In 2014, Matt Cutts, a popular figure and voice in the software technology world, made the bold prediction that guest blogging was headed for its demise.
Of course, Cutts ultimately ended up being incorrect. While some concerns he raised post are still valid today (nobody, especially Google, likes blog posts stuffed with spammy links), using blogging as a means to build a high-quality backlinks profile is common practice among most businesses to improve their SEO efforts, their brand visibility, and reputation.
However, one critical aspect of guest blogging many businesses fail to grasp is that it’s not a “one-off” strategy. It’s a complete strategy in itself that fits into your overall digital marketing strategy. Like any other strategy, it must scale to fit your needs and requires constant refinement to ensure it delivers a sustainable return on investment (ROI).
If you’re looking to build or improve your guest blogging strategy and grow your network of contributors that consistently delivers a high ROI, keep reading.
First, develop a strategy
Your first order of business will be to start building and implementing an action plan that helps you achieve your online marketing goals. Begin by listing the outcomes you hope to see from your guest blogging endeavor. Most businesses tend to want to meet the following objectives:
- Attract targeted traffic to their sites
- Build or improve credibility in their niche
- Connect with relevant influencers
- Bolster their social media following
- Build a strong, high-quality backlinks profile.
Next, you’ll want to start identifying reputable sites in your niche that are known for the quality of content they publish, have a large audience (i.e. they attract a good amount of web traffic and page views), are willing and able to point their audience to your site, and have a good domain authority (DA). It’s important to note, however that DA is not a metric Google uses to determine search ranking, but it is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that helps determine the quality of a website.
Once you’ve determined which websites you want to partner with, you’ll want to cull them into a list categorized into various tiers:
Tier 1: Highly-trafficked websites that might be difficult to publish on with a slow response time (sometimes up to a few months).
Tier 2: Reputable sites with high traffic volumes that are more willing to publish guest posts. The outreach process might take less time than Tier 1 companies but could still take a couple of weeks for total turnaround time.
Tier 3: “Easy” websites to publish on that get the ball rolling for your guest posting efforts.
The easiest way to filter these sites is by using their DA as a benchmark for differentiation. The ones with the highest DA can be clubbed in Tier 1, followed by the mid-DA sites in Tier 2, and those with “ordinary” DA can be slotted in Tier 3.
Outreach is key
Your outreach strategy determines whether your guest blogging strategy succeeds or not. There are plenty of reasons why a blogger outreach strategy fails to garner a response from your target websites, so it’s important to remember that it takes very little to send your outreach email into a recipient’s spam folder.
So, before you send that email, be sure to research who the blog owner or editor is of your target website, and connect with them on social media. Allow some time to nurture this relationship, and try to connect with him or her over common interests. Remember: You’re trying to establish a personal relationship, so if you succeed at connecting, the pitch you make in your outreach has a better chance of success.
Whether or not you’ve tried connecting with the blog owner/editor before sending your pitch, every outreach email should include the following things:
- If they’ve included their blog contributor guidelines on their website, be sure you follow them going into your pitch. This means that some editors might not want you to pitch your own ideas and would rather assign you a topic. Or, they may want you to pitch a full idea or have a full article already written. If you don’t know what the preference is, be sure you ask in your first correspondence to them.
- A creative or catchy subject line can work wonders for your email.
- Be sure to address your contact by name. Also, if you’ve had contact with them in the past, be sure to mention it in the email to improve your chances that they respond.
- Quickly introduce yourself (no long-winded introductions), including why you’d be a great contribution to their network of bloggers.
- Focus on what’s in it for them that is how their blog can benefit from your contribution.
- If you’ve already built a portfolio of successful guest blog posts that received significant engagement, it won’t hurt to include them in your message.
The person you’re trying to reach might not respond to your outreach email immediately, so it may make sense to send a two-line follow-up email a few days later to resurface your name in their inbox.
On the other hand, some blogs have very clearly laid-out email response times and make it very clear that if you don’t hear from them, they’ve rejected your post or pitch. In such a case, don’t send a follow-up email.
Scaling up your efforts—building a guest blogging network
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind to help you scale your guest blogging efforts:
- Continue building out the list of blogs that you want to be published in, and keep categorizing them; you don’t want to run out of opportunities.
- Whatever response you get to your outreach emails, keep reaching out periodically with newer and possibly better blog post topics. You never know when an idea will resonate.
- Something else you must constantly work on is your relationship building with the target bloggers. Keep at it. You will improve your skills with every new connection you make. In addition to reaching out via social media, consider attending blogger conferences and meetups, and be sure to exchange business cards with blog owners you’re interested in working with.
- Use your website to champion your guest blogging efforts. One way to do this is by adding an email newsletter subscription form to your website. This also helps improve the readership of your guest blogs.
- If you can afford it, a team of writers that are constantly researching new topic ideas and creating new posts will help you immensely. You might also consider contracting this work using services like Upwork. If you want to truly scale your blogging efforts, there’s no way you’ll be able to write each post on your own.
- Think of guest blogging as a continuous investment of time, money and resources. Be sure you have a budget for this endeavor. Most high authority websites out there will publish your article for free. If you can commit to regularly contributing blog posts, a few blog posts every month can dramatically improve your scope and reputation as a thought leader.
Why is guest blogging still important?
There’s no doubt that strong guest posts can deliver immense value in the form of link “juice” and targeted traffic. For example, Buffer, the social media planning tool, grew its users from 0 to 100,000 within its first 9 months after launch, purely from their guest blogging efforts.
Guest blogging accomplishes something that is absolutely priceless: It helps build trust.
Trust helps sell your products and services. When you are publishing a post, you are essentially showcasing your knowledge on a particular topic or subject that is aligned with your business. When your audience reads your article, they’ll understand your expertise on the subject matter and your particular niche. Because of this, they’ll come to trust your ability to solve their problems through your specific knowledge and skillset.
Over a period of time, this trust is transferred to your products and services, and the general consensus around your brand will be that whatever you are selling is something to be trusted.
So, rather than thinking whether your guest blogging efforts will pay the dividends, think of the rich rewards you’ll receive if you go about it the right way, and are able to scale your efforts as your business and your network grows.
Pratik Dholakiya is the founder of The 20 Media, a content marketing agency specializing in content & data-driven SEO and PRmention, a digital PR agency. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Digital PR. Pratik has spoken at 80th Annual Conference of Florida Public Relations Association, Accounting & Finance Show, Singapore, NextBigWhat’s UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, SEMrush Meetup, MICA, IIT-Roorkee and other major events. As a passionate SEO & content marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge in publications like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web, YourStory and Inc42 to name a few.
As a content creator and blog manager for Keap, Jennifer enjoys writing and editing educational and actionable content for small business owners blazing their own paths. When she’s not creating or editing content for Keap, she spends her time wrangling the chaos that is two mini humans (aka her kids), cheering on the 8-time World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, and hiking the hills of Northern California. Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferMLeslie