Last year, there was some initial controversy when Matt Cutts stated guest posting is spammy and no longer a good practice. He later clarified, saying he was referring to shady practices that won’t work with Google algorithms designed to prevent crap from landing at the top.
Trust me, outreach marketing is still valuable. In fact, if you do it right, you can drive lots of traffic to your site, build your reputation as an expert, and attract new potential clients with your impressive writing skills.
You’re also adding value to the host site. Their goal is to offer quality content to attract, inform, and entertain readers. When you offer an engaging and informational post, it’s a win/win.
Networking is your single most important tool in outreach marketing. Some of my writing connections go back twenty years. They have helped me, and in turn, I have helped them.
When you start from an active friendship built over time or a referral from an influential friend, getting something published is often a matter of asking, “Hey, I’d like to post on your site.” It does take time to develop relationships, but it’s something every writer/marketer should be doing, no matter where you are in your career.
No friends in the business yet? Hashtag chats on Twitter are your best friend. Get out there and be clever and consistent. Pick a few lively chats centered on your industry and join every week. Invite other chatters to connect on Linkedin.
Finding an Opportunity
If you’re just starting out with no valuable relationships and no posts already online to use as examples, placing a post can be difficult but many sites invite guest bloggers and some even pay for guest posts from experienced writers. You get your name out there and get a paycheck. Sweet!
You can also conduct a targeted search. Check Quicksprout’s Advanced Guide to Link Building for dozens of search ideas.
Before you make a pitch, do your homework. Some sites will tell you exactly what they want. Others offer more generic submission guidelines.
To gain insight, read at least half a dozen recent posts. You’re looking for tone, subject matter, length, formatting, graphics…everything that will help you put together the perfect pitch. If the website looks like the right fit, follow the submission guidelines and send an irresistible offer.
Start from the top. Your subject line should spell out the purpose of the email. “Guest Post on [sitename]” is fine. Whatever you do, don’t try to be cute and use a marketing ploy like “You’ll never believe this…” That’s guaranteed to get your email trashed.
After the subject line, the first line of your email is extremely important. If it’s badly crafted, unprofessional, or spammy, your email may go straight to the trash without being seen.
My approach is straightforward and personal:
Hi [editor name], I’m Sherry Gray and I’ve been a professional blogger for seven years. I’m a big fan of your blog and I’d like the opportunity to publish on [sitename].
My expertise is in small business advice with a focus on content marketing, and your blog looks like a great fit. I’d like to write one of the following topics:
1. Awesome Title
2. Another Awesome Title
3. A Third Awesome Title
Here’s some of my recent work:
Paste links to 3 or 4 recent blog posts.
If you don’t have any blog posts to show, substitute “I have attached a sample of my writing.” and attach a short sample of 300-400 words related to the subject you’re pitching.
Next, explain what you bring to the table. Most people struggle with selling themselves. It may feel a little egotistical to toot your own horn, but what you’re really doing is listing your knowledge of specific skills the editor is looking for. Throw caution to the wind and be bold. What you’re really telling them is you will honor their commitment to quality.
If given this opportunity, I’ll deliver perfect copy in impeccable grammar, on time and in any format you prefer. I am experienced with WordPress and HTML (you should learn basic HTML).
To really impress them, show them your SEO knowledge.
Use a tools like Buzzsumo to do keyword research on their site (or a major competitor’s) to explain how your topics would fill the gaps – subjects absent on their site that their competitors’ customers respond to.
Close with a thank you and a CTA:
Thank you so much for your time. Please let me know what you think.
Quick and clean, with no wasted time. Here’s who I am, what I do, what my skills are, what I can do for you, and links to recent work. No false modesty, no sucking up, and no sales pitch.
Some say no or don’t respond. Make a note of their response (or lack of) in a spreadsheet and move on. There are eleventy-billion possible websites where you can post. It’s a numbers game.
As you build your writing portfolio online and people see the kind of quality you offer, you’ll find it easier to get published.
Writing The Post
When you’ve been accepted and you’re writing the post, understand that invitation does not mean you’re home free. Your post may be rejected if it’s not interesting, plagiarized, poorly written, too similar to another post on the blog, or not turned in on time.
- Never use a single source and rewrite something that’s been done before. Not if you want to grow your career. Pull from multiple authoritative sources…and credit them in your work. Put together disparate ideas to form a new angle.
- Be authentic, write in your own style, and above all, be original. It’s fine to gather information from influential bloggers, just put things together in a way that hasn’t been done a million times.
- Stick to the guidelines for length provided by the blog editor. A little over or under is usually ok, but if it’s too short or too long, your chances of rejection go up.
- You may be asked to edit. Be prepared to respond quickly and don’t get huffy about it. Editors know their audience, and their suggestions are usually dead-on.
- Before submitting your post, make darn sure there are no spelling or grammar errors, because they might not be corrected. It’s not their job, it’s yours.
- The title might be the most important thing on the page, so don’t screw it up. If your title is dull, no one will read it. Make your title kick ass.
- Even if you’re writing for free to get a byline, make it your best work. Everything with your name on it needs to SHINE.
- Avoid spam links like the plague. Link only to authoritative sources and legitimate blogs filled with useful information. Bad links hurt the hosting website and damage your reputation. If your only goal is to place links to low-quality sites, get out of the business. Those days are over.
- Do link to at least one other post on the same blog. It boosts the SEO and encourages more page views on the host blog.
- Include a meta description that’s short, snappy, and to the point. The meta description should be about 156 characters (two short sentences) and tell readers what to expect in the post. It’s the description that shows up with the post title on the search page. Make it enticing, it will encourage more people to read your post.
Graphics are crucial elements to blog posts. Choose interesting concept images relevant to the theme of your post. Either pay for the image, use an image with a creative commons license or create your own. Or use a combination – a creative commons image background with a text overly. Image creation tools like Pablo by Buffer or Canva make it easy enough for a novice to create unique graphics using stock backgrounds like this:
You’ll need to provide a link to the source of your graphics. I keep a folder with marketing and writing related graphics along with a source list in a text file.
Wait! You’re not done. Once your post is live –and it could take months- you’ll need to publicize it. Pump it out to your network, ask your friends to share, and answer any comments posted. If you get negative comments or someone who challenges your ideas, be polite and acknowledge that their comment might have merit. When someone shares, say thank you. A simple thank you leads to more followers and more shares.
The more you publish, the easier it will be to get published. Editors will be better able to evaluate your work and gauge whether you are a good fit for their site.
What tips do you have for outreach marketing success?