I know it’s not nearly as long as a lot of the pros, but six years is a substantial amount of time to get some serious learning done… especially trial and error learning.
(“Trial and error” is my way of telling you “I screwed up a lot.”)
And the one piece of advice that I’ve heard over and over again, without fail, is that niche guest blogging is the way to grow your email list.
So, since I just launched a new site in September, I thought that should be my top goal.
After all, more subscribers = more traffic = more income, right?
Right. So I did it.
I researched, I pitched, and I wrote unpaid pieces work for hours and hours on end.
I landed great spots on some of the most popular blogs online:
Blogs that have hundreds of thousands of subscribers and followers.
The kind of blogs that other bloggers have told me they dream of landing guest post spots on... because they're the kind of blogs that promise the exposure we're all after and the subscribers that come with it.
But my subscriber count still isn’t up to the 200 person mark.
And in the internet marketing world, a list of 200 is still considered next to nothing if you want large revenue potential from your list.
However, I did compare and contrast what worked and what didn't.
And I learned some valuable lessons along the way that I don’t see advice written on very often, so I’m going to share those lessons with you.
What You’ll Learn
- Which blogs to consider writing on. (And which ones to avoid.)
- What to write about.
- How to check a blog you like for guest post traffic potential.
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free checklist of 31 blog traffic secrets click here or the image below)
1. Only Post to Blogs You’re 100% Sure Your Ideal Audience is Already Reading
This doesn't mean that every single reader of that blog would be a perfect fit for your website, but it does mean that you’re positive at least a decent chunk of them are.
For example, if you run a website on easy vegan cooking, you could target health blogs, allergy blogs, mommy blogs, and other non-vegan cooking blogs.
For the health and allergy people, you could present them a solution for a health problem in the form of a vegan recipe.
The mommy blogs might be interested in meatless Monday recipes to save money and feed their family better food, and the non-vegan cooking blog readers might appreciate a low-cholesterol take on some of their favorite (but fatty) dishes.
All of these blogs have audience members that could be a perfect fit for your site, so they’d be good choices.
But if you run a vegan cooking blog and you’re trying to land a guest spot on a blog about farming practices?
Even if you write the most interesting, compelling post there, people will click back to your website and see it doesn’t interest them, so they won’t subscribe. Easy as that.
I learned this lesson the hard way when I landed a guest blogging gig on HubSpot, which is a content marketing and sales blog that I've admired for a long time. I knew a lot of my target audience would be reading HubSpot, so I pitched the first idea that came to my head for the blog: a post on reading body language to close sales deals.
And since HubSpot separates their blogs, this one posted to the sales blog rather than the marketing blog, where the majority of my target audience hangs out on their site.
It was a really good post and got a generous amount of attention in social media, but it had nothing to do with copywriting, which is what my site is about. So when people liked what they read about my sales expertise but saw that my site was about copywriting? They didn't subscribe.
So, please, if you're going to send out guest post pitch inquiries as a part of your traffic generation strategy for your niche site, don't waste time on blogs that aren't an obviously clear fit for your target audience.
2. Pitch ONLY Topics That Tie Back to Your Site’s Main Info Offering
Hands down, this is THE biggest lesson I’ve learned in all of my guest blogging efforts.
The niche clients that I serve are all pretty much involved in internet marketing, so I’ve written posts on sales, traffic generation, content marketing strategies, and blogging.
And while these are all related to copywriting in some way, they’re not copywriting.
And on my site, I live and breathe copywriting advice.
The reason people sign up for my list or for my lead magnet is for my specific expertise in writing copy that will get them the kind of conversions they're after.
They might care about sales and traffic, but that’s not why they visit my site or sign up for my list.
In my post for Boost Blog Traffic, for example, was about generating more traffic back to your site by republishing already-written content onto Medium.
The readers loved it and it generated over 120 comments. 120+ comments, people. No small feat.
But I didn't get near that many subscribers out of that post. Not even half. Not even a fourth.
Why? Because I got people hyped up and interested in an easy traffic-generating technique, and when they went back to my site... no more traffic advice. Copywriting advice.
But if I'd gotten them hyped up and interested in a specific copywriting technique instead?
I’d have piqued the interest directly related to my site’s unique value offering much more and gotten loads more sign ups because they’d already be thinking about the value I’d already offered them in regards to improving their copy.
This is crucial for niche marketers to grasp because that vast majority of us only have so much time and brain power on our hands, and you want to make the most of it.
3. Make Sure Your Post is Valuable
Actually TEACH something worthwhile in your post.
One guest post I wrote, for example, was a lot more about copywriting than the other posts I’d written, but it wasn’t anything special. Nothing a Google search and 10+ other websites weren’t ready to tell you.
And you know what?
I think I got about three Twitter mentions for that article. But no traffic to speak of. Let alone any subscribers.
To admit, I pitched that site because I knew they had a decent following but that their content standards were a bit lower—so it’d be an easy pitch to fulfill.
But it didn’t pay off. Even though it took far less time to write, it ended up being a total waste of time. If I’d taken a few more hours on the post and provided some actual value, I’m sure it would have generated some traffic hungry for more of that valuable advice.
The lesson for niche marketers: While building backlinks is important, and easy guest posts can be a good way to do it, there's not really much point writing blog posts to generate those backlinks if the payoff isn't worth the time put in.
4. It WILL Take Forever & You MUST Follow Through
Your post will not publish this week. Or next week. Or probably even next month.
Editors are incredibly busy people, and though I love ‘em, take their dear sweet time with everything they do.
One post, for example, could have easily published in early January, but it didn't see the light of day until March.
The editor loved my pitch from the start, had seen my work before, and was very happy to work with me on a post. But she was so swamped with everything else she had to do that she just kept forgetting. I'd email her every couple weeks and we'd move one baby step forward towards publication.
Lesson: If you're banking on getting quick subscribers for a big launch, a guest blogging strategy isn't the way to do it.
5. Don’t Expect Niche Guest Blogging to Be a Magical Source of Traffic
If getting more subscribers is your ultimate goal, do not expect that simply driving traffic back to your site from your guests posts will do it for you.
Make sure each page you send people back to has a direct and strong call to action on it to sign up for your email list.
It also helps if you create an easy-to-make popup (I used OptinMonster) to capture any potential traffic that might land on other pages before they scroll down to see your call to action.
Because honestly, even if you do publish the best post ever on the most famous blog in your niche, that traffic spike is only a spike, and it won't last forever. Find ways to keep the traffic that does come interested in coming back.
6. Don't Waste Your Time if There's No Traffic Potential—Check Alexa
It can be incredibly flattering when a site owner reaches out to you and asks for your contribution to their site.
But what they’re really asking for here (most likely, anyway) is free content. Good blog posts that they don’t have to pay for.
It's fine for them to ask you for that kind of time if they've got the rankings and audience to merit that kind of work. But if their site is just as small as (or smaller than) yours, it probably isn't worth your time.
By checking Alexa, you can get an idea of how well the site ranks in online popularity. (My rule of thumb is to not even bother if their rank number is higher than one million.)
Build Your Own Nice Guest Posting Strategy... Carefully
Looking back, I'd have been much better off if I'd spent an hour or two in planning and mapping out how writing guest posts for certain websites would benefit the overall goal of my site. Instead, all I was concerned about was getting a byline and a backlink, and my results were lackluster.
Have you ever written a guest post before? What were some of the lessons you learned in the process?