Heard the rumours that guest posting is dead? Think again. It's actually one of the most vital and successful ways to grow your online presence. Forget everything you've heard. Today, Tom is here to talk with you about why you need to start guest posting right now.
Splashing your own carefully crafted unique content across your website’s blog is often as enjoyable as it is rewarding, to know that each final piece has been read or, even better, shared. The content that was once just an idea in your head, now entering the minds and provoking thoughts in numerous others, sometimes even in the most unlikely of places.
A blog keeps your website fresh and keeps it growing. A growing entity will gather pace and, with persistence over time, a dedicated readership too. People will come to your blog not always knowing what they expect to read, but with an expectation that they will enjoy it and get something from it, regardless of the subject. By this point, you will have a clear image of your present audience – age, gender, interests, concerns etc. – to build on for the future, and the future starts with branching out.
One way of achieving this, social media promotion aside, is through guest posting.
Stripped back, guest posting is essentially a marketing strategy for search engine optimisation (SEO). Establishing your website as a leading authority in your specific field, to bump you up the search engine rankings for terms most relevant to your blog topics and/or services.
Guest posting isn't just good for the SEO of your website either. It allows you to lend a helping hand to fellow bloggers and website owners with whom you share common ground. It’s about reaching out for the good of your shared passions or services and receiving a link back to your website in return. But, as we’ll now see, it’s all about finding quality.
Here’s a little graphic I made to essentially highlight the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to links, or backlinks, coming to your website from somewhere else online. But first, let’s just go over what a backlink actually is:
Inbound links, or backlinks are when a website links to your site from their own.
So, each arrow indicates one inbound link to any page on your website, with the green arrows being the good quality backlinks that you should be seeking; and the red arrows, despite appearing more often, being the negative links that can be detrimental to the performance of your website and overall online presence.
Quantity used to be the key with SEO for Google, but they've wised up with recent changes they've made. Now, while it may sound good if there are 50 websites out there all linking to your site a thousand times; if these websites are viewed poorly in the eyes of Google or have very little relevance to the subject of your website, they will slowly drag you down with them. They may even outweigh the ten genuine quality and relevant backlinks that you do have.
Of course this isn't to say only go in search of a small number of backlinks. Time permitting, you should try and source as many great backlink opportunities as you can and turn those red arrows green; avoiding those websites that are completely irrelevant and seemingly spray links at random.
This is where guest posting comes in and where you invest time in your research to find a Google-recognised authority website to link back to you. So just how do you find a guest post opportunity with a quality backlink that’s relevant, affordable and set to benefit everyone involved?
#1 Starting Out
When you start to reach out, you’ll have some sort of idea and expectation about the ideal sorts of websites and bloggers that you want linking back to you. So you need to nail the search terms and keywords to get to them in the first place. I’ll use an example here to help.
If you blog or website concerns fashion, start broad and do a search for fashion blogs. You may already know people through your blog readership and subscribers who regularly blog about the same topic, who would be more than willing to accept a guest post from you.
Going through the search engines presents many results for you to collate as many emails as you can at this initial stage. But it also helps to narrow your search terms down further. Summer dress fashion, for example, may lead to an abundance of e-commerce websites, some of these small and independent retailers, happy to accept a guest post in exchange for a backlink to your website. Or you may even stumble upon a blog about this exact topic, in which case you’re already halfway there.
Twitter search is also a great way to find potential guest posting opportunities. Just follow the same format as searching in Google and see what comes up. But don’t worry, we’re planning on going into more detail about this in a later post.
#2 Quality Assessment
With a list of targets intact following the initial research, it’s now time to plunge a little deeper, get your technical hat on and assess these websites for quality, before even making contact. The best thing to start with is a quick job of checking the page rank.
PageRank Definition: "This is a link analysis used by Google to help determine the relative importance of a website. Every website is given a Google PageRank score between 0 and 10."
I use either http://checkpagerank.net/ or http://www.prchecker.info/ for this. Both quickly assess and score web URLs on a scale of one to ten, the higher the better. It's worth bearing in mind though, that websites like Google and Amazon are the sort of isolated examples that reach eights and nines. So a page rank of three, four or five will more than suffice for most websites and blogs.
But there's more you can do personally to assess a website's quality. No doubt page rank does play a role, but that's simply one robot scanning another objectively. The subjective side of the story is up to you and comprises usability and your own personal experience of the website.
Hopefully you already know it’s relevant to your content, catering for a slightly different branch of your audience, if not exactly the same. And it’s good if you imagine your blog on there without it looking out of place. But it’s the passion you’re seeking, and you’ll be able to tell from a scan of the website whether the owner of the website/blog is passionate about what they do. Check how regularly they post, their post length, and see if they have an active social media presence with lots of relevant engagement.
Contacting someone who radiates passion about the subject of their website will definitely consider your guest post and may even request another in the future, should you impress them enough with your shared passion of the subject.
#3 Making Contact
It goes without saying that a polite request will take care of this stage for you, perhaps also mentioning why you were drawn to the website in the first place for that extra personal touch. It may even be the case that the shoe is on the other foot with the website reaching out for guest posters or contacting you directly regarding an opportunity.
In the latter instances, it’s important that you find out why they’re looking for guest bloggers. You may just discover you’re their ideal candidate. But don’t worry if you’re not – tailoring your approach slightly is a useful skill, particularly for the more authoritative websites, as the link back will be more than worth the extra work.
For the more common cases, however, where it’s up to you to make the first contact, there are two things you must try and find out; if not in the first email, then definitely in the second.
Cost is a big factor. While it may be worth putting the odd £20 or £30 aside for a good quality backlink, making a habit of this defeats the point of the exercise. Personally, I’d try and avoid paying at all costs (no pun intended), unless, following a quality assessment, the website is a leading authority and therefore worthy of the requested fee. What’s more, if the owner of the blog/website is indeed passionate about what they do, a price may not even factor into the equation.
Traffic must also be factored in. Of course the higher the better, but don’t set your expectations too high – anything that encroaches the five figure mark is worth pursuing, especially for free. For some websites this won’t be known, so then you must make a decision based on the other factors at your disposable, whether a guest post here is beneficial for your website.
It’s worth noting here that unless the person behind the website specifies they’re looking for guest posters, it’s not the best idea to just email them saying, “Hey, I want to write a guest post for you!” You've got to become recognisable. Comment on their blog posts, favourite their tweets, retweet them, share their posts and interact with them for a good two weeks before you reach out.
In Holly’s recent series on the first part of the 101 Best Websites Online Right Now, she included twenty websites. Of these websites, she’d been doing all the things I just listed above. One website she included recently asked for guest posters. Holly took up the opportunity and the person behind the site said she’d love to have her. It’s all about making yourself seen.
#4 Writing the Post
To help your blog post slip seamlessly into the style of the existing blogroll on your target website, format it similar to what you see on there (a list, numbered sections, one long paragraph etc.), and write it to an average word count if you've not already been informed of one, using the most recent blogs as examples.
Finally, ensure there’s a spot for the backlink to sit as well – usually the most effective in a brief bio about yourself or your website at the end with your website or blog name, the anchor text, or hyperlink, to your website/blog.
The bio is also the one chance you get to personally promote your services, products or blogs, so give the reader enough information to know what you’re all about and why you’re unique. But use this as the start of a breadcrumb trail that entices them to find out more and ultimately click that all important link that you've putting a lot of effort into attaining.
Have you ever thought about guest posting? Is it something you'll try in the future? Let us know in the comments
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