In January 2014, Matt Cutts, engineer and head of Google’s Webspam team, wrote on his blog that if brands and bloggers were guest posting as a means to build links back to their own sites, they should stop immediately. But also buried in that proclamation was the kernel that many in the blogosphere seemed to miss: No, guest blogging isn’t dead – it’s just different now.
When Cutts speaks, people listen, especially when their marketing strategies depend heavily on SEO. Cutts, however, wasn’t saying that guest blogging is dead and that Google’s search rankings won’t consider links that come from posts on blogs other than your own. He was saying that, like the rest of Google’s page rank algorithm, only high-quality postings will be rewarded with favorable rankings. Guest posts that Google’s algorithm determines to be flagrantly cheap link builders will be docked.
Really, it’s just the same idea that Google has had for SEO for the past few years. Low-quality, keyword-stuffed Web pages are being sent to the bottom of the rankings, while well-written, informative content makes its way to the top. The content that gets shared on social media and linked to because it’s truly educational or interesting is what Google will prioritize in its rankings.
So guest blogging is still a viable strategy, and if you do it right – with the intention to provide value to human readers and not just game the system – it can be a massively useful tool for building your brand, expanding your reach, positioning yourself as an expert and generating high-quality traffic for your website. Here are four tips to help you pitch and write a killer guest post:
Figure out what blogs/websites make sense for guest posting
Guest blogging isn’t just about finding any blog that will let you post on it. You want to appear in front of the right audience – one that will bring the right kinds of readers (and hopefully future customers) to your blog or website. Chances are, if you’re a huge fan of a particular blog, it could be a good one to pitch, but don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper and see if there are other blogs with subject matter that matches what you do.
But it’s not just about finding a blog whose audience would be well-suited to read your content. There is other criteria you should consider before you pitch a blog for a guest spot. Here are two key ones:
- Quality – This seems obvious, but it often gets overlooked. The blog’s audience may be in line with what you’re talking about, but is it actually a good quality resource? Are the blog’s own posts consistently good? This is a subjective judgment call, but one worth making. You’ll be associated with this brand if you guest post there, so be judicious about who you work with.
- Engagement – Are people commenting on the site’s existing posts? Do the posts get a good number of social shares? How is the blog’s own search ranking? How much traffic does it get? If all of these look low, you may want to consider looking elsewhere.
Once you’ve chosen a few blogs you’d like to submit a guest post to, it’s time to create a pitch that will entice them to give you a spot at their pulpits.
Get your pitch right
Your pitch is everything. Getting it right could lead to an incredible opportunity now and even more later. Doing it poorly, however, can make you look like a spammer.
Your pitch really starts before you even draft your email. One of the best ways to gain the attention of the owner of the blog you want to post on is by commenting on his or her other posts, sharing them on social media and showing that first and foremost, you’re a fan. Don’t just gush all over them and and write fluffy comments just to get your name out there. You have to actually add value to the conversation. This will position you in the blog owner’s mind as someone who’s passionate and knowledgeable about the topics at hand.
From there, send a personalized email. Forget about the templates – this is a time to make a genuine connection. Here are a few best practices for a good pitch email:
- Keep your email short. You want to respect this person’s time.
- Create a strong subject line. Everything should be spelled correctly and the subject line should leave no doubt as to what the email is about. it could be something as simple as “Request for a guest submission. Outline attached.”
- Give a short intro letting the recipient know who you are and show that you’re a fan. But don’t overdo it – write just enough to let the person know you appreciate what he or she does.
- Get right into your pitch. Offer a few good headlines and maybe a very short outline of what you’d talk about in your submission.
- Show the blog owner what he or she will gain by posting your guest submission – a valuable viewpoint that adds value to the audience’s lives, on a timely topic that will drive traffic to his or her site. If you can demonstrate your worth to a blogger, you can be sure that more opportunities will come your way in the future.
If all goes well, you may get a “yes!” But the battle is only half over at this point.
Make sure it’s up to the blog’s editorial standards. This means that it should be formatted properly, be free of grammar and spelling errors, include the required images and anything else that goes into the blog’s in-house requirements.
Write an absolutely killer post
This should go without saying, but in the case of guest blogging, you need to bring your A game. You’re standing in front of an audience that has no idea who you are and owes you nothing. If you can’t wow them, it’s unlikely they’ll click a link back to your site to learn more about you. A good post should include the following:
- Make your post the gift that keeps on giving. There’s a time and place for time-sensitive content, but the best guest posts should continue to be as relevant and useful a year after posting as they are on day one. These posts will continue to bring traffic in for both you and your host over the long term.
- Offer more resources. Your post should be an incredible resource on its own, but why not go a step further and link to even more helpful content? It’s all about providing value for the audience, so you want to go above and beyond just publishing your own viewpoint.
- Participate in the comments. You’re acting as a resource for the audience, so if someone takes the time to leave a comment or ask a question, you’ll want to give a timely answer. Most guest posters don’t ever go back once they have their post up. You’ll separate yourself from the pack just by staying responsive to the audience.
- Share the post with your network and drive them to blog where your guest post appears.
Measure your results
Guest blogging should be looked at like another marketing campaign, and that means the results need to be trackable. See what kind of traffic, social shares and leads you get from each guest post. This data will let you know what sites are worth contributing to again in the future and which ones aren’t worth the time and effort.
Additionally, by asking questions about audience feedback and how well the post performed in terms of site and social metrics, you’ll show the blog’s owner that you’re committed to making the relationship work for both of you.
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