The benefits of guest blogging are clear:
1. You land backlinks from authority sites
2. People look up to you as an expert
3. Targeted referral traffic floods to your site
The only question is:
How can you make it part of your SEO campaign?
That’s easy: follow my step-by-step guide to guest blogging domination!
Step 1: Find Guest Post Targets
Before you write a single word you need a list of targets to submit your content to.
Here’s how to find them…
Google Search Strings
Your Keyword “write for us”
Your Keyword “guest article”
Your Keyword “guest post opportunities”
Your Keyword “this is a guest post by”
Your Keyword “contributing writer”
Your Keyword “want to write for”
Your Keyword “submit blog post”
Your Keyword “contribute to our site”
Your Keyword “guest column”
Your Keyword “submit content”
Your Keyword “submit your content”
Your Keyword “submit post”
Your Keyword “This post was written by”
Your Keyword “guest post courtesy of ”
Your Keyword “guest posting guidelines”
Your Keyword “suggest a post”
Your Keyword “submit an article”
Your Keyword “contributor guidelines”
Your Keyword “contributing writer”
Your Keyword “become a guest blogger”
Your Keyword “guest blogger”
Your Keyword “guest posts wanted”
Your Keyword “looking for guest posts”
Your Keyword “guest posts wanted”
Your Keyword “guest poster wanted”
Your Keyword “accepting guest posts”
Your Keyword “writers wanted”
Your Keyword “articles wanted”
Your Keyword “become an author”
Your Keyword “become guest writer”
Your Keyword “become a contributor”
Your Keyword “submit guest post”
Your Keyword “submit an article”
Your Keyword “submit article”
Your Keyword “guest author”
Your Keyword “send a tip”
Your Keyword inurl: “guest blogger”
Your Keyword unurl: “guest post”
allintitle: Your Keyword + guest post
“My Guest Posts” Pages
Some bloggers love to brag about the places that they’ve been published.
And these lists are a gold mine of hard to find guest post targets.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
Here’s how to find them:
Your Keyword “my posts on other blogs”
Your Keyword: “guest post”
Your Keyword “my guest posts”
Your Keyword “my guest blogs”
Your Keyword “posts on other blogs”
Your Keyword “I’ve been featured on”
Your Keyword “sites I’ve written for”
Google Blog Search and Technorati
And sometimes you’ll get a totally different batch of targets.
Twitter and Google +
You can use most search strings in Twitter and Google+ and get a completely different set of results.
And because Twitter results are fresher than Google’s index you can usually find sites that are actively on the hunt for guest posts.
First, head over to Twitter search and enter your search string:
Then sift through the results to find targets:
You can follow a similar process over at Google+.
Reverse engineer your first and second page competition using your backlink tracking tool of choice.
When you do, you’ll uncover a treasure trove of niche-specific guest posting opportunities.
The best part about this strategy is that you can find sites that aren’t openly advertising the fact that they accept guest posts (which can make them hard to find using search strings).
But you CAN find them with reverse engineering.
If only there was a place that listed the best blogs on the internet, organized by niche.
Oh, wait there is!
It’s called AllTop.com and it’s my secret weapon when I want links from my niche’s cream of the crop.
Just head over to AllTop, enter your keyword and you’ll get a list of the niche’s best sites:
Of course, not all of the sites in AllTop accept guest posts. But with enough legwork you can find a few gems that you may have otherwise missed.
Blog Comment Bonanza
This is one of my all-time favorite link building strategies.
If you’re a serial guest poster you’ve probably noticed that other bloggers often comment on your posts to tell you how much your article changed their life:
Instead of patting yourself on the back, why not reach out to Simon and Dave and ask them if they’d accept a post on their site?
They’ll usually say yes (after all they liked your content enough to take time from their busy day to comment on it).
Here’s a script that I use:
Thanks for taking the time to comment on my guest post at ChiwawaShavingHQ.com.
I never thought of the fact that (insert something they said in the comment).
That’s a good point.
Anyway, I actually have another guest post idea that would be perfect for your site.
It’s called: “5 Tips for Chiwawa Shaving for 2013 (and beyond)”
I could have it sent to you this week.
Either way, thanks again for your insights!
Premade Target Lists
Why search when other bloggers have already done the hard work for you?
For example, here’s a fantastic list of guest posting targets for business bloggers from Frugal Entrepreneur:
To find them yourself, use these nifty search strings:
Your Keyword “guest posting sites”
Your Keyword “accept guest posts”
Your Keyword “guest post sites”
Step #2: Research Your Targets
Now that you have a decent-sized list it’s time to refine the list and warm up your prospects.
Separating Winners and Losers
High quality guest post writing is a resource intensive process.
Don’t waste your precious time on sub par blogs.
Go all Darwin on your target list…and weed out weak sites.
In general you want sites that:
- Have an authoritative link profile
- Are related to your site
- Only post high quality content
- Have a real following
- Can bring you targeted traffic (use Compete and Alexa)
- Won’t bury your link in an author bio area far below your content
- Have a significant amount of Twitter followers and Facebook fans
Of course there’s no objective set of criteria that will tell you “this blog fits the bill” or “this one doesn’t cut the mustard”.
You have to just use your noggin and stick to sites that give you the most bang for your buck.
Warming Up Your Targets
If you’re desperate for a link from a particular site (or if the site gets a lot of guest post submissions) you want to get on the webmaster’s radar screen before your pitch.
Because this takes some time I only recommend using this strategy for top-tier blogs in your niche.
1. Engage on Twitter: One of the fastest ways to get your name etched on a blogger’s brain is to engage them on Twitter.
This is something that Andrew Youderlan of ecommercefuel.com did to get published on Shopify.com:
2. Blog Comment: Take a few minutes to write a legitimately insightful and helpful comment or two on their site and you’ll be their BFF.
3. Email Them: If you’re feeling frisky you can even email the site owner a week or two before your pitch just to tell them how helpful a specific piece of content was to you.
Finding The Perfect Guest Post Topic
Now that you’ve warmed up your list, it’s time to find some killer topic ideas.
But an incredible topic isn’t enough: If you send an article on “10 Health Benefits of Beef” to a vegan blog you’re going to get it tossed back.
So remember this:
You need a topic that fits their site like a glove
Take is from someone that has published over 250 guest posts…
…if you can write content that speaks to their audience…you’ll have no problem whatsoever getting your post accepted.
Here’s how to find the perfect topic:
- Audience Knowledge Level: If you’re hell bent on writing a guest post about SEO, you need to know who you’re writing for before you set pen to paper. If it’s SEOMoz, you can go hog wild with SEO jargon. But if it’s for a small business blog you may need to tone things down a tad.
- Outdated Information: Check for popular articles on the site that are a bit out of date. Write a similar piece with timely content.
- Read Published Guest Posts: What have other people posted already? This will give you an idea of what the site owner looks for when vetting posts.
- Recent Stuff: If they’ve posted about Pinterest twice this week you probably don’t want to send them something Pinterest-related (even if it’s a completely different angle). Keep it fresh.
Topsy.com is an untapped content idea machine.
This tool will show you the all-time most popular posts on your target’s site, based on links and social shares.
Just type in your target’s URL into Topsy and you’ll get a list of results like this:
You can use this info to align your topic with what tends to do well on that site.
Nice bonus: Repeating the site’s winning formula will get your guest post more social shares and traffic.
Guest Post Guidelines
I know you have better things to do with your life than to read a set of boring guest post guidelines.
I get that.
But some bloggers have really, really specific guidelines.
Some are there to standardize their posts.
Others are there to make sure people actually read them.
Either way, it’s crucial that you take them to heart.
Because there’s nothing worse than writing up a 1200-word masterpiece…only to have it rejected because of a 1000-word limit.
Step#3: The Pitch
Imagine for a second that you’re the owner of a bustling, authority site.
You’ve got posts to write, tweets to tweet, and an overflowing inbox.
How are you going to react when you get a generic email that’s trying to hard sell you?
You got it: hit the delete button as fast as humanly possible.
Here’s a tested email template to use instead:
I’m a long time reader. You may have noticed my comment on your post on the environmental impact of cat shaving (awesome article by the way).
I’m writing to you because I’d love to contribute a guest post to CatShavingWorld.com.
I’ve been brainstorming some topics that I think your readers would get a ton of value from:
-7 Steps for Shaving Your Cat Without the Struggle
-10 Ways to a Closer Cat Shave
-How to Lower Your Cat Shaving Supply Costs
As a passionate cat owner and blogger I’ll make sure the piece overflows with information that can’t be found anywhere else.
To give you an idea of the quality I’ll bring to your site, here are some other guests posts that I’ve published:
Here’s what makes this email template so effective:
- Starts off with something specific about THEIR SITE
- Short and sweet (aim for 150 words or less)
- Gives them specific topics to choose from (less work for them)
- Soft sell
- Touches on your experience and published work
Send a Complete Article
If you want to roll the dice you can send over a complete article that’s ready to rock.
With the amount of guest post pitches elite bloggers get they usually prefer that you just send the damn thing.
Step #4: The Post
You’ve put in enough digital elbow grease to compile a streamlined target list.
Now you need to actually send them something.
The “2 Tier System”
Look: there are only so many hours in a day.
You can’t produce a killer guest post for every single site in the world.
That’s why you should separate your targets into two tiers:
- Tier 1: These are the top 25-100 undisputed authority sites in your niche. Sites that you actually visit and learn from.
- Tier 2: Sites that are acceptable enough to warrant a guest post…but not authoritative enough to spend a day researching, writing and editing.
Tier 1 Content
Content that you send to tier 1 sites should be as good or better than what you post on your own site.
I’m talking mind blowing pillar content that forces the hand of the site owner to hit “publish”.
Content that changes minds, sparks conversation, and spurs action.
Content that could appear on the homepage of Life Hacker or the Huffington Post.
Because if you try to sneak something just “eh” onto their site…you’re not going to get very far.
Authority sites are authorities because they only post quality stuff. Period.
And they’re not going to drop their standards just because you commented on their site a few times…
…you really need to bring it.
Here are some things you should do when writing Tier 1 guest post content:
- Send a System: If you look at pillar content on any site (including this one) you’ll notice that they usually have one thing in common: they lay out a complete step-by-step system for reaching a certain outcome. Systems have a much higher perceived value than a generic set of tips.
- Length is Strength: Longer posts look much better than 400-worders. I shoot for at least 1500-words for tier 1 sites…although I’ve gone as far as banging out 2500-word monsters to help me stand out from the pack.
- Edit Like a Madman: Show the blogger that you care about their site by editing your post like you have OCD.
- Custom Screenshots, Flowcharts and Images: Screenshots and other visual tools to help illustrate your system helps guarantee that your stuff gets published.
- Internal Linking: Imagine the warm and fuzzy feeling your target will get when you link to some of their best content in your guest post. Remember that bloggers are human beings that appreciate these little things.
To give you an idea of what tier 1 guest post content looks like, here are two examples:
Tier 2 Content
Tier 2 sites deserve some love too.
The fact that they’re on your list means that they must have something going for them.
While I don’t go hog wild for these sites…I always make sure to send something of value (even if I outsource the writing).
Of course you can always go the extra mile for these sites too…
…but I rather spend that time watching Shark Tank (love that show).
What’s better than a link from an authority site in your niche?
That’s right: a contextual link from an authority site in your niche!
Sure, big G gives author bio backlinks some love…
…but nothing beats a good old fashioned link imbedded inside an article.
I’ve been able to finagle contextual links from tier 1 sites by doing one simple thing: asking.
If you send a 2000-word beast then it’s perfectly reasonable ask for a contextual link in return.
Step #5: Following Up
You’re almost done.
Here are some things I do to get the most from every guest post:
1. Actively Respond to Comments: Don’t post and run. Take the time to respond to people’s comments as they roll in.
2. Promote Using Your Social Media Channels: This is a win-win-win. Your target gets traffic, you look like a published expert and you’ve shared something of value with your community.
3. Send a Thank You Note: I usually send tier 1 sites a quick follow up email letting them know I appreciated their time (this keeps the line open for the next time you want to guest post on their site).
4. Blog Comment Bonanza: As described in Step 1, I’ll sometimes reach out to commenter and see if I can land a guest post opportunity on their site.
Just a few golden nuggets I couldn’t find space for in the guide:
1. Send your post in HTML so they can easily copy and paste it into WordPress (If you want to use images you can link to Flikr images or upload them to another photo hosting sites).
2. When you send the post, change the file name so it’s tailored to their site: CatShavingWorld_GuestPost.txt vs. 10CatShavingTips.txt
3. If you’re sending over a how-to or tutorial post, consider throwing in a video or .pdf download to compliment the article. This is one of those things that no one does and makes you look like a rock star.
4. Bloggers love posts that inspire debate and conversation. Don’t be afraid to write something controversial or that goes against conventional wisdom.
5. For a better CTR to your site, make an enticing author bio. Don’t just say “Brian is the proud owner of Backlinko“. Give the reader a reason to click through to your site. Let them know about your free report, an awesome post or just tell them a benefit they’ll get out of visiting your site.
That’s enough from me…now I want to hear from you.
Do you think guest posting is the best thing since sliced bread…or overhyped nonsense?
Any shortcuts or tips that I missed here?
Post your thoughts, insights and opinions in the comment box below.