Are you guest posting to grow your blog? In this guest post, Josh Klein shares some insights on guest posting and the 5 steps to make it work for you. I (Darren) have added a few comments throughout this post also to add to the conversation. I’ll highlight/introduce these comments with a ‘From Darren:’ and in italics.
You’ve heard the blogger cliché “content is king”. It’s a lot like the real estate industry’s “location, location, location.” It turns out blogging and real estate have something in common: for both, you need content and location.
When it comes to pro blogging, thinking about location matters. There is no “build it and they will come”, and only 20% of your work is publishing posts.
By making strategic partnerships with other bloggers, you can produce content and put it in a great location, or you can get great content for the location you own, depending on which side of the partnership you are on.
Strategic partnerships can take a lot of different forms, but guest posting is the most obvious because it’s a one-off deal. There isn’t a need for a complex relationship or terms and conditions of the partnership.
In December, I wrote a guest post here at Problogger about how you need a blog strategy. Darren got a piece of unique content without having to write it (not to mention a post that now hovers between the #1 and #2 rank in Google for “blog strategy”), and I got the authority of having shared my insights, high quality links to my blog, and 200 new subscribers in a day. My earlier guest post about Digg had a similar effect.
The purpose of today’s guest post is to help you grow your blog, add to the Problogger content library, and continue to build my blog’s audience. To work, guest posting has to be beneficial for everybody involved.
From Darren: I can’t emphasize this enough. Many guest post submissions that I receive (and reject) are little more than self promotion of the guest poster filled with links to their own blog and little actual value to readers. These give me little motivation to use them and so end up in the ‘sorry I can’t use this’ basket.
The best way to make a guest post pay off for YOU is to make it pay off for the reader. Write something that makes readers think – ‘I really want to read more from this person’ and they’ll check you out in droves.
You see the value in guest posting, but how do you make it all happen? It takes 5 steps:
1) Be a reader
It’s important you be familiar with the blog you approach for a guest post. At the basic level, you need to know what the blogger writes about and what kind of guest posts usually get published. More importantly, you need to look at the most successful posts of that blog, looking for hints.
I look at the format other guest posters use and which has attracted the most comments. For Problogger, the “Best of Problogger” widget on the front page gave me some key insights.
I noticed that “how to” posts dominated the all time list and list of Darren’s favorites. After a search for “how to guest post” on Problogger and Google, the topic of this guest post began to form in my head.
I also saw something useful about a guest post about guest posting describing the self-aware process of being published. Woah, that was a mouthful.
The point is: if I wasn’t familiar with the Problogger style and audience, I wouldn’t have been able to write this post.
From Darren: The main thing I’d add to this is to consider whether the topic that you’re writing about has been covered before – or at least covered recently. This is another reason that I often reject guest posts – simply because the topic would be repeating advice given in the recent memory of readers.
I personally don’t mind topics being repeated as long as they have fresh ideas and a new perspective – but too much on the one topic can frustrate readers. To be honest when I first saw this post from Josh I almost said no for this reason as this is a topic we’ve covered a few times before – however he has covered the topic a with some fresh ideas which won me over.
2) Write the guest post
I won’t belabor the point, but it should go without saying that your guest post be worth caring about. Duh.
The interesting part about this step is where in the process it comes; before you contact the blogger.
For most of you — assuming you take the “pro” part of blogging to heart — the places you want to guest post treat their blogs as businesses. You can reach out to these blogs pitching an idea, but that just gives them an opportunity to reject you.
When you really wanted something as a kid, did you ask your parents for permission or forgiveness?
If you contact a blogger in order to guest post, send your post with the email. Don’t ask for permission, just do it. If they don’t want to publish it, you can make some modifications and send it to another blog (or publish at your own).
I finished writing this post before Darren even knew it existed.
From Darren: This is one point I differ on a little from Josh. While I do publish quality posts that are submitted before I know they’re being written – a guest poster will have an increased likelihood of success if they contact me BEFORE writing the post.
The reason for this is partly connect with point #2 above – that being that if you’re going to write a post I want it to be on a topic that has not been covered recently and that is covering a topic in a new way. My preference is to know what topics you’re working on so that I can help shape those topics to make them more useful – and also so I’m aware of how many guest posts are coming in. Quite often when someone submits a topic I’ll brainstorm with a guest poster and together we make the topic more useful, engaging and helpful to readers.
This isn’t to say that I won’t publish posts that come to me complete – however it’s not my preference.
Lastly – one of the things that many good guest posters do is to cross link within a post to previous posts on the blog you’re writing for. For example you’ll see in the section ‘be a reader’ above that Josh links to a couple of previous posts on ProBlogger. This shows he’s familiar with previously written posts on this site, adds value to the post and helps promote previously written work from this site. Some bloggers only link to their own previously written work in a post – this can be valuable to readers if on topic but more often than not a blog that you’re writing for will have great posts in its own archives that can add depth to your post.
3) Send the guest post to the blogger
Your guest post is going to be enough of a headache to read, so don’t bother writing an essay introducing yourself. The biggest concern I have with allowing guest posters for my own blog is not how nice they are, but whether or not their post is going to be kick ass. There’s only one way to find that out.
The first time I contacted Problogger I said the following:
“Hi Darren. I’d like to publish this guest post on Problogger, because I think I have a message that is both valuable to your readers and different than what they’ve been hearing elsewhere:”
Then came the guest post. Darren wrote back to say when he was publishing, and that was that. And the next guest post?
“Hi Darren – thought I’d send another guest post your way since the last one went so well. I think your readers should get something out of this one.”
Networking can be important, but don’t be shy about letting your guest post do the talking. How did I set up this one?
“Hi Darren – Here comes another guest post. You should get a kick out of this one :) Could be interesting for readers if you added your own comments, or even wrote a post from the other side of the conversation.”
A new twist; let’s see what happens.
From Darren: The idea that I add some comments was actually one that I’ve taken up and is a new twist on guest posts here at ProBlogger. I have actually considered doing it in previous posts but never did – I’d be interested to hear people’s reflections – do you like me chiming in like this?
One extra tidbit that I’ll throw in here on the topic of sending guest posts in. It can be really worthwhile asking the blogger what format that they’d like a post to be submitted in.
Josh sent this post to me in the body of an email with the post formatted with headings and links. This is good as it shows me how he’d intended the post to be seen. However an even more helpful way is to send me a text file with the html already set out in it so that I simply need to copy and paste the post into the backend of my blog. This saves me 5-10 minutes of reformatting the post.
Different bloggers will have different preferences with this.
Also – another bonus for me is when I get a guest post with an image in it. I love visuals and do try to add them to many guest posts that come my way but this can be time consuming. Adding an image of your own or finding a high quality Creative Commons image on Flickr and giving the link as a suggested image can really help to lift a guest post to the next level.
4) Promote the guest post
You didn’t think your job was done, did you? One of the great things about guest posts is the cross-promotion gained by leveraging both bloggers’ social networks.
The last thing you want is your guest post to be a flop, especially if it’s the first time you’ve written for the blog. Anyway, guest posting is a perfect opportunity to promote someone else and demonstrate your willingness to leave your blogging bubble. You can’t go wrong with good karma.
It bears mentioning that spam is not welcome! Promote your guest post with the same care and thoughtfulness that you would your own blog. Whenever I guest post, I make sure to tell my “regulars” through Twitter, because I know they’ll want to hear about it.
From Darren: This is an area that many guest posters don’t even think to do but which can pay off big time for both the blog you’re submitting to but also to you.
I have had a few guest posters on ProBlogger who have done some amazing things with promoting their own content. They’ve done so on sites like StumbleUpon and Digg as well as by Tweeting it, by emailing other blogs to tell them about it etc.
The beauty of doing this is that if you’re writing a guest post on a larger blog than your own that it can many times be easier to get a post to go viral on that blog as they already have social media credibility. For example here on ProBlogger most of my posts get 5-10 stumbles on StumbleUpon simply because of the numbers of readers of this site. However as a guest poster you promote the post more this number could tip the post into being promoted to the popular section of SU. This of course has a flow on effect for you as the guest poster as more and more people will be eyeballing your writing.
Of course if your post does well and the blogger you’re submitting to sees you promote your own work they’re more likely to want more content from you!
5) Stalk the comment section
Just as you should promote your guest post the way you would a post on your own blog, treat every comment on the guest post as if it were on your blog.
Every commenter took the time to read your post, and is a potential subscriber for you to win over. Respond directly and personally to the thoughtful posts, and as early and often as you can. The bigger and faster the comment section grows, the happier the blogger.
When a commenter is particularly insightful and engaging with your content, shoot him or her an email with a detailed response (or rebuttal).
As usual, put yourself in a reader’s shoes. What would most impress you in a guest poster? Now go do that.
I’ll see you in the comments below.
From Darren: Another great sign of a quality guest poster is that they’ll engage readers. On DPS we see a lot of our guest posters really engage readers by doing this and it brings the blog alive.
What do you think of guest posting?
Have you had success guest blogging? What’s your biggest concern about it? Share your best guest posting story in the comments, whether it’s an impressive chance you got at a big blog or a horror story of ruined opportunity.
From Darren: Looking forward to reading your comments also. Do also let me know about this idea of me adding to posts – does it disrupt the flow too much or add to the depth of the post by getting a 2nd perspective?
Josh Klein advises Fortune 500 companies on their web strategies and writes a web strategy blog about making websites that matter to human beings.