This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.
Maybe you’ve written guest posts, but they’ve been turned down.
Maybe you don’t feel brave enough to target a big blog, because you’re afraid of rejection.
You might see names popping up around the blogosphere with guest posts everywhere: I remember Glen Allsopp doing this a year or two back. And you might feel a little bit envious. How come they can get their posts on sites like ProBlogger and Copyblogger?Well, it’s not black magic. It’s not about twisting arms, or offering bribes. It’s not even about name recognition—I was getting guest posts published when I was a total newbie in the blogosphere.
It’s about writing a great, targeted post that stands a very high chance of acceptance.
And that’s exactly what I’m going to teach you to do here.
Step #1: Get into the right frame of mind
A great guest post doesn’t start with the words you type. It starts with your attitude.
Some bloggers see guest posts as an opportunity to get a link from a high-PR site. I get pitches from these types of bloggers regularly, and I always turn them down. Their posts are uninteresting, regurgitated content—the sort of thing I’d expect to find in a huge content mill. Theirs certainly isn’t the vibrant, engaging writing which I want on my blog.
A guest post is so much more than just a link back to your site. It’s:
- an opportunity to reach a huge audience of readers
- a chance to establish a connection with a powerful blogger
- a learning experience—especially if you rarely or never get comments on your own blog
- a way to get your name known in the blogosphere.
Your guest posts should be your best work. That way, they’ll be much more likely to get accepted—and they’ll bring you an awful lot of benefits.
Step #2: Choose your target blog carefully
I know this is obvious, but I’ve had pitches from bloggers who clearly don’t quite get it.
Only target blogs that actually run guest posts.
Many smaller blogs don’t ever have guest posts, or very rarely accept them. Those bloggers might be keen to build up their own audience with their own voice—especially if they’re blogging to promote their businesses.
Look for a page aimed at guest posters, or look through the individual posts for any that say “This is a guest post from…”, or that have a bio for someone other than the blog’s owner.
Of course, you’ll probably know of plenty of blogs that accept guest posts. The tough part is deciding which blog to target. I’d suggest:
- Don’t go after the A-list straight away. If a blog has 100,000 readers and you’ve never guest posted before, you might want to aim a little lower.
- Look for bloggers who’d welcome some help. If a blogger mentions an upcoming vacation (or house move, for example), then they’d probably be very grateful for a guest post.
- Choose a blog which is in your niche. Not only will this get you better results, it’ll make your post more likely to succeed because you’ll have a great grasp of your subject matter.
Step #3: Read the guest post guidelines
Not all blogs have submission guidelines for guest posts, but many big ones do. Look for a page called “Submission Guidelines,” “Guest Post Guidelines,” “Write for Us,” or similar.
The guidelines will usually let you know:
- How long your post should be. Many blogs will want at least 500 words.
- Whether you should pitch an idea or the completed post. Some bloggers prefer you to approach them with an idea in the first instance, though many others will be happy to receive completed posts.
- What you’re allowed to do. Are affiliate links okay? Can you link to your own blog in the body of your post?
- How to submit your post. This may include the file format, who to send it to, and other details.
Here are a few examples:
- ProBlogger’s Guidelines and Suggestions for Guest Posts at ProBlogger
- Copyblogger’s What Makes a Great Copyblogger Guest Post?
- Daily Blog Tips’ Daily Blog Tips Guest Post Guidelines
Step #4: Study your target blog
If the blog doesn’t have any submission guidelines, then you’re going to need to do a bit of homework. And even if you do have a page of guidelines, it’s still worth taking this step to maximize your chances of getting your guest post accepted.
Go through the most recent five or ten posts on the blog. Find out:
- How long are the posts, on average? What’s the shortest? What’s the longest? This will give you an idea of what word count to aim for, and will indicate how much leeway you have.
- What stylistic features are there? For instance, Copyblogger tends to have a lot of short, punchy sentences and paragraphs.
- Which topics have been covered recently? You’ll want to avoid writing anything too similar.
You can take this analysis even further, and look for anything which seems to be missing: perhaps you’ve got an idea for a post which would be on-topic and which fills a gap in the blog’s content.
Studying your target blog also means finding out any unwritten rules. For instance, do guest posters tend to pitch their own products, or is that clearly a no-no? Is it okay to link back to your own blog once or twice in the body of the guest post? Is bad language acceptable?
It only takes a few minutes to find these things out, but by doing so, you’ll avoid wasting your time by writing and submitting an unsuitable post.
Step #5: Come up with several ideas
When you’re trying to write a great guest post, you need to start off with a strong idea. Don’t pick the first thing that comes to mind—write down several possibilities, and decide which is going to give you the best chance of acceptance.
There are plenty of different ways to generate blog post ideas. A couple of my favorites are:
- Mindmapping. Write the name of the blog, or a particular topic, in the centre of a page. Start jotting down ideas as they come to you, and draw links between anything that seems connected.
- Making a list. It’s pretty old-school, I know, but still very effective! Try writing the numbers 1 to 10 on a sheet of paper (or a computer document) and come up with an idea for each.
If you have a couple of good ideas and you’re not sure which to pick, try asking on Twitter or Facebook to see what your existing audience would find more useful.
Step #6: Craft your post carefully
There’s plenty of great advice on ProBlogger about crafting posts (including Darren’s excellent series), so I’m just going to run through some basics as a refresher.
- Your post should have an introduction, main body and conclusion.
- The introduction needs to draw readers in and set up your post.
- The main body is the bulk of your post, and it should be easy for readers to take in. That might mean using subheadings, lists, bold text and other formatting to help improve readability.
- The conclusion to your post should round things off and provide some call to action which will help the blog—perhaps encouraging readers to leave a comment.
- Your post should have a great title (though don’t be surprised if the blogger changes it).
A great way to add value to your guest post is to include links to other posts on your target blog. This creates a much better impression than trying to stuff your posts with links back to your own site—and it improves your chances of getting your post accepted.
#7: Edit and proof-read your post
When you publish posts on your own blog, it’s not a disaster if a few typos sneak in. You can easily edit those posts, and your readers probably won’t mind the occasional slip.
When you’re sending in a guest post, though, you want it to create the best possible impression. If a blogger is faced with the choice between a well-edited and typo-free post, or a hastily-written post with grammar and spelling mistakes, it’s pretty obvious which one they’ll pick.
If grammar, spelling and proof-reading aren’t your strong points, you might want to ask a friend to take a look at the post for you, before you send it off.
Don’t be surprised if your post gets accepted and then edited: it doesn’t necessarily mean that there was anything wrong with your writing. Bloggers know their own blogs better than you do, and they may well tweak your post to make sure it’s firmly on-message for the audience.
#8: Include a short bio
Don’t forget to include a bio with your post, and a headshot, if the blog uses them. This saves the editor having to get back to you to ask for extra information. While this in itself won’t usually stop them taking your post, it can mean that you’ll have to wait longer to have that post published.
Make sure your bio conforms to any guidelines. If you don’t have guidelines, look at other guest post bios on the blog. You can normally assume that you’ll be allowed:
- one to two sentences about yourself/your blog
- one link (often two) to your own site(s).
And you’re done!
All you have to do now is send in the guest post. I know this can be a scary step (my first guest post for Copyblogger sat on my hard drive for days until I got up the courage to send it in). Don’t agonize over it: just write a short, polite email and attach your post, then take a deep breath and hit Send.
I’d love to hear about your own guest-posting successes (or disaster stories!) in the comments.
Ali Luke has just launched Blog On, a hands-on ecourse that teaches bloggers how to write four popular types of post, through step-by-step guidance and focused exercises. (There’s even a prize draw at the end, to help encourage you to get all four posts written.) You can find out all about it here. Registration is only open until Friday 3rd June.