First up – submitting and writing guest blog posts is not dead nor banned by Google! But yes, the rules have changed somewhat and we need to know what it means to be a good guest poster in today’s environment. How can solopreneurs still take advantage of the opportunities for extended reach, visibility, traffic and list-building that creating guest posts offer?
If you want to keep up with what is legit in terms of SEO or anything else search, plus what Google smiles or frowns on, then Search Engine Watch has long been the go-to source. SEW did a roundup of 10 tips for improved guest posting in 2020 that takes in to account the current environment for guest posts.
Neil Patel has long advocated for guest posting as part of content marketing, or inbound marketing, and he’s known for deep dives of long form content on marketing topics. His post on why guest blogging is the best inbound strategy is no exception. [NOTE– I can’t confirm when this post was written or updated – so specific techniques or tools may need to be double-checked for 2020. In the comments Neil acknowledges the post is several years old but stands by the overall strategy].
I do love that right upfront Patel notes that guest posting is NOT “a shortcut to grow your blog” nor a “quick route to taking your search rankings to #1” Guest posting is one tool among several and it takes time. But it can pay off!
While Google is paying more attention to guest posting [it’s the mass-produced, low-quality crap they’ve cracked down on], the strategy is not dead. There’s still value in seeking out opportunities to create content for, or share content to, other blogs. There are opportunities to be guests on podcasts, videos, in social media groups, and via email. This round-up looks primarily at guest blogging and the most current advice on do's, don'ts, and how to be a good guest poster. One of the biggest changes is there’s just more blogs, more content, and more quality for any top site to choose from among guest submissions. Starting out, you’re unlikely to get in the door to the top sites out there as easily as years ago. But it's still worth seeking out guest post opportunities as part of smart solopreneur marketing.
Look for opportunities with quality sites, whose audience is your niche and your ideal audience, and who aren’t the biggest out there. It’s gonna take a little more research, looking for quality over quantity/size, writing quality material, promoting the guest posts you create, sending thoughtful outreach letters, and generally being a ‘good guest’ in someone else’s home.
If you’re feeling stuck on finding guest opportunities – time to turn to Google.
“yourkeyword” + “guest post” [and yes – keep the quote marks so Google searches those words together]
“Yourkeyword” + “write for us” [for those sites that don’t mention ‘guest post’]
“your topic keyword phrase” + “become a contributor”
For example, if you're a coach to busy moms and you want to write a post on “bedtime routines”, you might try:
“bedtime routines” + “guest post” and see results like these:
Need more basic search tips for finding guest opportunities? Check out the always comprehensive folks at QuickSprout and their 2020 Ultimate Guide to Guest Posting – search string ideas are near the top. [NOTE: even though this says it’s updated for 2020, QS still mentions Google+, which has been dead for nearly a year. BOO!]
HINT: also check out BlogSearchEngine and use your keyword terms.
CoSchedule advises that guest posters who have never published a guest post start with blogs near or below your own level of Domain Authority (see below for what that is).
I think that’s a great tip for solos who may feel overwhelmed at the idea of guest posting – start smaller, start with people and websites you know, start in the communities and circles you are already part of and ask who has your audience and needs some quality content. Be of service to other small businesses and growing organizations by providing them excellent content as a guest poster. Build your track record so you have something to show and say when you start reaching out to larger sites or content producers.
One key tip from the SEW list – researching the website that you are approaching to do a guest post. Look at the authority levels of the sites where you'd like to have a guest post opportunity. When you move beyond your circle of friends, of other solopreneurs with the same audience as you, and you're trying to get bigger for more reach – you're looking for sites with greater reach and authority.
This article from MOZ explains what Domain Authority is (a search engine ranking score that predicts how well a site is likely to rank in search results) and how to check another site’s DA. Why would DA matter? You want to look for guest post opportunities on sites that help you be seen by your ideal target audience and to not end up on any sites that have negative attributes. Add a check of Domain Authority to your research for guest post opportunities if you don’t know anything else about a particular site.
SEW advises to check out the sites for your competitors and others in your same niche. Oooh, yeah, competitor content research is good stuff!
See what kinds of guests posts they allow, what their post submission form looks like, what that website’s traffic seems like, and do some backlink checks to see who/where point to them (those other sites could be guest posting opportunities in your niche!). Not all inbound links from other sites to your competitors' blog will be guest posts, but the links can still give you good ideas. SEW recommends backlink tools like Moz, SEMRush and Ahrefs. You can run a few domain-based backlink searches for free at Ahrefs. [NOTE: all the backlink/SEO tools have primarily paid plans and you'll find limits on free searches or trials]
I ran a search on a site I know accepts guest posts, has awesome quality content, and probably a ton of backlinks – LovePeopleMakeMoney.com from my coach Kelly McCausey! 😁 The pic below is a snapshot of the results from Ahrefs.
After doing homework on possible places with the same audience as your ideal target audience, if they take guest posts, what their site is like, who/where else is connected to them (more posting opportunities!) you may be thinking it's time to send in some guest post pitches. Not so fast! You want to be a good guest poster and that means treating your potential host with respect and not just as one more place to send a blind pitch.
Don’t blindly send out pitch emails – that’s spam! Establish some kind of a connection first with the site or host where you’d love to be a guest. Most times, those cold email pitches don’t work – whether to giant blog or to another solopreneur. [E.g.: I filter most of the emails like that which I get right to spam – for some of the reasons outlined below – and because they never bothered to see if I have ANY guest posts or what my audience is].
“unsuccessful prospective guest bloggers act like door-to-door salespeople. They knock on as many doors as possible, delivering the same pitch, and hoping at least a couple say yes.” ~ Content Marketing Institute
Ugh. Don’t do that solo pals!
The folks at OptinMonster agree and their tip #3 on their ultimate guide to guest blogging strategy is to ‘form a connection with the site owner’. I’ve expanded that to content host because the same rules apply if you want to be a guest on a podcast, guest on a video, guest in social media groups, etc. It ties in with the tips on research.
OptInMonster also recommends following or connecting with the content host on social media in addition to the rest of your research. Share their posts, give a thumb’s up, leave comments on why you love their comment, and sign up for their email lists. But above all, create a real, authentic connection. There’s another person on the end of that email or blog post! They started just like you.
Another article from the folks at SEW looked at research done with 500+ online writers, editors, publishers at major news sites and blogs to see how they want to be pitched for content ideas and how should a potential guest really shine and earn a spot.
It takes more than one outreach email to get the attention of a publisher. A lot of emails wind up in Promotions or Spam. Others don’t have a compelling enough subject line. Inboxes are busy. If it’s a big site you’re pitching your post to, they may only read 20% of the email submissions they get on any given day. Find new ways to write about your potential guest post and to send emails to your target sites.
And I couldn’t do a round-up of top tips on guest blog posting without checking in with another master of the deep dive, research-based, search-optimized content – Brian Dean of Backlinko. And his Definitive Guide to Guest Blogging has been updated as of winter 2019. Like the other top resources – his number one step is research. You have to find and know your guest targets.
After you’ve done research as mentioned above and in these awesome posts – go to Brian’s post and click to Step #3 – Send Your Pitch because he has an email template that works! One that’s respectful and shows you’ve done your homework.
ADDED: The very day I posted this, a super smart solo pal, Karon Thackston of MarketingWords.com, published a guest post … about guest posting! Her guest author is another solopreneur I know from overlapping online communities, Ellen Finkelstein. Ellen's guest post echoes most of the advice given here and from the larger sites and blogs that I researched. She also includes a few points on how it's key that both the host and the guest poster have a promotion plan to make sure that piece of content gets shared, seen, and read/watched/listened to.
Be smart in looking for opportunities with sites that speak to the same audience you are trying to attract (not necessarily in your same niche), research those sites to learn about their topics, their visibility and authority, check out what your competitors are doing in sending or accepting guest posts, and create real, authentic connections with host blog owners well before you send them an idea for a guest post. If you follow those steps, you'll build a reputation as a smart, savvy, good guest and be invited back and to more spaces.
I want all of my solopreneur pals to feel confident and mighty in their marketing - sharing what makes their work special and so vital to their clients. No B.S. or fluff here. I do the digging and research for you, translate "marketing-ese" into simpler terms, and help you avoid marketing headaches.