In the previous chapter we looked at several different ways to get visitors to your blog. In this chapter we’ll look at one of my favorite methods for growing your blog’s audience. This strategy is something I recommend every blogger to do during the early stages of their blog, because it can work in any niche or industry.
Another reason why I recommend guest blogging is because if you do it right, and with consistent effort, you will get results. The specific results will depend on a lot of factors like which blogs publish your guest posts, how much interest your posts generate, how many people click through the links to your site, and how many of those visitors your are able to convert into loyal followers of your own blog.
How Guest Blogging Works
Every blog needs content in order to be successful. I’ve mentioned many times the need for quality content, but there is also a need for quantity of content. Quality shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of quantity, but most blogs aim to have both.
Producing quality blog content takes time, so many bloggers are very open to the idea of having other people contribute content to be published at their blog. In some cases the blog content may be produced by a team of paid writers, but with many blogs the blog owner is solely responsible for creating all of the content.
The idea behind guest blogging is that you offer to write a unique article or blog post (unique meaning it is not published anywhere else, it is exclusive to the blog where it will be published) for a blog owned by someone else. In the right situation, everyone wins with guest posts. You get to publish a post on another blog, and the post will include a brief author bio that can help to build your profile and may include a link back to your site. The host blogger gets free quality content for their blog and saves the time of producing the content on their own, and readers get quality content.
Not every blogger will be willing to publish posts from other bloggers, but many are happy to receive guest posts because it saves them so much time.
From your perspective as the guest blogger, the links in the author bios of your guest posts can send visitors to your own blog as readers click on the links, and you can build your own name recognition within the industry by having posts published at several different blogs. Depending on the situation, it may also be possible to include a link to your site from within the article body rather than just the author bio. In-post links should only be used when the link is highly relevant to the article and adds value to the reader.
Guest blogging is something that you can do on a one-time basis if you have a specific article that you would like to share with another blog, or it can be a significant part of your strategy to build your blog’s audience. It will be most effective when you have posts published in multiple different places or at sites with large audiences.
Hasn’t Google Killed Guest Bloggging?
Like any other link building approach that has been proven to work for improving search engine rankings, guest blogging has been exploited and abused by some marketers. As a result, in January of 2014 Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, published a post on his personal blog titled “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO”. In this article Cutts, who represents Google, has warned bloggers and marketers against the practice of excessive guest posting for search engine optimization purposes.
So does this mean that you should not publish guest posts at other blogs? No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that you should be aware of the situation and make sure that you are not part of the problem that Google is trying to solve.
Google’s challenge is that excessive guest posting has led to countless links from low quality sources that are making it difficult to use inbound links as a part of their search engine algorithm. You see, there are tons of companies and individuals out there that offer their services for guest posting for SEO purposes. These companies usually have a team of writers and you can hire them to write guest posts that will be published at various sites and blogs and will include a link to your website or blog. Typically these guest posts are written in poor English, offer very little quality information for readers, and are likely to include keyword-stuffed links. Sometimes these links are to sites that aren’t even relevant to the top of the blog that is publishing the post. This type of low-quality content is essentially spam because the only purpose it exists is to build links. This type of content is what Google is trying to stop.
When I’m talking about guest posting this is not what I’m referring to. In order for guest posting to be effective today you’ll need to publish high-quality content that can benefit readers. I’m also not advocating guest posting strictly for SEO purposes. Guest posting can be extremely effective for building your name recognition and developing a strong reputation within your industry. It can also be a great way to network with blog owners and editors. Even if any links to your site within your guest post are “nofollow” links (meaning they don’t give any SEO benefits to you), guest posting can still be worth your time.
So what should you do as a blogger who is looking to publish guest posts? First, you need to make sure that the quality of your posts is high. Second, don’t force links to your site into the content. If the link can fit naturally and can offer some additional value to the article it is ok to include it (assuming the blog owner or editor will publish it), but don’t use keyword-stuffed links that might look unnatural or spammy. Third, be selective about where you publish your guest posts. Publish only on sites/blogs that tend to publish quality content and have a solid reputation with readers. They don’t always have to be the biggest, most popular sites in the industry, but make sure that they are reputable sites that are not publishing spammy posts from guest authors.
Why Guest Blogging is Effective
Link Building for SEO
The main reason that most people go about submitting posts to be published at various blogs is that it can be one of the most effective ways to build links to your own blog or website. As I’ve already mentioned, inbound links to your site are extremely significant for improving your search engine rankings. There are a number of ways that you can go about building links, but getting a link from a top-quality blog or website can be difficult. Links from high-quality, respected websites will be much more beneficial for SEO purposes than links from small, unestablished websites. Guest posting is one effective way to go about getting a link from a top website.
Let’s say for example that you have a blog that covers topics related to internet marketing. You’ll want to get links from some of the top blogs and websites in the industry in order to help your search engine rankings, but they need some reason to link to you. One of the best ways to do it is to simply write a guest post for them, and include a link to your own blog in your author bio. You could write a guest post for ProBlogger and you’ll get a link from a highly-respected site back to your own blog. Do this with a number of different sites in your niche and you will have a solid foundation of links pointing to your blog.
Google is likely to reduce the benefit of links from guest posts, but this shouldn’t deter you from publishing guest posts at quality sites. In order to try to avoid penalties and to make your links have as much impact as possible, use only natural links. If you’re able to naturally link to your own website or blog as a citation or reference for the guest post, consider doing so in the article body or at the end of the article. Link out to other relevant sites as well, don’t just link to your own site, otherwise it could put up a red flag to Google for unnatural linking.
In addition to SEO benefits, the links can also bring visitors to your blog as readers click on the links. The number of visitors that you get from your guest posts will vary greatly depending on the specifics, but when you are just getting started every click is important. The number of visitors that you get from a single guest post may not seem all that significant to you, but if you have posts published in several different places, the numbers can add up to something more impressive.
In order to maximize the number of clicks that you get through your guest posting efforts, make sure that your guest posts reflect the highest quality of your work. Don’t rush through the process and submit a mediocre post just to have it published somewhere. Blog editors will be evaluating the quality of your posts, and if it doesn’t live up to their standards it won’t be published. Even if it is published, a mediocre post won’t encourage readers to click on your link.
Some guest bloggers treat this the same way that they would treat article marketing at article directory sites. Guest blogging is not the same as submitting to article directories. The articles that are submitted to article directories are typically pretty low quality, generic content that is not of much value to readers. These articles may rehash the same content that has been published over and over again at other websites, only in different words. Article marketing at article directories is done almost exclusively for SEO purposes, just to get a link from the article back to your own site. Google has responded by reducing the value of links from article directory sites, and most directories themselves now rank very poorly in Google searches. With guest blogging the approach is different. You don’t want to skimp on the quality of your article because real people will actually be reading it, and if the quality is poor they will have no interest in clicking the link to visit your blog.
The main thing you can do to increase the number of clicks that you get from your guest posts is to dedicate the time necessary to create a high-quality article, and preferably something unique that visitors have not read before. If readers are intrigued or blown away by your article they will likely want to know more about you and find out how they can follow you. This will lead to them clicking on the link in your author bio.
Guest blogging is one of the most effective ways to brand yourself as a leader or an authority in a particular niche or industry. If you’re able to get your guest posts published by a number of different popular blogs within your niche, readers will start to see your name showing up all over the place. That presence of your name and your content will lead to name recognition, and they’ll start to think of you as being one of the go-to sources in your industry.
I’ve seen this happen several different times over the years with different bloggers, and I’ve seen it in a few different industries. Once you become recognized as a leader in your industry through your guest posts, your own blog will benefit tremendously.
Guest posts can be effective at helping you to grow your own email newsletter list. When someone who is reading your guest post clicks on the link in your author bio you should be actively trying to convert him or her to a subscriber. One way to do this is to link to a landing page on your blog instead of linking directly to your homepage. The landing page can be set up specifically for the purpose of encouraging opt ins. Another option is to use a plugin like Optin Monster or Popup Domination to increase conversion rates. These plugins will show popups that allow visitors to sign up for your list, so when people click on your link you’ll have a better chance to convert them into subscribers.
Networking with Other Bloggers
The last benefit that I’ll mention is that writing guest posts allows you to make valuable connections to influential bloggers and editors. When I started writing guests posts to promote my first blog I was doing it for the click-through traffic and for the links in the author bios. What I found, to my surprise, was that the biggest benefit I got out of guest blogging was the networking opportunities. Bloggers and editors have difficult jobs and they appreciate anyone that helps them by submitting quality articles for free. This gives you an opportunity to stand out and be noticed by these influential people. You may be able to get to know these bloggers or editors with some other approach, but submitting quality guest posts can get you noticed very quickly.
For example, just a few of the benefits that I got through the connections I made while guest posting include paid freelance blogging opportunities, invitations to join formal groups for help with social media promotion, advice when I needed it, help finding a buyer for one of my blogs, help promoting important content on my blog, and help promoting product launches. Those are just the benefits that I was able to think of off the top of my head looking back at a few influential bloggers that I met through guest posting.
How to Get Your Posts Published
Obviously writing guest posts presents great opportunities, but in order to benefit from those opportunities you will need to be able to get your guest posts published. Popular blogs often only publish a fraction of the guest posts that they receive, so it’s not a case where you can just write anything and get it published.
Here we’ll look at some tips that will give you the best chance to get your posts published.
Identify the Right Blogs
The first key to getting your guest posts published is simply to find the right blogs. You’ll want to submit your posts to blogs that have an audience that is as close as possible to your own target audience. If your own blog focuses on the subject of knitting you’re not going to want to submit a guest post to a blog about tattoos, because there will likely be very little overlap in the audiences of the two blogs. Without that overlap in audiences you won’t get many clicks on the links in your author bio, and the ones who do visit your blog won’t be likely to return.
To start, I recommend opening a blank spreadsheet and paste in the URLs of any blogs that you come across that may be ideal for hosting your guest posts. You may already be aware of several blogs in your niche with a similar audience to your own. These would generally be a good place to start, especially if you have already had some contact or communication with the blog owner or editor.
When you’re looking at the blogs you may notice that there are several different authors who are publishing posts, or you may notice that all of the posts are from one author. If you see several different authors this is a good sign that they would be open to guest post submissions. If you’re only seeing posts from one author they may choose to not publish guest posts, or they may just not be getting any decent submissions worth publishing. I wouldn’t eliminate a blog just because it seems to have only one author. It doesn’t hurt to check and see if they are open to guest posts.
If you are just getting started with blogging my recommendation is to start small when it comes to guest posts. Rather than immediately submitting posts to the most popular blogs in the industry, start with some smaller blogs. Ideally, you’ll still want to submit your posts to blogs that are active and established, but they may not be the huge blog that everyone in the industry seems to follow. The reason for starting small is that you can get some valuable experience with the guest posting process that will make your efforts more successful when you do reach out to the bigger blogs. You may learn some things about the types of content that tend to be accepted by other bloggers. You may learn what format most bloggers prefer for receiving guest post submissions. You may learn what works best in terms of contacting the blogger to submit a guest post or to see if they are interested in receiving post submissions. Once you feel familiar with the process and more comfortable, move on to bigger and more popular blogs.
Look for a “Write for Us” Page
Many blogs that accept guest posts or receive a lot of post submissions will have a page on their site called “Writer for Us”, or something similar. You can look for this link in the sidebar, in the footer, on the About page, or you could even do a sitewide search for it.
If they do have a “Write for Us” page, take the time to read it. Most likely they will include some instructions for how they prefer to receive posts, and their policies regarding the process. Pay attention and follow their instructions because it will help to give you a better chance of being published.
Contact the Blogger
The next step is to contact the blogger. There are two common approaches that can be used. The first is to contact the blogger to ask if they accept guest posts and to find out how you should go about submitting a guest post. The second is to go ahead and write a post and submit it at the same time you are contacting them.
My opinion is that if the blog has a “Write for Us” page, or if you can clearly see that they accept guest posts, go ahead and send your post for review the first time you contact them. They will usually appreciate doing it this way because it will save them a little bit of time as opposed to multiple emails before the post is submitted.
If the blog does not have a “Write for Us” page or if you cannot tell if they accept guest posts or not, then I usually recommend contacting them to see if they are interested in receiving guest posts, and if so, how you should go about submitting a post for review. You may also want to list a few possible article topics to see if they have any feedback about which topic may interest them the most.
At one of my blogs I have a “Write for Us” page with details about submitting guest posts (and that page is really easy to find). I still get tons of people who contact me to see if I accept guest posts. In my opinion this is a waste of time because I have to respond and say “Yes, I do accept guest posts. Please see this page for all the details.” I appreciate those people who read the page first and follow the instructions because it makes my life easier, and that makes it more likely that I will publish their post.
You’ll actually get the best results (typically) if you have had some contact with the blogger or editor prior to asking for your guest post to be published. If you already have some contacts in your industry I would highly recommend starting there. If you don’t have contacts and you’ll be reaching out cold to other bloggers, you may want to consider trying to get noticed before submitted your guest post. You can do this by consistently commenting on their blog posts for a while before reaching out to them, communicating with them through social media, or by sharing their posts through your social media profiles. If they know who you are before you are submitting your guest post you’ll typically have a better chance of getting it published.
Match Your Content to the Host Blog
Before submitting your guest post you should take a little bit of time to get familiar with the blog’s content. Pay attention to the types of posts that are usually published, the broad topics that are covered, and the length of the posts. You’ll have the best chance to get your post published if it matches up well and is seen as a good fit by the blogger or editor. For example, if every post you are seeing is 1,000 words or longer, don’t submit a 300 word article and expect it to be published.
Also, try to avoid submitting articles that cover the exact topics already covered on that blog, especially in recent posts.
Be Brief in Your Email
When contacting a blogger or editor about a guest post submission, keep it brief and to the point. Most of them will be very busy and they’ll appreciate it if you get right to the point. Very quickly introduce yourself and either mention that your guest post submission is attached for review, or ask them if they would be interested in guest posts on any of a few specific topics. If their “Write for Us” page includes specific instructions about any other information that needs to be provided, be sure to follow those directions.
Provide a Quality Post, Including Proofreading
The best thing you can do the help your chances of getting your post published is to submit a high-quality article. This includes taking the time to proofread the article for spelling and grammatical errors. Yes, it will likely be edited by someone else before being published, but the easier you make it for them, the more likely they will be to publish the post.
Using the Author Bio
You can also help to increase the number of clicks by writing interesting bios that entice people to click. Rather than writing a bio that says “John Doe is a blogger. He blogs at ABCblog.com.” Write something that shows more of your personality and it will be more interesting to readers.
It’s also a good practice to make your author bio as relevant as possible to the blog where your post is being published, and even to the specific article that you have written. Don’t just use the same author bio on every post that you publish, customize it for that exact situation.
Vary the Anchor Text
As you write guest posts for a number of different blogs you will be building a lot of links back to your own blog through the author bios. The anchor text of the link (the words used in the text where the link is clickable) will have an influence on search engine rankings, so most people tend to use keywords in the anchor text.
It’s a good practice to vary the anchor text on your different guest posts rather than using the same keyword-filled anchor text on each article. Getting all of your links with the same anchor text can put up a red flag to Google and it may actually wind up hurting your rankings. You can make minor changes in the anchor text at times, and with some of the articles you will probably want to change it up significantly. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend using exactly the same anchor text on no more than 20-30% of your guest posts.
Lead Visitors Back to Your Blog
Use the author bio for more than just simply getting a link back to your blog. Make an effort to craft an author bio and a link that will lead visitors back to your blog. One of the best ways to do this is to mention a free resource or free content that is available at your blog.
For example, if I were writing a guest post, rather than just saying that I am a blogger and I run ProfitBlitz, I would mention that readers can get free access to an extensive e-book about running a profitable blog. The mention of the freebie will almost always get more clicks than a simple link back to the site without the mention of the freebie. If the guest post that I have written is related to some aspect of blogging, readers who have made it to the end of the post and are reading the bio will likely be interested in getting access to the free e-book. The same concept can easily be duplicated for other industries and with other types of resources or content.
Give Them an Offer or a Call to Action
Building on the idea of leading visitors back your blog, you can make your links convert into more clicks by including a call to action in the author bio. Something like “Marc has written an extensive e-book that shows insider details about how to run a profitable blog. Get free access to the e-book today by visiting his website.” This not only mentions the resource that is available for free, but it also calls on the reader to take action and essentially instructs them to click on the link and to get the e-book. Calls to action can have a dramatic impact on click through rates (CTRs).
Respond to Comments
When you are guest posting it is important to remember that readers will be responding to your posts and possibly leaving questions for you. Just because it is not your blog doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have to pay attention to those comments. The blog owner or editor may not be familiar enough with the topic to answer readers’ questions, plus the readers will usually address the question to you, the writer.
Make it a habit to go back to your posts that are published on other blogs and interact in the comments section. Doing so will help out both the blog owner and the readers, and it will make your post more valuable. If you want to guest post at the blog again, the blog owner or editor will be more likely to accept your next submission.
Help Promote the Post
One thing I learned when I was guest posting very frequently was that a little bit of extra help in terms of promotion can make the post much more effective for the host blog as well as for the guest blogger. Your guest posts will be more effective if they are seen by more people, so it only makes sense to help out in ways that you can.
I would recommend tweeting a link to your guest post at least once, if not more. You can also share the link on your Facebook page or profile, share it on Google+, and vote for it (or submit) it to other social media sites. Depending on the situation, you may even want to mention the guest post with a link from your own blog or newsletter. It could be a post solely dedicated to mentioning your guest post and providing a link, or some bloggers include links to their guest posts in weekly or monthly roundups that they publish on their own blog.
Guest posting is most effective when you participate by submitting posts at several different blogs. Rather than writing a lot of guest posts for the same one or two blogs, spread it out and get your posts published on different blogs in the niche. This will give you exposure to the largest number of different people, and it will also give readers the appearance of you being everywhere, which can help for your own branding and the development of your reputation within the industry.