Image: Matthew Loffhagen
It’s hard to get noticed as an author, but blogging is a good way to go about it. Of course, it’s not easy, and starting from scratch means gathering your own audience and giving them good, consistent reasons to stay. Happily, that’s not the only approach, and it’s possible to take advantage of existing blogs – even networks of blogs – to get your name and work out there. A big part of this technique is landing and nailing guest posts.
What is guest posting?
Guest posts are blog content provided by someone from outside that blog, or at least not usually featured on it. This differs from simply being a freelance writer in that the content is generally expected to be a ‘one-off’, as with a guest host/presenter on a radio or television show.
There are a lot of reasons that blogs feature guest posts, but most of them are covered by wanting good content. A guest poster may bring unique expertise, a specific area of focus, or just be good enough to add value to a blog’s regular output. Very, very few blogs rely on guest posts, so while most blogs will consider guest content if its up to their standards, it’s very much a buyer’s market.Guest posts introduce you to a large, engaged, relevant audience.Click To Tweet
The flipside of this arrangement is that guest posting allows writers to connect with an audience they don’t already have. The intent is that everyone wins; the blog got great content, the writer found new readers, and the readers found someone new whose work they enjoy. This is why – when you’re marketing your work – guest posting can be so beneficial; you’re advertising your writing through your writing. More than with perhaps any other type of marketing, the reader knows what they’re getting.
So, that’s what guest posting is, but how do you do it well?
Successful guest posting
Though guest posting is a marketing opportunity for you, it shouldn’t feel like marketing to your host or their readers. Blogs want real, tangible content. Before you even think about making your pitch, adjust your mindset so that you’re not thinking about what you might get out of the opportunity, but what you can give through it. It might help to visualize your contribution as a gift, something you are offering to your readers without asking for anything in return. Of course, you do want something in return, but it’s something you’re more likely to get if that isn’t apparent in your work. No-one enjoys feeling like they’re being sold to, so focus on producing something worthwhile.
As a guest poster, you’re in an honored position. Leave readers feeling like they received something from you already, something they’d pay to see more of – like a guest speaker whose podcast you Google while the studio audience is still applauding.
Be relevant and be exclusive
Offer your host not only value, but value catered to their blog. Don’t approach every blog with the same writing sample, hoping to cram square pegs into any-shape holes. Explore a blog thoroughly – not just their headlines and most-read articles. Dig deep, and read the articles in full. Find out what the readership likes, what they respond to, and what’s missing. That way, when you reach out to the site host, you can convincingly claim that your contribution is fitting.Cater your article pitches to individual blogs, beginning with their existing content.Click To Tweet
In most cases, be prepared to offer exclusive content to each blog. This will be easier if you’re prioritizing true relevance, but it may also mean putting in the hours to write a lot of dedicated content. Book excerpts from existing works probably aren’t going to cut it.
Bottom line: research the blog before you write your post. You might get lucky enough to find a blog that fits a post you’ve already written – or that at least allows you to recycle some work – but chances are readers (and hosts) can tell if you’re trying to force it. It will help if you can engage with the blog ahead of time, too. Read the articles, leaving positive and insightful comments. Be genuine, but be proactive.
Ten steps to finding and nailing guest post opportunities
- Find blogs you can post on. Search for ‘blog’ and keywords relevant to your work and/or the audience you want to reach (you can even search for ‘guest blog post’), or search for lists of sites that accept guest posts. You’ll find hundreds. Cross-reference these results by plugging just your keywords into major search engines and social media sites. These searches can yield advantageous results because you know what pops up when other people search your topic without the ‘guest post’ criterion. If there are authors you admire in the field, search for guest posts they’ve written and consider pitching to the same sites.
- Now, vet your list. Target blogs with relevant and sizeable readerships. You should be able to view impact metrics for most blogs, giving you an idea of their scope. Don’t fake it. If your content and a certain blog wouldn’t be paired up on eHarmony, don’t ask them out on a doomed first date. It doesn’t matter how great of a reputation they have or whether their following is 60,000 strong; if it’s not a good fit, people will be able to tell, and they won’t like it.Spend time trying to find the right blog to post for – focus and precision beat a scattershot approach.Click To Tweet
- Find the contact info and name for the relevant person, then get in touch with a handful of topics they can choose from. You’ve already done your research, so you know what they’re likely to want, but don’t try to take that decision away from them. Include a short but powerful writing sample and links to other online publications. This is the most crucial moment in guest posting. Don’t botch it with a generic letter, failing to use their name, or copy-pasting your email to the last blog. Start with a) a name and b) a specific compliment about their blog. Move into the pitch by describing the contribution you can make. Remember, this isn’t about you. This is about them, their blog, their success, their readers. You just happen to have something of value to add to what they already built.
- Be accommodating of any conditions they have for content (word count, formatting, etc). Go in with as few conditions of your own as possible. Don’t compromise your ethical code, and do ask for a link back to your own site, but otherwise, don’t make special requests. Ask not what their blog can do for you, but what you can do for their blog.
- Write a &*@# good post. This isn’t the time to crank out whatever you have time for. Make them glad they invited you. Work on behalf of their readers, engage them in conversation. Don’t be An Expert, be a peer. Include a couple of visuals if the interface permits it, but limit them to avoid clutter. Include a couple of links to other articles on the host’s site, if you can do this with integrity. Internal links will show your engagement with and respect for the site and mark you as a member of the community rather than a salesperson. It’s okay to link back to an article of your own if it’s reeeally pertinent, but don’t overdo this.
- Though you don’t want to turn readers off with an overwhelming sales pitch, when you do market, be direct. End the article by saying who you are, and include a link to your own site. Keep it short and straightforward. One link is better than five, and make sure you’re linking to a page that’s simple, visually appealing, and immediately useful to your assumed reader.Don’t clog your guest post with links to your own work. Not only is it ineffective, it feels dishonest. Click To Tweet
- Before the post goes live, polish up your own blog, and be ready to populate it with new and compelling content. It wouldn’t hurt to have a few articles on deck so that while you’re busy conducting a marketing campaign, your blog won’t suffer.
- When the post goes live, send a personal thank you to the host. Invite them to post on your site. Not only does this foster a good relationship with that host, but you can point to it when contacting others in the future. It’s also possible that their guest post will help you in turn, attracting even more of their readers.
- Promote the post on all your own social media platforms, including a generous introduction to the site host and the valuable content they offer.
- Respond to all non-spam comments with a ‘thank you’ and, if applicable, more value. It’s a huge turn-off when authors respond to readers as though they can’t be bothered – throwing them a link or a cursory reply instead of a clear, specific answer. Some of these commenters might be worth tracking down and forging a relationship with. If they’re in your field, they may wish to guest post on your site or feature some of your content on theirs.
Above all, give
If I could only give you two words of advice on successful guest posting, they would be: give value. Aside from being good life advice, heeding the prescription to give more than you expect to get will leave you pleasantly surprised. When people really like what you give them, they’ll look for more whether you ask them to or not.
Have you done any guest posting? Learned any lessons the hard (or easy) way? Share your wisdom in the comments below, or throw out your questions to tap into others’ experience. You can also find out more about marketing your book with How To Write A Book Marketing Plan In 13 Easy Steps, Everything You Need To Know About Guerrilla Book Marketing, How (And Why) You Should Plan A Podcast To Market Your Book.