Admit it.. you’ve wondered. How do probloggers become probloggers?
- How do people find out about them?
- Do they just write really, really well?
- Are they already internet famous when they start blogging?
You see mediocre bloggers posting boring content and wonder how they can support themselves from their blogs. Why them, and not you? Good news. It's not rocket science. Most professional bloggers were nobody before they became internet famous. Most of them were in the same place you’re at now, wondering how to grow their audience. That is, until they stumbled upon the secret audience generating machine…
When you Tweet about an article or promote it on your Facebook page, how much traffic do you get? How many people subscribe to your email list?
I see maybe a handful of new subscribers, and a couple dozen visitors. Most of the people I’m reaching on Twitter are already followers of Unsettle.
I’m not attracting new readers. When you post on your blog, how many visitors do you get? And more importantly, how many new subscribers are you raking in? Well, it could be anywhere from 0 to 20 or 30 – more if you’re already a popular blogger. But if you have less than a few thousand email subscribers, your audience simply is not large enough to make big enough social media waves to encourage new sign-ups en masse. So how do you reach new audiences so you can build your own? Guest posting.
Writing for your own blog is like delivering a speech to your family in your living room when there's a hall full of people eager to hear your words a block away. Guest posting helps you build your audience faster and more effectively than almost any other one thing.
As Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You to Be Rich has written, with guest posting “you get exposure to new readers on massively popular blogs, create tons of links, and get new subscribers to your blog’s RSS and email subscriptions.“
As if you needed any more evidence that guest posting is the bomb.com, it takes somebody hearing about you seven times to become interested. Guest posting provides a platform for being seen those 7 times.
The Proof is In The Numbers
Guest posting not only works for me, but it's one of the key things I've done to build up Unsettle to where it is now. It was profitable after only 6 months from launch.
Need proof? For almost all guest posts I write, I create a new landing page within LeadPages. This helps me track how many opt-ins I got for that specific guest post as well as the overall conversion rate.
My very first guest post – a post for Fast Company – converted almost 500 people onto my email list at a conversion rate of over 30%:
And this is just one of my 13 published guest posts. Targeted guest posts with an upgrade the reader can’t refuse can convert at 60% percent or more, like just one of my guest posts on Elite Daily:
By the end of that posts' heyday, it raked in over 1100 subscribers. Convinced yet? Great, let's talk about what your main goal should be when you guest post.
Your #1 Guest Posting Objective
If you want to guest post but don’t have a call-to-action for the reader, it’s like trying to program your GPS to get somewhere when you don’t know what your destination is. Good luck with that.
Your number one objective – the one thing you absolutely need to focus on – is getting people on your email list. That's the goal. The call to action is to subscribe. Keep this in mind as you continue down the rest of this guide.
How to Find Blogs to Guest Post On
The idea of scoring great results is exciting. But the question remains: how do you find blogs to guest post on? I used to struggle with this, too. I thought my options were limited. There weren't that many larger blogs in my niche, and one of them didn't even take guest posts. But as I started to explore the blogosphere, I started to notice guest posting opportunities everywhere.
Here are a few ways to find great blogs to guest post on.
Stalk Popular Bloggers
You probably know of popular bloggers in your topic. Remember when I said that almost all popular bloggers gained success through guest posting? Since they’re a popular blogger now, they must have guest posted on some really great sites when they were first starting. So, Google them! Find out where they guest posted, and it will take the work out of it for you. Use the words “guest post by [author name]”. You will find many results, and while some will be interviews rather than guest posts, you’ll still get an idea of the places that person has guest posted.
Another way to stalk a popular blogger to find out where they’ve guest posted is by finding all the websites that have linked to them using Moz’s Open Site Explorer tool. Type in the blogger’s URL and on the left hand side, press “Linking Domains”. Start looking at the results. Many of the results will be blogs that have linked to the blogger’s site organically, but there will also be guest posts in there, too.
Generate a List Automatically
When I was first starting out, I used Alltop.com, which curates a list of publications and sorts them by topic. As you continue to blog, there will be no shortage of guest posting opportunities, but this is a great place to start. Search Alltop for your topic. For example, let's say you were in the parenting niche. I typed in parenting into the search box and found results with “moms”, “pregnancy”, “parenting”, and “babies”: Start by opening the blogs in question.
You can also find popular blogs on your topic by visiting Buzzsumo and typing in a keyword. It will then list all of the results where that keyword was used. I typed in “motherhood” and it listed the publications with the most social shares that have “motherhood” in the title of a popular blog post. This is just one keyword. Can you imagine the results I'd get if I typed in more than one?
The sites in these listings have published articles around your topic before, and they have seen thousands or even millions of shares.
Spin Your Topic
You don't have to focus only on exact-match topics.
For example, if you write a sustainability blog you don't only have to write for other sustainability blogs. You could post on parenting blogs about making a family more sustainable. You could post on personal finance blogs about the financial implications of being more sustainable.
How does your topic overlap with other blog topics out there? Exhaust the exact-match blogs first, but once you've done that, find the overlap! Now that you've found out how to find blogs to guest post on, I'm going to show you how to find out whether guest posting on each blog will be worth your time.
How to Make Sure You're Not Wasting Your Time
You need your guest posts to be excellent. Even better than anything you'd write on your own site. So, guest posting takes a long time.
I spend anywhere from 8-16 hours on a single guest post — often longer. This guest post I wrote for Smart Passive Income took me over 20 hours to write, format, and edit. So since it takes so long to write a guest post, you probably want to make sure that guest posting on each blog is worth your time, right? Luckily, you don't just have to throw sh*t at the wall and see what sticks. Do some preliminary research that will save you time in the long run.
- Poke around the blog. Check out a few articles. Are there comments on the article? A lack of comments does not mean the blog isn't well-read, but it's a good place to start.
- Check the Twitter and Facebook. How many followers does the blogger have?
- Check Buzzsumo to see whether the blog posts get a lot of shares. I look for over 100 shares on the most popular articles.
- Does the blog publish their subscriber count? If so, try to aim for blogs with over 10,000 subscribers. Usually (though certainly not always) they'll be more worth your time than one with say 2,000 or 4,000. But, if the community on the blog is very engaged, then anything over 2,000 is great
- Does the blog email their list with each published post? You probably can’t tell just by looking at the blog, so subscribe to the blog’s list to find out. This will make your post work far harder for you.
Remember that even if a blog doesn't have tens of thousands of Twitter followers doesn't mean it's not worth it. Writing for a small engaged community will reap more benefits than writing for a gigantic content-mill.
I've written for smaller websites and gigantic websites like Lifehack.org. Because Lifehack publishes so much content and hides author bios, I didn't see any benefit at all to writing for them. I landed maybe 10 subscribers. The smaller sites I've written for tend to reap bigger results, more dedicated fans, and more traffic and subscribers.
Now that you've narrowed down your list of potential posting targets, I'll show you how to land that guest post.
How to Land a Guest Blogging Spot on a Popular Blog
This is the fun part. Landing those guest posting slots is surprisingly satisfying, and here are a few steps to do just that.
Find out Whether the Blog Accepts Guest Posts
Before you get excited to guest post on a blog, you need to find out whether the site accepts guest posts to begin with. So here’s how to find out whether the blog even accepts guest posts – so you don’t waste 45 – 75 minutes getting to know a blog that won’t host your post.
- Look for a guest post page: Search for a page on the website called “Write for Us”, “Contribute”, or “Guest Post”
- Search Google: If you don’t initially find guest posting guidelines using the above-mentioned method, type in “site:http://urlofsite.com “guest post”. There may be guidelines that aren’t published.
If you don’t find anything when you Google that, the blog likely doesn’t take guest posts and you can move on. If you find that there are guest posts on the site but no guidelines, the blog probably takes guest posts – you may just have to build a relationship and become familiar with the blogger first. Once you've found a blog that accepts guest posts, start getting familiar with it's style.
Get Intimate With the Blog
When you approach any blogger to host a guest post, there are several steps you should do. First, I would open up the blog and read their guidelines for guest posting. Then, I'd open Buzzsumo and type in the URL of the website. For instance, let's say you were looking to guest post on Mind Body Green:
And open the top 10 articles and read them. Reading the posts will help you get a sense of the style of the blog and why they are popular. If they have a lot of comments, read through some of the comments and look for patterns. Maybe some commenters are asking questions that aren’t addressed in an article on the site already that you can write about. At the very least, you should start to see a pattern with what does well. Even just the general types of articles – ie if they are based more on emotion or food or fitness. Then, brainstorm some topics you think would answer questions of the readers, or just would be popular based on the other popular topics.
What Type of Post Does Best as a Guest Post?
You're a smart writer. You don't want to get sucked into writing listicles, right? Yeah, I felt that way too when I first started. I have some bad news for you, though: List posts work. Besides, they're not all bad. Some listicles are incredibly helpful. What type of guest post will do best on the blog will highly depend on what blog you're pitching, but generally speaking aside from listicles, another good bet for a guest post is an Ultimate Guide. Teach the reader how to do something that you know how to do.
Once you've listed ideas for the perfect blog post idea, you can increase your chances substantially of landing the post by writing an amazing headline. The purpose of a headline is to draw the reader in.
Your headline should have the reader itching to click on it. Of course, your post needs to match. Otherwise your headline is just clickbait. And you don't want to be Buzzfeed.
You want to deliver GREAT content, so the reader doesn't feel duped when they read your article. After you read about headlines and how to create great headlines, it's time to write 25. If this is your first time writing headlines, write 50. If your headlines still sort of suck after you write 50, write 100. Practice writing headlines. Your headline needs to be so good that the editor can't say no. For each topic that you came up with to write about in your research of the blog, write at least 25 headlines.
Then, read through your list and choose the top three that are really eye-catching and interesting.
You Don't Need to Write The Post Yet!
A lot of people think that guest posting means writing a blog post, working really hard on it, sending it to the editor and then waiting for a yay or nay. And that scares a lot of people away from guest posting. Who wants to toil over a post that may be rejected? If you've ever assumed that's the case, I've got some great news for you:
To pitch a guest post, you don't have to write even one word of it.
Many blogs just need headline pitches. When you're trying to get in shape and get your butt to the gym, you don't have to be motivated to work out, you just have to be motivated to put your running shoes on. Guest posting is like that. You don't have to be motivated to write an article. You just have to be motivated to write a headline and pitch the article. Before you go ahead and pitch headlines to any blog, read their guidelines. If they're asking for a full-post, put it to the side for now, or pitch the headlines anyway and hope for a response. If the blog needs an entire blog post, I still try to pitch the headlines initially because I don’t want to waste my time writing an entire post that won’t be accepted. Sometimes, they won't answer if you pitch them headlines, so I would pitch it and then if they don’t answer after a week, write the post for the headline that could fit into more than one site so if it’s not accepted, there’s a home for it elsewhere.
Write a Killer Pitch Email
You don't need any previous affiliation with a larger publication to write for them.
When I wrote for Fast Company, my blog was just a few days old. In fact, large publications want your writing. They have so much content they need to publish every week that they're often starved for content.
For large publications like Fast Company or Business Insider, you can send the editor a short, simple email pitch. You can find most editors names and guest posting guidelines on their websites.
Here's an example of a pitch email I'd send to a large publication:
Subject: Quick Question
Hi [Editor's name], I'm a long-time reader of [publication name] and would love to contribute a post. Here are some sample headlines for my ideas:
- headline 1
- headline 2
- headline 3
Do any of these catch your eye and sound like they'd be a good fit? No problem if not. I’ll go back to the drawing board and write some more.
A little bit about me: I am an online entrepreneur from Vancouver, Canada, who helps people stop settling for mediocre lives and careers, and start acting on their ideas. You can see some of my writing here:
- Writing sample 1
- Writing sample 2
- Writing sample 3
Single-authored blogs are bombarded with pitches, so it's best to build a relationship with the blogger prior to pitching them for a guest post. If you build a relationship with the blogger, your name will rise to the top of the pile because they'll recognize you. Here's an example of a pitch email I'd send to a single-authored blog:
Hi [Bloggers's name],
I don't know if you remember me, but I'm [introduce yourself]. We've chatted on Twitter [include any details of previous contact here] and I've been a long-time reader of [blog name]. I would love to have the opportunity to guest post on [blog name]. Here are some sample headlines for my ideas: Topic 1:
- headline 1
- headline 2
- headline 3
- headline 1
- headline 2
- headline 3
- headline 1
- headline 2
- headline 3
Do any of these catch your eye and sound like they'd be a good fit? No problem if not. I’ll go back to the drawing board and write some more. I won't let you down! You can see some of my writing here:
- Writing sample 1
- Writing sample 2
- Writing sample 3
Who To Send Your Pitch
Contact forms suck. Even if bloggers have contact forms on their site, the emails that come through these forms all seem sort of like spam – even when they land in the inbox. It's best to target your email directly to the blogger's email.
There are three ways to find the blogger's email address:
- Respond to an email from their email list
- Find their email address using Rapportive
- Some foolproof guesswork. Firstname@siteurl.com usually works.
What to Do if You Don't Hear Back
If you send a pitch email and don't hear back within a week, send a follow-up email. Here's a little secret I use to know whether or not the blogger got my pitch:
I use a Chrome plugin called Sidekick by Hubspot which tells me whether they opened the email, clicked the links in it, and where they opened it from. I have found that if somebody is opening my email several times over the course of a couple of days, they usually respond after a quick follow up. You can get a free trial for Sidekick for a month here. It's $10/month after the month is up, unless you refer somebody for a free trial, and then it's free.
So, Your Pitch Was Accepted.. Now What?
Usually, your pitch will be accepted just by a quick email from the editor telling you to go ahead and write the post. Remember, just because your pitch was accepted doesn’t necessarily mean that your post will be. That’s where writing a killer blog post comes in.
Emulate the blog's style
You probably have a writing style, right? If you don’t yet, you will soon. And as much as it’s great to be yourself and let your personality shine through, you need to put that in a can for a guest post. Open 5-10 articles on the host blog and read through them all. Note the style, tone and voice of the host blog. You need to emulate that.
Read the top 10 posts on your topic
Google your topic, and read the top 10 posts. You need your post to be the best out of all of those posts. If you see any one point being regurgitated in each and every post, unless it’s a point that needs to be in the post, eliminate it.
Jon Morrow from Boost Blog Traffic, arguably one of the most popular bloggers on the internet, holds this step to one of the most important: you want to surprise readers. You don’t want them reading your post and thinking they’ve heard it before. After you’ve gotten rid of those boring, unsurprising points, consider how you can craft a unique spin on the topic.
Almost all topics have been written about at some point over the course of the 50 million blogs alive on the web, but there’s definitely a way you can bring your unique view.
Write an empathetic opening
Your introduction is, other than the headline, the reader’s first contact with the article. It’s sole purpose is to suck the reader in, make them want to read the rest of the post, and resonate with them. You want the reader to be nodding along, agreeing with what you’re saying, excited to find the solution of the problem you’re presenting. Because every blog post you write has to solve a problem.
There’s a lot of debate around whether you should open your blog post with a story or not. And humans love stories – that is true. But we love to hear stories about people we are familiar with, we care about, and we already like. And the reader doesn’t know that about you yet. (This is void if you have an incredibly compelling story).
So instead of starting with a story – because it’s not all about you – start with an empathetic opening. Consider what the reader is feeling about the topic you’re writing about. Are they frustrated? Hopeful? Fearful? Annoyed? Consider what they’ve done so far to address their feelings toward your topic. Have they probably taken steps to fix it? Or maybe they’re overwhelmed with frustration and they haven’t done anything.
Get into the frame of mind they’ll be in when they start to read your post. When you can define a problem better than a reader, they assume you know the solution and will keep reading. You want the reader to feel as if you are reading their mind. I don't want to leave this up to chance, so when I’m writing a guest post, I check out Quora and Reddit to find out what my audience is thinking about around a topic.
Read more about openings: The Anatomy of the PERFECT Article Intro (And How to Reverse Engineer It)
Write a Motivational Closing
The introduction to your article sucks the reader in and keeps them reading down the page, but it's the closing that makes the reader click on the link in your bio, subscribe to your list, and most importantly, take action and see results from your post. Don’t let the conclusion fall flat (and please, never ever use the term “in conclusion” in your article. You’re writing a blog post, not a research paper). Read more about killer conclusions here: A Rabble-Rouser’s Rules for Writing Kick-Ass Closing Paragraphs
Include case studies, research, and expert quotes to back up your claims.
I will usually write the framework of the post, then fill in the details, then go ahead and include quotes and research where appropriate. The reader doesn't know and trust you yet. You’re the new kid on the block. So using research and quotes from experts can really drive your point home. Use examples, analogies and comparisons. Every piece of writing is made stronger with a strong analogy or example. As writers, we write in abstract terms. Our ideas get down on paper or screen in an abstract way. What really makes an idea come to life is an example. In my post Do This One Thing Every Day to Guarantee Success and Do Work You Love, I use Michael Phelps as an example to illustrate my point in the blog post.
Analogies are a writer’s greatest tool. Analogies make the post more interesting, solidifies ideas, and are sticky – they remain in the reader’s head. My entire post last week was based around an analogy. Read more about analogies: The Underused Writing Trick That Makes You More Powerful, Popular and Persuasive
Propose different headlines
For every blog post you write, you should write 25 headlines. There’s no exception to this rule – especially with guest posting. Write 25 headlines, pick out the 4 or 5 best, and send them to the editor with your post as alternatives.
In-post linking to your blog
In a guest post, it’s usually okay to link once or twice to highly relevant posts on your website. However, if you’re worried that your link is coming across as even remotely self-promotional, just don’t do it. Your opportunity will be in the bio, anyhow. It’s better to err on the side of caution and link to posts existing on the blog already.
Deadline to send it back to them
Send the finished post no later than 10 days after the editor gives you their stamp of approval for your pitch, unless their guidelines say otherwise. Any longer and you look like a procrastinator.
Don’t be offended if they edit
We tend to have blind spots toward our own writing. That’s just a fact. It’s almost impossible to edit our own work (and there are scientific reasons why). Besides that, the editor knows their audience better than you. So if the editor sends the article back to you for edits, don’t be offended! Be honored. After all, if they didn’t think the post had some serious potential, they wouldn’t have bothered.
My guest post at Boost Blog Traffic went through four rounds of revisions before it was published. My post at Startup Bros went through a couple as well. Each time, it came out the other side far better than it was before.
Creating a Landing Page for Visitors
You did all this work to write a guest post with the aim of gaining more readers for your blog. But there’s so much content on the web that if you don’t capture the reader’s email address the moment they finish reading your guest post, 99% of the time they’ll forget all about you, navigate away from your page and never visit again. It’s not personal. So, instead of just letting the reader skip away forever missing out on all the value you can provide them, you need to capture their email address – and remember, when somebody gives you their email address, they’re giving you permission to be part of their lives, to contact them and sell to them. So, you need to create a freebie related to the topic you guest posted on, which you can then link to in your bio.
Here are a few hints on what you can create a freebie for:
- Is there a natural next step to your article that you can create a short report or eBook about?
- Can you create a PDF list of tools to help the reader action your post?
- Can you create a checklist or workbook to go along with your post?
Your opt-in offer should be something they are uber interested in and should be a natural progression. Here’s the trick to capture 500% more emails through a guest post:
Instead of linking to your website in your bio, link to a landing page with an opt-in offer. Because remember – traffic does not matter unless it converts. I repeat.. Traffic does not matter unless it converts.
When I guest posted on Boost Blog Traffic, my topic was 13 Reasons Why Blog Ads are a Silly Monetization Strategy (And What to Do Instead). In my brainstorming for an upgrade idea, I decided to give readers a guide on how to monetize their blog in a way that meets a need from their audience. So, I created a landing page just for BBT readers:
I used LeadPages for my landing page (I still do) which lets me track my conversion rate, traffic, and lets me customize and split test my offer. I'm terrible at design, so LeadPages has been a bit of a lifesaver – these pages take me like 10 minutes to create:
Leadpages integrates with Aweber, which is my email service provider, and delivers the “digital asset” (or my opt-in offer) automatically when somebody opts in. I created a new list for BBT readers, so they would get the offer they opted in for, and wrote the email with the report attached as part of an autoresponder series.
If you don't already have an email service provider, I use Aweber – it's one of the biggest and is super easy to use.
Get a free month here by using my affiliate link (at no extra cost to you, of course!).
There's a way you can do this in Leadpages directly – you still need an Email Service Provider (ESP) like Aweber, but the report can be delivered through Leadpages and the emails can be funnelled into your normal list, but it provides the freebie to people who haven't confirmed their subscription. If you have Leadpages, go ahead and publish the page directly on your site in your WordPress dashboard:
Then, populate your bio with your freebie and a link to your page:
Everything you did up until this point: finding the perfect host blogs to guest post on, writing a killer (and I mean killer) guest post and creating an awesome opt-in upgrade and landing page was for the purpose of leading the reader to your bio. Your bio needs to be a short (2-4 sentences long) description of who you are with a link to your opt-in upgrade. Don’t include other links. Those just distract from the goal: getting the reader on your email list so you can start building a relationship with them.
So Your Post Is Published…
After your post is published, your work is not done. There are a few things you need to do to make the post even more effective and build a relationship with the editor.
- Write an On-Topic Article for Your Own Site
- Answer All Comments
- Share the Post Everywhere
- Say Thank You to the Editor
Even though you’re sending readers to a landing page instead of your website, you’ll have a certain amount of readers who go through to your website or blog. This is where you can create some real engagement with you, your brand, and your site. Instead of just continuing on your regular posting schedule, when you have a guest post going live, have a blog post on a related topic to your guest post on your blog. I didn't do this in the example above, but if I was smarter, I would have written an article about blog monetization strategies.
Over the next couple of weeks, check back often for comments on the post. Be sure to respond to comments and questions.
Promote the post on social media, share it on Reddit, StumbleUpon, and any other sharing service possible.
Follow up with the editor or blogger and thank them for hosting your post. Don't be afraid to ask for results on how the post did in relation to other articles on the site.
Guest posting is an ongoing process. This makes it look like a lot of work – and it is! – but the benefits are enormous. Give yourself a goal to pitch at least one guest post per week. If you guest post enough, you'll grow far faster and be able to unsettle more quickly than you ever would have without guest posting in your arsenal. So get out there and start to pitch!