The Complete Guide to Guest Posting
Wouldn’t it be great if all you had to do was create a website for your business and then kick back and watch traffic come pouring into it day after day?
Unless you’re Beyonce, that’s not likely to happen without some work. For most of us, promoting your website is just as integral to establishing your online presence as creating the site itself. This includes taking advantage of a wide range of digital marketing strategies, from blogging to SEO to social media promotion.
In this article, we’ll focus on one special type of marketing in particular - guest posting. As part of a broader content marketing strategy, guest posting can effectively drive traffic to your website and build awareness of your brand. Whether you're still learning how to write a blog post or are already a blog aficionado, here’s what guest blogging is all about - and how to write and submit guest posts of your own.
What is a guest post?
If you want to make money blogging, guest posting might be for you. A guest post is a blog post or article that’s written by someone from outside the website. So, unlike a journalist or contributor that regularly writes content if they're starting a blog or for any other publication, a guest blogger has no official ties to the website or blog.
Why is guest blogging important?
First things first: You don’t get paid for guest blogging (most of the time). So, why do it?
Well, the publication isn’t the only one that’s going to benefit from the great piece of content you write. When you write a guest post, you often get a byline in return.
This post was contributed by Vikas Kalwani. At the bottom of the post is his byline and bio which contains a number of links—to his website, LinkedIn page, and Twitter account. This helps establish his authority in the field, lets readers learn more about his background and experience, and, of course, drives traffic to his website and social pages. In addition, Kalwani now has an entire page on the B2C website dedicated to his guest blogger bio.
This might not seem like a big deal, but author bylines are a very important part of growing your online presence. They establish your authority in the field, generate brand awareness, help readers learn more about your background and experience, and, of course, drive traffic to your site.
Benefits of guest posting
Here’s a bit more about the advantages of guest posting:
01. Boost brand awareness
Without brand name recognition, it can be tough getting people to take notice of your new business or website. And if they do, it’s going to take even more work on your part to convince them that yours is a worthwhile offering to spend time or money on.
Guest blogging for a website that people already trust, however, can be a real game changer. By writing something that’s insightful and authoritative, you’ll get people to take notice that might never have otherwise discovered you or your brand.
02 Make a name for yourself as an expert
In order to be successful as a guest blogger, you have to create unique and enlightening content. That means you can’t just churn out content or ideas that your audience has seen before. This is about bringing something new to the table and demonstrating your authority on the subject matter.
If you can do this well and do it consistently within your space, you can make a name for yourself and your brand.
03. Increase meaningful traffic to your site
If you write something that really knocks readers’ socks off, they’ll go looking for your bio to see who you are and what your experience is. If they’re interested in reading more of your content or hearing more of your insights, they’re likely to navigate to your site.
That means you won’t just be driving more traffic to your site - you’ll also be getting more meaningful traffic. This will help you gain exposure among people within your industry, and can also help improve the rank of your website on search engines.
04. Improve your domain authority
Google’s algorithm is very smart. And if it starts to notice that you’re guest posting like crazy simply to increase backlinks (links pointing to your site from other sites), you’re going to get penalized for it.
So, don’t make it your goal to build links. Instead, focus on writing high-quality content that will offer genuine value to your readers. If your guest posting strategy focuses on writing for a very small handful of high-quality and authoritative sites within your space, it can do some good for your search rankings.
This is because of something called domain authority. Essentially, your website’s authority in search will be better if it has high-quality links pointing back to it. So, don’t aim for links from a hodgepodge of different websites just because they’re willing to say “yes” to you. Focus on quality content instead.
05. Open the door to new business opportunities
If your guest posts offer value - for instance, if they address a key pain point among your audience or approach an idea from a new perspective - you may start to see your inbox filling up with messages from readers.
They might be companies or publications that want you to write something just as great for them as you did for the website they found you on. Or they might be intrigued by what your company does and want to inquire about partnership opportunities. They might even just be readers who want to thank you or ask a question about your post. If you do get emails or comments, use them as a networking opportunity to engage with people in your industry.
How to find guest posting opportunities
Just as you’ve chosen a specific niche for your website or brand, you’ll want to do the same thing when it comes to guest blogging. Why?
Well, it’s much easier to get blogs and other publications to accept your guest posts if you’re an expert in something as opposed to a jack of all trades who dabbles in a little bit of everything. Plus, if you want guest blogging to have a direct impact on your business, what you write about needs to be relevant and useful for your audience.
So, once you’ve decided what your area of expertise will be, it’s time to start looking for guest blogging opportunities. Here’s how to start digging:
01. Look into your favorite blogs
If you’re an avid reader of a blog or publication within your industry or specialty, that should be the first place you look. You’re already super familiar with the kind of content it publishes, so that’s going to make writing for them much easier.
To find out if they accept guest posts, look in the following places:
There’ll be a link to Write for Us, Contributors, or Guest Blogging Guidelines. Here’s an example from mindbodygreen:
Contact or information page
If the contact form doesn’t ask for guest post submissions, look for the contact information of the editor. It may take a little searching, especially on bigger sites like Fast Company, but you’ll eventually find it:
Keep in mind that if you find a note anywhere on the site that says “we do not accept guest posts,” then don’t waste your energy on it.
02. Do a Google search
Google has the answers to everything, so why not ask the search engine which sites accept guest posts? Here are some queries you can use to find what you’re looking for:
Write for us
Guest bloggers wanted
Guest blogging guidelines
03. Analyze your competitors
It’s also a good idea to find out where your competition is getting its most popular and valuable backlinks from. That will give you a clue about the sites you might be able to contribute to.
To do this, you’ll need to use SEO tools, such as SEMrush or Moz. Moz Pro has a free tool called Link Explorer. When you run a competitor’s website through it, it’ll provide you with lots of SEO information about it. For your purposes, you’ll want to focus on the list of Top Followed Links, like this example for neilpatel.com:
According to this, Patel’s Entrepreneur guest posts are the biggest driver of traffic to his website. That gives you an idea that, first, Entrepreneur accepts guest posts. And second, that Entrepreneur could be a valuable place for you to post.
Once you have an idea of which competitors’ guest posts are bringing them backlinks, you can reach out to those publications for guest blogging opportunities. as you already know that they’re looking for experts like yourself.
04. Check domain authority
Not all guest posting opportunities are made equal. While it’s important to find ones that fit your niche and will get you in front of your target audience, you also need to know if it’s going to be worth your time.
One thing to consider is the site’s domain authority, which you can also find in the Moz Link Explorer tool:
A score on the lower end of the spectrum isn’t always a reason to rule out a website, but it’s one factor to consider as you want your content to appear on trustworthy and highly trafficked websites whenever possible.
Another thing to check is how much visibility and engagement you’ll get on social media. You can use BuzzSumo for this:
In this example, you can see how the top three posts of the food blog Cookie and Kate have done in terms of:
Number of backlinks
Based on this information, you can determine which websites are more worthwhile to contribute to than others.
How to pitch a guest post
Once you know which sites you want to write for, it’s time to get to work on that first pitch. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
01. Keep track with a spreadsheet
It can take awhile for these websites to get back to you, so it’s easy to lose track of them if you don’t have the information stored somewhere. For that reason, it’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet with information about the publication, editor, pitch details and guidelines, and date of your last email. You can also use this spreadsheet to keep tabs on websites you eventually want to write for, but aren’t ready to pitch to yet.
02. Familiarize yourself with the website’s content
Work on each guest posting opportunity one at a time so you can give each your full attention. The first thing to do is familiarize yourself with the kinds of posts they publish as well as the ones that perform the best. Use SEO tools (mentioned above) to find out which of their articles get the most social media shares, and use their most recently published posts to point you in the direction of their preferred topics. Once you understand what kind of content they want to see, it’ll be much easier to craft your pitch.
03. Review the guest post guidelines
Next, turn your attention to the guest posting guidelines. The editor is going to tell you exactly what they want from you, including details about:
Style and voice
Topics they’re looking for (or not looking for)
Examples of popular posts on their site
Image specifications (when relevant)
Rules for linking
They’ll also tell you if they want you to submit a pitch with a few bullet points before writing. Other times, they’ll ask you to write the post right away so that they can review the draft.
Here’s an example of a guest blogging guidelines page from HubSpot:
For each publication you want to submit to, make sure you read the guidelines very carefully. One misstep in your submission could lead the editor to pass over your pitch entirely.
03. Come up with a unique pitch
Whether you’re brainstorming a bulleted pitch or writing a full post, you’ll want to do a website search for your topics first.
If they’ve been tackled on the website already (even if it was a few years ago), don’t pitch them to the editor. They want to see that you have a new and unique idea to bring to the site. This is what will make you valuable to them as well as to their readers.
04. Write and send your pitch email
In some cases, you’ll simply have to fill out a form on the website with details about who you are and what you’re pitching. However, most websites (such as MarketingProfs), will give you an email address to send your pitch to along with specific instructions.
Make sure you read the guidelines page to find out what information to include in the message. You don’t want to send anything more or less than they ask for. Like MarketingProfs clearly states on its Write for Us page:
“If you haven’t followed the above guidelines, you likely won’t hear back.”
So, it’s very important to re-read everything and make sure you dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s before you hit the Send button.
Guest posting best practices
Here are just a few more tips we want to leave you with before you start guest posting for your brand:
01. Write a strong bio
Most websites will ask you to write a bio. While you’ll want it to be uniquely worded from site to site, the core summary of who you are and why you’re an expert on the subject matter will more or less be the same.
To save yourself time, create a bio template to start from. You can then adapt it based on the website, its audience, and what kinds of topics you’ve covered for them.
02. Spend extra time on your headlines
The mere presence of an article on a high-authority website or blog cannot guarantee that people will click on it. To encourage readers to take note of your guest post, make sure you write a catchy headline for it. For more information, take a look at this article on how to write a headline that hooks readers.
03. Proofread several times
As we’ve mentioned before, guest blogging isn’t about building up a repository of backlinks. That’s a poor practice for SEO, and you’re more likely to be penalized than rewarded for it. So, you really need to take the time to create a high-quality post when someone gives you the chance to write for them.
04. Write with intention
Never write a guest post and then try to find a home for it. There’s a reason why the ideal blog post length for guest articles is often 1,000 words or more. They want to make sure that contributors are serious about creating high-quality content for the blog and aren’t just looking for anywhere to place something they wrote a few months ago. So, custom pitches and content are a must if you want to have any success in guest posting.
05. Follow up after the post goes live
Want to show the website you wrote for that you meant every word you said? After the post goes live:
Share a link to it on your social media accounts (remember to include the website’s handle).
Check the comments section of the post and respond to anyone who takes the time to ask a question or debate one of your points.
Write a short promotional post for it on your blog and let your readers know about it.
06. Make time for guest blogging every month
Getting something published on a high-profile site once is fine. However, making a name for yourself as someone who knows everything about this one specific subject will be huge for your business over the long run.
If you can, try to write for the same publications. It’s much easier to maintain a guest blogging partnership than to always have to be looking for new opportunities and navigating new sets of guidelines.
07. Review your analytics
Your Google Analytics account has an entire section dedicated to acquisition. Use the information there to see if your guest posts are actually driving traffic to your website. (You’ll find referral information under “All Traffic.”)
You can also use Google Search Console to keep tabs on your “Top Linking Sites” as well as how your guest blogging work has affected the search traffic levels to your website.
Small Business Expert and Marketing Blogger