This guest post is by Tom Ewer of Leaving Work Behind.
Guest posting is a hot topic amongst startup bloggers. It is one of the most widely-adopted blog promotion strategies in existence, and has been made perhaps even more popular by the success of “serial” guest posters such as Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.
His “blitzkrieg” strategy may come across to some as a triumph of quantity over strategy, but nothing could be further from the truth. He understands the key concepts that we will be exploring in this post, and executes them in a highly effective manner. Whilst I am by no means as prolific as Danny, I have done my fair share of guest posting (those ten posts only being selection).
If you care to read any of the numerous guest posting guides available across the blogosphere, you will typically read about advice relating to the same two topics:
- how to find guest posting opportunities
- how to get your post approved.
That is what beginner bloggers want to know, as they assume that a successfully published blog post is a job well done. However, attracting a visitor to your site¬†only represents a job half done. The ultimate success of guest posting is determined by a key fundamental cherished by marketers worldwide: the conversion.
What is a conversion?
Contrary to what some people seem to think, attracting a visitor to your site via a guest post does not represent a successful conversion.¬†When I talk of conversions, I am talking along the lines of email subscribers, social media followers, and/or ¬†sales. A conversion (1) increases your income, (2) results in the acquisition of an asset, or (3) achieves both. Whilst a sale offers you immediate income, an email address has intrinsic value too (it is an asset to your blog).
Don’t believe me? You only have to read the news. A lawsuit was recently filed by a company seeking damages against a previous employee relating to a Twitter account. The following is an excerpt from a New York Times article:
[The company is] seeking damages of $2.50 a month per follower for eight months, for a total of $340,000.
Now it will be interesting to see what precedent (if any) is set by this case, but the key thing to bear in mind is the concept that a social media account has an intrinsic value. Even more specifically, a value has been placed upon each and every follower. A social media account is an asset in the right hands, as is an email list. And the investment you place in guest posting can offer you a direct return in terms of asset growth.
I don’t want to get too deep into marketing fundamentals here, but this post is written with the understanding that you know what you want from your guest posting strategy. And that is to get more conversions. So with that said, let’s take a look at the six steps that lead to conversion-heavy guest posts.
People get hung up on the size of blogs that they plan to guest post on. It is not unusual to hear “I’ll only write for a blog if it has more than 3,000 subscribers,” along with similar statements, based upon arbitrary numbers. But the size of the blog is not nearly as important as its relevance.
When targeting blogs for which you can write a guest post that converts, you need to find common ground. There needs to be a point at which the majority of the combined readership intersects. This is far more of an art than a science, but there is a sliding scale when it comes to selecting the right blog to guest post on.
You could argue that it is better to write on a huge blog with less relevance than a small blog with high relevance, but I don’t think that debate can be resolved one way or the other. You may as well ask how long a piece of string is. Having said that, I am personally far more comfortable writing for a blog where the subject matter aligns closely.
There is in fact a whole other side to relevance that I have not yet covered. More on that later.
You may never have considered this, but the quality of the blog upon which you guest post can make all the difference. I once wrote a guest post for a particular blog that was highly relevant to my niche. I felt very confident about its ability to offer me a solid number of conversions.
Unfortunately, the blog was somewhat unloved (I’m being kind here), with a completely inconsistent posting schedule. Not in a Social Triggers, “the post will come when it will come, and it will be awesome” kind of way, but in a “I have no idea when the next post is coming, and I don’t really care” kind of way. The blog author was clearly too preoccupied to put any effort into the post, and threw it up at completely the wrong time of day with little to no active promotion whatsoever.
That guest post offered little traffic, and by extension, few conversions. Just to give you a bit of context, the blog in question has an Alexa traffic rank of around 50,000, and its Twitter account has over 10,000 followers.
The lesson is clear: only post on blogs that are well-loved. If a blogger doesn’t love their blog, its subscribers certainly won’t. And by extension, you will receive little to no traffic.
This point takes me back to the typical argument that states you should only post on high-traffic blogs, and reminds me that as an absolute statement, it offers no value. A big, defining factor in how successful your guest post will be is how active the blog’s community is. Blogs with a relatively high comment count usually indicate a high level of engagement. If a blog’s community is highly engaged with the owners’ posts, they are far more likely to take interest in a guest post.
On a blog with a readership that respects its author, your post will carry a level of preordained value. The reader likes what the author does, the author likes what you do, therefore the reader should also like what you do.
I was taught this lesson in a big way with one of my more recent guest posts. I wrote a post that was highly relevant to both audiences, submitted it and waited to see the results of my labor. The results were a six-fold increase in visits over my average guest post and an elevated conversion rate. This blog was in fact of a similar size in terms of readership to the one mentioned above. The difference was in the quality, and in the engagement. Each of the author’s posts attracts numerous comments, and you can see that his readers hung off every morsel of advice handed out. That passion transferred nicely to my post.
But that post wasn’t successful solely because of high engagement levels. As I already mentioned, the quality of the blog was high, but there was another beneficial factor at play. Which was…
Generally speaking, a high volume of posts is beneficial to a blog. The more posts, the higher the exposure. However, that does not prove to be the case when it comes to guest posting.
If your guest post gets lost below the fold within a few hours or just a day, its exposure will be highly limited. And even a high-quality post can’t fight against a lack of exposure. Content may be king, but marketing is its overbearing queen.
There are of course clear exceptions, but the relative lack of exposure must be married with a high readership (which is of course the case with ProBlogger).
You can suffer from a lack of exposure even when volume is relatively low. If you come across a poor-quality blog, you may well find that a blogger has no problem with publishing your guest post literally hours before publishing a post of his own, almost as an afterthought (yes, this happened to me).
Part of a guest post’s success relies upon its exposure, so make sure that the post you have put a great deal of work into actually appears above the fold for a reasonable amount of time.
Now we get into the tactics regarding the actual makeup of your post. I am not talking about the importance of spelling and grammar (although they are of course key considerations). I am talking about writing posts that stand out from the crowd.
Let’s be honest: most posts you see are a dime a dozen. But that actually works to your advantage—you just need to work that little bit longer to set yourself apart. Let’s take a look at the factor you need to consider.
Surprise with size
There is this strange misconception floating around the web that you must write short blog posts. As you might have gathered from the length of this post, I do not subscribe to that belief. If you are writing interesting and engaging content, people will find the time to read it.
Make it pretty
Since your post is going to be long, you don’t want to intimidate readers with long blocks of text. Regardless of how fascinating your insights are, you’re writing a blog post—not a book. Don’t try to fight the system!
So take some time to make your post pretty. Break your writing down into short paragraphs, and allow the reader to scan your text by highlighting important words and sentences with bold and italics (if permitted by the blog owner). Include plenty of sub-headers, and insert colorful and interesting images.
Write for engagement
There are two post styles that consistently perform well, regardless of how fed up you are with them as a writer. If you are going to guest post, you will get the most traction from stories and list posts.
We all know why list posts are so successful—they are highly scannable, great for sharing, and appeal to our natural desire for actionable elements. The exact same content presented in paragraph format would tank when compared to a list post format. People want to know what they are getting from reading your article—a list post appeals to that desire.
Stories are good for two reasons when it comes to guest posting. First of all, everyone loves a good story. When Darren Rowse spoke at Blog World Expo 2011, he remarked that story-driven posts are the ones that people seem to remember the most.
The introduction of a story to a post achieves two key things:
- It creates a connection. With a story, you are no longer simply words on a screen—you are a human being.
- They arouse our natural desire for closure. If you leave someone hanging, they are going to be far more likely to head over to your blog to find out more.
Now we are getting down to the nuts and bolts of what will attract visitors to your blog. The purpose of your post is to prime the reader; the purpose of the byline is to sell them on their time investment in visiting your blog. If you write a generic byline, expect a generic amount of traffic to hit your blog.
You need to appeal to what the reader wants in your byline. They don’t care that you are the writer of so-and-so blog and that you have a Facebook page. They want to know what clicking on your link is worth to them. What do you have to offer them?
This ties in closely with relevance. If the two blogs share a common topic, the byline should write itself to a extent.
Take what you’re reading right now as an example. ProBlogger “helps bloggers to add income streams to their blogs” (I’ve taken that from the About page). My blog is all about how to quit your job and work for yourself—and one of the main focuses is on professional blogging. This post is about guest posting, which ties in closely with the topic of professional blogging.
When everything aligns in such a way, the byline serves to simply make that alignment clear and leave the rest up to the reader.
Despite it being the last entry on the list, this is easily one of most important factors to bear in mind. You can do a great job on all the other points, but if you’re not ready for your visitor when they arrive, it could all be for naught.
When a visitors chooses to click on your link, they want more of what they have just seen. If the link leads them to your blog’s front page, where you recently posted about unrelated topics, they will quickly lose interest. You absolutely must direct the visitor to exactly what they are looking for.
So with that in mind, I am a big fan of landing pages. If you have a related product and/or mailing list, let it be the first thing they see when they arrive on your site. Remove all distractions and have them focus on the relevant piece of information, which is arguably precisely what they are looking for.
In terms of targeted visitors, you can’t do much better than guest post traffic. By virtue of the fact that they have clicked through to your site, they want to read more of the same—all you need to do is facilitate that for them.
You have two choices, depending on how hard you want to work. The first option is to direct them to the relevant part of your site. For instance, say your blog was divided up into five categories, and you wrote a guest post relating to one of those categories. Instead of sending your guest post readers to the homepage, you would direct them straight to the category page (which would of course be customized with some introductory text and a breakdown of the most popular posts).
Whilst that is an effective tactic for “hooking” the visitor, its conversion rate will not be too impressive. Such a reader may choose to bookmark you and come back at later date, or they may sign up to your RSS feed. They may even sign up to your email list. But it is all incidental—not designed.
The really high conversion rates can be found in producing a targeted landing page that incentivizes the reader to sign up to your list. Such an incentive would typically be in the form of a product—like a free guide or resource. For instance, say you wrote an article on blue widgets. Your byline would link back to a landing page offering a free guide on blue widgets in return for an email address.
Obviously, it will not be practical for you to write a new product for every guest post you write. But you can usually produce something that aligns well with multiple guest posts, and it can also be used elsewhere (say as a incentive for your standard mailing list forms).
If you follow this tactic along with the other six I have covered in this post, I am highly confident that you will see dramatically improved conversion rates from your guest posting efforts.
The key is in the testing
I have covered a lot of ground here, and have hopefully given you a lot to take away and experiment with. But remember this: there is no proven formula when it comes to guest posting. Your success will be determined by how well you implement the above advice, how often you guest post, and how quickly you learn from your experiences.
Tom Ewer is an avid blogger and internet marketer who quit his job at the end of last year to pursue his passions full-time. He recently released a free eBook: The Complete Guide To Guest Posting, which, if this post is anything to judge by, is pretty darned comprehensive. Download it now!
I’ll have to give this a go. I think the main hurdle will be finding another blog that suitably aligns with my content. It will certainly be worth some research though. Thanks for the advice!
Great points and fresh perspective about a much talked about topic..
I think one of the most overlooked advantages of guest posting is the opportunity to improve your writing by getting fresh feedback. Your regular blog readers are used to your writing style and obviously are happy with it. When you expose your work to a new audience, you get the opinions of people who may have never seen your previous work, so they can give you an unbiased review of your writing.
That’s a great point – as bloggers we should always be trying to improve our writing skills, and guest posting is a great way of doing that. Thanks for contributing!
Frankly speaking big volume content wouldn’t be appreciate in many other place such as if the blog is teaching something technical then the article should be on tutorial wise else it couldn’t be negotiable.
WOW Great Thanks
Fantastic post; I especially love the section about engagement. I’ve submitted a guest post for quiet blogs and only received a follow from the blog’s author and no one else. I currently author three blogs and don’t have a lot of time to guest post and I’ve been choosy about who I write for; but when someone asks for a post from me, it’s fun to put something in front of a new audience. I’ve found that videos is a great option, because it can be embed in multiple place without being seen as duplicate content.
Thanks for this great post. It’s a favorite.
Guest posting is not easy and it requires quite a bit of work.
Yes, It takes couple of time to learn Guest Posting tactics. Selecting a blog is major challenge. If your have selected right blog, traffic could become new wave to hit your site.
I can’t argue with you, but when done right, it is highly effective.
It has potential to bring large number of readers and most of us will be using this potential, I think.
I like where you talk about not getting hung up on the size of the blog you are guest posting to. This is a hang-up that I feel can be debilitating.
Niche… Relevance… Authority… These are what you should be looking for in a good blog to guest post on.
I like that brought this up.
Quite right Ryan – I think it’s something a lot of people don’t take into consideration properly.
Hey Tom, great stuff here, and it’s so true.
What’s the point of pouring blood, sweat and tears into your guest posts if they don’t produce any RESULTS (i.e. conversions) for you?
Sure, you get to brag that you’ve been published on Problogger or Copyblogger, but if you didn’t get any new readers out of it, ultimately, it was a waste of time.
I especially appreciate your last point about landing pages. As you said, there are different ways to customize them (by topic, by audience).
Personally, I really like customizing the page to that particular blog’s readers. That’s something I learned about from Jade Craven’s post here on ProBlogger.
I did that with a guest post I did on Pamela Slim’s blog, and it was pretty effective. I got a 42% conversion rate on that page.
For those who are interested in seeing the way I formatted them, here was my guest post, and here was my landing page.
You could even go a step further and include a welcome video on that page. I think that could feel even more personal!
Oops, I left off the http in that first link. Let me try this again:
For those who are interested in seeing the way I formatted things, here was my guest post, and here was my landing page.
What a useful addition to this post – I really like what you did with the landing page. Thank you!
On a guest post you are given a chance to give a first impression to an audience. If they like you, then you have the opportunity to get more subscribers to your email list or RSS feed. If they don’t, then there will be silence.
How ominous ;-)
I like this post. I’m an avid guest blogger and have written well over 500 guest posts since I started. But your insight is too much for me to handle. I’m going to focus more on RELEVANCE, without neglecting “blog love” as you stated. God bless you
500 posts – that is quite incredible!
Just so people know – there was some trouble with the links from this post to my site, but they have been fixed. You should all be able to download my free Guest Posting guide now!
I’ve had pretty good luck in the past guest blogging (including ProBlogger), but there’s only so many hours in a day – especially with a ‘real’ job in the daytime. It is nice to see the spike in visitors, though.
I’m also interested in the other side of the coin, getting guest bloggers. I get a few looks at my ‘Submit an Article’ tab, but very few nibbles.
Anyone have any thoughts?
With the greatest of respect to your blog, people won’t be interested in guest posting until they can predict a healthy return on their time investment. And in my opinion, when you are looking to grow a blog and hit “critical mass” (when people start talking about you without you having to push your blog), all of the content should be your own.
Thanks for this post Tom. I love the way you focused on the ‘technical’ side of guest blogging.
I think it was Seth Godin who said some time ago that every page on your blog is a landing page. In the same way whether it is guest blogging or even posting comments, if you have a page that is relevant to the snippet you’ve posted of other people, use that page as a landing page.
Whether posting on your own blog or another person’s it should always be about the reader. Thanks again for that reminder.
“Every page on your blog is a landing page” – I really like that. Never was a truer word spoken.
Thanks for the advice. I really do need to start setting aside more time in order to create good content for guest blogging.
Attracting people to your blog is just as important as producing content on it.
I really like to share your problem and that I care and 6 in this way has helped me. Thank you.
This is a great way to discuss guest posting. A lot of people talk about why it is important, but don’t stop to explain the significant details involved. You can’t just fire random posts at any blog. A strategy (backed by a fair amount of research it seems) has to be developed to make guest posting worth while.
Quite right Christelle – and don’t forget testing. Getting out there and putting theories into practice is the best way to figure out what works for you.
Great content, I can see how this could generate a “good faith” approach between being relevant and just pumping out content to too broad a niche.
Yep – there are a lot of benefits to guest posting beyond just the traffic (like relationship-building) – it’s always best to go into guest posting with a clear conscious, as it were.
Compelling post — and after just listening to Jon Morrow’s webinar from yesterday, I’m slowly but surely seeing the value in guest posting … but I’m clearly late to the party!
However, I do have a question.
In my situation — I have a relatively narrow niche with few superstars — one of the most popular potential sites to pitch is also flamer-heavy. The site gets plenty of traffic…but it also gets mostly angry, resentful, bitter people reading and commenting.
The question, then: Is it worth it?
I can only imagine I’d get traffic. But my guess: It would NOT be high-quality traffic that drives conversion.
Given the direction of social media, I think many would agree that the old PR saying “Any PR is good PR” is a myth. Is this the same with guest posting? Even if it’s one of our only guest posting options, is it not necessarily a good thing to guest post for a site offering little in return — other than name recognition and an SEO-worthy link?
I’m glad you brought this up. Guest posting is not for all niches. Check this out: http://www.thesaleslion.com/guest-posting-waste-time/
I think that will answer your question :-)
Have any tips for the ideal email pitch to land a guest post?
I am big on simply writing usable, valuable content each day.
The requests will come pouring in as you create super content and network with like-minded bloggers. Leave plenty of value-packed comments on relevant blogs, and the requests will come to you.
Ryan is correct in that you will receive requests as your blog grows, but generally speaking, you need to go after the big boys. I wouldn’t over think the pitch – if you have good content ideas (or a good post ready in waiting), the makeup of your email won’t be that important.
I go into more detail in the eBook you can download from the link in my byline, so you might want to read that.
Ryan – long time no speak – how’s it going?
Relevance and quality are massive factors.
Readers need to be hungry for the content you are feeding them. Keep it relevant, all the time. Do not bother writing guest posts for blogs outside of your niche. The goal is to move into effective acts, and this means leveraging your presence by spending all of your time speaking to your target audience.
Quality. Make your content usable, so readers can digest your work and put it into practice in minutes. No 1500 word posts, or treatises. Keep it short and sweet. The idea is to help, to make a positive impact, and to aid readers in solving their problems in as few words as possible.
Thanks for sharing your insight Tom.
Totally agree on relevance, but there is nothing wrong with 1,500 (or more) word posts. Guys such as Danny Iny and Greg Ciotti have done very well with guest posting by writing more in-depth posts. This post is over 2,000 words long.
Great post and yes, you definitely gave us a lot to take away and think about.
Guest posting is an art in and of itself and it takes a lot of research to do it right. However, I think that we should not forget to follow our instinct and listen to what we think feels right.
Sometimes all the guidelines in the world can be completely wrong for you. Do your homework, but don’t do anything that feels wrong to you.
Totally right Anne-Sophie! Get out there and test theories, and find out what works for you!
hmm, great article, but the title doesn’t deliver, or rather, makes false promises… 6 tactics no one is talking about, well, I can just run a G search and find 50 blog posts talking about them… aside from that, really great article :)
Sometimes you have to take small liberties with headlines to get people to read ;-) a lot of people will have never considered guest posting from this perspective, which is the real point of the headline.
I sometimes love to write a long and short post afterward. It’s more effective to write a useful and long post to guest on others blog. I found out; as a beginner, if I’m constantly keep writing long post. None of my readers are actually care about it and leave no comment on it.
So, I decided to sometimes write a long post but useful and sometimes write a short post but useful to keep my readers on my hand.
Great tips Tom, specific landing pages for your guest posts are a must nowadays if you want to take full advantage of anyone willing to click on your links in the guest post.
Thank you so much for sharing your valuable tips.
Guest posting can be extremly benefitting to people that are failing in an affiliate program. The problem with working online is not that the programs don’t work, but that people can’t get the business in front of enough people to have them join.
If you can deliver some type of valuable content as a guest that attracts readers, your “post” can bring you traffic that are highly interested in learning more about what you have to say. I personally use this strategy and it does help to grow my business.
Many people on the internet are in a business or wanting to make money online. Unfortunately most people don’t know how to market / advertise or know the right business to join. If your struggling and need help with marketing / advertising online let me know at [email protected]
Wow, these were the unknown facts about guest posting for me. Guest posts are so much fun and useful to make. Thanks for sharing these.
No problem! :-)
These are very useful tips that you’ve shared. I’ll use them in my next guest post.
Glad I could be of help Ben!
I have been looking at writing some guest posts. I have started writing one which I will present to a large blog which has a pretty close niche to mine. While it is not a complete overlap I am looking at a subset of the blog’s readers who will be very interested in my content and will have a good chance of converting them.
I will be using this tips for the rest of the guest posts I come up with.
Relevance and quality are the two important things.
I actively seeking out longer length articles for higher quality information, experience and content.
As a writer, I am guilty of writing top tip articles for clients but I am quickly tiring on them.
Also, if you can only offer 300 words on a topic, I’m probably not going to think you are an expert.
Thanks for a great post!
There are plenty of people out there just like you Clurra. And usually they are more likely to interact, sign up to your list, and so on. Writing in-depth posts that require a little bit of reader engagement can separate the wheat from the chaff, in terms of reader “quality”.
Great work, Tom!
I really liked how you acknowledged the 2 main topics most resources on guest posting cover (at the top of your post) and then delved right in to the meat of your post. I appreciate you providing a clear differentiation by talking about one of the key themes of successful guest posting–relevance and engagement.
If one is not able to convert, then what is the point? Great stuff, my friend.
Hey Steve! Thanks my friend; I appreciate it.
Great post.. a lot of good points. I’ve subscribed to your RSS feed. I really like your site!!
That’s awesome Renee – thanks! :-)