In 2020, a website without a blog section is like a shop without windows. Blogging is essential for bringing new clients to your site by reeling them in with engaging and relevant content.
Any marketer worth their salt should be focused on making sure that their business blog is full of great quality content, it’s promoted, and it is updated regularly. But, that’s only half of the story. For maximum reach, the savvy marketer should also be looking at guest blogging and blog tours as a standard part of their marketing activities. Let’s break these two things down a little:
Pretty straightforward, guest blogging is when you write a blog post to be published on somebody else’s website. Also known as guest posting, this involves reaching out to another business (usually one in the same or similar industry) to offer a post to be included on its blog.
This uses the same principle as guest blogging but involves doing a ‘tour’ of several companies within a limited time – in general, this would involve writing different blog posts for each company but with a central theme.
Why guest blogging?
There are a few good reasons for getting on board with guest blogging, including:
- Increasing traffic to your site
- Improving credibility (when your blog is featured on a good quality site, your website benefits through association)
- Networking – by entering into a guest blogging agreement, you’re automatically building a relationship with that company as well as spreading your net wider in terms of visibility
Beginning your guest blogging journey
So, you’re pretty proud of your business blog and, you’ve decided to try your hand at guest blogging but, before you start firing off those emails, there are a few things you need to know.
Although lots of business sites do offer guest blogging opportunities, they’ll remain out of reach unless you go about it the right way. As someone who has vast experience in guest posting, I can tell you that using a scattergun approach to this simply won’t work and, so, the following is my guide to getting it right – and getting your work onto those blogs.
For the best chance of success, you need to be looking at guest blogging on sites that live in the same world as yours and, therefore, attract a similar kind of audience. If your business is in website building, there’s no point trying to guest on a site which is primarily a fashion blog.
Similarly, you don’t want to target a business that is exactly the same as yours as this would be considered a competitor and, therefore, a conflict of interest.
Instead, you’re looking for sites that run alongside yours; for example, if you’re blogging for your website design businesses, you might look at sites that specialize in e-commerce.
Once you’ve decided what kind of sites you’re going to be looking for, it’s time to put together a list. At this stage, the key is to be ambitious but realistic – therefore, don’t limit your list to hugely popular sites. Fire up a new database and start a tab for each potential business and, then examine that business in terms of:
Number of followers
Type of content
These are all important factors – particularly the number of followers as, there’s very little point in guest posting on a site that receives little to no visits every month.
At this stage, you need to find out who is in charge of choosing blog posts from guest authors. This will usually be an editor or author and you may need to do a little digging to find out a name. Once you have identified the decision-maker, find out as much about him or her as you possibly can and note this information on your database.
You’ll also want to find an actual email address that is specific to that person rather than taking a chance on sending your pitch to a generic editor@ address. There are some great tools that you can use to help you to snag email addresses and most are pretty affordable.
Once you’ve shortlisted using the above criteria, it’s time to get more specific by looking at the site’s guest posting guidelines and asking the following questions:
- Are guest bloggers given a bio and link?
- Does it have an engaged audience?
- Does the site sufficiently promote and share guest posts?
- What are the site’s lead times for guest posting?
- Which countries does the site reach?
You particularly need to take note of the first point here as there is literally no point in guest posting if it doesn’t result in readers being sent to your site.
Pretty much every site which invites guest posting will feature a list of guidelines on its website. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that these don’t matter – in many cases, an editor will dismiss a pitch out of hand if it doesn’t adhere to the guidelines.
Now that you have a snapshot of the sites that you’re targeting, you can start looking at your blog post topics. It should go without saying that you should spend some time on each blog to check out what kind of blogs they publish – and to make sure that you’re not offering a topic that has already been covered.
Once you have a good idea of the topic and tone that is accepted by the site, you can tailor your offerings accordingly. For example, if a site has a lot of guest posts on the subject of e-commerce then you’ll need to come up with a topic which offers something new on the subject or looks at a topic from a different angle says Eugene, content specialist at SPDLoad.
You can receive a huge amount of help in this respect from the internet; in particular from sites such as Google Trends.
So, you’ve compiled your contact info and you’ve done your research; time to start pitching right? Wrong. Although it’s possible that you’ll get lucky and score a guest post first time out with a cold-call email, it’s extremely rare. Therefore, your first step is to connect with the site on social media.
When it comes to guest blogging, you’ll increase your chances of success significantly by first building a relationship with a target editor or author and, you can do this by:
Visit the site’s blog section regularly and leave comments and questions on specific blog posts. If you receive a response, be sure to remain engaged by expanding the conversation.
This is very much a ‘slowly slowly’ process but one which will stand you in good stead in the long run. The more familiar with you that the site becomes, the easier it will be once you reach out to them with that all important blog post pitch.
Follow the site on Facebook and Twitter and, get into the habit of regular engagement – even if it’s just a like or a share. As with blog post comments, asking a question is an excellent way of inviting engagement – as is sharing your ideas.
Creating the perfect guest blogging pitch is an art – and one which takes practice. Before you even begin, it’s important to remember that the editor doesn’t care about you. Harsh but true – what he or she cares about is whether your content will add value to the site.
Every successful email does, of course, begin with a subject line – and yours needs to be great. When devising your subject line, resist the urge to be too shouty or too clever. Your subject line should offer a teaser to the content of the email and should be concise and professional. Also, according to my good friend Alex Tachalova of Digital Olympus, when subject lines refer to people that the editor and you both know, the response rate gets a solid increase. One effective method is to write something like, “I saw a post from XYZ on your blog.” It works as a great ice-breaker and helps your email stand out in the sea of other pitches.
Another way to significantly improve your chances of an editor opening your email is to include an intriguing statistic in your subject line.
Don’t fall at the first hurdle
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of your opening paragraph as this needs to grab and hold the attention of the reader. When giving a presentation, the rule of thumb is that your opening is a case of ‘Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em’ and, this is, to an extent, the case with your pitch.
Your first paragraph should neatly and succinctly lay out who you are, why you’re getting in touch and, what value you are offering to the site. This is not the time to wow the reader with your resume but is a time to present the facts.
If your opening paragraph has done its job, you’ll still have the attention of the editor and, so, now you can expand a little on who you are and what you do. In this section, be sure to include links to your work which will backup your request (and, always always check that the links are working before sending).
Your mantra here is that you’re offering value to the editor and, you need to tread a fine line between confidence and arrogance. This means binning ‘please’ and ‘I believe’ and anything else which gives the impression that you’re asking for a favor.
The purpose of the body of your pitch is to convince the editor that you know your stuff and, that you have something of value to offer – and your language needs to reflect that.
Call to action
Now we get down to the whole point of your pitch – opening a dialogue with the editor with a view to securing a guest post.
This means that you need to spell out – very clearly – just exactly what you want the editor to do; whether that’s sending a return email or letting you know when would be a good time to call (do not, under any circumstances, make an unsolicited call as this really will not help you).
Where possible, offer a number of contact options to increase the possibility of a response.
Securing guest posts is a marathon, not a sprint and so you’ll need to formulate a few different pitches, and then A/B test them to see what works best.
Tricky but necessary, mastering the art of the follow up is an essential part of the process. Most editors are incredibly busy and so will not mind a gentle nudge if you haven’t received a response in the first few days. The trick here is to be professional and to avoid harassment.
A follow-up email after a few days, followed by another a few days later is sufficient. If you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks, you can pretty much assume that it’s a ‘no’ and should resist the urge to send more emails.
Although this may be a disappointment, it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t try again another time with a different post or topic.
If at first, you don’t succeed………Very few people achieve instant success with guest blogging as it does tend to be a hugely competitive market. Rejection is never welcome but, take the opportunity to engage with the editor and, don’t be afraid to ask why your pitch was rejected.
If you’re told that it’s ‘not right for us’, feel free to ask what kind of content he or she is looking for, says Karolina, SEO Specialist from Landingi . Work on the basis that ‘no’ is not an answer – it’s a temporary decision and keep trying.
Guest blogging can be a tough nut to crack but can have huge benefits for your business. The great thing is that, once you’ve forged a relationship with a site, it will almost certainly open the floodgates to more opportunities. #youpreneur Click To Tweet
Guest blogging can be a tough nut to crack but can have huge benefits for your business. The great thing is that, once you’ve forged a relationship with a site, it will almost certainly open the floodgates to more opportunities.
For the best chance of succeeding, work on your engagement, work on your testing and, most importantly, work on your content! At the end of the day, if you have some fantastic, high-quality content to offer, it’s only a matter of time until your work becomes sought after by guest sites.
Finally, don’t forget to return the favor – if a site has published your work, use your manners, and offer to do the same for them.