Guest posting is one of the popular tactics for driving targeted traffic and building authority. It helps grow your personal brand and if done right can boost your search engine rankings. This post will guide you through the guest posting process. You will learn everything you need to know about creating a strategy that will give you the biggest benefits, identifying sites to post on, and making a successful outreach pitch.
We will also look into what you should do if you consider accepting guest posts on your own blog.
Let’s get started.
Why you should be guest blogging
Some bloggers are skeptical about giving away their content to others. They believe the best use of their time is to create content for their own sites. I agree with them. Working on your own site is the priority. You want your best content to live on your own site as that will give you the biggest benefits in the long run. It will earn you all the traffic, links and authority. You will not need to share it with anyone else like you do when guest posting.
It is still worth doing guest posting, especially in the early days of your site or if you’re trying to reach a new and different audience. Let’s look at the benefits:
- You build your authority and influence
- You get exposure in front of a targeted audience
- You get more traffic
- You get comments and feedback on your work
- You get new followers to your social media profiles
- You get a link from a relevant site that can help you rank better
- You can get even more links if your content gets spread
- You build relationship with other writers
How you should NOT be doing it
Thanks to the benefits of guest posting, there is a growing trend of posts no longer being written by authentic bloggers wanting to promote their sites, but written by outsourced freelancers getting paid to include links to different companies and products within the content.
Google and other search engines react to this trend by giving less value to these links and by making them ineffective for search engine optimization. You don’t want to be put in that box. Make sure not to do these things in order not to be negatively affected in search rankings when guest blogging:
- Don’t do it for the links only
- Don’t scale it to a large numbers of posts
- Don’t post on any site that will accept you
- Don’t automate the whole process
- Don’t use teams of outsourced writers
- Don’t use spammy anchor text on links
In other words keep the quality control standards at a high level. Think carefully when guest posting. Don’t post only to acquire links that may help you rank better. Factors like branding, traffic and influence should matter more than links.
10 step process to identify a site and make a pitch
Now that you are clear on the benefits of guest posting, and on what you should not be doing, let us take the look at how you can identify sites you want to contribute to and how you pitch a guest post:
- Research the site you want to post on. You need to find the right site. Look through the about section and the content. Find out what type of content they post, what topics they cover and what seems to get a lot of social media shares and comments. Think how does this fit with the audience you are trying to reach.
- Look for quality sites only. Sites that have quality content. Sites that are authoritative in their fields. Sites that have regular contributors that publish great articles. Sites that don’t rely on guest posts. Many sites have become content farms for low quality guest posts from companies selling a lot of dubious products. You should stay away from those sites.
- Look for sites with a large audience. Sites that have very active comment areas. Sites that have many social media followers and shares on their posts. After all you do want to spread the word about yourself to a larger audience.
- Does the site accept guest posts? Look in the about or contact section. Sometimes they have a “Write for us” tab on the navigation. Sometimes you will see posts written by different people. You have a higher chance of succeeding if the site already accepts submissions from other authors.
- Build a rapport to make yourself noticed. Don’t just contact the site out of the blue. You are more likely to get your post accepted if the blogger already knows you and has a relationship with you. Become a part of the community. Comment on posts. Reference the site in your own content. Get in touch on Twitter. Tweet their link with your own comment and add @mention. These actions are appreciated and remembered.
- Find your angle. Think of a relevant topic to something you have read on the site. It can be an article that goes in depth and answers some questions from visitors or can be a follow up to something they have already posted about. Have something important, useful, valuable and original to say in your article. No one will feature your article if they do not believe that your article creates value to their audience.
- Make the pitch. You did your research. You built the relationship with the blogger. You have a good idea that you think fits perfectly for the site. Contact the blogger and “sell” your article and the idea of it being featured. Explain why you think your article should be featured, why it is a great fit and how it will help their audience. Keep it brief. Show that you respect their time.
- Pitch email example. This is an email I successfully used when posting on one of the biggest sites in my field. Note how I submitted my post directly within the pitch. You don’t necessary have to do this, but can pitch the idea only and only upon acceptance work on creating the article.
I have written an article which can be used as a continuation of the video tip at http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/11/11/how-to-find-advertisers-for-your-blog/.
When reaching out to potential advertisers, it is very useful to prepare kind of a media kit of your own blog, to be able to easier sell your blog to the advertiser. The full article is below.
Let me know if you are interested in having this article in your blog as a guest blogger article. I can easily amend/add to the article if you needed me to incorporate your earlier tip into it.
- If you don’t hear anything, follow up in about a week. Gently ask them if they had a chance to have a look at your email.
- If the response is negative, there is nothing you can do. Your guest posting road will be full of rejections so be comfortable with them. Don’t take it personal. You tried, you did your best but it was not the right time. In any case, you have nothing to lose by asking, so keep trying with other sites. Gone with The Wind was rejected by 38 publishers AND won a Pulitzer. I’m not saying that you should be blind to the flaws in your own work because rejections do tell you something. If they do have time to give you constructive feedback, take it with both hands and examine it with the cold efficiency you don’t really possess to see what you’re going to absorb into the development of your work. Realise that your writing isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Some bloggers will feature you over and over because they connect with your way of storytelling or dig your content, and others won’t because it doesn’t speak to them.
6 things to do after your pitch gets accepted
Your post pitch has been accepted? That’s great news, congratulations! But what do you do now?
- Deliver on your pitch. If you do get through and get your pitch accepted you have done a great job. Now it is about delivering on your pitch and providing a quality article. Approach the article creation the same way you approach creating great content for your own site. Presentation is key. Make sure that you create a great headline.
- Follow the familiar format and structure. Look at the format they normally post and the structure of posts they use. You will be able to get the feel of how the posts are actually written. Every audience is different; some audience loves personal posts, some like education resources. Use the most appropriate format of the post.
- Make sure your post is unique. All articles submitted as guest posts have to be unique, and written exclusively for the site in question. Never try to reuse and recycle some content that has already been published somewhere else. Bloggers want unique and original content, so does Google. In some cases Google may penalize blogs that post duplicate content.
- Provide quality content. Submit a thrilling piece of content that has great potential in getting spread in social media. Provide value to the audience you are writing for.
- Create an attractive signature with your name and a link back to your site to be placed at the end of your post. Mention what your site is about and state a good reason for visiting it. Keep it brief and be direct. Include a link to one of your relevant and catchy posts that you’d like them to read next. Consider including a link to your Twitter profile or Google+ profile when relevant.
- Include another link in the content itself. Make it a very relevant link. This is good as it could give you more clicks and another strong link your search engine rankings. Many sites won’t accept links within the content but it is worth a try if it helps tell a better story.
4 things to do after your post gets published
So after all this hard work your post has finally been published on another site. You already start seeing the visitor coming in. Here’s what you need to do in order to get the most out of your post:
- Promote the post through your own social media channels in order to raise awareness of you being featured. Tag or @mention the author that featured you where possible.
- Respond to comments. Your post will receive comments and social media shares. Do take some time to respond to each and every comment, so the blogger can see that you are participating in the development of the conversation in his community. This will help drive even more traffic to your site as people will notice you responding to their comment and will be inclined to visit you.
- Welcome the new visitors. Make sure that your site features good content and good presentation to keep the new visitors interested enough to browse around, read some of your other articles and subscribe or follow you in social media. Use a plugin like Referrer Detector to place targeted welcome messages on top of your content to specific visitors.
- Track the data and analyze the performance. Identify how many people found you through the guest post. What did they do on your site. Which of the links within your guest post did they click on the most. Analyzing data will help you make better decisions when submitting future guest posts.
Things you need to know when accepting guest posts
After you start your own site, you create some great content and get an audience, you quickly become a target of SEO companies and their link building outreach campaigns where they are trying to boost their clients search engine rankings by buying links from sites that are doing well.
People start contacting you asking to write guest posts for you. Offers like these are great to get. They are the proof that your site is becoming attractive for others to write for in order to get a link and visitors. So what about featuring posts from other writers on your own site? This is your guide to everything you need to know when accepting guest posts.
Pros and cons of accepting guest authors
Can accepting guest posts bring you as many benefits as writing for other sites? Following are the pros and cons of accepting guest posts.
- Less work to do as you get others to produce content for you
- It helps you keep a regular schedule
- It allows you more time for promotion and other activities
- It helps you take a break
- It gives a different point of view and a fresh perspective to your visitors
- It helps build relationships with other content creators
- You don’t necessary keep the high-quality standard of your own articles
- You might have to spend a lot of time proofreading and spellchecking
- You might be featuring inappropriate links to companies or products you cannot vouch for
- Your visitors might miss your personal touch if you publish guest posts too frequently
If you do it well and manage it carefully (more on this below) the above cons will not affect you, and will make hosting guest posts a good step forward for your site.
What to be aware of when hosting guest writers
There is an alarming trend in guest posting that you should be aware of. When guest posting started becoming a popular way of establishing a site, the posts were almost exclusively written by individual bloggers who created some great content in hope of attracting visitors thanks to the link in the signature of the post. This was a great and effective method of driving awareness and traffic to a site.
The recent trend has seen a growing amount of guest posts no longer written by bloggers wanting to promote their sites. SEO link builders are changing and evolving to stay relevant and continue to get high positions in search results and continue attracting clients. They are getting more towards creating quality content and getting their links through content in a more natural way.
Guest posts are increasingly written by outsourced freelancers who are getting paid to write with the sole intention of including links to companies and products in order to boost their search engine optimization. I have received a large number of guest post submissions linking to a wide range of irrelevant and dubious websites promoting email marketing tools, security software, financial services and such.
What you now get through your contact form is people selling you the idea of giving you some quality content for you to use on your own site. They will tell you they love your site, they will tell you how great their content is, they will tell you how big their social media audience is and how they will promote you on their profiles as long as you publish some free quality content from them. This content can be in the form of text based posts. There’s quiet a lot of bad, “quick win” approaches out there with people wanting to get the benefits by spending the least time and effort.
Usually they pitch these as “unique” articles but most of the time they are poorly written, full of grammatical mistakes and they are saying something by taking some 500 words but without really saying anything special or useful to the reader. More and more of the requests now pitch guest posts, infographics, some even want to create videos for you… all for free but all submitted just in the hope of getting that link from you.
All this content can be described as throwaway content and it is easy and cheap to outsource this kind of content creation to freelancers. It is very shallow content with no thought behind it and no purpose at all other than getting that link back.
They’re only after SEO benefits for themselves and that can end up hurting your site. Google is against this as links are a part of their search results ranking formula. Chances might be small they’ll find you but if they do they would penalize you in their search results. On top of this the SEO link builders pay pretty bad, most pay something like $50 for a full year. It also cheapens your site to sell random and mostly irrelevant links. All in all not worth it if you have serious goals with your project.
8 step quality control checklist
This trend has lowered the quality of content that is being produced for guest posts. It has contributed to a lot of irrelevant and SEO-spamming links within those articles. It has increased the amount of non-targeted and impersonal pitches.
Google and other search engines have reacted to this trend and are making these links less effective for search rankings. This is not good news for freelancers and sites that hire them but most importantly also the sites that accept these types of low quality guest posts should be careful.
So how do you escape getting in trouble with Google if you are accepting guest posts on your site? Here is the 8 step checklist:
- Have a very strict quality control. Ask yourself is this post valuable? Will it teach my audience anything new? Ask the same questions that you ask yourself when creating content that thrills. Don’t publish anything that you cannot answer with a yes.
- Review the author. You want to only feature quality authors. Google their name. Check if this is a reputable author in your industry. How is his or her social media following? What about their main site? Do they write on many other sites with poor quality content?
- Review links and anchor text. Are the links the writer included in the post pointing to reputable and relevant sites? Or do they have very spammy and over optimized anchor text? You don’t want to link to some financial services site that is completely irrelevant to your topic.
- Is the post unique? Search engines don’t like duplicate content. You only want to publish content that has been created uniquely for you. Copy couple of paragraphs from the post and search for it in Google. If Google doesn’t find it, the chances are it is a unique piece of content.
- Link only from the signature. Don’t feature links in the body of the post itself. Make this clear in your guest post guidelines (more on this below). If there are links to unrelated websites or to some dubious companies either remove them or do not accept the post.
- Link only to personal sites. Link only to sites that are personally created and run by the author. Don’t link to anything that is not relevant to the post and not created by the author. Unrelated links may be signs that the author could have been paid to include them.
- Edit and style the post so it fits your format. You still need to do a bit of work to make the post fit your site better. Make the post look great. Think how you can create a better headline. Make a branded image and add it to the post. Add internal links to some of your older content that is relevant to the topic.
- Do not publish too many guest posts. Mix them up in your content calendar with your own posts. It is important not to make them daily occurrences as your readers might miss your personal touch.
Following the advice above will make you say no to majority of pitches you get but it will keep the standard of the content you publish on a high level. This should ensure that Google stays happy with your site even though you do accept occasional guest posts.
5 things to do to get the most out of guest posts
On the other hand if the actual content was of a great value for your audience, if there are no spammy keyword-optimized links in the content, and if they really could push your link to thousands of engaging people it would definitely be worth considering accepting their approaches. In that case it would basically be more of a win-win situation.
Here’s a hoping to us getting more and more quality content through and less and less throwaway content. These are the 5 things you should do to make sure you get the most out of the guest posting opportunities:
- Have a “Write For Us” page with full guidelines on what you are looking for in a guest post. On this page you should also instruct people how to submit a post to you. Include a contact form. Put this page in your navigation menu to give it more prominence.
- Put a call-to-action to submit a guest post on all your posts. You can do this on all the guest posts only if you prefer. Somewhere near the signature of the guest poster perhaps. Having a prominent call-to-action will get more people aware of this opportunity.
- Create contributor accounts on your site for each of your regular guest posters in order to show their name in the post byline. You should still be doing all the editing, styling and publishing, this is just for the purpose of the byline.
- Email the author when the post is published. Include the link to the post and ask the author to share it with his or her audience. This could help get you more visitors.
- Regularly check for broken links. If you have accepted many posts over a longer period of time it is very probable that many of those links are now broken. Run “Broken Link Checker” regularly and make sure to remove those broken links.
All in all do source some guest content once in a while as it can help you run a better site. Do make sure to have high quality control standards and don’t forget to keep creating your own content to supplement the other posts as well. Happy blogging!