Guest blogging is an exceptional linkbuilding practice that provides targeted, high-quality links in addition to lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. It’s also really, really hard to do, and nearly impossible to scale rapidly with any budget in mind.
In other words, it’s pretty much exactly how Google wants you to build links.
There are a few key problems with aggressive guest blogging; mainly, that it will make it difficult to maintain your own blog if you’re publishing on other blogs in any significant volume. So, I set out to create a set of guest blogging tips that would be effective and efficient for anyone from a mommy blogger to an SEO agency.
Effective guest blog outreach needs to incorporate these four objectives:
- Allow you to build relationships with other bloggers in your niche
- Improve your rankings for your primary keyword phrases without spinning articles
- Improve your own rankings for long-tail keywords
- Publish guest posts while maintaining your own blog
So how can we do all of these things without detonating like an over-pressurized basketball? Let’s get into the meat of this strategy:
Key Phases for an Effective Guest Blogging Strategy
Phase 1: Planning and Strategizing
Phase 2: Finding Guest Blog Opportunities
Phase 3: Outreach
Phase 4: Fulfillment
Phase 5: Follow-up and Relationship Maintenance
Planning and Strategy:
1.0 – Choose Your Big Three
First, establish which three main keywords you’re looking to build anchor-text links for: these should be your home-run phrases, the ones you’re converting best on, etc. You probably already know which phrases these are; in fact, you’re probably already targeting them on your homepage.
1.1 – Brainstorm
Next, brainstorm some post ideas. Here are a few brainstorming tips that have helped me:
- Brain dump: write down everything that comes to your mind, whether it’s related to your blog or not. If you start with the intent to come up with blog ideas, they’ll come.
- No bad ideas: Don’t edit. Don’t stop and try to figure out the perfect title. Don’t think about which keywords you’d target. Just get as many ideas as you can on paper.
- Set a time limit: You could literally brainstorm for days if you did it right, so make sure you’ve got a cutoff point. This also makes brainstorming less stressful if good ideas just don’t seem to be coming out.
- Take a break: If you’ve been pouring your brains out onto paper/into a document and it just isn’t working, take a break. Go for a walk or a jog. Play with a pet. Just take your mind off of it. Ever had a hard time remembering something, only to have it spring to mind as soon as you stop thinking about it? Yeah, that happens a lot with brainstorming.
1.2 – Sift the Wheat from the Chaff
Pull out your best ideas and separate them into clusters around the same topic. Maybe you had a really good run of 5-6 excellent posts on cake baking tips and recipes. Choose one of those posts for your own blog, and keep the rest for guest blog posts.
You should now have a set of post clusters, each centered around an overarching topic, with one set to go on your blog and a few that you can peddle to bloggers in your niche. In other words, a perfect start to your very own editorial calendar!
Here’s a great post by Michael Gray on creating an SEO-based editorial calendar.
On your main post, make sure you’ve got some good keyword research done; you don’t want to be building links for the wrong term, as this strategy with practically guarantee you a consistent 3-4 links for your targeted terms.
1.3 – Wheel of Fortune (SEO-style)
Now that you’ve got a great set of post ideas, pick one high-value long-tail keyword for the post you will place on your blog. For each article that you use as a guest post, you will use this phrase, or a similar one, to link back to the central post in this particular post cluster.
For bonus points, toss in links to other relevant posts on your own blog in the body of the article, if your guest blog target allows it. Don’t force this; anyone can tell if you’re trying to stuff self-serving links into your (their) content. Make sure it’s valid and valuable, or forget it.
1.4 – Make It Count
Giving up these posts should be like putting kittens up for adoption; you love these posts, they’re so great, you just want to keep all of them. But you can’t, because zoning ordinances in your city are restrictive and you don’t have the budget to support twenty starving kittens, no matter how cute and/or awesome they are.
Put quality content out for your guest blog partners; don’t spew out spun articles in hopes to save time. If you’re serious about blogging (and if you’re reading this, you probably are), you’ll want to put on a good face wherever your name is seen.
Finding Guest Blog Opportunities
2.0 – Finding Homes for Your Precious Felines
Now, you’ve got to find homes for your precious post-kittens. You don’t want to drive down a city road, tossing felines out the back window of your station-wagon; you want to make sure these little guys get great homes, so you’ve got to be careful when selecting them.
Here are some ways to find high-quality guest blog opportunities:
- Advanced searches: “guest blog” inurl:<NICHE KEYWORD>, “guest posting guidelines” <NICHE KEYWORD>, “<KEYWORD> guest post>” and so on. You get the basic pattern.
- Follow other guest bloggers: If you know a prolific guest blogger, search for their name and “guest post” or “guest blog” or the like. Chances are, if they can land a gig on one of these blogs, they could be open to letting you post there too.
- Twitter networking: Honestly, this is where I’ve gotten the majority of my guest blog opportunities. Find authors in your niche and just chat with them. Once you’ve got a good relationship going, see if they accept guest posts. Works very often.
- There are a few sites out there dedicated specifically to guest blogging, but my favorite is probably MyBlogGuest, led by the one-and-only Ann Smarty.
These and a few more high-quality methods are discussed in Rand’s March 1st Whiteboard Friday.
2.1 – Cast Not Thy Kittens Among Thorns
Run through the list of blogs you’re thinking of reaching out to. Check their domain and page authority with OpenSiteExplorer, check the number of RSS subscribers through Google Reader, check social signals on their best posts, etc. If nobody comments on their posts, or they have 10 RSS subscribers, or they’ve got a PageRank of 1, be careful. Don’t cast your kittens among thorns.
Outreach: How to Land Great Guest Blogging Gigs
3.0 – Talk to Them. No, Really.
Now that you have your list of potential guest blog partners, you’ve got to reach out to them. If you don’t already have a relationship with them, reach out and talk to them authentically, without any expectations. It’s a lot easier (and a whole lot more beneficial) to build relationships instead of links.
3.1 – Take the Road Less Traveled
Without going into yellow woods and all of that, try to contact your list of potentials through a method nobody else does. Send a Facebook message, contact them on a niche network or community that you’re both active on (Fiverr, SEOmoz, LinkedIn messages, etc). It’s easy to stand out when you’re not caught in a spam filter or mixed in with 1,000 spam Twitter DMs.
3.2 – Take the Standard Road
If you can’t find a unique way to contact them, go at it through the tried and true method: send an email. It’s not very creative, but if you can’t get to them through a unique avenue, it’s definitely the best way to handle outreach, especially on a large scale.
3.3 – Mind Your P’s and Q’s
Contact them authentically. Try to be as un-canned as possible. Contact them and mention something unique to their site, like a specific post and what you liked about it. Contact them with a topic in mind or, better yet, contact them with a post in mind or already written (which you probably have, from the above).
Above all, be authentic. Canned outreach works sometimes, but authentic outreach works more.
Fulfillment: The Big Dance
4.0 – Headlines Don’t Sell Papes, Newsies Sell Papes!
So now you’ve got a list of prospects that have accepted a guest post from you. You’ve got the whole lot of them written, you’ve got the anchor text links in the body of your content, and you’ve got one of your main keyword phrase anchor text links to your homepage sitting contentedly in your bio. Now, here’s what you do:
- Arrange a publishing schedule: Publish your post on Monday, and see if you can get your guest blogging partners to stagger their publish dates a day or two apart. Now you’ve got a big burst of initial traffic to your post as well as steady trickle traffic from your guest posts.
- Promote!: Social media the crap out of those posts! Remember, any positive signal to your guest post also increases the juice that it funnels to your site and your own post. This includes links, so… link to those posts as you care to.
- Reminder – Don’t Give Out Crappy Posts!: This is important enough to deserve two mentions. If you’re trying to pawn off crappy, hacky posts on your partners, you’re not going to get a follow-up gig. This issue is summed up nicely by John F Doherty on his post on the Three Tenets of Content Marketing.
Follow-up and Relationship Maintenance
5.0 – You’ve Got a Friend In Me
Your relationship with these blogs and bloggers doesn’t end once you’ve got a guest post published; you’ve just developed some exceptional business contacts! Keep in touch with them and offer to write another guest post for them after some time has passed. Some of the people I’ve met through guest blogging have turned into some of my most valuable contacts and friends.
5.1 – Keeping the Flame Alive
Here are some tips, because keeping track of hundreds of guest post partners is more than most human minds can handle:
- Spreadsheets are your friends: Keep track of your posts and their statuses. Keep tabs on how often you’ve spoken with your partners and offer new posts every now and then.
- CRM software: It’s worth it. It keeps track of things I can’t even begin to believe I’d remember on my own. Salesforce is one of the leaders, but there are hundreds more.
- Promote them: Talk their content up. Tell your friends how great their blog is. Keep sending things their way and you’ll keep the relationship alive.
Here are some stats to wrap this whole thing together; if you follow this strategy, you’re posting once a week on your own blog, and three posts on other blogs per week. You’re getting one link to your own blog post and one link to your homepage per post. That’s sixteen targeted, anchor-text rich links to your homepage every month. Twelve links to your blog, three anchor-text rich, long-tail keyword links to the four posts you published.
Drop a second post on your blog into that mix and you can see how quickly that balloons.
Producing five pieces of high-quality content is pretty much a full time job. But if you’re blogging seriously, you know this.
So tell me what you think! Do you like this approach? Have you used any other guest blogging strategies that have been more effective for you? Let me know in the comments!
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