I’m a big fan of the guest blogging process. I’m fully aware there’s a huge amount of debate in the SEO industry as to whether you should or shouldn’t do it, and we all know Matt Cutts once said “if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.”
But with that said, I still see as much success with guest blogging today as I ever have done at any point throughout my time in the industry. In fact, I’m probably seeing a greater number of results today.
Not wanting to get into the discussion of whether you should or shouldn’t guest blog (I’m completely, 100% pro guest blogging, for what it’s worth), what I do want to talk about is if you’re on board, how you can secure guest blogging opportunities.
This is something I struggled with for a long time and which I know so many others still do, but I’ve developed a process I follow that has resulted in opportunity after opportunity being secured time and time again.
No One Owes You a Favor
And the first place you need to start is by understanding – or remembering – that people don’t owe you a favor. No one has to let you write on their blog, no matter who you are.
Sure, your reputation may help you to get noticed, but that doesn’t mean you’re granted direct access to publish whatever content you wish (or any content at all) on someone else’s blog.
It may sound like an obvious point, but in my eyes, it’s one of the most misunderstood. If you don’t have this awareness, you’re going to find it more difficult than it really has to be to secure guest blogging spots, as all of the necessary components are going to seem more like chores than vital parts of a business process.
So, on the understanding you’re aware guest blogging takes time and effort, and you’re unlikely to be handed opportunities on a plate, the process I always follow can be broken down into three high level areas:
First thing’s first – you need to start by working out where you would actually like to guest post.
I have a spreadsheet I continually research for and update.It includes a list of all websites and blogs to which I’d like to contribute. Consisting of three columns, the first details the website name / URL and the second includes a general overview, explaining whether, for example, it’s a blog that’s popular amongst UX designers or a resource for beginners in the affiliate marketing industry.
The third column is the one that includes the most detail, and which generally proves most valuable, as it’s where I include any information on what is needed to contribute. It might simply be a note on the type of posts usually published, or it could be an in-depth list of editorial guidelines, and I usually try and spend the time researching specific contact details, too.
But whatever information it is that’s included, it’s essentially my go-to information before any contact with the website owner / blogger is made. If I have this information, I have at least a good understanding of what they’re expecting and as such, can tailor my approach accordingly.
Retain a Growing Stock of Ideas
Secondly, and in a similar vein to the above list of websites and blogs, it’s time to begin compiling a list of content ideas.
As a general rule, I’ll jot down a potential title, description of what the piece would be about and if it’s clear, who should be approached about it (although the ideas don’t always need to be related to any specific blog on your first list at this stage). This all happens as and when an idea comes to mind – it’s not a matter of saying “Right, it’s 10 a.m. on Tuesday – time to get busy thinking ideas!”It just doesn’t work that way.
Continually adding to the list, I also make a note of whether I’ve used it yet, or its progress as a piece – just a note saying ‘Pitched to...’ or ‘Submitted to...’ with a relevant date. For me, it just helps me keep track of what’s out there.
And then we start to get into the fun part.
Nail the Pitch
But I used to hate this bit. I always thought it was where my whole process fell down. And then I realized I was doing it wrong.
Moving back to my first point about people not owing you anything, you need to keep this in mind at all times when you’re writing your e-mail pitch. You need to make yourself stand out and make people realize they aren’t doing you a favor, but you’re doing them a favor in many ways.
Also, you need to be understanding of their specific needs and expectations.Most editors don’t have spare time in abundance and as such, they don’t want to be having to trawl through e-mails that contain paragraph after paragraph.They want it short and sweet.Simple.
What’s more, your pitch must be unique, relevant and customized.For the love of whatever higher body you may look up to, do not simply copy and paste.I’ve tried this.It doesn’t work.I guarantee it.
So with that said, I have a basic e-mail template I follow, which I tweak each and every time I pitch.
For me, this gets the job done every time (assuming the idea is of interest), and it’s because each section of the e-mail plays its own vital part:
- Introduction: Firstly, I introduce myself. Nothing over the top or too in-depth, but I provide enough information for the recipient to get an understanding of who I am and I can instantly begin building that relationship and rapport with them.
- Straight to the point: I don’t beat around the bush. I jump straight in and explain what I’m doing and subsequently, why I’m getting in touch.
- Make it clear: Not talking about creating content in general or producing posts for their blog, I allow the recipient to gain a clear understanding of the type of content I’m producing. And if it isn’t instantly obvious, I follow up with an explanatory paragraph (similarly, I sometimes pitch two posts in the same e-mail if I feel there are two strong ideas – they can always pick).
- Finish on a positive: Tying up the relatively short e-mail on a positive note, I essentially explain why I have got in touch, which is to publish content in front of their audience. However, I don’t mention any of the rubbish they have heard for years, such as fresh content being beneficial for SEO, new content being great for user engagement, etc. Just a simple one-liner to reiterate the point.
Now although the e-mail itself forms the key part of this process, there are a number of points to consider within it, most notably tracking your activity.
I do this as mentioned above on the second spreadsheet, whereby I’ll know who has received what idea, but also with the e-mail itself.
Using Sidekick, I can see who has opened an e-mail and who hasn’t.Whilst I won’t use this information to get in touch (“Hey, I noticed you opened my e-mail – why haven’t you responded?!”), what I do have is an understanding that if my e-mail has been opened and not responded to within a week or so, it’s unlikely to have been of interest. This means I can then pitch it elsewhere if need be.
Editor's note: since 2016 Sidekick is known as Hubspot Sales.
Remember to Monitor
And as soon as that e-mail is sent, I’m generally seeing an extremely positive response – but that’s not where the process ends.
With editors not often coming back saying “Yep, perfect - start writing,” you have to understand that you’ve got your foot in the door, but you then need to begin engaging.
You need to listen to what the editor is saying and abide by it.You need to ask questions if something isn’t clear.You need to feel confident that as soon as you leave the e-mail discussion, you’re able to produce the content.
You of course have the ability to go back to them, but who wants to do that on anything but vital aspects? It doesn’t look great on you if you go back several days later with a basic question, and it could potentially jeopardize future opportunities (“they clearly never listened” or “they don’t really know what they’re doing” – harsh, but true, right?).
What’s more, I also make a note of every guest blog post ever published. I have its name, the blog on which it’s published, a direct link to it and the date it went live. Keeping this within the spreadsheet mentioned above, it means I can effectively track the entire process from blog post idea through to publishing. If nothing else, this satisfies my OCD of not having loose ends :)
When Done Correctly, Securing New Opportunities is Easy
Guest blogging. Outreach. Third-party content publishing. Whatever you want to call it, it still exists and can still be extremely beneficial to both your SEO and overall business development efforts today.
With the content itself needing to be based on quality more so than quantity, this is exactly the same frame of mind you need to be in when you’re looking to secure opportunities in the first place. It’s all about the approach you take and the engagement you have with the blogger – and if this isn’t on the highest and most customized level possible, the greater the likelihood there is of your efforts falling on deaf ears.
What's your greatest guest blogging achievement? Let us know in the comments!