Don’t Just Blog – Guest Blog!

Blogging on your own website is essential. But for an extra boost to your traffic and credibility, try guest blogging. When you guest blog, you are hitching your wagon to a star, to someone else whose blog is more famous than yours. And typically when you guest blog, you have the opportunity to add your URL to the article, along with a brief description about who you are and what your company does. It’s a significant time investment, especially if you commit to blogging regularly as a columnist, but people do it because the benefits are undeniable and long-lasting. The benefits fall into three major categories:

  1. Increase quality traffic quickly

    Not only are you getting exposure to a larger audience, you are getting exposure to a qualified audience. If you’ve managed to get on the right blog with the right target audience, you will attract attention from the right people. That could mean customers, influential journalists and analysts, or potential business partners, but it’s like taking a shortcut to higher visibility.

  2. Build online credibility

    You wouldn’t be guest blogging unless this highly-regarded blog owner had a high opinion of you, right? You begin by having their credibility rub off on you, and as you write more guest blogs, you’ll acquire credibility on your own merit. Increased brand awareness, a better social media profile, and online authority take years to develop when you’re new to the game – but you can reduce that timeline with quality contributions to a respected blog.

  3. Boost organic search rankings

    Your site’s search ranking and domain name authority improve when those inbound links start proliferating, especially if they are links from websites with good authority. Inbound links are one of the off-site factors that make the biggest difference in your SEO ranking. You’ll also get a boost from social media when good article is shared by your followers and the blog owner’s followers.  Social sharing not only drives traffic to your articles and endorses the value of your content, your Author Rank on Google+ improves and search engines will rank your content higher. All of which builds up long-lasting organic SEO benefits.

So how do you go about it? Hint: the following email will not do the job:

Dear FamousBlogger:

I’d like to write something for your blog in exchange for a link back to my blog. What would you like me to write about?

Sincerely, Little Old Me

Like every other component of content marketing, successful guest blogging needs to be a committed, planned engagement. Start planning.

Research

Those words “planned engagement” is your ultimate goal. One guest post may give you a spike in traffic but it’s the ongoing engagement that you want. You want to be invited as a regular columnist. You want to connect with an audience whose interests and needs you can address. You want to contribute to this community just as much as you want to contribute to the audience for your own blog. You want Famous Blogger’s followers to also become your followers.

The key is to do some discovery. Research your opportunities. You probably know who the top bloggers in your industry are, but do they even accept guest bloggers? Or do they publish a list of criteria for guest bloggers? Remember to check out the second tier of bloggers as well. They could be more approachable and they could have smaller but still high quality audiences.

Focus on quality, not quantity When you assess a blog, consider the following:

  • Who is the target audience?
    You can tell quickly from reading the blog categories whether the topics are written for system administrators or CTOs. Take particular note of blogs where your clients or prospective clients make comments. You want them to see you’re playing at that level too.
  • How engaged is the audience?
    Some bloggers will turn off comments, but most don’t. Read the comments. It’s preferable to have a small, engaged audience than a large, quiet one. A lively audience tends to do more social sharing – plus you’ll have the bonus of valuable feedback that could help your product and marketing efforts.
  • How frequently are blogs published?
    If the blogger publishes every couple of days or once a week, the audience will pay more attention to guest bloggers. If the blogger publishes daily, you may get lost in the noise. There’s another reason to check out frequency – you may be angling for a regular spot. If you’re going to make a commitment, make sure it’s sustainable. If you can’t manage weekly contributions, for example, don’t offer to do it. You’ll only end up delivering sub-standard articles.
  • Can you carve out a niche?
    Is there an under-represented topic on the blog? Even the top authority in your industry can’t be an authority on everything. Is there an opportunity to become the recognized subject matter expert for this blog?

While you’re researching, participate. Build a relationship. Submit comments and thought-provoking observations that stimulate discussion. Get to know the audience and the blogger.

Build your sales pitch
What can you offer? You need a topic that supports your business goals. At the same time, it needs to be valuable content for the blogger’s audience. Definitely no blatant selling allowed. But even before all that, you need a portfolio of writing that proves your competence. So before you send off an email, makes sure you can prove your creds – how does your own blog look? 

Then make contact. Your email should be highly personalized:

  • Have an informal subject line: such as “blog about [topic]?”
  • Prove you’re familiar with their blog: comment on a recent blog post or two and why you found it useful …
  • Bring up a topic you’d like to see on the blog: … and that you think the audience would be interested in [topic] especially from the vantage point of [your hook or insight]. You’re familiar with this topic because …
  • Explain your credentials: … of where you have worked, in what roles, your passion for this topic, link to some examples of your writing.
  • Make the offer: … and you’d be happy to write on this topic and submit a story for review.
    If you’ve been following the blog and joined the community, this won’t be a cold call email. The blogger will remember your name. You’ll have more credibility. You’ll get a reply. But if not …
  • Follow up. Quick, cheerful emails every couple of weeks.

Be a great guest blogger

Let’s assume you’re a terrific writer and you have the content for your topic absolutely nailed. Above and beyond that, what else should you do to be a good guest blogger? You are the guest, remember?

Craft a killer title
Short, punchy, fun, or controversial. But short. Invest some time in research. Lists work (“Top Ten Ways to …”) but if you’re writing about strategy, it may not be appropriate. Think about using stronger language and second person.

  • Instead of ’10 Tips for Blogging” try “10 Killer Blogging Tips”
  • Instead of “Blog Titles That Get Noticed”, try “Write Blog Titles They Can’t Ignore”

Share information and don’t sell
Yes, you should tie the article to your business but the way to do it is to tie it back to the audience’s business needs. If you pitch product, the article won’t ever see the ether.

Keep working it
Promote and cross-promote
Make sure that your efforts and the blogger get marketing value. You can be sure that Famous Blogger is getting statistics on how well your article performed, but you should also share your own stats with him. For example, how many retweets from your followers did your article generate? Were there Likes or comments on your Facebook page?    

This is no time to pat yourself on the back. Keep going. Start from the beginning again and pitch another article to the same blogger. It should be easier the second time around. If the story and relationship went really well, what you’re really after is a regular guest spot:

Try pitching a series of topics
This proves you are committed and capable of writing more than one article. It could be a series of ‘How-tos’ or product reviews of solutions complementary to your own offering, or insights into how you work – whether it’s your IT operations, your consulting process, or some business practice.

While you may have started your guest blogging effort as a way to build links, you’ll find that the benefits go far beyond links. You will build relationships with another network and perhaps a meaningful business relationship with some individuals. That’s when you know you have truly reaped the benefits of guest blogging.