Today I want to dig further into coming up with an idea and writing your post itself.
As a guest poster, you want to provide a great post that readers love … but also one that helps you achieve your own goals. There’s nothing greedy about this: reaching your goals may well help readers reach theirs too (e.g. if you want them to subscribe to your newsletter so you can provide them with great weekly tips).
Before You Write Your Post,
What value will you provide?
How will your post change readers’ lives? (This might be a small change rather than a huge one, but there should be some important benefit.) Will readers understand something new, feel reassured, get inspired..?
What outcome are you hoping for?
New readers, new subscribers, new customers? Or is your main goal to build your brand by getting your name out there? By getting clear about your goal up-front, you can design your post to ‘funnel’ readers to different things – e.g. if you want to get new subscribers, you might mention your newsletter during the post then link to it in the bio.
Once you’re clear about what you want to achieve, you’ll want to write the best post possible … not just to get it accepted, but to make a great impression on readers.
Here’s how to do that:
#1: Always Research the Blog Before You Begin
Even if you’ve been reading your target blog for months, you may not be sure what the audience is like … so don’t skip this step.
You want to figure out:
- Who the readers are: their typical age, where they live, whether they’re highly educated or not (demographics)
- Why readers read the blog
- What their problems, fears, questions, dreams and goals are (psychographics)
Look at some of the blog’s previous posts on Buzzsumo: which ones have done well? What types of posts get shared and commented on a lot? (You can learn more about Buzzsumo in the second point of Chris Crawford’s post here: Four Blogging Tools to Make Your Content Go Further.)
See if you can replicate these formulas without just doing the same thing: find a topic that hasn’t been covered, but use a style that’s worked well in the past. For instance, if big list posts tend to do well on that blog, come up with an idea that would suit that format.
#2: Make a ‘Heart’ Connection
Show readers that you see them – that you know what they feel. The comments on a blog, or in a blog’s Facebook group, can often give you a good idea of this. For instance, readers might be:
- Stuck about where / how to begin
- Discouraged by slow progress
- Overwhelmed by lots of (perhaps conflicting) advice
Writing with empathy is so important. You could give a post full of good, solid information, but if you don’t make any emotional connection, readers will simply use it and move on.
Jon Morrow’s post, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, is a good example. While Jon talks about his own story in How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World, his focus is on the reader.
Take a look at that post again, and see how he uses the introduction to talk about what bloggers want (using ‘we’ to position himself alongside the reader) and to hone in on what many bloggers worry about: are their dreams unrealistic?
#3: Solve a Small Problem or Deliver a Quick Win
Not all guest posts need to be as epic as Jon’s, and you don’t have to fix every problem that readers have. If you can help them them solve one small problem, they’ll look to you for help with bigger ones.
Here are some recent guest posts on ProBlogger that did a great job of solving specific problems for the readers:
- These 5 Rules Will Help You Work More Productively at Home (Nicole Avery)
- The Psychology of Comparison and How to Stop (Ellen Jackson)
- How to Avoid Writing Boring Outlines using the IKEA Method (LJ Sedgwick)
Try to focus your post around providing a solution or answer that readers have been looking for.
#4: Craft Your Content Carefully
I’m sure that you always try to produce well-written posts on your own blog … but it’s worth going that bit further for a guest post.
That might mean:
- Spending a little longer planning before you begin, so you can make sure your post is solidly put together and reads logically.
- Writing a really engaging introduction that hooks the reader and draws them into your post. (It doesn’t necessarily need to be long.)
- Making sure readers can easily navigate through the middle of your post, using subheadings and linking sentences.
- Crafting a great title that “sells” your post – remember, this will go in your pitch, and it’s the first indication the host blogger gets of your ability to write a good post!
This can be a good place to involve a friend: once you’ve written your post, ask a fellow blogger to look over it and give you feedback. They may well be able to point out paragraphs that might be better rearranged, or sentences that aren’t quite clear.
#5: Use Links in Your Post and Bio Wisely
Almost every blog that takes guest posts will give authors a “bio” – you get to write this yourself and your can normally put anything you want in it (though do check if the blog has any restrictions in their guidelines).
A lot of guest posters simply link to their front page from their bio, but it’s much more effective to link to a page that will convert in some way. You might create a special landing page that points new readers to your best posts … or an opt-in incentive to encourage readers to sign up for your newsletter.
During the post itself, you may want to put in a link or two to your own blog (if that’s allowed by your host blog), but don’t only link to your own content. Aim to:
- Link to other posts on the blog you’re guesting for. This is helpful for the host blogger and shows that you’re very familiar with their blog.
- Mention and link to other bloggers in your niche. This shows readers (and the host) that you’re well read … and it’s a brilliant way to start or develop a relationship with the bloggers you’re linking to. They may well link to your guest post from their blog or newsletter, too.
#6: Don’t Forget the Details
Make sure your post is as polished as possible before you submit it: edit it carefully, and proofread to make sure you haven’t made any typos.
Yes, the host blogger will likely edit your post too … but you shouldn’t rely on them to do so. If your post gets lots of attention, you don’t want there to be any glaring mistakes in it! (Plus, look at it from the host’s perspective: would you want to take on a guest post that takes you an hour to edit?)
Make sure you’ve formatted your post correctly – check the guidelines to find out how. Common requests are:
- A Word document attachment
- A Google Document
- HTML code (you can create this by pasting your post into your own blog’s software and copying from the “Text” or “HTML” tab … be careful not to accidentally publish it!)
Think about visuals, too. Some blogs will do this themselves, especially if they have a particular “branded” look to their images, but many bloggers will appreciate suggestions or even images you’ve created yourself.
Earlier this year, Pamela Wilson wrote a five-part series of guest posts here on ProBlogger that was beautifully crafted, complete with graphics: A System for Easily Publishing Consistently Great Content.
I know there’s a lot to take in here. You might want to work through this list one point at a time, as you develop your ideas for a guest post and start to write it.
Don’t aim for perfection, but do aim to make your guest post an example of your best work: after all, if it goes well, there’ll be a lot of eyes on it.
Guest Posting Series
Next week, we’ll be looking at how to follow up once your post has been published.
So far in this series: