Over the last few months at Distilled I've been refining my guest posting process to make it more efficient and scalable while maintaining quality standards. In this post I'm sharing my entire process. It's not revolutionary and it's probably similar to the techniques that other guest posting fanatics (?) are using out there, but hopefully I've got a few tips and tricks which will be new to you.
Why guest posting? It offers a means of building quality links which is fully in your control - you're solely relying on the quality of content you can provide and your relationship building skills to earn the links. The target URL of your links is of fairly little importance so if you have no influence over the content of that page, this is an ideal tactic.
The fact that guest posting offers benefits to both parties (content for the blogger, links for you) can help to build long-term lasting relationships with bloggers which can often lead to further link building opportunities.
Anyway, first things first...
A single spreadsheet holds the key to guest posting zen. For each guest posting project I'm running I'll have a spreadsheet which contains the following info:
- Blog URL
- Quality Metrics (domain authority, pagerank, followers)
- Contact details (name, email, contact page, twitter)
- Status (more on this later)
I’ll be adding a few more to that list later in this post, but that’s all you need to get started. I tend to use Google Docs because it’s easier to collaborate if your colleagues are helping you with the project.
You could argue, with good reason, that you might be better off using a link building relationship management tool, such as Buzzstream. I know that not everyone has the luxury of paid tools so I’ll stick with good old Google Docs for this post.
This topic has been done to death, so I think the best thing I can do is point you to a couple of resources:
The main methods that I use include:
- Guest posting communities
- Advanced Google searches
- Twitter Search
- Existing Contacts
- Blog Directories
I tend to find that advanced searches work OK but the sites ranking for the most obvious ones have been inundated with submissions and requests. Guest posting communities are pretty great – I’ve used http://www.myblogguest.com/ and have especially had success by trawling back through the archive and pulling out all the relevant sites that have ever requested posts. The chances are that they still accept posts, so they’re worth contacting.
http://search.twitter.com/ is something new that I’ve been trying – searches like “tech guest post” or “travel guest blog” often throw up plenty of sites that are promoting guest content, and the sites tend to be quite different to those found through Google searches.
Finally, I also use the following bookmark in Google Chrome:
This means that I can quickly hit a button when I’m browsing a blog to see if they’ve taken guest posts in the past.
What to look for
Good guest posting targets should have at least a few of the following attributes:
- Willingness to publish guest content. Have they taken similar posts before?
- Do they link out to commercial sites? If they don’t, there’s little you can do to change their mind so it’s probably best to move on
- Decent domain strength
- Sound site hierarchy so that your post doesn’t get buried immediately
- Easy to contact – finding details can be a time drain
- Good match with your brand
My main focus at this stage is finding blogs that I definitely think will accept the content – this makes the whole process way more efficient. Having said that, I try to grab 2 or 3 times more blogs than the number of links I need as they almost never all say yes.
Tip: You can also use some nice Google Docs functions to pull in quality metrics which will save you some time. Use something like @TomAnthonySEO’s tool to gather Domain Authority for example: http://moz.com/blog/competitive-analysis-in-under-60-seconds-using-google-docs-12649
Brainstorm Some Post Ideas
Now you know what sort of sites you’ll be targeting, you need to gather some headline ideas to pitch to them. This gets easier as you go along, get to know the market and get to know the content that bloggers like, but if you’ve got a mental block, there are a few things you can do:
- Look at their top pages report in Open Site Explorer. Normally bloggers are keen to accept content that’s worked well for them in the past
- Use PostRank’s widget builder to see the most popular content on that blog: http://labs.postrank.com/top_posts#builder
- Brainstorm with colleagues
You might also want to think about making the articles relevant to the target URLs you’re building links to.
The First Email
Now it’s time to get stuck in and start sending emails. Typically my initial outreach email will looks something like this:
Hi <name>, (always use a name if you can as it stops your email looking automated)
I was just checking out your blog and noticed that you’ve published guest posts in the past. I’m currently working with a <industry> client and am keen to increase their visibility online by posting for high quality blogs such as yours. (I think it’s better to be up front about your intentions. If it’s not for them, you haven’t wasted their time or yours)
I’m particularly interested in writing about <topics> but am also open to hearing any ideas you might have. I had a couple of post titles in mind:
- <example headline>
- <example headline> (pitch the ideas you researched in the previous step)
All of the content we provide is unique and written to a high quality. A couple of similar guest posts we’ve publishing in the past include:
- <example post>
- <example post> (evidence that you provide good content)
If you don’t take content of this nature, I completely understand, but I’m confident that we can provide a post which could be of interest to your readers. (a counter argument can build trust)
Please let me know if this sounds of interest and I’ll start putting a piece together, or drop me an email or tweet (@rob_millard) if you have any questions/ideas. (clear action, twitter account shows authenticity)
SEO Consultant – Distilled (they’ll find out anyway, so you may as well be up front)
Obviously the tone of this email will vary from industry to industry, blogger to blogger, but that’s a rough outline of the sort of email that’s worked well for me in the past.
I tend to create a column in my spreadsheet and note down the titles of the posts you’ve pitched to them. You don’t want to end up writing the same piece for several blogs so make sure you’re mixing up your ideas.
Remember to keep organised – update the status column in your spreadsheet to show that you’ve contacted that blogger and consider adding the date you sent the email.
Some bloggers may not get back to you. If you’re really, really sure that they take guest posts you may want to follow up with another email. Perhaps try a different person at that blog if there are multiple contacts available, or try a different channel such as Twitter. Don’t hassle the crap out of people though – if they aren’t getting back to you after a couple of attempts, take the hint. The date in the status field should help you keep on top of this.
Once they’ve said yes…
…which they inevitably will, you now need to think about getting the piece written.
Firstly, you could write it yourself - this will (hopefully) guarantee a high quality piece. However, it’s probably the most expensive way to do it so the ROI on your guest posting links could be diminished. In addition, you can only do one at once, so you might not be able to deliver as many as you would like – in this case think about managing the expectations of the host blog.
Our preference at Distilled is to use super high quality freelance writers. This works well because:
- They’re probably better at writing than me
- They’re quicker
- As a result it’s cheaper
- You can find writers who are more passionate or knowledgeable about the topic in question
- You can have several on the go at once
NOTE: this absolutely does not mean you should go out and get the cheapest freelance writer you can find. You get what you pay for. If anything you should err on the side of expensive – this content could build you valuable relationships so make sure it’s excellent. If the blog has decent traffic, it could also get you some new readers.
Writing a good brief is crucial – going back to make edits can sap your efficiency and therefore ROI. When writing a brief you should include details such as:
- The headline (of course)
- The purpose of the article
- The blog it’s being posted on
- Tone of voice guidelines
- Research resources
- Guest posts that have worked well for you in the past
- A deadline
It might seem like a lot of information to research and compile, but it’s worth the effort to get the post right the first time round.
To guarantee high quality writers we typically find freelancers through personal recommendations, but there are many high quality freelancers out there if you take the time to search.
Again, I update my trusty spreadsheet at this stage to show that the blog has accepted and the articles have been briefed.
If they’ve said no…
…which some inevitably will, don’t worry it’s not the end of the world. I always still thank them for taking the time to reply and let them know that I understand their decision. Often you’re representing your client’s brand, your agency’s brand, or your company if you’re in-house, so it’s worth being courteous. In addition, it leaves the door open for future relationships with that blogger.
At this stage I would either keep them in your list with a note not to contact them again, especially if you’re collaborating with colleagues, or create a new list of sites not to contact across all of your projects for everyone to use.
Hooray! Your article is done
If it’s been written by a freelancer, make sure you read it through to check it’s well written and well informed. If you’ve written it yourself, get a colleague to do the same.
There are a few quick things you can do at this stage to make it easy for the blogger to publish the post:
- Put the post in the right format. If they blogger prefers HTML, you might need to insert header and paragraph tags. Other times a simple, clean Word document is best
- Attaching images and video can be helpful. Relevant images can be found through http://search.creativecommons.org/ and you can always get relevant videos to embed from YouTube
- Add an author biography to the bottom of the post and include the link back to your site. I always include the HTML <a> tags at this stage so that there is no uncertainty over the target URL and anchor text.
Once you’ve tidied everything up, reply to the original email thread with the guest blogger (so that they have the back story) and include your post. Don’t be complacent at this stage – you should be as polite and helpful as possible through the whole process.
Fire up your lovely spreadsheet and change status to “sent” along with the date – if you don’t hear from the blogger after a few days, it’s probably worth chasing them up.
Build lasting relationships
Finally, it’s great to convert this process into an ongoing relationship with the blogger. This could result in:
- Further guest posts with links to other pages on your site, or other clients if you’re an agency
- Other link building opportunities such as inclusion in resource lists
- A regular scheduled spot on the blog
- The blogger may own other sites that you could post on
So keep the conversation going – you’ve already got their email, but you could also follow them on Twitter and interact regularly.
I’ve also got a master list of successful guest posts so that I’ve got a quick reference if I ever need to post in this niche again. Once you’ve established trust with the blogger, guest posting becomes far more efficient so it’s often worth revisiting these contacts.
And that’s it guys! Let me know if you have any feedback, improvements, or ideas in the comments, or drop me a line on Twitter (@rob_millard).