If you've been looking to grow your business online, you've undoubtedly run across a number of techniques–SEO, social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing... the list is a long one, and each of those techniques has its uses. One technique that can work in conjunction with many others–the one we'll be discussing today–is guest blogging.
What is guest blogging?
In simple terms, guest blogging is writing blog posts for publication on other blogs. If you read blogs at all you've certainly seen posts by authors other than the blog's owner. Typically there will be an "About the Author" box at the end of the post, with a link to the writer's own website, blog, or social media.
Those posts are guest posts, and they can benefit both the post's author and the blog that hosts them. For the blog owner, accepting guest posts is an easy way to get free content on their site. That can be good for SEO, and it also gives something to share with their audience, leading to more traffic.
Isn't guest blogging dead?
Way back in 2014, Matt Cutts, at the time head of Google's web spam team, made the proclamation that indeed "guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy." Unsurprisingly, that statement led to a surge of panic among bloggers, SEOs, and online marketers. How could such an important and valuable tool be dead?
In the wake of that panic, Cutts revised his statement. "I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to 'guest blogging' as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article."
In other words, guest blogging wasn't exactly *dead*, but those who were abusing it with spammy links and low-quality content were harming both the hosting sites' and their own rankings. When it's done right, with high-quality and relevant content, guest blogging continues to benefit both sides and more-than-likely always will.
Why should you guest blog?
So you're not going to cause websites to drop off the face of Google by guest posting; that should ease your mind, but what are the benefits to you?
Link-building and SEO. This is possibly the biggest reason that people choose to guest post, and it is indeed effective for that purpose. When a blog owner accepts your offer of a guest post, they are implicitly agreeing to give a link to your site as part of your author bio.
Exposure and brand awareness. By publishing on someone else's blog, you are expanding your reach beyond the followers you currently have to the followers of other bloggers in your niche.
Credibility and authority. If you are looking for ways to show the world that you know your stuff, trying to do that exclusively through the platforms you own–your website, blog, and social accounts–is the slow and expensive route. You can get there, but if you can share your knowledge with already-established audiences, you shortcut the process.
How to guest blog the right way
Start by not doing it the wrong way
When Matt Cutts announced the death of guest blogging, he wasn't entirely wrong. The way it was frequently being done is, most certainly, dead as a doornail. To do it correctly, it's helpful to know what needs to be avoided.
The problem began with people guest blogging for SEO purposes. To determine where a website should rank, one of the metrics that search engines have relied on is the number of links pointing to that site. It is less of a factor than it once was, but links still matter.
Where people ran into problems (or caused them, depending on your perspective) is when they looked at backlinks as the most important factor. In so doing, they frequently disregarded the importance of quality content and of relevance. Many guest bloggers would post poor-quality content on any blog that would accept their submissions.
Frequently, that meant that the blogs they were guest posting on were completely unrelated to their own niche. But in the early days, it still worked in their favor. As long as the domain had "authority" in Google's eyes, links from that domain would help improve a website's rank.
Fortunately for all of us, this tactic no longer works. Google doesn't want poor quality sites to rank, and neither do the people searching. In order to truly get the benefits of guest blogging, you will need to focus on quality and relevance.
That goes for both sides of the equation. It's important that you aren't guest posting on blogs that aren't related to your niche, that the blogs themselves aren't spammy, and that the posts you submit are well-written and informative.
Choosing quality blogs
Knowing that you want to guest blog on high-quality sites, let's look at some ways to verify "quality."
Check Domain Authority
One of the first things you'll want to look at is what's called Domain Authority (DA). That's a metric developed by Moz, a go-to resource for anything related to search engine optimization. According to their definition, domain authority is a score between one and 100 that "predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs)."
Finding out a site's Domain Authority is easy to do. In fact, Moz has a free toolbar that you can install in your Chrome browser. Once it's installed, every Google search listing will show the DA of that link.
So how high a DA score is high enough? There's no precise number to go by. You'll want to compare the scores of blogs you're considering to other blogs in the same niche–here's a graph that compares the averages for a number of popular niches.
Evaluate the audience
Once you've determined that the site's DA is good enough, you'll want to see how engaged the blog's audience is. Have a look at their social media pages and see how many followers they have. More importantly, how often does their content get shared?
Look also at the comments on other blog posts. Lots of comments mean a highly-engaged audience; just be sure that they are legitimate comments and not spam.
How do you find blogs to guest post?
So you have a couple ways to evaluate the quality of a guest blogging candidate, but that won't do a lot of good until you've actually found the blogs to evaluate.
Start with the blogs you already follow
If you're not already following blogs in your niche, start. If you aren't exactly sure which blogs you should be looking at, visit alltop.com. It lists the top websites in several industries; you'll very likely find some great ones that you should be following.
If you're brand new to guest blogging and particularly if your name isn't well-known among others in your niche, you might not yet be ready to pitch the most authoritative blogs. Instead, what you'll be looking for are the blogs where other guest bloggers are posting.
As you are reading the blogs in your industry, pay attention to the authors. You're going to see a few names coming up regularly. Make a list of those frequent guest bloggers and search Google for their names, along with the phrase "guest post by." Try variations as well; "by Ryan Daniel Moran" for example. You can filter out posts on a given author's own blog by adding -site:website.com to your search (don't leave out the minus sign).
Searching Google for guest blogging opportunities
This is probably the first place you thought to look, and it's a great way to find those opportunities. Use a variety of important keywords related to your industry along with phrases that indicate that a site accepts guest posts. Someone in the widget business might try searches like:
- widgets "guest post guidelines"
- widgets "guest post"
- widgets "submit a guest post"
- widgets "write for us"
- widgets "contributing writer"
- widgets "writers wanted"
- widgets "submit an article"
- widgets "contributor guidelines"
You'll undoubtedly find other potential phrases to use as you continue your search.
Search social media
An easy one to overlook, but Twitter, in particular, can be a goldmine. Guest bloggers and blog owners alike want to get eyes on those articles, and they'll post those links for their followers. Try searching widgets "guest post" to find links to articles by guest bloggers in the widgets space.
There's a big advantage to this one over Google searches; results there are fresh. Google's index takes a little more time to update.
Look at your competitors' backlinks
If you have access to SEO tools like Ahrefs or Moz's Open Site Explorer, you can use those tools to find out what sites are linking to your competitors. Most such tools do require a paid subscription, but many allow limited use for free or offer free trials.
From those lists of backlinks, you're looking for blogs that the competitors have guest-posted on. You'll have to do a bit of manual filtering, but you can find some great opportunities this way.
Pitching your guest post
Get recognized first
Once you've found the blogs you hope to post to, you'll need to get your post ideas accepted by those blogs' owners. You might be tempted to jump in head-first and email them right away–resist that urge unless you're already known as an authority.
Before you send your pitch, you want to get the blog owner's attention. Start by getting familiar with the content. Read the blog regularly to get a feel for the tone and to get an idea of the audience they're targeting. Read comments, too, as that will give some good insight into the audience.
Look at which posts perform best–the ones with the most engagement in the comments and the most shares on social media. See if there are certain types of posts that perform better than others–that could be subject matter, the style of post, the length... Make a note of anything that seems common among their highest-performing posts.
Meanwhile, work on getting recognized by the blog's owner. Comment on their posts regularly with thoughtful comments. Make your comments unique, and point out anything specific that you appreciated about the articles. You might even consider sharing them on social media–be sure to tag the blog owner when you do.
After a week or two, your name should be at least recognizable.
Write your guest blog pitch
Now that the owner of the blog you want to write for knows your name, it's time to contact them. As you draft your email, keep a couple things in mind.
They are busy. Especially if it's a popular blog, the owner has a lot going on. They get lots of emails and lots of pitches. Keep your email short and to the point.
They are human. Write your email to a person. Use their name. If it's not already obvious from their site, do a little digging. Start with their "About" page and if it isn't there, check their social media. It might take some effort, but an email addressed to "Webmaster" is going to get deleted without even being read.
Now write up your email, beginning with a short introduction to yourself. If you have a blog of your own, include a link to it. Remember, they don't care about your business; they care about your writing.
Give them links to any other content you've published, especially anything that got a lot of shares. If they can see that you've written posts that got a lot of engagement elsewhere, they'll recognize that you can do that for them.
Then include two or three topic ideas. If you've spent time getting to know their blog, you should know what types of posts perform best for them. Your suggestions should be for similar types of posts.
Write your guest blog post
You're just about ready to write up your post. Before you do, though, review their guidelines. It's an easy thing to do, and not doing it can kill your opportunity with that blog. Be sure that you follow the guidelines they've laid out.
As you write, keep in mind that you are not writing for yourself. This isn't an opportunity to promote your blog or your business. Keep it informative and engaging.
That said, you might be able to get away with a contextual link to your site within your post if that doesn't go against their guidelines. If it's allowed and you can link to something relevant, it is good for your site's SEO and could get you some traffic. If you do this, though, it has to fit naturally within the context of your post. If you have to force it, it doesn't belong.
You'll score some points if you include internal links in your posts–links to other content on their site. If you search Google for site:capitalism.com widgets, you'd find links to articles on capitalism.com containing the word "widgets." Use that technique to find content related to keywords in your post. It's good for their SEO and it shows the blog owner that you're familiar with their material.
A word about quality
As with anything you write, the quality matters. At the same time, you need to weigh the value of your time against the results you can expect. The quality of the blog you're writing for should guide the level of effort you put in. While you never want to publish crappy content–your name is going to be attached to this–you should reserve your best work for the most authoritative blogs.
Once your post has been published, you're still not done. There are a few things you should do after to maximize your results.
Send a thank you note. Nearly everyone knows this is important, yet many people still neglect it. Don't be one of them. Let the blog owner know that you appreciate the opportunity, and they'll likely be very open to publishing more guest posts from you.
Share the link. The blog owner will probably share your article on their social media accounts. You should do the same. It benefits both of you, and will probably be appreciated by your audience and the blog owner.
Watch the comments. Follow the comments for at least a couple weeks after your guest post gets published and respond to them. It lets readers know that you pay attention and helps add to the authority you're trying to establish.
A bonus when you respond to comments–the people commenting on your post are interested in your niche. Some of them will also have blogs in that niche. Those are potential guest blogging opportunities.
Guest blogging about your niche is great for exposure, great for SEO, and great for building your reputation in the industry. With the knowledge you've gained here, you're ready to put it to use effectively.