Guest posts form an integral part of any blogging strategy. But can you still get them in today’s overcrowded environment?
Actually, the issue of guest posting is not an easy one to cover.
Some blogs that used to offer guest posts are now totally closed to the idea. Others that would never dream of accepting them are opening up to the idea of having multiple authors.
So how do you get a guest post in today’s blogging landscape? And do you even want to still try and get them?
Let’s take a look.
Let’s start this article by taking a quick look at the overarching principles behind pitching for guest posting opportunities in today’s environment:
Now let’s get into the real details of this article. Hopefully by the end of it you’ll have some new ideas for your guest post pitches and approaches.
Shall we touch on a little bit of history first?
Go back in time 10 years and you would have seen a thriving guest posting industry in almost every blogging niche.
People were swapping articles on each others blogs and it was helping them get traffic and even boosting their Google rankings up and up.
Some bloggers were even making a lot of money by charging advertising to put links on their site in the form of a guest post because they knew how valuable that backlink was for the person doing the post.
Some bloggers wrote about how this was not exactly accurate but, for the most part, it had the effect of making it a lot harder for people to get a guest post on another blog because everyone started to get afraid of Google penalties.
Guest posting to increase exposure to your brand, tap into different audiences, etc. are still very important and valid reasons for wanting to write on a blog that isn’t your own.
Well, the good news is that, despite all of this, guest posting is still very possible and can have extremely positive results for everyone who takes part, as long as it is done cleverly.
My intention here is not to embarrass anyone who sends out guest post pitches but rather to highlight a few issues that pop up in the hope that it helps in the future.
As someone who is fortunate enough to own a pretty big blog, I get approached by people looking to do guest posts every single day. Sadly, most of these pitches fall on deaf ears because the majority of them contain the same errors that get repeated again and again and, as the guy who sees the emails every day, they start to stand out a lot.
Here is one example from this week:
At first it looks like a pretty decent email pitch. Short, to the point, etc. But when you see these every day (and they all look the same) you start to notice some things.
- Nothing is personalized
The first thing that you notice is that they haven’t addressed me by my name or role. This automatically makes anyone in the internet marketing space think that it’s auto-generated.
- Incorrect link
Secondly, they have pointed to my blog archive at /blog/ and said that it was a post and that they liked what I wrote. This doesn’t bode well for someone hoping to write on a blogging site – either they don’t know what a post is or the email is incorrect.
- Generic details
The last paragraph has no details about their idea for a guest post, what they are suggesting for my site, how it will help my readers, etc. Again, it seems a lot like a mass generated email.
This is all a little bit frustrating when my contact page says at the very top that we do not accept any guest posts at this point in time, even if you are Seth Godin himself.
Interestingly, I’ve started replying to these pitches asking politely where they got the email address from and have never once heard back from any of them. I’m not sure what that means…
If you are a new blogger that is looking to start guest posting then I applaud you – it’s a good strategy that still works.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the same tips that worked for me when I first got started still have a big effect now. Guest posting has changed, but a lot of the same things are still working.
Let’s have a look.
1. Build relationships before engaging
As we saw in the example above, it’s very unlikely that you are going to get a guest post by emailing a blogger randomly with a half-baked pitch. The reason is simple – your pitch is getting received with dozens of others and there is no way for it to stand out.
What this means is that it’s really important to build relationships with bloggers first. This helps to differentiate yourself from the masses and makes it more likely that you’ll get a leg up.
One example of this is my Internet-friend, Vishal, who you might have seen in the comments section of Blog Tyrant leaving massive essays that are filled with value (seriously, some of them are like 1,000 words long!).
After a while I began chatting to Vishal and he expressed that he’d like to learn more about my industry and that if I needed any small jobs done that he’d be interested in helping. I remember feeling instantly excited about this idea because I’d seen the quality and care of his comments and knew that he was a trustworthy person.
I ended up hiring him to do a few little research and writing tasks which will be published very soon, but the main point is that it was much easier for me as a site owner to take the step towards working together when I’d seen him around the blog creating value and sharing knowledge. When Blog Tyrant gets opened up for other authors I’d be delighted to ask him to participate.
Actually, it has always been like this. Back when I was fortunate enough to be asked to do some writing on ViperChill I had been friendly and communicated with Glen for a long time before. It absolutely wouldn’t have happened from a cold email.
2. Show legitimate value first
Closely related to the idea of building relationships is the fact that you’re much more likely to get noticed if you can show something interesting or valuable that you’ve done.
For example, at least half of the guest post pitches that I receive are from bloggers with no existing blog, or from those with a blog that is brand new.
While I appreciate that they are trying to get guest posts so they can build that new blog up, it’s also a little bit like going for a job interview for a manager’s position without having any experience in the entry-level positions first.
One of the most incredible things about starting a blog is that you can use it as a digital resume that shows people your skills, your brand, and what you are about. They can explore it on their own time, and you don’t have to explicitly describe anything, you just let your work do the talking.
So when you’re trying to land a guest post on a particular topic, it’s important that you already have some kind of successful content on that topic. This doesn’t mean you need viral posts with millions of views, but show that you can actually write a long-form piece that is well researched, helpful, etc.
3. Find a way to be different
As I showed in the example above, when you pitch is just like every other pitch it’s easy for the site owner to think that you’re just mass emailing with no real value to add to the blog.
One of the most important things you can do in any marketing exercise is find a way to be different and memorable so that you stand out in the mind’s of the people who encounter you and your brand.
One incredible example of this is a guest post that appeared on Copyblogger by a dinosaur robot called Fake Grimlock.
This entire post was written in a kind of broken English with the caps lock button turned on for the whole thing. I remember laughing out loud to myself when I saw it – it was such a contrast to the other perfectly formed grammar masterpieces that usually appeared on Copyblogger.
This is a really fascinating (if not extreme) example of how you can approach your pitch differently. It’s important to remember how many emails your target gets on a given day, and to try and find some way both in the email itself and leading up to its sending to set yourself out from the pack.
4. Link to the people you want to work with
This is something we have talked about before in posts about blogging strategies and the like, but it’s really important to remember when you are trying to get a guest post.
The idea here is that you want to “give before you receive” by linking to the sites that you want to work with in the future.
This is something that every website owner appreciates because links are such valuable currency in our industry. If someone gives you a link in a guest post that they’ve done you really take notice because the act of citing your blog in a guest post is extremely kind.
Kristi Hines was someone who did this extremely well by creating highly useful content around the web that always linked back to a copious amount of bloggers.
For example, this compilation post that she did on Unbounce was one of my top traffic referrers for a long time. It got almost 400 comments and thousands of social shares.
After seeing this post I linked to Kristi more often and I noticed that her profile kept growing and growing until she was guest blogging on some of the biggest sites in the world. I am convinced this style of blogging really helped to showcase her writing skills to the right people.
I really don’t want this all to sound too much like I’m encouraging you to link to Blog Tyrant, I’m just being honest about the things that stand out when you get dozens of pitches every week. When someone has a demonstrated history of knowing your blog and citing it in other articles it really does go a long way.
5. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work right away
Guest posting is a hard gig and it’s important to remember that it can take a long time for the results to start showing up. I had an interesting chat about this topic on Twitter the other day and Brendan Hufford shared a very on-point insight:
@BlogTyrant Yeah. I measure results with long-term relationships and playing the long game. I also don’t do it like a total d-bag (I hope?)
— ☕️Brendan Hufford (@BrendanHufford) May 13, 2017
Sure, there are bulk/mass/automated ways to do all of these things and sometimes the work. But often when they work they usually only do so for the short term and then you are left scrambling to find the next thing that cuts through.
Try to keep track of the things that work for you and then try to replicate them for different campaigns, sites, etc. And if you ever stumble across something that is done well, consider popping it in a “Inspiration” folder in your bookmarks so you can refer back to it later and try to learn from it.
So many small wins in blogging come from just looking at what is working well for others and then trying to replicate or improve on that for your own blogs.
As we’ve talked about throughout this article, guest posting is a lot harder than it used to be. I’d really love to know if you’ve had any luck and if you’d recommend anything to new bloggers who are hoping to get started and chalk up some early wins. Please leave a comment and let us know.