A 10-Minute Guide to Guest Blogging for Content Marketers
by Agnes Gaddis
This guide to guest blogging will show you how to be more effective at guest blogging in 2022 – from finding the right targets to getting your guest posts accepted at high authority publications.
The purpose of this article is not to convince you that guest blogging is effective. There are many proofs and case studies already online.
Here is an article I wrote on Getresponse that currently ranks no 3 for “real estate marketing tools”.
If I wrote that on this blog, it most likely wouldn’t rank on the first page. I would also get a lot fewer eyeballs on the post. This identifies the two main reasons for guest blogging: brand awareness and rankings.
In this article, I won’t go into detail about the guest posting outreach process, but I will cover the basics.
At the end of this post, you should know how to find highly relevant targets for your guest blogging campaigns. This guide to guest blogging will also teach you how to create high-quality guest written content, and how to achieve measurable results with guest blogging.
- How effective is guest blogging in 2022?
- What makes for proper guest posting etiquette?
- Guest blogging benefits both parties
- How to start guest posting for SEO
- Locating high-value blogs to contribute to
- Google Advanced search operators.
- Google Author search
- Competitor Backlinks
- Leveraging your Connections.
- Now that you’ve found target websites, how do you do guest blogging?
- How do you write a good guest post?
- Free guest posting sites vs paid guest post sites
- Don’t do these things when guest blogging for SEO
- What’s Next?
How effective is guest blogging in 2022?
While there is a divided opinion about whether guest posting works, marketing heavyweights like Neil Patel and Brian Dean guest post regularly. Neil Patel has written over 1000 guest posts.
Brian Dean has published over 200 guest posts, some of which still drive traffic to his website today. Over the years, guest posts have brought thousands of high-quality visitors to his blog.
One or two of Google’s employees have stated in the past that guest blogging is against Google’s policies for natural link building. But today, people realize that what Google dislikes is paid or sponsored guest post links, irrelevant links, and thin or spammy content.
What makes for proper guest posting etiquette?
1. Your guest post is highly relevant to the host’s audience. At least there is some sort of audience alignment in the sense that the host website creates content for your own audience. If you’re an e-commerce consultant, your guest post link on a real estate website probably doesn’t count.
2. You’re not trying to sell anything with your guest post. This is one reason why guest writing wouldn’t work very well for B2C businesses. Guest writing can be an effective strategy where the buying cycle lags. On the other hand, if you’re looking to build an email list for your campaign whether B2B or B2C, you can employ guest blogging.
3. Guest posts are not lazy pieces of content. They have to be as compelling as (or even better than) the content you put up on your own blog.
Guest blogging benefits both parties
Editors or content managers may want to consider involving guest writers for several reasons:
1. Expert content. Due to my extensive experience writing on real estate marketing, my article on Getresponse ranks high for the keyword “real estate marketing tools.” I have been published in Inman, Mashvisor and other major real estate publications. And therefore, I can provide accurate information on some of the major tools used by realtors. So one of the most important benefits of guest blogging for editors is that they can get out of the picture for a while and allow niche experts to address their audience.
2. Establish relationships with other brands. These days, marketing is all about relationships. A guest post can provide an opportunity to land podcast interviews, social mentions, link exchanges, and even just friendships.
3. Free content. The process of creating high quality content isn’t straightforward. It can be draining when you have to do it alone every time. Of course, you can always hire writers. But when you have limited resources, guest blogging is your best bet.
The fact that there are measurable guest blogging benefits for both parties doesn’t mean you should accept every guest post from any Tom, Dick, and Harry. To keep the standard high, an editor should define what a high quality guest post means for your audience.
Guest posters, on the other hand, shouldn’t pitch every website for a guest post. You want to guest blog on websites that are of interest to your target audience.
How to start guest posting for SEO
One of the reasons guest writing may not work for you is because you don’t really have a strategy. Many people who guest blog don’t even have concrete goals for writing guest posts. They just want to appear on as many websites that accept guest posts. This is a helpful strategy if you’re a freelance writer looking to prove your worth. This is because through guest posting, you can demonstrate that you can write about complex topics in a wide variety of industries. But for a business, this approach is not smart.
First, you need an objective – what are you trying to do? Knowing your end goal would drive your approach to identifying publications, pitching, and sometimes even writing. For example, if you’re looking for traffic or brand awareness, you really wouldn’t care if all you get for guest posting on a website like Forbes is a no-follow link.
This is because the website would probably generate some referral traffic to yours. If you wanted SEO rankings, this blog post (even if it’s the finest you’ve ever written) might not really move the needle for you. On the other hand, getting published on Forbes creates some social proof that leads to more linking opportunities for you.
If you are guest writing for SEO purposes, one of the things you will need to figure out is not only how to get published, but also how to incorporate your anchor link naturally so that it fits with the context of the article.
In short, here are the questions you should ask when creating a guest posting strategy:
- What are our goal(s) for guest posting? (and what’s the time frame?)
- What websites should we target? (What are the major criteria to look for?)
- How do we get our guest post accepted? (What value can we offer them and their readers?)
- How do we promote each guest post once it has been published?
- If you’re trying to get subscribers, what’s the offer and why would anyone click through?
- Who handles what? (who handles writing, pitching, designing etc.?)
- For SEO, what are the major pages we want to build a link profile for? (what are the primary sites to link to?)
Locating high-value blogs to contribute to
If you are looking for high value blogs to write for in order to build backlinks, you need to consider three factors.
1. Relevance. Of course, the website might not necessarily be in the same niche as yours, but should speak to your audience.
2. High Domain Authority. DA should be higher than yours. However, experts recommend having a varied link profile. You don’t want all of your new links coming from high DA guest posts on 70+ DA websites. That would send a signal that you aren’t building links naturally.
3. Traffic. A website with a total monthly traffic of 20, but a domain authority of 40+ is probably not a suitable target for a guest post.
Here are other effective ways to find relevant target websites at scale.
Google Advanced search operators.
See a list of advanced link building search operators here.
Here’s how I do it:
I use some of the highest average monthly search keywords on my Google Keyword Planner (KP) domain search results to create variety.
Then I use any of these strings to build my list
1. (Keyword) intext: “submit a guest post”
2. (Keyword) intext: “is written by”
3. (Keyword) “intext: written by”
4. (Keyword) intext: “is a guest post by”
5. (Keyword) + “guest post”
6. (Keyword) + “write for us”
7. (Keyword) + “guest article”
8. (Keyword) + “become a contributor”
9. (Keyword) + “guest writer”
10. (Keyword) + “contributor guidelines”
Google Author search
Check out prolific authors in your niche. Pick up a snippet from their author bio. Search this snippet in Google to build up a list of places they’ve written for.
Here’s how I do it:
Create a list of websites that accept guest posts in your niche.
If they have dedicated author pages, use the following string to get a list of their authors.
site:abc.com * “author at abc”
For example, site:getresponse.com * “author at getresponse”
If they don’t have dedicated author pages, go to their blog page, check author bios and note posts from writers that are not directly affiliated with the brand. Copy a snippet of their bios and paste this in Google.
Check out competitors that have done better than you i.e. they have higher domain authority but will possibly never give you a link. Yet they aren’t that far off. For example, if my website has a DA of 9, looking at the backlinks of a DA 60 competitor is probably going to be a waste of time. But if my competitor has a DA of 25 or less, then I should check out domains linking to them.
Here’s how I do it:
For example, let’s check out peppercontent.io, with a DA of 29. The site has 768 referring domains. Using Moz Pro, you can see the anchor texts and links. Tick the “follow” box under link type and the “one link per domain” box, to refine your results. Then sort by decreasing DA.
By examining the anchor texts, target URLs and article titles, you should be able to figure out which ones are guest posts. Of course, there is still a bit of trial and error involved here. But the advantage of this method is that you see the spam score of each target website. You don’t want a spam score greater than 3%. You should download your results (“Export CSV”) to see more information about your competitor’s inbound links.
By looking at the link profile, I can see that Apsense.com probably accepts guest posts but the site has a high spam score, so I’ll pass.
Then there’s artdaily.com with a DA of 65.
But I have to make sure they accept guest posts.
You can check using the Google search string:
site:abc.com “guest post” OR “write for us” OR “guest author” OR “contributor article”
If this doesn’t work, check their blog. They probably accept guest posts if they have 6 or more different writers writing for them.
Also, when you lead with a good guest post pitch, websites that do not accept guest posts may offer you link exchange opportunities. This guide to guest blogging isn’t going to cover the guest post pitching process, but you’ll get a summary of the rules for sending a guest post request email.
Leveraging your Connections.
Give out compliments and reach out to people in your niche who are creating lots of value. Social media has made this easy. You’re not sending a guest post request email now, you’re just trying to open up lines of communication. This makes it easier to get your pitches accepted later on. You could even propose a long term link exchange partnership with them going forward.
This was how I got published on Influencive and Inman when I hadn’t been published anywhere else.
Now that you’ve found target websites, how do you do guest blogging?
You can’t get all your guest post pitches accepted, but doing your research beforehand will help you minimize rejections.
After figuring out which websites you want to guest post on, the next step is to figure out what their audience wants. This step will set you apart from the myriads of guest writers who give out fake compliments or just send generic pitches. I do believe in building a relationship via social media before sending a pitch. However, this works only when you genuinely put effort into building the relationship, not because you’re seeking to gain a link.
Most people can easily spot fake compliments. They do not help your chances of getting a reply. Instead of sending fake compliments or wasting time on people’s social feeds, try the following:
1. Send a feeler email
Open with context – why do you feel they are the right person to reach out to or why are you sending the email to them? Introduce yourself and your unique value proposition in your feeler email. For example, offer to help out with content ideation by researching posts that have garnered the most shares, backlinks or views on their website or that of a high trafficked competitor (mention the competitor).
2. Find topics for guest posting
Now let’s see how to find topics for guest posting. A fast way to do this is to research posts on your host’s website that:
1. Generated the most monthly traffic for them in a specific time period 2. Have generated the most backlinks in the past year or
3. Have generated the most shares in the past year.
You could also research one of their competitors, and check out the above.
Then offer to send title ideas based on these. Of course, this can be tricky sometimes since the titles you send have to be contextually relevant to your target page i.e. the page you hope to link to.
But even when there are no direct linking opportunities to your own page, if you do a good job the first time, you have won the trust of the editor and can always contribute another article (if all works out well).
3. Send a stellar pitch
The end goal of your guest posting efforts is to be published in a big-name publication. That won’t happen if you keep sending generic pitches. In 2013, you could get away with templates like this:
Today, you shouldn’t. Many editors wouldn’t even look at them twice because they’re too generic.
This was one of my most effective pitch templates. I’ve since improved it. Despite a couple of typos in the email, it got answered the same day.
Note these two things when sending guest post request emails:
1. Make sure you’re pitching the right people. Ideally, look for blogs and businesses that have managing editors, content directors or marketing directors. You wouldn’t want to be pitching CEOs because there’s a high chance you’ll get your email in the thrash. But where there is no one managing their content, you should approach the CEO. Don’t reach out to a sales executive, a web developer or an accounts manager because there’s a high chance they aren’t interested and they can’t make the decision.
2. Do not write long emails. No one likes them. Ideally, don’t send full articles right off the bat, make a small opening request like, “how about I send over some ideas?”. But people have also seen success with sending over full articles. I find that to be more stressful, however.
How do you write a good guest post?
Check out their blog requirements or style guide before writing content, if it is available online.
- What is their ideal blog post length?
- Does their blog have a particular tone?
Since you’re writing for people in the same or similar niche, you probably understand their needs and how best to reach them with your writing. Nevertheless, writing in a conversational, laid-back style is always more effective.
Also, make sure to link to some of their own internal content in the guest post to improve dwell time.
Free guest posting sites vs paid guest post sites
If you read this article by Bruce Clay, he points out that Google isn’t actually against guest posting but against link building schemes without any regard to user experience. For paid guest posting sites, the barrier isn’t relevance, quality, or user experience. But it’s all about the highest bidder?
So, you should be wary of hosting your content on these sites and of hiring link building services that aren’t interested in creating useful content. Guest posting is primarily about adding value to others’ audiences. Your main purpose shouldn’t be building links. If, however, you end up with a link and hundreds of new visitors, you earned it.
Experts agree that it’s wiser to pay for editorial oversight (hiring and managing high quality writers in your specific niche) instead of paying for a guest post out-right.
Don’t do these things when guest blogging for SEO
1. Neglect technical SEO.
If users can’t easily access your website, your SEO efforts are wasted. Even though, as it’s name sounds, it’s the more complex part of search optimization, technical SEO is in fact critical to your rankings. Technical SEO involves optimizing your site for speed and user experience both on desktop and mobile devices. If you don’t do a good job of technical SEO, your website becomes difficult to crawl by search engines, your click-through rate decreases, and your bounce rate increases. Overall, your rankings drop regardless of the number of backlinks you have.
2. Exact-match anchor texts.
Google still uses anchor texts as ranking signals. But there is a fine line between optimized and over-optimized when it comes to choosing anchor texts for guest posting. Before the Penguin update, exact match anchor texts were in vogue. In 2013, after the Penguin update, Google said “links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites” is an example of an unnatural link that violates their guidelines. Many websites using these types of anchor texts for link building saw their rankings drop drastically.
Over-optimized anchor texts are based on keyword-rich phrases. You should be wary of using them for guest posting SEO. According to Gotch SEO, the safest anchors (if you have a branded domain) are branded anchors. Most big brand names have a high percentage of their links coming from these types of anchors.
In order to diversify your link profile, you should use more descriptive anchors (or partial match anchor texts). Additionally, you should link out to relevant pages on your site, not just the home page, using keyword variations. Nathan Gotch of Gotch SEO offers this advice on the use of exact match anchors: The keyword should be near the anchor, but not within it.
3. Low quality links.
A link gives Google more information about a page, and what kind of authority the page has on a topic. There are a lot of things Google considers when assessing the value of a link but the two major things are authority and relevance. Authority identifies the worth of the link and relevance identifies quality. Ideally, a high quality link is one that’s built on a relevant, high authority website. For this kind of website, everyone and their family members can’t get in because they usually have specific requirements.
Before 2013, people used to build PBN links, directory links, forum links, comments and blogger links. And these worked well at the time. Nowadays, these are considered low quality links, and they’ll have no direct ranking benefits. A low quality website is usually a generic site that’s not super relevant to your niche and has no or very low bar on guest post acceptance e.g. links on “submit a post” pages.
There are also medium quality websites. For example, a link you build on an industry news website that has a slightly higher domain authority than yours.
If this was a big industry news website with a high domain authority, then you’ve built a high quality link that is sure to affect your own rankings. Getting featured on a website like Forbes, a national news website that is not highly relevant to one particular industry, you might get a slight increase in search rankings. These have lesser SEO impact compared to a highly relevant website (keep in mind that most major news websites do not offer do-follow links).
4. Drastic increases in backlink profile
Link velocity is an influential factor when looking to build links through guest posts. While a steady increase in new links is positive, a sudden jump is not. It sends a warning signal to Google and might get you penalized. According to Christopher Cemper of Linkresearchtools, “Link Velocity describes the speed of link growth to a page or domain. Link Velocity can be measured in new links per month or new linking root domains per month”.
The trend of link growth indicates the interest your domain garners on the web compared to competitors. If your link velocity trend jumps too fast, Google may suspect algorithm manipulation. On the other hand, if it grows too slowly, your rankings decrease. While there is no absolute right number of links per month per industry, it might be worthwhile to take a look at some of your competitors. This will enable you to determine an ideal frequency.
5. Author bio links.
Author bios matter as a guest blogger. This might be the only place you get to promote your business or add your contextual link. I just recently found out the importance of varying your author bios when guest posting as a way to improve author E-A-T (Expertise-Authority-Trust).
Note that, author bios should be between 50-100 words, and should be written in third person. You can use copywriting AI tools like Copy.ai to generate compelling and short author bios.
6. Home page links.
Since most paid guest posts and sponsored posts link out to home pages, it can be inferred that one of the ways Google detects an unnatural link is whether that link points directly to the home page instead of a contextually relevant page. However, to vary your link profile, you want to have some home page links, especially via quotes, using tools like HARO, Terkel, and Twitter.
So if you read this guest blogging guide to the end, you probably know the right way to find guest writing opportunities. You also understand the precautions to take for guest posting SEO. Unless you are a guest writer, you are probably unaware that guest writing can take a lot of time from writing to outreach to back-and-forth editing. Get in touch if you need help with guest blogging.
Image attribution: Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels