Ever since Matt Cutts called it back in 2014, there’s been a debate on whether guest posting is a useful link building tactic or not. If you’re jumping on the bandwagon just now and exploring your options, the perspective might seem grim – but we beg to differ!
Guest posting might have gotten a bit spammy in recent years, and we’ve all gotten some really shady or downright hilarious guest post pitches in the meantime. However, as the line between spammy and legit gets thinner, it is more important than ever to understand the right way to do guest posting.
In this article, we cover guest blogging basics for newbies in the field. What it is, does it work, what the process looks like, expected benefits, myths, and challenges – we will outline it all.
What is guest posting?
Guest posting (a.k.a. guest blogging) stands for publishing content on websites that you do not own. This is why the person that writes guest posts is often called a guest contributor or guest author. It is sometimes used as a synonym for blogger outreach.
Most people use guest posting to build links towards their website in an effort to position their site higher in search results. The idea is this: you offer free educational content to a website in your niche. Since you offer it for free, the unwritten rule is that they let you link to your own site/blog.
Bloggers and editors know what you’re up to, so more and more of them actually ask for a fee for publishing your content. These types of “deals” go under the realm of sponsored posts and are not something Google is very fond of.
That being said, using guest posting just to build links is a missed opportunity. When executed correctly, it can bring many other benefits we will talk about later.
Is guest blogging a viable link building tactic?
The answer depends on how the whole process is executed. Are you able to write insightful and actionable guest content? Is your guest content published on relevant, high-authority sites in your niche? Do you have awesome content on your blog you can link to?
If the answer to all of those questions is yes, then guest posting is a solid link building tactic.
But guest blogging should never be just about links. The problem is that there are a lot of companies and agencies that think of it this way, so they end up publishing low-quality content on spammy websites, just to get a backlink.
Because of this misuse, it is likely that guest posting will become decreasingly effective as a pure link building tactic. Just around the time of writing the revision of this article, there was a Google spam link algorithm update where Google recommends editors to tag links in guest posts with a no-follow tag.
This will not make guest posting obsolete! Why? Well, when done right, it brings many other benefits.
Benefits of guest posting
Publishing quality content on highly reputable sites in your industry is a great way to get in front of your target audience. By giving you the spotlight, the sites are saying to their visitors that you are someone worth listening to.
In a way, they pass some of their credibility on to you. This can be very helpful for building brand trust and improving brand recognition, especially for businesses that are just starting out.
Guest blogging can also be a great networking tool. Some businesses use it primarily to connect with influencers in their industry.
The collaboration starts with a couple of guest posts. If you’re lucky and also have something valuable to offer, it can grow into research projects, recommendations, and various promotional campaigns.
The last benefit worth mentioning is the potential to earn valuable referral traffic. People reading your guest post might click on the links you left in the post – and find themselves on your website. Some of those might be potential buyers who are ready to download your lead magnets or schedule a consultation call.
Which type of content do editors like to publish?
There are a few types of guest posts editors really love to publish. Post types will generally reflect the type of audience a blog/site caters to, but we can identify some formats that are highly popular across industries:
- How-to guides are popular because audiences love guides on how to solve a specific problem.
- Listicles, being even more popular than how-tos, are great because you can choose how in-depth you want them to be, as well as how many points your list is going to have.
- Another great guest post type is a case study – basically a showcase of work achievement. They’re similar to how-tos, but focus on only one example and lead you through their case in great detail.
How to differentiate between good and bad guest posts
Naturally, the looks and content of a guest post are going to depend on the site you pitched, as well as your goals with guest posting in the first place. Nevertheless, there are some general rules to adhere to:
- a good guest post should be unique to the site it will be hosted on
- it should follow the site’s guidelines
- it should have a recognizable structure (intro, main part, conclusion) and be free from grammatical errors
- most importantly, a good guest post should provide value to the readers, be it in the form of actionable tips, examples, or personal experience
In other words, your guest post should be a quality piece of content. For more info, here is a quick guide on how to write a superb guest post.
A bad guest post is everything that a good post isn’t:
- it regurgitates information everyone already knows
- the content is thin, plagiarized, or duplicated
- it is full of grammatical, syntactical, and spelling errors
- it provides no value to the reader
Myths about guest posting that are not true
- Guest posting is dead – it’s not. As long as there are blogs that need new content, and as long as backlinks are an important ranking signal, guest posting will be here to stay. With time, it might evolve to focus more on building brand awareness than links.
- I need to have a reputation as a writer – you don’t. Editors on big sites will often ask for your writing samples. If you have a weak portfolio, start with less popular blogs that are more inclined to give you a chance and work your way up.
- One email = one guest post – you wish! Be prepared to send lots and lots of emails. There are so many things that can affect your outreach efficiency, and you’ll learn how to increase it with time.
- It’s impossible to get guest posts on ‘big sites’ – it’s hard, that’s for sure, but not impossible. It usually takes more time and effort, as they have stricter guidelines and insist on high content quality.
- It’s not worth it – it is. You can see how it worked for some of our clients when complemented with the right SEO and content strategy.
Standard guest posting process
Guest blogging is very popular, but it is often outsourced to digital agencies like Point Visible because it is a resource-intensive process. Agencies have access to expensive SEO and outreach tools which allow them to streamline the process and make it cost-effective.
Below, we will outline a standard guest posting process. With little tweaks here and there, this process can be applied in any niche.
Step #1: Research target audience and trending topics
The first step is researching your audience and your niche.
Visit relevant blogs from the industry, check out forums and Q&A sites and do some queries – these are great for seeing what people are talking about, their problems, needs, challenges, and pain points. This will help you concentrate on topics that matter.
To take it one step further, try to find published content with good metrics (engagement, ranking), or scour target/leading blogs and try to identify content gaps (important topics nobody is talking about). To do that, make use of tools such as BuzzSumo or the Content Explorer by Ahrefs.
Step #2: Generate post ideas
Once you know what your potential customers want to read about, it’s time to come up with a few title ideas you’re going to pitch to bloggers, influencers, and editors.
Depending on how creative your titles are, you might want to include a description to explain what you plan to cover with each topic. Here is an example of some of the topics we pitch to editors in our industry:
Step #3: Find relevant guest blogging sites
Now that you have some great guest post ideas, it’s time to find equally good placements for them! There are many ways of searching for blogs. The easiest way is to use one of the more popular blogger outreach tools like Pitchbox, Buzzstream, Ninja Outreach, or Respona.
Alternatively, you can use advanced search operators, check social media, see where your competitors are publishing content, and so on. If you did in-depth research previously, you probably already came across some potential opportunities.
Step #4: Write and send your pitches
Finally, it’s time to send out some emails! Start by writing a guest post pitch you can adequately personalize.
Next, finding legit addresses to pitch to – there are a lot of ways to do that, from checking “contact us” pages to dedicated email finder apps! Once you have the pitch and the right email addresses ready, it is time to send out your ideas and cross your fingers.
Also, don’t skimp on your pitch work – your pitch should be as personalized as possible. You should also try to introduce yourself as best as you can, in as few words as possible. Subject lines, hellos, and sign-offs all play a part in the pitch, and even small details such as punctuation can send your email into the bin.
Step #5: Write the post
If you did everything right and you have sent out 10+ pitches, you should have some positive responses. Editors that liked your ideas will often send out guidelines you should follow while writing and submitting content.
When you begin drafting your post, make sure you revisit the good vs. bad heading above. Follow provided guidelines, and make sure you stick to deadlines!
Also, make sure you adjust the format, style, and tone of your post to the site you’re writing for. Not all sites are a good place for an in-depth, 2500-word guide – some might be interested in a short, thought-leadership piece.
Step #6: Get the post published
If you were able to follow the guidelines and deliver on your promises, the editor will approve your post and give you an estimated publish date. You can’t expect your post to go live immediately, especially not on big sites. They work with dozens of contributors, just like yourself.
They need some time to polish everything and add it to their publishing schedule. You can expect it to be published anywhere from 2 days to several months after sending it. It’s ok to follow up with editors after some time, but be reasonable and give them a few days to respond.
Step #7: Promote the content you worked so hard on
Once your post goes live, send the editor a ‘thank you’ email, letting them know you’ll be scheduling shares on your social media accounts as well! Keep your word and share the post across your social outlets.
You don’t stop there – promote the article on all the places where you searched for ideas – like forums and Q&A sites. Link to it in your other guest posts when that makes sense. Depending on the blog hosting your post, there might be comments to reply to – limit replies to serious questions and praise.
Common guest posting challenges
If you’ve followed our guide up to now, you have a solid idea about what guest posting is, and what are the steps involved in the process. That’s great, but it wouldn’t be fair to skip the challenges coming with guest blogging and paint a picture that seems all roses and butterflies.
Let’s have a quick look at the most common guest posting challenges – and potential solutions.
If you guest post for a longer time – and especially in a narrow, high technical niche – you’re bound to reach saturation. If you run out of relevant sites for pitching, don’t panic! There are a lot of ways to go around that problem.
- a brainstorming session with your team
- expanding the outreach to other relevant niches
- becoming a regular contributor on select blogs
- check previously outreached sites and see if things have changed in the meantime
Writer’s block is a common problem, talked about in numerous TV shows and movies. It mostly happens among people who aren’t primarily writers. But just like niche saturation, it’s no reason to panic!
Potential solutions: write regularly! When you run out of ideas on what to write about – do a little research: visit Quora and niche forums, blogs, do keyword research, browse social media, and you’ll get plenty of ideas for your next post.
Once you start seeing the benefits of guest posting, you might end up trying to publish dozens of guest posts each month. The flip side is that it doesn’t work like that, and you’ll need to scale according to the available time and labor.
Potential solutions: outsource it or expand your internal team. Between finding sites, managing outreach, and writing the posts, it is simply too much work for just one or two people.
Where do you go from here?
By now you’ve realized that an introduction to guest posting can be a lot of things, but it simply can’t be short. It is a method that takes a lot of effort and time, but it pays off when executed correctly.
After learning the basics, there are two general directions you can pursue: either do it in-house or outsource it.
There are a lot of great guides out there on how to execute guest posting campaigns for those that are ready to start doing it in-house. Whatever the scale of your business is, keep in mind that dedicated guest blogging is not a one-person job!
For those that do not have the resources to do it in-house, but want all of the benefits that you get with guest posting, you should consider outsourcing it to a reputable agency.
We at Point Visible have a lot of experience with different types of link building and outreach, so if you’re considering taking the next step, feel free to reach out to us via email or schedule a consultation call at any time.