If you’re in the market for targeted traffic and powerful backlinks, guest posting should be at the forefront of your mind. And while Google has publicly warned against mass, low-quality guest posting, there’s no doubt that it’ll remain a link building bedrock for years to come. In this chapter you’ll learn how to get the most from this timeless link building strategy.
Find Guest Posting Prospects
Before you write a single word you need to have a list of sites that openly accept guest posts. While you can sometimes schmooze your way to an exclusive guest blogging opportunity, it makes sense to start off with sites that accept guest blogs with open arms.
Because you’ll find so many solid sites, you’ll need to stay organized. Set up an Excel spreadsheet that contains the site’s homepage PR, guest posting guidelines, and a few other optional metrics, like Twitter followers and comments (more on that later).
Google Search Strings
There are hundreds of search strings that can quickly net you dozens of niche-relevant guest posting opportunities.
Here are a few of the most effective:
- “Keyword” + “guest post”
- “keyword+ “write for us”
- “keyword” + “This post was written by”
- intitle:guest post guidelines
- intitle:guest blog guidelines
- Google Blog Search
You can also use the lesser-known Google Blog Search to uncover a few hidden gems.
Just head over to http://www.google.com/blogsearch and use some of the same search strings that you used in “regular” Google. You’ll usually get a completely different set of results!
To make sure you’re getting fresh results, hit “Search Tools” and choose results from the last month.
The growing social network Google+ is an untapped gold mine for sites that openly accept guest posts. However, because these don’t have the same amount of results as the Google index, you usually have to be a bit broader with your search strings.
Click “Most recent.”
This one looks promising!
You’ll get a mix of results you probably didn’t find in Google.
Head to https://twitter.com/search-home and enter a broad search string.
And you’ll see a mix of sites that recently published guest posts or authors that had their published on other sites.
My Blog Guest
MBG is a guest blogger’s paradise. Here you’ll find webmasters actively seeking out people to guest post on their site. Yes, there are a lot low PR duds on the site. But if you work hard and dig deep, you can find some incredible diamonds in the rough.
First, create an account (free). Then head over to the “Looking for a guest author” section.
Choose a category that fits with your site.
Now it’s just a matter of sifting through the results and seeing if the site meets your criteria. You can easily find the site of anyone posting by clicking on the “Topic Blog” link at the top of the page:
By now you should have a decent-sized list of related sites that actively accept guest posts. Now you need to drill the list down a bit so that you spend your time on blogs that are going to give you the most SEO and traffic value. Besides obvious metrics like PR and relevancy (which you can learn more about in Chapter 2: The Quest for The Perfect Link), there are a few other things you want to take a look at to determine whether or not a site is worthy of your killer content.
Want to know how much referral traffic to expect from your guest post over the short- and long-term? SimilarWeb.com can give you a glimmer into your guest post’s future traffic potential.
Enter the domain name of a site from your guest post list.
While not the most accurate indicator of a site’s traffic, the site does give you a general idea of a site’s popularity.
Pay attention to the “Traffic Sources” area on the sidebar. When I use SimilarWeb on my own sites, I’ve found this data to be scarily accurate.
Direct traffic is a solid indicator of the spike you’ll get in the days following your guest post’s publication. Search tells you how much search engine traffic potential the site has. Search traffic will give you a steady drip of traffic to the guest post (and to your site) over the long-term.
I’ve found a direct correlation between blog comments and referral traffic. Also, blog comments are a metric that Google may look at to determine whether or not a site is “real.” I like to look at the amount of comments blog posts tend to get.
There’s no specific number you should be aiming for. But if the site only tends to get 1-2 blog comments per post (or less), you may want to move on.
Besides the obvious traffic benefit, social signals also help your blog post rank higher in search engines (meaning more referral traffic to your site). Importantly, social signals may also give more value to your link. While your guest post content will largely determine the shareability of your post, a site’s history of social sharing is a better predictive metric. You can find that with ease by using the Blog Social Analyzer.
First, find the RSS feed of the site you’re considering guest posting at (most sites have their feed at domain.com/feed).
Then head over to http://www.rypmarketing.com/tools/rss-social-analyzer.php and paste the site’s RSS URL.
This will give you the amount of Tweets, Facebook Likes and other shares that the site’s most recent posts garnered.
If they tend to get a lot of social shares, chances are yours will as well.
Another way to determine a guest post’s traffic and SEO potential is to see the blog’s Twitter following and reach. You can find their Twitter followers on their Twitter profile:
And while this can give you an idea of the site’s popularity, you can see how influential they are using FollowerWonk. This tool analyzes who follows people. The more influential people that follow the person, the higher their “Social Authority.”
Head over to http://followerwonk.com/bio and enter a few words from the user’s bio (not their username).
And you’ll see their Social Authority.
Try to stick to sites that have a Social Authority of 20 or above.
Write an Amazing Guest Post
Once you’ve found a blog that openly accepts guest posts and meets your standards, it’s time to write a post. The best way to make sure your guest post gets accepted and spreads like wildfire is to see what tends to work for that site. This way you can tailor your post to that site’s specific audience.
The easiest way to see which posts garnered the most buzz for a particular site is to check out the popular posts widget that most blog sidebars have. For example, QuickSprout shows the site’s all time most popular posts.
If I were to write a post for QuickSprout, I wouldn’t write a post about how to get Instagram followers or compile a list of business quotes (already covered). But I could write a post about SEO, small business success, or how to drive traffic with social media.
Most sidebar widgets only show you the top 5-10 posts. If you already have a topic in mind for your post, LinkTally can show you how well that topic performs. Let’s say that you wanted to write a post about conversion optimization for QuickSprout. Head over to the site’s search bar and put in your topic’s keyword:
Copy a URL of the first few results. Paste them into the URL field at http://linktally.com/.
And it will show you the amount of social shares that each post received.
If you see that posts on a particular topic tend to get a ton of social shares, you should go for it.
Open Site Explorer
Another way to determine a topic for your guest post is to see which pages garnered the most backlinks. Surprisingly, articles with a ton of links don’t always get a wealth of social shares (and vice versa). So it’s something worth looking at.
Head to https://moz.com/link-explorer and enter the site’s homepage URL.
Click on the “Top Pages” tab:
And see which pages have the most Page Authority.
These are also good topics to consider writing a guest post around.
Wrap Up Email
Before taking the time to write something incredible, I sometimes email the site owner with a list of topic ideas, along with links to my published work. This helps drive home the point that your content deserves to be published.
Here’s a script that works well.
Subject: Guest Post for (Their Site)
Hey (Their Name),
I just want to start by saying that I’m a huge fan of (Their Site). I’m reaching out to you to offer up a unique and value-packed guest post for you.
I did some research on topics that have performed well for (Their Site). Here are some ideas I had:
You can check out some guest posts that I’ve already published at (Authority Site) and (Authority Site).
Please let me know how that sounds.
Writing The Post
Finally, it’s time to write something amazing. Topics with the highest acceptance rate are: case studies, long lists and detailed how-to guides. Like any piece of content, the approach you take for writing guest posts should be the same: write an awesome headline, outline your content and produce killer stuff.
First, put the topic you’re going to discuss into Google:
And look at the headlines in the top 20 results.
Copy the best ones into Excel.
Spin the titles until you come up with something that’s in-line with the titles you found, but is also original.
In this example, I came up with: 12 Ways Market on Pinterest Like a Fortune 500
Next, outline the post in the WordPress editor by adding the post’s subheaders.
Finally, fill in the blanks and you’re done!
List Site Guest Posting
An outside-the-box approach to guest posting is to target list sites. List sites are simply sites that post top 10 lists, top 20 lists, etc. These sites accept user-generated content without any fuss. Of course, they hook you up with a link back to your site. Because these sites don’t call their user generated content “guest posts” they’re invisible to the search strings that most SEOs use to find guest posting opportunities.
Find List Sites
You can easily find list sites with these search strings:
- Top 10 lists
- “submit a list”
- “top 10” + “submit”
Once you do, check to see if they have a “Submit a List” page.
If they don’t, you can also look as some of their latest lists. If they’re rocking an author bio, then you can probably get your list published there with a simple email.
Read the Guidelines
Like with standard guest posts, list sites tend to have a fairly stringent set of guidelines. They’re usually just related to formatting and aren’t too strict. But it’s worth giving them a once over before submitting your list.
Write and Submit
While you can technically write a list about anything, it’s best to write a list related to your niche. So if you had a site about weight loss you’d want to write a list along the lines of “Top 10 Diet Controversies of All Time” or “10 Foods That Actually Burn Fat.”
Here are some list sites to submit your lists to:
How to Get Your Guest Post Published
Since January 1st, I’ve received 931 requests for guest post submissions on quicksprout.com. Out of the 931 requests, do you know how many I’ve accepted? 0!
It’s because all of the pitches I get are either spammy or just terrible. Here’s an example of the type of emails I’m getting on a daily basis:
Dear Site Owner
I want to know do you offer guest posts on your website? Can you please tell me discounted price? https://www.quicksprout.com
I will provide you very high quality and 100% unique article. Looking for your reply.
When I see emails like the one above, there is no way I’m going to accept the post. I will reject the post because the sender:
- Didn’t bother to fix grammatical errors.
- Didn’t personalize the email.
- Didn’t tell me what he was going to write on.
- Offered me money, which means I would be selling a link.
If you want to start leveraging guest posts as a marketing channel, you need to first avoid the four mistakes above and then follow the steps below:
Step #1: Do your homework
You should never approach a blogger with a guest post submission unless you’ve done your research. Sure, you could try the rapid-fire approach by just blasting out hundreds of guest posting requests, but no popular blog is going to accept you.
Here’s the type of homework you need to do before approaching any blogger:
- See if they accept guest posts – the obvious way to see if a blog accepts guest posts is to see if they’ve published any in the past. If they have, look for a web page that may outline their guest posting requirements.
- Read their blog – don’t just read their last few blog posts. Read at least ten of them. Look for patterns on what their readers like and don’t like as well as the type of content that performs well. You can easily do this by looking at social share counts…typically, the higher the number, the more successful the post was.
- Read comments – the best way to figure out what people like is by reading the comments on the blog. This will give you a quick understanding of what the readers respond to and what they are looking for.
- Analyze their writing style – from formatting look to writing style, analyze everything. This will help you determine how you need to write your guest post. For example, on Quick Sprout, I only accept guest posts that are written in a conversational style and contain an introduction, body and conclusion.
Now that you’ve done your homework, you are ready to write.
Step #2: Come up with a topic and write
You know what the blog owner likes and what the blog’s readers want, so write something that pleases both of them. If you can write an awesome piece of content, you’ll increase your odds of it getting accepted.
When I write a guest post, I, first and foremost, make sure that it contains an awesome headline. If your headline sucks, no one will want to read your content…no matter how good it is.
Jonathan Morrow from Copyblogger actually has a great tactic in figuring out if a headline is great. He goes to his local bar and pitches headline ideas to random groups of drunk people. If he can get them all excited and laughing about a headline, he knows he is onto something.
Once you have a headline, start writing. Make sure you write a really detailed post…something so great that they’ll not only accept it, but they’ll want you to come back and write again. That’s actually why Kristi Hines is so successful at getting guest posts. You see her name all over the blogosphere because she goes above and beyond with her first submission, which prompts the blog owner to ask her to write again.
Lastly, when you write your post, make sure you include images. They need to be royalty-free or bought so that the blog doesn’t get into trouble for using them. The images need to be formatted to fit within the blogs design.
Step #3: Send off your email
Now that you are done writing the post, you need to shoot off an email to the blog owner. Here’s an example of a template that I’ve found to be effective:
Subject: you should blog about [insert your guest blog post topic]
[insert their first name], as an avid reader of [insert their site name] I would love to read about [insert guest blog post topic], and I think your readers would as well.
Your content on [insert existing post from their website #1, insert existing post from their website #2, and insert existing post from their website #3] is great, but I think you can tie it all together by blogging on [insert guest blog post topic].
I know you are probably busy and won’t blog on it, so I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. 😉 How about I write it for you? Don’t worry, I’m a great blogger and have had my posts featured on [insert previous guest post URL #1] and [insert previous guest post URL #2].
Let me know if you are interested. I already know your blogging style, plus I understand what your readers love as I am one. 😉
Look forward to hearing from you,
[insert your name]
If you look at the template above, you’ll notice two things. The first is that it is very personalized to the site owner. Even though it is a template, it won’t work without being customized.
Secondly, you’ll notice that the email isn’t formal. Typically, a formal email, such as the one Ambrose sent me, is rejected. Bloggers see formal emails as sales pitches, which is why they ignore them. Casual emails are typically from readers, which is why most bloggers at least read them.
Lastly, before you send out the email, use a free software like Yesware. Yesware plugs into Gmail and tells you if someone opened your email. This way, when you send emails to bloggers to see if they accept your guest post, you’ll at least find out if they opened and read your email. If they aren’t opening your email, it could be because it’s going into their spam box. In that case, you may want to try sending it again from another email address or using a different subject line.
Step #4: Follow up
Hopefully, your guest post has been accepted by now, but chances are you’ve been ignored. Most bloggers will open your email, but they won’t take the time to respond to it.
What you’ll want to do is to send them a follow-up email every week to see if they are interested in publishing your guest post. Keep the email short, casual and to the point, like this template:
[insert their name], I just wanted to follow up to see if you were interested in publishing the guest post I emailed you last week.
[insert your name]
Until you get a yes or a no, don’t stop emailing. Sooner or later they’ll have to respond.
Step #5: Promote
If your post gets accepted, you want to ensure that it does well. If your post gets a lot of traffic, social shares and comments, the blog owner will most likely accept guest posts from you again. Plus, you can use that post as a reference when pitching other blogs.
Here’s how I ensure my guest posts do well:
- Leverage the social web – I promote my posts through all of my social media accounts. From Twitter, to Facebook to even Google Plus, I share them on every social site I have an account on.
- StumbleUpon – for ten cents a visitor, StumbleUpon can drive thousands of visitors to any blog post within 24 hours. Check out their Paid Discovery plans if you need a bit of help.
- Don’t forget your friends – ask all of your friends to share your post via Twitter and Facebook. The more social shares you get, the better.
- Respond to comments – to get the maximum engagement out of the post, you need to encourage comments. The easiest way to boost the comment count is to reply to every single comment on the post. And don’t leave short comments like “thanks”; write thoughtful comments that help people out.