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The 10 Commandments of Great Guest Posting

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?

photo1 The 10 Commandments of Great Guest Posting

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.

 photo2 The 10 Commandments of Great Guest Posting

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?

photo3 The 10 Commandments of Great Guest Posting

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!

josh nicholas small The 10 Commandments of Great Guest Posting

Josh Nicholas

SEO Account Manager at Digivate
Josh Nicholas is a digital marketing expert; he works at Digivate and he is passionate about online marketing, technology and social media. Josh started out building websites in WordPress and made the jump to working for Digivate in 2010. (This post was also co-authored by Adam Green)
josh nicholas small The 10 Commandments of Great Guest Posting
josh nicholas small The 10 Commandments of Great Guest Posting

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15 thoughts on “The 10 Commandments of Great Guest Posting

  1. Good post Josh, enjoyed it and +1 on organization. I’ve been seeing marketing firms, their employees and clients get publicly outed by an angry editor who has been taken for a fool one too many times. Google isn’t the only one slapping spammers around.

  2. I agree with number 8! Keeping in touch after you’ve made a guest post on their blog or site will build a strong relationship with the blog/site owner.
    I also want to add, that always subscribe to your guest post so every time there’s someone who made a comment, you can reply them back. :D

  3. Thanks Devin! I’ve seen agencies get outed by bloggers too and it’s highly amusing! In one instance I even saw the agency blame their discourteous blogger outreach on an intern! However, I have insider information that bulk, impersonal outreach is this agency’s standard modus operandi ;-)

  4. Definitely a good point regarding subscribing to comments Jeric. That’s another thing that can make the blog owner feel a bit “used”…if they offer you the privilege of guest posting and you don’t even bother to respond to people who comment on your post!

  5. That’s a great list of things any guest blogger should do. For me what works best is to connect with bloggers before I email them however I understand that if you have to do a ton of guest posts it would take you too much time! Nevertheless this is not wasted time and it certainly worth it…

  6. Agreed Kostas. A bit of friendly banter on social media or via a blog comment or two will dramatically raise your chances of being offered a guest post opportunity. I would go so far as to say you are wasting your time if you DON’T do this!

  7. Right on Josh;

    Guest blogging is a two way relationship. You give what the readers what they want wherever website you are going to Guestpost. Be sure to do an intensive research because the the success of your blogpost is the success of the website owner.

    Relationship also an important factors who knows you two could have another collaboration in the future or in another blog/website .

    Most of the time to leverage and boost the post , both of us share the article to our social followers like facebook and twitter.

  8. Good points Johnny. The first thing you should consider is how the blogger will benefit from your guest post – it needs to be a two way value exchange.

    As for sharing on social media – that’s a whole nother blog post in itself! Seeding is an art form, and one that I’m still a long way off mastering if I’m honest!

  9. Thanks for sharing such a great topic. I believe that it is really important to follow all the points mentioned by you herein while writing a Guest Post. Afterall it is not only all about link building that most webmasters prefer to do, rather it is sharing great ideas and thoughts that people visiting the blog would love to read. It is only then that they would be interested in knowing more about you. Junk posts do no good and most importantly good blogs do not accept those. Therefore posting some junk posts on blogs that do not count hardly matter at all.

  10. @Monalisa: Exactly. Bloggers couldn’t care less about your SEO! Why should they? Most of them don’t run a blog for the money, but to share ideas and interests they are passionate about. Expecting them to publish crap on their blog for the benefit of your link building strategy is just ridiculous!

  11. Yes Josh i do agree with you in this regards, first of all this is not a game of hurry. One should keep a lot of patience in this strategy and must stick to the guidelines provided by the guest bloggers and then follow accordingly, but email communication can be utilized as the best tool with soft spoken words and convince the webmaster that you will deliver them the right content which is really good for your blog and you have to prove your saying true. Quality content leads to long lasting relationship and if they like your first content and promise to publish it hopes are always high that they will again ask for you to send them the good content and in this way you can get the best guest blog posting for you in such easy ways. Good Share!

  12. Josh I really like your idea and this post is really awesome same like you have different others and I really like your ideas and the way you are doing these all. Guest posts are really as asset but only when you have made it more relevant and users oriented when you write a guest post but so many people do not aware of this post really a good idea to guide the people what to do and how to make a guest post.