Guest posting is becoming a very popular link building tactic. So much so that I think using an opening sentence along the lines of “guest posting is becoming a very popular link building tactic” is becoming pretty popular in SEO and link building articles. You see a lot of these types of articles talking about how to effectively place guest posts and how best to scale the process, which is great. We’ve placed a lot of guest posts, and through that process we’ve made several mistakes and stumbled into a variety of “worst practices” we now avoid. In this post I wanted to share some of the things we’ve done wrong in the past and some common missteps I see folks new to guest posting make.
1. Trying to Fit Square Content into a Round Prospect
Any link builder worth their salt looks at effective tactics like guest blogging and starts to think about how to achieve scale. Because there are a lot of moving pieces to having a guest post placed (you need to find the right blog to have your post placed on, you need to understand the right content to create for them, you need to create the content, and you need to place the post – meaning you have to reach out, deliver the content, follow up on the placement going live, make any corrections the Webmaster requests, etc.) it’s tempting to try to create a process that’s most convenient for you, the frequent guest poster. One thing that would be helpful would be if you could create a big batch of content then have those posts go up – it would free you up to create a clean process and avoid multiple rounds of edits, but we’ve found it generally doesn’t work.
You need to have resources to edit posts, and you need to be able to pivot to topics you didn’t initially have in mind if you want to have a manageable success rate and if you want to be able to get posts up on a wide variety of different blogs. For this reason rather than just cranking out content and trying to force it onto the wrong blog, we’ve seen a lot of success in:
- Pulling together guest post prospects
- Reaching out with a few custom post ideas
- Getting a post written to order
This also creates economic efficiencies in that you’re only creating posts for folks who have explicitly asked for something on that topic (which is still probably less bullet proof than you might think, but definitely improves your success rate by multiples).
2. Leaving Insufficient Time to Post
One of the challenges with taking on anything new is making projections. Since guest posting is such a synergistic activity (you contribute content for the target site and they return the favor with a link back) I think a lot of those new to guest posting are surprised by how many people:
- Don’t respond to your request even though they’re asking for guest posts
- Have strict guidelines that rule them out as a fit that are not listed anywhere on their site
- Reject your content even though they signed off on it and it’s what they asked for
For this reason you need to leave time to do initial outreach, have content created, and in many cases wait until a post is placed (bloggers often won’t be able to schedule your post for days, weeks, or even months). When you get started, you don’t have a great grasp on these factors so you’ll want to leave something like four to six weeks to get a post placed. From there we track the date we “ordered” a post and the day it was placed to have a strong handle on the average time to post so that we can set expectations (particularly important when you’re providing guest posts as a service for clients, of course).
3. Not Gathering Enough Prospects
This stems from a similar underestimation of how difficult it can be to get someone to take a free piece of content. Not unlike not leaving yourself enough time to post, you also want to make sure you’re leaving yourself enough link prospect volume per the posts you want to have placed (start out with something like five or ten prospects for every post you need to have placed, and here again track your success rate so you can plan for future orders).
Of course generating big lists of prospects can be helped greatly by leveraging software such as BuzzStream’s link prospecting tools, Ontolo’s toolset, or the rapidly growing collection of link building tools at Citation Labs.
4. Not Keeping Good Outreach Records
As with anything you want to operate at scale, organization is critical. We use BuzzStream because it’s a living database and allows for various users, permissions, filtering, etc. but if you’re using other tools like Raven or even Excel it’s important to have a process for flagging:
- And Wins
Sounds simple but if you’re having a large volume of posts placed for multiple properties understanding what you’ve had posted for whom where becomes critical fast. Similarly, knowing who not to bug and where not to place your efforts is equally important.
5. Not Setting Clear Objectives & Expectations
Tracking progress and coming up with average success rates and turn-around times is important because it allows you to project and plan efficiently. You also need to understand your objectives. Are you guest posting for links, traffic, thought leadership? Very few blogs deliver all three, so if you’re looking to get a large volume of posts placed you’ll want to understand where you’re willing to trade off and where you’re not. I’m not going to tell you what to focus on because it depends on your personal goals – despite what a lot of SEO posts will tell you, there are actually numerous paths to driving qualified, profitable traffic to a Website (some involve citations designed purely for direct traffic and thought leadership, some involve links you’re building – gasp – just for the sake improving rankings, and most are some combination of the two). It’s up to you where your focus lies, but you need to understand for yourself and need to articulate to clients exactly what you’re looking to accomplish and how much of your focus is aimed at what objectives.