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Kerry Butters

8 Steps to Becoming a Successful Guest Blogger

Kerry Butters

Guest blogging has been somewhat abused in recent years, until Matt Cutts, the previous head of the spam team at Google, announced that it was to be banned for SEO purposes. Before that, we saw a lot of fluff around the web which were created purely for link building and offered very little in the way of useful information. I still get plenty of requests to post guest blogs daily and the vast majority of these are searching for a link; they’re very easy to spot.

Guest blogging in 2015 should have a purpose, of course. However, that purpose should be to build relationships with editors and others within your industry and to raise brand awareness and traffic, ideally. With this in mind, let’s have a look at what the steps you need to take to find guest blogging success.

#1: Do Your Research

Firstly, research the blogs that you want to write for. You should study the format of the posts that they publish, paying attention to the style, tone and layout of each post. Some editors like lots of images, some prefer certain types of posts, such as lists. By first studying the titles and the formats of the existing material on the site you’re giving yourself a much better chance of being accepted.

Find out what kind of titles are published on the site and which ones have done very well in terms of shares and comments. You can then get together a couple of title suggestions which you should submit to the editor with a brief synopsis.

You should also do all that you can to find out the editor’s name. On my own site my name is pretty much plastered all over it, and yet I very rarely receive submissions that address me. That to me is a very good indication that someone isn’t really prepared to put in even a small amount of research and if they can’t in order to find out my name, are they really going to turn in a well-researched post? Doubtful.

Also look for editorial guidelines. Most sites that accept guest posts generally have these somewhere on the site. Read them carefully, noting the submission process, any formatting guidelines and image requirements.

Once you’ve research all of the sites that you’re targeting, you’re ready to move on.

#2: Send a Query

Query mails should, as discussed, address the editor by name wherever possible. It’s also necessary to craft an email specifically for each site, rather than use the same tired old template that editors see time and again. Start by mentioning that you’re a fan of the blog and perhaps even mention a particular post that you’ve enjoyed. Keep this brief though; most editors are busy people with plenty of mail to wade through each day, so they really don’t want to read the short story you’ve written extolling the virtues of their site.

Compliments are nice, just don’t overdo it.

Before we get to the actual mail itself, a quick word about the use of Gmail addresses. If you’ve ever worked in SEO it’s likely that at some point you have set up a Gmail address to deal with a client’s site. These can be used to help clean up link profiles and to contact other sites for guest posting. Usually Gmail addresses are used when somebody is looking for a link for a client and they don’t want to disclose the company that they work for. Due to this it’s likely that any mail coming from a Gmail address will be treated with suspicion, so if you have your own domain e-mail, use it.

When it comes to the query mail itself, keep it concise. If it’s the first time that you’ve approached an editor then you should introduce yourself and include a couple of links to your best work. Suggest a couple of titles along with short synopsises picking out the salient points that the posts will cover. Above all, try to ensure that it’s not too long and it’s easy to read, only taking up a couple of minutes of the editor’s time. Mention too that you’re familiar with the contributor guidelines where relevant as this will show that you’ve done your homework.

#3: Be Patient

A major irritant and something that’s almost guaranteed to get your query trashed is following up too soon and too often. Bear in mind that it might be as long as a couple of weeks before an editor gets back to you and that daily reminders won’t serve to speed the process up. Wait two weeks and if you haven’t heard back in that time then do drop the editor a short email asking if she’s considered your proposal.

Bear in mind too that some editors just don’t have time to respond to each and every query. If you haven’t heard back in a couple of weeks and there’s no response to a gentle reminder, then assume that your submission won’t be accepted and scratch the site from your list. If they do get back to you, bonus, but if they don’t, badgering them won’t help.

#4: Writing the Post

When it comes to the time when your ideas have been accepted and you’re ready to write the post, first refresh your memory on the guidelines for contributors. Check image sizes and so on and the link policy of the site. If no links to commercial partners or your own site are allowed in the body – which is standard practice – then don’t under any circumstances put them in.

A well-researched and informative article should contain links in the body which point to supporting information only. You have your author bio for links to your site and social media profiles and you should populate this as much as possible to point to your social profiles, depending on the policy of the publication.

Try to make sure that the information in the post is not the same old stuff that every man and his dog has previously covered. It’s not that difficult to come up with a new angle, or impart your own personal industry knowledge so make sure that you put the time into doing that. A guest post should be able to stand as an article that highlights your knowledge so that you can position yourself as an industry expert.

Do use images and do make sure that you have the right to distribute them under Creative Commons licensing – or use your own images. Pixabay has a wide range of images that are free to use without attribution and you can also use a Google Image search choosing to filter by ‘Search Tools’ and then ‘Usage Rights.’ You should choose those that have been marked for reuse.

creative commons

Include your bio at the end of the post, with your name, company you work for and social media links as well as any other information that you feel is relevant. Make sure that you check the post thoroughly for spelling and grammatical errors before submission.

#5: Submit!

Now you’re ready to send it to the editor, do so with a short email asking when it will be published. Don’t expect it to be immediate, most publications have a calendar that they work to and they will slot your post in where they can. Some editors like to agree a deadline when you first make an inquiry; others just let you know when it’s posted.

Speaking of deadlines, if you have been given one, stick to it. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for something that’s been promised as it can mess up your entire calendar.

#6: Share and Get Involved

Once your post is live, share it across all of your social accounts for at least a few weeks. It will depend on the kind of content as to how long you share it for. Some evergreen content can be shared for as much as a year or even two, as it’s written not to outdate too quickly. Others will be news-based and so can only be shared for a maximum of a couple of months or even weeks.

You should also check the site daily to see if anyone has commented and engage with those who do. Editors that see you getting involved in the community are much more likely to ask you for another post. You should also reply to any comments on social media too and really get involved in the life of the post.

#7: Ask for Another

Once you’ve had a post go live and it’s received some engagement, ask the editor if she’s willing to let you submit another post. If you’ve done everything right, there’s no real reason that the editor should refuse unless they are not accepting further guest posts. You can even ask for a regular slot if you have enjoyed working with the site and found it beneficial – editors like regular content that they can rely on so it’s always worth asking.

#8: Move On

Once you’re published with one site, and have developed a relationship with the editor, then you can get back to your list and go through the same process again.

Tips:

  1. Ensure that the blogs and ideas you send to editors are unique.
  2. If your spelling or grammar is poor, or English isn’t your first language, use tools such as Grammarly to help you. If you’re upfront with this and your information is sound, some editors are willing to help brush up the English.
  3. Get involved with communities wherever you can to further improve your online visibility.
  4. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative and offer your own images, or even videos.
  5. Always ensure that the piece you’re writing is highly relevant to the niche.

Once you’ve started to build your audience, you will be surprised how quickly it rises if you get really social. I make the time to reply personally to as many retweets as possible for example, and it really does help to increase your audience quickly and relevantly.

There’s skill to guest blogging and it also helps to know what editors want. If you have a good social following they will be more inclined to post your work, as long as it’s up to scratch, so work on this constantly. You will find that the more social you are, the more you will become to be thought of as an influencer and once you’ve achieved this, the world is your oyster!

Kerry is a prolific technology writer, covering a range of subjects from design and development, SEO and social, to corporate tech and gadgets. Also a published author, and 2015 Shorty Award finalist for Best Business Blogger, Kerry heads up digital content agency markITwrite and is an all-round geek.

Comments

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Randy Rebecca Krusee
Randy Rebecca Krusee
Thanks for the tips!
Jennifer Nini
Hi Kerry, I follow you religiously on Twitter and as I ramp up my digital agency efforts (FYI it's http://thesocialcopywriter.com), I will be consuming more of your content. Love what I'm reading so keep up the great work! And thanks for sharing such great articles on Twitter too!
Kerry Butters
Jennifer Nini
thanks Jennifer and for all that reading! it's always lovely to hear my writing is really useful to people
Umer Prince
Umer Prince
nice one
Katrin
Katrin
Very nice and informative article.
One question regarding #6: How would you deal with a guest blogger who doesn't have a FB account and hence won't be able to get involved with the community there for follow ups? Is this a k.o.-criteria, or do you see alternatives?
Kerry Butters
Katrin
Hi Katrin,

Use the social accounts that you have and do make sure that you follow up and reply to comments on the actual post - this is usually a requirement of the bigger publications,
Praneed
Praneed
That's an excellent article for people like me. I have started to approach guest bloggers without much experience. Here's this article helps me a lot. Thanks for your ideas.
Kerry Butters
Praneed
Pleasure Praneed, thanks for reading :)
Roosevelt P
An excellent post Kerry! Look, how I mentioned your name :). Your post gave me a whole new perspective on how to approach webmasters now. Thanks for putting it together!
Kerry Butters
Roosevelt P
Thank you for reading and your kind words - glad to be of help :)
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