Content marketing can help you boost your reach, build up your SEO, nurture relationships with new and old customers alike, establish expertise and credibility, and drive sales. There’s a lot that it can do, and sometimes your best bet at seeing or increasing those results is to take content marketing off of your own site and extend it to someone else’s.
This is where guest posting comes in. The opportunity to have your content featured on other sites and recognized publications online can offer extensive benefits that will pay off for a long time to come, making it a key component in many brands’ overall marketing strategies.
Guest posting can seem intimidating, but once you understand the process and are ready to invest some time into it, it’s not nearly as difficult as you’d expect. You just need to understand how the process works, and how to make sure that it’s working best for you.
In this post, we’re going to take a close look at how you can start guest posting using the same approach I use to be accepted as a guest contributor, or to help my clients to do so, including knowing what to expect, how to find the right publications, how to get your submission accepted, and more.
First: Know the Rules & What to Expect
Before we dive in, I want to set realistic expectations when it comes to guest posting.
I have some people who come to me with unrealistic ideas of what’s possible with guest posting opportunities, especially considering that most mainstream or well-respected publications will typically have rules in place limiting certain things.
While there are exceptions, most publications have guidelines in place like the following:
- You can’t sell link placements in the blog post you’re submitting to other sites. (I couldn’t, for example, ask Client A to pay me $250 to place their link on a guest post, or accept an offer to do so.) You also can’t use link trading, and many publications ask you to disclose any conflict of interest that may exist when it comes to linking.
- You can’t really promote yourself heavily. Most publications won’t allow you to promote yourself outright, and even if they do, they may limit you to linking to your site only once or twice. You need to choose your link wisely, and it often must send users to relevant content, not products or landing pages.
- Typically, you can’t add in affiliate links to products or services that you’re promoting.
- You typically can’t republish the work that appears as a guest post on your own site, and vice versa. Everything should be new and original, unless you have a syndication agreement.
You can see an example of these in the guest posting guidelines from Kissmetrics:
If you have any questions about a particular publication’s restrictions, ask up front. You don’t want to assume and have it backfire on you later.
What You Should Look for in a Publication
Guest posting isn’t automatically going to drive major traffic to your site or improve your SEO automatically; the publications that you choose will impact this a great deal.
When researching where you want to submit your guest posts, look for the following criteria:
- Members of your target audience actually read the publication that you’re writing for. You want to connect with people who may become customers, investors, affiliates, or whatever else you’re focused on.
- The site has a relatively high authority score. Domain authority will give you a solid idea of how trusted and respected a site is. Sites with higher domain authorities will benefit your link portfolio and SEO the most, which is important when you’re focusing on increasing your ranking in the SERPs. You can check any site’s domain authority here.
- Whether or not the publication is trusted by the readers. Some publications will have more high-engaging audiences than others, which can drive more quality traffic to your site. Keep in mind that whoever you write for is a brand that you’re now publicly associated with, so make sure everything lines up here.
Not all publications will excel in every aspect here, but that’s ok. Look at your specific goals for guest posting when you’re deciding what you want to prioritize. If you want to drive sales, for example, it’s ok to get published on a slightly smaller site with fewer readers if those readers have a history of being engaged customers. Or, if you’re focused on link building to increase your own SEO potential, look for as high-authority sites as you can. And if you want to build thought leadership, look for large, specialized publications that might allow you to get more technical.
How to Find the Right Placements
There are really two different methods you can use when starting out your journey in finding the right placements.
You can either start with an idea, or start with a list of placements. Both approaches work well, so let’s look at each one.
Start with the Publications
Sometimes, it’s best to create a list of publications that you’d like to write for and then come up with specific pitches for each one. As you do this, keep your goals in mind, along with the target audience that you want to reach.
Tools like BuzzSumo can help with this, showing you the top-rated publications and websites for any given topic or vertical. This can speed up your research process significantly.
Let’s see that I want to promote my copywriting business, for example. I make a list of the following sites I want to guest post for:
- Search Engine Journal
- Social Media Examiner
Each of these sites is well respected and has high authority scores, but they’d each benefit me in different ways. Social Media Examiner and Search Engine Journal, for example, would be more likely to put me in front of potential clients who want to hire me. Copyhackers, on the other hand, would be best for differentiating me as a copywriter, and I could use it to explain strategies to clients who came to me from other avenues.
If you start with the publication, you’ll then want to come up with ideas for each individual one that you’d think they’d be most likely to respond to. We’ll discuss how to do this more later on.
As a note, not all publications advertise that they accept guest posts. Reaching out to smaller publications directly even if they don’t have a contributor guidelines section on their site can help connect you to the right people. Don’t be afraid to reach out directly.
Start with the Idea
When it comes to guest posting, you may come up with a great idea that you want to write about, and then you have to find the placement after the fact. That’s ok, too. While this option can be a little more challenging, it’s a great choice when you have one of those brilliant ideas that you know could help put you on the map.
Flesh out the idea. Consider different angles that you could include, and what specific audiences it would appeal to.
If I was writing a post about how to use graphic design software to create gorgeous blog featured photos, I could get that placed in any number of different sites teaching people how to be a blogger. If I wanted to get in front of food bloggers, though, I’d need to tailor the tips to that audience, whereas B2B businesses would be looking for something different.
Make sure that when you send your pitch, it’s tailored to the specific publication that you’re submitting it to. This will increase your chance of success significantly.
Submitting Your Post for Submission: How to Be Accepted as a Guest Contributor
Finding the right target publications is only part of the challenge when it comes to guest posting; you’ll also need to write pitches that are strong enough to earn a “yes” from the editor.
Keep in mind that the more credibility and essentially social proof you have, the easier it will be to get published. If you’ve already had your work published on six other leading sites, for example, the seventh will still review your pitch and work carefully, but that works in your favor. That being said, even having strong blog posts on your own site are typically enough when it comes to offering samples that publications may need to see before giving you a yes.
Whether you’ve got a nice portfolio under your belt or you’re just getting started, however, the submission process is really going to be the same, and these are the 5 tips you need to increase the odds of your pitches being accepted.
1. Read Their Submission Guidelines Carefully
Many sites that are openly accepting guest post submissions will have very clear, detailed guidelines about what they’re looking for and how exactly they want you to submit your request to them.
Many will even tell you how to format your pitch (including key information that you need to present, whether they want an outline, and how to structure the submission itself). You can see this in the contributor guidelines from ReadWrite:
Follow these instructions extremely carefully. If you don’t, there’s a solid chance that your submission won’t even be read, and you don’t want to take that chance.
2. Tailor Your Pitch to Each Publication & Their Needs
We’ve discussed this above, because each publication or online site is unique, even if they’re in the same vertical. Some will be much more casual and conversational, while others are much more specialized or esoteric.
Remember that when you’re submitting a guest post or a pitch to a publication that you always want to adjust it accordingly. Think about the publication’s own guidelines, and the audience that you’re writing to.
Let’s go back to that “featured blog image design” example. You’ll want to include information specific to the angle you’re targeting. If you’re trying to get published on a site that offers resources for travel bloggers, mention specific image and design tips that you’d discuss so the company knows the pitch offers new, relevant information.
3. Think About the Value You Offer Them
When you go into a job interview, you don’t want to inform the interviewer that you need the job because you’re broke and it will help your career.
Great. They don’t care.
Instead, you explain how you can offer value to their company. You talk about how you’re a loyal employee who will stick around, how your specific skills will benefit them and earn them money.Whenever possible, you want your guest post submissions to pretty much do the same thing. You want to explain why the post will help the publication and how it will engage the audience. Why it fits in with what they’re doing to do, how it’s different from what else is already out there, and how it benefits their readers. That will get their attention.
4. Keep It Short and Easy to Read
This tip is simple, but we’re including it anyways.
Your guest post submission should not be as long as the post itself. Have an introductory paragraph or two about who you are, what the post or pitch is, and why it’s relevant. You can attach a link to the finished post if they request that you do so, or upload it in a designated field, but the pitch itself should be short and sweet.
Editors are busy people. Make it easy for them to review what you have to offer and say yes.
5. Prepare to Be Patient
This last step isn’t the most fun part, but it’s unfortunately necessary in the vast majority of cases.
Some publications may get back to you within a week or so. I even have had a few that respond within a few days or less. Many more may take several weeks, or even months. This isn’t abnormal; managing editors typically get an abundance of submissions on a daily basis, and working through them takes time.
Be patient. If you do follow up, give it a few weeks, and only follow up once (and only if you have a direct contact). Hang in there, and remember that your best bet is to send out different pitches to several different publications at any given point.
Should I Consider Sponsored Placements?
When you’re looking to get more placements quickly through guest posting, you’ll notice that some sites offer “sponsored” placements or opportunities. You’ll pay to have approved content published on their site.
Sponsored placements can be tricky. They can eat into your budget relatively quickly, and a lot of major sites don’t offer them. Those that do may include a “sponsored” tag that may reduce trust from readers, though that depends heavily on the platform.
That being said, sponsored placements can help you get more reach quickly, and may bump you up in terms of priority on the schedule. Weigh the pros and cons for your business and think about your specific goals when making a decision here. I’m a big believer in focusing on organic guest posting, but sponsored guest posting does have its time and place, especially if you’ve got extra room in your budget.
Guest posting offers incredible potential when it comes to opportunities for brands of all sizes, so it’s something that more businesses should consider. While it does take time to get your posts submitted, accepted, and published, the benefits are significant and will pay off for a long time to come.
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