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Within the context of Google’s constantly changing algorithm updates, it’s critical to keep finding new ways to build links, develop good content, and show authority. A solid guest posting strategy is a great way to achieve all of these goals and market your products, services, and ideas to new audiences.
But before you dive into the fast growing world of guest posting, step back and evaluate your goals. With a clear plan in place, you’ll accomplish your objectives and have more hits than misses along the way. Here’s my 7 step, no fail formula to help you find and place high value guest posts.
Step 1: Connect your guest posting to your content strategy
Good content has three functions: it helps you rank for specific keywords in search engines, engages readers to convince them of your expertise, and motivates your readers to take action. Guest posts do the same thing. In addition to building valuable links to your website, it gets your message out in front of new potential clients, helps you strengthen social signals through content sharing on social media, solidifies relationships with other thought leaders in your space, and establishes your personal brand.
A well-executed guest posting initiative is part of a broader content strategy that takes into account onsite and offsite content goals. What are your content strategy goals? Specific things to consider include:
- What keywords are you trying to rank for?
- Who are you trying to reach with your message?
- What niche or industry are you working to build your brand in?
- What products, services, ideas or causes do you want to put front and center?
- What calls to action are most valuable to your business’ bottom line? Is your goal to make sales, to develop your email list, or something else?
With these goals in mind, you can begin to create an outline of the topics, sites, and overall focus of your guest posts. Once you’ve sketched out this preliminary roadmap, it’s time to move to the second step: identifying the best places to focus your efforts.
2. Find guest posting opportunities – including those your competition is missing
Four strategies are worth employing when you’re finding places to pitch guest posts. The first is to get to know the big players in your field. It’s important that you know who the best thinkers are, what blogs your colleagues are reading, and what subjects are causing discussion and debate. Read these regularly and engage in meaningful ways through smart and timely comments. This not only raises your profile, but it will build your pattern recognition for the best quality content in your field.
Another strategy is to look for opportunities by searching for your keywords and specific modifiers. So for example if you wanted to contribute posts about gardening, you could search for the word “gardening” and any of the following:
- Write for us
- Guest posts
- Become a contributor
- Become a guest blogger
- Add a post
- Submission guidelines
- Freelance writers
Your search results will turn up a list of sites that are likely looking for regular contributors or that are open to being pitched for the occasional guest post. If you’re tech-savvy, read my write-up on how to use a little-known software tool to semi-automate this process for you: “How to Find Guest Blogging Opportunities.”
Another way to find guest post opportunities is to use one of the many free or paid services that have popped up. These services either allow you to find and pitch bloggers looking for content, or provide bloggers who need writers the chance to share opportunities online. There are a number of players in this space, but MyBlogGuest, BlogDash, PostJoint, Guestr, and BloggerLinkUp are great places to start.
The final thought I’ll share on this topic: if there’s a site that you love and would be perfect for your content, don’t be dissuaded if they don’t advertise a need for guest posters. Consider pitching them anyway, following all the best practices outlined below. While it’s not guaranteed that they’ll accept your material, a link from these sites can be extremely valuable.
3. Evaluating which sites to pitch
Before Google’s Penguin update, we paid less attention to the quality of the links that we built. After the penalties from that update, marketers and webmasters in general became more savvy. This is at the root of the current flurry of guest posting. But a good guest posting strategy will apply the same filters to choosing great sites to post on.
First and foremost, it’s important to establish that the site you’re targeting is relevant to your niche. Do they cover topics that relate to your blog and readership? Are they an established authority in their space? Beyond that, determining the quality of a site is part art and part science.
The science of finding a good site: It’s possible to look at specific metrics to get an objective feel for how a site ranks. A good minimum set of criteria for sites to guest post on would be:
- A domain authority of 20 (check a site’s domain authority for free using SEOMoz’s MozBar)
- A Google page rank of at least 2: the higher the better for page rank
- An Alexa rating of less than 5 million, to indicate that the site receives actual traffic
Other statistics that are worth looking at include their newsletter or RSS subscriber counts; account followers on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter; rankings for core keywords in your niche; and the number of inbound links to the site. A simple tool like SEOQuake can help you quickly evaluate most of these items, while MySEOTool is the best way to check rankings alongside other metrics such as monthly search volume.
Another method of evaluating a blog is to find out how influential the person is behind the blog. Get to know their background and look at some places that they’ve published. A number of tools can be helpful in this process including GroupHigh, Rapportive, and PlusClout.
The art of finding a good site: Beyond the numbers, there are more subjective criteria that are worth paying attention to. Is the design of the site professional or appropriate to its industry? What’s the quality of the other authors and content? Do posts sit in dead space once they’re live or are people actively engaging and leaving comments? If you’re looking at a site you’d read and that you’d be proud to be associated with, that’s a good sign that you should move to the next step.
4. Establish your credibility strategically
The next step in your guest posting strategy is to think about your strengths as a potential writer. You should invest the time to do this before you begin pitching. What do you bring to the table? Do you have previous clips that show the quality of your writing? If not, consider posting on sites like Social Media Today, Business2Community, and FamousBloggers which accept guest bloggers who submit high quality content.
How big is your audience? A sizeable readership of your blog or newsletter or an active following on social media sites is a valuable asset. Do you have unique insights or experience that would help you stand out to a blog’s audience? For example, if you’re a tattooist with a Ph.D in classical art, your perspective is likely to be different from a tattoo blog’s standard writers. A unique spin or point of view can be a major selling point to publishers working hard to find ways to differentiate their content.
Consider developing a list of the benefits and value you can create for someone else. This has two advantages: you’ll craft a stronger pitch and it’ll help give you the confidence to get out there. If there’s something that you feel could be strengthened in your story, you’re also more likely to take the steps to address that issue such as gathering clips or working on improving your social presence.
5. Make a pitch that helps you stand out from the crowd
In traditional publishing, most editors that you talk to cite one thing as their number one pet peeve: writers sending in submissions without ever having read the magazine. One of my favorites was an interview with the managing editor of Caribbean magazine. She apparently routinely receives pitches for Hawaii and other islands… that are nowhere near the Caribbean.
To make a great pitch, there are several steps you can take:
- Read the blog. Take the time to get to know them and focus on developing an understanding of who their target audience is, the tone and topics of the pieces that they feature, and what topics they’ve covered recently.
- Find a way to be engaged. Sign up for the site’s newsletter, and leave thoughtful comments on choice posts. Interact with the site through social media. Don’t become a stalker, but do show that you’re part of the community.
- Read and follow all guidelines. Seriously. Many A-list bloggers that get interviewed on this subject often say that less than half the submissions that they receive follow the guidelines. If the blogger asks for a query, provide that. If they want a draft of the whole post, send it their way.
- In your opening paragraph, show your familiarity with the blog. This can be as simple a referencing a recent story and sharing that you’re a long-time reader. The goal isn’t empty flattery, but it’s important to make that connection. Similarly, if you’ve ever met, attended a talk they’ve given at a conference, or have friends in common, now’s a great time to share that info.
- Immediately get to the point of your pitch. Depending on what the guidelines ask for, go for a killer title, a short snappy description that clear communicates the unique insights or valuable how-to’s of the piece, and at least one sentence on why this is right for that blog’s audience.
- Finally, communicate your value. Previous blog posts? Include links to 2 or 3 of your best. If you’ve got an impressive bio or a big social following, communicate all the highlights in as short a paragraph as possible. Ideally, this should be no more than 3 sentences.
- Once you’ve drafted the pitch, be ruthless in your editing. The shorter your pitch, the more likely it’ll be read. Your max length should be three paragraphs (intro/establishing familiarity, the pitch, and your qualifications).
Send the pitch in and then be prepared to wait. It’s important that you don’t become that annoying person who is following up daily. Instead, be patient, keep engaging with their blog, and if you don’t hear anything in one to two weeks then send a polite follow up.
6. Write epic content
Once your pitch has been accepted, it’s important to execute. Everyone tells you to write epic content: but I’m going to tell you again. I’ve spent ten-plus hours on a single guest blog post. It’s up to you how much you invest, but here are five things to keep in mind when you’re writing your posts:
- Spend the time to generate a great headline. If the headline doesn’t capture their attention, they’re unlikely to read on.
- Have a point of view and a clear thesis/focus for your work. This will give a thread for readers to follow throughout the piece, and help your post stand out from the reblogging that’s clogging up so much of the blogosphere. Readers should walk away knowing how you feel about something, even if it’s something as simple as “guest blogging is a great way to get links to your site.”
- Don’t just share your opinion. Back up your opinion with data. Spend the time to find things that will help your post stand out:
- Interesting research studies
- Videos from YouTube or Vimeo
- Have your post professionally copyedited. If that’s not an option and your partner, friend, or colleague is a good editor, have one or two people read through it with suggestions and to correct grammar and spelling at a minimum. Format the post according to the bloggers wishes.
- Craft a great “about the author.” Don’t let your about the author sound like a boring bio from a Fortune 500. Write something that shows people who you are and that highlights your best work. Emphasize your brand name to get the most out of your author bio backlinks.
7. Promote your content like crazy
The last step of writing a great guest post is simple. Once the post has been accepted and is live, use this as an opportunity to get additional exposure for yourself and to create even more value for the blogger you’re working with.
Follow and engage with any comments on the posts for a couple days. This will further build goodwill for you with the blog’s community.
Share the posts on your own social media channels, your site, and promote it within your community. If your post mentions anyone specifically or links to another site, let them know as well. They might promote it.
If other posts on your blog relate to the topic of your guest post, consider updating them with a link to the post.
To take it to the next level, focus on sites like Quora where relevant questions are being asked. Offer an answer, and refer them to the guest post for additional information. Another strategy is to use Derek Halpern’s strategy of reaching out to influencers that would be interested in the topic and using a byte of data to get them interested. If your post helps them think about an issue in a new way, they’re likely to share your post and more.
Guest posting is a great way to build links to your site and to get your work in front of new people. The benefits for building your brand online and with potential customers is limited only by how creative you are in developing, pitching, and placing your posts. This strategy should give you a good foundation to get started. What methods are you using for guest posting that are getting great results? Let me know in the comments below.