Welcome to the ultimate guide to guest posting (sometimes called “guest blogging” or “link acquisition”).
Whether you know a little bit about guest posting or are looking into it for the first time, the goal of this guide is to take you through from absolute beginner to expert-level blogger.
In the simplest terms:
As a guest author, you post an article on a website or blog that is not your own, and usually, within that piece of content you refer back to a piece of content on your website to help improve your piece.
The site owner benefits by having your valuable content on their site (for free), and you benefit by reaching a new audience and by building backlinks to your site, which will improve your SEO.
Beyond appearing in front of a new audience, the main benefit of guest posting is that you get links back to your website, known as “backlinks.”
In other words, there will be a hyperlink posted somewhere on the page that directs web traffic to your site.
This is great for two major reasons:
• It could lead to organic traffic. If it leads to readers clicking on the link and visiting your site, that’s great!
This means that the link was relevant to the reader, so chances are that person visiting your site is relevant to your website, thus helping you make an organic connection.
• It boosts your SEO or organic search rankings. This helps you boost your domain authority on search engines.
Search engines (like Google Search) depend on a variety of factors when deciding what results to provide when a user enters a search query.
The algorithms behind these decisions are secret and constantly changing, but one widely known ranking factor is backlinks.
Understanding these benefits also means understanding how search engines work in general.
Most work in an extremely similar way, which you can understand by learning just a few key terms in the industry.
When you search for something on Google Search, you are served the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
What this typically consists of is a few paid ads on top (which circumvent the ranking system we’re about to discuss) and then what is called organic results.
See the screenshot below:
Guest posting, and therefore earning those backlinks, has everything to do with organic rankings because you aren’t paying for anything (as you do with paid search).
The order in which the search results appear is called their ranking (or PageRank, named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google).
You can get into the weeds when it comes down to this ranking system, but the result tends to be pretty logical – Google wants to serve you the most relevant content based on what you searched.
One of the ways they can do this is by establishing the authority (domain authority) of your page.
It’s easy for anyone to post anything online, but that doesn’t mean it’s true, valuable, or, frankly, even sane.
One of the easiest ways for search engines to filter through the riff-raff and find solid content is to see what pages associate with each other (and how do they do this? Through backlinks!).
There are 2 different ways to earn backlinks through guest blogging:
• Organic backlinks.
For example, if The New York Times references your blog post and links to it, Google will see that and assume that you know what you’re talking about if a prestigious site like that links to a reference on your website.
This is a big way authority online is established.
• Backlinks from Guest Posting. When you guest post, you are building that backlink manually because you are placing it in your article, which will then show up on another website.
Google doesn’t know this is a guest post link vs. an organic link, so this is another great avenue to build authority.
Regardless of how you earned links back to your website, search engines will see these associations and then push your quality content up higher on a search result page.
We’re sorry to say that finding guest posting opportunities used to be a lot easier.
10 years ago, if you were a guest blogger, you probably could have counted on at least double the success rate you’ll have now because space is more competitive.
Larger companies sometimes have entire departments dedicated to outreach, and even small companies are now trying to find guest posting opportunities to stay competitive.
In short, this means that publishers are getting a huge amount of emails asking to be featured for a guest post, and some are just outright denying any request in 2021.
With all of that said, guest posting is still possible and even big names will take you up on the offer if your pitch is compelling enough.
Below outlines who is finding success in today’s market and how:
With the now-high level of competition for guest post opportunities, the two factors imperative to have to be a successful guest author and earn that link with business sites that fit into your content marketing strategy.
The first is a common success factor across all marketing: high-quality content.
Specifically, content (in this case blog posts) that’s better and more unique than everyone else’s.
With sites receiving pitches daily from guest bloggers looking to boost their business, you need to prove to pitch them quickly on the fact that you provide well-written, compelling and valuable content for their audience.
A few popular content types include:
• Featuring an industry expert
• Publishing a case study – the more statistics you can include the better
• Offering a well-designed infographic or well-produced video (different content types are more successful today, and therefore more appealing)
If it’s good enough to engage the audience of the website, the hope is that you become a regular contributor to give you even more chance of having Google rank your website highly and sending organic traffic your way.
The second key trait of a successful quest poster is a narrow focus.
There is simply no way you’re going to create popular posts that drive organic traffic to their site if you're trying to pitch guest posts on a wide variety of topics.
Choose to write guest posts about a particular niche where you truly are an expert, and then pitch that expertise to only the sites and blogs most closely aligned with your topics.
The main takeaway here is quality over quantity attitude.
If you’re blasting out hundreds of emails a week pitching generic content, you’re probably going to see worse results than if you just sent one or two carefully thought out and truly valuable ideas to websites within your niche.
Step 1: Do Your Research
Like most SEO endeavors, getting links and boosting your authority through guest posting is not going to happen overnight.
This will be months, if not years, long commitment.
If you do your research in the beginning, you’ll be happier later on and you'll be a blog guest on many more sites.
Questions to Ask Before You Pitch A Website
The first you’ll want to do is to look at what’s already out there.
This stage would be the equivalent of your market research.
Look at sites and see what they’re posting, how they’re posting, what seems to be trending, and ask yourself a few questions:
• Are there obvious gaps in coverage?
• Do they have comments (do they respond to comments) or social shares listed on their site?
• What kind of traffic are they getting on their site?
• What topics does the site have amazing guest posts for?
The more systematic you can be at this the better.
Take careful notes because you will reference them later when you’re reaching out or when you're ready to write content for a website.
First, pay attention to the topics that seem most prevalent.
Consider if you’ll be able to write all the content yourself or if you think teammates might be effectively looped in.
Knowing little creative aspects that seem to rule the day will help you get more articles accepted (most sites have little interest in doing a bunch of editing on a quest post).
Second, write down the general type of sites you’ll want to target.
We find that the easiest way to keep all of this organized is by using a simple spreadsheet that the entire team can access.
This will take time to gather, and you will even find sites when you’re not even looking for them.
Keeping a running list will help your contacts grow organically.
See an example below:
You don’t need to compile contacts yet, or even be comprehensive, at this stage.
Just having a general idea of where your content could fit and how built out that niche will help you find guest posting sites and blogs later and make you a better guest blogger.
After you feel confident that you have a decent idea of the guest posting environment, you’ll feel more ready to define exactly who you are (or could be) as a guest blogger and will help you come up with blog post ideas.
In trying to do this, you’ll find it’s true when they say that one of the hardest people to truly know is yourself.
This is when it becomes important to bring in other minds. Get your team together and try your best to spell out who you are and what makes you great.
Be as detailed as possible.
Don’t leave it at “we sell computer hardware and remote IT services online”.
Be painstaking and bring it to “we are one of the top 3 online sellers of hard drives, memory cards & graphics chips and we exceed all other competition in providing remote customer support post-transaction as well as ongoing IT support to businesses of 50 employees or less.”
Ask For Help
After you’ve done this and slept on it for a few nights, share it with people outside of your business.
Pick people within your industry and outside of it (and people outside of marketing) and ask them if they think it’s true.
Friends that can provide brutal honesty when asked this will save you from the delusions and ego that are part of being human but will have you spinning your wheels (and costing you links) later.
Now you’re finally ready to start building out your contact list.
This can be a somewhat grueling process, as contact information can be outdated and hard to find and a lot of contact form submissions never reach a human eye, but there are a few ways to get started:
Google and Beyond to Find Sites (Bonus for Those Actively Looking for Guest Posts)
Start by looking on the actual website, but also employ social media like LinkedIn and Twitter to track people down. The comments section will become your friend when you're on social media sites.
Once you find a name, searching their Twitter comments for an email address is a common way to find an address.
Be aware that to hide from bots people will often adjust their email on a webpage page or comment section so it doesn’t register as one, such as john.doe [at] gmail.com.
Another trick is to use Google’s reverse image search.
If you have a picture of who you’re trying to find (which you’ll often be able to find on company websites) you can search that to find some contact info and you’ll have much more accurate results than trying to sift through the Google results of a “john smith contact info” search.
Draft the Perfect Outreach Email
It’s time to start reaching out! You’ll find it’s easiest to start with some type of template, but we strongly advise against using one without major editing for each contact.
In other words, the best way to approach these emails is from a place of empathy.
By empathy we mean that you recognize that at the end of the day, an editor or site/blog owner would be happy to have free, high-quality content for their site, but their inbox has been so routinely pounded with generic pitches or outright spam that they will give your email about 2 seconds of the time at most to give them an impression.
By putting yourself in their shoes, that will tell you what the best practices are for writing an outreach email.
A few tips to keep in mind:
• Keep it short and succinct, but sell yourself and why your content is perfect for their site
• Tell them why it’s a perfect fit and use specific examples from their site
• The human brain is amazing at picking up on templates or time-saving writing.
Take your time, be thoughtful, be slightly flattering (but in moderation), and make it as easy as possible for them to say yes
• If you have a list of great headlines or a draft already completed, that cuts down on time and could get you a faster and more positive answer
• Be transparent about any links you would like to include in the piece or the author bio
• You should use a personalized company email address and keep that consistent across all of your outreach. Don’t send outreach emails from an info@ address associated with your business website
Below is just one example of a successful pitch, but remember, customization is everything:
This is a step that tons of guest posters skip.
Following up on your outreach will put you ahead of the majority of the competition.
If you want to prove that you’re not doing generic email blasts, wait a week or so and send another unique email.
This helps with your first email but it especially helps with your follow-ups.
Maybe most of the contacts you reach out to again won’t remember you, but some will.
Legitimate persistence is always admirable.
Be nice, unique, and keep pitching your value and your work should pay off.
We’ve heard of reply rates increasing suddenly after as many as 7 emails being sent, but we recommend sending 2-3 within the same email exchange.
You got a reply! Someone is interested in featuring your content on their site. You’re one major step closer to that sweet, sweet association.
Now it’s time to write.
While many like to write some posts in advance so they’re ready to send as soon as a reply is received, we generally advise against this.
First, word count requirements are usually different and you often don’t know this figure until you get a reply. Second, it is best to write your piece with a specific site in mind.
No matter how tightly similar your outreach sites are, they all have their unique audience and the site might be looking for something specific.
There is absolutely nothing worse in guest posting when you get the go-ahead and then you send content, only to get a “never mind” because you completely disregarded the intricacies of their audience or their specific guest posting guidelines.
Writing your Guest Post
We’ll usually start with reading, or at least skimming a few existing articles on the site or blog.
While it’s ok to have your voice as the expert, you’re still going to want to mimic, or at least cater to, the tastes of the readers.
With that (and any specific instructions from the site), you’re ready to write your killer piece of content.
This guide isn’t intended to teach you how to write great content, but here are few basics to keep in mind:
• First and foremost, if the site you’re pitching has guidelines listen to them and ignore everything below…
• Keep paragraphs short (2 – 4 sentences each, most of the time).
• Use simple language. This isn’t high school English class, put the thesaurus away.
• Use frequent headlines and even bold keywords in your post. Most people reading online are skimming.
• Stay laser-focused on what the traffic cares about.
• One of the quickest ways to bore a reader? Talking about yourself. Your anecdote is probably far less interesting than you think it is.
• Keep your guest post actionable. People online are looking for answers and solutions, not theories.
• Leave no doubt in the readers' minds that you are the expert in this particular thing.
• Bullets points, images, isolated quotes, and any other formatting you can use to keep your guest post spaced out are a great way to keep the scroll going. Big blocks of text = high bounce rates
• Contrary to what you might think, long-form guest posts tend to perform better. Don’t be afraid of a higher word count, as long as everything you write ads value.
Guest Blogging Keywords
Next, keep in mind that beyond these basics of writing online is the usage of the right keywords.
This might even be a requirement from the publisher because they want your article to perform well on search engines as well.
Writing perfectly SEO-optimized articles is also beyond this guide, but, speaking generally, you should include keywords in your article that directly relate to the searches that will lead readers to your post.
For example, if you’re writing an article about how to edit social media posts to drive engagement on social media platforms, you would be sure to include words like social media, post-editing, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
You can learn more about how to write with keywords in mind (but still for humans, not robots!) here.
Who Should Write Your Guest Posts?
Oftentimes the most expert-level people at your company are dealing with much more critical things than writing a guest post.
This is when teamwork can come into play.
Perhaps a more junior employee can build out the framework of a guest post and then the expert can come in and drop their knowledge quickly and then it can be edited to read nicely.
You’ll have to decide how to do this for your own business.
Just make sure to avoid creating a camel (a horse built by a committee).
At this point, we’ve given you everything you need to know to implement a guest posting strategy.
What you’ve probably realized is that it seems like a heck of a lot of work.
Our last section will focus on ways that you can make the whole process much more turn-key.
Use Tools to Make Things Easier
The fact that you’re looking into guest posting so that you can boost your authority tells us that you understand a bit about how the internet works, so you probably know that for every complicated operation you can do online, there’s a constant flow of new tools to make it easier to do. Such is the case with guest posting.
As you move on from testing the waters of guest posting to starting to scale your strategy so that you can post on more blogs and sites related to you, you're going to need some of these tools.
It takes care of the most challenging, tedious, and important part of a guest post campaign – finding sites that accept guest posts.
You can go from author bio to author bio all day long, scanning sites for the “write for us” section, trying to create a list of sites that might be open to a guest post submission and not even end up with a single link, or, you can use their marketplace.
They’ll hook you up with quality guest post opportunities within your niche and audience so you can score links easily and repeatedly.
Although it all may seem overwhelming, if you go through each step one at a time, we think you’ll be surprised how quickly you have a guest posting campaign up and running.
Last but not least, always remember that guest posting is about more than that coveted backlink.
You might be thinking that you don’t care so much about how a page performs once it’s posted, but recognize that guest posting is a relationships game and having great content to point to in future pitches is a good thing to have.
Even more importantly, one of the original ideas with guest posting is it introduces you as an expert to a new, relevant audience.
As you get going, you may find that you have more examples to share with editors; and thus, you will get better responses and have an easier time in the future. Getting started is the hardest part, but you’re on your way.