My job involves a lot of link building, and in particular I spend a lot of my time doing outreach, networking with bloggers, and writing guest posts. There’s a simple reason for this:
When done right, guest posting is a powerful way to build an audience
Unfortunately, guest posting has gotten itself something of a bad name because everyone jumped on the bandwagon when they heard about all of those juicy links that are available.
The result is that guest posting lost its identity a bit and there are a lot of people out there doing it really badly and filling the internet with exactly the same non-content as the directories and article submission sites of the past.
What follows is a simple guide to building a scalable guest posting process without ruining the internet for everyone else. Oh and to make it more fun I have worded them all to sound like commandments!
1. Thou Shalt Not Covet Only Links
Before you go into guest posting, your mind needs to be pure. If you only seek to get shallow links for the sake of better rankings then you are doomed to failure. Sometimes it’s not your actions but your mindset that matters the most.
Sure, a good guest post gets you a nice link, but it also:
- Gets you on first name basis with important bloggers in your niche
- Gets your message in front of your potential customers
- Makes you look like you know what you’re talking about
- Brings in some additional traffic
- Gets your name and your brand “out there”
If you only care about links these points might seem a little thin as far as benefits go, but if you truly seek these benefits it will show through in every part of your outreach.
One guest post I wrote a while back got noticed by one of the editors of the Shopify blog and they invited me to write for them too… Would that have happened if I just wrote that first post to get a quick link? (The correct answer is “probably not”)
2. Thou Shalt Target Relevant Blogs
You know this already don’t you? Ok, but have you ever gone a little off topic when you really wanted a link or two?
Well I own a few blogs and I am often shocked by just how far off topic some link builders are willing to go, so I’m sure this message needs restating a little bit. The most common problem isn’t offering content that is relevant to the blog that you are approaching; it’s offering content that is not relevant to your niche to blogs that are not relevant to your niche.
Before I start any outreach campaign the first question I ask myself is:
“What sorts of blogs are my target audience likely to read?”
Example – what not to do:
If you want to promote your travel blog, you might think a clever idea is to write about business travel tips for a business blog, but how many of that business blog’s readers are likely to be into travel blogs?
This is an example of a sort-of relevant post that would get your message in front of the wrong bunch of readers. They might enjoy your post, but wouldn’t you rather get your message in front of people who read travel blogs rather than business blogs?
3. Treat Bloggers As You Would Be Treated
If you have ever owned a blog you probably know what it’s like to be sent a blanket email. If not, I’m sure you know what it’s like to receive spam.
Bloggers are people too! And they deserve to be treated as such…
When doing your outreach you do of course want to reach out to plenty of bloggers, but that’s no excuse for not taking the time to get to know your prospective bloggers first.
Before emailing them, read their blog and get a feel for the voice they use and the topics they like to cover, and come up with some ideas tailored for them.
A really great idea is to:
Offer to write a follow-up to a post that they have recently published
Some people say that you should make contact and form a relationship before bringing up guest posting. Personally, I think that it is ok to email bloggers and ask for a guest post upfront, mainly because I don’t mind when people do that to me – but only if the approach is thoughtful and personal.
Although leaving a couple of comments on their blog is a nice touch and will often be appreciated.
To Do List:
- Create a Gravatar account and use a photo of YOU
- Read at least a couple of posts before contacting them
- Use a blogger’s name when making contact
Finally, bloggers are busy, so if they say “No” respect that, thank them for taking the time to respond and move on.
If they don’t respond right away, it’s ok to follow-up, but don’t pester. Personally I think that if you don’t get a response after two emails you should take a hint, but always be polite because you never know what might happen.
4. Thou Shalt Not Write Drivel
The worst thing you can do to a blogger who has been kind enough to grant you the opportunity to write for them is to send them something that is not up to scratch. In fact, I think it’s pretty offensive.
So whenever a blogger gives you the go ahead, make sure that you put in the effort to write a really worthy post.
If you don’t think it’s worth your time to put in 2, 3 or 4 hours if needed then you must have skipped the first commandment, so go try again…
I genuinely believe that guest posting can be mutually beneficial for you and the blogger. BUT it is only beneficial to the blogger if they get some great content out of it. If you send them a post that they could have knocked out in an hour, why should they give you all of those benefits that we talked about earlier?
Remember that the blogger is an expert in his/her niche, so it’s not difficult to come up with good content. To make it worthwhile your content needs to be exceptional.
5. Thou Shalt Put In Some Effort
Oh and whilst we’re at it, show a bit of effort by making your post look good!
Ok, you might spend hours researching and writing a comprehensive blog post, but blogging is about presentation too.
You need to take the time to:
- Go and find some nice images to illustrate the post
- Or better yet, take some photos of your own
- Add plenty of headings and sub-headings
- Use other formatting to break up the content
- Read the blog to see how the blogger likes to format
- Re-read it, make sure it’s scannable
- Re-re-read it, make sure it’s all spelt correctly
6. Thou Shalt Not Link Spam
Of course, all of the above is for nothing if you break this one commandment!
The reason the creators of the internet created links in the first place was to:
HELP USERS TO NAVIGATE
Links should be helpful, not there purely to advertise your website and flash a couple of keywords to Google (besides, you know about co-citation right?)
Ok, so you want to link back to your site, that’s fine, but try to make your link helpful. Don’t just link a random couple of keywords, actually write your link text in a way that users know where it will lead and why they should follow it.
7. Thou Really Shouldn’t Link Spam
Further to number 6, links need to go somewhere helpful too. If someone clicks your link because they enjoyed your post about cooking does that really mean that they want to be sold a saucepan?
No – it probably means that they want to read more about cooking…
Try to link to pages on your site that are relevant – even if they are not the commercial ones. Let users decide whether they want to visit your shop, but give them more content if they desire it.
This is a really good reason to start your own blog!
Also remember that even if not every visitor goes on to your shop, you are getting more eyeballs on your own blog. Assuming you have put in the effort on your own content this is a great way to get more links, more shares, and more love.
8. Thou Shalt Keep In Touch
Remember number 3? Well how would you like it if you published someone’s post and then never heard from them again?
Guest posting is all about people and keeping in touch is the right thing to do. Aside from that though, it makes sense to build relationships and maintain them.
There is a common mentality that you should only guest post once on each domain, because after that you get diminishing returns for your links right?
Wait a minute, what was commandment 1 again?
Being a repeat guest poster is a big honor because it means that the blogger trusts your writing enough to invite you back. And that’s exactly the message you want to send out into the internet.
9. Thou Shalt Be Organized
Ok, I said something about being scalable, didn’t I? So I guess I should mention the process. Most people will selectively ignore some or all of the commandments because if we’re honest, it does slow down the process a bit doesn’t it?
To do this consistently you need to be organized, so here are some tips:
- Keep a spreadsheet of every blog that you contact
- Have a column that says “contacted”, “writing” etc…
- Record the date that you last contacted them
- Record when you submit posts
- Follow up when necessary (but be patient!)
- When a post gets published, archive it
- Add that blog to your “will write for again” list
- Keep a list of blogs that don’t want guest posts
- Be careful not to pester blogs on your “don’t want” list
It’s not actually that hard, but the really important thing is that you record everything so that you avoid breaking the third commandment by either repeatedly contacting the same blogs or by submitting the same content to more than one place (that’s a big no!)
10. Thou Shalt Reciprocate
Finally, remember that it’s not all about taking; you should be prepared to give something back. How can you expect bloggers to let you guest post for them if you are not prepared to accept guest posts on your own blog?
Ok, so I don’t suppose Rand Fishkin is about to ask me to guest post on my blog, but you can reciprocate by paying it forward and giving other bloggers a chance to post on your blog.
Of course you should absolutely expect those bloggers to obey these 10 commandments too!
We’re All Done!
Right, that’s me finished. I don’t think this is a completely comprehensive list of what you should and shouldn’t do, but I do think that if every guest poster tried to live by these commandments the internet would be a friendlier place.
What do you think you could do better when guest posting?
No one’s perfect (I break number 8 more often than I’d like)
But that’s no reason not to try to be!