The question I often get asked about is: what to look out for before guest posting on major sites? People want to know if guest posting is the real deal, and if they would need a specific strategy, before approaching the big sites.
I have two answers for them:
If done right, guest posting can bring so much traffic that it could freeze your web server and make you jump up and down like a kid in a candy store.
If done wrong, it can waste your time and may even lower your confidence in yourself. Next thing you know, you quit, and start looking for the next best thing.
The norm with guest posting works like this:
The profile of the average guest blogger is either a solo freelance writer, or someone hired by a company to write and submit content on their behalf.
Both ways, the approach is similar…
The writer lacks a system of researching for relevant sites. Most guest post authors are randomly selecting sites, looking to land guest posting opportunities for back-links – and because of that, they are caring less about the relevancy of the site.
The right way to guest post for back-links is to actually look up and research related posts and diversify your hyperlinks. Otherwise, Google will catch on to your method and will either penalize your rankings, or they might not even take into account the extra back-links.
This guy’s 6-month experiment proves how guest blogging for inbound links works better than generating direct (referral) traffic, and details the right way of doing it…
The result of the challenge was an increase of 100+ daily visitors from search just 10 days after the challenge, and a total increase of around 60,000 visitors from search just 6 months after the challenge. That works out to be around 2,000 visitors per guest post in 6 months from publication, when the highest I’ve ever gotten from any guest post on a big blog is 1,500 visitors; and these days, I get less than 10% of that from most big blogs.
How to inspect the top sites, extensively, before writing for them…
It’s painful to have your guest post rejected, or bring little results from your efforts. That’s what happens when you lack a proper system of identifying the right sites.
In order to help YOU overcome these challenges and find relevant blogs to guest post on, I’ve created the largest online acronym you can read next.
Alexa ranking is a key factor (but not the most important, nor the only one) when determining if a top blog is worth guest posting for. Their proprietary system ranks sites on the number of visits and page view numbers. It doesn’t reflect the quality of the traffic though.
For example, Google, Facebook and YouTube are the top 3 ranked sites by Alexa.
A site with Alexa ranking of 100 is more popular (and better for you to post on) than one with a 5,000 rank. Major blogs (in most industries) have an Alexa ranking under 25,000.
CopyBlogger for example ranks at 3,580.
Major exposure is what all guest authors crave for.
All the large sites out there have their Facebook, Twitter, and RSS numbers show up, publicly. This gives you an estimate of the average audience. Check them out, and make notes.
What’s the average number of comments per post? This will give you an idea of how active the blog community is, and their particular needs, wants and issues.
Is the blog you aim for an authority in the field? Does it offer unique views and talk on a specific topic or subject? Not all blogs are niche oriented. Some might blog on freelance writing, SEO or affiliate marketing. Others are more general, and write on all these topics combined.
If you want to stand out, find your niche, and guest post on general sites to attract a wider audience interested in your sub-niche topic.
Some large and bigger sites are news centered. That means your content needs to cover current topics and seasoned events. If your objective is to create content that gets recurring, long-term traffic, then stick with sites accepting ever-green posts.
Focus on the audience
It’s not easy to understand your audience when it’s not yours. It takes time to read past blog posts and grasp the (recurring and unique) needs, wants and challenges of the people you aim to write for. You have to feel the readers you’re publishing for, otherwise all the other aspects I’ll cover next will not help much.
The guidelines page is the first thing you should be looking at after checking Alexa, comments and audience numbers. Read that page with close attention. Stick to their rules, and you’ll increase your chance to have your post approved and published.
Most bloggers don’t get their post accepted on large sites because they don’t read or overlook the guidelines.
Before writing your guest post, even before pitching your content ideas, you need to research past articles, and make note of the most appealing headlines. Why do they attract your attention? Which ones make you click? Which ones don’t? Copy-cat the winning model and form your headline writing style. The headline is the actual title for your guest post.
By reading the guidelines page you can see if the publisher allows links pointing to other pages or posts on your web site. This will help strengthening your overall page rank and Google rankings. If not, inspect previous guest posts and notice if the author has embed self-serving links. That’s a sign the site could accept your links, if they’re relevant, useful and complementary to your post.
Pay close attention to how the audience of the blog you aim to write for is talking. Inspect past approved guest posts.
Is the language clean and common? Is the author using any industry specific lingo? Give thought to these little details, otherwise your content might not sound right, or it might not express the right meaning.
Example: if you want to write on blogging related topics, then you have to understand and master the specific terminology (e.g. WP dashboard, plugins, php code, widgets, etc.)
Keyword research is the oxygen of your guest post. Target the right, relevant key terms and you stand a chance of getting more traffic from your guest posts. Inspect previous guest posts, and notice if the authors bold and italicize their keywords. That’s a sign of “on-page” optimization. It plays a significant role in search engine ranking, along with other factors like back-links, and co-occurrence.
You’ve probably already noticed some big sites managing their comments using a plugin called CommentLuv. This is an advantage for both the publisher and its readers, as more people will want to comment if they’re given the “keyword insertion” and “latest post featuring” benefits.
Open Site Explorer is a useful tool I use to compare the number and quality of any blog’s backlinks and top pages. It helps analyze the web site you want to write for, and find their top popular content.
All these tools will help you identify the high “authority” sites worth guest posting to. This doesn’t mean you have to base your selection criteria on such metrics alone.
Without a concrete strategy, guest posting would be another method of getting traffic that may or not work. Your mission is to estimate the average number of monthly sites you need to guest post for in order to reach your goals (Google rankings, traffic numbers, leads, sales, etc.)
Nobody knows this better than you. You know your numbers, if you reverse engineer your marketing and funnel system. Tracking conversions with Google Analytics or Clicky plays a key role here.
What’s your monthly quota?
You might need 10 back-links, if you solely guest post for search engine rankings. You might need 100 leads if you are into the mortgage industry. Or, you might need to drive 50 sales if you have your own product, (or add 20 members to your monthly recurring program.) Based on your needs, you’ll be able to define a clear objective, and then work your way up to achieving the numbers and conversions.
Once again, analytics tools are essential. You’ll know precisely which blog brings the most traffic compared with the best visitors that generate sales, leads or whatever. It also gives you the keywords people type in to find you on the search engines, and other insightful data. True gold nuggets!
I prefer to look up for blogs with a page rank of minimum 3. This doesn’t mean I’ll completely neglect the rest. However, when you’re starting to guest post for top sites, it’s good to aim for page rank 3+ sites, and at the same time, take into account all the other metrics and issues covered herein.
NOTE: a high PR blog doesn’t necessarily mean that the site receives high traffic, unless their Alexa ranking is low at the same time.
Quantcast is a comprehensive analytics service, giving you free access into other people’s site metrics including visitor, traffic stats, and demographics.
Armed with this info, you will know how to better write for a particular site and its audience. Never skip this site when writing for top blogs.
Look out for the relation between the audience (their wants, needs, and challenges) and your expertise. Your content should fill in the gap between the two.
Leo, co-founder of BufferApp knew what their Twitter tool was capable of, and how its features and advantages can benefit a wide range of audiences, not just Twitter users, or Twitter related blogs. No wonder his guest posting efforts brought the company 100k customers within a year.
Always look out for the “relevancy” factor when guest posting for big blogs. You’ll be able to find sites which are not related to your niche, but quite relevant to your ideas, products, services or tools.
With this approach, you can see correlations between sites that have nothing to do with each other altogether. Like, fitness and business, Yoga and blogging, or technology and dog training.
How skilled and knowledgeable is the audience you’ll be talking to?
Based on your previous research, you’ll be able to determine the average skills and knowledge level: beginner, intermediary or advanced. And you’ll be writing accordingly.
Example: if you wanted to write for MenWithPens, you will not share basic insights with an advanced audience, understand?
By reading each blog’s (guest posting) guidelines page and noticing the average guest post length, you’ll be able to estimate the average time it’ll take you to research and write your guest post. Doing so, you can prepare in advance, and not get caught on stressful deadlines or juggle with multiple posts a day.
I prefer to write one post a day, maximum two, in order to produce quality, and meaty content.
How often is the blog publishing new content? Big blogs usually come up with at least one post a week, if not two. Some larger blogs publish daily. There are pro and cons to both models. You could also target those big blogs that haven’t posted in weeks (for various reasons) and propose some content ideas.
Are the top blogs you aim writing for embedding infographics, illustrations, cartoons or videos within their content? You’ll have a higher chance to get your guest post accepted if you can produce or obtain the rights of such within your own content.
I’m not talking about the “standard” type of graphics such as photos and snapshots. Most, if not all major blogs are already using these elements to add the extra touch to their content. The visuals I referred to are the next element that most blogs are missing.
The best guest authors are individuals who are always on the look out for not just sharing information, but inspiring and arousing an audience through their content. Did you ever think to use comics and cartoons within your posts? The advantages are multiple: you’ll stand out, motivate readers and stir audiences.
What we can do is check out TheOatMeal and other similar sites for inspiration. Then work with an artist to create custom cartoons and comics that features your link. You’ll also benefit from additional traffic and brand exposure. Using “ready-made” cartoons or comics won’t have this advantage.
Even the top blogs in the industry will sometimes cover the same subjects or copy what their competitors are writing about. You’ll stand a higher chance to have your guest post more than welcomed when coming up with new angles and unexpected ideas.
Find the “relevancy” factor!
For example you could inject (relevant) stories and anecdotes within your guest post, and add that personal flavor. Or, make (viable) connections with two unrelated topics.
Chinese philosophy teaches us the interconnection and interdependence of contrary forces like female and male, dark and light, cold and hot, etc.
Look out for the Yin-Yang elements on the blogs which you’re targeting. Read the latest guest posts.
Are there any elements left out? Are there any explanations not fully covered?
Did an author talk only on the pros of a subject? Did the blog not cover all of them?
You can take charge, and bring new elements or explanations through a new guest post. That’s your advantage, go for it!
What happens when you get out of your comfort zone?
You feel anxious, and probably insecure, right?
You don’t feel confident when having to write on a topic which you’re not that knowledgeable about, right?
You don’t feel at ease when having to think about how to connect two unrelated topics and create new meanings.
You don’t feel good when you have to take an extra step and enhance your content.
We’re used to staying within our comfort zone. The same with everybody else! That’s why they’ll not get different or remarkable results.
Want to succeed with guest posting? Get out of your comfort zone. There’s no other option. You have to up your thinking, writing and research skills all together.
This is the most important yet hardest advice to implement. Start with this one first, I’d say.
No more excuses! These ideas will help you to identify the right blogs and guest post for results.
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”