Guest blogging is hyped up to be the best way to get traffic, subscribers, and ultimately grow your business. And really, it can be that.
But often people don’t get nearly the promised results.
Instead, they think the whole thing is a conspiracy by the big sites to get free content from you.
There are some basic things you need to get right to even get your posts published in places where they can attract a lot of your potential audience to your site.
But there is also something you need to consider that many people never think about. And if you forget it, even a “great post” won’t attract people to your site or list.
Pick the Right Sites to Write for
The usual advice is that you need to “pick the biggest sites in the same industry as you are…”
Well, that’s not quite enough.
Sure, you should aim to write for big sites; it’s not usually worth the effort to write for sites with less than several thousand subscribers.
And you should almost never write for sites that don’t work in the same space as you (e.g., technology, travel, health, business, spirituality, or whatever you don’t focus on).
But there are two more things you should look at:
1. First, the audience’s general level of expertise.
If you primarily cater to experts, don’t write for sites that attract beginners. Or vice versa.
Even if you manage to get the readers to check out your site, they wouldn’t be interested to come back. And though the traffic spike might give you bragging rights, it won’t make a difference in your business.
You need visitors to want more from you.
2. Second, the site owner’s style.
If your style is as “professional” as the up-tightest banker’s or lawyer’s, maybe you shouldn’t write for a site with a very friendly touch.
You might be able to write in a way that interests the readers, but again, their interest in you won’t last long when they see more of your content with your normal style.
If you only look at the site’s size and general topic, you might end up spending a lot of time writing posts that don’t make any difference to you.
However, just getting in front of a large crowd of the right people isn’t enough either.
You need to make them interested enough to read your post.
Find a Great Topic
There are two ways to look at this. Both work well. And often they lead you to the same topic in the end.
You always start with the audience of the site you’re writing for. Think about why they should pay attention to you.
Define the Readers' Goals
What are their most pressing problems and/or most important goals?
Next you have two ways of looking at this:
- What are they hoping to read about on that site specifically? What have been the most popular posts? What is the most likely topic to hit the bull’s eye?
- What topic can you make the most valuable for the readers? How can you make the topic you’re most knowledgeable in interesting for them?
As long as you don’t cut too many corners, you should end up with pretty much the same idea regardless of which way you think of it. And you can try both ways to see if you come up with different ideas.
Find the Most Popular Posts
In either case, you should look at the list of the most popular posts before you start writing.
If you don’t find a list of them in the sidebar, go through the last 30-50 posts and see which ones have been shared and commented on the most.
Read a few of the most popular ones and figure out why they were so well received.
Maybe you find patterns you can copy. On some sites specific headlines work better than anything else; for example, “list” headlines can populate most of the “most popular posts” list (e.g., “51 Ways to Knit Socks”) while on other sites they’re nowhere to be seen.
Or you might notice that a specific kind of beginning (the “hook” of the post) seems to make readers more interested than any other type.
Don’t copy, but do mimic what has worked in the past.
You’re not doing it just to make your post more likely to be popular—you’re also improving the chances of it getting accepted.
The best way to get your posts accepted is to write a post that the site owner thinks will be a good fit for their audience. And if they see you’re doing things in a way that has worked in the past, they have a reason to believe in your post’s chances.
Get Your Post Accepted
Site owners will always publish your post if they believe their audience will love it and they don’t have any reason not to publish it.
The most important thing is to make the post valuable. As valuable as you can possibly make it.
That said, you don’t have to (and you usually shouldn’t) try to explain everything related to a topic.
Instead, focus on solving one specific problem or enabling one specific result.
Longwinded posts are a pain to read. Sure long, super-detailed posts can work well, but it’s usually better to narrow your focus and help the readers get a specific result or get started with something.
And whatever you do, don’t use guest posts as ways to flex your keyword-stuffing muscles. You have no chance of ever getting to any high-quality site if your post is clearly written for Google bots.
Also, don’t include links to your own site if they’re not highly relevant to the post and offer valuable additional information. Even relevant links might get deleted before publishing, but at least they won’t wreck your chances.
Approach the site owner with an email proposing a topic or two you could write about. Tell them you don’t expect them to promise anything before they’ve seen the ready post. But be clear that you’d like to write a post for them to consider.
If you’re sure you’ve picked a good topic for the site, you can attach the post to the first email. But then mention that you’re happy to write about something else as well.
The point is to make it easy for the person you contact to say “yes” to you. Even if they don’t promise to publish your post, at least they promise consider it.
And when you write a valuable post, more often than not, it gets through.
All that said, the point of guest posting isn’t just to “write great blog posts, so you build your reputation.” At least that’s not all you can get from it.
It can also be a very fast way to get traffic and grow your list significantly.
Some readers will click through to your site just because your guest post was great.
But most people won’t.
More specifically, they’re unlikely to do it unless you mention a relevant additional resource they can get from you.
And because most people who write guest posts don’t do that, they get few, if any, subscribers from the guest posts they write.
For example, if you write a guest post about dog training, you could mention (in your byline or sometimes within the post) your ebook that teaches more about dog training.
Yet, that’s what many people do. And they’ve lost faith in guest blogging.
Whether you mention your freebie (what people get when they join your list) in your post or in the byline at the end, be specific about why people should be interested in it.
For example, “Johnny Boy is a writer who writes about writing at WritingJohnnyBoy.com and you can get his free ebook about writing” is not going to invite a lot of people to click through.
You need to give people a clear reason to do it.
For example, “Johnny Boy is a best-selling fiction writer. You can download his free ebook that shows how to make your book hook readers within the first two pages” gives people a very good reason to want the ebook.
You don’t need to be clever with how you “sell” your offer if it’s clearly relevant for the readers; they’ll notice the value of your offer if you just point out the best reason they have for wanting it.
Write Posts that Make a Difference
Writing for your own site is rarely an effective way to grow your audience. If there are few people to read what you write, nothing will happen.
When you have thousands of people on your list, things start to change. But until then, posts at your own blog are unlikely to create the results you’re after.
But if you write a guest post for a big site, there will be a big crowd reading what you have to say.
Sure, most of them won’t come to your site or join your email list. But many of them will do it if you’ve written a great post and made it natural for them to check you out.
So, next time you think of writing a blog post, consider if it should be a guest post instead. If you’re writing posts to build an audience, a guest post will likely get you further than a dozen posts on your own site.
If you have any questions or thoughts about guest posts, leave a comment below.
Right now Peter Sandeen is dodging icebergs while sailing with his wife and dogs on the Finnish coast. But you can download his short ebook “7 Key Steps to Guest Blogging Success” that shows you how to get 100+ subscribers from every guest post you write.