Guest Posting: The Definitive Guide to Get Started
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Guest blogging is a great marketing tool, but the irony is that marketers were those very people destroying this tool before 2014.
On January 20 of that year, Matt Cutts declared the death of guest blogging for SEO because filthy marketers turned this respectable tactic into the infernal machine for poor link building.
Oh, those sweet memories…
I’ve rushed into guest blogging in 2013 to find myself in the hot seat: spammy content, keyworded anchors, random outreach, irrelevant SEO titles, and thin rewriting represented every second guest post looked back then.
Those unlucky bloggers – I was among them, to be honest – had no issues with plagiarizing ideas and writings from others to generate tons of mediocre articles for backlinks.
To be sure, not everything was rotten in the state of Denmark.
It’s absolutely true that you should build your online business on “land” that you actually own and control. Broadly speaking, this means that you should be sharing high quality, valuable content with readers on your own website. You have complete control over how that content is presented, and you are not at the mercy of fickle algorithms that are completely outside of your control.
At the same time, having the absolute best content on “land” that no one ever visits isn’t going to do you any good either. It’s like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it. It doesn’t matter whether or not it makes a sound, because no one will hear it and no one will care.
Surely, you don’t want your online business to suffer the same fate. To that end it means you need to go where your audience is. And that’s where guest blogging — yes, even in 2021 and beyond — is still a very viable and robust strategy.
- Why You Should Be Guest Blogging
- Deciding on Your Objectives
- The SEO Benefits
- Finding Guest Posting Sites
- Approaching Individual Websites
- Write a Killer Guest Blogger Bio
- The Bright and Dark Sides of Guest Blogging
- But They Are Different in 2018
- Key Takeaways
- How to Get Started with Guest Posting
- Ready to Try Guest Posting?
- The role of Guest Posts in Blogging
- Pursue Guest Posts to Expand
Why You Should Be Guest Blogging
Before we can talk about the “how” of guest blogging, we must first answer the question of “why.” There’s a common misconception that guest blogging has become an outdated practice. You might remember several years ago when just about everyone was trying to get their feet wet with guest blogging. It didn’t take long before some individuals started to take advantage of the situation, keyword stuffing their articles and effectively buying high-value backlinks.
Google didn’t like that. Building dofollow backlinks with keyword-rich anchor text via guest blogging is still frowned upon by the world’s largest search engine. This doesn’t mean that guest blogging is dead; it just means that the way you think about it has to be different.
If you’re only setting out to game the system and rack up dofollow backlinks, guest blogging probably isn’t for you. If you’re going to position your guest blog posts as advertisements for your business, that’s not the way to go about it either. Instead, your objectives for guest blogging should be different.
Deciding on Your Objectives
The two biggest reasons why you should be guest blogging are closely related, but not exactly the same.
- Establishing yourself as an authority in your niche or industry
- Driving traffic to your website through direct links
If you’re working within the context of a company, then the first objective is more about establishing your brand as an industry leader. This means demonstrating that you have a real handle on the market and customer needs, and that you have a forward-thinking perspective on how to tackle challenges and problems that customers face. More likely, though, you’re interested in guest blogging from the context of building a personal brand.
You want to be known as the go-to expert in your field and that means getting your name out there in front of the right people. That’s why you want to go to where your audience already is.
Let’s say that you want to establish yourself as a dog training expert, particularly with more difficult breeds. To that end, you’ll want to be seen by people in the dog training community, as well as by dog owners who may be interested in learning more about training techniques and strategies.
And, really, this reputation building is the biggest benefit that you’ll reap from guest blogging. By setting yourself up as the authority in your industry, you open up all sorts of other opportunities, including book deals or speaking engagements.
In this way, the second big objective — driving traffic — is mostly of secondary concern. It’s not necessarily about getting readers to click the link in your guest blogger bio (more on that in a moment). It’s about getting that elusive name recognition.
The SEO Benefits
I know that I said that getting high value backlinks via guest blogging isn’t really the point. And while that’s still certainly true, there are also several SEO benefits that you can still gain from guest blogging. No longer is it about rich anchor text and keyword stuffing, though. It’s more about all the secondary signals that your guest posts send to Google.
A great example of this is exactly what was stated above as a primary objective. Even if the links to your website are nofollow, as they typically should be in a guest blogging situation, Google still sees that as a signal. If you’re looking to establish authority, when Google sees your name/brand and website attached to high quality content on high quality websites, that bodes well for the perceived value of your website too.
Similarly, even if the primary objective isn’t necessarily to garner organic traffic through links to your website, they are there and they do help. More organic traffic, even if they’re through nofollow links, send further data and signals to search engines that what you have to offer is valuable and important. It increases brand visibility and bolsters your online influence. Just remember that you have to offer real value with high quality content in your guest posts.
As with all things in business, the devil is in the details. So, you’ll want to keep track of all this data too. SheerSEO actually has tools in place precisely for guest blogging. What gets measured gets managed, right?
Finding Guest Posting Sites
Unsurprisingly, a quick Google search will yield a number of lists of websites where you can submit a guest blog post. Several websites even have a dedicated page for submitting your guest posts.
Search for “submit guest post” or some variation. You can add in your industry keyword for greater specificity, like “dog trainer guest blog” or “guest post by + dog training” to find websites where other writers may have submitted their guest posts.
After all, if a website has accepted a guest post before, chances are that they’d be open to accepting more.
One resource that you should check out is MyBlogGuest. It’s a “community of guest bloggers” where you can “reach new audiences” and “build your brand.” Blog owners sign up to receive “free exclusive content” and “free targeted traffic.” In other words, blog owners seeking guest posts are connected with guest bloggers. It’s a win-win situation.
Another way to find guest posting opportunities is through analyzing your competitor backlinks. You can do this through tools like the Moz Link Explorer or Ahrefs. Once you see where your competitors have been getting their backlinks, you can see whether you can get backlinks from there too.
You may or may not be surprised that a number of big websites accept guest submissions all the time. These include:
- Huffington Post
- Business Insider
- The Good Men Project
- The Guardian
- …and more.
But, just because they accept guest post submissions doesn’t mean that they’ll publish your submission.
Approaching Individual Websites
It goes without saying that if you want your guest post to be accepted and published, especially on a higher profile website, you’ll need to bring your “A” game with the actual content. Truth be told, the guest posts that you write for other websites almost have to be better than the content you create for your own website! Remember that these guest posts should not be used or framed as advertisements; they should be providing real value to real readers on these real websites.
So, how do you get there? It starts with the art of the pitch. After you’ve decided on which website to approach, you’ll need to craft together an effective pitch. As it’s more of an art than a science, you’ll find that not every process or strategy is going to work every time. That being said, you should keep a few key pointers in mind.
- Never copy and paste a “form letter” email to multiple websites with the same pitch. Custom tailor every pitch to each website individually, including finding the name of the editor in charge of content, clearly demonstrating that you have a real interest.
- Show that you have some knowledge of the website and who their audience is. Point out how your article will be beneficial or useful to this target demographic.
- Pitch the actual idea for your guest post. Keep it short, but make it clear the kind of article you’d like to write. Also indicate that you are open to collaboration or other ideas the site editor may think are more appropriate.
- Offer a couple links to guest posts that you’ve written elsewhere (including on your own blog) so they have an idea of the quality they can expect.
- Let them know who you are. This almost goes without saying, but you’d be surprised how many pitches get little more than just a name. Who are you, really, and what do you bring to the table? What is your own blog about? Why should they consider publishing your submission?
In putting together your idea or pitch for a guest post, remember to custom-tailor the pitch to that exact site. What sort of content performs best or is the most popular there? What have other guest bloggers submitted before? How can you do it better or offer a relevant, but unique or different spin?
And be sure to read the submission guidelines very carefully. Some sites ask you to submit a completed article up front, whereas others may just ask for an idea. Some might ask for a Word doc and others may ask for HTML. How are the posts formatted on the site in terms of headings or paragraph length?
And remember above all else that the guest post shouldn’t be about you, specifically. It’s about the blog’s audience. What value are you delivering and why should they care? If you can include some internal links, that’s even better. This demonstrates to the site owner that you know what they’ve been talking about too.
Write a Killer Guest Blogger Bio
This goes back to the primary objectives you had when you wanted to get into guest blogging in the first place. The goal is to establish authority and to get your name out there, but how do you want readers to find out more about who you are and what you offer? If good backlinks and organic traffic to your website is best, then be sure to include that. If you’re looking to build your social media presence, highlight your most important profile or platform. If you have a specific product to pitch, or you want to encourage signups to your newsletter, include that link.
While you may be tempted to load up your guest blogger bio with multiple links, this is ill-advised. It’s bad business practice, for starters, as it can leave a sour taste in the mouth of the site owner. It’s also ultimately ineffective and will be seen as spammy. Instead, keep to one or two links at most. Keep the focus crystal clear.
Remember to clearly and succinctly state who you are and why they should care who you are. What makes you an expert they should follow? Why do you matter? And then, once the post is finally published, be sure to hang around the comment section (and across social shares) for some organic engagement with real readers too. Forging these kinds of connections are really how you’ll “get your name out there” with guest posts.
The Bright and Dark Sides of Guest Blogging
Thus, Jon Morrow (Smart Blogger, ex-Boost Blog Traffic) relied on guest blogging to build the audience. And you know what? He managed to get 13,000 subscribers even before his blog had been launched! What Jon did was writing guest articles to authoritative websites and sending traffic to his landing page with a blog launch trailer.
Leo Widrich (Buffer) had published 150 guest posts in 9 months. Solely through those articles, BufferApp acquired around 100,000 of their first customers.
And here’s Aaron Orendorff. Guest blogging and a regular contributor to top dogs like Unbounce, Copyblogger, Fast Company, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and many others helped him build the personal brand (IconiContent) and join the team of key influencers in marketing. Find out how he creates the most shared posts:
These guys are heavy-hitters! Their stories are palmar examples of what stellar guest blogging should be. But the ugly truth of life is, we quickly give up on the good when a bad comes.
Did you hear that oldy-moldy verse about translators?
“Many critics, no defenders,
translators have but two regrets:
when we hit, no one remembers,
when we miss, no one forgets.”
Replace “translators” with “guest blogger” – and the meaning remains there still.
So when that squad of audacious marketers and hard sellers came and cracked the bright side of guest blogging, most webmasters went all out on escaping its dark side.
- They suspect guest bloggers of ulterior motives (read: link building) and, therefore, stop accepting guest posts at their websites.
- They adjust the rel=”nofollow” attribute to all outbound links they publish at their blogs.
Sad but true:
Guest bloggers have a quite shaky reputation today.
But They Are Different in 2018
We all remember the case of Danny Iny whose guest blogging strategy allowed him to grow from 0 to 23,000 monthly page views, don’t we? Specifically, he had to write over 80 guest posts of high quality (it matters!) for high-quality (yes, again!) publications to get this result.
As you can see, it depends. I would say that modern guest bloggers write for traffic only when their personal blogs are not that huge to generate it. But even in this case, some choose spending resources on epic content for own blogs in hopes for natural backlinks and brand authority rather than creating it for others in hopes for traffic.
This suggests that modern guest bloggers care about lead generation.
They don’t worry about Google algorithms updates because they know: Google is smart enough to tell the difference between writing for SEO and people. They concentrate on blog posts quality, telling stories to trigger emotions and solve readers’ problems because they understand: value and emotions, not links, are what builds trust and generate leads.
Modern guest bloggers develop a personal brand and build their audience. They contribute content for more people to know them and, therefore, back to them. Networking is one of their primary goals because they realize:
Connections are what determines business success.
And what is the best way to connect with authoritative bloggers? You name it: to write a guest post their audience will love!
Or better yet, write two guest posts for them.
Or even three.
I did it for many: Jeff Bullas, Michael Brenner, Jay Baer… This is my second guest post for Sue (check the first one here), and I hope you love reading it. 🙂
Productive relations are the most valuable thing to get from guest blogging in 2018. Writing for others, you come to the fore and make a lot of friends.
Authority, brand awareness, lead generation, and networking with key influencers are the focus of a modern guest blogger.
Whether they get referral traffic or not, and whether they backlink from guest posts or not, they still profit from exposure and credibility. Guest blogging allows them to build a solid portfolio to prove their awesomeness to prospective customers.
Who cares about backlinks when your work is live on Forbes or The New York Times, after all? Not the worst way to have the better of your impostor syndrome, huh? 😉
Interpersonal relationships, loyal readers waiting for new blog posts from you, recognition, and, after all, an impressive portfolio of publications at top blogs – that’s what modern guest bloggers expect to get when spending their time and resources on writing for external resources.
Blog hosts and contributors understand: guest blogging is an exchange. Always. The former get comprehensive content, the latter – a wider audience, an opportunity to represent their brand, and a chance to show themselves to be skilled writers.
A modern guest blogger focuses on content quality and its value for the audience. This guy or lady generates guest blog posts with the long-game in mind.
It’s your turn now.
Do you guest blog? What are your expectations for this marketing tactic? Or, maybe you don’t hold guest bloggers in high regard? Join the discussion in comments below.
Guest posting is a popular method of promoting your business, and for good reason.
A high-quality post in a popular niche site can boost your credibility, increase your followers, and generate more traffic for your business.
For example, Gregory Ciotti – a content marketing lead at Shopify—used guest posts to generate 36,733 email subscribers.
Bryan Harris published a guest post in Okdork and got 1,782 total visitors within the first two days of publication. His success in guest blogging helped him build a loyal following. So, his recent product launch got $220,750 in invoice sales.
These success stories may inspire you to publish your own series of guest posts. But if you’re still not convinced about guest posting? Here is a list of benefits that you need to know.
1. Guest Posts Can Increase Traffic
Guest posts can attract more visitors to your online store or website.
Publishing actionable advice that’s relevant to your target customers will generate publicity for your business.
Buffer—a social media management software—used a guest blogging strategy to acquire over 100,000 subscribers in a span of 9 months. They published around 150 guest posts and gradually increased their signups as more posts were published.
2. Boost Credibility
Imagine that you’re an entrepreneur and your article got featured in Forbes or Bloomberg Businessweek. We bet that you’d feel a sense of accomplishment or pride for being recognized by a prestigious publication.
In addition, prominent publications have thousands of subscribers. This means more publicity and the potential to grow your network. Executives and businessmen in your industry may discover your business and reach out.
For example, Brian Dean—founder of Backlinko—published more than 200 guest posts in his career. His works have been featured in Entrepreneur and Inc.
Needless to say, his series of posts led him to attract thousands of visitors to his website.
3. More Brand Mentions in Social Media
Guest posts can drive social shares and brand mentions.
Some readers who love your guest posts may share it with their followers, which will undoubtedly lead to more traffic on your website.
If it is shared by a prominent influencer in your niche, then expect to reach more readers. Studies show that influencer marketing can generate 11 times the return on investment, which could be in the form of traffic.
4. Build Links
Many marketers love guest posts because it can boost SEO.
The more links that lead back to your site, the better your page rank. When websites are crawled, those that have more links are perceived as more relevant. Each link that you get from an external website can eventually boost the performance of your web page and lead to higher positions in web results.
However, note that there are two types of links that you can find in guest posts.
- DoFollow link. Links that can pass on link juice and contribute to your site’s page rank.
- NoFollow link. Links that cannot pass on link juice and will have no impact on SEO rankings.
Of course, DoFollows links are more preferred. If you want to get a DoFollow link on external sites, then let the editors know beforehand. This way, you get the guest blogging perks for your SEO.
How to Get Started with Guest Posting
Publishing a guest post doesn’t involve rocket science. Now, how do you launch you create guest blogs that let you reap benefits and grow your business? Here is a three-step process to help you get started.
1. Find Sites to Publish Guest Posts
First, conduct a Google search.
Find sites that accept guest posts in your industry.
For example, if your business is in the marketing industry, then here is a list of sites that accept guest posts:
- The Top 100 Marketing Blogs That Accept Guest Posts
- 40 Marketing Blogs That Accept Guest Posts
- 20 Top Digital Marketing Blogs That Accept Guest Posts
You can also use Alltop.com to find the most popular sites in your niche.
Another alternative is searching on Twitter. Type your “niche” + “guest post” in the search bar. You may find posts from editors that are looking for contributors on their website.
2. Write a Pitch Email to Editors
The next step is to pitch an idea to the editors.
You can share their website’s content on your social media account to get noticed by their marketing team.
Alternatively, you can post insightful feedback of the article in the comments section. Submit a critique or provide additional information that may be useful for the article.
Once you’ve successfully reached out, send a pitch email. Brian Dean—founder of Backlinko has a tried and tested pitch email that you can use for your website.
The email begins with a specific action that the aspiring blogger accomplished on the site. Next, he directly conveys his motives for sending the message.
Since a single pitch may not be enough, the message has 3 specific topics that the editor can choose from.
To prove that he is qualified to finish the article, they provide examples of posts that have been published in the past.
3. Submit a Relevant Guest Post
The final step is to start writing the article.
If you’re having trouble finding a perfect topic, take a look at their most popular articles. What are the topics that their audience loves? Do they like how-to articles or listicles?
Look at the most recent guest posts on the website. This will give you an idea of the types of posts that readers will love.
Once you get a go-signal from the editor, ask if the site has a specific style guide. This usually includes a set of guidelines regarding formatting such as the font, headings, capitalization, punctuation and writing style.
A good tip is to mimic the tone of voice and structure of their articles. Ideally, your submission should look like it fits on their website.
Ready to Try Guest Posting?
Guest posts provide a lot of benefits to your website. You can grow your traffic, audience or network and build backlinks to improve your SEO.
Creating a guest post may seem like an intimidating process. However, you can easily follow this three-step process:
- Find sites to publish guest posts
- Write a pitch email to editors
- Submit a relevant guest post
It may take some time until you get approved for prominent websites like Forbes or Entrepreneur. However, if you start small by reaching out to business blogs in your niche, you’ll be able to consistently publish successful guest posts.
The role of Guest Posts in Blogging
People start blogs as a way to share their expertise on an important topic with a community of like-minded followers.
Many bloggers are surprised how much time it takes to successfully write posts, promote them on social media, and interact with a community of followers.
To spur growth and expand the conversation, the next logical step many bloggers take is to present high-quality content from other experts in the field as guest posts.
It’s About Adding Perspective, Not Saving Time
Although adding guest posts sounds like a timesaver, asking another expert to author a post simply shifts your investment of time. Most bloggers spend about the same amount of time recruiting guest posters, sifting through submissions, and making edits as they once did authoring content.
If you’re wondering why it would be worth the effort, consider that it’s about adding a new perspective, expanding your audience, and offering a better experience for your followers.
Consider It a Marketing Expense
It requires a significant commitment of time and energy to accept and publish guest posts. Depending on your time, passion, and work skills, you need to determine whether the value of expanding ideas and drawing new audiences is worth the investment. It’s possible you could lose the strict control you’ve held over standards, goals, or brand identity.
High-quality guest posts are usually a result of a good networking relationship. Reach out to a few active, engaged followers on your site or seek out industry influencers and ask them to contribute. This will allow you to start slowly and with people who are familiar with your brand and style.
Promote your guest post program as a sale. When you ask someone to write for you, explain how your site’s mission, audience, and SEO potential will benefit the author. Pay the guest poster, whether you offer a backlink, cash, or a thank you gift.
Set Editorial Standards With a Style Guide
Set strict editorial standards before you seek your first guest post submission. Establish a style guide that explains word count, image requirements, sentence length, keywords, and whether the post should be informative or convincing.
Keep the content quality high by rejecting essays that don’t meet your standards, or inform authors up front that you have editorial authority. Most authors will vehemently object to having a heavily edited article published with their byline.
Benefits of Accepting Guest Posts
Once you’ve built an audience of engaged followers who appreciate your perspective and style, you can offer them a new experience. A respected author can offer value and help your audience learn more and engage with another perspective, which can lead to new insights or opinions. In addition, your blog will benefit from increased traffic, fresh content, and a chance to spread your brand.
Be a Guest Author for Other Publications
Consider participating as a guest blogger for another website to experience the process before you build a program. Authoring content for another site will allow you to experience firsthand what it’s like to write under the constraints of a style guide and will open your eyes to the submission process.
Once published, your guest posts on other sites will help you gain status as an expert in your field, and open up your ideas to a new audience.
The more in-depth, well-researched posts you publish on authoritative blogs, the more chances that audience will follow you back to your site. This helps distribute your name and expertise to a new audience and raises your authority as a topic expert, as well as resulting in increased traffic and conversion.
Working with other bloggers will open up business opportunities and provide valuable professional connections with industry influencers.
Pursue Guest Posts to Expand
After you’ve built a robust blog with a unique style and informative discussions, it might be time to allow input from guest authors as a way to add a new perspective to your content. Hosting guest posts is a powerful way to expand your audience, build traffic through backlinks, and offer your community valuable insight from another expert.
It’s critical to create and implement high editorial standards to ensure that guest posts fit the temperament and style to which your readers have become accustomed. Your standards shouldn’t be so imposing that others are forced to mimic your writing, but just strong enough to encourage writers to appeal to the community you’ve painstakingly built.
It’s up to you to ensure that guest posts add beneficial content and don’t dilute your brand. The goal is to broaden your audience and add another perspective, not alienate your base.