Updated July 27, 2017
As is common in the ups and downs of blogging, I don’t think guest posting has quite the benefits it once did, but it can still be a good way to build your brand, increase traffic and get inbound links.
(Inbound links are simply links to your site from another site which can be great for SEO. The more well-established & high-ranking the site that links to you, the better.)
There are a few reasons why I can talk on this subject. First, I’ve been blogging since 2004 and in that time, I have received countless pitches from others requesting to guest post on my site.
Note: I don’t accept guest posts and never really have (mostly just my preference), but you might be interested in my post about pitches and what makes them good. It’s a post that goes well with this one and is recommended.
Second, many years ago, I was a virtual assistant for Money Saving Mom. One of my tasks was Gatekeeper of Guest Posts (I made that up). I was in charge of accepting, rejecting, editing, scheduling and publishing all the guest posts. It’s a very large site with huge amounts of traffic so it wasn’t a tiny job. I learned a lot in the process.
The first section of this post includes the things I look for and tips I would offer if you want to get your guest post accepted. The second section includes tips for after your guest post is accepted. At the end is a suggestion if you want to do something other than guest posting.
1. Guest post on sites where your potential audience hangs out (and are high quality)
Not all traffic is good traffic. Certainly not all traffic is the best traffic. Be thoughtful about which sites you will submit your guest post too for consideration.
You want traffic that sticks. You want people to be so intrigued by your guest post they click over to your site (via your link in the bio) and find even more great info they love.
Writing a guest post takes time and energy (it should anyway), so don’t waste yours by submitting your content to a site whose readers aren’t your target audience. If you do, you might see a spike in traffic temporarily, but it won’t last long.
Hopefully you have a really good idea of who your target audience is. Think about what blogs they read. Those are the ideal places for your guest post.
The second piece to this is, don’t pursue guest posting on low quality sites. At best, a link back to your site from a flimsy site will yield a measly amount of traffic. At worst, it will be a signal to Google and other search engines that you are connected with low quality sites and may not be trustworthy.
2. Submit only original content; avoid duplicate content
Your guest post should not be a post you have already published on your blog or elsewhere. I have rejected submissions for this reason alone. Some of them would otherwise have been good fits.
Think about it. A high quality site cares deeply about its reader experience. They pour many hours into creating the best content. Their goal is to stand out, to be the best in their niche. The last thing they want is rerun content from another site.
Unless there is an explicit understanding between you and the blog owner about using content you’ve published elsewhere, it’s respectful and wise to write something original. To me, it demonstrates care and concern for them and their readers, not just getting traffic for yourself.
What is duplicate content?
There’s also this thing called duplicate content. Spend any length of time building a website or writing a blog and you’re sure to hear about duplicate content. There are a lot of confusing, insufficient and inaccurate explanations of the concept. I am not an expert on duplicate content myself, so I take my cues from those who are. Duplicate content involves search engines so perhaps the most notable “expert” on the subject of duplicate content is Google. Another resource is Yoast’s post Duplicate Content: causes and solutions. But let me take a stab at it…
In a nutshell, duplicate content is identical (or nearly identical) content living on different websites.
When someone looks for something on a search engine like Google, Google dives into its huge database for the best results. When it finds the same content on different sites, it doesn’t make sense to link to identical information on the front page of search results, right? I mean, if you’re Google, why would you do that? You’d have a better chance of making the searcher happy (your ultimate goal) if you listed it once and then filled the other highly coveted spots in the search results with different options, so the searcher has a lot to choose from.
Google will do its best to direct people to the site where the content was originally created, but sometimes it looks at others factors which causes it to direct people to the non-original site. This causes the original (and deserving) site to lose traffic. Sad, right?
Let’s look at an example…
Let’s say Little Blogger Suzy wrote a really great post entitled “How to Clean White Sneakers.” Now let’s say Little Blogger Suzy submitted that exact post to a really well known and trusted shoe site that sells a lot of white sneakers. So now “How to Clean White Sneakers” lives on both sites.
Now let’s pretend someone googles “how to clean white sneakers.” Google goes through millions of webpages trying to find the most helpful. Google sees “How to Clean White Sneakers” and determines it’s so good, it should definitely be on the first page of search results. But then Google realizes the article is on Little Blogger Suzy’s site as well as the famous shoe site. What to do?
It wouldn’t make sense to use up a second precious spot on the first page of search results to link to the same article twice. So Google has to choose which of the two to showcase. How to choose? Well, it looks at other factors about each website.
Google notices the famous shoe site is really popular, has been around for ages and is very trustworthy. Suzy’s site on the other hand, is small, hasn’t been around very long and judging by the traffic it gets, not a lot of people know about it. So, when Google lists their top picks for “how to clean white sneakers” in the search results, who are they likely to link to? The famous shoe site. Because it’s an overall stronger site and therefore more likely to make the searcher happy. And Suzy, even though she was the original author, has just experienced the bummer of losing all that traffic because her site was relegated to SERPs page number 482460 instead.
3. Write well, really well
Again, it’s a no-brainer, but it’s worth a mention. A guest post submission should be your best work.
It’s pretty easy to tell when someone has “thrown together a little something” vs. someone who has really taken the time and care to produce something of high quality. Remember, great sites are very particular about the kind of content they share with their readers.
Also, take extra care to use correct, grammar, spelling and punctuation. Edit, edit, edit. If you aren’t particularly confident in your writing ability, have someone else proof your post for you.
Site owners and Gatekeepers of Guest Posts don’t have a lot of time. The less your guest post has to be edited and reformatted, the more likely it will be published.
4. Follow the guidelines
If the site for which you would like to guest post has guest posting guidelines, follow them. The guidelines are there to make the submission process easier for all involved.
Conversely, a submission that ignores or breaks the guidelines screams 3 things:
- I’m only in it for my own gain.
- I don’t actually read your blog.
- I didn’t even take a few moments to do some easy research to find out what you’re looking for.
If the guest posting guidelines are not immediately obvious, do a little hunting before you shoot off an email asking for them. Bloggers and site owners (big & small) are busy people, so do your best to find what you need.
Contact pages, FAQ pages and About pages are good places to look and often provide a link to guest posting guidelines. Sometimes guest posting guidelines are linked to at the end of other guest posts on the site, or in the footer.
Or, use a site’s search bar to search for guidelines. If you don’t see a search bar, google “site:nameofsite.com guidelines” (no quotes) or something similar. Try several different keywords like “guest post,” “guest posting,” “guest,” “guest post guidelines,” etc.
If you truly can’t find the guidelines, a short and friendly email asking about them is appropriate. For example,
I have an idea for a guest post I think would benefit your readers. Do you accept guest posts and would you mind forwarding your guest posting guidelines? Thanks!
5. Go easy on the links to your own site and don’t include your affiliate links
We all understand guest posting is a way to get your site noticed and get traffic. However, a post loaded with links to your own blog is bad form.
I remember one person who submitted a guest post who linked to their own site one way or another in almost every paragraph in their post. It was rejected. That’s just tacky.
You absolutely should include a link to your own website, blog or landing page in your bio, but include links to your own blog within the content of your post at your own risk.
Likewise, a submission with your own affiliate links is, in my opinion, inappropriate unless you’ve been given explicit permission.
6. Strive to benefit their readers, not just to get your own
A guest post submission is much more likely to be accepted if the blog owner feels it will truly benefit their readers.
Before submitting a guest post, read the blog so you get a really good feel for the style of writing, topics covered and response of readers.
Provide really meaty content, not just fluffy stuff obviously intended to get the reader to your bio where they can click through to your blog. Not only is a lame post unlikely to be accepted, it sends a bad message about your writing, brand or product.
Remember, this blog represents someone’s hard work and they have their own reputation to maintain. The last thing they want is to publish a post that doesn’t live up to the quality their readers are used to.
7. Be a blog reader first
Random, out-of-the blue, “Your readers are gonna love this!” submissions that obviously came from someone just trying to get the word out about their site / product get automatically rejected.
Before you submit a guest post, comment and get involved in the community. Be genuinely helpful. Be an asset. That way, when your guest post submission comes through and has your name attached, it will have several points in its favor because you will have already proven yourself trustworthy and helpful.
Blog owners can tell when you have sent them a form letter pitch! I used to send them straight to spam. After a while I created a tag in my email called “unbelievable” and then I send them to spam. My “unbelievable” collection is a source of entertainment and perfect examples of what not to do!
8. Time your submission
If you’re a blogger, you know how hard it can be to keep a blog going. Life happens and it can be a challenge to keep up.
When life throws you curve balls or when other obligations take your attention, I think all blog owners appreciate some well-written posts they can plug into their queue in a pinch.
As you follow the blog for which you’d like to guest post, take note of any special events coming up for the blog owner. Are they speaking at a conference? Are they in the throes of writing a book? Are they about to go on maternity leave or take a vacation?
If you catch wind of a disruption to their normal schedule, it’s often a good time to send a friendly email asking them if you might be able to help by submitting a guest post.
9. Don’t be desperate or demanding
Provide content that fits well (yes!) but use your own voice and be yourself. “What do you want me to write about?” “How do you want me to say it?” “I can write whatever you want!” type of emails aren’t impressive. The last thing a blog owner wants to do is hold your hand through the process.
Conversely, “You need to publish this!” or “Your readers need to hear this!” type of emails are also turn-offs. Trust me, the blog owner has a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for and what they’re not.
10. Make accepting your guest post easy
- Be kind at all times, especially if your post is rejected.
- Eliminate as many emails back and forth as possible. Try to answer your own questions. Be thorough and succinct. Keep your emails short and to the point.
- Provide well-written, useful, on-topic content the blog owner can use “out of the box.” Their readers will find it beneficial and you will feel proud to put out there.
Once your guest post has been accepted, your job is far from over. Here are tips to make the most of the readers who will see your post.
11. Interact in the comments
Note when your post goes live and be available to interact in the comments. Not only does this help your host, it gives you more of an opportunity to share your expertise and build relationships.
12. Write a strong bio
Keep your bio short and to the point with a clear call to action. You want the reader to get to know you better over at your own site.
Consider linking to a special landing page tailor-made for the new visitors coming from your guest post. Why? Because if you send them to your homepage, they’ll have to figure out for themselves what you’re all about. Here’s how to create one…
13. Create a guest post landing page
Unless your homepage is super clear and directive, you’re likely to lose ‘em. These visitors are a captive audience, but only for a moment. Don’t make them fend for themselves once they hit your site. Guide them.
- Create a new page (not a post because you don’t want it going out to everyone in your RSS feed).
- Make it obvious in the title that you’re welcoming the readers from the blog on which you guest posted. For example, pretend you’re guest posting here. You could go with a title like “Welcome AmyLynnAndrews.com Readers!” or you could make it more clever.
- Think about what those readers are looking for. Who are they? What type of information is important to them? If they clicked through your bio, the topic of the guest post you wrote is probably a good hint.
- Pretend you’re a tour guide. Your new visitors just arrived. What content on your blog is most like the information you shared in your guest post? Highlight those posts at the top of your landing page and link to those similar posts / pages on your site.
- The key here is to provide them ample opportunity to explore what you have to offer but not to overwhelm them. I’d choose 5-8 of my most relevant pieces of content they are most likely to appreciate. Don’t go crazy. This is a first date, not a marriage proposal.
- Make sure you ask them to subscribe via email. Include your email signup form somewhere on your page.
14. Don’t want to guest post? Write a list post instead.
If guest posting doesn’t appeal to you, Pat Flynn recommends writing “A list post that features some of the top and up & coming players in your niche.” These are often called “roundup” or “expert” posts. They don’t have the punch they once did, but they still can work. Why? Because these types of posts often garner a visit from the people you feature, sometimes resulting in a reciprocate mention. (A good idea is to tag your experts in a tweet to alert them to their mention.) Plus, they are useful for your readers.
Originally published July 20, 2010