7 Lessons Learned from Publishing 300 Guest Posts

guest blogging

Over the last three years, I’ve ramped up the amount of content I create. Not only do I blog three times a week on Quick Sprout and a few times a week on my personal blog, but I also write guest posts all over the web.

In fact, currently I publish slightly more than 100 guest posts a year. As of today, I have officially published my 300th guest post.

My experience writing guest posts taught me a lot. And I can tell you that if you want to generate a positive ROI from guest-posting, you can actually do so as long as you learn from my mistakes.

Thinking about publishing guest post for your blog? Check out these 7 lessons that I have learnt from publishing 300 guest posts.

Here’s what I learned from writing 300 guest posts:

Lesson #1: Go after a broad audience

Your blog already attracts a narrow audience. If it doesn’t, you should reconsider the type of content you are publishing. By going too broad on your blog, you’ll end up gaining visitors, but no conversions.

I learned this the hard way by attracting thousands of visitors to my corporate blog who wouldn’t convert into customers.

But going after too narrow an audience with your guest posts is a terrible idea. Why? There usually aren’t a ton of niche places you can go to guest-post. And if you find a handful of them, they probably won’t have the traffic volume you need.

On the flip side, there are a ton of broadly focused blogs that have a subset of readers who will likely be the right audience for you.

For example, my ideal customer is a savvy marketer. When I guest-post on sites like Entrepreneur Magazine, I know the majority of their readers wouldn’t be interested in what I have to offer. However, because they get millions of visitors a month, even if 0.1% of their readers are the right fit, I’m still capturing the attention of new readers who never knew about my business.

referral traffic

If you look at the image above, you’ll notice I have traffic that’s coming from sites like Entrepreneur Magazine and Inc. Although they aren’t driving thousands of visitors a month, the leads that are coming are qualified.

Entrepreneur Magazine generated 12 conversions, and Inc generated 4. That’s not too shabby when you consider that each conversion is worth well over $1,000.

When you are choosing where to guest-post, focus on larger blogs that have a big audience in a similar field to yours. A percentage of these readers will be qualified and will convert into customers.

Lesson #2: You can guest-post on industry blogs, but don’t do it often

I guest-post on blogs such as Search Engine Journal, Marketing Land, and Search Engine Land. Why? Because it is great for branding.

Their readers should ideally be my readers as well, and a side effect of these guest posts is that their readers will eventually find out about my blog. The readers that are interested will come over to my site, and the ones who are not interested won’t.

What this means is that you should consider posting on these blogs to capture new readers, but don’t do it too frequently. I used to post on some of these blogs multiple times a week, but the ROI wasn’t very high because most of their readers already knew about me.

For example, just look at the image below:

industry traffic

As you can see, Search Engine Journal drove over 300 visitors. Put together, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, and a handful of other industry blogs referred over 600 visitors in total to my site.

Can you guess how many conversions I received out of those 600 visitors?

The answer is zero since those visitors were already familiar with my blog and my services.

The ideal frequency for posting on industry blogs is one to three times a month, assuming you are going after the largest blogs in your space.

Lesson #3: List posts convert the best

When guest-posting, focus on list posts. They drive the most signups and revenue, assuming that you include your company within the list.

While some blogs might not be okay with this, the majority of them will be.

A great example of a list post is this one by Leo Widrich of Buffer. Leo interviewed 10 marketers and asked them what their favorite social media tool was. It wasn’t hard for him to find someone who would mention his own company.

If Leo had created a crappy product, no one would want to mention Buffer, but since his product is good, he didn’t have to pressure anyone to mention his company or ask for any favors. It was also great press for the 10 people he interviewed because they got featured on Social Media Today.

So, what did this do for Buffer? Creating list posts of all the top social media tools and posting them around the web on sites like Social Media Today allows Buffer to drive over 100 signups each day.

That’s not too shabby! Just make sure to place your company at the number two spot. Putting yourself at number one is too aggressive, but placing yourself at number three (or any lower) will decrease your signups by over half.

Lesson #4: Use headlines that people would search for

What should you title your guest post? It should be something that readers would want to click on and read.

But it shouldn’t stop there.

You should take into consideration the way people use search engines. For example, Crazy Egg offers a heatmap analytics tool that helps you boost your conversion rate.

If I wrote a post that contained the headline:

7 Ways to Boost Your Conversion Rate with Heatmap Analytics,

I would actually get people to read the article, but I wouldn’t have a guest post that would generate much Google traffic.

On the other hand, if I titled the post:

How to Convert Website Visitors into Customers,

people would end up reading the post, and it would probably rank high on Google.

Why?

Because when people search, they look up problems. Someone is more likely to search for “how to convert visitors into customers” than for “boost conversion rates” or “heatmap analytics.”

Think about both the reader and the searcher when crafting headlines, especially when guest-posting.

Large sites like Entrepreneur Magazine or Huffington Post have so much domain authority that they will rank for almost everything.

That’s why when you Google phrases like “social media tools for small businesses,” you are bound to run into some of Leo’s guest posts.

Lesson #5: It’s a numbers game

At NeilPatel.com, I am currently generating over 20,000 visitors a month in referral traffic. When I drill into the content pieces that are driving the traffic, I see it’s not just one post—it’s the majority of them!

Out of the 300 guest posts, very few make up the majority of the traffic. But it all adds up, bit by bit.

search engine journal traffic

The screenshot above shows that my traffic from Search Engine Journal comes from 17 guest posts over the past 30 days. It’s pretty spread out, other than the latest guest post, which drove a large portion of that traffic.

Over time, you’ll notice that it all evens out. As you continue to guest-post, you’ll find that your posts that are over a year old still drive traffic on a consistent basis. For this reason, you need to aim for quantity—as well as quality!

That’s how Buffer generates over 100 signups a day through guest posts.

Lesson #6: Keep your content simple

Big blogs are picky about the type of content they accept. Here’s what I’ve learned by guest-posting on sites like Huffington Post:

  • Popular blogs like short content – sites like Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Forbes prefer posts under 1,000 words. When you write longer posts, there is a good chance they will be cut down.
  • Keep your articles simple – writing advanced articles will take you a lot longer than writing simple ones. Additionally, since readers of larger sites are sophisticated, by keeping your content simple, you’ll get more social shares and clicks back to your site.
  • Rinse and reuse – you never want to publish duplicate content on other blogs, but you can reuse article concepts. For example, I’ve written about on-page SEO concepts on a lot of blogs. I’ve even written articles on how to pick the right domain name, which is a topic I covered on Quick Sprout years ago. As long as you aren’t publishing duplicate content and are adding new takes on the topic, you can reuse some of  your previous topic ideas. This should help you write more posts in less time.

Lesson #7: Continually find new places to guest-post

While guest-posting on the same popular blog week after week might do wonders for your brand, you’ll eventually notice a diminishing return. The only way to combat this is to keep looking for new places to post your content.

How do you do this?

You should constantly be reaching out to new blogs, offering to write guest posts. All you have to do is follow the tips in the following Quick Sprout articles:

Conclusion

I’ve published 300 guest posts so far. You probably expect me to continually push forward and publish over 1,000, but there are only so many posts one can publish.

Nonetheless, guest-posting is a great marketing channel that you should consider if you haven’t yet. I’ve been leveraging it for over three years, and it’s done wonders for my personal brand and has helped drive more revenue as well.

Are you going to start leveraging guest-posting?

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Comments

  1. Wow, congrats on the guest posting. That’s very inspirational.

    I’m now just starting to ramp up email outreach campaigns for things like links and guest blogging opportunities. Can’t wait to reach your level of success with it.

    Any tips for reaching out other than this:

    http://www.quicksprout.com/2012/12/07/the-link-builders-guide-to-email-outreach/

  2. Neil, tight post on publishing guest posts!

    I like when you say “You can reuse some of your previous topic ideas.” I prefer to repurposing existing content to guest-posting before creating something new from scratch.

    Neil Q: Are you going to start leveraging guest-posting?
    Steve A: As soon as i launch my blog…;)

    Have a wonderful day!

    • Steve, the question and answer format is always enjoyable haha. I definitely think repurposing and updating old posts is a great way to get out a ton of content.

      • You know Neil, whenever I had questions related to content marketing, I used to browse content by using your name. And most of the times, I landed on your guest posts. I know you’re a guest posting rockstar and you know how leverage it!

  3. William Zimmerman :

    Neil,

    Hope your weekend went well man!

    Awesome stuff again. It is so refreshing hearing that Guest Posting is just like Sales, a numbers game.

    Do you think if you can get everything down to an equation (in business) it will make your career a whole lot more likely to be financially successful?

    All the Best,
    Bill

    • William, My weekend was great. Hope yours went well too.

      I definitely live my life by the numbers. I like to crunch data and formulate strategies for success — if you haven’t already noticed 😉

      Thanks again for the continued support and great insights.

  4. Ayush Sharma :

    Awesome post,

    I think with the correct guest posting, you can create a proper business online. It can provide traffic, HQ link and authority.

    Just do it correctly and it will work wonders.

  5. Thanks Neil, timely post as I’m trying to get more guest articles published.

    Since my goal is to create my best possible content for those other sites, it usually ends up being a long and in-depth how-to manual.

    They take a ton of time but get a good response for readers.

    I’m going to try out your advice to keep it simple and write a couple of shorter articles to measure the difference.

    Dennis

  6. Neil – Can you please do a data driven post on your bounce rate with your old haircut vs. your new look. I think you’d see a big discrepancy.

  7. Guest posting hasn’t been part of my strategy before now, but it’s going on my list of someday tactics. Finding the time to write enough posts for my own blog is tricky enough. Average 2 guest posts per week on other blogs is amazing.

    I’m still waiting for the post about how you’re so productive and are able to produce so much content every week. I’m amazed at your productivity levels.

  8. Awesome lesson learned! A lesson I have learned is that even smaller blogs are worth guest posting on. They may not have HUGE amounts of traffic, but they do have a loyal following. These loyal followers love to engage!

    Great post!

    Chris

  9. I noticed that you have a video with different websites to guest post.

    Can’t wait for the nutrition blog to start. Anxious to see how you hit the ground running on that one. Awesome post as always.

  10. Great advice, I’m just starting out on guest posting. My first guest posts will definitely be list articles. Thanks

  11. Guest posting is indeed a gem. Can I write one for your blog?

    I have one question buddy.

    I sometimes write poems. Now they are only 150,words long.

    How does Google or any other search engine rate my poems?

    Love you to hear you. You are awesome. ????

    • Rohan, I don’t accept guest blog posts anymore. Sorry — it just doesn’t work out well for me in the end.

      As for poems I think you should provide background to your poem just to be safe.

      • No worries buddy, its okay.

        Thanks for the tip. I generally add an intro of about 100 words, would ramp it up it so, the total word count becomes at least 300 to 350.

        Stay awesome. 🙂

  12. Daniel, I always carve time out in the evenings to write. Once I get started I can’t really stop until the job is done.

  13. Hey Neil,

    Not sure I dig the new picture…

    But, I’m curious about the thinking behind it. I’m sure you thought it through, and probably even found a way to test it!

    Let us know!

    Pete

    • Pete, it’s still in the testing process. I wanted to have an updated headshot — that was my only reasoning. I have a new haircut and wanted to just be up to date.

  14. THANK YOU!! You’re an inspiration and a steward of good things in our industry!

    Plus you gotta really sick ride and a bad-ass new haircut! I bet you’d make a mean Gotham villain! 1 episode treatment? lol

    Again Thank You. Mostly for being a great example of transparency being the legit way to market ideas.

    Francesco

  15. Another great post Neil – Guest posting is something I really need to get amongst and you make a good point about not focusing too narrow (Eg I should focus on Travel in general, not just digital nomads).

    Looking forward to your next post!

  16. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for this. I’m just changing up my strategy for where I post and the type of content so this has really helped.

    A few months back you wrote a post about how to get published on top authority blogs. I can’t find it.

    I would be sooo grateful if you had the time to add the link in this post or in your reply. Please 🙂

    Thanks again

    Naomi

  17. Hey Neil- Thanks for sharing these insights! Yes, I have been considering guest posting. Your results will be of value to both my strategic and tactical approach. I’m sure you’ll reach your 100K reader goal by continuing to provide this quality content.

    Cheers,
    Norm

  18. Hi,

    Yes, You are right list post is very important.
    Good post:)

  19. Hi Neil,

    Great post as usual.

    What is your opinion about,

    1. Branding my name through my blog.
    2. Branding my company name through my blog.

    Well, the services I am planning to offer are mainly WordPress customization and Website optimization.

    Which branding method will the best one?

    • I think if you have a catchy name of personality that really shines through blogging you should brand it to the fullest. My name is pretty generic but I found that by capturing that name and branding it accordingly I was able to get a lot of recognition.

  20. Thanks for the info! I’ll surely apply these very helpful tips on my next guest post. 🙂

  21. Dave Sheppard :

    Hi Neil, love your blog as always . .. just wondering . . . What is the ROI on your new haircut? Looks sharp by the way. Respect.

  22. 100 posts in year Neil? Phew…. some standard to match.

    Question: I’m planning on guest posting ASAP, and immediately jumped to your information and insights here after receiving your email.

    Any idea how long the queue is (time wise) for acceptance by large sites such as Social Media Examiner or Entrepreneur? I guess that question may be akin to “how long is a piece of string?” since it may come down to reputation, content relevance, brilliance and quality, but you may have some sense of this nevertheless.

    Thanks
    Jonathan

    • Jonathan, it’s a mix of reputation and quality of content. I would suggest you go ahead and start submitting — the more you submit great content the more likely it is that they’ll notice.

  23. Hi Tony,

    I know your question was for Neil, but I got a quick view of it as it’s underneath my comment. I thought I’d tell you what I do.

    I always have it written up. I have some idea of the small circle of blogs that I want to guest post on, so the subject matter will be relevant to them all encase one blog owner declines.

    But when I have built up a really good relationship with the blog owner and I know they are likely to accept, then I will write a blog post specifically for them.

    I think you should have it written up before you ask, but hey, Neil has more experience than me and may advise differently

    I hope this helps

    Naomi

    • Thank you so much Naomi! I appreciate the advice. Now when you make first contact with an editor, do you provide them the article you’ve written? Or do you just give them a pitch and only send it after they express interest?

      • Hi Tony,

        I’m happy you liked my reply!

        I always send the post first, but for every guest post I send I have built some level of relationship with that blogger.

        That might be sharing their content, commenting on their posts or sending an email. Excepting your guest post is more in your benefit than theirs, so try a create some level of communication with them first, that way they are more likely to say yes.

        Also only send to blogs that are bigger than your own. Do a little research on them and don’t send your hard work to just any one.

        Kind regards

        Naomi
        PS – Neil I hope you don’t mind my resonse

  24. Neil,

    Thank you so much for this post. First, you’re an inspiration. Every time I see an email from you, I get excited becuase I know I’m going to learn something new and actionable.

    I don’t usually leave comments, but I’m trying to climb out of my shy shell. So here I am.

    I did have a question for you. What are your thoughts on Guest Posting before your blog is live?

    I’m building a blog now, and I’m about to launch my pre-launch page which gives some insight into what my blog is all about, then asks for people to sign up to be notified when the site launches.

    I want to get as many email subscribers and buzz as possible before my official launch date, and one of the methods I’ve seen is to guest post. My fear is, that the people who do come back to my site, from the byline will show up and see that I’m a newbie and won’t leave their email.

    I know there’s no true way of knowing either way, and the best thing to do is test it, but I’d love your opinion, or the opinion of any of the other commentors here.

    Thanks again for this great site.

    • Aaron, glad you made the leap and are speaking up. I look forward to hearing much more from you.

      As for guest blogging before your own blog goes live: Go for it! Just make sure you are directing readers back to your site in some shape or form and capturing their email information — if they are interested. Just give them the opportunity for future reads from you.

      • Thanks for your reply Neil. As I said, I’m really pushing to get out of my shy shell. Hearing back from you so quickly really helped, thanks for that too!

        I did have one follow up question.

        My plan is communicate with the pre-launch subscribers by weekly email to keep them abreast of what’s going on with the launch. Should I also provide them links to my guest posts as long as it aligns with the content I’m preparing for my site?

        My two concerns here are am I sabotaging myself by sending my subscribers to a similar site? Secondly, is it possible they will feel as though I’m spending too much time on guest blogging and not enough time on the site I’m preparing for them?

        Thanks again for getting back to me, and I would love any additional feeback.

        • Aaron, great questions. If you are providing them with great value they really won’t care where the content is coming from. Just make sure they have the ability to view all your guest posts.

  25. Thanks for the tip. I am doing Neil Patel’s 30 Days to Double Traffic and Conversions based on your suggestion a few days ago. All of this is very helpful. have an awesome day!!!

    Regards
    Kathy

  26. Neil… this is super great content! I was actually searching around for a bunch of answer in regards to simply commenting on blogs and articles to help with SEO and back linking from quality sights, but THIS ARTCLE shifted my mindset in a whole different direction.

    Thank you for putting this out there. You’ve got a new fan, SIR!!

  27. I started blogging about a month ago and have a large amount of people viewing the blog but hardly any conversations. Thanks for the information, I found it really helpful!

  28. Good article Neil. Thanks. One question, do you have any advice on getting guest posts published when you don’t have a large audience and you are not a well known figure?

  29. The 7 lessons on blogs are extremely helpful. I understand the importance of guest blog posting, which is a great marketing channel. We should continuous search new places for guest posting. It is true, popular blogs like short content.

  30. Neil,

    I’m finally commenting after years of reading your content. I haven’t commented before, but I sure have shared your work.

    I Love Transparency, but trying to convince Baby Boomer Business Owners to be more transparent is near to impossible, especially in a finance business.

    Any Tips?

    Cheers

    Arnold

  31. Neil, you can guest post on our blog anytime!

    🙂

    This was a great read. Thx

  32. hey Neil,
    big fan of your posts.Nice for me as newbie to know the benefits of guest blogging in such a great way. Now i will definitely try this out.
    thanks. keep posting.

  33. Awesome post,

    I think with the correct guest posting, you can create a proper business online. It can provide traffic, HQ link and authority.

  34. I looking for some tips about guest post for that i search on google and i got this blog.This help me a lot.I think it is a very useful post for those who want to know about guest post.

  35. Every time I read an article of yours, I think this is school that i actually enjoy.

    You continually provide value.

    Thank you. Profoundly.

    Nazreen

  36. Great post Neil.
    I am trying to do guest posting, but only problem i have is finding blogs related to my topic who are willing to accept the guest posts.

  37. nice post you have nicely explained each and every thing for explaining this topic
    very nice content
    thanks

  38. Thanks again Mr. Patel

  39. “When I guest-post on sites like Entrepreneur Magazine, I know the majority of their readers wouldn’t be interested in what I have to offer. However, because they get millions of visitors a month, even if 0.1% of their readers are the right fit, I’m still capturing the attention of new readers who never knew about my business.”

    Neil, I think you should consider using this same strategy for your Facebook and Social Media efforts. You don’t necessarily have to constrict your potential viral reach by only posting B2B quote cards.

  40. If there’s an authority site like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, etc., should a small personal blogger just give up trying to rank for that keyword?

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