Updated July 12, 2016
Like so many things in blogging, I don’t think guest posting has quite the benefits it once did, but it can still be a fantastic 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.)
Many years ago, I was a virtual assistant for Money Saving Mom. I was Gatekeeper of Guest Posts (I made that up). The first section includes the things I looked for and tips I would offer if you want to get your guest post accepted. The second section includes tips 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 readers hang out
One might think this goes without saying, but not all traffic is the best traffic.
You want traffic that sticks. You want people to be so intrigued by your guest post that they click over to your blog (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 them 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.
2. Submit only original content; avoid duplicate content
In other words, your guest post submission 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.
Others feel differently, but in my opinion, unless there is an explicit understanding between you and the blog owner, I feel it’s respectful to write something original. To me, it demonstrates care and concern for them and their readers, not just getting traffic for yourself.
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.
In a nutshell, duplicate content is identical (or nearly identical) content living on different websites. When a search engine like Google for example, finds the same content on different sites, it doesn’t know which site to point to when someone is searching for it. Google will do its best to direct people to the original site where it was created, but in the confusion, it sometimes directs people to the non-original site. This causes the original (and deserving) site to lose traffic which is unfortunate.
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” or when someone has really taken the time and care to produce something of high quality.
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 three things:
- I’m only in it for my own gain.
- I don’t 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.
An FAQ, contact page or about page are good places to start, and often provide a link to guest posting guidelines. Or, use the search bar to search their site. 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. Also, check out other guest posts on that blog because blog owners often note guidelines, or links to them, there too.
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. 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. However, a post loaded with links to your own blog is bad form.
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, hang out a while 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 by yours truly.
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.
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, sweet 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.” Why? Because these types of posts often garner a visit from the people you feature, sometimes resulting in a reciprocate mention. Plus, they are useful for your readers.
Originally published July 20, 2010