To grow your business today, you must build your online influence by creating insightful content that helps your target audience.
But let’s suppose you’re already churning out blogs, e-books, videos and more. Why are you not getting the results you had anticipated? The problem is likely that your target audience is not finding you.
That’s because your website doesn’t rank high enough in the search engines to attract a steady flow of visitors. And your social media presence isn’t strong enough to guide traffic in your website’s direction. So while your company’s subject matter experts have valuable ideas to share, only a few of the right people are stumbling across the content they create.
How can they become thought leaders if they don’t have a following? Needless to say, it’s frustrating.
How Guest Blogging Extends Your Audience and Boosts Your SEO
There is an answer — guest blogging — writing and publishing content on other organization’s blogs.
It may seem counterintuitive. You want people on your website, so why would you post somewhere else? Two reasons:
If you do your research well, the blogs on which you post are already attracting the audience you hunger for.
Search Engine Optimization
When you include a link back to your site in an article you publish on a high authority blog, Google notices. Because you’re rubbing shoulders with a well-established blog, their algorithms will reward you by raising your website in the search engine rankings.
So guest blogging is all about audience and search engine optimization (SEO).
Finding Blogs That Will Boost Your Influence
Ready to get started? Here are a couple of steps to finding the blogs that are worth writing for.
Discover Blogs Your Audience Loves
Before you start to create blog posts for your guest blogging program, decide where you plan to post them so that you can tailor your creations to your ideal blogs’ needs.
What should you look for? First, discover where your audience hangs out, which starts with finding blogs that cover your market niche.
Let’s say you offer an IT infrastructure monitoring solution. While there may not be many blogs that focus that narrowly, it’s worth putting the keywords in Google to see what comes up.
Some widely read blogs may appear in the results. If you’re lucky, you’ll also find an article that summarizes the best blogs for you like the one below.
Now you have a list of the blogs that do well in the search engines, plus a roundup of those that are well regarded. The point, however, is not to have a lengthy list of blogs. To do guest blogging most successfully, you need to focus on those that will really pay off for you.
So how do you separate the winners from the also-rans?
If you want to become known as a thought leader, you need blogs with an engaged audience; blogs where people are reading, thinking, and are stimulated enough by the content to comment on it.
While there is some correlation between traffic and the number of comments, it’s not perfect. That means a little more digging is in order. You need to check out the blogs on your list and scroll to the bottom of them to see how many comments there are. (Yes, it’s work, but it’s way better than posting content on blogs that are not worth the time and trouble.)
I’m in content marketing, so I’ve checked out a few blogs that I feel would be worthwhile for my guest blogging program. One that I like is the Content Marketing Institute. I know they publish leading edge articles which tend to get conversations going. As you can see on this blog, there are eleven comments.
This example, of course, begs the question, “What’s a good number of comments?” Anything over five is good, but it varies by industry. For instance, I believe IT professionals are less likely to engage online than marketers who, just by the nature of their jobs, are more accustomed to building relationships on the web.
If you just want to gain some high authority links to boost your search engine optimization levels, you can skip checking out the comments and go for domain authority, which is a measure of the likeliness a domain will rank for a specific query.
Unfortunately, you cannot discover domain authority or traffic by just looking at a web page. To get this information, it’s easiest to use a web tool that caters to guest blogging or search engine optimization. I use NinjaOutreach, which, as you can see below, gives you all types of information on domain authority (DA), page authority (PA), backlinks, comments, shares and more. For some reason, they don’t always fill in all the blanks, such as page rank (PR) and MozRank below, but they usually give you enough data to make a good judgment.
You can also use this tool to search for the right blogs and sort them on whatever metric is most important to you. For instance, you can sort a list by the number of comments, helping you to prioritize your outreach.
Make Sure You Love the Blogs Too
It’s one thing to find a blog that your audience loves. It’s another to discover one that’s going to do some heavy lifting for you too.
What should you look for?
First, you need to know whether they accept guest posts. If there’s a tab that says “contribute” or “write for us,” your answer is relatively easy. Some blogs aren’t as open about their guest posting policies. In those cases, just type “guest” into the search box and see if any articles come up that are written by a guest author. If not, you’re probably out of luck.
Second, if you want to become a thought leader, people need to know who you are. And if you want to grow the stature of your site and direct traffic to it, you need a link. Ideally, you want to be able to put a link in the article plus have a short bio at the bottom your post that includes a link to your website.
Here’s an example of my bio at the end of a post on CrazyEgg.
Check out articles on the blog of your choice to see how they recognize authors. If your bio is hidden on another page, it’s less likely that people will find it. Make sure there is also a link to the writer’s website in the article. Not everyone reads to the end, so you want them to run across a link as soon as possible.
By the end of this process, you’ll have culled through a lot of blogs to find the SHORT list of those that are worth targeting for your guest blogging outreach. Short is good. That’s because before you write your pitch or guest post, you need to study the blogs and their guidelines for guest blogging. That takes time, so you only want to do it for worthwhile prospects.
Pitch Perfect Outreach
Every blog is different, so you need to approach them according to their rules of engagement.
If the blog editor asks for contributions, they probably provide some guidelines on how to submit your article. Follow them. Closely. This is not a one-size-fits-all exercise where you spray and pray.
If there are no published guidelines, you have to go into sleuth mode to figure out who is the blog editor and what articles interest him or her. To try to find editors, go to LinkedIn and type in keywords. NinjaOutreach and tools like that also provide some of the editors’ names and email addresses. To determine the articles they like, simply read the blog.
When you read the guest blogging parameters, you’ll discover that some blogs want you to pitch them before you write anything. Others aren’t interested in anything but the final article. After all, it’s possible for a red hot idea to turn it into lukewarm mush during its execution.
Whatever the blog editors want, just DO IT (apologies to Nike). After all, they’re busy people. They don’t have time for contributors who make their lives difficult by bending the rules.
Then write a short and simple pitch email. There are some tips here.
Create a Post that’s Worth Publishing
You can spend a lot of time pitching posts, but it’s all for naught if you don’t follow up with posts worth publishing.
How do you create posts that editors will love? Make them extraordinary. I know, easier said than done, but there is a process you can follow to ensure your posts go beyond plain vanilla.
Let’s start by examining the fallacy to which content marketers cling. For years we’ve been blinded by the theory that “content is king.” As marketers, we should know better. We always talk about translating features into benefits. In this case, content is the feature.
What’s the benefit? Insights, entertainment or a combination of the two — edutainment. These are the three kings of content marketing.
You cannot package look alike information into your blog post in the same way other content marketers are presenting it. Instead, your options are to:
- Say something new that’s helpful to your readers
- Say something old in a new way that helps your audience to understand it better
Let’s say you’ve chosen the topic of marketing automation for your blog post. First, research the subject to find out what everyone else is saying about marketing automation. Instead of investigating to find the key points to include in your article, you’re trying to find out what NOT to write about.
For example, here’s a post I wrote that caught a lot of interest: Why Marketing Automation Does Not Work. While everyone else was talking about the wonders of marketing automation, I took a different tack. It didn’t do it just to be contrary (although that’s always helpful to gain attention). I based it on my experience with prospects who were frustrated with their lack of success with marketing automation. So, when you go against the flow, make sure you can back up what you are saying.
The other option is to say something we’ve all heard before in a different way that gets through to people. Maybe you have a story that brings your topic to life or a clever analogy.
For example, Warren Buffet is a master at taking dry financial information and turning it into something that everyone can understand. For example, as the U.S. tried to dig out from the Great Recession, he said:
“In poker terms, the Treasury and the Fed have gone ‘all in.’ Economic medicine that was previously meted out by the cupful has recently been dispensed by the barrel.”
Buffet didn’t use big numbers that were beyond the average person’s comprehension. He compared a cupful to a barrel — most of us can clearly picture that.
That’s the Wrap
So start by finding the blogs that your audience loves. Then investigate whether they accept guest posts, offer links and an on-page bio to authors. If so, check out their guidelines for guest posting and stick to them. Depending on the editor’s preference, pitch your ideas to the editor, or wait until you’ve written your article.
Finally, write an article that offers unique insights or dresses up existing ones in a new way that makes them easier to understand. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be on your way to gaining online influence through guest posting.