You may have heard that guest posting on popular blogs is a good way to get your blog noticed. This week on the blog, we’re going to delve into this topic in-depth, debating whether guest posting is a good use of bloggers’ time, and discussing best practices for making your guest posts successful.
Today, I’m sharing my own guest-posting experience and offering some tips based on what I’ve learned.
The short version: Guest posting can open a lot of doors, but guest posting can also be a big waste of time. Many factors determine whether you can capitalize on your guest post.
For instance, I was super-excited to get my first post on Copyblogger. The post did super-well for Copyblogger, getting 900 Retweets and ending up in Copyblogger’s Best of 2010. Sounds like a big win, huh?
But that first day it went up, I got some traffic, but almost no additional subscribers. So I got to be a social-media celebrity for a day (“Look Ma, I’m on Copyblogger!), but I reaped not one dime of revenue from that exposure, and it didn’t even seem to build my audience for monetizing later.
Kinda sad, huh? But lesson learned: One big guest post will not necessarily change your life.
By contrast, about six months later, when Copyblogger announced the Top 10 Blogs for Writers winners, I got more than 100 subscribers in a day and saw the biggest increase in traffic to this blog ever. What made the difference? Here’s what I’ve learned about landing guest posts and making those posts pay off for your blog. I’ve divided my tips into preparation, pitching, and posting tips.
- Get your blog ready. My biggest mistake was that my blog wasn’t set up very well to capture visitors’ interest when they came over from another blog. I didn’t have a good subscription signup box, and I didn’t yet have a free offer for subscribers. Both, I’ve learned, are pretty critical to converting casual visitors into subscribers who stick around. Also, my blog was kind of cluttered — I’ve since removed many elements to make it less busy and easier to find things.
- Consider building a custom landing page. This didn’t do so great for me, but I know it’s worked well for many others. Instead of sending visitors from another blog to your home page, send them to a hidden page you’ve set up just for them that provides an introduction to your site and maybe makes a special offer. A great example is Stanford’s custom landing page on Pushing Social.
- Create a tagline link that helps you. My first time, I just sent people to my current post on the home page. This can cause your site to crash, with everyone piling on. It’s better to send them to one of your most popular posts that’s now off the home page, or to a special free offer, or to both to split the traffic.
- Have something to sell — but don’t expect immediate results. If you don’t have a product funnel — a big-ticket item such as a membership site, consulting or e-courses, with smaller products such as an ebook as teasers — you can’t easily monetize the additional traffic you get. Slathering your site with ads may be a turnoff. You might affiliate-sell some things though, so think about what you would feel good about offering to your audience. You want to have stuff you can sell ready, but don’t be surprised if your new visitors don’t buy anything immediately. It’ll take time for them to trust you enough to want to buy from you.
- Consider guesting on a small site. A great way to get the hang of guest posting for the big leagues is to do some guest posting on smaller sites. You’ll get the experience of writing to a different audience and dealing with an editor without having a million eyeballs on you your first time out.
- Promote yourself. I’ve discovered many guest posts happen when prominent bloggers notice a new blog and ask the author to guest on their site, as opposed to pitching the site. Copyblogger associate editor Jon Morrow taught me this social-media truism: The next great bloggers aren’t made, they’re appointed — by the current crop of prominent bloggers. So be sure to spread your blog posts around in social media — you never know who will read them.
- Study your targets. Look hard at what’s on the site you want to guest for, especially the most popular posts. Then write a strong query letter designed to hit their sweet spot.
- Target bloggers on Twitter. A great way to line up guest posts is to write a post on your own blog that you know the author of a popular blog would like. Then send it to them on Twitter, as in: ” @DarrenRowse : You might enjoy my post Top 10 Blogging tips (and then the link). ” Don’t leave it to chance for a celebrity blogger to discover you — make it happen.
- Send killer queries. Many of the big sites such as Problogger have writer’s guidelines and openly solicit guest posts. Write the heck out of your query, like you’re sending it to a top national consumer magazine.
- Write your best. Yes, you’re not getting paid. But that shouldn’t be your attitude toward guest posting. Know that savvy guest posters make tens of thousands of dollars off their guest posts by driving visitors to their products, so there is real money-earning potential. When you get a guest shot on a prominent site, it’s a big opportunity. Also, many of the big sites like long posts — Copyblogger’s requirement is 1,000 words. If you’ve never written for publication, this is going to be a scary leap. Know that even the pros at the top sites spend a lot of time writing their posts — Jon Morrow told me he often spends 10 hours on a single post.
- Consider your topic carefully. Your first guest post for a site is an introduction to that audience. It’s gotta rock, so people on that site become fans of yours and start following your work. As it worked out, I actually wrote my second post on Copyblogger first. After Jon Morrow and I looked it over and thought about it, we decided to start over and have me write an entirely different post to introduce me to their audience. It was the right call, but a ton of extra work.
- Think scannable. List posts are always good for big sites, and they’re hard to screw up structurally.
- Be ready for anything. Some guest posts seem to take forever to go up, while other sites may just throw up your post five minutes after you send it — that happened to me on Write to Done. So make sure you’ve got your seat belt fastened and your site is ready when you hit ‘send’ on your post.
- Engage their audience. Especially on the day your post goes up, you should be checking the site frequently and responding to comments made to your post, just as you would if it was on your own blog. This will endear you both to readers and the owners of the site where you’re guesting.
- Follow up immediately with another pitch. Don’t think of your guest posts as one-shot deals, but as the beginning of a relationship. Keep it rolling, and with each post, you’ll often see more traffic come to your site.
- Create an “As seen on” sidebar. Once you start guest posting, you can let visitors to your blog know you also appear in some prominent places by adding logos from the bigger sites where you’ve guested. This adds useful social proof that you are well-read online.
Final thoughts on guest posting:
I’ve made great new relationships from guesting, and I enjoy doing it. I’ve learned how to get subscribers from it. But:
Two things are even better than guest posting for growing your blog’s audience, and take less time. They are:
- Get mentioned on a big site with a link to your site
- Have one of your site’s blog posts retweeted by a prominent blogger
My experience is those two events got me the biggest traffic jumps. Of course, often those two things happen after you — you guessed it — do some guest posts on popular Web sites.
Have you tried guest posting? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience.
Consider subscribing if you enjoyed this post. Next up on guest-post week, I’ll discuss the unexpected fringe benefits of guest posting on others’ blogs.
Photo via Flickr user dlnny