Ultimate Guide to Guest Blogging

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When a Google authority figure said that guest blogging is dead, the blogosphere panicked.

In the beginning of 2014, Matt Cutts might as well have put the fork right through the hearts of all aspiring and seasoned guest bloggers when he said, “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.” Images of successful bloggers like Jon Morrow and Danny Iny raced through many bloggers’ minds. How did Jon and Danny manage to make successful businesses all around guest blogging? Goodbye Jon’s Mexican vacation home overlooking the ocean and Danny’s crazy successful business.

Newsflash: Guest blogging is alive and kicking, but things are going to be a little different in 2015. Here is your guide to getting the most out of guest blogging if you are serious about guest blogging and serious about creating quality content.

At its core, guest blogging is all about building relationships. If you lead with this, then the odds of success are in your favor.


What Guest Blogging Isn’t and What It Is?

Let’s just get this out of the way now because you can’t learn about the ins and outs of guest blogging until you understand what it is not. Guest blogging isn’t about unnatural or dead links. Guest blogging isn’t about SEO. Traffic and other statistics matter very little in the whole picture.

Guest blogging isn’t about being that annoying blogger that feels entitled; greed, selfishness and your ego don’t belong in guest blogging. Guest blogging isn’t a magic strategy that will get you instant success, so be prepared to work before you write, during your writing and after you write.

Yes, you have to work. Luckily, this guide will give you a shortcut, so you don’t have to work as hard. Let’s get started by breaking it down into before blogging, during blogging and after blogging.


Before Blogging

Figure out Why You Are Blogging

If it is any of the above, then it’s time to re-evaluate. You wouldn’t believe how many aspiring bloggers think blogging is an easy way to become amazing, successful and rich.

Ask yourself and answer honestly: What are your guest blogging goals?

While the reasons may vary, here are three very common and, most importantly, realistic guest blogging goals:

1) You want to be known as an established authority figure in your industry.
2) You want to bring in some traffic to your site. Guest blogging can definitely do that.
3) You want quality backlinks to your own site. That’s fair.

In some scenarios, a successful guest blog post can get you all three. Yet, the first point is arguably the most valuable. It’s something that you can’t buy ever. Luckily, Tom Ewer, the successful professional blogger from Leaving Work Behind, makes becoming an authority not seem so scary. According to Tom, becoming an authority is just about being authority enough. Think about and use your expertise. What is it that you know more about than most people you know?

The answer to that question is usually a good place to start. As Tom further explains, “You only need to have an intermediate understanding of a topic to be well-placed to teach the majority of the market.” Authority blogging is still one of those few areas where passion, dedication and learning can trump fancy degrees, titles and certificates. Believe that you are good enough.


Find the Audience

If you want guest blogging to really pay off, then you have to research the best opportunities. You aren’t writing for search engine robots, the blogger’s success depends on his/her audience’s trust, faith and loyalty. The audience isn’t going to do any of that, or even like the blogger, if you deliver a bad or irrelevant post.

Ask yourself and answer honestly: Who is your audience? Let your creativity take over. Get really descriptive in their description, values, beliefs, etc. If you want to give them a name, then go for it.

Your target audience should be hanging out where you are guest blogging. They are the eyeballs that you are after.

Here is how you can determine if your audience and that blogger’s audience is compatible:

  • Content is relevant to your industry, niche and expertise.
  • Audience will get value from your post and expertise.
  • Audience is engaged and interactive. Comments and social shares will let you know.
  • The main blogger has a prominent following on social media and he/she is social media savvy.


Find and List Strategic Opportunities

Copy: If you are already following authoritative figures in your niche or industry (like you already should be), then you can start with them. Look at where they themselves have guest blogged to create a list of potential places to pitch. If you know who your competition is, then you can also copy where they have guest blogged by checking out their backlinks.

Search: You can do social media or search engine searches. Key phrases like “Keyword +submit a guest post” or “ Keyword + guest post guidelines” should help.

Community: Aspiring bloggers might be unaware that there are many great blogging communities. Blogs became so popular because of the sense of community and comraderies.

The qualifiers on compatibility in the previous section will help you determine if a blog is worth pitching. You won’t meet any of your goals if it’s not a great fit. It should feel like a win for you, the blog owner and the blog audience. Creating a list by the most relevant blogs and working your way down will save you tons of time and energy.


Study the Blog

Congratulations! Now you’ve created a strategic list of popular blogs in your industry and niche. You know where your ideal audience hangs out.

You’ve created a list of the right blogs for you to pitch, and now you need to study the blog thoroughly.

Popular bloggers know who is genuinely interested in their topic. The fastest way to turn off a popular blogger is to approach them without spending the time to look at the content that they create and curate tirelessly.

Here are a few ways that you can learn about the blog, and, by extension, the blog owner:

Read their content: You’ll never learn the ins and outs of their tone, voice, style, grammar preferences, formatting, etc. by taking the time to read through the posts. Pay attention to the small things, e.g. do they write paragraphs? Do they write one sentence paragraphs? do they use contractions or not? Is their tone more conversational or more formal?

You’ll want to mimic some of these elements in the next step, and, ultimately, in your guest post.

Note how the audience treats the guest bloggers: Just because a blog owner accepts guest posts doesn’t mean that their audience cares for it. Some members might only be there for the blog owner. Gather the guest posts that have done well; you can tell if a post did well by the level of engagement, e.g. comments and social shares. You’ll also want to pay attention what kind of content the blog owner allows guest posters to write about; there usually is a pattern or theme in the content.

Tool tips: Sites like Topsy, Delicious and Digg are free and easy to use. They will give you valuable social sharing information.

Warm up to the blog owner: Guest blogging is a lot about relationships. Popular bloggers have to worry about things like scammers and business motivated people. Make the effort to stand out as a real person. Leave a few well-thought out and insightful comments, ask questions, share the content on your social media platforms and interact with the blogger on social media.

Tool tips: Twitter is a casual and low-pressure platform where a popular blogger can really notice you. It’s a great place to be a little more conversational, relaxed and interesting.


The Pitch

Great! You’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting.

You’ll need to keep flexing that blogging muscle, but this is where things will start to come together.

Drill these two thoughts into your head: the blog owner is probably extremely busy and they don’t owe you anything.

Ask yourself and answer honestly: What kind of value can you and only you add to the popular blogger’s audience?

If you can nail your own value, then that’s your personal Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It’s a hand piece of information to include in your pitch.

Pitch emails shouldn’t ever be attachments or essays. If you write less than a couple of paragraphs, then you should be safe; successful bloggers are very busy and they have hundreds of people contacting them every day. Follow these helpful guest pitching best practices to impress the head blogger:

Read and follow the guidelines: If the blog owner has guidelines, then follow them religiously. Top bloggers don’t have time to waste and taking the time to follow directions proves that you are something that they could work with. If you don’t see any guidelines, then it might not hurt to reach out to the main blogger and ask if there are any guidelines; this reach out is where already having a warm connection helps because you are a friendly and familiar face.

Make your pitch email feel personal: Generic salutations will get your pitch email in the junk or trash folder. Don’t greetings like Greetings Sir or Madam, To Whom This May Concern and Hello Webmaster feel icky and send off spam red flags? You can also try digging up the blog owner’s personal email address, especially if the best thing that you can find is a contact form. Top bloggers might appreciate the extra effort. If you have any past interactions with the blogger then you can add that. If you don’t have any warm relationships, then maybe you can point to one of your favorite blog posts.

Tell your story: Your story isn’t your life story; top bloggers don’t care about that. This is the perfect place to include the idea that they need in their blog and your USP. Successful bloggers want to know:
1) What value can you offer their audience?
2) Why are you the best person to deliver it? If you want to add a little bit of personality to be memorable, then this is the place to shine. If you have any type of social proof online, then you will want to add relevant links.

Tips: Include relevant links and samples that have high engagement, e.g. comments and social shares.


During Blogging

You’ve knocked it out of the park! The top blogger wants you to write the guest post on their blog.

You have done a lot of the work already by really working through your idea in your pitch email. Plus, you already know the ins and outs of the blog because you already studied it.

Here are a few best guest blogging practices that will make you look and feel like a total professional:

Add value always: A guest post isn’t the time to rave about all of your life accomplishments or your business. You should genuinely want to to serve the reader.

Format appropriately: Mimic the blog posts already on the blog. This should be easy because you’ve already studied the blog thoroughly.

Link appropriately: Link to relevant internal and external sources. Authoritative sources always make you look more professional.

Call to action: Hopefully, you’ve nailed the post and the audience has followed you to the end. End strong with a call to action. A great call to action usually means more comments and more social engagement.

Write a bio: This short blurb is where you can promote your product or services. Include memorable information and include a link to your website.


After Blogging

Your post is now live and published. Take in the excitement because you deserve it!

While the real hard work is behind you, what you do now is still critical because it separates the great bloggers from the okay guest bloggers. This is the stage where top bloggers will definitively decide if they want to work with you again, so make it count.

Be someone the blogger can count on: Top bloggers cater to their audience, and they don’t want to see you disappear. You wrote the post, so you are the expert. Stick around and answer questions, express your gratitude and engage with their audience (which is also your audience).

Share your work: If you’re proud of your work, then show it off. Tell your circles about it and share it on your social networks. This isn’t the time to be modest. You can also share relevant posts from the blog.

Express gratitude: While blogging can feel impersonal because it’s all over a screen, blogging fundamentally is about connections and likability. A personal email or a handwritten note expressing gratitude can solidify your relationship to that blogger. It’s not just a nice gesture; this very busy and successful blogger took a gamble on you.

Did you achieve success with guest blogging? Share your success or opinion by commenting below.

Naven Pillai
Naven Pillai
Digital Marketing Analyst at Exposureville. You can find me online, tweeting about current trends in digital marketing industry, or playing Football Manager. Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit.

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