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How to Guest Blog: A Complete Guide to Successful Guest Posting

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Julia McCoy
Julia McCoy VIP CONTRIBUTOR
How to Guest Blog: A Complete Guide to Successful Guest Posting

Guest blogging holds a ton of potential and can be a seriously valuable tool in your content marketing arsenal.

Guest blogs can be a major pathway to online success, fame, and reputation.

By choosing the right platform, you can take your name and business to the next level.

Mark Traphagen said it best in a comment on an Inbound.org thread, where he mentions how his partner Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting built an entire online reputation by writing “authoritative guest posts for highly trusted blogs.” Doing so is what gained Stone Temple its traction and clientele.

The guest blogging benefits are huge, if you do it right. You just have to grab the opportunity.

Let’s take a deeper look at guest blogging and analyze what it takes to be successful at it.

Guest Blogging Is About Quality, Not Quantity

Back in the day, guest posts might have meant slapping your name on a quickly written article and publishing it somewhere on the web.

That led to guest blogging taking a huge reputation hit. In fact, Google’s Matt Cutts basically said that anyone using guest posting as an SEO tactic was doing it wrong. While this was somewhat true, he was focusing in on those that used the mantra of quantity over quality.

Today, guest blogging is all about quality, not just quantity.

You need to write something viral-worthy, inspirational, and show off your knowledge on someone else’s site.

Most sites no longer just accept guest posts from anyone. You have to pitch your idea and pitch yourself. If they aren’t interested in what you have to offer, they’ll exclude you.

And, you can guarantee the bigger sites that offer more exposure won’t come within 10 feet of your blog if it has grammatical errors or looks like some spun article stolen from the web.

Quality is the key to success in guest blogging: otherwise, you’ll fall in the group Cutts was describing.

How to Guest Blog for Brand Success

Guest blogging is extremely powerful.

I’ve utilized guest blogging to help my company gain a large chunk of our organic traffic. We don’t pay for advertisements or pay to get our rankings sponsored. Instead, we provide quality content on our site and through other sites to boost our authority in the industry.

Our 5-year-old company outranks major competitors by 5 percent on average, and we’ve already climbed to more than 4,100 keyword rankings with Google.

We didn’t spend a dime achieving it. (Just time, blood, sweat, and tears.)

On other sites, right now, I average 10 to 12 guest posts per month. I don’t focus on quantity when I guest post. Instead, I focus on well-written posts on high-value websites (e.g., Search Engine Journal, Huffington Post, Content Marketing Institute, SiteProNews, Business.com) that help establish authority.

The entire purpose of doing this is to get exposure for my company.

From just one blog post on SiteProNews, I gained a $5,000 client.

Here’s the crazy part: the sales funnel was mind-blowingly short – just five days after contacting us via our contact form.

life cycle of content

Guest blogging works. There’s no doubt about it.

And it can return 10x, 20x, or 100x on your initial investment.

Now that you see the potential power that you can harness in guest blogging, we need to discuss how to guest blog right.

Finding & Approaching the Right Guest Blog Platforms

Fact: You cannot just churn out a post and send it off to any site.

Instead, you need to know how to amplify your brand and ensure those websites will let you pitch and post in the future.

1. Look for the Most Relevant Guest Blogging Opportunities

While you want to blog and get your name out there, you also want to associate your brand with the right website.

Look for a blog:

  • In a similar niche.
  • With an audience that is likely to be interested in your product/service.
  • Owner or editor who is highly active on social media.
  • That has engaged, long-term readers.
  • With high domain authority.
  • That is considered an industry leader.

You don’t want to be associated with poor quality websites. That won’t do anything to help your brand or SEO.

I also recommend searching to see what industry leaders are doing. For example, you can do a quick Google search for “guest posts by Julia McCoy” to see where I’m posting.

This will show you where influencers in your niche are posting. This will help you know where to aim your guest posting goals for and who to pitch to next.

One final point: bios are essential.

Never, ever approach a site to guest blog – no matter how cool they look – if they don’t have bios published on the author articles.

You want a clear bio, with a headshot, and a link back to your site.

It isn’t worth your time to put your content on a site that doesn’t attribute clearly, and right away.

If the site doesn’t show the author credit clearly on each article, or if the author is just titled “Guest”, run.

2. How to Craft the Perfect Pitch & Where to Send It

Don’t just send a generic email with your title idea. To get noticed (and to get published), you need to craft the perfect pitch.

The first thing you should do is review the website’s content and blogs. Consider the guest posts that they have published in the past to see what they typically accept. Also, review their biggest or most popular articles.

If the content on that site doesn’t align with your ideal online customer, then it’s not the site you should be posting on in the first place.

It’s all about the right platforms here. You want one with a huge audience, sure, but also one that has readers who align with your target demographics.

Think of the Blog as a Person, Not a Website

Yes, you’re trying to post on a website, but you’re also trying to connect with a person.

Instead of looking at a site as a blog or a business boosting opportunity, think of it as a professional you need to connect with on a personal level.

There’s a real person behind that website (sometimes 20 or more real people). You want to establish a professional relationship with one of them so that you can start collaborating, working together, and sending pitches to that company that will be accepted in the future. When they see you as a real person, they are more likely to take your pitch.

For me, it all started with me finding real people to connect with; not a business or a site. This approach is what launched my column on the Huffington Post. I found Ariana Huffington’s direct email, pitched her, and was introduced in 24 hours to her blog editor with a site login!

Make Contact with a Real Editor, Not a Contact Form

As noted in my case study, you need to make a relationship with the right person. While you could fill out endless contact forms, you will not get much traction that way.

Instead, you need to find a human being to reach out to and make the pitch for a guest post. That means a site’s editor or content manager. With some sites, it could be the blog’s owner.

How do you find a real person?

Simple. Social media!

Social media is a powerful tool for finding real people for your guest post. You could follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Just doing a Facebook search might reveal who the editor of “Site X” may be.

Also, Google is your friend here.

Use Google to search for the editor for a particular blog using targeted keywords like “managing blog editor,” “content manager,” and “content editor.” Once you get some names, reach out to them directly.

If Google and social media don’t work, you can also look for a contact link or About Us page to find the editor’s name. Sometimes there is a “contact me” button right on that editor’s page. Even if there isn’t, at least you have a name so that you can go back to social media and see how to reach out to them directly.

Bottom line: skip the contact form at all costs.

Once you know what they typically accept and publish, you can start coming up with ideas and preparing your pitch.

Tips for Pitch Success

  • Know the type of audience. For example, if this is a website for consumers, your blog post will need to be something a consumer would want to read.
  • Know the type of content they accept. It might be list posts, tips, case studies, etc.
  • See who is guest blogging on the website already. Then research their websites.
  • Read the guidelines before sending your pitch. Ignoring the guidelines posted on their site will result in an automatic “delete” of your email.
  • Don’t be generic with your approach. Be relevant, fun, and conversational to the person you’re approaching—be yourself!
  • Tell the company about you, your blog, and your product. Give them some insight, so they know who they are working with.

Writing Winning Guest Blogs

Congrats. You’ve written a pitch, and it has been accepted.

You aren’t off the hook just yet.

Now comes the hard part: writing your guest post.

Here is where you need to shine. You have created an idea and pitched it to the site, but you have to deliver what you’ve promised.

Here are my inside tips for crafting that killer post.

1. Go In-Depth – No More Scratching the Surface

Now is the time to show your authority and be something big. You aren’t going to do that with some general blog post here.

Instead, you need to present your most in-depth, useful content. This is the stuff that is viral-worthy!

You need something that really teaches the guest blog’s audience and digs deep into the topic. You’re the expert being hosted on someone’s site here, so you need to be exceptional and prove your worth.

For example, if you’re writing for Business Insider, you don’t want to be a conversationalist. Instead, you need to tailor your voice (and content) to the average Business Insider reader. We’re talking business professionals.

They want something tech-savvy, statistically driven, and strong. You should sound professional, avoid clichés and slang, and almost come off like a presentation. You can still add in your personality, but you need to respect the education and expectations of the website’s reader.

Now, if you were writing for The Huffington Post, the world is your oyster in creativity. Sure, you can be more conversational, you can add in a few cutesy phrases, but you still have to deliver something in-depth and worthwhile for their readers.

Tips for Getting More Grit into Your Work

  • Look for statistics to back up your claims. Make sure they have a high domain authority, and you’re publishing stats from the source – not someone discussing that source.
  • Don’t assume the reader is a novice. If you’re writing for a more advanced website, their readers already know the gist of the basics. Dig past those and get into the nitty-gritty details they crave.
  • Have an idea, then pick it apart further. There is no such thing as a topic that cannot be picked apart even further. Look what I’m doing here on the subject of guest posting! Did you think this was a simple topic?

2. Focus on List Style Posts

A list post can help make your content easier to digest.

Even for an advanced website, people don’t have time to scour paragraphs of content. When you break up what you’re trying to say into a list format, it just comes out easier.

Any blog can be transformed into a list-style post. Just grab your topic, then think of how you can break it up.

You don’t have to be generic either with “X Tips” or “5 Facts.” There’s plenty of ways to style a list post for success:

  • Creating an angle that stays faithful to the topic.
  • Being unique and taking risks – think out of the box.
  • Add in opportunities to link to more in-depth resources.
  • Explain each list with relatable examples.
  • Number after you’ve generated all your points.
  • Inject category buckets when you have a longer list (like I’ve done here).
  • Keep your numbered lists in logical order.

3. Pick a Headline People Would Search For

You want a headline that will drive traffic to the website you’re guest blogging for. So, you want something that is enticing and fun.

I recommend using the CoSchedule and Advanced Marketing Institute headline analyzers to make sure you’re creating something that strikes on a customer’s emotional and intellectual level.

4. Funnel the Readers to an Outcome, Not a Homepage

When you make a guest post for a website, you are given space in your biography to link. The readers can then click on this link and visit the page.

While you might be tempted to use your homepage, maybe you want email subscribers or you want people to check out your online store. Considering using your link to funnel people to these pages, rather than your homepage.

After all, you’re working on this guest post to get your name, brand, company, or product out there, right?

So, funnel your readers to what you’re trying to attract them to so that you can maximize the return on your time investment.

5. Reply to Comments on Your Blog

Don’t just write a guest blog and then forget about it.

You need to check back periodically. If there are comments on that guest blog, make sure you respond to them.

Be active in the community on that guest site. Interact with people and continue to help them long after they read your post.

By staying active, you are more likely going to increase the conversion rate from your guest post than if you just post and float away.

Conclusion

Now is the time to establish your authority and tap into the major potential of guest blogging.

Take these lessons and best practices and start working on your own guest posting plan for success.

Remember:

  • Choose high authority sites.
  • Always be yourself.
  • Create your brand’s personality through your work.
  • Be sincere when you make your pitch.

By bringing guest blogs something unique and memorable, you just might get yourself invited back to post again in the future and see huge return and revenue from your guest blogging.


Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com

Inset infographic credit Express Writers

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Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, ... [Read full bio]

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