Today we have a guest post from Doug Cunnington of NicheSiteProject. I was going to give a long introduction about the post, my thoughts on the topic, and any other notes, but Doug has crushed it with this post, so I’m going to let it speak for itself. Let this be your ultimate guest posting bible.
Take it away Doug..
Guest posting has seen its ups and downs. It can be leveraged and utilized to grow a blog, generate subscribers, and send targeted traffic your way. That’s what this post will be about – good, ol’ fashioned guest posting through networking and outreach.
The outreach doesn’t have to be hard, and if you use tried-and-true templates, then it can be a plug’n’play process. (You can get these templates at the end…for free)
There is guest posting that people (like Google) frown upon. That guest posting usually amounts to buying the right to post on a website, where you place outbound links to your “money site.” We are not talking about those.
Guest posting is seeing a renaissance with major proponents like Brian Dean (backlinko), Neil Patel (quicksprout), Ramit Sethi (iwillteachyoutoberich), plus tools and apps that make the process easier, like Ninja Outreach.
What’s the point of guest posting? Let’s look at the real goals, roughly in the order of importance.
Get targeted referral traffic: You will be writing about a topic that is related to your blog or website. (Technically, you don’t have to have a blog or website. You could link to your Twitter, Instagram, or Periscope profile.) Since the topic is related, the people that read the article will be interested in reading more about the topic. Hence, they will visit your site to learn more about you and the topic.
Get contextual backlinks: I come from an SEO background where backlinks are king, and have a history with Private Blog Networks. And, let’s look at the facts – backlinks matter tremendously if you care at all about organic traffic. There are some business models that don’t rely on that traffic whatsoever. If you are reading this blog, then I’ll bet you care about organic traffic a lot. Guest posts are a scalable way to get backlinks. Yes. Scalable when you use templates and systems like the ones you can get at the end of the post.
Become better known in the community: People in the niche, whatever it may be, will associate you as part of the community. And, the best part is you will be an authority in the niche and community. Most people don’t have blogs and most don’t guest post either. You will be “internet famous” on a small scale, which is a cool thing.
So, you may be thinking, “Doug, great. This sounds like a no-brainer! But WHY would a blogger let me guest post?? What do they get out of it?”
I will tell you.
What Are Bloggers Looking For
Great content that is original: Running a blog is hard work. Hitting your goals to publish original content on a regular basis is very hard. Some bloggers hire ghostwriters, so if you can write something good for free, then the blogger gets something out of the deal, too.
Posts that are based on facts, expert information, and case studies: If you have data or information that you created, then you have an asset on your hands. Case study data is hard to come by and it is a great way to get a guest post on popular blogs. If you are using a technique that you learned from a blogger, then you can make a pitch to that blogger that makes a big impact. You will be the student that proves the bloggers technique is effective.
How to Land Guest Posts for Any Website
There many guides out there for guest posting and I learned a lot from them. I am including some templates for you (for free at the end), and you can use them directly. They convert exceptionally well – a great deal of credit can be given to the experts that are cited above.
Find blogs that you can pitch your idea to
There endless ways to find blogs to guest post on. My favorite way is to use some advanced Google searches to find footprints.
My favorite footprint to search for is currently:
“Leave a comment” [keyword]
I could go on and on, but instead, check out the 40 or so footprints that you can use from Backlinko. There are several other ways to find relevant blogs to post on within that post, too.
Be creative about the keyword by going outside of your niche. So, if you are trying to get guest posts for your niche site that reviews DSLRs, you can think outside the box.
Go to a demographic that may be interested it DSLRs, like Mom Bloggers. That’s a huge set of blogs that you can reach out to.
Warm up the bloggers by interacting with them (optional)
You’ll see a higher acceptance rate from your emails if you interact with the blogger in some way. It is the difference between a stranger versus an acquaintance asking you for a favor. If you do a favor for the blogger in some way, it is even better. (See the Rule of Reciprocity.)
Here are a few ideas to interact, and don’t limit yourself to just these.
Comment on their blog.
Subscribe to their email list.
Send them emails and ask smart questions.
Share their posts on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc…
Follow the blogger on social media and reshare, like, +1, etc… things that they post.
Link to blog posts by the blogger.
Warming up the blogger is optional. If you don’t interact with them, you will get more rejections. However, I skip this step for some outreach campaigns because it may or may not be significant.
Send emails to the bloggers with your ideas
This is the main part of the process and takes the most time for most people. I like to keep it simple, a lot like Dom recommends here, but I do have a change from his template.
Dom’s template is about 200 words give or take – Mine is about half the length. (You can get the template and all the others I use at the end of the post…)
Why shorter? People are busy and shorter is better. My template is derived from the Quicksprout and Backlinko templates, and still mostly adheres to what Brian Dean mentions on his definitive guide:
Did you see the extra bit that I added?
I am making a great offer to the blogger by saying they should put in their own affiliate links, Amazon Associates in this case. That’s a big deal because many, many bloggers don’t make much money. The blogger is now getting an offer from you to write a revenue generating blog post.
That’s a slam dunk for most people. There are virtual no barriers or major reasons to reject you.
But Doug, “How many emails do I have to send? It sounds boring…”
You have to send a lot of emails. Start off with 50 and see how it goes. I have seen response rates as low as 13% and as high 28%, using the template above for different niches and verticals.
And, only about 25% to 33% of the replies are actually accepting your pitch to guest post. You see a lot of rejections, like this one:
Every now and then you see one that is more interesting:
Please note: I read the page that the blogger cited, but you never know when your pitch will be accepted. The page said they don’t accept guest posts if they don’t know you. Anyway, this person didn’t appreciate my email at all. I respect their response and I didn’t send anything in response.
25% to 33% acceptance may seem low, but it means that for every 100 emails you send, that you may land 3 to 9 guest posts.
You can space it out over 5 or 10 days to get into the rhythm. It is purely a numbers game and luckily, there are a seemingly endless number of blogs out there.
Here are 2 ways to make the process go faster:
Use Ninja Outreach to manage the process. It solves the problem that we have – sending a lot of emails fast using a template. You can learn more here about the tool. They have a 14 day free trial so take it for a test drive. The major benefit is that you can easily see who you’ve contacted, who has replied back, and where each prospect is in the process.
Use Canned Responses in Gmail. It’s a straightforward Gmail app from Labs that’s free. Read more about it here. The benefit with Canned Responses is that it’s free. The big downside is that you will have to keep track of who you’ve contacted. That can get messy fast.
Write a great guest post following the image and word count guidelines as necessary
You need to write a great, high quality post, or outsource the writing to a well qualified writer. Don’t skimp or rush this.
Be sure to look how the blogger writes and formats their posts. Look to see what kind of images they use, including the resolution. If they actually have guest posting guidelines, then follow them exactly. Remember the blogger is doing you a favor so make the whole process as easy as possible.
I always include images with the post and most of the time I use royalty-free images that don’t need to be attributed. Sometimes I take original pictures for the post if I have the ability to. Occasionally, I will use some flickr creative commons images, but there is a higher implied value when the image doesn’t need to be attributed.
You get bonus points if you have a content upgrade for the guest post. A content upgrade is a lead magnet that is customized for the specific post and drives the optin rate through the roof. It works for Bryan Harris at VideoFruit (an amazing 20-30% optin rate on blog posts). And, my other favorite Brian (Dean) at Backlinko amplified optins with content upgrades (he boosted conversions by 185% sitewide).
Feel free to link to your own blog within the post when it makes sense to do so. Also, be generous about linking out to other blogs and authority sites. When you add outbound links that add value, context, and help the reader, then you will not have any issue getting them published.
Send the draft and images to the blogger and ask for feedback. I even suggest to them to make edits, additions, or comments when I send it. Most of the time, the blogger publishes my draft as-is, without any edits.
Follow up: Comment on the post and share, share, share.
After the post is published, comment on the blog post. Answer any questions that may arise, and it helps to subscribe to the comments so that you will get updates when a new comment is added.
Share the post with your network, email list, friends, family, and so on. If you have a system of sharing for your social media (like Buffer), then be sure to get the new get post into the rotation.
Not sending writing samples. The best way to do this is sending links to other guest posts that you’ve done. It shows that you have worked with other people before. If you haven’t landed any guest posts yet, you can leave out that line or simply link to your best article on your own blog.
Looking at bloggers only in your niche. If your site is all about dwarf hamsters, then you may have a harder time finding blogs about hamsters to reach out to. So, no matter what your niche is, you should be looking for the topics that overlap with a large demographic. Be creative and know that you only need to fit in a few sentences about your topic. For example, you could talk about small pets in general rather than a full guest post purely about dwarf hamsters.
Link bait type post ideas. Sending guest post ideas that fall into the “clickbait” genre is a bad idea. Most bloggers see right through that and really don’t like hype-y headlines. That said, if you the blog you are emailing happens to really love those kind of headlines, then go ahead and make the pitch.
How To Boost Conversions
I found two things that really boost conversions. I already mentioned one and I will repeat it.
Link to writing samples, ideally, other guest posts. Seriously, it really helps and bloggers like it. It is a form of social proof. Let them know that you can write a coherent blog post.
Follow up a lot if you don’t get a response. Most of your emails will get ignored. It just happens and you shouldn’t take it personally. Instead, send a short follow up email if you don’t hear back in 4 to 7 days. I was chatting with Perrin from Niche Pursuits and he told about following up when I didn’t hear back from prospects. I thought I was annoying the person already and I timidly didn’t email them again. But this simple technique makes a huge difference. Keep it short and sweet. My response rate is about 15% to this email, and about 40% of those responses are accepting the pitch. (If you are keeping track, that’s about 4 more guest posts getting accepted out of 100.)
And here is the response:
Guest posting has been an essential strategy for bloggers and websites looking to grow. It can provide a boost in traffic, email subscribers, and obtain valuable backlinks to your website. Not only that, you get the intangible effect of becoming an authority in the community.
I will tell you right now that guest posting is not easy. However, it isn’t hard either because you just need to follow 5 easy steps:
Warm Up the Bloggers
Send Emails to the Bloggers
Write the Guest Post
Click here to get the free templates. You’ll need to provide your email address so I can email them to you.
Are you too busy to get your own guest posts? Learn more about how I can help you get guest posts.