Earlier in the week I was struggling for inspiration as to what I could write for Search Engine Journal so posted an update to my Facebook account asking for requests. As I have so few friends (and even fewer who care about SEO) not much came back but the one that stood out asked for tips on how to find and write guest posts. As most of you will know, this is a great way to build up your profile while also building top quality links into your site.
For owners of a single site this is a relatively easy tactic to get to grips with, which I’ll explain in more detail later. The tricky bit for those of us working on the agency side is getting the process to scale. In my opinion successful guest writers are those who can build relationships quickly and in a way that is beneficial to both parties. Remember that you’re not just looking for a link here – you’re effectively offering a free content writing service to the site owner, so what you write and how you write it needs to be absolutely spot on.
Because of all this you need to consider the long game – you’re not just looking for one or two links in one guest post – the aim is to build a long lasting relationship. Think of it as online speed dating that leads to an epic amount of polygamy!
When guest posting the first, and most obvious step, is to actually hunt down the opportunity. There are a few options here, with varying degrees of required effort, and I’ve managed to have successes (and failures) with all of them.
1. Do it Yourself: You can go out and find the prospects yourself. This could be done by searching Google for something like:
KEYWORD “write for us”
KEYWORD “guest post by”
It’s then just a case of getting in touch, making yourself sound amazing by using a few chat up lines, and setting up the guest slot. Make sure to read and adhere to the guest posting instructions, and also personalise your outreach email. Finally, it goes without saying that you need to check the quality of the site – you could end up spending a couple of hours writing a guest post for a site that has less worth than a z-list directory that only links out to cheap vi4gra and imported meds.
2. Hire some Help
Elance and oDesk can do wonders for your outreach productivity – the key is to make sure that you have the process absolutely nailed. Essentially you’ll want to post a job that asks for someone to find a number of sites that accept guest posts in a specific niche, and then to send templated emails to those site owners. This is a very common task so you should easily be able to find someone with a bit of experience.
Average rates here could be as low as $3/hr but make sure you interview the applicants to find who really knows what they’re doing. Also, in your listing include a simple but specific instruction (something like “In your application please list 3 sites that you think would be perfect to guest post on.”). Anyone that ignores this gets the same treatment – no exceptions. You’ll then want to set them up with a gmail account, create some email templates, and set your new employee off on their mission in life – finding you some links. They do the initial outreach but you deal with the replies and actually close the deal.
3. Let them come to you.
This is the one that I class as cheating simply because it’s so easy. You write the post and upload it to a service like My Blog Guest or you sign up for Blogger Linkup and use your networking skills to find the opportunities. As with anything, the quality of the sites will vary wildly but this is probably the most resource effective way of finding a guest posting opportunity. If you write great content you’ll get loads of offers and pick up some great links without even thinking about it!
4. Automate it.
There are loads of tools out there to help with link prospecting – Citation Labs, SEOMoz, Raven Tools and Ontolo are just four examples that I’ve used. Each has their merits but it comes down to whatever works best for you.
Writing Your Post
So you’ve managed to talk yourself into guest posting for the most amazing site that’s related to your niche and have agreed a title. Let’s say we’re writing something about how to best care for Kune Kune Pigs, a topic that you have some knowledge on but need to do some research to make it as good as you possibly can. Again, there are a few options.
1. Don’t be lazy – do some research and get typing!
This is the most difficult option but it does have its benefits. Your skills as an author in your area of expertise are, of course, unparalleled so you know that what you write will be top quality. If, however, you’re not so confident there’s always the option of writing the post and then getting someone else to edit and improve it (again, oDesk has some fantastic writers that would be only too happy to help).
My main takeaway tips here are to write in a style that’s unique to you. Don’t be boring (I know that’s an ironic thing for me to type), make yourself stand out, and go into as much depth as the site you’re writing for lends itself to. 400 – 500 words is the standard so I try to do at least 600, and I always include HTML formatting and at least one or two images. Take them yourself or use Flickr’s Creative Commons section (don’t forget to include a credit).
2. Hire Someone.
So, you can cheat with this but you need to cheat well in order to get away with it. Remember I said earlier that you need to be writing quality content – that’s something that you simply have to stick to if you want to do this long term. The last thing you want is some crappy posts being out there with your name on them – if you do that you may as well go back to the days of posting spun content to article directories.
There are plenty of places to have content writing but one of the cheapest, easiest to manage, and most effective is TextBroker. Once you’ve had your account verified you can create a project, add a request, choose the quality (4 stars works for me), post a description of what you need, and a day or so later your content will be ready and waiting. The important bit here is to edit it. Put your own spin on what’s been written, add in the images, and make it sound like it was you that did the writing.
I would only advise doing this for the lower quality sites that you write for too. I’d never even contemplate using this kind of cheat for the likes of SEJ or the better SEO blogs that I write for. To be honest, you’d probably get away with it as long as you edit the post well enough, but for me it’s just not worth the wrath of those I consider to be industry leaders.
A final note on this if you’re using a content writer is to find someone that knows your niche. Content writers by their very nature will most likely know plenty of site owners that you can get some great links from. Don’t be afraid to be cheeky and ask them to use their network.
The follow through.
Finally, as we’re looking to add to our list of online marriages, you’ll need to make sure that your follow-up is at least as good as the initial chat up line. If you’ve posted to a great site then you’ll get comments. Reply to them. If someone asks a question, give them the answer. If someone initiates a debate, get into a discussion with them. The more you interact the better you’ll look and site owners will definitely notice this.
Secondly, make sure to say thanks to your new friend for allowing you post. This isn’t just an email – you also want to send some traffic their way. Tweet your post, share it on Facebook, vote it up on Reddit, and generally make sure that you’re being a good guest author. Again, this will be noticed and massively increases the chance that you’ll be invited back.
Cheating here is a little bit more difficult as the interaction and expertise needs to come from you. However, if you’re trying to scale this then you’ll want to get someone to help make sure that you stay in top of the replies and questions. Setting up a Google Docs spreadsheet with all of your posts and getting a low cost resource to spend a couple of hours a day checking each one, signing up for email updates, and basically telling you what needs looking at will save you loads of time.
I know I said that this is about cheating and getting away with it but, to be completely honest, that was a bit of a rouse to draw you in! Yes, these tips help make your life easier but I don’t believe that they’re actually a way of cheating as long as you do one thing. Remember that you’re not just posting for a link, you’re posting some fantastic content to the site of a friend so that they’ll get more traffic. In return they’re helping your marketing efforts and raising your profile.