Are you guest blogging? Perhaps you don't know how to get started. Or maybe you saw some of the scuttlebutt about guest blogging last year and decided it was a no-no.
Make no mistake. The benefits of guest blogging are immense. It will boost your business.
Despite the highly misunderstood announcement from Google's Matt Cutts in 2014, guest blogging remains an ace tactic of effective content marketers in nearly every niche.
The great ones are committed to guest blogging. Ann Smarty, in a guest post on Social Media Examiner (where I guest blog as well), points out how guest posting is a weapon in the arsenal of Phil Libin (CEO, Evernote) and Marc Benioff (CEO, Salesforce).
Marketing leaders including Ann Handley, Jay Baer, Joe Pulizzi, and Ekaterina Walter, are avid guest bloggers. Online marketing superman Neil Patel, who probably examines and shares effective strategies more vehemently than anyone on the planet, offers:
If you're in the market for targeted traffic and powerful backlinks, guest posting should be at the forefront of your mind. And while Google has publicly warned against mass, low-quality guest posting, there's no doubt that it'll remain a link building bedrock for years to come. (Source: Quicksprout's Advanced Guide to Linkbuilding)
Guest blogging may be the reason you discovered me
Guest blogging has been my top marketing strategy for years. Shortly after I began blogging, I set out to find a larger audience by getting published on established websites.
My articles have appeared on more than 20 highly visible websites including Copyblogger, HubSpot, Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, Convince and Convert, The Next Web and many more.
Some of the benefits of guest blogging I've enjoyed include:
- Massive exposure to audiences I've chosen.
- 2-3X increases in year-over-year referral traffic to my website (and email subscribers).
- Many paid offers to write blog posts and other content. (I'm currently a paid scribe at six websites and ghostwriter at several more.)
- Heaps of invitations to do interviews and webinars, which boost visibility and perceived expertise (I hope).
- Invitations to speak at conferences.
- Mentions of, quotes from, and links to my works in round-ups, best-of lists, eBooks and infographics.
- New friendships and opportunities to collaborate with leaders in my field.
- Lots of new clients. (It's rare when a new client doesn't discover me via guest posts or social media, which is often tied to my articles.)
Universal benefits of guest blogging
Though you just gathered some benefits of guest blogging, which in some cases, are specific to a professional writer, here's a list of compelling reasons to guest blog for any type of business.
- Build authority in your niche.
- Expand your reach and fan base.
- Generate quality, targeted traffic to your website.
- Increase your ranking in search engines.
- Capitalize on valuable network opportunities.
The web's healthy appetite for guest blogging
Great news for brands: it's an understatement to say today's mediascape is ripe for guest blogging. Publishers are hungry for guest posts. I'll cite research presented by Influence & Co. in its report, The State of Contributed Content. Based on a survey of more than 150 editors, the research states:
- 86% of editors are planning to increase the amount of contributed content on their sites.
- 92% prefer contributed content from industry experts and leaders (vs. journalists), so you need not be an experienced blogger.
- Flying in the face of conventional wisdom, one-off contributions are encouraged (so you need not commit to becoming a regular).
- Editors prefer unique insider advice, which is non-promotional and professionally edited.
Finding opportunities for getting published
Your foray into guest blogging is going to take research. You'll make a number of decisions. To make good ones-as is the case with all things marketing-knowing the audience comes first.
Before selecting blogs to approach with your offer to contribute content, you need to identify the audience you seek. You'll likely have some specific blogs in mind because you're a reader and fan. But with some additional digging, your target list will probably expand.
Of course, the subject matter-the editorial focus of the blog-should be foremost in your mind. You want to communicate with potential buyers and influencers.
You should also consider how the blog performs. You may not eliminate a blog strictly because of the size of its audience. You might just have a strong hunch about an up-and-comer. That's fine. Still, understand what you can about the blog and consider the following:
- Traffic-You can quickly learn where the blog/website stands relative to others by checking its Alexa ranking. The number reported there indicates the number of sites, globally, that generate higher traffic. So a ranking of 1,000 indicates only 999 sites get higher traffic.
- Social shares-Take note of the social share counters. Are readers sharing the strongest posts? Which networks are favored? You might also want to look at the social media accounts of the blog and see how actively the host promote the posts.
- Comments-If it's important to you to engage with readers via blog comment streams, be sure the blog actually allows for commentary and see if readers respond.
- Quality-You'll make subjective calls here, but take the time to read recent posts. Is the quality consistently high? Will you fit in?
- Author bios-The bylines you want generally include an author bio, which should allow you to include links to your blog and social media profiles. Be sure to look for these. Most blogs catalog posts on index pages for guest bloggers, which is a helpful bonus.
Identifying the right blogs
Here are some suggestions for finding blogs in your niche that are receptive to guest bloggers.
Search-An excellent tactic is to conduct searches that include two elements: (1) keywords representing your niche and (2) phrases often published on websites actively seeking guest bloggers. Guest blogger extraordinaire Kristi Hines suggests trying keyword such as:
- guest post by
- guest author
- guest post guidelines
- guest blogging guidelines
- guest author guidelines
- guest posting guidelines
- guest bloggerd wanted
- guest writer wanted
- contributor guidelines
- writers wanted
- bloggers wanted
Another phrase worth searching, because it's often published, is "write for us" or "write for this blog."
In addition to using this approach via search engines, try the same searches on Twitter.
Networking-Do you often come across writers making frequent guest blogging appearances in your industry? If so, add their names to your searches. Try to encourage them to learn your name by commenting on their guest blog posts, sharing their content, and connecting via social media. When the opportunity arises, you might seek out these 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. You can find networks like this such as Guestr, MyGuestBlog, and many more via search. Also, you can join LinkedIn Groups dedicated to guest blogging.
In Kristi's detailed eBook, The Guest Blogging Survival Guide, she also suggests blogging job boards and offers a massive list of sites that offer paid writing gigs for guest bloggers.
Finally, industry conferences represent wonderful opportunities to uncover guest blog gigs. Of course, the time and money you'll invest can be substantial, but the rewards can be too. Do some research in advance looking for speakers with reputable blogs and seek them out at conferences. Building relationships this way has helped me win opportunities to write for many top-notch blogs in the online marketing world.
Getting the guest blogging gig
How will you increase your chances of getting the gig? We'll look at some smart ways to approach the decision. What will you write? We'll look at that too.
Set yourself up to succeed
Over time, as an established guest blogger, editors will seek you out. But this how-to article isn't for established guest bloggers, so it'll work the other way around. You're going to have to sell yourself and your ideas. I recommend you:
- Share-Share the posts you value-with more than just a click. Do some thoughtful curation.
- Speak up-Before you contact an editor, it's wise to show the blog some love by making small, but meaningful contributions in the form of comments. Don't pour on the praise for the sake of good will. Add something to the conversion. Ask questions. Reference helpful content. Challenge ideas, if you're up for being bold.
- Know the blog-Surf the turf. Read as many posts as you can paying special attention to the hits. You need to get a good sense for what works on the blogs you're targeting.
- Learn the rules-Rules may be too strong a word. It's guidelines you're after. Many multi-author blogs publish them. Read them, of course. If you can't find guidelines, it's on you to surmise them. Keep reading until you're confident you're able to describe the style and define the editorial content published there.
- Connect-After figuring out who manages the blog and the blog's most successful writers, connect with them. Follow them. Interact with them. It'll be far easier to make headway if you're not a stranger.
Make a strong pitch
Some blogs are going to have regimented processes for new writer inquiries and some won't. You'll need to play by their rules if they have them and be more resourceful if they don't. Chances are, your proposition will come by way of email. To nail that email you should:
- Write a personalized email-This is no time for a template. Write a sincere, personalized email making it clear you recognize who the editor is and what his or her needs are.
- Respect their time-Managing editors are busy and always dealing with deadlines. Don't bore them with your resume. Get to the point fast.
- Reflect your appreciation for their blog-I told you about familiarizing yourself with the blog. Write something that makes it clear you're a reader. Don't overdue this.
- Sell smart-Now that I'm an established blogger, I receive boring, self-serving pitches from guest bloggers all the time. Don't be that guy or gal. Tell the editor why they'll gain by publishing your post, not what they'll gain by publishing you.
- Be on topic-At this point you must know what works for the publisher. Make it clear you understand and how your contribution fits in and furthers their cause. Explain the topic you'll write about or better yet, the topics.
- Whet their appetite-You can rock your headlines, right? 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. Don't send the post; just offer it. A very brief outline is another viable option.
- Be flexible-While I recommend you pitch your ideas with conviction, it's smart to mention you could entertain variations of the idea or different ideas.
- Offer your portfolio-Don't assume you're a known commodity. If you've made headway as a guest blogger, invite the editor to read your best work. If you haven't, invite them to read your blog, especially the most relevant post or two. If you're not publishing great stuff on your blog, you're not ready to guest blog. Perhaps I should have mentioned that earlier.
- Blow their minds-If you feel you know of a topic they haven't hit yet, but should, say so-gently. I've even gone as far as doing keyword research on their behalf. Proceed with caution here, but play that card if you can. And definitely, DO NOT speak of your SEO wishes. I get that now and then from would-be guest bloggers. It's annoying.
- Be a team player-Be careful not to write checks you can't cash, but if you believe publishing your guest post comes with benefits, say as much. 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.
Don't just be a guest blogger, be a guest star
The editor responded in the affirmative. You got a "yes?" Or you may have got a "maybe" in the form of something like "We'll consider publishing your piece if it's a good fit for our blog." What do you do?
Make it a perfect fit. Write a post so great the publisher would be nuts to decline. Aim to accomplish all of the following:
- Write the best post of your career-Never submit your second best work. Revisit your best work and do everything in your power to surpass it. Brainstorm, research, outline and write something entirely original. Then edit. Then edit again. Read it aloud. Ask yourself if it's the very best you can do.
- Make it publication ready-Follow the blog's guidelines and/or do all you can to comply with its standards. Ensure your submission is error-free. Structure the post correctly with headlines, subtitles, lists, etc. Include everything the editor will require: links, images (unless asked not to), image sources, your author bio and photo.
- Offer some additional ideas-Many editors like headline options. Provide a shortlist of contenders, but indicate which is your favorite. To show you're putting their interests first, you might offer keywords suggestions (and justify then), potential additional images, and internal links. You might even offer "Click to Tweet" ideas.
Everything came together. Your post is published. If you're new to guest blogging, this is an exciting day. You'll probably want to be invited back and definitely want to land more guest blogging opportunities, so be an asset to the publisher.
- Promote your post-Share your post on social media immediately and often. Notify some of your peers who you think might share it too. Mention the post in your enewsletter (with a link, of course).
- Participate in the commentary-Don't make the editor chase you down to respond to comments. Keep tabs on your post and respond quickly to the readers' comments and questions.
- Follow up with editors-Remember your guest blogging pursuits are meant to be beneficial to you and the sites you contribute to. Follow up with your editors. Ask for feedback. Find out how your post performed. Try to build a relationship.
Help yourself too
Though you don't want to be a self-serving showboat, you do want to realize the benefits of guest blogging you sought to begin with.
- Write a great bio-Your author bio will need to be short and humble, but it's among the rewards of guest blogging. Use your bio to promote your strengths, include links to social media profiles, and of course, a link to your blog.
- Include backlinks-Careful here. Your guest post can't be a thinly disguised heap of backlinks, but if your content alludes to powerful ideas and resources that support your story, include a few.
- Offer even more resources-Does your article contain topics for which you've created eBooks, webinars or other deep resources? If so, mention them. If you've recently published something meaty, you may be able to include a link to the resource or its landing page in your author bio.
- Showcase your guest blogging-You've earned the right to make your guest blogging accomplishments known. Create some form of an "as seen on" collection for your site, even if it starts small. Featuring the logos of recognized publishers on your site reflects well on your subject matter expertise.
I like how frequent guest blogger Greg Digneo explains how to "use guest blogging as social proof" (no. 18 on his list of 25 guest blogging lessons).
- Create a guest blog portfolio-Be sure your readers can find your guest posts. Kristi Hines recommends creating a "latest posts" portfolio page with the WP RSS Aggregator plugin. I currently handle this with List.ly, which automatically catalogues all the sites I write for as a list of links.
- Analyze results-Make a habit of checking your analytics to determine if (and to what extent) your guest posts are driving traffic to your site. Over time, this data is likely to help you decide which guest blogging endeavors are valuable to your business.
I think it's time to go
I wanted to be thorough, helpful, and inspiring. Turns out, this is one of the longest posts I've ever penned. So I now want to write an extremely concise conclusion.
Try guest blogging. If I can help you further, I will. For starters, I recommend scrolling back to the top of this post and get going.