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?
Background with Stats
Since LaunchSpace’s inception, the bulk of my efforts have gone into guest posting. Today I’m able to comfortably target sites with domain rankings of 70+. These cover everything from digital marketing tools, to entrepreneurship to business best practices.
Here’s 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 in 2019?
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 of LaunchSpace’s cornerstones. It’s an evergreen page listing the best lifetime software deals week by week.
The metric of interest here is the dofollow rate. Dofollow 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 LaunchSpace. Simple.
And just for extra proof, here’s a sample of the sites backlinking to this page, with their domain rankings included.
But we’re not here to talk about whether you should guest post in 2019. We’re here to talk about how to guest post in 2019. Let’s get to the fun stuff.
How to Prepare Your Site For A Guest Post Campaign
Before you start reaching out to blogs, you need to lay a little bit of ground work. Of course, you could create your guest posting strategy around getting backlinks to your home page. You’re unlikely to see much success this way though.
This is because search engines love long-form content. Most top results on Google are about 2,500 words. That means that before your guest post campaign begins, you need long form content which is relevant to the keywords you eventually want to rank for.
You don’t however, need to bang out an eBook every week. Three or four pieces of high quality cornerstone content is more than sufficient. In the next two sections we’ll look at how to identify the right topics for this content.
Longtail Keywords Vs Money Keywords
Your cornerstone content is essentially SEO focused. As such, we can’t select topics without talking about keywords. First of all, I want to walk you through the two different types of keyword you need to be aware of.
First up, we have longtail keywords. As the name suggests, these are the longer – usually 4 words and up. Since they’re more specific, they’re easier to rank for. The flip-side of that, however, is that it’s harder to make any money, since there are less people searching for them.
An example might be timeshare properties in Northern Pennsylvania.
On the other hand, we have money keyword, most of which are only one or two words long. These are less specific, and so harder to rank for since there’s more competition. The upshot is that if you do rank for them you’re basically in the money.
A similar example would simply be holiday rentals.
The best strategy is to try and find a mix of both. On top of that, you should aim to find specific keywords which cancel out the bad elements of each type. One way to do this is to find longtail keywords with a high search volume – preferably in the 100s of thousands.
Additionally, you can look for money keywords with low competition. Leading us to…
How to Conduct Keyword Research
For keyword research, I use a mixed approach. Obviously, we can’t discuss keyword research without talking about Google Keyword Planner. This is indispensable for checking the competition for money keywords, as well as finding new and unexpected longtails your content might already be ranking for.
On top of that, it’s a good idea at this point to size up the competition. Especially if you’re starting a blog in 2019, you’ll want to check out the established sites to see if there’s any room in the market and identify a firm niche for yourself.
To do this, use Keyword Planner to identify which sites you’ll be competing with for your desired keywords. Then use the free backlink checker from Ahrefs to check out their backlink profiles and domain ranks.
If most of the sites listed have a moderate amount of backlinks, or DRs under about 60 then you have a fighting chance of establishing yourself in this niche. If the market is sewn up by a few sites with DRs of 70+, then it’s probably time to rethink.
Have You Got What It Takes to Succeed
Speaking of rethinking. Starting a blog isn’t as easy as people let on, so this seems like a good time to talk about what’s worth pursuing and what’s worth walking away from. Or as Seth Godin puts it, quit the wrong stuff, stick with the right stuff.
Whether or not your blog eventually becomes a success through guest posting is related to this. The truth is the blogging is competitive, so you need to have the strength of mind to overcome tough patches and eventually outshine the competition.
An important facet of this is recognising what kind of tough patch you’re in. It could be the inevitable hard work on the way to eventual success. On the other hand, it could be a dead end of doing grunt work you never cared about in the first place.
When you feel like you might fail, remind yourself of what you ultimately want to achieve. If in this moment you find that you never really wanted what’s on the other side of the tough patch, it may be time to reconsider.
How to Identify Sites to Guest Post On
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 your site’s authority, this comes down to domain ranking again.
Using Ahrefs to assess your options, you essentially have two choices. You can go with less authoritative sites, which are easier to get your foot in the door. Alternatively, you can target high authority sites which have a higher pay-off.
You may be tempted to aim low at first to improve your portfolio and then approach better sites. I’d recommend against this for two reasons. Firstly, your existing content on your own site should be more than enough to prove to editors that you can create valuable content for their site.
Second, producing content takes much much longer than sending emails. Even if you have a lower success rate with high authority sites, in the long run your time will be better spent by aiming to get backlinks from these.
What Metrics Should You Focus On
In terms of authority, you should be aiming for a domain rank of at least 50. Any lower than this, and you’re essentially going to be guest posting on blogs which are in the same boat as you.
In addition to this, Ahrefs allows you to check out the traffic of potential guest posting partners. The free tool gives you the raw traffic numbers, but the paid version gives you some extra metrics about how valuable that traffic is for you.
The raw number should be more than enough, as your ultimate aim is to go as high as possible.
You can also think in terms of qualitative metrics. That is, things that are still important but hard to put a number to. Specifically, you need to get a feel for how relevant your target blogs are to you. A little bit of common sense here goes a long way.
For instance, motorsports sites may have great numbers, but they probably don’t want to hear about your thoughts on rock-climbing.
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.
Then all you have to do is run these through Ahrefs to find all of the other high authority sites that link to them. Rinse and repeat with these news ones and you should have a couple of hundred target sites in no time.
Pop the URLs and DRs of each of these into a spread-sheet for later.
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.
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 which 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.
The Buzzsumo Hack
Another quick and replicable way to find guest post ideas is using BuzzSumo. This is a tool which 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.
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 Pitch Your First Guest Post
Now it’s time to start reaching out. Most people find this scary at first. Or they might be worried about annoying the person on the other end. The first step is getting over this. Otherwise, you’ll never get anywhere.
Your first pitch comes with an extra challenge. I’ll be talking about how to pitch in general in just a moment, but at this point you’re still missing one crucial element. Social proof. That is, you’ve never written a guest post before.
So for your first pitch, you’re totally reliant on the quality of your cornerstone content. As such, this needs to be absolutely perfect. Besides that, all you can do is emphasise the value you can add, pick three potential articles and wait for someone to take a chance on you.
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. Once you have this information, you need their email address. You could, of course, send them a LinkedIn message, but they’re less likely to pay attention that way.
Instead, 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.
How to Send a Cold Email
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]. We focus mainly on [your niche] and have a combined audience of [figures]. I was reading [their site], and I’ve got a couple of ideas for content which you don’t seem to have covered yet. These will each be a great addition to your blog because […]. Here’s what I’m thinking.
[Summary of headings]
[Summary of headings]
[Summary of headings]
Which of these stands out to you? I’d love to be featured on [their blog], because [reasons you’re a natural fit]. For now, here’s a couple of recent pieces I’ve been working on in this space.
[2-3 portfolio pieces from high authority sites]
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 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.
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.
Don’t get your post scrapped over silly mistakes like this.
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.
On top of that, you can link to some of your money content in your byline.
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 systemise the whole process.
The easiest way to do this is to find a decent ghost writer. 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, 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 in 2019: 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 systemising and outsourcing the whole process.