16 Success Tips for Guest Posting on Blogs

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.

Prepare:

  • 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.

Pitch:

  • 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.

Post:

  • 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:

  1. Get mentioned on a big site with a link to your site
  2. 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

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22 comments on “16 Success Tips for Guest Posting on Blogs
  1. Steve says:

    Thanks for the tips. This is all good stuff. I have just started guest posting and have done many of the things you mentioned, but are some I didn’t think of. Thanks again!
    Steve recently posted..Will You Bust Out Your Art In 2011

  2. I ran a bimonthly guest post series on Cathy Stucker’s Selling Books in 2009-2010. See http://www.sellingbooks.com/author/katherine-swarts.
    Katherine Swarts recently posted..Resolved to Write Better

  3. For what it’s worth, I am part of your “almost no” subscribers. I saw your post on CopyBlogger and subscribed to your blog as a result. I am a freelance writer and do fairly well writing for high tech companies. So much so, that I have woefully neglected my own blog!

    I also write fiction as a hobby.

    I tweet the best posts from the blogs I subscribe to, so there’s life beyond me. I guess you would say that I am what Godin calls a “sneezer.” (Yuck!)

    All the best!

    Melissa
    Melissa Paulik recently posted..Why I love legal and branding teams

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Melissa —

      Well thanks for being one of those subscribers!

      I’d love a guest post on tech writing and how you break into that if you’re interested…know that’s a great niche, but not one I personally do.

  4. P.S. Jones says:

    You know I’ve been guest posting a lot lately and it never occurred to me to create an As Seen On sidebar. I just added it to my to do list.

  5. Laurie Boris says:

    Carol, thank you for the great tips. I’ll be getting into guest blogging over the next year and this post couldn’t be more timely.
    Laurie Boris recently posted..5 Things The Designated Hitter Rule Taught Me About Business

  6. Ahlam Yassin says:

    Hey Carol,

    I came to your blog as a result of your Copyblogger guest post, and am glad that I did. I think the biggest aspect of guest blogging is that the results keep on giving. You receive new subscribers (however minimal) and at some point they may buy an ebook, or sign up for a webinar.

    I really do like the “As seen on” tip. However, do you recommend posting even if you’ve guest posted on smaller blogs?

    Thanks.
    Ahlam Yassin recently posted..The Jersey Shore Guide to Personal Branding

  7. Great post as always Carol. You gave me a lot to think about…

    Here’s my theory however. I noticed that when you get those big pumps, they don’t last very long. My site was featured on the homepage of Freshly Pressed for instance, and I had a lot of viewers that day and then it went down.

    Granted, this time around, when I was mentioned as a Top Ten Blogger, I was better prepared and I had my site layout ready for more subscribers {I’m still making it easier and easier to subscribe}, I was able to benefit from the new surge. My subscribers were multiplied 10 times.

    But even now, the surge is going down again. I am used to this, for me it means that I have gained a lot of really great committed fans. But to some of your readers they might see this as a failure.

    They should know that after getting a lot of traffic, that the dip afterwards is natural. The point is, and this is my opinion, it is better to have a solid base of committed fans than people who just drop in ever six months.

    Why? Because your committed fans will keep sharing you, will help you win contests, {like the one you and I won, Carol}, and get their own committed fans on board.

    Without my committed fans it would be a lot more difficult to compete with other blogs that had more traffic than I did.

    Also, your committed fans will be a lot more thoughtful and will go farther for you than someone who just drops by because a big blogger mentioned you.

    It’s not that I don’t disagree with you Carol, I just think that you shouldn’t underestimate the strength and value of a solid fan base.

    I actually have this solid fan base guest post on my blog and they feel like they are a part of what I am doing, I think that might be a different way to approach guest posting…

    Anyways, I can go on and on, maybe we can discuss this again later. But just wanted to expand on this idea of guest posting, and how doing “local” posts on “smaller” blogs is actually a win-win and not a “waste.”
    Ollin Morales recently posted..How To Stop The Internet From Sabotaging Your Writing Routine

  8. Carol Tice says:

    Ollin —

    I guested every week for a year on WM Freelance Writers Connection, so I totally am a fan of guesting on smaller blogs. I think there’s a lot you can get out of it — at the very least, it helps you train up for higher-profile guests.

    I think I probably would have had a heart attack and died, or maybe just not even had the gumption, to guest on Copyblogger when they asked me, if I hadn’t guested on smaller sites first!

    On the traffic thing I totally agree — you see a big spike and then it goes down — but in my experience it never goes all the way back down where it was. It creates a new, higher baseline. That’s the new subscribers and followers who stick around. So it builds with each post.

    I just think a lot of people underestimate how many guest posts you need to do to get to critical mass. I loved Leo Babauta’s A-List video about guest posting…the deep sigh he gave as he recalled how many posts he did at the beginning — like, he tried to have one up every day! That’s what made him go viral. It’s not one post and instant stardom, is all I’m saying.

    • Sorry my double negative might have sounded confusing “I don’t disagree.” Oh my. What I mean to say is I DO AGREE with all you have said. I guess I was offering up my perspective to your readers, that they shouldn’t get discouraged with just doing guest post on local blogs. That there is another plus to doing this other than being recognized–a strong local fan base.

      Does that make sense?

      And yes, the spike never goes down as low as before, and also you get all these people subscribed to your feed that you may not realize.
      Ollin Morales recently posted..How To Stop The Internet From Sabotaging Your Writing Routine

  9. Eric Walker says:

    Hi Carol,

    I found this post from Jon Morrow on Twitter. Excellent article. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been a lurker at many of the popular blogs you’ve mentioned. And I’ve only been blogging consistently for a few months. So much of this is new, but your post puts just about all of it into perspective. Helps me with an action plan.

    This is also my first time to your blog. I see some nice headlines in the Popular articles side bar. Now I’m heading off to find and follow you on Twitter. Hope to find you there for some small chat.

    Best and thanks.

  10. Kara says:

    Great advice, Carol. I am an English teacher with hopes of one day transitioning into some freelance writing in the future. I have a personal blog but am new to the overwhelming world of web writing. I read Copyblogger frequently and that article you mentioned is how I found your blog; I subscribed shortly thereafter. Thanks for such accessible advice!

  11. Rob Berman says:

    I have guest posted on three blogs so far. I am focusing more this year on getting guest posts on my blog so I can raise my posts from 1 to 2 per week. If I get enough guest posts then I might have time to create more guest posts. Any suggestions for guest posting guidelines as I work through the mechanics?

    Thanks,

    Rob

    • Carol Tice says:

      Sure Rob — I know Problogger has theirs under a handy tab. And you can see my guidelines here. Guess I’m doing the same thing — I’m starting to have guest posts here, which allows me to deliver more information to readers, while freeing a little of my time to guest post on bigger sites.

      It’s definitely worth having guidelines in my experience — I got a lot of weird, over-the-transom submissions before I put my guidelines in, none of which I could use. It’s a real time-saver.

  12. Guest posting is great for the person who really wants to make that next big steps..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”
    TrafficColeman recently posted..Stop Wasting Money Advertising

  13. Great tips.. I always kept thinking about the guest blog post but was never able to do.
    But after reading this tips I have got an idea… i have written many good articles but couldn’t reap much benefit.
    Now I will try this

  14. randyxabbott says:

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  15. alvinxsmith says:

    I am the first time visit here on this site and consequently to start with i only desire to would say good morning to all person

  16. Brian says:

    Guest blogging is one of the most important ways to bring new traffic to your site, to build links and such. While the amount of traffic may not be much, consider that you are at least getting your face and brand out there so the next time the visitor bumps into your site they will likely stay longer and feel like they should trust you and read thru more articles or that you are a full of knowledge in your industry.
    Brian recently posted..Choosing The Right Logo For Your New Business

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