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Are You Wasting Time Guest Posting?

This guest post is by Dan Norris of Web Control Room.

Guest posting is up near the top of every list of ways to grow your blog. The problem is, if you don’t do it correctly, you are more or less wasting your time.

I’ve been writing guest posts for a long time as a way to build interest in my blogs. But until recently I’d never really looked specifically at the results. I’d been assuming, like a lot of bloggers, that I could just get published on some big blogs, and readers would come my way.

My new business, Web Control Room, is a free web app that allows tech savvy business owners to track all their important metrics in the one place. So part of my launch strategy is guest posting on popular blogs for small business owners and bloggers.

In the first few weeks of running my beta I was lucky enough to get published on three well-known industry blogs.

But after analyzing the results, I was shocked. The stats are shown below, “conversions” being the number of people who signed up to use the app in its beta stage.

  • Total visitors to my site: 67
  • Conversions: 2 (2.9%)

Those figures are for all three guest posts combined—about nine hours work for me!

As you can see, these results fall a long way short of what most people expect when writing guest posts. Not only is the traffic minuscule, the conversion rate was well below that from other sources (some were closer to 10%).

Two problems with guest posting

There are two things that are often forgotten by bloggers publishing guest posts.

  1. It’s hard to understand an audience when they aren’t your audience. This is a problem when you’re writing your first post on a blog—you really don’t know what is going to appeal to the audience.
  2. People don’t want to leave their favourite blogs to go back to yours—unless they have a really good reason to.

So if you don’t understand what the readers want, and they don’t want to leave the host blog to come back to yours anyway, what do you do?

In this post I’m going to give you five techniques you can use to directly address these problems, and stop wasting time guest posting.

1. Mention your blog or business

The first thing you absolutely must do in a guest post is mention your blog or business, ideally with a link back to your site. A lot of people forget this. I’ve read some exceptional posts in the past and arrived at the end of the article having no idea who wrote it or what they do. You’ve got to work this into the post, ideally near the start (like I did above).

Some blogs don’t like linking off to your site during the body of the post, but most will allow you to talk about your business if it’s used as an example in your post. If you aren’t talking about your business then you are probably writing generic, boring content anyway, so most good blogs will understand the need for you to do this.

If you mention your blog or business at the start, it will be at the back of the readers’ minds when they get to the end of the post, where there definitely should be a bio and link back to your site with a compelling pitch targeted to the readers of the host blog.

2. Take a case study approach

To take the first point a step further, why not write a post specifically about what you are doing in your business—a case study? Notice how in the intro above I mentioned specific results I got for guest posts I have written. That’s a small example. An even better one would be to make the entire post about work you have done in your business.

I recently wrote a guest post for Think Traffic, called Which traffic strategy converts best? This post was all about the traffic strategies I was implementing as part of my new business. Because it was about my business, people were naturally interested in checking out my site after they read the post. In fact, I suspect a lot of people going back to the site were simply doing so to see how the site was set up for conversions.

This particular guest post brought in over three times the number of visitors than all three posts I mentioned above combined, not to mention 40+ email subscribers it generated.

Most of the time, the main thing that’s unique about you is that you are the one running your business or blog. Anyone can write general stuff, but only you can write truly unique content with meaningful insights from the work you’ve done—and this is much more interesting than a generic top-ten list.

3. Be nice to the gatekeeper

Most large blogs have someone who manages the content, but who isn’t necessarily the face behind the blog. This person is used to seeing the same spammy guest post email day in, day out, and guest posters following the same standard approach of sending off their article and never returning to the host blog once it’s accepted.

As I mentioned before, it’s hard to get everything right with your first guest post. If you are just doing it for a backlink, there are quicker and easier ways to get the same result.

If you are doing it to legitimately provide value and engage with the audience, then you should do what the others don’t do, because your goal should be to write more articles for the site in the future—and better articles, too.

When I approach a host blog, I always do the following:

  1. In the back-and-forth emails prior to a post going live, I make sure I take the editor’s ideas on board. They will always know the audience better than you will. Ask them how they think the post will go or if there are any tweaks you can make to make it more appealing to the audience.
  2. When the post goes live, I do my best to promote it. Add your post’s link to blog directory sites, promote it relentlessly on social media, ask your friends to comment on it, promote it on forums, and more. Getting your first post is sometimes difficult, but blog owners will be more than happy to have you back if you prove you can drive traffic to their site.
  3. I send a follow-up email after the dust settles. Say you thought the post went well judging by the social shares and comments, but you’d love to hear from the editor what they thought, and how they think the post was received. Most people don’t do this, so it helps you stand out from the crowd. But it also helps you understand the audience better and do a better job with your next post.

4. Encourage comments and reply to each and every one

Towards the end of your post, ask a specific question of the reader and encourage them to reply with their answer. Then, after the post goes live, respond to each and every comment made on your post.

Quite often a lot of the best content comes out of the discussion at the end of a post, so blog owners like to see an active comment thread. If you don’t have anything to say in response to a comment, just say thanks!

There will also be more opportunities to discuss your business or blog with the readers in the comments, and that discussion will drive up the comment count on the post, to make your work stand out from others’. In some cases, the number of comments will impact on the popular post links on the site, so having more discussion could get you even more eyeballs if it gets you into that list. Needless to say, you’ll also certainly get the attention of the blog owner this way.

The comments will also teach you a lot about the audience. What level are they at in relation to the content? What sites do they run (check out a few as you reply to comments)? What did they like and dislike about your post? This will help you do a better job on your next post, because you’ll know the readers and have a better idea of what they will respond well to. Regular readers will also remember you and be much more likely to read and engage with your future posts.

5. Make it controversial (if you can)

This one is always a bit tricky. It’s hard to fabricate controversy, and I’m not suggesting you go out and offend people. But often, you can inject a little hint of controversy into your writing and if it’s done well, it’s sure to result in more shares and more comments.

On my last blog, my two most popular posts were:

  • one that outlined a five-step process for ridding yourself of Microsoft products
  • another that told business owners to stop focusing and used examples from some big companies like Apple and Google to support the idea—an suggestion that’s against most of what you read about business these days.

These posts expressed an opinion and were in some way a bit controversial, and that, no doubt, is why they were the most popular.

You can even use the title to drip in a bit of controversy. “Are you wasting time guest posting?” suggests that guest posting can be a waste of time, which is controversial. “5 guest posting tips” wouldn’t have the same appeal.

My post on Think Traffic explained 12 traffic strategies, and the one that converted the best for me was a Twitter auto-follow strategy that some readers weren’t too keen on. But you have to go back 11 posts on Think Traffic to find one that was shared more than mine, and the comments thread was also very active.

If you can be just a little bit controversial, your post becomes interesting, and content needs to be interesting to have an impact.

So are you wasting time guest posting?

I’ve talked about some of my best and worst guest posts in this article, and now I’d love to hear from you. Have you wasted time on unsuccessful guest posts? And if so, what did you learn to turn it around for future posts?

Dan Norris is the founder of Web Control Room a free tool that gives bloggers a simple report on the performance of their site. The app talks to popular services used by bloggers (Feedburner, Aweber, PayPal, Analytics etc) and simplifies the information into a 1 page live report available via the web or mobile.

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you'd like to guest post for ProBlogger check out our Write for ProBlogger page for details about how YOU can share your tips with our community.

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Comments

  1. Anabelle says:

    That’s an interesting point of view. I’m just starting with guest posting myself, and while I don’t expect droves of thousands of people flocking to my blog, I do hope to get a few readers interested in my topic.

    For me, it’s about quality traffic that remains loyal and engages, not numbers. I hope my guest blogs will help on the way to that!

    • Dan Norris says:

      Of course it’s reasonable to expect to get something out of sending your best content to another blog. It’s got to be a 2 way street.

      As for numbers, you can measure how good the traffic quality is so I’d say it definitely is about numbers.

  2. Virginia says:

    I use guest posts on my blog from time to time and none of the writers do #3 and #4 from your list. Particularly #4.

    • Dan Norris says:

      Agree. I think they are the most important, because often you can build real connections via the comments and with blog owners as a result of a few posts.

      Thanks for the comment Virginia.

  3. ralph says:

    Great guest post, thank you for clearing some important points… Well spent time you did :)

  4. Dave Rowley says:

    I’ve just gone through the process of starting over with a new blog and have been working on a few guest posts to get the ball rolling. I just wanted to say, a light went on in my head when I read your tip about incorporating a case study into a guest post. What a great idea!

    • Dan Norris says:

      Awesome Dave thanks, it makes the content much more interesting. I just sent a 5,000 word blog post to a very well known software entrepreneur. I was a bit nervous because the entire post was about the marketing I’ve been doing for Web Control Room and the post has loads of mentions, heaps of links back to my site. His email back to me said “Love the detail, you’re actually telling your story very specifically, which I think has a lot of value”. People should have more confidence to do this, it’s a win win for both parties.

      • That is what so many people miss about guest posting, they think of it as simply a way to get links back to their own website instead of a way to provide something of real value to the reader they have right there in front of them. When you provide true high quality content, the reader is far more likely to click back to your site. If the content on your site is of the same high quality, you may have garnered a new lifetime reader/customer. Some of the blogs I read every day were guest posters on other blogs.

        • Dan Norris says:

          The quality of the content is number 1. People tend to talk too much about different techniques but if you send someone a cr*p post then it will either be not published or it will be published and the results will be terrible.

  5. Mr.X says:

    I like the 5th point. Controversal posts always make people express their opinion. Chances are they would be sticking to the blog to do it again, as they would be expecting more controversial topics in the future.

  6. Michael says:

    I use guest posting on my blog. It just depends on the quality of the posting that determines he conversions.

    • Dan Norris says:

      Hey Michael, I don’t think the quality of the post has a lot to do with the conversions. It may get more traffic to your blog but to get visitors away from your blog back to the writer’s blog there needs to be a deliberate effort.

  7. Kenny Fabre says:

    Dan

    guest posting is obviously not a waste of time, I’m making a ton of money by doing it, and you are here doing it, you are guest posting in one of the biggest blogs on the internet

    • Dan Norris says:

      Of course, I’m learning as I go. I do a lot of guest posting but just not doing it blindly. I’m constantly trying to refine it so the results are better. I’ve tested a lot of traffic techniques and the average guest post doesn’t do very well. It’s only after following a few specific things like the ideas in the post that I was able to turn it into a reasonable strategy for conversions. Obviously there are other benefits, it doesn’t hurt to have Problogger on your resume.

  8. I was in the middle of writing my first pitch for a guest post and took a break to read. Thanks for this especially timely advice. All of it good, although I find this to be most important: “provide value and engage with the audience.” I guess this could fall under the timeless “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I take pride in my work and should respect other writers and the time and effort they put into their blogs. If everything we contribute as guest bloggers is just “About Me,” then we cheat ourselves, our fellow writers, and our craft. Really great tips, Dan, thanks again!

    • Dan Norris says:

      Hi Amanda, awesome, that’s always great advice. Content is for people not search engines, starting with this in mind is a great starting point.

  9. Dion Lynk says:

    Guest commenting (if done correctly) is also a good use of time and energy. Thumbs up.

    • Dan Norris says:

      Hi Dion, I must say I haven’t had a lot of success with commenting, but I know other people swear by it. What are your tips for doing it correctly?

      • Dion Lynk says:

        You have to comment on a blog where people are passionate about their online businesses. I try to click on every name in mostly every conversation that I read and comment on, so I can see what other bloggers are up to. I cannot tell you how many clients and associates that I’ve gained this way. It all starts with commenting on the right blog and I do believe that PB.net is atop of that list.

  10. Shahzad Saeed says:

    Yes Dan.
    I think I am probably wasting my time. There is nothing you can expect from a guest post if you are guest posting on a blog outside your niche unless some useless traffic that won’t stick with your blog. So if you are just doing it for a backlink, there are quicker and easier ways to get the same result.
    thanks for a wonderful post

    • Dan Norris says:

      Absolutely agree, there are much easier ways to get backlinks. Much better just to create good content on your own site if you are after backlinks. Guest posting shouldn’t really be about that.

  11. Good points Dan, I’ve actually got a guest post spot coming up here soon and I wished I had seen your excellent post before submitting it. It’s too late for me make any changes around points #1, #2 and #5 however I will make sure that the actions recommended in #3 and #4 are applied diligently.

    Having had many guests on my own blog I have seen the process from both sides and I agree that the guest who gets more involved in promoting and commenting is the one who brings the greatest benefits to both the guest and the host.

    Many thanks for the interesting post Dan.

    • Dan Norris says:

      Awesome Tony, I’m glad it helped. This is my second post here and the poor response to my first one was in part responsible for the content in this post. So far the results for this one are much better. Regardless of the ‘results’ it’s always a good idea to make sure you engage with commenters at the end of the post. I can’t believe every guest poster doesn’t do this, it’s a huge mistake and missed opportunity.

  12. Manivasagam says:

    i have thought of writing guest posts , but since i have problem in delivering sentence , i never appraoched any bloggers for Guest Post…

  13. Good post as always Dan, and I can confirm that your social media efforts always seem to drive me to your posts.

  14. Nick Morris says:

    Hey Dan, enjoyed the article and I think there’s some great tips and thoughts in there. However, I’m not sure how well many of them will translate to non marketing related guest posting. If you’re writing a post about tactics you’re using to market your business its easy to work mentions of your business into the post but I feel like it would be much harder for guest posts in other subject areas.

    Having said that, I do dig the idea that including something about your business will make your article more unique then writing a ’5 tips’ kind of article so maybe people should gravitate more towards opportunities where they can easily work their business into the post.

    • Dan Norris says:

      Yeah good point. I do tend to favour posts about online marketing stuff because there are a lot of blogs who’s readers like that sort of thing and it’s how I spend my time. I still think it’s a good idea to work your business into the post somehow if you can and it doesn’t have to be seen as sounding your own trumpet. Most blog owners (and readers) want to hear unique perspectives with real first hand data I think.

  15. Sameer says:

    No doubt. Guest posting has become a solid way to increase quality back link to your blog. Controversial posts is something that can keep people sticking to your blog. This is a new way to encourage people to posts comment on your article.

  16. Fahad says:

    I’m a new Blogger, Started my Blog on September 1st, 2012.
    I’ve submitted one guest post on a blog in my niche but I got hardly 5 or 6 visitors from that blog. It’s terrible right? I didn’t place any link to my post, I guess that’s the main reason. I’ll try to follow your instructions and will update you about my progress. :) Thanks for the Article!

    • Dan Norris says:

      Hi Fahad, I’m not sure there is really any point in guest posting if you can’t get a mention of your business or a link back to it. I guess if it’s a really high level blog then you could do it for authority reasons but most blogs should let you link back to your site at least in your author bio. Getting 5 or 6 visitors might be due to the lack of a link but it might also just be due to the site itself, what do you know about it’s traffic? Or it might be due to the content of the post not really giving people any reason to check out your site.

  17. Deni Saputra says:

    Well, indeed. The fundamental errors that do not really understand what the content of the desired audience. And consequently, nothing result with the time and efforts in a guest post instead of a “free backlink” only with less traffic.
    Thanks for 5 points listed above that I think could very benefits for us.

  18. Brad Dalton says:

    What i have found with most guest authors is they copy content and idea’s and publish it on big blogs. The webmasters know they’re doing it and use them to do this.

    Rarely is the content based on their own experience and its generally taken from sites from other countries. Example: Many guest authors from the U.S steal content and idea’s from non U.S blogs owned by AUS webmasters.

    I’ve also noticed some big AUS owned blogs using guest authors from India and the U.S to publish content they rewrote from a AUS site. Without doubt the worst offenders come from these 2 countries.

    • Dan Norris says:

      Well that’s pretty average, I’m sure the owners of big blogs have to deal with a lot of crap like that which sux. But it’s the owner of the blog who publishes the blog and sets the standards so if blogs allow it then people will do it.

      You make a good point though, I think blog owners should encourage posts that talk specifically about the writer’s business because it’s much more likely to be decent, unique content than something copied off another site.

  19. Wade says:

    It depends on which sites you guest post on. I agree that some sites are a waste of time. However, that said, if those new sites that you post on early has the chance of becoming popular in the future. So is there really a such thing as guest posting being a waste of time?

    Sure I understand that the “no-names” that you post on don’t have high pagerank & not much traffic, but what happens when those “no-name” sites push forward & make their site popular?

    • Dan Norris says:

      The short answer, nothing happens. I’ll explain why.

      When you guest post, almost invariably you’ll get a big influx of traffic in the first day or two then it will almost completely die off. This is especially true with larger sites. Here are some stats from a recent guest post of mine on a very large blog:

      Day of post 23 visits
      1 day after 5 visits
      2 days after 6 visits
      3 days after 1 visits
      The following 4 weeks after day 3 – 10 visits in total

      This is common for large blogs so you don’t want to be backing on a small blog becoming big and then it sending you traffic, your post will be long gone by then. Once it’s off the front page of a busy blog it it part of the long tail of thousands of other posts on the blog and won’t get much attention (unless it ends up on the popular posts widget or something like that).

  20. I am a new face in guest blogging; in guest blogging though, I tend to take three things into account, quality, consistency and commitment. I believe this will help it work out for you during guest blogging.

  21. ProBlogger does seem to talk about guest posting a lot… how early should you think about doing it? I’ve only had my blog live for just over a week.

    • Dan Norris says:

      Hey Charles, there are 2 schools of thought here.

      1. Don’t bother creating great content on your own site unless you have traffic. You won’t have traffic when you start so you are better off giving your best posts to other sites.

      2. There’s not point guest posting on another site unless you have something treat on your site for people to come back to.

      I tend to do about 2 posts on my site for every guest post because I’m starting with a new blog as well (recently sold my old one). I think you need a decent body of work on your own site but you also need to build an audience so it’s a case of striking a reasonable balance. I think if you can have 5-10 great posts on your site and also have a compelling offer or download or similar then you are probably ready to start giving your best content to other sites.

  22. Mo Mastafa says:

    Hey Dan,

    Great post…

    You’re right about the curiosity aspect, as I must admit I checked your new site out right away. Looks like a great solution to the “vital stats dashboard” Eben Pagan talks about in his Altitude program.

    I think guest blogging is a great way to help grow your business. Most folks that I speak to just see it as a free traffic strategy… or an SEO backlink strategy at most.

    Personally, I see it as a great way to build relationships with other business / blog owners in your market. When you focus on building strong relationships and helping others grow their business, you’ll get much further than any single backlink or blog post could ever get you. This is where the real leverage is at.

    You can even take guest blogging to an even greater level by complimenting the guest post with another form of media e.g. a video or audio recording.

    For example, I recently did a guest post + Skype recorded interview on a fellow online marketer blog.

    We recorded an interview about “How to get your website to rank high in Google” and then we combined the blog post + the recording for even more engagement with the readers. It went down a treat with readers. Here’s how we laid it out http://webmarketinginnercircle.com/internet-marketing/get-to-the-top-of-google-mo-mastafa/

    This not only created more useful content for the readers, but also gave me a much better chance to get to know the blogs owner, Joseph Bushnell. I’ve since kept up contact with him on the phone and email, as he’s based in another part of the UK and we’ve yet to meet, and this will no doubt grow into future partnership opportunities.

    So guest blogging is definitely is a great way to grow your business online, not only from a purely traffic and conversion perspective, but also from a long term partnership perspective.

    The key is to do it properly using the steps you’ve outlined in this post. Thanks for sharing.

    Speak soon mate.

    • Dan Norris says:

      Thanks man and thanks for the Tweet. I’ll check out that Altitude program I’m not familiar with it.

      I love the audio / video idea and agree 100% with everything you said. I’m looking forward to listening to that interview. I was just reading this post from Chris Ducker on Think Traffic http://thinktraffic.net/when-traffic-isnt-enough where he does a similar thing. I think it’s a great idea to create a specific video for the audience to introduce the post.

  23. glory smith says:

    my audience is the best factor for my blog..

  24. Kate Luella says:

    Hi Dan!

    Fancy seeing you over here, I just saw you over at James’ forum! What a small world. I will be in touch with you, I’d love to hear more about guest posting as I imagine some potential JV’s will ask me to simply guest post, but what kinda conversions do you seriously get with a guest post… I wouldn’t have thought a whole lot, and your stats above kinda confirm that :(

    • Dan Norris says:

      Hi Kate, are you stalking me? he he just kidding. Here are the conversions for my first problogger post vs my second. In my second (this one) I followed my advice above more and I credit this with the improvement.

      This is 1 weeks worth of data but not much happens after that. Both posts got very similar traction on probogger, 40-50 comments, 250 odd tweets.

      Post 1 – 35 visits 2 conversions (5.7%)
      Post 2 – 91 visits 14 conversions (15%)

      I put the extra traffic down to my changes above, the conversion rate is probably due in part to me chaning the opt in on my site – it used to be for a free signup to the app and now it’s for an email opt in.

      The actual conversion rate is very good compared with other traffic sources so assuming you get results like my second post I think that’s pretty good. My conversion rate for Adwords was 0% for a similar amount of traffic.

      • Kate Luella says:

        haha – yes, I realise it looks like I’m stalking you, so I’m feeling a little awkward right now! : ))
        (small world)…?

        Amazing info tho, and btw, I really love your site, I love what you are doing with the video news…

        Kate

        • Dan Norris says:

          Thanks so much for saying that. I previously build up my blog over 150 posts and 2 years which I sold a few months ago and had to start from scratch. I’m doing my best to build up the same sort of audience that I had before and I’m hoping to do it in 6 months or so as opposed to 2 years.

  25. Dave says:

    Thanks for a quality post. What I have learned over years is basically what you say. If guest posting is to help you along the way, you need to really engage yourself in it and form some kind of relationship with both blog host and their audience.
    P.S. Your site’s great.

  26. Leeuwarden says:

    “People don’t want to leave their favourite blogs to go back to yours—unless they have a really good reason to.”

    True! I think most readers are there for quick info about their interests (but depends on niche) and only open other blogs/pages in new tabs and pages. So allways make sure that the links to your own blog are opened in a new page (tab)!

  27. Joanna says:

    This is so helpful for me. Thanks! I only recently (a few months ago) started blogging for my biz, and am looking into the guest post thing now.