This is a guest post by Søren from Todaycrowd.com. Søren has compiled a list of lifestyle entrepreneurs (including me) and shares knowledge about building lifestyle businesses online.
Since he is building his platform by reaching out to other entrepreneurs, he's exactly the right guy to share his thoughts on guest posting with you. In fact, this is one of the most comprehensive guides on guest posting I've ever seen.
Stay tuned and prepare to get a step-by-step guide on guest posting that you can leverage to your benefits!
Take it away Søren!
In this post we are going to discuss why and where to guest post, what to write about and how to engage with readers? If you are new to guest posting this will give you all of the information needed to get started. If you have got any questions and/or would like to share your experience guest posting, I would love to read your comments below. I will respond to every question asked.
Is it what you know? Or who you know?
As a blogger you do not need to “sell out” and produce content with broad mass appeal to become successful. Your content will find an audience almost no matter how obscure a topic you are writing about. The Internet is vast and people have very diverse interests…
Blogging is however a social pursuit. There are literally millions of bloggers posting high quality content every single day, so it is not enough to sit at home uploading blog posts and expecting the world to show up at your doorstep reading what you have to say.
Why do you think all of the greatest rock bands in the world started out as warm up gigs for other famous bands? I sometimes go to underground music venues in London and some of the musicians are at least as skillful and entertaining as the headline acts on big festivals, but when you look around there is only 50 people in the room and half of them probably showed up because they know the bands playing. These guys are never going to make it, unless they hook up with another band that has already got a following.
Right, so do you see where I am going with this, when it comes to guest posting? If you are posting your best material on your personal blog, and the blog is only followed by your closest relatives, you are the equivalent of the struggling rock band playing gigs at pubs for a handful of friends, family and random strangers. The odds of Mick Jagger walking through the door and watching your performance is pretty much slim in none. So what do you do if you want to grow your audience? Well, guest posting is the blogging equivalent of being the warm up band for a headline act.
How and where to guest post?
So, are you sold on the concept that guest posting is your ticket to become a rock star? Let’s have a look at how it is done then.
You need interesting content
The first requirement for successful guest posting is that you have interesting content. You don’t want to be the lousy warm up act that gets booed off stage before the headline act. If you manage to land an invitation to write a guest post on a larger blog, you need to bring your A game.
You need tenacity
When you are first starting out, you do not have a lot of proof points to show your prospective blog host that you will bring the goods. Even after you manage to publish your first couple of guest posts you cannot rest on your laurels. It will likely take months of continuous effort writing engaging guest posts, before you will start to see a measurable impact on your own audience. You need to keep up the momentum even if you do not get much positive reinforcement when you are first starting out.
You need to build real life relationships and be willing to help out.
It is very important that you approach the guest posting opportunity with an open mind building a relationship with the blog host. Writing a guest post should be a mutually beneficial activity. The blog host will get quality content to fill their blogging schedule, while you will have the opportunity to engage with their audience. Guest posting may also forge relationships that can turn into exciting joint venture opportunities in the future. You can never know too many people!
You need to find an overlapping audience
I cannot stress this one enough. I recently went to a concert with a popular rock band (I know, me talking about music again…), and the opening act was an up and coming rapper. He was pretty good, and trying hard to engage with the audience, but it fell flat, as the audience was there wanting to see a rock gig, and failed to engage with his enthusiasm. The same goes for blogging, if you are writing about internet marketing on a blog about accounting you are unlikely to engage with the majority of the audience, no matter the quality of your post.
So how do you find blogs with a matching audience accepting guest posts? A simple way would be to open up Google and search for terms like: Your Keyword “guest post” or Your Keyword “write for us”. Your Keyword would be one of the keywords that you are targeting on your blog.
Once you find a list of blogs that look promising, have a look at their About page to check if they are in fact relevant. You can also investigate how authoritative their link profile is, but I think it is even more important to figure out if they have a real engaged following. You can investigate this by looking at the number and quality of blog comments, how often their content is shared on social media, and how engaged their social media following appears. In case you are not familiar you can use Topsy, to get a sense of the level of social engagement on the host blog. This tool has got a lot of features, but if you go to the social search tab and search for site:host blog url, e.g. in this case site:jkoch.me you will be able to analyze who is tweeting and linking to the site and what type of content seems to strike a chord with these people.
What do you write about?
Right, so now you have found a relevant blog that ticks all of the boxes, how do you decide what you are going to write?
Ask the blogger
As a very first step ask the blogger if they have got any guidelines for guest posts. Established bloggers will sometimes have very elaborate guidelines explaining in detail how a guest post should be structured. You should welcome this. Read and follow the guidelines in detail. If the blogger has made the effort to create these guidelines it usually means that 1) the blogger is serious, and concerned about maintaining a certain level of quality on their blog, 2) the blogger is practically giving you a hand explaining what type of post structure is likely to be successful on the blog. Some blog owners will ask you to go back and edit parts of your guest post if it does not fit with their brand. Again as long as the critique is constructive you should welcome this. The blog owner is basically providing you with free editorial advice, and you might end up a better writer through this process.
You can also ask the blogger if there is any particular topic that he/she is currently focusing on, but it is generally a better idea to pitch a couple of qualified ideas yourself, more about this below.
Discover the blogger’s winning formula
Now that you understand the host blogger’s perspective, your next step should be to try and gauge what works with the current audience of the blog. My first point of call would be to head over to QuickSprout and have a look at the top 10 posts on the blog most shared on social media. If you type in the URL of the blog and press the Social Media Analysis tab, you will be able to see these stats in the Page Level Results table. Have a browse through these posts to get a feel for the writing style, headlines, topics, and learn if there are any patterns to the most successful posts on the blog. E.g. you may find that most of the top 10 posts are list posts, that they contain an infographic, are based on a case story, or something else.
Buzzsumo is another similar tool that will let you analyze the top content. E.g. at the time of writing the most shared post on JKoch.me is the post about How to Fix the Most Important WordPress Security Issues, and 3 of the top 4 posts are “how to” style entries. Now you know why I structured this guest post as a “how to” post? Once you have analyzed the top content, brainstorm a few potential headlines that you think will be successful.
How to pitch your post
Bloggers are busy, so keep your pitch short and sweet. There really is no perfect formula that will work every time. Commenting on the host blog and linking out to some of their best material is usually a good ice breaker.
If you have followed along this far you should already have a couple of headline ideas ready, include these in your pitch. From the perspective of the blog owner it is much easier to take the risk and accept a guest post, if you know exactly what the post is going to be about.
So in terms of structure I would very quickly introduce myself and compliment the host on any potential content that you found worthy of a comment/share (be genuine). Then I would tell a little bit about myself and my blog, ask for any potential guidelines and pitch a couple of ideas. Just make sure to keep it brief.
If I get a favourable response I would then reply and continue the conversation to agree on a title and start the writing process.
I am not in favour of a scripted approach, people can quickly work out if they are communicating with a human being or not. Besides the whole point of writing guest posts is to engage and build relationships.
Once you have decided on your topic and headline, it is time to start writing. Now I know a lot of people would outsource the actual task of writing the guest post, especially if they are producing a high volume of guest posts. I am not in favor of this approach unless you are 100% sure that the quality of writing is going to be top notch. I would much rather focus on a few blogs and do a top job writing the posts myself. You have been given the opportunity to showcase your work in front of a new audience, do not blow it by uploading some generic post that the blog host could have requested from iWriter himself for $5-$10.
And when you finish the post do yourself a favor and give the post a good spell check and read through before sending it. It is probably not the end of the world if there are a couple of grammar mistakes here and there, but guest posting is all about building long term relationships with bloggers, and a surefire way of ensuring that won't happen is to share a second rate blog post littered with spelling mistakes.
Don't just add images and infographics for the sake of it, but if you think it will help bring your message across it does bring a little bit more of a wow factor than a plain text post. Some blogs like Pat Flynn’s SmartPassiveIncome.com start every post with a graphical illustration, and you will notice every blog post here on the blog has got a picture right at the beginning to grab attention. Here is an example.
Think about it, when you write a post for your own blog you will typically add a few links to relevant posts in your archives. Help the owner of the host blog out by doing the same when you are guest posting. You have already located some of the blog's most successful posts using QuickSprout and Buzzsumo, link out to some of these if and when relevant. Again do not do it just for the sake of doing it. Think and act like it is your own blog.
How to engage with readers?
Create a call to action
Towards the end of your post you might consider creating a call to action, showcasing what you can do for the audience that has faithfully read through your post.
Explain who you are and what you can do for the audience.
Respond to comments
Once the guest post has been published, make yourself available to answer every single comment. This is another great opportunity to engage directly with the audience of the blog, don't pass it up. It is especially important that you respond to the first couple of comments quickly to get the conversation going.
Social media shares
Do promote the guest post through your social media accounts. It is in your own best interest to ensure the blog post is successful and gets traction. You want to get as much engagement as possible out of your post. This way the blog owner is also more likely to invite you back another time.
This is an expression that I have picked up from Ramit Sethi, I am not sure if he is the one that popularized it. But in essence you want to create a simple dedicated page on your own blog to acknowledge and welcome visitors from the host blog and introduce them to your blog. Have a look at this link as an example. The page contains a short description about what you can learn on my blog, and a sign-up box for my newsletter. If you take the time to create a similar page for your guest posts you are improving your chances of continuing the conversation.
So, there you have it. A simple, yet effective introduction to guest posting. I hope you put these steps in to practice and build your audience.
Image Attribution: The featured image is from UnSplash.com, a great source of free stock photos.