything the editor requires: links, images, sources, your author bio and photo.
Become more than a guest blogger
You delivered - a win/win/win result for readers, the publisher and you too. Now what?
Unless you were merely fishing for links (lame), you’ll want to be invited back. So be an asset to your new partner in publishing.
- Promote your post - Promote the post in your own eNewsletter, share your post on social media immediately and often, and notify people who you think might like and share it.
- Tune in - Check back often for comments. Respond fast and thoughtfully.
- Follow up - Follow up with the editor. Ask for feedback, find out how your post performed, build a relationship.
Hopefully, if you’re struggling with guest blogging or getting started, you picked-up some useful tips to accelerate your content marketing success. These are the lessons I've learned in my own blogging journey, and they've helped me establish solid networks of consistent opportunities.
A version of this post was first published on the Relevance blog.