The simplest definition is that guest blogging is the process of writing content for someone else’s website or blog. Guest bloggers tend to do this for a number of reasons, including:
To generate brand awareness
To build traffic back to their own website
To network with other individuals, peers, and companies within an industry
To boost domain authority and SEO through high-authority external links
Contrary to popular belief, guest blog posts are not overly promotional. They tend to be very organic, educational, and insightful. This makes it an inbound marketing strategy.
And it’s a two-way street. In other words, what makes guest blogging so attractive is that it’s mutually beneficial.
The guest blogger gets exposure and SEO/traffic-related perks, while the publisher gets free content for their audience.
Bam! It’s a win-win!
Exposing the Guest Blogging Myth
If you’ve clicked on this article, you probably already have a cursory understanding of what guest blogging is. Even if you’ve never implemented the technique, it’s something that’s on your radar.
However – and this is a big HOWEVER – you’re also a little skeptical.
You’ve run across articles that say guest blogging is dead, spammy, or no longer effective.
You’ve even seen marketers discuss this on message boards and social networking sites.
But be veryyy careful about falling for everything internet strangers are saying about guest blogging. There’s a lot of misinformation on this topic and it’s important that you dig down and excavate the truth.
In order to understand the myth that guest blogging is dead, you have to rewind the clock to 2014. You know, the year of man buns, the emerging popularity of endearing terms like “bae,” and #AlexFromTarget.
Because it was in 2014 that Google’s Matt Cutts came out and published his now-famous article on guest blogging.
Cutts’ article caused instant panic in the world of SEO, searching marketing, content creation, and link building.
Much of the panic was centered on this simple phrase:
“So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy…I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a link building strategy.”
Here’s one of Google’s most influential employees telling people to stick a fork in guest blogging!
That’s a pretty bold declaration and, as you can tell from the fact that we’re still discussing it more than six years later, it left quite an impression.
A lot of people stopped guest blogging altogether.
Many guest blogging contribution platforms fizzled out.
Those who continued to guest blog, mainly did so for the brand awareness and direct traffic. But guest blogging for SEO and link building? A lot of the spammy practices stopped.
However…that was kind of Cutts’ original point.
In order to understand the famous 2014 article, you have to get clear on the context.
His article was actually prompted by frustration with spam. In fact, it starts off with a copy-and-pasted email that he received (unsolicited) from someone asking for backlinks in return for a guest blog post.
If you put yourself in the minds of those at Google – like Cutts – you can understand why they viewed/view spammy practices with such disdain. (It leads to oversaturation of low quality, irrelevant content and adds little-to-no value to the reader – Google’s users.)
So Cutts went out and published a damning post telling people to cut it out.
Google even posted a follow-up article of sorts in 2017, where they once again frowned upon “large scale article campaigns” and mass guest blogging. But once again, it was focused on low-quality content, duplicate articles, and blatant keyword/link stuffing.
Yet nowhere in these two articles – or any official documentation from Google, for that matter – will you find anyone saying high-quality, authentic guest blogging is dead.
Because, here’s the deal: Google wants quality content on to deliver its users. In fact, you could say it needs quality content.
It’s not the guest blogging that Google hates. It’s the spammy guest blogging that adds no value.
Don’t publish guest blog posts for the explicit purpose of mining links.
Publish guest blog posts for the purpose of sharing insights and delivering value to the reader. (In the process, you’ll end up with a few backlinks and all of the SEO perks that come along with it.)
Mass guest blog posting is dead. Sharing original value is not.
If you’re doing the latter, you have nothing to worry about.
The Right Approach to Guest Blogging
If you speak to those who are truly on the inside of the SEO industry, they’ll tell you that guest blogging absolutely works. It’s all about your strategy and execution.
But we don’t think this should be some hidden secret. We believe high-value guest blogging needs to be accessible to any business owner, entrepreneur, or blogger who is willing to put in the hard work.
So, without further commentary, we present to you the proper approach to guest blogging in 2020 and beyond:
Step #1: Lay the Ground Work
Before you can ever think about guest blogging, you have to establish the proper foundation. Otherwise, your best-laid efforts will fail to generate any return or value.
Here are a few of the basics:
Establish your brand identity. You can secure guest blogging opportunities on a handful of authoritative platforms, but all of this exposure and “link juice” is a waste if your own brand isn’t carefully optimized. Make sure you know precisely who your brand is and what it stands for, otherwise you’ll fail to maximize the value of the people who eventually engage with it.
Update your website. Your website is one of the first things someone is going to look at when considering your request to write a guest blog post. Does your website look sleek and professional? Or is it outdated, disorganized, and questionable? Your website is a direct reflection of the value you add – ensure it’s representative of you.
Invest in your own blog. Few websites or bloggers will accept guest blog post contributions without some examples of your writing. If you already have some guest blog posts to your name, these can be used to create a portfolio. However, it’s also a good idea to invest in your own blog. Quality content here will
It’s impossible to be successful in guest blogging without all of these ingredients present. Take the time to flesh out any issues and strengthen your own brand before pitching your guest blogging services to others.
Step #2: Research Opportunities
Once you’ve cleaned yourself up, it’s time to go out and find some good opportunities.
This stage is all about research.
If you like spreadsheets and data, you’ll enjoy this part of the process. If you’re more of a creative mind who likes interacting with people and making things happen, this stage will be tough for you. (But don’t worry – your moment is coming in Step #3.)
Start by creating a spreadsheet.
You can organize the spreadsheet in any manner or system that makes sense to you, but you’ll want to include the domain name, URL, domain authority ranking, and a column for notes.
Here are three different methods you can use to find possible opportunities (which will all get filed away into your spreadsheet):
Search Google. Use Google to find guest blogging opportunities. Try searches like: your keyword + write for us; you keyword + guest blogging guidelines; your keyword + contribute; your keyword + this is a guest post by; oryour keyword + contributing author/writer.
Follow the competition. Study your three biggest competitors by looking at their profiles on a site like SEMRush. You’ll be able to uncover their backlinks and see where they’re having success.
Stalk influencers. Make sure you’re following influencers in your industry on social media. This gives you the chance to observe when and where they’re publishing content. Add these publishing sites to your spreadsheet. There’s a pretty good chance that they accept high-level guest contributions.
Feel free to get creative and try some additional strategies, but there’s enough meat on these three bones to keep you pretty busy.
Using these tactics alone, you should be able to come up with 20-50 guest blogging opportunities.
Step #3: Network With Bloggers
Your spreadsheet is like your game plan.
But in order for a game plan to work, you have to go out and execute.
The first stage of execution involves networking with the bloggers, editors, and business owners who have the authority to give you guest blogging privileges.
While you can try cold outreach – sending an email with an offer to publish a guest blog post – remember that this is precisely what Cutts knocked in his 2014 article claiming guest blogging was done.
The better strategy is to cultivate relationships over a period of time.
Social media is the optimal place for networking and relationship building.
For B2B purposes, LinkedIn reigns supreme.
Follow and connect with the people you want to network with.
Start reading and commenting on their posts.
Send direct messages asking questions.
Share their content.
The goal is to make yourself known without coming across as obsessive and creepy.
Don’t try to build a relationship in two weeks. We’re talking about three to six months of work here (minimum).
But the good news is that you can forge multiple relationships at a time.
Work the crowd (in an honest and authentic way) and remember that you’re planting seeds. Once the seeds grow and mature, you’ll be in a position to reap the harvest.
Step #4: Come Up With Guest Blog Ideas
You’ve got your brand in shape.
You’ve found potential guest blogging opportunities.
You’ve done some high-quality virtual networking.
The pump is primed.
Now it’s time to get your hands dirty.
If you want to be successful with guest blogging, you have to learn to tailor your blog ideas to the specific site you’re aiming to get published on. Sending the same blog post idea to a dozen websites and waiting to see which one says yes will limit your effectiveness.
Her are a couple of things to keep in mind:
For the vast majority of websites and blogs, your goal shouldn’t be originality. In other words, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel and come up with a topic that’s never been written about. The better strategy is to find blog posts that are already working on other sites and come up with an idea that replicates this post and/or improves upon it. (100% original copy, obviously.)
If you’re going after a high-authority website or blog in your niche, you will need to be a little more creative. In these cases, make sure the complexity of your topic matches the readership. Don’t pitch 101 type guides when the audience is already on a 401 level.
Think about how you can add value to the guest publisher. Look at the post through their lens. Does your idea help them move the needle?
The more you come up with ideas and pitch them, the more you’ll get a feel for what does and doesn’t work. Make mental notes and move on. This is a learning experience.
Step #5: Pitch Your Ideas
Here comes the defining moment in the process: The pitch.
The problem for most is that they start here. They skip the first four steps and send cold pitches to random bloggers.
No wonder most guest blogging strategies don’t yield much value!
The good news is that you’ve already done the hard work. Now it’s just a matter of implementing the correct approach.
An email pitch is fine, but remember that your recipient probably gets dozens of these every month. A better strategy may be social media outreach – especially if you have an existing message thread with the person.
When pitching, make the blog post sound like an opportunity. Make it hard for them to turn you down. Get specific, but don’t be too wordy. You don’t want to waste their time.
Step #6: Create the Content
Boom! You have an approved idea from a high-authority blogger who is willing to publish your piece in the next few weeks.
Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start crafting compelling copy.
If you’re an experienced copywriter, you already have a pretty good idea of how to develop high-converting copy. But if you’re fairly new to the game, here are some principles and tips to keep in mind:
The thirst for knowledge might be at an all-time high, but reader attention spans are lower than they’ve ever been. In order for your guest blog post to perform well and achieve the metrics you need to get repeat publishing opportunities, you’ll need to focus on readability. This means short sentences, small paragraphs, lots of headers, and plenty of bullet points.
Visual content is much more engaging and memorable. Implement as many different multimedia elements as possible – including images, charts, graphs, screen-grabs, video, infographics, etc.
Authoritative backlinks. Your backlink can’t be the only hyperlink in the article. That looks fishy. Include an array of authoritative backlinks and your content will look more genuine.
In terms of word count, a good guest blog post should be a minimum of 1,000 words and could be as long as 4,000+ words. Ask the publisher for any specific guidelines they may have.
Step #7: Promote, Rinse, and Repeat
In order to truly reap the rewards of guest blogging, you need consistency. Aim to publish at least one guest blog post per month (and preferably two or three). Over the course of a year, this will give you at least a dozen high authority links pointing back to your website.
Tap Into the Power of Guest Blogging
It’s easy to get caught up in the rumors and misinformation. But despite the funeral others have held for guest blogging, it’s still very much alive and well.
Balance and discretion are the operative words.
When it comes to SEO and link building, you can’t become so laser-focused on a singular strategy that you forget about all of the rest.
Guest blogging should represent just one weapon in an eclectic arsenal. (A powerful weapon, but just one nonetheless.)
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some useful insights into how you can leverage guest blogging for your distinct benefit and advantage.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International.
He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.