Over the past few years, content marketing has become the weapon of choice in the search engine marketing world with guest blogging solidifying itself as an integral part of successful content marketing strategies across the globe.
Guest blogging has for many digital marketers become an excellent way to increase traffic to their blog and significantly boost awareness of their content. By blogging for popular niche blogs or by entering into an agreement with a third party blogger to write a guest post for publication on their media network, bloggers of all shapes and sizes are taking advtage of the guest blogging process. However as simple as it sounds, there are a number of essential elements you need to be aware of before formalizing any agreement between yourself and a third party.
To assist in developing such an agreement as part of your content marketing strategy, we’ve developed this guide to help you manage the process more effectively and have provided some in depth advice on how you can best select candidates for opportunities to post articles on your blog.
Accepting Guest Bloggers
When you decide that it’s time to start thinking about publishing guest posts on your blog, you need to be aware of what you’re actually trying to achieve. You need to ask yourself, what is my strategy, what is my end-game, why do I want to accept the posts of others on my blog? The good news is that your strategy doesn’t have to be terribly complicated for it to be successful, but you do have to have a very clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve to be successful.
We recommend sticking to the following guidelines when selecting your guest bloggers:
Identify what the guest blogger has to offer you first
Guest bloggers come in all shapes and sizes. Some write content for niche audiences which get lots of highly targeted traffic, some come with strong social media followings, some write for broader less targeted audiences (like mainstream media), and others may be up-and-coming writers which have a different kind of following you can capitalize on. Either way, you have to do your research on each writer individually.
The niche blogger
In the event you identify a blogger with a strong targeted audience (preferably in your field of interest) you firstly need to examine what the value proposition on the table is and how this may be built upon over time. If you can find a niche blogger with strong set of written skills, an ethical background, and one who has an excellent knowledge of their field of interest, this is an amazing opportunity for you if you can successfully approach this individual to post a guest article for you.
Because niche bloggers are already talking to your ideal customer, this is a great way to promote yourself to that audience. By successfully receiving a post from an author who has a strong targeted niche audience, there is a solid likelihood they will mention the post on their social media platform of choice or blog, and that means a link to your content. If you can ensure that the quality of the content is up to scratch and that the post receives good external promotion, you’re going to have a win by associating yourself with a niche blogger.
A blogger with a strong social following
When looking into whether you should accept a particular guest blogger to write for you, always check what they’re saying on social media. Often times this can be very different to what they’re blogging about and can in some cases be detrimental to what you’re trying to achieve. If however you’re blogger is ticking all the right boxes and has a strong, targeted, engaged social following, this is a big bonus for you because you know they’re going to mention the article they produced for you via their social channels driving traffic to your site(s).
With this in mind, I wouldn’t go as far to say that I would completely discount a guest blogger during my selection process if they didn’t have a Twitter or Facebook account they were using professionally, but it would definitely weigh heavily on my mind and leave me asking questions. Even if the writing was top notch, this is going to leave a big, gaping hole in my ability to market the post, and I’m going to lose a lot of ability to drive a newly engaged audience. However, like I said, not a definite no, but definitely not a good thing unless their blog is very powerful or they have a strong public awareness of their writing.
When analyzing a guest bloggers social following, also consider that just because they have thousands of followers on Twitter or a ton of fans on Facebook, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be of any use to you. You’re much better off finding a blogger who has a targeted audience likely to share the content of someone they already like, rather than someone who has either artificially built a follower base on a particular social network, or has a less targeted audience.
Mainstream media, the golden goose of guest blogging
Writers who write for mainstream media often get drafted from the blogging ranks and quickly find themselves with access to large, highly engaged audiences across their employer’s mainstream media outlet, resulting in high traffic levels on their own personal social media account. If you can manage to receive a guest post from a mainstream writer, this is great thing because all sorts of people follow commercially visible identities.
Now mainstream media may not reach the sorts of targeted audiences a niche blogger might, but generally the numbers they reach will frequently be much higher. Coupled with the fact that you will receive recognition because a mainstream media writer is willing to work with you, is also going to help you grow your blog out of sight. However remember, even though a mainstream writer brings a lot to the table, you’re in charge and the quality of the content being produced must still remain exactly where it should be. This can mean many things of course, but try to stand your ground and set the expectations for the quality of work. By doing so you’ll quickly receive the respect (and visitors) you deserve opening up a fresh new landscape for you to play in.
One of the most important factors when accepting a guest post on your blog is that it’s of high quality. There’s no point publishing a large number of articles if they’re incoherent, irrelevant, and filled with spammy links the author is trying to use to build backlinks to their website. What you want to do prior to initiating a contract between yourself and a guest blogger is agree on what the criteria for writing for your publication is. This can be as simple as an email, or as complex as a legal agreement determining who owns the content and how any damages may be handled, but you need to get your house in order before any words which aren’t your own make it onto your web pages.
As a guide, the following checklist should help maintain the quality of your guest posts:
- Clearly outline the number of words you require for your guest post. We recommend nothing shorter than 1000 words.
- Outline the maximum number of links the author can include in the blog post to sites affiliated with them.
- Clearly outline the topic, and from what perspective the article should be written. You need to ensure the post is in line with what you’re trying to achieve as a publisher.
- Outline the requirements in terms of images for the post. Who will provide what, will there be any images? Are there any costs associated?
- Clearly define the approval process for setting guest blog posts live.
- Mention that overly keyword dense articles will not be approved.
- Negotiate a guest author profile to sit at the top/bottom of posts (this may include a short summary and head shot).
Generally 3 is a good guide (including a link from their author profile).
The economy of scale
If you run a relatively new blog or website with a small or growing audience, then you’re going to have to work harder to attract guest bloggers to write for you than a more established publisher. The client has to see the value in what you’re offering, otherwise why would they bother? This can be hard if you’re traffic is low, and you’re just starting out, but you need to dig deep and sell yourself.
Bloggers who write for well-known sites are generally great assets to have because their popularity and audiences help to grow your audience, and sometimes by association alone. If you’re starting out (give it a few months before trying this) and want to attract a prominent guest blogger, we recommend the following:
- Create a spreadsheet with 50 websites or sources you identify as having a quality writer ideal for your blog.
- Contact each individually and personalize the message.
- You’ll generally receive a low response rate starting out, but it’s very likely that at least someone will want to write for you to boost their following.
- You must sell yourself i.e. “Our site traffic has grown 70% in the last 2 months and climbing”
- Identify your readers as highly targeted to their audience and a great audience to reach.
- Offer your services in return for a guest post. Maybe a guest blog of your own or a free subscription to a product or service you offer?
- Showcase your works through an online portfolio of your content.
Most commonly, even if you receive zero confirmations of a guest blog post initially, you’ll increase awareness in your industry of your products and services, and in my experience, open up many new opportunities. This is a great way to promote yourself and reach out to the wider community in your niche, and an invaluable tool to propel yourself forward, and position your blog as the place to go for a particular subject matter.
Guest Blogging for External Sources
Guest blogging for external sources is as equally as important as receiving guest posts on your own blog. Accessing an engaged, directly relevant audience is very important, so you want to put your best foot forward when an opportunity comes up to guest post on another blog. But just as you would when accepting content from other bloggers, you need to have your wits about you when selecting which publishers you want to associate with.
Developing a selection criteria for guest blogging
Before accepting just any guest blogging opportunity that comes your way, you need to reflect on whether the blog is the right fit for you. By associating yourself with like-minded, or similarly skilled and successful entrepreneurs such as yourself, you’re likely to boost the chances of being asked by other media outlets to write for them.
By keeping good company, or at very least thinking strategically about where you spend your valuable time and effort, you can really optimize the outcome of your external marketing. As a guide, we recommend considering the following items before accepting any opportunities:
- Does the blog have an active, relevant and engaged audience?
- If so, do they have a quality social media engagement?
- Am I likely to be reaching an audience which I can capitalize on and convert to customers?
- By writing for this blog, what am I achieving? Is it exposure, brand awareness, or am I contributing to a well-recognized brand with something to say I like?
- Does the company/blog have affiliations with other parties I may be interested in collaborating with?
Quality controlling your own content
To quote the bible, “Do to others as you would have them do onto you”. This simple yet incredibly poignant statement sums up how you should approach your guest blogging. Just as you’d like a subject matter expert to provide you with a comprehensive guest post, with interesting discussion points and insights, you should provide them with the same.
When given an opportunity for essentially free promotion, take advantage of it. Don’t just pump out some sub-par content, make it count. The better, more comprehensively you cover the topic you’re given, the more recognition and attention you’ll receive. Remember, you’re being asked to write an article because you have something to say, and you want to reach a new audience. The worst thing you can do is disappoint the blog owner who has been kind enough to offer you an opportunity by submitting a spam filled, lack luster piece. Position yourself as a subject matter expert, a go-to person who others will clamber over to hear your insights. Remember the end-game, not the quick and fast couple of back-links or profile mention. You’ll achieve an enormous amount more by following this route.
Sometimes the phone just doesn’t ring (or the emails stop coming in), so you have to get out there and make things happen. Generally when trying to guest blog, the good news is that if you offer to do a guest post for someone free of charge, and you have a solid background, it’s much easier for you to get a gig than if you were trying to attract writers to your blog (unless you’re massively popular).
When reaching out to blog owners, don’t be too desperate about it, but certainly not shy either. You may be trying to generate interest at this point in time, but remember your selection criteria and that you have a great value proposition. Treat the process the same as if the blogger has just approached you. View each guest blogging opportunity as a chance to build something amazing, and provide examples of other guest posts you have done to reassure the blog owner of the quality of your work. By reassuring the blog owner that they’ll be benefiting from the transaction, you’re giving them every reason to say yes, as oppose to no.
Because blogging is all about content marketing, you want to be clear about what both parties should expect in return when entering into an agreement to publish a guest blog post. Regardless of whether the post is being published on your blog or a third parties, you need to be clear about what promotional activities each party needs to undertake to hold up their end of the agreement.
Items you will want to consider may include:
- Which social media channels each party is required to promote the content piece on, and the number of times the content should be mentioned.
- Whether any links from a corporate website will be put in place i.e. from a Media Section
- Who owns the content? Is this you, the third party, and does either have the right to reproduce the content in any shape?
- Whether any other media channels such as print will be used?
- Can third party spokesperson talk to the media about your content or should enquiries be directed to you?
These are of course just a few recommendations for inclusion in a promotional agreement. However ensuring you market the content effectively and have a plan in place to handle enquiries is a vital part to operating a well-run guest blogging process and should certainly not be overlooked. By developing a promotional agreement both you and a third party can utilize, you’re increasing the likelihood that everything will run smoothly, and also boost the chances of increased collaboration and exchange of ideas.
By publishing content from subject matter experts on your site, you’re able to increase the awareness of your site via third party marketing, boost content levels, and hopefully achieve some quality search rankings in the process. If carefully handled, you can directly provide your audience the knowledge and experience garnered by subject matters experts separate to that of your staff with often fascinating experience and insights to offer.
Guest blogging is also an excellent way for you to connect with new audiences external to your own publishing space. When blogging for an external party, you have an amazing opportunity to reach a new audience and show them how talented you are. By stepping up and providing a third party blog with quality content, you’re building valuable relationships with new and interesting contacts which may prove to be highly lucrative as you develop your online presence over time.