So here is the deal – what you are going to read ahead is a very comprehensive tutorial for a topic that I’m guessing only one or two of your Facebook contacts are familiar with. No one really cares about guest blogging, except those who know what it is, and I will take a wild guess again, wagering that for this limited selection of fellas, guest blogging is detrimental for the strength of their business, career, and very likely their paycheck.
To get this out of the way before taking the first step in explaining why is guest blogging important, here is a no-brainer definition of what it actually is.
Guest blogging is the process of publishing your work on another site. Your work- though people tend to mistake it with text articles only, can span all the way from selected number of images, an infographic, and a video with a text excerpt, or, yes, good old plain text. Percentages taken in consideration, text articles with an image or two are most likely to take the largest chunk of published guest posts.
Having said that, let us try establishing importance into the equation. Why guest blogging?
I will now take you through the reasoning of a site owner, and explain why I’m holding guest posting with such a high regard. Many variables interact with one another, so pay attention.
Why is guest blogging important?
Ideally, a guest post on a highly popular site is going to bring a lot of people directly back to yours. A rule of thumb goes, that for every piece of content you create there are a couple of links embedded within. Some of those links may point out to other authoritative sources around the net, but one or two of them can send people to pages on your site.
So, if I somehow manage to guest post on, say, The Art of Manliness (a very popular site), the article that I end up submitting will have at least one link back to my site. Receiving the amount of traffic, this guest post will probably end up sending me lots and lots of people for years to come.
However, to step out of unicorn highway for a moment there, and see the other side as well, referral traffic is not your best bet when submitting a guest post. Even a highly popular site can end up sending you few thousands of visitors, but then only a dozen per week after the initial three-day peak slowly fades away.
And when you consider how hard of a job it is to land a guest blogging opportunity on such a popular site, referral traffic suddenly seems little to non-important, especially if you expect it from less popular sites.
This is a valid reason to go over, since many popular bloggers started by guest blogging on another authoritative site. Back in the day for instance, it was a huge success to appear on Cracked.com for many of the influencers in the entertainment niche would took notice. Same went for guest blogging on Copyblogger if you were in the blogging/make-money-online niche.
It works by association, which is pretty straightforward when you think about it. You are featured on a big-deal of a site, so you must be kind of a big deal as well. People follow such a herd mentality in an instance, and you get your shot at bringing in more audience.
This though, only works if you are published on the major sites within your industry.
Or to put it in layman terms, Google rankings. This, young Skywalker, is where you put your bets.
Not a fan of a Star Wars reference? Here a kitten for you instead.
Still no? How about a baby chimpanzee scratching his head (the but licking pic costed slightly more to download – the only reason we are going with this one instead)
Nope? Well you are a picky fella anyway, so…
To ascent back into adulthood now, and forget that I’m trying to win your affections with a kitten pic followed by a chimpanzee, and what only seems to be a misplaced joke, let us go over why is guest blogging so closely tied with SEO.
Having in consideration how important backlinks to your site can be, it becomes easy to understand.
To put it another way – the links pointing to your site are the number one factor that influences your Google rankings.
If I write an article about napkins, and want that article to rank high for certain queries including the word “napkins” I’d like a lot of links from sites around the net to point out to my new page. But since no two links are created equal, I will appreciate if the links pointing to my napkins article come from authoritative sources, preferably relevant to the topic. I will also appreciate an editorially placed link- meaning- placed organically, where it makes the most sense from a user point of view.
But let us leave all that for later, and focus on the fact that the more links you have pointing to your site, the better. Extra brownie points if the links come from relevant and authoritative sources.
So how does a guest post fit into this equation?
Well, it turns out that you can find a place on the net that is both relevant and authoritative, and submit a guest post of your own there. If it is published, and there is a link to your site included, that link will influence your rankings for the better.
More guest posts mean more links, and more links mean a more permanent status in terms of ranking high. Not to make any mistakes, this is the most rudimentary of explanations. As you Scroll down I will try to fill in more and more details.
Where to post?
This probably comes intuitive for most, but allow me to say it just in case – you don’t aim to publish a guest post about flowers on a site about Ford trucks. Digging deep, you can manage to find a connection between the two, and Google will most likely attribute some value to the link (since their algorithm is far from being perfect, it will most likely attribute more value than logic dictates it should). But if you are left with the choice of publishing your guest post on a relevant versus non-relevant site, the decision is obvious.
Also, as Google’s algo is becoming better and increasingly values relevancy, it will work retroactive as well- meaning – it will affect the value attributed to all the previous links you generated back to your site.
Besides, forgetting the link altogether for a moment, you still have to think about boosting authority, and scoring some referral traffic. None of that is possible if you miss on relevancy.
Here is a tip – take away some of your time each day if need be, and look for sites relevant to your industry. Make a list, preferably an Excel document, where you fill in the most relevant sites first, and then, as you go down the page, add more and more loosely connected ones as well.
And don’t let me see you putting the Ford Trucks site somewhere in the middle.
Sites that accept guest posts
Sorry to break it to you like this, but there are many sites that don’t want to hear about guest blogging. They either fear that it will devalue their rankings, their overall quality, or it will create more work by going over submissions, editing them etc.
Some have personal reasons and believe that their site is their personal brand, so no extra content is allowed.
From now on, we won’t deal with these sites and focus only on those that allow guest articles. The trick is- and I suppose you already know by now- how to find these sites.
A quick note before we continue. There are some sites that allow guest blogging but limit the number of links you can post, many times down to a zero. Also, some sites allow guest posts, and links as well, but make them no-follow instead of do-follow, meaning that they can’t pass value to your site in order for it to rank higher. The importance of no-follow links is stressed as well, for you don’t want your link profile filled with do-follow links only. However, when guest blogging, see to it that you can get all there benefits in one combo- relevancy, authority, and ranking signals via a do-follow link.
The more authoritative the better. The first thought that arrives to mind is popular, nicely designed sites. And I can see where you are coming from with this, but it doesn’t have to mean authority right away.
Sure, popular sites tend to have lots of traffic, so in a way they are authoritative within that specific niche.
But when comparing authority, you will want to look at sites the same way Google looks at them. Namely, they’ve developed a way of telling how authoritative a site is, taking in consideration:
- backlinks on a domain and page level
- where these backlinks come from
- social signals around the site and its content
- user behavior metrics such as bounce rate, time spent on site, whether or not the user makes some type of action (sign-up, interact with the content, etc.)
This is again, very broadly speaking, and only glancing on top of what Google uses in order to assign authority.
So, the best way to measure all of this if you are not that much into manually checking some of these signals (which is impossible even for those most experienced, and with the best of tools available), is to check some plugins that let you know the domain and page authority on any given URL on the web.
You will want to experiment over time, but let us now take a very reliable tool and stick with it for a while – The Moz bar browser toolbar.
On loading, it tells you the score of DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority).
You can also use Similar Web, a tool that lets you know about stats such as traffic, source of traffic (search, referral, direct…), referring pages etc. This gives you a glimpse into how popular and authoritative a site is.
Also, for checking the number of backlinks to a site, you can use Ahrefs – another online tool.
How to find such sites?
Ok, we took relevancy into consideration, now we are talking about authority, and differentiating sites under the “allow/don’t allow guest blogging” category.
Relevancy, you already know how to look for. But just in case, here are some other useful tips.
- Visit forums that cover your industry. They are most likely the place where other website owners from your niche hang around. If not, there is at least audience that talks about related topics and often mentions and links to other sites.
- Visit directories. Most of these are garbage nowadays, when compared to back in the day, but still, worth the try since you will at least come up with a dozen of guest blogging prospects.
- Go to Twitter, and start following people within your industry. They will often share content that will ultimately lead you to some cool sites.
- Go to Facebook and start liking recommended pages. One will lead to a dozen of others and so forth.
- Back in the day, there were e-mail subscription lists, which served you weekly guest blogging opportunities from different niches. They are still there, only the quality of these sites is far below Google’s guidelines, and often they are a link network more than anything else.
- And you fill in the excel document we mentioned earlier.
- Then, after the list is large enough, just assign domain authority next to each one. Use the Moz bar.
- Finally, you will go over each site manually, and check whether or not they allow guest blogging. You will instantly delete all the rows that don’t (or better yet classify them in another document, you never know when you might need them).
Some of these sites already have pages along the lines of “guest blogging requirements”, “write for us”, “submit your article”…
Note – it is useful to find guest blogging opportunities for sites you enter in the browser, and add “guest blogging”, or “write for”
- If you stumble upon a website that has such a page, pay close attention to all of the requirements (usually word count, editing guidelines, link disclaimers…) Write a brief list of most important requirements in another column next to each site in your excel document.
Finally, you end up with a huge list of websites, ordered by authority, or relevancy (you can assign a number for relevancy- go between 1 and 10 and be objective), all of them accepting guest posts, and a list of requirements so you won’t need to go back and forth to the browser.
If you need e-mail addresses in order to contact owners, you will usually find them either on the “write for us” pages, or the contact page. You can dig even deeper and use tools like Voila Norbert, or ask them directly on Twitter.
You will need to structure your pitch, and offer the guest post, but before you go and do that, let me walk you through a far more important process.
Researching and creating your post
Teaching you how to write a quality guest post is not in any way different than teaching you how to write a quality piece of content. For that purpose, I will restrain myself from giving advice that touches upon that aspect.
What is important for me to communicate through though is a set of principles that go unmistakably tied with writing a guest post.
So let’s start with quality.
Guest posts, the untold rule goes, should be your best work. And while this is not a bulletproof constant, it still holds true for the most part. The logic is vividly apparent:
- the guest post is your first and only chance to leave a good impression in front of a new audience
- a good guest post generates traction (comments, engagement with the content, social shares, maybe even links from other sites towards it. All of this is raising its page authority, and boosting your credibility and brand as well)
- A good guest post raises your chances of being accepted by the site owner for publishing
- A good guest post makes sure that people become interested in your brand, bringing you referral traffic for years to come
So, following this logic, yes, your guest post should almost always be your best work. Ideally.
However, if you go down the road of writing for sites that don’t generate large amounts of traffic, are with lower authority, and have lower editorial guidelines of quality, then spending a lot of your time crafting the perfect post just doesn’t make sense. If the link is what you are after, then by all means there is no need to surpass your efforts and invest your best self in the process.
Be warned though – if you start frequenting this road, and slowly turning this into a habit- such efforts will bring subpar results at their best. Maybe even a waste of time, when couple of years from now those low quality sites will, as per usual, seize to exist (a low quality site means that either the guys working behind it are not that skilled, or don’t give a lot of thought because it is their side project with no ambition attached to it.
Whatever the case, it usually ends with abandoning the site altogether, and guess what- all your effort goes down the drain). Ideally, you will like to invest your energy in more authoritative sites, and write better and more researched content. There is nothing wrong to venture sideways for a while though, until you hone your skills to perfection.
Ok, now that we mentioned it, add another column to the excel document, and write an estimated number of years you think each site is going to last. Or, even better, write the number of years in which you think the site might seize to exist. Those with the lowest numbers… I can tell you to erase them from the list. But hey, it is up to you where you invest your energy. Besides, if they end up fulfilling your short terms goals, then it is not that stark (we once went guest blogging for the lowest quality of sites you can imagine. On the short term it gave us the boost we needed, and we changed strategy on the go)
Get comfortable with the site where you want to guest post
Hang around it for a while. Analyze their content, and see what gets the best audience reactions. Analyze their style, their voice, formal or informal tone… All of this helps when you create and pitch your post further down.
For bigger undertakings, and more authoritative sites, leave comments if need be as well. Get the site owner familiar with your face and name. Use a Gravatar when commenting if the form allows (most usually do).
Scroll around their archives for a while and see what they lack in terms of content. Have a look at how many other guest authors have already been published. The less, usually means that they are very strict with their guidelines, but the more can also mean they accept everything which is also not a good sign, and you don’t really want to be posting for such a site.
Visit their about page and see how they describe themselves as well.
Example. The Art of Manliness focuses a lot on giving every topic a “distinctively manly” spin. Use that when writing and pitching your post. Make the site owner comfortable knowing that you took extra time crafting an article he knows his audience is going to love, and his brand is going to support. Go the extra mile, and you get to be immensely rewarded.
And albeit this seems a lot to wrap your mind around, remember that:
- Lower quality sites don’t require any of this legwork to be done when creating and submitting a guest post.
- If you do this a couple of times, the learning curve suddenly soars, and your skills for – let’s call it “site guest blogging diagnostics” become increasingly refined, to the point where you are so good at this, and it becomes as simple as going through your Facebook newsfeed and figuring out who posted what and which content is interesting for you.
Choosing a topic and approach
Reading the previous section, you understand that it is not only about choosing the topic, but rather your approach as well. Will you add more humor, more analytical angle, be more formal and such…
It depends on many factors. To distill them down for you, I myself am pretty comfortable with these:
- What is popular, yet not very written about in the industry
- What are people in the industry passionate or curious about
- Is there anything that might be interesting to a lot of people, but nobody has covered it yet
- What content formats are most likely to get attention (see, it’s not only about text, there are alternatives)
Once you get some of these covered, here is a logical direction in which you continue:
- Can I make this better than what others are currently doing
- Do I have enough expertise, or time to research
- Am I willing to invest enough time in order to take this topic and run with it
- Should I refine my voice, and if so how hard will that be
Right around now, let me confirm your thought processes as they take shape- you are thinking that this kind of deep knowledge of your own capabilities is possible only after spending a lot of time taking on projects and articles. And here is a tap on the shoulder, for you are completely right. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to answer these questions with near to absolute certainty.
And then, only take the inside knowledge of the site you are writing for, and add some of that as well:
- What does this audience loves to read
- How should I write the post so that it falls in line with the brand that this site is trying to build
Feeling as a broken record by now, but I have to write it down just in case- the less authoritative a site is, the more redundant all of this process becomes. You can even score a great guest blogging opportunity, by simply sending an old article you once wrote but decided is not for your site. We did a ton of this as well.
Writing the post
Hey it’s the fan part we finally arrived at. Shall we?
Writing the post, usually stems down to a lot of personal preferences I won’t dare touching upon. What I will cover though is again, a set of principles that helps rather much.
So, to surmise, you wanted a guest post to bring you:
- Referral traffic
- Increased authority within your niche
- Exposure of your brand
- A link that is do-follow and helps you rank
Authoritative sites, and moreover relevant ones help by just posting on them, and they cover most of the goals we just listed.
However, for ranking purposes, beyond what you receive with a link and the traction gained, there is more to know.
First of all, you will like to pay attention to semantic relevancy. Namely, Google is still a toddler when it comes to understanding what a piece of text wants to say, and though they are doing huge improvements by the day, you will still want to keep your lingo close to what users are searching for, and how other authoritative sites are talking.
To help you understand that, it means that you will want to use the lingo of the niche- words and phrases that usually stand out from time to time.
In fitness perhaps, you will want to write with a fitness jargon. You will want to use phrases like “burning fat tissue”, “balanced and healthy diet”, or mention working out, burning calories or going to the gym. There is never a definite line on where one lingo ends and another begins, but writing in your industry has probably refined your skills by now, and this is most likely to come intuitive for you.
You will also want to do a bit of keyword research. To those of you unfamiliar, it is a process of figuring out which keywords are users searching for when interested in a certain topic.
And examples being far more useful than my rant, here is a very common process:
You like to rank your article that is about growing a bonsai tree. To achieve this, you decide to dedicate some of your time in acquiring links from other sites. Guest blogging seems to be an obvious tactic, so you have your mind set.
(Btw, if Matt Cutts is reading this (note), he is most likely making faces because of this limited understanding explanation of guest posts)
The link being the link, it will create a valuable signal for boosting your rankings, so you can show up between the first search results when someone writes “how to make a bonsai tree” in Google.
However, if you like the effect to be much stronger, you will consider other details as well. And this is where semantic relevancy comes into play. If you are writing with the lingo of the accounting industry, and hoping to score high on relevancy just because the guest post is published on a site about bonsai trees, you are only half way there.
To enhance the effect of relevancy, which Google very much values, you will want to include some already familiar words and phrases.
Note that it is not only Google rankings that this can affect. Writing with the jargon of an industry makes it easier for the audience to understand and hence react well.
Discovering these phrases and word variations, is best achieved by being fluent within your industry. Though, there is a shortcut, and it includes searching for related queries and keywords with many online tools such as this one, Übersuggest.
Then, you will want to organically place keywords into the text – where they make the most of sense. A keyword in some of the subheadings makes the article far more relevant for the keyword in question.
Same goes for number of repetitions throughout the text, appearance in the beginning of the article, somewhere near the end as well. But you don’t want to overdo this, and step frighteningly away from common sense and a user point of view. The basic rule of thumb is- if it even starts to sound silly and over repetitive, abort mission right away.
Adding duplicate content may trigger an alert with Google, with what is called the Panda update algorithm. An update later integrated into Google’s algorithm aimed at penalizing low quality content sites around the net. Let me put it this way- if you copy paste some else’s work into yours and publish it anyway, it is not only a moral nor legal issue alone. The panda algorithm may penalize your site and you may experience a considerable drop in rankings.
Also, it is not a fact, but rather a well estimated guess, that having your brand name (the name of your site, your name as well) associated with the keywords boosts your rankings a bit too.
Imagine – what will Google think if your domain name shows in close proximity or the keyword “bonsai trees”, or “making a bonsai tree”, or “books about bonsai trees”… It will, over time, and many similar instances create a connection between your brand and the topic of bonsai trees.
This, however, is again oversimplified and exaggerated in order to make a point. Ideally, you will want to put your brand name once per every two or three articles you are sending (a very, very subjective and not at all based on research guess). Let it rest closely to some of the keywords. And it makes sense- in the offline world that is how we associate companies with whatever it is they are making. You can make it a tactic and not an organic act, but Google should not mind at all, for it makes sense even within its guidelines.
…The guest blogging tutorial we made for Lifestyle Updated stretched into more than 5000 words. Guest blogging is a thing now, isn’t it?…
See? Just like that.
Two other segments I’d like to go over.
This is a very broad subject for conversation, but let us simplify as much as we can and focus on few important bits of the whole puzzle.
According to Google guidelines, link placement can look rather strict. But it is really not that complex.
See to it that you are placing links where they make sense – from a user point of view. If you are referencing something, link to it. Especially if it is a reputable source.
Then, make sure that the anchor text (the text that is clickable) is descriptive and doesn’t just say “click here”, “here” etc.
For the bonsai tree example you will want something like this:
Furthermore, growing a bonsai tree is harder than most think it is…
Note that I don’t know a thing about bonsai trees.
When you place a link to your site, within a guest post, the temptation is not to place any other links in order to pass all that link juice back to your site only.
And you can go like this without a worry in the world. However, once in a while, where applicable, see to it that you also place another link within the text as well, pointing to other reputable sources.
You will also like your link anchor text profile to be colorful. Not like this:
Maybe more like this:
If you are placing links organically, as the flow dictates, and linking out as well, you won’t need to bother much about these things. However, like any other marketer, be that online or offline, you will want to associate some of that anchor text with either your brand, or more preferably the keyword or phrase at question.
Let other link building methods generate the “click here”, and “www.yourbrandname.com” and you concern mostly with descriptive anchor text that covers some of the keywords you want to rank for. Exact match, or partial match.
Also don’t place two links pointing to the same URL, or maybe try to avoid that. Most often than not, the second one has no ranking value.
Some people include a short bio under the post, while others, either by the circumstances or preference decide not to.
If you do, see to it that you don’t copy paste the same bio everywhere around the net. That looks very spammy, and Google might take notice. If you decide to add a short bio underneath the article, make sure to craft it accordingly to the site where the guest post is being published. The bio can also include a link within, pointing towards your other work, or your site. See to it that you casually change the link or anchor text in each bio as well.
Some of the links embedded in the bio I’ve left under many of my guest posts point to the homepage of this site, others to the about page, yet others to some deeper pages, or a twitter or G+ profile.
Slavko Desik is a content creator who wants to write long articles that usually take the form of tutorials for otherwise not well-known topics. He does this without interruption at Lifestyle Updated.
Another bio, for a hypothetical less formal looking site
Slavko Desik writes long-ass tutorials for topics many people hardly care about. He does other things as well, like being awkward and writing about himself in the third person two times in a row.
Sending the draft
This tutorial stretched further than I initially anticipated. For pitching your guest post to a site owner or editor, don’t allow the same thing to happen to you as well.
Keep it short, straight to the point, and explain yourself with fewer words than usual, while still giving a valid reason why you think your work should be published as a guest post.
…I’ve seen your readers loving the bonsai tree post you wrote earlier, and a lot of them asked about the best tools on the market for growing a bonsai tree, so I made this post covering all the tools they’ll need, and seeing how you always publish longer articles, went in much detail and depth…
State that you are willing to infinitely edit your work, and that you can write for another topic if need be.
If no response comes back, wait for a week, and write another email, just saying:
Hey [name] I know you are probably super busy, so I won’t take any of your time. Just wanted to follow up on my last guest post submission, and see whether there is something I can do in order to help.
I will write another follow up a month from now, and if I don’t receive any response I will assume that you are busy, and you won’t hear from me again.
Have a lovely day
Follow the steps above, take your time doing research, and you will be publishing guest articles day after day. Don’t get discouraged if nobody is initially accepting your gust post submission. You will just have to keep trying until someone does. After a while, you can easily bring this process to perfection, while getting fewer rejections, and scoring better gigs.
By the time, you will see your site growing in authority, traffic, as well as rankings. From there on, it is a never stopping avalanche.