Last week, I explained why guest posting is so valuable (and not just for link juice). Then, one of our regular contributors, Ali Luke, wrote about how to find opportunities and pitch your post.
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:
7 Powerful Non-SEO Reasons to Try Guest Posting
Excellent advice Darren. The research point is critical.
I recall patiently researching a handful of top blogs before I pitched writers or staff members because to appear on the big dawg blogs you need to imitate the blogging voice. This was the case with my recent guest post on Positively Positive. I read the blog for months, commented on posts regularly to make that heart to heart connection, and after I clearly felt I could mimic the PP blogging voice from a compassionate space, I submitted my post.
Nailed it; perfect title, perfect feel, winner all the way. My post was accepted and placed within a week for the PP community of 2.5 million Facebook Fans and 80,000 email subscribers.
thank you https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/90c025ed49efd819306640c736b8890fa653964b091bb6de46c61288da6be6af.jpg
When it comes to guest posting you have given a detailed and honest advice. We first have to know the person in some way i.e. Reading their blog, syndicating it with our peeps, and engage as much as we can.
Indeed, if we can solve one problem, people will look to us for more. The best part of this article is your advice on our bio.
I find guest blogging very hit and miss. You can spend ages on a post, for it to be rejected or as someone mentioned above be published but not in your name, or with links stripped etc. Sometimes I do wonder if it really is worth it, but I guess it’s just a question of finding the best blogs!
Thank you so much for this , https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5763c4b790050db337e76ad51359a328dcc993eb9c9f35dff33905833ed20676.jpg it help me alot
HI Darren, Thank you for this post – it is very helpful.I know I have to work on my opening lines more. I spend a lot of time on the title and the content but the opening I need to kick it up a notch! I will have to try BuzzSumo to do more research too, thanks for the tips.
I’ve been using Google trends and seeing what else has been written on a topic. I used to try to only post things that were not written about but that tactic is getting harder and harder these days.
Have a great day Darren,
I took your advice re guest posting for the first time this week AND within hours of the post going live I was contacted by 2 people who want to become clients! Brilliant advice – thank you! I will certainly be doing more of this in the future.
Great post Darren! I agree that you should start by researching the blog before crafting your content. This will help you give you an idea on what type of content appeals to the readers of the blog.
Great tips and I love how you mention to make sure you proofread it. It’s funny because I spend a lot of time proofreading my content.
It takes me a lot longer to proofread my guest posts, I don’t want a guest post published if it has errors,
I also make it point to link to the bloggers content, like you said, it’s a great way to let them know that you’re familiar with their blog.
Great tips and I know that they will help me improve my guest posting.
Have a great day :)
I didn’t even know about these. At first I thought you would just need to craft a good post and share it.
I’ll definitely take these into account when I try guest posting again.
Thank you for sharing this Darren, cheers!