If you have something to promote, whether it’s your personal brand, your business, or something you’re trying to sell, there’s a lot of value in guest blogging.
Done well, it’s a classic win-win-win: you benefit from the exposure, the site benefits from extra content, and the readers benefit from having fresh entertainment and/or education.
But this immense potential, combined with how easy it is to start blogging (and how many people are out there competing for attention online), makes guest blogging hugely popular.
This popularity allows site owners to be extremely selective, and ensures that anything less than solid work will see your work ignored (whether by the sites you offer it to, or by their readers).
So if you want to achieve great things with your guest blogging, you can’t afford to settle for half-measures.
Anything mediocre will have no significant impact upon your business fortunes.
You need to get things right — so let’s run through how you can do it.
How to Guest Blog Successfully (6 Steps)
- Line up outreach possibilities
- Research your targets
- Pitch very carefully
- Write to fit the target site
- Provide actionable points
- Take value where you can get it
1. Line up outreach possibilities
The most effective guest blogging strategy must start at scale, regardless of how much content you intend to produce in the end. In essence, you need to play the odds. This is because there’s an excellent chance that most of your outreach efforts will amount to nothing.
Why is this? Well, some people are too busy to respond to cold emails, others have enough content already — and more still will turn you away because they don’t like your work, expect to get paid, or simply don’t care that much.
You’re never guaranteed a good reception (the best chance you’ll have for that is to reach out to people you know — if you’ve been cultivating an email list for your business, you should look for crossover prospects).
Your first move, then, is to line up as many outreach possibilities as you can. Start by noting down any sites you already know of that you’d like to be featured on. Continue by searching for relevant terms and seeing what sites come up, then visiting the top results to manually check them. Aim to be very discerning, thinking about factors such as the following:
- Authority. How popular is the site? How much sway does it have in its field?
- Audience. How many people read the content? Do they tend to engage with it?
- Tone. Is the style a good match for yours? Would your work be suitable?
- Content length. Is the average 500 words, or 3000? What are you willing to write?
At this point, don’t worry so much if a site doesn’t appear to feature any guest content. It might be because no one has suggested it yet. Build a lengthy list (100+ sites would be a good start), then move on to the next step.
Additionally, pull all these to a spreadsheet that you update each time you want to run a guest posting campaign. Include, of course, the site URL, but also information like domain authority and if you have a contact at that website.
2. Research your targets
Before you send anything, take a closer look at the shortlist that you’ve created.
Firstly, look for any reasons to rule specific sites out: for instance, they might seem to charge for content, or be blatant about promoting certain things, or show massive inconsistency in content quality. Anything that doesn’t measure up should be removed from the list.
After that, look for guest post guidelines. For example, here are Wordable’s guide post guidelines:
Sites will often provide them, asking for specific things such as writing about specific topics, meeting a certain word requirement, including several images, or including a set number of internal links.
This is extremely useful ahead of pitching and after it — but remember that guidelines aren’t always strict. Read the site’s content to see how closely it follows those guidelines, and prioritize them accordingly.
And take the time to read through any information provided about the website’s purpose and the people behind it:
- Does it serve a specific goal?
- Is there anything it’s trying to achieve?
- Does it want to be funny, educational, inspirational?
When you pitch, you’ll need to avoid causing any conflict with the recipient — so let’s get to the pitching.
3. Pitch very carefully
Outreach pitching is tricky at the best of times.
If you’re too casual, you can get ignored.
If you’re too intense, you can spark a backlash that completely sours your chances of getting posted on a site. You need to walk a delicate line down the middle — being firmly proactive, but without ever coming across as pushy or demanding.
When you first reach out to a site, don’t be too familiar. You don’t know them, and you’ll come across as insincere and manipulative if you act as though you do. Using their first name is fine, but make sure you get it right. Starting your message with “Hello Mrs!” will not help your cause.
If you get into an exchange, you can follow their lead to figure out how formal or informal to be. If they greet you enthusiastically, you might be able to break out the emojis. If they seem distant, play it cool. You want them on your side, so be delicate — think about how you’d communicate to a cherished partner, careful with your tone and ready to listen.
Focus on how the situation is going to help them — how you’ll get them some great content, all in keeping with their preferences, and they won’t need to contribute much to the process if they don’t want to. And keep each email short. Brief paragraphs, clear points, no filler, with a simple but punchy subject line.
Make a strong case (and have some good writing to show off), offer some eye-catching titles (here are some handy ideation tips to help you along), and you’ll pick up a fair amount of interest.
Don’t worry if your initial pitching isn’t great — use templates for efficiency, make changes as you go, and you’ll get far better over time.
4. Write to fit the target site
Let’s say you’ve been through the pitching stage for a particular site, suggesting titles and getting approval, and you’ve had the go-ahead.
The time has come to write the post — so how should you approach it? The key is to fit the target site’s evident requirements.
Some sites are fairly relaxed about what they’ll post. If it’s solid content, they’ll go with it, whether it’s 4000 words or just 400 words. Others will refuse to post anything that doesn’t meet their exact requirements. You’ll be able to gauge this by revisiting the site and gauging the tone of their emails. If they seemed quite demanding, they probably will be.
Your primary objective is to get the post published, and your secondary objective is to get it done quickly, efficiently, and in the manner you prefer. If you can do them both, that’s the perfect scenario. If you can’t, then you’ll just need to decide how much that post opportunity is worth to you.
If the site is incredible, then it might be worth writing a 6000 word post for it.
There’s a chance, of course, that you pitched a title because you already had the piece written (or at least heavily drafted). If so, you’ll need to decide whether it needs tweaking to fit that site.
With some minor alterations (and the addition of an internal link or two), it might be ready to go, making your life much easier.
5. Provide actionable points
One of the fastest ways to get a guest post rejected by the average site is to ramble on about something without making any actionable points. The more you can make your post a useful resource for the site’s readers, the more likely the site owner is to post it.
A fast way to get these points in (and get your piece off to a fast start in the process) is to set out some strong subheadings. Note that every subheading in this post is an imperative formed to fulfil the titular brief, so it would be easy for the reader to scan it and get an immediate idea of what it’s going to tell them.
Sometimes the title won’t obviously suit such actionable content, whether because you pitched a different type of piece or because the site owner requested a specific title.
Don’t let that get in your way. No matter what topic you discuss or how it’s framed, find a way to make suggestions based on the content you produce.
6. Take value where you can get it
Remember when I said that great guest blogging is a win-win-win? One third of that requires you to get something out of the post, and there are various ways to do that:
- Include a link back to your site. I did just that near the start of this piece.
- Get an author bio at the end. Your author bio helps grow your image.
- Earn some social media hype. Getting mentioned on Twitter could grow your followers.
- Win plaudits for the content. If it’s really great, people will share it.
- Add the piece to your portfolio. If nothing else, another published post is good for that.
Of course, it also helps to grow a working relationship with the site in question, and you can invite them to contribute content to your site in return (that will double up on the win-win-win, essentially making it a win-win-win-win-win-win).
Final Thoughts on Successful Guest Blogging
So there you have it. Put (fairly) succinctly, that’s how you turn guest blogging to your advantage.
It’s a long and often-frustrating process, but you’ll learn a lot along the way, and come out the other end with some great new working relationships and a handy boost to your professional reputation. Good luck!