This is a guest post by Nick Thacker of Live Hacked.
You’ve heard the hype.
Guest-posting is a great strategy for up-and-coming bloggers to get their name out there, generate interest in their topic, and make waves in their niche. You’ve probably even heard some of the success stories of bloggers who’ve “made it” by writing guest posts.
But the actual process of writing, submitting, and benefiting from guest posts can be a little less obvious. Like most things, there are different tactics you can employ to make the strategy work for you.
Here are 17 things you should do if you want to run a successful guest posting campaign.
Fail to plan, plan to fail. The old adage does remain true here, too. When you start a guest-posting campaign, nothing is as important as planning out what you’re going to do. Figure out goals, objectives, and timeframes as well as you can.
2. Write It Down
Going back to #1, make sure you write down everything you’re planning. Saying to yourself, “I’m going to find a blog and write a post for it,” doesn’t help. I use a spreadsheet to write down every blog I find that I might send a guest post to, the post I might write, and the submission guidelines.
3. Do it in Advance
Lots of larger blogs have publishing calendars that are set weeks or months in advance. Since you’ll need time to write all those posts anyway, get started early. I like to set a kick-off date for a few months down the road. For the smaller blogs that don’t have a long waitlist, you can just ask if they’d wait to post your submission.
4. Use Anchor Text
It doesn’t do nearly as much for your off-site SEO or backlink strategy to keep sending people to your homepage. Instead, set up a few keyword-optimized landing page funnels (directing people to your newsletter signup, of course) that you can link to from your byline instead. Check out what I’m referring to at the bottom of this post.
5. Set Up Your Site for Success
Just like #4, you need to make sure your site is ready to “capture and convert” your new visitors. It’s like how you clean your house before you have guests (if you’re married). You need to make sure everything’s functioning properly, ready to “close the deal” when people stop by.
6. Make Sure You Know the Audience
You don’t need to be a vulture, leaving comments on every post on the site, but you should definitely read through the archives, top posts (most popular), and get a feel for the style and voice. When you write the post, you’ll have a better understanding for how it will be received. Does the blog write in first person a lot (“I, we, me”) or second (“You, they, y’all”)? Copy the tense and POV as closely as you comfortably can.
7. Don’t Post Off-topic
This is obvious for the sites you’ll be targeting, and many times the host site will reject off-topic posts anyway. But don’t forget about your target market. Are you writing guest posts for a site that’s not in your niche? Even though you’ll likely get a traffic boost, they won’t stick around long enough to make an impact.
8. Ask For A Date
If your post gets accepted, politely ask when they believe it should go live. You want to be around to help with the comments and reactions, so you should mark this down in your guest-posting spreadsheet.
9. Plan to Stick Around
Like I mentioned above, you need to plan to be around for when the post goes live. Don’t just write and run. Comments are like the lifeblood of that blog, and you want to honor the host with your time. I consider “sticking around” part of the agreement; heck, I even have a bookmarks folder where I keep my published guest posts. That way, I can click a button and visit all of the posts at once.
10. Don’t Submit the Same Article Twice
At least not at the outset. Give the blog owner at least two or three weeks to get back with you before you send the post somewhere else. And if they send it back because of bad writing, make sure you fix it first!
11. Don’t Just Send One Post Out
The first time I tried guest posting, I sent one post to one site. It was accepted, and I thought I’d “made it.” Here was my name in lights—live, for the world to see, on a very popular blog! I wouldn’t need to work another day in my life! I was very wrong. While it was truly my “15 minutes of fame,” it was only that—my blog faded into oblivion again within a day or two, and it was back to square one. Instead, send out three or four at a time, and keep churning out great content to have on standby.
12. Keep Your Own Blog Up-to-date
Don’t have a great plan in place, sending people to your site, just to find cobwebs and tumbleweeds (unless that’s what your niche is about…). Keep writing awesome content for your own site, and don’t fall behind with your schedule. One of my favorite strategies I employ is “capturing” visitors through targeted anchor text links, keywords, and optimized funnel/conversion pages.
13. Aim for Three Niches
If your site’s about productivity, that’s a broad topic that can pull visitors from almost anywhere. But if your site is about fishing, you might target fishing blogs, outdoorsy-type blogs, and DIY-type blogs. You’re trying to build vertically into a niche, but you also should have a sturdy foundation horizontally. For my site, I focus on living better, productivity, and writing well. These three topics combine to give me a unique yet applicable platform for my visitors. There are also plenty of great blogs already out there talking about these things—perfect starting points for my guest posting strategy.
14. Follow Guidelines
This one should be fairly obvious, but it’s important enough to reiterate here. If you can find guest posting guidelines (try searching on their site for “guest post”), follow them as closely as possible. If not, send a quick pitch to the owner. See below for my own flavor of “cold-calling.”
15. Cold Pitch
If there aren’t any guidelines posted, try:
“Hey [blogger], thanks for everything you do. I’ve been reading your blog for [how long], and I love your site. I was wondering if you accepted guest posts, and if so, I have one that I think would match your audience perfectly, called “[blog post title].” Let me know, and I’ll send it over tonight!”
Remember—bloggers are busy people, but they’re still people. Don’t suck up, but be nice. Be genuine, and don’t pretend like you’ve read every word they’ve ever written—unless you have (creeper). I use almost the same pitch for these “cold” emails, but I do personalize it since I read/receive content differently from site to site.
16. Say Thanks
Not just to the blogger who hosted you, but to their readers. I like to add, “thanks for reading—I’d love for you to reach out via Twitter,” or something to the end of the posts. As a blogger who’s hosted guest posts before, I don’t just prefer a nice, down-to-earth email from a prospective guest blogger—I almost require it. If I get a pitch like, “hey—here’s a post. Let me know if you want to run it,” I’ll probably ignore it.
17. Help in the Promotion Process
Plan a few tweets, and maybe even write a quick blurb/synopsis of the post and publish it on your own site. Include the blogger’s Twitter name on the post, as well as your own. This can help build brand recognition and social proof. From an SEO standpoint, it may not be in your best interest to link back directly to the post—Google loves one-way backlinks—but that’s up to you (and I’m sure there will be discussion about this in the comments!).
Where Do You Start?
Start small, with a few blogs in your direct niche who are about the same size or slightly larger, and work up the chain to the top dogs. As you gain experience and confidence, the ideas and ease with which you get your content in front of happy readers will improve as well!
Guest posting is one of those things that’s difficult to start, but I’ve found that it usually gets easier. Your writing improves, your pitches improve, and your ability to crank out high-level posts with regularity definitely improves over time. When I got started about five years ago, I didn’t have a clue how to start guest posting. I wrote about three articles, sent them off, and waited.
Two of the three were rejected—I was heartbroken.
I relegated my blog to the confines of the long-lost corners of the vast Internet—never to see the light of day again.
But then I got hungry. I wanted more—I wanted to get my content in front of people who could use it; who could help me learn and grow as a writer. I wanted to build a platform, and I wanted to figure this “blogging” thing out.
Don’t Take No for an Answer
And that brings me to my last, most important point: Don’t take “no” for an answer. That doesn’t mean to bug people over and over again until they block your email address, nor does it mean to spam your networks asking for guest post opportunities.
It simply means that if you get “rejected,” it’s more than likely due to a few minor writing issues that can be easily cleared up or your host blog’s calendar is filled to the brim already with guest posts.
Either way—make some small adjustments, send it out into the world again, and get it published! It might be on your own blog, or it might be on a different blog you’ve not yet come across.
Last, But Not Least
Finally, I want you to do one thing. It’s simple, and shouldn’t take you very long. If you’ve read this far, take a second and write out in the comments section the best advice (in one sentence, preferably) you have for a beginning blogger trying to get started submitting guest posts. It can be from this list or your own—let’s get a good value-adding discussion going!
Also, be sure to say hello on Twitter!