If you want to start a blog, the competition has never been stiffer. Once upon a time, you could make the first page of Google with just a few decent posts, and not a single guest post.
You may have even found outside help by buying dodgy backlinks.
Today it’s not so easy. Indeed, if you want to get anywhere you need to put as much effort into getting good backlinks as you do into writing your blog. Today I’m going to walk you through exactly that with this guide to guest posting.
But why should you care what I have to say?
How I’ve Used Guest Posting to Grow this Site
Since LaunchSpace’s inception, a chunk of my business development strategy has revolved around guest posting. I write about everything from digital marketing tools, to entrepreneurship to business best practices.
Here are a few examples.
This is a recent piece on SaaS growth strategies for ChartMogul, whose DR is currently sitting at 73.
I published a guest post with human resources experts Bamboo HR, who have a whopping DR of 86.
I wrote the CRO guide for Omniconvert. They have a DR of 74, which is pretty high.
And one more for good luck. That’s my byline on a communications article for Chanty, another site with a DR of 73.
Clearly then I can score high-value guest posts. But is it worth the effort?
Does Guest Posting Still Work?
Of course, the goal of guest posting isn’t just to stroke your ego. I don’t reach out to people and craft content for their sites for my health either. Instead, the idea is to improve the authority of my own site and reap the SEO benefits that come with that.
So the obvious question is is it working? Let’s have a look at the backlink profile for one result. It’s an evergreen page listing the best lifetime software deals week by week.
The metric of interest here is the do follow rate. Do follow links are sometimes link-juice in SEO circles, with the reason being that these are what Google’s crawlers actually search out when ranking your page.
So if anyone searches lifetime software deals, they find Launch Space. Simple. And just for extra proof, here’s a sample of the sites backlinking to this page, with their domain ratings included.
Let me give you another example to show this isn’t an isolated case.
Below is a screenshot from Search Console. The article was published in October 2019. We built 10 DR 50+ links to the article through white-hat guest posting. No other changes were made to the content.
The content sits in position four for its primary keyword.
But we’re not here to talk about whether you should guest post in 2020. We’re here to talk about how to guest post in 2020. Let’s get to the fun stuff.
Have You Got What It Takes to Succeed
Before you start a guest post-campaign, you need to create an awesome piece of content for your target keyword. I cover how to do this in my how to make money blogging article. For the sake of this article on how to guest post, I’ll assume you’ve already laid the groundwork for your campaign.
So now it’s time to size up the competition.
You’ll want to check out the established sites that are ranking for the keywords you plan to target to see how many DR 50+ guest posts you need to secure to rank in the search results.
I use Keyword Planner on Ahrefs to identify the sites I’m competing with for my desired keywords. Then use the backlink checker to review their backlink profiles and domain ranks.
When reviewing the backlink profile, focus on two things:
- The number of referring domains
- How many of those referring domains are DR 50+
The number of referring domains will give you a sense of how many guest posts you need to secure to rank on Google. I generally do the following sum:
Referring domains DR 50 + 1/4 Referring domains DR 50 – = Number of guest posts to rank
This isn’t a perfect equation, because there are more variables to consider. However, it gives you an idea of how many links you need to rank on page one of Google.
Once you have sized up your competition, you’re ready to battle.
So now, let’s get onto the meat of the article.
How to Identify Relevant Sites for Guest Posting
Now that you’ve decided you have what it takes, let’s get into the real details of your guest posting strategy. This starts with finding the right sites to guest post with. Since your goal is to improve the page authority, this comes down to domain ranking again.
When guest posting, I try to guest post on sites with the following metrics:
- DR 50+
- 3,000+ visitors a month
- Trust Flow 20+
- Niche relevant
As I mentioned, these are the minimum metrics. Really, you should be aiming for sites with higher metrics. In fact, the higher the better.
This is because Google doesn’t rank sites equally. For example, a link from a relevant DR 90+ website is probably worth 5+ links from a DR 50 website. So the higher the site authority, the fewer guest posts you’ll need to write.
How to Identify an Endless List Of Websites
Before you get to the stage of reaching out, you should have a backlog of potential sites. This can be done in an hour or so. Again, all it takes is a little bit of backlink analysis. Start with a couple of high authority sites in your niche.
Let me use Hubspot as an example.
Then all you have to do is run the site through Ahrefs. Select referring domains, and export the file.
You’ll get a mega list of domains. Remove any sites with a domain rating of less than 50. Then filter the sites for relevancy. Rinse and repeat with these new ones and you should have a couple of hundred target sites in no time.
Pop the URLs and DR of each of these into a spread-sheet for later.
How to Pitch Your First Guest Post
Now it’s time to start finding the contact details for the owner, editor, or relevant person at these websites. Most people find this scary. Or they might be worried about annoying the person on the other end.
While it’s true, some people will be annoyed, most don’t mind. Furthermore, you’re going to make some good friends through your outreach.
The other problem you have is that you might never have written a guest post before. So for your first pitch, you’re totally reliant on the quality of your site content.
That’s the basics covered, let’s talk about how to pitch your guest post.
How to Use LinkedIn to Pitch to Editors
Of course, when you’re pitching guest posts, there’s little point in targeting the company’s info@ address. Like any sales situation, you need to find the decision-maker. LinkedIn is a goldmine here. Within the company, you’re looking for content manager, content editor, or something along these lines.
Make a note of their name and send them a request to connect. You can then pitch via LinkedIn.
If they don’t answer, you can use an email address tool like Voila Norbert to find their business email. All this requires is the company’s domain name and the decision maker’s name. You might as well do this in bulk for your first wave of pitches to save time later.
Pitching a Guest Post: Cold Email Template
There are a couple of mistakes that every new blogger makes. When it comes to sending guest post pitches, the worst one is wasting people’s time. That includes writing an essay about what an inspiration the recipient is. People aren’t stamps – don’t lick the back of them.
And never open with apologies. When someone tells me they’re wasting my time, I believe them.
Really, your email only needs to communicate three things. Who you are, what you can offer, and what you want in return. And you’re sending an email in 2019, so there’s very little need for formalities or to whom it may concern.
A good cold email should look like this:
Hi [their name],
I’m [your name] from [your blog]. Are you accepting guest posts at the moment? I’ve got a couple of solid ideas for content which you don’t seem to have covered yet.
I know you get pitched all the time, so here a couple of recent pieces.
[2-3 portfolio pieces from high authority sites]
Let me know If you’re open to hearing my pitch. I promise my article suggestions will knock it out of the park.
Note that I said it should look like this. Try and get these main points into each email without copying and pasting a template. Editors will see right through this. If you don’t get a response, try again a couple more times and then move on.
How to Come Up With Guest Post Ideas
I’m going to talk about three strategies for coming up with killer guest post ideas in a moment. First, though, I want to clear the air about one thing. Guest posting is often daunting because people think it’s difficult to come up with new ideas.
However, you just need to accept that there are no new ideas under the sun. Just because something has been covered before, doesn’t mean you can’t cover it again. Of course, you still need to avoid plagiarism or content spinning.
Instead, accept that you’re always going to revisit existing ideas. The trick is simply to put a new spin on them or update them for the current day.
Strategy 1: Find Keyword Gaps
Your first priority when coming up with guest post ideas is to find something a site might want to cover but hasn’t. This can be done inside of Keyword Planner. Start by entering your target site into the start with a website tool.
From the results, take their top few keywords, and pop them into the start with keywords tool. This shows you related search terms. If anything appears here that isn’t on the first list of results, it’s a topic that would be relevant for them that they aren’t ranking for.
The benefit of going down this route is that they’ll promote your content harder to try and get themselves ranking.
Strategy 2: The Buzzsumo Hack
Another quick and replicable way to find guest post ideas is using BuzzSumo. This is a tool that aggregates all the social engagement data for blog posts. You can sort by different platforms, but all you should care about is the total figure on the right.
Let’s say you’re starting a wild nature blog.
Now you can see the most popular topics in your niche.
Even better, under the monitoring tab, you can check out the top-performing content from each of your competitors. Again, you only care about the total engagement figure on the right-hand side.
Simply take the 5 best titles from 10 of the highest authority sites in your niche. Now you’ve got 50 proven ideas. Pop these into your spreadsheet, matching three with each site based on what they’ve covered previously and what’s relevant.
You can pitch the same guest post ideas to different sites. Target the high authority ones first, and if they don’t bite you can use the same idea later for other sites.
Strategy 3: The Zest Content Hack
Zest is another tool to find guest post ideas. It’s a bit like a normal RSS feed, except it uses AI to match articles with your interests. It’s available as either a Chrome plug-in or an iOS app, so you can always have it running behind the scenes.
In the free version, you can follow two tags, which should be enough for your blog.
The benefit is that it displays readership figures for each article. The more people reading a piece of content, the better an idea it is. If you find a potential guest post idea here, run it through BuzzSumo to double-check it.
How to Write Your Guest Post
So you’ve got your first guest post idea accepted. Great, but don’t celebrate yet. In fact, don’t celebrate until it’s actually published. For now, it’s time to put pen to paper. The good news is, although writing is certainly a skill, it’s not actually that hard, as long as you know how to structure an article.
You do, however, want to make sure your copy is immaculate. On top of that – and I can’t stress this enough – read their style guide. Editors are a strange breed. Some blogs insist on using the oxford comma, others lose the rag if you include a semicolon.
In terms of getting your backlinks, the onus is on you to make these relevant. Again, if you just cram in random links where they don’t add value, you’re going to annoy your editor. Aim for one or two max in the body of your article.
Don’t get your post scrapped over silly mistakes like this. Use a grammar checker. I use Grammarly, but here’s a list of the best Grammarly alternatives.
On top of that, you can link to some of your money content in your byline. These will be the sales pages that you created with a landing page builder.
On that subject, make sure you have a well written and succinct byline ready to go for when the editor asks, along with a decent headshot. This is going to be your calling card for future guest post pitches after all.
How to Scale Your Guest Posting
Once you get your guest posting operation off the ground, you can think about scaling. In other words, once your blog is making money, you can start hiring people to do the boring parts. The trick is to systemize the whole process.
The easiest way to do this is to find a decent ghostwriter. While you could use a freelancing marketplace to find the lowest bidder, you won’t find much luck this way. It’s better to go for the best you can afford.
For instance, if you hire someone cheap, you’re likely to waste hours chasing them up about missed deadlines, sloppy writing or misunderstood briefs. A good writer will pay for themselves, so don’t take the cheap option.
You can also easily outsource the admin side of things. For example, hiring someone to do keyword research for you or reaching out to your target blogs. These people can be paid by fixed milestones, or on a per-task rate.
On top of all of this, guest posting basically comes down to asking people for favors. As such, a little bit of networking goes a long way. Since you’re working with people in your niche, you definitely share interests.
So don’t be afraid to make friends.
This might include making time to grab a coffee at industry meetups, or sharing relevant news with each other. Not only will this make your day that bit easier, but it’ll also open up untold doors in terms of introductions and new opportunities.
Put your best foot forward and try and do as many favors for your network as possible. It’ll almost always get paid back.
How to Guest Post: Conclusion
Okay, let’s recap. Guest posting is an essential part of starting a blog in 2019. In fact, as far as SEO it’s basically non-optional. Luckily, however, it’s not that hard. To start, you just need to create a couple of pieces of high-quality cornerstone content.
Then you identify a list of high authority target sites. Once you know who you want to reach out to, you can come up with a long list of ideas by looking at what’s already working. Finally, you reach out by communicating value – and then you deliver on that.
And once you’re up and running you can look towards systemizing and outsourcing the whole process.