Most people familiar with guest blogging understand its importance as a tactic within a holistic link-building strategy for SEO. Yet few do as much guest blogging as they’d like. There are many reasons for this, but none more important than the fact that “content is king,” and most link seekers know less about what “quality content” actually looks like than they realize.
This is understandable. For one thing, if you are a typical link seeker attempting to earn links through guest blogging, you are probably more of an entrepreneur than you are a blogger. You’ve got many talents, but stringing together beautiful prose isn’t one of them. So your natural inclination is to write something resembling an advertorial about your business. The problem? Blogs don’t want to post advertorials because no one wants to read them!
The further we go down the guest blogging rabbit hole, the more glaring this issue becomes. If you’re aspiring to get better at guest blogging, start by heeding the following warnings which have become standard procedure on the “write for us” pages of many blogs.
- at least 500 words in your post
- offer unique insights
- no self-promotional pieces
- no self-serving links in the body of the article
- no more than two links to your site in the author byline (aka author attribution)
Feel like you’ve been following these guidelines with little success? Then chances are you aren’t giving host blogs what they really want. Here’s how to be a guest blogging superstar.
Get to Know Your Target Host Blogs
If you want to be successful at guest blogging, you’ve got to think about the host blog first, your needs second. Get to know them. Don’t just read their last couple of posts. Dig into their archives to see how they treat topics over time (and to know what they’ve covered). Get a feel for their style. Are they news-y, how-to oriented, opinionated or feel-good? Check out the guest posts they’ve published. What made them good? How does the blog fit into it’s niche? How do the bloggers interact with readers in the comments section, on Twitter and Facebook? What else can you learn about them in the About Us section?
Failing to understand the blog before you approach it is like showing up at a party where no one knows you, you weren’t invited and you stick out like a sore thumb. Don’t be that guy. It’s no way to make friends. Instead, think about a great topic that would fit well into that blog, whether you could write it or not.
Mine Their FAQs
Potential hosts for your guest content give you a short-cut to understanding how they serve their own audience: FAQs. They are called “Frequently Asked Questions” for a reason! Can you contribute an insight, or provide an interesting take on some information contained in the questions (and answers) they’ve decided to outline for their readers? You might not have anything new or groundbreaking to say, but a little story that makes a strong point can go a long way to providing their own content more flavor and credibility. Taking your cues from the topics the site deems important greatly improves your chances of “fitting in” to their other high value content.
Get to Know Their Readers
Blogs work hard to build a following, and those followers stick around for a reason. What is it? What do they really want to read? What you want to write is beside the point, if you can’t offer blogs something their readers would benefit from. Your articles should impart useful insights that leave readers more intelligent for having read them.
Whether the readers are experienced and highly technical, or beginners looking for basic information creates very different content requirements. The same is true of professional readers vs. casual interest readers. You have to know what motivates them to keep coming back, before you can develop content ideas you know they’ll like. What are these readers eager to read next, whether you could write it or not?
Research the Comments and Social Shares
Obviously, you don’t want to offer a topic that’s already been done. You need to treat the topic differently than it has been done before. That being said, popular blog posts, as evidenced by the comment stream and social shares (tweets, Facebook likes, etc.) tell you want struck a nerve. High reader engagement is lightening in a bottle to a blog host, and they want to do it again. Do you have an idea for a topic that can do it? Remember: you don’t have to write it.
Build Your Topics From Reader Interests
Now that you have a good handle on how a blog serves its readers, and what those readers really want to see, you’ve got to figure out a way to generate topic ideas that the blog would be likely to post, while also relating the articles to your business somehow. After all, this is about relevancy, if you want to pass the most link juice possible. The trick here is to be subtle. Let me give you an example.
A client of ours is in the self-storage business. Their SEO representatives came to us with a link building campaign. The task was to complete 30 guest posts on relevant, authoritative blogs. During the kick-off call, the SEO rep specified that the articles can be written on a variety of topics, as long as they tie into self-storage.
Obviously, self-storage is not a particularly deep or interesting topic about which to blog. However, guest blogs were needed, so he suggested articles about things people store, like skis in the summer, pool equipment in the winter or fine wine that you won’t drink for years. Do you see the issue here? The topics just aren’t very interesting. Storage, as a concept, does not lend itself to discussion. It’s not really a central issue to anything, unless you’re talking nuclear waste. So how can we create interesting articles that people really want to read, but that are also relevant to storage?
Rather than try to find ways to make our central topic interesting, we changed our focus to interesting topics that could have a good reason to mention our topic.
The beautiful thing is, there are countless reasons why people move. People relocate for family reasons, job opportunities, loved ones, school, extended international travel, and the list goes on. These are the really interesting ideas from which relevant topics spewed forth– not articles about storage. Simply having a good reason to mention storage in the context of the article is enough to show the search engines you aren’t out gaining links on any old site– they are relevant to the page.
As a marketer, you want to think about the activities in which your potential clients are engaged when they purchase a product or service like yours. The people most likely to spend money on self-storage are people looking to move or relocate. Before they make their final decision, they’re also likely to use the web to find tips about which neighborhoods to consider, which moving company to hire and so on.
To get the most from guest blogging, our self-storage client is becoming a prolific tipster on all things related to moving and relocation, from down-sizing a home, to spending a year abroad. Those are the kinds of things potential clients might want to read, but more importantly, they are topics that bloggers want to post, because they are interesting and draw a lot more readers than just ones who are moving across town.
Crowd Source Your Content
You need not be an expert wordsmith to be a highly effective guest blogger. You don’t even need to be an expert on the issues you identify. Do you think our client writes all those articles? No! We have every single one written by someone who can turn out informative content on the topic. It’s pretty easy to source good writing for less money than you think, so long as you’re a good editor. Perhaps you noticed the not-so-subtle hints earlier in the article.
What’s more, if you put three writers on the job, you’re certain to get at least one great article from their combined pieces. Sometimes, you get three good articles!
Don’t be convinced that you can’t outsource good writing. Just because lots of terrible work comes out of foreign countries for bottom dollar, doesn’t mean you can’t find good work for reasonable rates right here in the U.S. oDesk, Craigslist, and personal networking can turn up more good help than you need– as long as you can sort through the less-than-ideal candidates.
When you ignore the limits of what you could write well and enlist some help, suddenly you can guest blog about anything under the sun! Like we said, however, you (or someone on your team) has to be a good editor to ensure the topic and tone is on target for the blog(s) you chose. If not, there’s always a fix…
If You Miss the Target, Move the Target
Sometimes, in this process of reader-centric topic development, you end up drifting away from the specific blogs where you initially intended to post. That’s OK! While it’s best to find blogs and audiences to whom you custom-tailor your articles, the process usually yields great work that will have value in lots of good places. So rather than killing yourself to get on THAT blog, run with your best ideas, and if they don’t suit the blogs you thought they would, I guarantee that there are other blogs out there, ready and willing to give you some good link juice for the effort you spent creating an interesting topic.
Recycle That Precious Content
So you managed to get a great article on a highly authoritative site. Good job! Now don’t go wasting all that work you did getting to know the blogs, their readers, and creating excellent content, only to scrap it all and start again. Every good article can be written again as an original piece, with a new title, for another blog, framed in a way that suits their readers. Every good article contains interesting subtopics that you could explore in future pieces. And of course, every good article can be used to start the discussion with another blog host who likes what you’ve got, and suggests the perfect topic for his or her own blog. Imagine that! Blog owners asking for articles. It happens to us all the time.