Most content marketers focus their traffic-generation efforts on Google. It's a practical strategy, especially since Google processes more than one trillion searches every year. However, there are other ways to drive traffic that might boost your conversion rates much higher, especially if you're having trouble ranking well in the search engines.
Guest Posts: Take a Page From Your Favorite Television Show
From “Mork and Mindy” to “Mad Men,” television show creators don't rely on their core casts to maintain their ratings on television. From time to time (and, in some cases, for every episode), the show brings guest stars into the mix. Whether he's a movie star like Brad Pitt or she's a well-known singer like Britney Spears, guest stars boost ratings and increase viewer engagement.
If you thought that television tropes have nothing to do with your content marketing strategy, think again. You can use that same tactic to drive traffic to your website.
When you invite other contributors to write guest posts for your blog, you garner traffic from both your own followers and your guest's audience. You might have some overlap, but you'll still boost your numbers and gain exposure.
Jeff Goins, the popular author of “The Art of Work,” calls guest posting “the single most important strategy for growing your blog readership and platform.” However, you need a smart strategy to make it work.
Choosing Guests: Avoid Train Wrecks Waiting to Happen
When celebrities screw up in public and find their names plastered across the tabloids, they don't get as many invitations to guest star on television programs. Why? It's because television producers don't want to associate their brands with volatile, unpredictable, or disparaged stars.
Keep this wisdom in mind when you pitch potential guest bloggers. You don't want to bring aboard a person who might hurt your brand's image, no matter his or her track record or credentials.
It's an easy trap to avoid. When you decide you might like to contact a prospective guest (or when someone contacts you about posting on your blog), run a quick Google search. Find out as much as you can about that individual's reputation online. If you find negative information, don't hesitate to ask him or her about it.
Saving Time: Schedule Guest Posts Strategically
On many television shows, guest stars assume center stage. This gives the core cast a break and adds a fresh twist to the narrative. You can do the same thing with your blog.
Schedule guest posts on days when you can't think of anything to share or when you need a day off to attend your kid's dance recital. Alternatively, take advantage of the opportunity to concentrate on other areas of your business.
This creates two advantages. First, you'll get some much-needed downtime; and second, you'll give your guest blogger the chance to assume the limelight for a minute and generate more traffic for your site.
You might even create a specific day for guest posts. For instance, you might feature a different contributor every Monday or every other Friday. Let your audience know what to expect so you don't surprise them.
Administrative Tasks: Get Your Guest-Posting Schedule Organized
Guest stars don't just magically appear on a television screen. Their appearances are the result of weeks—or even months—of negotiations, auditions, and other minutiae.
Similarly, it takes time to solicit guest posts, review manuscripts, and brainstorm ideas. Leave time for those administrative tasks in your schedule. If you want your guest posts to boost your traffic numbers, you must treat the campaign seriously.
Spend time with your guests so they know what you expect of them. Invite them to read your blog so they understand the tone you try to convey. After your guests submit posts, you'll also need to edit and format them for publication.
Style and Substance: Bring Out the Best in Your Guest Bloggers
Television producers and directors look for guest stars whose skills and talents align with the show. For instance, if you're looking for a guest star on a sitcom, you'll probably want to work with a celebrity who has experience in comedic acting. A dramatic TV show needs guest stars who can hit far-ranging emotional notes.
However, TV shows also want variety in their guest stars. For a slapstick sitcom, the producers might want a guest star who excels at physical comedy or who has a drier sense of humor. That way, the guest star stands out from the cast.
You're looking for that same variety in your guest bloggers. You want someone who will fit with your brand image and tone, but who can bring a fresh voice to the site.
The Video Twist: Adding a Modern Twist to Guest Posting
When you think about guest posting, you are likely thinking about written content. That no longer has to be the case.
Video is growing immensely. Content marketers are using video more than ever as part of their strategies and there are many reasons why. Videos are visual, fast, and shareable. A well-produced video can easily and quickly deliver a strong message.
Video adds a very human touch to content and the right spokesperson or voice over artist can build trust and engagement instantly with the audience.
The video aspect of guest posting is great for websites and blogs that usually run written content. The change in routine for the viewer is a welcome surprise, helping retain readers and boosting the chances of them sharing your content.
Taking Advantage: Benefits of Guest Posting
Accepting guest posts can drive significant traffic to your blog. Your guest will likely blog about his or her “appearance” on your site, which means you'll get traffic from his or her followers. Plus, those backlinks increase your ranking in the search engines.
It doesn't stop with the single post, either. People who visit your site to view the guest blog might delve deeper into your archives. It's easy to gain loyal readers through a guest posting campaign.
Inviting a guest (or a few guests) on your blog also creates variety. Your followers probably love your voice and your content, but it's nice to have a change of pace every now and again. It will make your content seem fresh and unique.
Guest posts help forge relationships between a network of people. For example, you'll make connections with the people who guest post on your blog. You'll also establish relationships with each other's followers and start conversations that matter to your industry.
You can also gain industry credentials this way. If you invite a well-known expert in your field to write a guest post, his or her experience and expertise reflects well on your blog. It's the same with well-known celebrities who guest star on TV.
Avoiding Landmines: How to Prevent Guest Posting Mistakes
While guest posts can easily drive traffic to your site and increase your own authority in your industry, they can also backfire. To prevent damaging your reputation or your search engine rankings, you'll need to avoid a few common mistakes.
First of all, you don't want your guest to completely eclipse your website. If your guest has too great of a reputation in your field or if you're competing against one another, the guest blog posts will likely cause more harm than good.
Furthermore, since you don't create guest posts, you can't guarantee their integrity. A guest blogger could easily recycle content from another source and hand it to you as original content.
If you plan to accept guest posts, consider investing in duplication software, such as Copyscape. That way, you'll know you have original content that won't put your website in hot water.
Additionally, you might want to create a guest post agreement or contract. Hubspot, for instance, uses a guest blogger agreement that requires, among other things, guest bloggers to cite their sources, create original material, and provide a brief biography. Putting your agreement in writing protects you from potential disputes.
As a final word of caution, don't let guest bloggers take over your website. When Bruce Willis guest-starred on the television show “Friends,” he stayed for a three-episode arc. His job was to get in, serve the storyline, drive ratings, and get out. If he stayed longer, he might have overshadowed the main characters.
Similarly, you don't want your guest bloggers to subsume your voice and content. It's still your site. Let guest bloggers take the spotlight for a minute or two, then shift that light back to you and your content.
Guest posting offers one of the quickest and most powerful ways to drive traffic to your site. In fact, it might prove even more powerful than Google. Just ask the producers of your favorite television show.
Grant Lingel is the Content Manager at Bunny Inc., creators of VoiceBunny and ArticleBunny. A perpetual traveler and digital nomad, Grant has visited dozens of countries across five continents on assignment. He has been living in Brazil since 2011 where he owns a small hostel on the island of Vitoria.