Guest Blogging for Links and Traffic: My Five-Step Process for Getting Published on Top Publications
It’s been over four years now since Matt Cutts famously declared, “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done.”
According to Matt Cutts, at the time, guest blogging has been overdone and is mostly abused as a spammy tactic for link building — and it is pretty much dead.
A few things have happened since then, for those who have been paying careful attention:
- Matt Cutts no longer works at Google.
- Guest blogging is far from dead.
In fact, for followers of this blog, it is no secret that guest blogging is Sean’s favorite link building tactic for the following reasons:
- It gives the opportunity to gain links.
- It gives you access to a larger audience.
- It improves your author rank.
There are many more benefits of guest blogging. It is also my favorite link building and marketing tactic, and if you pay careful attention to Cutt’s post published four years ago, it is very clear that the kind of guest blogging he is denouncing is the low-quality, spammy kind of guest blogging.
Real guest blogging, the kind that focuses on getting quality backlinks on relevant, authoritative blogs isn’t just alive, but it is growing stronger.
Below are some examples of what I’m talking about:
(my guest post on Business Insider)
(my guest post on Adweek)
(my guest post on Entrepreneur)
(my guest post on The Next Web)
I could go on an on with the list of screenshots, but without boring you suffice it to say that I’ve been published and syndicated on some of the biggest publications in the world: Fast Company, CNBC, Yahoo, Glassdoor, and Upwork are just some of the other notable publications I’ve been featured in.
Like Sean, guest blogging is my favorite link building tactic. It’s been my main method of promoting my site where I review web hosts, and it’s one of the most effective content marketing techniques I know of for achieving strong backlinks, quality endorsement, traffic, and exposure all at once.
Over the years, I’ve perfected a process for getting published on some of the biggest publications in the world, and I believe this process can help you get published almost anywhere. In this article, I’ll break down my process for you:
Step #1: Compile Your List of Target Blogs
My first step for guest blogging is compiling a list of target blogs I plan to write for. When compiling a list of target blogs, I focus on two things:
- Ensuring that the target site is really authoritative; generally, I tend to use Ahrefs Domain Ratings (DR) to determine which site to guest post on, and I tend to focus on sites with a DR of 70 or more.
- Ensuring that the target site is relevant; in certain cases, I go for really strong, general sites like the media publications earlier referenced.
To find target sites, I use a variety of techniques:
- I use relevant Google search queries to find target blogs. E.g. marketing blog + “write for us,” marketing blog + “guest post by,” or some other query similar to this that will lead me to the guest post guidelines of a blog or to guest posts by other authors on that blog.
- When I notice the name of a particular guest author appears on two or more key blogs in my niche, I do a Google search on the author’s name + guest post to find guest posts by that author on other blogs. I then filter the list of the blogs to determine which of these blogs I want to use.
- Occasionally, some top publications link to other relevant publications like them, or that are owned by their parent company; I follow these links and vet the publications to see if I am interested in any of them.
Step #2: Carefully Study Your Target Blog
Once I’ve decided on what blog I will be approaching for guest posting, the next step is to carefully study the blog.
When I study a blog, I pay attention to two things:
- The content type the blog likes to publish. Is it case studies? Success stories? How-tos? Top lists?
- The content angle. Does the blog like approaching topics from a controversial angle? A deep dive into very niche topics?
In most cases, it can be difficult to say much about what a blog wants based on content type; most top publications use a mix of content type. The angle a blog uses matters a great deal, though. Some blogs want articles that are carefully articulated opinion pieces and nothing more. Some want deep dive into niche topics backed with research. By the time you review 5 – 10 pieces (preferably by guest authors), you should have an idea of the angle a publication prefers.
Step #3: Identify the Editor of Your Target Blog
Once I’ve decided on the content approach I will be using with a blog or publication, the next step is to identify the editor of that publication.
I know, most blogs tell you to use a submissions form or to send an email to a particular submissions email. Some even go far to tell you that if you do otherwise you won’t be hearing back. The problem is that you do just that and hear nothing.
What has been most effective for me is identifying individual editors of the blog I intend to target and pitching them directly. In very few instances, some have directed me back to use the submissions form/email. Usually, though, many simply ask me to send an article.
Step #4: Pitch The Editor of Your Target Blog
The next step is to pitch the editor of your target blog. Don’t send draft articles without pitching an editor first; this can be quite problematic. If your article is custom-tailored to them and they decide not to respond, your effort is wasted. If they take too long to respond and you send the piece to another publication that publishes it and they later also publish it, that could be problematic.
It’s better than to pitch the editor of your target blog with an idea first and let them respond before sending them your article.
Most of the pitches — including the ones that got me on top publications like Business Insider — are in the following format:
I’d like to inquire/ask about the steps involved in writing for Your Publication.
I have been published/featured on several top publications including ABC Publication, XYZ Publication, and ETC Publication.
Kindly let me know how to become a Your Publication contributor.
The above approach works for a few reasons:
- I address the editor directly by name; it shows I have done some research.
- I include relevant publications I’ve been featured in for social proof; I tend to get better responses when I do this compared to when I don’t use social proof.
- The email is clear, concise, and to the point.
I don’t include links to samples of my guest posts in my pitch, unless it is specifically requested by a publication, in order to avoid triggering spam filters. Occasionally, I include ideas in the first email if the publication prefers it that way; otherwise, I try to get the editor to respond first before sending ideas to save time.
Step #5: Submit Content that Wows the Editor of Your Target Blog
Finally, it is important to realize that having an editor approve your pitch is no guarantee that your content will be accepted and published.
Once you have editor approval, the only guarantee of publication is by submitting content that wows an editor. Here are some tips:
- Ensure your content is well-researched, well-thought-out, and well-written.
- Longer isn’t better; while most blogs in the marketing industry might prefer comprehensive posts 1,200 words or longer, editors at top publications like The Next Web and Business Insider would prefer something in the neighborhood of 700 – 1,000 words. Make sure your post isn’t longer than what your editor will prefer.
- Pay careful attention to the formatting requirements of the publication and format accordingly. Do they prefer shorter paragraphs? Use of sentence case? What is their policy on headings and bullets? Etc.
- What is their policy on links? Internal and external links?
- What is their policy on image use?
It is very important to consider all of the above factors and write your content accordingly to ensure your content is accepted and published after an editor has approved it.
Spammy guest blogging is dead, but the kind of guest blogging that focuses on publishing useful, well-thought-out guest posts on authoritative blogs based on the steps outlined above is still very well alive. With the above tips, you can take your guest blogging from average/below average to excellent.
John Stevens is the founder and CEO of Hosting Facts.