I’m starting to feel like the Pepperidge Farm guy. I find myself fighting the temptation to start every article with “Time was, folks had to…” But I’m sorry. It’s true! Things ain’t like they used to be.
The Internet has altered everything about marketing your business. Hardly anything is the same…even from 5 or 10 years ago. From how you conduct market research, to how you find new leads, to what kind of content to publish, very few of the same techniques still work.
It was a good idea years ago and it still is. Now, mind you, the ways that guest blogging can help you might have changed. Time was… I mean, there was a time where guest blogging could help your SEO efforts.
By offering to write for someone else’s blog, you gave them free content. And in return, you could link back to your site or your own blog. When Google counted each and every link as a vote of confidence and would let that affect your rankings, it made sense to guest blog and link back all over the place.
But all that changed last year, when Google guru Matt Cutts declared guest blogging for SEO purposes as a dead practice. To quote him directly
“So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”
I don’t know what quote made me laugh more. That one or
“This is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.”
And yes, when you are guest blogging as a way to game the Google ranking algorithm, that’s no bueno. It’s inauthentic and it clutters up the Internet.
But guest blogging in a way that adds value to the Internet, to other sites? Yes please! All day, every day. You can and should still be guest blogging. If not for SEO reasons, for the same reasons that people hire PR companies. For exposure. For branding. For networking and new audiences.
Done correctly, guest blogging can:
- Make your brand more recognizable
- Build your authority in your particular industry
- Increase your website traffic
- Widen your reach to more quality audiences
So guest blogging is something you still want to be doing on a regular basis. It’s something you want to know how to do well. You should put a process and schedule around it, like you would any other marketing tactic.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you on the road to guest blogging.
Set Your Goals
The first thing to do is to look at the bulleted list above and determine which of those goals you’re trying to achieve with guest blogging. Get very clear on what you are trying to accomplish with your guest blogging efforts. While it’s possible to do everything listed above, it’s not likely you’ll achieve it all with the same guest post, or even on the same blog.
Write down what you want to accomplish. (In fact, I recommend putting all these steps down on paper. Not only does it make more official and real, it makes your guest blogging more systematized and easier to hand off to someone else once you get a process cranking along.)
Once you set those goals, keep a close eye on your progress towards them. Monitor the appropriate analytics.
If you want to build your authority, find ways to measure if it’s working. At the end of your blog posts, link to your downloadable books and whitepapers. Check to see if there’s a noticeable uptick in downloads every time you blog.
If it’s traffic you’re after, set reminders for you to check your Google Analytics the day you guest blog, and then again a week after. Check to see how much traffic you’re truly bringing it.
Not only will this help you check your progress to your goal, but also it will help you determine which venues are worth pitching again, and which just didn’t bring in the amount of traffic you’d hoped.
(That said – don’t give up after one post! If you posted about one topic on a site you assumed would boost your traffic, it’s not necessarily the site that’s to blame. It might have been the topic you chose, or the way you linked back to your site! Try again and mix it up this time. You might be surprised with a new influx of traffic.)
Pick Your Audience
This may seem obvious, but it’s not. Unless you sell the nichey-ist of niche products, your site could be of value to many different kinds of readers. If you sell dog treats, of course you could write blog posts that appeal to animal lovers and families with pets.
But if you sell wholesale, you could also write B2B posts that let retailers know you exist. And if you happen to sell an organic line, you might even be able to appeal to general stores that sell all kind of organic products, from cosmetics to cleaners…to pet food!
So don’t limit yourself when it comes to topic and audience selection. Building authority in many different industries is not a bad thing.
(That said – don’t try to be everything to everyone in one single post. You should be far-reaching with your topic and audience selection but you should be uber-focused when you write each blog post. Topics that appeal to your retailer audience will likely bore your direct customers and vice versa. Speak to each audience individually.)
Find Your Blogs
Now that you know who you want to reach, time to find out where to reach them. First, start with the blogs you happen to already know. If you know about them, it’s quite possible your customers will too.
Secondly, start at the top. By that I mean, think big. To return to the pet food blog idea, think about where pet lovers are likely to visit. Visit well-trafficked online pet stores, information sites, and magazines. Dig around and try to see if they have a blog. If they have one, check to see if they take submissions.
Finally, once you have exhausted your own ideas and looked at the Big Guys, you can research for blogs on a few new sites.
There are many out there, and there’s not enough room here to list all but a few of my favorite qualifying sites are:
- Best of the Web Blogs
- Moz Toolbar
- Open Site Explorer (This one is more of a nifty spy tool. You can use it to find out where your competitors have been blogging and then pitch to those blogs too!)
Do Your Research
Remember how I mentioned PR earlier? That, since pretty much time began, companies have been hiring and using the services of PR firms?
Well, one thing that any self-respecting PR person knew how to do was research and respect. Back in the day, editors would be very clear on what kind of submissions they were, and were definitely not, interested in.
These days, most bloggers have the same guidelines. They may be in the market for guest submissions, but don’t like their time wasted. Find their posted guidelines and stick to them religiously when you pitch. You only get one shot at making a good first impression. Don’t screw it up!
Obey The Rules
Finally, say you’re lucky enough to have found a blog that has an audience you want and a blogger who’s responded positively to your pitch and is ready to receive your blog post. Guess what? You’re not out of the woods yet. It’s not too late to blow it!
They gave you the guidelines they did for a reason. If they asked for a certain image quality and size, don’t submit something different. If they asked for images to be accompanied by a photo release or proof you have the rights to publish this image, attach it right with the image.
Making a site owner chase down a million different pieces from you is a sure recipe for them to ‘postpone’ publishing your blog post indefinitely.
And I can’t believe I have to say this, but I have heard of this next egregious error happening! Don’t veer from the approved topic.
You may get overambitious in your pitch and try to wow a site owner by promising the “Top 20 Things Pet Owners Should Never Do.” If the site green lights that topic and gives you a deadline, you better deliver.
You can’t get halfway through it, realize it’s taking too long to find 20 things and you’re too tired and it’s 2 a.m., so you simply hand in a Top 7.
No good. If the site owner has approved and is expecting the Top 20, then give them the Top 20. You could ruin a potentially profitable relationship because you bit off more than you could chew. Suck it up, give them what you said you would and next time, be more realistic in what you can deliver!
What’s your guest blogging score? How often are you guest blogging? Is it something you do regularly, sporadically or not at all? What are some of your best guest blog successes and where did they happen?
Guest Blog for Us!
And, here’s a thing. How about testing your talents at Marketing For Owners? We welcome guest blogs and challenge you to submit your very best at:
Go on, you know you want to…
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