How to Guest Blog Like A Professional (& What You’re NOT Doing)
Right now, from this point on, you take your blogging more seriously.
This time next year, come Hell or high water, you’re going to be somebody damn it. Guest blogging is what’s going to get you there.
You’ve shaken yourself of silly guest blogging myths.
You’ve listed out the places you’d like to be guest blogging for, you’ve researched your topics, you’ve mapped out a strategy, and you’re ready to go.
Unfortunately, your guest post is probably going to flop.
Alright, fine… it does well on that first day. It gets tons of comments, people retweet it a bunch… great, then what?
What happens next? What happens a week from now?
Chances are your guest blogging efforts will all be in vein- sucked into the oblivion known as the social media life cycle.
You’re extra aware of the inherit SEO value that comes from guest blogging for a popular blog.
But before we get into that, let’s talk about the 3 types of people who’re seriously guest blogging right now.
The Networker - You see them always within the same circle. Each blog shares a common ideology, maybe even a similar voice, and often cycles through the same writers. Because these popular blogs often share audience, there is generally less friction to “establishing yourself as an authority” within that community.
With that however, these guest bloggers run the risk of being “absorbed” – In other words, you’re not really blogging, you’re just adding content to their site. Without moving beyond their comfort network, the readers that come back to their site subconsciously view this blogger as an offshoot of the larger blog. When a readership is only a smaller percentage of a larger blog, there is little room for cross pollination, introduction of new ideas or healthy debate among readers.
The Nomad - These guest bloggers are the opposite. They look for guest blogging opportunities with little regard for how the publishers or readers are connected. They spread their message to everyone who will listen. From far away, their style is almost chaotic.
The upside; if they stay on topic and nurture the community, they can attract a diverse audience with the potential for lively and enlightening conversation.
The downside; if viewers are so different where no common ground is found, the “community” may never flourish. The conditions have to be juuuust right and this style of guest blogging requires more involved community management. The Nomad also always risks losing momentum between guest blogging opportunities, as they don’t bother asking for introductions.
The Professional- These guest bloggers are a hybrid. They’re not loyal to any one community, but are friendly with all. They are often leveraging their networks and finding new opportunities.
They spend hours researching an audience, tearing apart the most popular articles, analyzing the comments section in search of the exact right topic.
They write in such a way that “borrows” the best elements from the most popular posts, without sacrificing their voice. Doing this, the professional remains familiar but is able to introduce new ideas to an established readership.
The downside; this method requires a TON of research and is incredibly taxing on time. There is an endless level of dedication to developing and refining your content marketing strategy, expanding your network, remaining true to your vision, and often having to defend what you believe.
Right now, which guest blogger are you?
There is no wrong answer, and each method can create a sustainable, if not comfortable income.
But if you want to do more than be sustainable; if you want to become elite -you don’t have a choice…
You must become The Professional.
Characteristics of The Professional Guest Blogger
The Professional doesn’t create just to get their name out there. They use content to consistently attract new readers to the publisher’s site. They try to move readers towards a conversion goal the publisher might have, like make more sales, or capture more email addresses.
The Professional considers the long term SEO value of the article they’re writing, and tries to target phrases that will bring more search traffic.
They understand all of the challenges that come with running a blog, and use their content to “lighten the load” for the publisher, not simply leverage the hard work that publisher did in the past.
Instead of treating a single opportunity as a means to “promote their brand”, they use it as a way to become an asset to the publisher and lay the foundation for a profitable long term relationship.
Here’s how to guest post like a professional.
Step 0 - Audience Research
I’m not going to get too heavy into this, because it’s covered pretty extensively in Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging program (which I highly recommend if you’re taking guest blogging seriously)
But the basics are, read.
Read the “most popular” posts. Read the comments. Read what people tweet. Read as much as your brain can handle. Get to know the audience and the blog so well, there is no doubt that your post will do well.
If you do nothing else, this alone will put you miles ahead of other guest bloggers and show you’re serious about providing value.
Step 1 – Keyword Research
^Read This Link^
Guest blogging for a big site means you get to leverage the SEO work they’ve already done, and rank for terms you otherwise probably could not rank for on your own.
With all those links pointing to older posts, YOUR article will have a much easier time ranking for competitive terms. So, a little keyword research will go a long way.
Let’s say I was writing a guest blog for Copyblogger, and I noticed that many of the top articles deal with “landing pages“. Audience research shows that the subject of “landing page design” hasn’t been covered extensively, but would probably go over well with the readers.
Keeping that in mind, I would throw the phrase landing page design into the Google Keyword Tool and this is what would come up:Click to see full size
Because I know “landing page design” is a high competition keyword, I want to know who I’m competing against.
Let’s search Google (be sure to turn off personal search)
Click to see full size
Some pretty influential sites here, so what are the odds we can get a top 10 ranking?
Step 2 – Competitive Analysis
This is where the real fun kicks in.
There are a number of tools you could use to analyze the top ten search results, but the one I use is SeoMoz Pro (free 30 day trial)
The idea is that you want to get a snapshot of what it would take to outrank the top pages for this search result.
By plugging in the phrase “landing page design” into the “Keyword Difficulty” tool in SeoMoz, you’ll get this:
Seeing that your guest blog is probably not going to have any links pointing to the page right away, what’s important to look at on this chart is the amount of Root Linking Domains & Domain Authority.
Of course, SEO is never an exact science, BUT, when you consider the root linking domains that point to Copyblogger (our guest blogging target) and the overall Domain Authority, it’s clear there is a very strong possibility that an article optimized for “landing page design” can easily find its way into the rankings.
If I wanted to go deeper, SeoMoz Pro lets me run a report that gives an extremely well rounded view of all of the pages that make the top ten. This report shows things like:
- On page optimization grades for each page
- % exact/partial anchor text links using the exact phrase
- Social sharing signals
- and more
Knowing all of this gives you a much better idea of what it’ll take to get this post to rank.
Step 3 – On Page Optimization
Now that you’ve done all of your research, it’s time to write your blog post.
As you’re writing, always remember the first sign of a successful blog post is one that sparks a dialog with readers. Finding those engagement triggers in previous posts will help with that (Seriously, take Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging Program)
But remember, in order to rank for a key phrase you have to tell the search engines what the article is about.
In theory, if you’re able attract more conversation & links to a page that knows what it wants to rank for, that page will rank for the intended keyphrase.
So what does a well optimized page look like? From SeoMoz:
It seems simple, yet so many opportunities are lost on guest bloggers.
They get wrapped up in what the post is going to do for them, they lose sight of the long term value.
There are several tools you can use to check the on page seo, but the one I use is Scribe SEO (30 day risk free trial)
Step 4 – Your Byline
If the website allows you to publish a byline (most will) this is your opportunity to associate your name as an authority on the subject matter.
Not surprisingly, when a guest blog doesn’t have an optimized byline, the blog’s publisher (not you, the post’s author) receives credit for the article. What a shame, considering you spent so much time researching and writing, only to be overlooked by the audience you intended to impress.
Sometimes, the byline is the only place you’ll be allowed to link back to your own site, so it’s important you make the most of this final “button” in order to maximize your click through traffic.
Whether it’s the only link or not, it’s a good idea to create a custom landing page to convert those adventurous visitors that click your byline into email subscribers.
Using the “landing page design” example from above, an optimized byline might look like:
About The Author: Tommy Walker is a seasoned landing page developer and lead generation specialist. He has designed 100′s of pages for CNN, HBO, ABC, and various other three lettered companies. Click here for the “40 essential tips to design landing pages that sell” report.
The landing page would then have a welcome video (if you’re ambitious, a solid intro paragraph if not), and a free download available in exchange for an email address.
If that guest blog ranks well, and your byline attracts clicks, you essentially create a four part funnel (discovery via search engine, reads article, hits landing page, enters email address) which starts a lead nurturing and warm up sequence to sell any number of related products on an ongoing basis.
Optimize that byline, link it to a custom landing page, get more leads. I use Premise to create my landing pages.
Step 5 – Promotion
The WORST thing you can do is assume that the publisher’s audience is going to start the comment storm.
In addition to the standard blog promotion strategies, don’t be afraid to email other popular bloggers whose audience might benefit from the article.
But instead of just trying to think about which bloggers those might be, let’s turn back to SEOmoz PRO
This is where things get a little sneaky:
Remember how the “Keyword Difficulty” tool gave us the top 10 pages for a particular keyword?
Well if you notice, it also tells you how many links are pointing at that particular article.
Copy that url and paste it into Open Site Explorer. Here you’ll get a full list of the other websites that link to that page. (pro members only)
At this point, it’s only a matter of sending out a lot of emails and keeping track of who responds on a spreadsheet.
BUT WAIT couldn’t emailing like this come across as spammy?
Absolutely - if you go about it the wrong way. The trick is to make sure your email is succinct and positions them ask you for the link.
Here’s an email I sent out for the last post I wrote about on this site.
Subject: Was this what you thought when you started ?
So it seems like I see you in quite a few places when I’m looking for guest blogging opportunities.
I’m curious, when you started guest blogging, were you under the impression that it would only take posting with a handful of big names to get your name out there?
I did. I know many clients are under that impression too.
Of course, you know now it takes way more than that.
Anyhow, I just wrote about that on my blog, and was curious if that sounded like something you think your readers might find interesting?
If so, I’ll be happy to send you a link so you can take a look. (If not, that’s cool too, I just thought it would be polite to ask permission first)
I hope you’re having a wonderful day and have a great weekend.
Notice how it’s not like, “HEY LOOK AT MY BLOG POST?!”
No you may not have a relationship with these people, but taking a soft, risk-free approach offering something valuable their audience, aren’t you kind of doing them a favor?
Think about it; they get to take credit for “discovering” a great piece of useful content.
Beyond that, it also gives you a jump-off point for conversation, which for most of these people, is a huge change of pace from the greedy “Hey can you do this for me?” style pitches.
And if you’re worried they’re not going to think you’re credible… well you’ve published on an established site, so somebody influential has already vetted your stuff is worth reading
Derek Halpern has a pretty good approach to emailing influential people for articles that are more research oriented:
Once you get your email messaging right, at this point it’s really just a numbers game.
Truly, your willingness to grind this out is what will separate you from every other wannabe out there.
Protip: Keep a spreadsheet of the sites you contact, who responds and who shares your stuff. These are people you’re going to want to follow up with for future opportunities.
Step 6 – Upkeep
If you are The Professional, you’ll leverage this guest post to land future opportunities.
At this point it is vital you keep a spreadsheet of all your guest posts, and the keywords you’ve optimized those posts for.
That way, as you continue , you can link back to those older posts with the appropriate anchor text.
Doing this ensures your older guest posts are always getting links from other high profile sites; which in turn improves and fortifies their positions within the search rankings.
And when your post becomes a steady, reliable source of traffic – or rather makes a popular blog even more popular - that doesn’t go unnoticed.
Really how could it?
You’re leveraging your guest blogging, doing the hard work of getting big links for everyone else. And the more you guest blog and link around, the stronger all of those links become.
Don’t be mistaken, it’s hard work. But it’s hard work that earns you respect because most everyone else
refuses won’t do it.
This proves you’re strategic & willing to fight for your ideas. Not be insulting by leeching off the hustle someone else did to get themselves to the place they are.
It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But damn it, it’s worth it.
So what are you going to do; spend another year hoping your blog gets read?
Or are you going to do something they can’t help but notice?