Why would you want to guest-post? The answer should really start with a rhetorical "why wouldn't you?"
But the reality is that we often come up with excuses for why we shouldn't share our expertise with others in our industry or outside of it.
The fear of revealing too much or giving valuable knowledge away for free has prevented many a marketer or businessperson from achieving career goals and receiving a myriad of other benefits, such as...
- Branding yourself and your company as industry thought leaders and subject-matter experts
- Increasing audience reach, including other types of audiences
- Making new connections and building relationships with influencers and publishers
- Driving traffic—and leads—to your website
- Increasing brand awareness and credibility (when your entire team guest posts)
So, how do you start?
There's not just one way to begin guest-posting, but the steps outlined in this guide will walk you through a few approaches, plus some best-practices and suggestions.
1. Identify your area of expertise
You must first identify the topics you are capable of writing about and which you want to specialize in, before you begin your search for websites that are an appropriate fit—i.e., they cover similar topics and they reach the audience you want to reach.
So, ask yourself:
- What subjects do I know the most about?
- How many topics should I explore?
- How much experience do I have in these topics?
- What would set me apart from other bloggers?
2. Research potential host websites
Explore Current Relationships
Do you have any industry connections who manage a publication? Consider exploring those current connections to build a firm writing foundation prior to pitching to an editor you don't know.
You may already have a mental list of industry websites to which you would love to contribute, but there may be additional publications that you haven't considered that are even better opportunities.
After compiling your list of popular industry websites, continue searching for websites you might not be aware of. Along with a regular Google search of your industry topics and blog list, you can use BuzzSumo to discover which industry influencers also have blogs.
In the document or tool you're using to record your findings, note whether the site has previously published guest posts and whether you can apply to become a contributor or submit an article. If the website doesn't have a search bar or an easily accessible contributor page (which you can often find in the main or footer navigation), you can search for the following:
- "Guest post" site:domain.com
- "By guest author" site:domain.com
- "Keyword" site:domain.com
And, of course, search for the following to find other relevant websites:
- "Keyword" "guest post"
- "Keyword" "write for us"
Non-Industry Websites Publishing Similar Topics
For a less website-focused approach, search for high-performing articles, either in search engine rank or social shares, that are on the same or similar topics. Those articles will lead you to websites that are more likely to publish your articles because they have already successfully covered similar topics; however, you will still need to search the websites to confirm guest post opportunities.
To find relevant articles, search for a keyword phrase in a Google blog search or BuzzSumo.
When you find an article on a relevant topic, or an article similar to the ones you would like to write, note the publish date. You want to evaluate whether they still consider your topic relevant to the website and its audience; you also want to confirm that the article wasn't published too recently, therefore negating your article-topic pitch.
Where Are Your Colleagues and Competitors Blogging?
The simplest approach would be to directly ask your colleagues where they prefer to guest-post and whether they have seen much success with certain websites. If your colleagues are posting on a website you haven't considered, odds are you should want to be there, too.
If you prefer not to ask, search for a colleague's or competitor's name in Google blog search, or include "guest post" along with his or her name in a regular search. Alternatively, you could search competitor backlinks to identify the websites that are linking to them from a guest post.
To find a site's backlinks, use SEMRush or Moz's Open Site Explorer; these tools can be handy for evaluating your own website if you don't know how to access them in your own search console. Perhaps there is a guest blogging opportunity on a website that is already linking to you.
Read Contributor Guidelines
After qualifying websites that publish guest posts and accept submissions, thoroughly review their guest post guidelines, which, in some cases, you may need to request, although they are usually accessible through the navigation or by searching the following: intitle:guest post guidelines site:domain.com.
Some require a certain level of expertise to become a contributor. Some may require links to previous articles, and others are content with basic biographical information and article ideas. If you believe you meet the website's standards, consider how you can best convey your qualifications.
3. Qualify and prioritize websites
You may not have the bandwidth to write a few guest posts in a short period. Have that in mind when you pitch article ideas to several websites at once. What will happen if they all respond with interest?
Developing relationships and establishing yourself as a solid industry writer takes time, so give yourself enough bandwidth to write high-quality articles instead of focusing on quantity.
It may be difficult to restrict the number of sites you reach out to if you have a large list and you aren't sure which ones are the best opportunities. To determine which sites you should start with, evaluate:
- How much writing experience you have
- Which sites will help you meet your primary goal
- What the quality of the website is
Becoming a contributor on entrepreneur.com is going to be more difficult than writing for a lesser-known site. If you do not have a list of published articles and strong personal branding, you may want to reserve that outreach until you have more articles under your belt.
Prioritize websites based on your overall goal: Do you want to drive traffic to your website or generate leads? Do you want to establish yourself as an industry thought leader? Do you simply want to share your ideas?
Once you have qualified your list based on your requirements, you can also use the following metrics to help you prioritize sites based on quality (depending on how you define it):
- Estimated monthly website traffic
- Domain authority
- Number of article shares (for specific articles)
4. Brainstorm article ideas
Crafting article ideas beforehand will help you write a more effective pitch. Take time phrasing your article ideas, as they could be the first impression you give of the article quality and relevancy, although you can certainly rephrase them later.
- What would I like to write about?
- What is currently on the website I'm targeting?
- Which articles are the most trafficked or shared on the website?
- What would be a popular topic for the audience?
- What keywords could help boost SEO?
- What topics will help further my goal?
5. Apply, submit, pitch
Some websites require for you to first apply to be a contributor; others require an article-idea pitch or full-article submission. Even if websites allow you to send full articles, it might be a good idea to contact editors with article ideas first; editors might then be more inclined to accept your article, because it will be about a topic they've expressed an interested in.
When you are writing your pitch, consider more than just the blogger or journalist on the other end, but the audience they want to serve. For the blogger, the most influential part of your message will be what you can do for the website's audience.
After determining whether they have already published similar articles, include a few of your article ideas in the pitch. If they have published on the same topic, you may want to select a different topic or highlight the benefits of writing a similar article (update information, present a different angle, etc.). It's a good idea to include benefits for all your pitched article topics; mention how each would benefit the publication's audience.
Give a taste of your previous work by including a selection of your published articles in either a range of topics that show your strength and versatility as a writer or ones relevant to the article ideas you are pitching. When possible, include articles from a range of sites, too, to show that you are a dedicated contributor in multiple spaces and an industry thought leader.
(To learn more about pitching to bloggers, read my article "How to Save Time During Blogger Outreach: The Contact Stage."
Depending on the host website's preferences, you may even become a regular contributor. In such cases, strive to submit at least one guest post a month. Including your interest in becoming a regular contributor may even increase the perceived value of your pitch. Websites that only occasionally publish guest posts may want only one article from you, and so it's on you to follow up and pitch to the editor again if you want to submit more.
According the Neil Patel in his "7 Lessons Learned from Publishing 300 Guest Posts," you don't want to guest-post too frequently on industry blogs; although doing so drives traffic and new readership, you will have diminishing returns, since large numbers of readers will already have come to know about your website.
"The ideal frequency for posting on industry blogs is one to three times a month, assuming you are going after the largest blogs in your space," he suggests.
After you have submitted or pitched your article, it can take several weeks for editors to review your article and enter it into the submission queue. If you haven't received a response within two weeks after submission, feel free to send a follow-up email, as the site may have lost or overlooked your message.
I have seen articles published more than a month after submission, even though there was no response from the website indicating the article was accepted for publication. It's not ideal, but it happens; you have to learn how to work around it. To avoid that situation, do not submit the same article to a different publication until you receive a "no" from the initial publication you submitted to.
6. Write the article
Follow the Blog's/Site's Format
Format is important to bloggers. When writing your article, consider the format of other articles on the website, and reflect that format in your own post. As a best-practice, create a text hierarchy to organize your article and make it easier to scan. Rigorously follow contributor guidelines, especially length requirements, including citation from credible sources and photos, if requested.
Write for the Audience, but Keep SEO in Mind
Always put the audience first when writing articles. In addition to optimizing your copy for user experience, place relevant and popularly searched keywords in the article title and headers to increase organic traffic, boosting your chances of more guest posts.
Ask a friend or colleague to review and edit your article. Having another perspective can improve the quality of your article messaging and accuracy.
Make the Investment Last
Plan on writing evergreen content that is not time-sensitive: Depending on the website's submission backlog, it could even months to see your article published (which is another reason it is a good idea to submit your article topics prior to a draft).
Evergreen content will also help your post rank organically and drive more traffic over time.
7. Show appreciation by sharing on social
Make it clear to the blogger or editor that you plan to share your article on your personal and professional social channels to show appreciation for the guest post opportunity by helping the website increase its reach. Tag the publication in your social posts to further develop your connection with it and possibly increase your social profile reach.
8. Analyze your traffic: Is guest-writing worth it?
No matter what marketing tactic you use, measure it to evaluate performance. Based on your goal, determine whether your guest-posting efforts are worth it:
- How much referral traffic has your website received?
- Have you gained more traffic from social?
- Did your social following increase?
- Do visitors from these referral sites become return visitors?
- Have any of those visitors turned into leads or customers?
If one website outperforms others, you may want to focus on regularly contributing to just that one site.