This is a guest contribution from Tom Hunt of VirtualValley.io
I remember the exact moment.
It’s 11am. I am sitting in a coworking space in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, just starting to feel the rush of my second black filter coffee of the day.
From the outside it may seem like I’m in control, but really, I am not.
I am in the midst of the development of an online marketplace, scheduled for launch in just 2 short months and I have NO idea how I was to market… the marketplace.
I was spending the majority of my time doing what any self-respecting entrepreneur does when he is lost… reading blogs.
Midway down that rabbit hole, I stumble across an article by Leo Widrich, the co-founder of Buffer, and everything began to fall into place.
When Buffer first started, they were a bootstrapped SaaS product looking to gain exposure, and Leo brilliantly leveraged the audiences of influencers within the world of social media through written content.
You can read one such post by Leo here at Traffic Generation Café: 3 Tools To Massively Increase Your Twitter Exposure
Surely, I could do the same?
There was just one problem… I couldn’t write.
When I say I “couldn’t”, admittedly that's an over-exaggeration. I could, just not very well.
Regardless of this, 3 months, 12,324 social shares (an average of 301 shares per post), and around 50k words later and I have been published on HubSpot, The Virgin Entrepreneur Blog, JeffBullas.com and now, the best of all: Traffic Generation Café.
I also have serious bloggers noticing “me everywhere”:
And sharing the content that I am sharing with their audience:
Want to know how I did it?
But before, I'd like to talk about social sharing and why it will be such a crucial metric in your guest posting campaign.
To me a social share is a recommendation, a reader giving your piece of content their seal of approval by distributing it to their social network. They believe that there is sufficient value in your post to risk their relationship with their peers.
It is for that reason that I quote the share figures for each post below and that you should use this as a key metric when determining the success of your campaign.
Below you'll find one lesson from each of the 42 guest posts published, so if you decided to take a similar journey, you won’t make as many mistakes…
1. You Have No Idea What You’re Doing, So Start Small – Bright Digital Media (14 Shares)
I’m going to be honest with you: unless you have been reading and producing blogs within your niche for the past couple of years, you are going to be rubbish, just like I was.
Rubbish at selecting blogs to target, choosing your topic and writing the post itself.
But do not worry… you can start small and build up your skillset.
These two sites are a great place to start:
You can find small blogs within your niche that are looking for content creators.
I found my first 5 guest blogging hosts using these sites, which enabled me to find my feet and develop my writing skills.
Ana used to write rubbish too… check this out:
2. Be Sure To Review Your Post Once Live – Fivenson Studios (0 Shares)
People are forgetful.
Thus it's important that you review your post once it's live and BEFORE you share with your audience as your blog host may forget to include your links:
In this example, I did have to review and follow up with the blog owner to ensure our author bio was included.
Though I believe the main motivation behind guest blogging is to add value to the audience of others, it is still foolish to prevent that audience from following up with you.
Additional reading on bringing guest blogging traffic back to your site:
How To Maximize Conversions from Your Guest Post Traffic – Gregory Ciotti at TrafficGenerationCafe.com
How to Guest Blog for List Growth – Will Blunt at bloggersidekick.com
The Definitive Guide to Guest Blogging – Brian Dean at backlinko.com
Guest Post ROI: The Data Behind 273 Guest Posts Says It’s No Good – Tim Soulo at bloggerjet.com
The Definitive Guide To Guest Posting For Traffic – Dave Schneider at selfmadebusinessman.com
3. Be Open To Feedback – Lake B2B (1 Share)
What you feel may be obvious to your readership will not necessarily be obvious to the readership of other blogs. Therefore, you must be open to feedback about the content of your posts.
Here is some useful and relevant feedback from one of my blog hosts:
Remember, your blog host is just simply trying to help you create the best piece of content possible for their audience, so be sure to consider and integrate their comments.
They know their audience better than you do!
4. Talk About Things That Interest You – RJS Internet Marketing (41 Shares)
One of the main questions I ask myself when considering a guest posting topic is: what interesting things have I learnt recently?
And at that stage in my guest blogging journey, I was immersed into Lead Generation, so the writing of this particular guest post was simple and enjoyable.
Plus, you will experience the added bonus of the mental clarity achieved when teaching a topic to someone else, as opposed to just learning it yourself.
5. Make Awesome Post Images – Atomic Reach (17 Shares)
This is the image Atomic Reach created for my guest blog post for them. Awesome, right?
As a guest blogger, you can add massive value to your blog host by producing a unique and beautifully designed guest post image along with your post.
Of course, find out what the branding guidelines of the blog host are before creating the image.
Don't know how to create great images? Here's some help:
How to Create Visual Content Your Audience Will Love – Rebekah Radice at rebekahradice.com
6. Mention People You Want To Connect With – The Cubicle Dropout (33 Shares)
You will notice that in this guest post I mentioned HubSpot:
I did so for two reasons:
- Because the reference supports my article.
- Because they are one of my favorite marketing blogs and ultimately I wanted to write a guest post on their blog (see Post 18 ;).)
So, the action here is to make a list of your “ultimate guest blog hosts” and start linking to and mentioning their content, so when you eventually reach out to them, they know who are you are and ALMOST feel like you deserve to post on their site.
7. Target Relevant Blogs – The Admin Assistant (33 Shares)
The marketplace I was attempting to market to connects Entrepreneurs with Virtual Assistants.
Since we had chosen to artificially create the supply side of the marketplace (Virtual Assistants), we were NOT looking to market to virtual assistants.
We were looking to target Entrepreneurs.
Though, The Admin Assistant is an AWESOME blog, it was not necessarily the best choice for our guest blogging campaign as this blog targets virtual assistants.
So the lesson is, if you are to invest time in guest blogging, ensure that you are targeting the blogs whose readership contain a high percentage of your target customers.
If you are just starting out, but already have friends/connections with a similar audience within your niche, reach out to them and propose a guest post – your pre-existing relationship means your post is more likely to get accepted.
Once this guest post was published on Aadil.co, I was able to include the link from this well respected blog in my next few guest blogging pitch emails.
This added credibility to my pitch and surely increased the chances that my posts would be accepted by blog hosts in the future.
9. Reach Out To Old Contacts – Duct Tape Marketing (624 Shares)
If you have any contacts that you have worked with, or nearly worked with in the past, these may be good targets to pitch a guest post to.
Here is an email I sent to John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing to offer a free project in exchange for his testimonial:
However, the project he proposed turned out to be a little complex for us, so we did not go ahead.
Regardless, 6 months later I followed up on the same email chain proposing a guest post.
As you can see from the image below, John responded and I landed my first post on one of the bigger marketing blogs.
10. Use Relevant Images – Triple SEO (57 Shares)
When trying to “jazz up” this post for Triple SEO, I realized that many posts on Chris' blog contained a certain type of humor: here is an example.
I therefore tried to incorporate this tone of voice and humor by opening my post with the line: “This is not an SEO blog post” as I felt this would be well received by his audience.
I also decided to include images like the one shown below for the same reason:
I believe your post will be far more likely to get accepted if you are able to tailor your content specifically to the audience of that blog, as I did with TripleSEO.
11. Spend An Equal Amount Of Time On Post Headlines – The Digital Nomad Travel Mag (60 Shares)
It was at this point that I actually started to invest time into developing the post headlines.
You can see by the increase in share figures for this post over the previous 10, that it had an impact: “5 Lessons From 1 Month of Working in the World’s Most Dangerous City.“
Moving forward, I began to draft at least 5 headlines for each guest post and ran each option through the two headline analyzers below to give another perspective on how effective they could potentially be:
Many a post were written on the subject of blog post headlines. Here are some of my favorites:
36 Outrageous Headlines You Can’t Help but Click – Andrew Warner at boostblogtraffic.com
Hate this Headline? You’ll Probably Share the Story. – Barry Feldman at kissmetrics.com
100+ Blog Post Title Templates That Grab Attention – Pauline Cabrera at twelveskip.com
91 Awesome Headline Formulas To Make Your Presentations Instantly Attractive – Ari Sherbill at powtoon.com
The Overlooked Truth About Writing Great Headlines – Will Hoekenga at copygrad.com
12. When Starting Out, Your Outreach Does NOT Have To Be Perfect – The Hills Marketing (4 Shares)
When you're just getting started and are approaching smaller blogs, you do not have to spend 2 hours crafting the perfect pitch.
As you can see from the image below, I managed to get this post accepted with a rather brief pitch:
Instead of putting hours into the pitch, you should be investing your time in building the skill that will eventually land you those BIG guest blogging spots on your favorite blogs: writing.
13. Do Your Research – Thrilling Heroics (6.4k Shares)
This post really highlighted the power of mentioning influencers as it received a massive 6.4k shares.
However, I wouldn't have landed this guest posting spot, had I not researched the blog host sufficiently.
After following Cody and Thrilling Heroics for a while, I knew he and I read and followed the same influencers.
With that in mind, I made sure to include each of those influencers in the post I sent to Cody, hoping to increase the chance the post would be accepted.
And as can be seen by the image below, it seems as though I was right:
When preparing a guest post pitch, spend time researching the blog host. Make sure to propose a post that would resonate with the blogger and, consequently, their audience.
14. Connect With Cool People – StoryV (93 Shares)
There is more to life that just business, ROI, and money, right?
One of the reasons I reached out to StoryV was because they seemed like a cool couple running an awesome blog.
And now that I got to know them a bit, I am sure that if were in the same city in the world, we would go for a coffee and even become friends 😉
Collaborating and creating value (guest blogging) with other influencers can yield benefits in other areas of your life, beyond just business.
15. Talk About Your Experiences – Launch Grow Joy (33 Shares)
Writing actionable blog posts based on your experience can have multiple positive effects:
- It seems achievable to the reader – when you take people on a step-by-step journey that ended up producing a particular result, they will be more likely to take action.
- It builds authority – if you do manage to achieve a result that many find desirable, it'll position you as an authority on the subject.
- It is easier to follow – I am not saying that people are lazy, but if you are able to produce step-by-step guides complete with image and video guidance, your audience are much more likely to take action in line with your content.
An example of one such post at Traffic Generation Café:
SEO Case Study: Page One, Result One – Kurt Frankenberg of shoestring101.com
As I was researching the Launch Grow Joy blog, I cross-referenced their existing topics and their typical reader against my previous experience.
It just so happened that I had bootstrapped the growth of an ecommerce site over the past 3 years, so I created a step-by-step guide showing how I achieved this:
16. Shoot High – Social Media Today (237 Shares)
I approached Social Media Today when I was unknown in the social media and content marketing world and I very nearly did NOT submit my post for fear it would be rejected…
However, it is important to remember that these large blogs are hungry for content and, if you are able to satisfy their quality requirements (which you should be able to after writing 15 other guest posts), they will post your content regardless of who you are.
17. If You Get Rejected, Resubmit Elsewhere – Content Marketing Up (12 Shares)
Pretty early into my guest blogging journey, the Content Marketing Institute gave the following reply to my pitch:
‘Is not a good fit'… yet.
However, as my CMI contact shares in her lovely rejection mail above, there is nothing stopping you from re-submitting the same post to other establishments, as I did with Post 17.
So, when a blog requests that you send in a full post for their review and you feel like you don’t want to invest your valuable time on a post that may not be approved, just write it anyway and then submit elsewhere if you do get rejected.
18. Say YES! – HubSpot (1.3k Shares)
I initially reached out to Matthew Barby (Global Head of Growth & SEO at HubSpot) to post on his personal blog:
As he was not currently accepting guest posts for his blog, he asked if I wanted to propose the same post to the HubSpot blog…
Only my favorite marketing blog of all time (apart from Traffic Generation Cafe of course ;))!
I did NOT think that I was ready for this and that it would immediately get rejected, even with Matthew’s recommendation.
Regardless, I decided to go for it:
When you are faced with an opportunity that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable, say YES!
19. Make Case Studies About Remarkable Results – Be A Better Blogger (131 Shares)
When Post 13 went “viral” and hit the 4k shares mark, I thought: “That would make a great headline, I should share my formula.”
Which is exactly what I did when I reached out to the great Kevin J Duncan at Be A Better Blogger as can bee seen in this image:
Whenever you achieve a notable result that you believe could help other people within your niche, document your path in a a case study showing exactly how you achieved this result and then pitch the post to a blog host.
Additional reading on creating great case studies:
How Experts Write Case Studies that Convert, Not Bore – Danny Schreiber at zapier.com
20. Be Different – JeffBullas.com (1.1k Shares)
Everyone has read the “5 Steps To Grow Your Instagram Following blah-blah-blah” post.
But how many people have graduated from:
Attempt to make every piece of content and headline that you create remarkable in some form.
Here's a great read on creating remarkable content:
The Ultimate Guide to Remarkable Content – by Ramit Sethi
21. Beware Of Content Machines – Evan Carmichael (1 Shares)
What is a “content machine”?
These are sites that accept guest content from just about anyone and the site owner (the influencer) does not personally share your guest post with their audience and they may not even share your post at all.
Furthermore, when your guest post link is not working (like the link in the title of this section), you do not have someone you can email quickly to get it sorted as they operate a completely automated content collation process.
Only produce guest content for blogs where you work directly with the blog host; otherwise your time and effort may be wasted.
22. Reply To All Comments! – Kikolani (96 Shares)
Once your guest post is live, you are responsible for all interactions between that piece of content and the readership of the blog.
This includes checking back for any comments that may have been left on the post. You can see from the image below that a comment was left on this guest blog post from back in December that I have NOT replied to:
Back in a second, I’m off to respond to the comment. 😉
I now set a reminder in my calendar to check each guest post, 24 hours and 1 week after posting, to ensure I have responded to all comments.
Blog comments are an excellent opportunity to build relationships with new potential subscribers and customers. Also, on most blogs, a link to your site/landing page will be embedded with each comment.
23. Talk About Formulas/Recipes/Secrets – NicheHacks (50 Shares)
When you are sharing your experience in the form of an actionable case study as per Post 19, be sure to talk about formulas, recipes, and secrets.
People are bored of the “Step By Step Guide To Getting Social Shares” and are MUCH more likely to click on The Buzzfeed Formula – How To Consistently Get 1,000,000 Shares Per Post.
However, be sure to only use this technique if you are sure that your content has the quality to back it up. You don’t want to disappoint people.
24. Mention/Link To Yourself If Relevant – Ninja Outreach (71 Shares)
It it's relevant to mention/link to your business in your guest post, then do so!
When I say ‘relevant', I mean the link adds value to the readers and/or allows them to better understand the context.
Take for example this post on Ninja Outreach, where I outline exactly how I outsourced the build of the marketplace that I was marketing. It only makes sense for me to mention and link out to the finished product, don't you think?
Most reasonable blog hosts will allow you to place a link to your site in the body of your guest post if it is relevant, which will drive far more traffic AND link juice than any links placed in your author bio.
25. Denounce Conventional Wisdom – Smart Blogs (257 Shares)
When looking to submit guest post ideas, always attempt to build an argument against conventional wisdom, like I did with this post:
I can pretty much guarantee that the headline for this guest post (‘Why followers, likes & retweets are worthless‘) has a far greater click-through and engagement rate than a similar headline minus a potentially controversial argument – ‘How to grow your social media following‘, for instance.
Interesting reads on the topic:
The Science of Controversial Content – Gregory Ciotti at unbounce.com
Should You Write Controversial Blog Posts? A Data Driven Answer – Neil Patel at quicksprout.com
Why You Should Never, Ever Cook Up Controversy In Your Blog Posts – Sarah Arrow at bloggingwizard.com
Also, check out Ana's thumbs-down review of Empower Network – a very controversial move at that time:
Empower Network Review: Why I Gave Empower Network Two Thumbs Down (make sure to read the comments!)
26. Follow Up – Webbiquity (42 Shares)
Blog hosts are busy.
So do NOT be deterred when you do not get a response to your first, second or even fifth outreach mail follow up…
Just keep trying, as I did with this post:
…and was eventually successful.
27. Choose A Topic You Want To Learn About – Advowire (22 Shares)
In my opinion, one of the most effective methods of learning is to teach.
Thus, if there is something that you want to learn about because you are interested in the topic or need to do so to advance your business, then write about it.
It was at this point that I was building out the blog for the marketplace we were about to launch and I knew I could drastically increase our email optins by offering alternatives to the newsletter.
Therefore, I decided to research this topic further to enable us to improve our conversion AND would then write up these notes and propose as a guest blog post.
28. After A Couple Of Big Posts Things Get Easier – Entrepreneurship Life (20 Shares)
Once you land a couple of big posts with 1k+ shares within a niche, people will start to notice you:
This shows the importance of focus.
Had I written guest posts for blogs in various niches, Mohit might not have heard of me and accepted my guest post submission for his blog.
Choose a niche to target with your guest post submissions and, over time, you will get noticed and will find it easier to land guest content spots.
29. Use Famous People In Your Headlines – Smart Hustle (2 Shares)
You can borrow authority from influencers within your niche by quoting them in your content.
I used Richard Branson’s quote above to add authority to my headline and opening of this post.
Is there a celebrity or influencer within your niche that has an opinion or has taken a position that supports your guest post?
If so, use their authority.
30. Use Twitter AND Email For Your Outreach – Virgin Entrepreneur Blog (728 Shares)
From Post 10 onwards, with every guest post pitch sent, I would also reach out to the blog host on Twitter, as shown in the image below:
I don’t think I would have secured a post on the Virgin Entrepreneur Blog without that tweet.
I would recommend keeping the tweet simple (as shown above) and sending it right after you email your pitch to the blogger.
Wouldn't hurt one bit to like a few of their recent tweets or retweet some of their content while at it. 😉
31. Share Ideas – Forbes (895 Shares)
Not strictly a guest post, but I thought I would include this example here as I did collaborate with the author Kavi on the production of the content, as shown in the image below:
I proposed my idea for the post and Kavi approved, but he wanted to produce it himself, which was fine by me as he agreed to feature me in the post.
Find people that produce content around topics within your niche and pitch them post ideas. It is likely that you will end up with some form of recognition.
32. Review Competition And Make Your Post Better – Y Travel Blog (476 Shares)
Before settling on your guest post pitch, search for other posts on the topic and identify how you could potentially create a better piece of content.
Which is exactly what I did when I wanted to create a piece of content to network with influential travel themed Instagram users (see Post 6 for more on this):
After reviewing the search results above, it seemed that a better piece of content could be created with a larger selection of accounts and by taking a slightly different narrative.
And as you can see from the share count, it was well-received.
This goes to the heart of Brian Dean's ‘skyscraper technique':
Do not be surprised when your article is posted with edits made to your content and/or headline.
As a guest blogger you are handing over your content to the blog host for them to publish as they wish, regardless of your opinion.
My initial headline for this post was 5 Books Every Entrepreneur Should NOT Read (If You Want To Make Money) and it was changed to Get Deep: 5 Books Not to Read If You're Just Interested In Getting Rich.
Which one is better? That’s irrelevant as the blog host has the final say.
34. Always Link To Previous Posts In Your Pitch – Content Champion (120 Shares)
Blog hosts want to see that you are a real person who actually wants to add value to their audience.
The best way to do this is to include links to previous relevant guest posts in your pitch email.
Note that I also mentioned I would “implement the same promotional strategy that gave these previous posts such awesome exposure”. Who could reject that offer, right?
Evidently not Loz from Content Champion!
35. Share A Personal Journey – Ask Aaron Lee (156 Shares)
People love stories.
Furthermore, when people hear stories about you, they get to know you on a deeper, more intimate level. They may even go on to tell those stories to other people thus helping you spread your message.
If you get the opportunity to tell a story about your journey that would add value to the audience of a specific blog, take it.
And how did I know that Aaron/his audience would be interested in my journey through morning rituals? Twitter, of course.
I then used this tweet as a reference when pitching my post to Aaron:
36. Use Data – ZacJohnson.com (92 Shares)
If you are able to collate and process data to produce conclusions around your topic, then do it, just as I did with this post on Zac Johnson’ blog:
For this guest post, I analyzed the income reports of various online influencers to determine the most lucrative type of affiliate products to promote.
This approach will enable you to build a valuable, concrete conclusion that could add value to the readers.
37. Help The Best – Uk Linkology (197 Shares)
When creating a list post, consider the influencers you could potentially include by asking yourself the following questions:
- Have you spoken with them before?
- Do you want to know them?
- Do you want to work for them?
- Do they know someone you would like to know?
And of course the most important question:
- Can they add value on the topic you are covering?
When writing a list post on the “Ultimate Author Bio”, I asked myself these very questions and ended up reaching out to AND getting responses from:
Of course, I reached out to each influencer when the post was live to request that they share the post with their audience, which resulted in the post being shared 197 times.
To learn more about writing (and getting traffic from) link roundups, read:
38. Choose Content Based On Your Target Audience – Side Hustle Nation (70 Shares)
When proposing topics for larger blogs, I suggest spending at least 1-2 hours browsing through their content and using BuzzSumo to really understand the type of content that their readership enjoys (and shares).
As per Post 15, you can then cross reference any findings against your previous experience to produce a relevant actionable mega post that will blow the blog host AND readership away.
This is exactly what I did with this post on Side Hustle Nation:
It was well received by Nick’s readership:
39. Do A Great Job To Get More Opportunities – Bluewire Media (111 Shares)
Once you have a few solid guest posts under your belt, your content creation skills will start to improve. And the more they improve the more likely you are to receive more offers to write guest posts:
As per Post 18, I almost exclusively say yes whenever offered any guest posting opportunity as I see each post an opportunity to improve my content creation skills, help people, and to spread the word about my work.
40. Choose A Topic Relevant To Your Product/Service – MatthewWoodward.com (74 Shares)
When creating any piece of content, if you are able to cover a topic that helps to move your potential customers down the road towards their end goal, via your product or service, you can both help people and increase your sales at the same time.
In this example, I created a post that educated the readership on the benefits of outsourcing, also hoping some readers would then decide to move forward with outsourcing and do so with our marketplace.
Since posting that article a few ago, 173 people did exactly that:
41. Use Blind Headlines – Marketing Insider Group (122 Shares)
A headline is described as “blind” if it hides certain information from the reader.
This type of headline could be used to increase click-through rate, but could also increase bounce rate if the reader leaves without consuming the rest of your post once they discover the hidden piece of information.
Here is an example of a blind headline I used for this post on the blog of Marketing Insider Group:
If you do choose to use a blind headline, you must build sufficient curiosity around the rest of your content in the introduction of your post, so that your reader is motivated to consume the rest of your post.
42. Be Persistent – TrafficGenerationCafe (? Shares)
If there is a blog that you really enjoy and REALLY want to post on, do not be discouraged by an initial rejection or non-response.
Continue to add value through commenting, sharing content, and eventually, you could get through.
When I originally reached out to Ana (our awesome blog host) through Google+ to pitch a guest post, I got no response.
In her defense, I approached her in the run up to Christmas, which is not the best time (hint: don’t expect a high influencer outreach response rate during the Christmas period.)
However, around 6 weeks later we received this tweet:
And here we are…
42 Guest Posts Marketing Takeaway
In summary, I have built 42 high quality guest posts that have established my authority in the world of online business and have built 42 solid backlinks currently sending traffic to our marketplace.
However, I believe that the impact of this campaign lies in the relationships that have been forged with key influencers in the online business world.
I am a true believer that the success of your online business will be massively impacted by who is “on your team” and would be happy to support and promote you and your mission going forward.
Due to the guest posting efforts outlined above, I am now in a much better place to approach each of the above blog hosts with a pitch to collaborate on another piece of content, that could potentially result in affiliate relationships to fuel the growth of our marketplace.
The question for you is…
Who are the influencers within your industry that would be great to have “on your team”?
Once you know this, it’s time to start guest blogging. 😉
But before you run off…
You know that one friend of yours that was planning to embark on a guest blogging campaign?
You could shave hours or even days off their learning curve by using the social icons below to send this article over to them.
Thanks for sharing!
Tom Hunt is a TEDx Speaker, Dragon’s Den Failure And Founder of Virtual Valley: a platform that connects Entrepreneurs and Rockstar Virtual Assistants with the mission of giving Entrepreneurs back 1 million hours of their time by 2018. Tom also shares his best marketing techniques with all the legends that sign up here.