Almost everyone and their dog has a blog these days. But is your blog actually getting traffic?
Are you spending quality time creating valuable posts only to realize that barely anyone is reading them? If so, don’t worry. That’s completely normal. My blog used to be like that.
But, then, I started guest blogging.
And nothing changed.
What? Guest blogging didn’t help? Isn’t this suppose to be a post promoting guest blogging?
Yes, this post is about guest blogging. It’s about how to tackle guest blogging successfully, because if you don’t know what you’re doing, it won’t help your blog as much as it should.
If you don’t already understand the amazing benefits that come with guest blogging, here’s a brief recap:
Guest blogging helps you gain traffic, get in front of your audience, and boost your SEO ranking in a cost-effective way.
It helps you gain traffic because you’re able to get in front of a large and relevant audience—If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Plus, you establish credibility and authority by providing a valuable article and being shown on a reputable site. Once you provide value, these readers will go to your site.
It also earns you backlinks. Backlinks help your SEO ranking. On top of that, having an article on a highly-ranked site means the post will rank higher on a search engine than it would on your lower-ranking site.
But if you want to get traffic and email subscribers from guest blogging, you have to do it right. Here are nine tips for getting more out of guest blogging.
Determine Who Your Customers Are
Guest blogging isn’t going to help you very much until you know who your audience is. How can you hit a target if you don’t know where to aim?
Are you looking for grandmas living in Florida? Teenagers applying for colleges? Small business owners who want more customers? Take some time to think about who would find the most value from your content, products, or services. Remember, if you try to write for everyone, you often write for no one. (highlight to tweet)
Determine Where Your Customers Are
After you’ve determined who your customers are, you’ve got to figure out where your target audience is. Where do they “hang out” online? What do they read?
You want to figure out what sites your customers visit and which are relevant to your products, services, and content. Here are a few ways to figure out what your customers are reading.
Customer Development Interviews
Sometimes it’s as simple as just asking your customers. Asking your customers what they read is a great way to figure out where to guest blog. Here are some customer development questions I have asked to figure out what people read: What are your favorite blogs? What are your favorite news sites? What sites do you read for news and educational content related to your industry?
Search on Google
Search for the words your customers are likely to be searching for. For example, if your customers are content marketers, you could search “content marketing” or “content marketing blog.” You could also search for the specific topic(s) of your article, such as guest blogging, email marketing, public relations, etc. Because Google is pretty good at its job, these sites are likely to be the best, and because they are ranking high when you search, they are likely to have a lot of traffic.
Before you search, make sure you’re searching the right terms—the terms that are being searched by your audience. You might be surprised by what you find. I thought that “startup ideas” would be a common search term, but it turned out that “business ideas” was about ten times more common.
Start with Google keyword planner to determine those common search keywords and phrases. Enter in some ideas, and the tool will show you how much search volume it gets and make suggestions for other relevant and popular search terms.
Audience Intelligence Tools
If you already have an email list and/or social following, you can learn more about your audience and what they read.
One simple, free, and easy to use audience intelligence tool is analytics.twitter.com. Go to the “Followers” tab. There, you can see what your audience’s interests are and who they are commonly following. This can give you an idea of what kinds of sites you might guest blog on to reach similar people.
As you can see, there are a few blogs on my list. Maybe the individuals on the list have blogs of their own. Those could be great sites for me to guest blog on.
Using this strategy, make sure your followers are within your target customer segment (and they might not be, given how much spam there is on Twitter!), and do some qualitative due diligence on the sites you find.
Another great tool is Followerwonk, where you can search Twitter bios by your target keywords, rank people by their influence, and see if they have blogs that accept guest posts.
Write Great Content
In a world where everyone is a blogger, it’s more important than ever to create content that stands out and truly provides value to your audience.
Writing about things people want to read is crucial. Therefore, the first step is to determine what people want to read. But how do you do this?
One way is to look at the common questions people are asking. If a few different people are asking about the same thing, there’s a better chance that a larger audience out there that would love to read a blog post about it.
Another tactic that you can use to create awesome content is what I call “scratching your own itch”—in other words, solving a problem you have.
Think about what information would be valuable to you, if you’re in a role that is similar to your potential customers. Then create a content that solves their problem, because if you have that problem, probably others do too!
You can also produce content that you wish you had. This is similar to scratching your own itch, except you’re writing content that solves problems you previously had. What is the book, the blog post, the video course, etc. you wish you had when you faced these challenges before?
Network and Build Relationships
Sometimes it’s not just how good your writing is, but who you know. Having a referral from someone an editor trusts can be a great way to motivate them to publish you.
I became a regular contributor to The Huffington Post as a result of a long chain of networking events, connections, and follow ups.
It started with going to a workshop. I wasn’t even sure that it would be a good workshop. The teacher seemed underqualified, and there were a million other things I could be doing with my time. But I went anyway, because I knew the best way to make something good happen is to make a lot of things happen.
It turned out to be a great workshop. I liked the teacher and followed up with him. We became friends. We are still good friends today.
After a few months of hanging out and staying in touch, he invited me to another event.
I had no idea what I was attending, but it turned out to be an amazing event. It was a private book launch party for Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, and his new book The Startup of You. It was hosted by Mayor Bloomberg. I met the President of MTV and some startup founders.
I was talking to an entrepreneur I had met that night, just an hour or two earlier. “Hey, there’s Arianna Huffington. Let’s go talk to her,” he said.
I was incredibly nervous. I didn’t even feel worthy. But I went along anyway.
I don’t even remember what we talked about, but eventually she offered to have me contribute to her site, The Huffington Post. I got her email address.
The next day, I was incredibly nervous to follow up, but I did. I emailed her asking if I could contribute, as she had suggested. She said yes and introduced me to an editor via email.
This has since led me to more opportunities for both business and guest blogging. The backlinks and traffic I have received from Huffington Post definitely made the networking worthwhile. Every opportunity is just one person away, and you never know who that person is.
Pitch, Test, Track, Repeat
To know where you can get published, and to see which sites will provide you with the best return on investment, you have to test, track, and repeat.
Not having the right connections is not an excuse for not guest blogging. You can cold email editors—the vast majority of my guest posts have come as a result of cold emails.
Get yourself out there as much as possible. It’s going to seem scary at first, but you just have to do it. I still get scared when I’m sending pitches to huge website.
“If you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, your goals aren’t ambitious enough.” – Chris Dixon
If you’re not getting any guest posts rejected, you’re not aiming for big enough sites.
But how do you pitch an editor?
How to Pitch
Every pitch is different depending on the site, the topic, and your relationship, but most of them will have similar processes. Some websites have instructions. Make sure to follow those to a “T” if you want them to take you seriously.
Here are some key elements I try to include with each pitch:
- Make a clear ask at the beginning and end of the email.
- Introduce yourself, and state some accomplishments to build authority, social proof, and rapport.
- Mention the article, what it’s about, and why you think it’s valuable.
- Link to the complete post in Google Drive.
Valuable Content Trumps Mastering SEO
SEO can seem scary and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want to take your blog seriously, you need to know the basics. However, don’t let it trip you up, because the content is what matters most.
Google’s algorithms may change year by year, but one thing remains: Valuable content ranks well. Remember, people use Google to get the most relevant and valuable information, so that’s what Google provides.
Doing keyword research will help, but the most important thing is to consistently have relevant and valuable content. Focus on the content. Do this consistently over a long period of time, and Google will do the rest. It can also make a site more motivated to publish your posts, and allow you to get more traffic, shares, and engagement when you do get published.
Build Your Email List with Opt-In Bribes
Building your email list can not only help you get more traffic and sales, but it can help you get published on bigger and more reputable sites as well.
How do you get people to sign up for your email list?
Think about what email lists you subscribe to. Why do you subscribe? I’m going to guess it’s because they send awesome and valuable emails.
Give your readers something valuable for signing up. For example, offer a free ebook, a Top 10 resources list, or a three-video tutorial. Link to it contextually within the guest post or your byline.
By offering something valuable to people, instead of merely saying, “Give me your email address,” you can increase your conversion rates. Make sure what you’re offering is valuable to your audience, or else they may not be so inclined.
Don’t Do It All Yourself—Use Software Tools
There are a lot of useful tools out there that will save you time, get you better results, and make this process a lot easier. Below are some of my favorites.
- Sumo – Social share buttons to get more traffic, pop up windows to collect emails, and more.
- MailChimp – I use the MailChimp WordPress plugin to display an email opt-in box on every page of my site. It helps me build my email list and send sharp-looking emails.
- ConvertKit – I recently started using ConvertKit to build squeeze pages and create opt-in forms to embed on my blog posts with giveaways—another email list booster.
- Buzzstream – Automated tools for researching link prospects and conducting campaigns.
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