When leaders at your company write a guest article for a respected online publication, they expand your company's audience. You not only gain instant credibility and brand elevation but also create opportunities for lead generation and improved SEO.
If guest posting is part of your content marketing strategy, you should be paying attention to what the editors of online publications have to say.
After all, they're the gatekeepers at your audience's favorite publications.
Which is why my team at Influence & Co. surveyed editors in multiple industries about guest posting—what's working, what's not, and what the future of contributed content looks like at their publications. Our study, The State of Digital Media 2018, found that three-quarters (76%) of online-publication editors publish 1-10 guest posts a week, and 94% plan to publish at the least the same amount of contributed content this year, if not more.
That should be music to every marketer's ears, because contributing guest posts to the right outlets can help you amplify your company's message and achieve your marketing goals.
To achieve success with your contributed content, you have to understand what editors (and their audiences) want from contributors like you. Your job is to study the publications your audience reads and build relationships with those editors. The better you know a site's content and an editor's goals, the more likely you are to find a niche to fill.
But doing so takes more than knowing your respective goals. You've got to actually create the right content, pitch the editors, and keep nurturing relationships if you want to earn your place in an outlet—and reach your company goals, too. The editors we surveyed were kind enough to share their insights into why these relationships so often go awry.
Here are the five guest-posting traps to avoid.
1. Publishing Once and Never Again
Writing one guest post is well and good, but it'll have little impact if you don't build on that opportunity. If you want to engage the members of your audience, you have to consistently contribute to the publications they read.
Publishing regularly to diverse outlets helps you establish authority and influence among your audience. Plus, editors are eager for good guest content. Consistently contributing that content to the various sites your audience visits makes editors' job easier and your strategy more effective.
So develop a content creation process that allows your team to easily create expert content at scale. Over time, you'll likely have multiple thought leaders contributing to various high-level publications all the time.
A strong presence on various outlets helps you cast a wide net and attract more of the right people to your brand.
2. Contributing Only One Type of Content
Know your audience members. If they prefer written articles, then that's what you should be creating. But if a 1,000-word post is the last thing they'd ever want to spend time with, then consider contributing visual or audio content.
You'll never maximize your reach if you appeal to only a narrow segment of your audience.
Creating a range of content types also endears you to publication editors: 67% of editors we surveyed plan to publish video content in 2018. Meanwhile, 52% are planning for infographics, and 40% have podcasts on the docket.
Diversifying the content you contribute helps you (and editors) unlock new opportunities to engage audiences. Another benefit is that the more content types you create, the more opportunities others on your team have to get involved.
Maybe you're a real wordsmith, but your CEO is more of a conversationalist. You're probably a great resource for written articles, whereas your CEO might make a great podcast guest or guide on a how-to video.
Consider how different formats can complement your guest-posting strategy.
3. Being Promotional at Your Audience's Expense
Year after year, editors tell us that their biggest issue with contributed content is that it's too promotional. This year, 79% cited it as a problem.
All marketing strategies come back to furthering your brand and your goals. But aggressively promoting your company in what's supposed to be an educational piece isn't going to help you.
For example, it's nice when an editor lets you link back to content on your site. However, that link should benefit your audience. Every publication has different thresholds for what's "too promotional," so you should ask for guidelines before submitting a piece. Ask yourself whether a link actually deepens your audience's understanding of an issue. If it doesn't, replace it with a link to a resource that will.
4. Making Generic Pitches
This mistake is second only to promotional content on editors' list of guest-post grievances: 56% said they receive pitches that aren't a fit for their publications.
Before you pitch an idea to an editor, study the publication. Learn what it has covered in the past, which topics spark the most engagement, and what style of writing works best for the audience.
Is this publication's audience really into short, informative listicles? How do in-depth analyses perform? What about slideshows or accompanying graphics? Those are the types of detail you should know before sending a fully developed piece of content.
When you connect with editors, you need to demonstrate some understanding of their world. Clearly explain why your idea would interest or help their audience, and give them an outline of how you'd approach the topic. Doing so will give them confidence that you can deliver compelling content that aligns with their goals and their audience's needs.
5. Bailing on Content Distribution
Just as you don't write a blog post and pat yourself on the back for simply hitting "Publish," publication editors don't consider your guest content to be an automatic success just because it went live.
When we asked what metrics editors use to determine the success of guest content, 93% cited pageviews, 75% said they look at time on site, and 69% consider social shares.
Once you know which metrics a publication uses to evaluate performance, you can find creative ways to distribute your content and meet both your and their ideas of success. And when you align your goals for your guest posts with an editor's, you set yourself up to contribute to that publication again and again.
How you decide to put your guest content to use is up to you. Integrate it into your email marketing, post it on social media, empower your sales team to use it for outreach or sales conversations, or share it with your other team members for continued education... the options are nearly endless.
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There's never been a better time to guest-post, because the appetite for quality content is so great. Editors are eager to publish interesting, authoritative insights, so take advantage of this moment to help your brand shine.
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