The Ultimate Guide: How To Guest Blog Like A Pro (& Get Loads Of Targeted Traffic)
Guest blogging is key to getting traffic. Why?
Because the traffic it brings is specific, targeted and warm.
People who come to your site through guest blogs not only want to be there, they like you.
And they think you’re an authority.
That means that the traffic for Guest Posting has something no other form of traffic can truly promise – Quality.
So, if you’re not guest blogging, you may just be wasting your time.
The (Many) Benefits Of Guest Blogging
What makes Guest Blogging so important? Well, I’ll tell you…
- Traffic: It gives you targeted traffic, that is engaged with what you’re blogging about.
- Authority: Your audience will see you rubbing shoulders with people they respect, and think of you as a person who they should listen to, too.
- Network: You’ll connect with people, with existing audiences. who are going to promote you. And, if your work is good enough (or you’re nice enough) they’ll care about your own work too.
- Subscribers: The three benefits above combined? That means more subscribers to your mailing list. The more people on your list, the more money you can make. It’s a no brainer.
- Income Stream: Get this – some people will actually even pay you to write for them. It could be anywhere from $15 to $150 or even more. If you play your cards right, you could build a business and make a little extra pocket money too.
Now if you don’t care about any of the above, well, you’re in the wrong industry and should close this browser off right now.
But if the idea of having all of the above excites you, well, you’re in luck.
I’m going to take you on a journey where I show you, step-by-step, how to get yourself a Guest Blog spot on any site. Or your money back.
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What You’ll Learn…
- How to pitch to anybody so that your posts are always considered.
- Where to find blogs that are worth your time so you get a benefit from guest posting.
- A simple strategy to generate amazing topics that the blogger will love.
- How to write a guest post that goes the distance and brings you floods of traffic over time.
- Quick and easy ways to make a lasting impact so that you're invited back to do more guest posts.
Who Am I To Tell You All Of This?
I’m James Johnson a professional guest blogger.
I built a $3,500 a month business from it in under six months.
Somehow, Stuart has managed to convince me to give away my whole guest blogging strategy away for free. The little charmer.
I won’t bore you with specifics, but just as a little proof, here’s a handful of the sites I was featured on last year…
If you’re ready, let’s get started then, shall we?
Step One: Getting Your House In Order
Before you start pitching and writing to other people, you need to make sure you have your own site in order.
Because you want the person you’re pitching to – and it’s always a person – to know you care about what you’re doing. That you’re not going to write a post for them, then drop off the face of the earth.
They’re also going to want to know that when they link back to your site, there’s something worth linking to at the other end.
Here’s a quick checklist for you to follow to make sure you’re ready:
#1: Have A Self-Hosted Blog
Serious bloggers have their own domain name. Do you?
A lot of blogs won’t accept posts from people who are still on a ‘.wordpress.com’ site. Make it official and spend a little money on domains and hosting.
(Note: Yes, I know Seth Godin has a ‘.typepad.com’ site. But he also has a couple hundred thousand followers. So, when you’re at that point, you can do what you want too).
#2: Have A Landing Page OR Make It Populated
There needs to be something of value on your site when it gets linked back to. Which means you need one of the following options:
Option 1: Landing Page
A simple landing page, but with an incredible free download for joining your mailing list. Something that your audience is going to be dying to get their hands on.
Option 2: At Least 1 Month’s Worth Of Content
Make sure you have four or five (or more) posts on your site, at least, that people can read and interact with when they click through. Nobody is going to link back if it’s empty.
#3: Have A Premium Template
It goes without saying that your site should look good. If it’s just a free WordPress theme, it’s not going to grab any attention. Or get any respect.
If the person you’re pitching to doesn’t think you care about – or want to invest in - your own site, why would they think you care about theirs?
It doesn’t have to be a work of art, just nice to look at.
#4: Practice Writing
How often do you write?
You don’t need to be on-par with Stephen King; but do you need to be in the habit of writing. The more you write, the better you get.
If you’re not confident in your writing abilities, then it’s not going to shine through on the page – or to their audience – either. So it’s time to start practicing.
- Set aside some time every day
- Write a minimum of 500 words a day about anything
- Make sure at least three of those days you write about your niche
- Wash, rinse and repeat for one month
And you’ll find your writing improves in almost no time at all. It’s just greasing the movement and getting comfortable with your voice.
Want more help with this stage? Join the Nichehacks Mastermind Group and post about it. I’ll be there to help you.
Step Two: Finding The Right Blog(s)
Got your site in order? Good. Now it’s time to start looking for the blogs where you can make your name.
The blogs you’ll be looking at come under three different categories when it comes to writing for them:
- Starter Blogs: Places that are made up of mostly guest posts. The bar is low and they accept posts periodically. That doesn’t mean the content is any less quality, but they’ll be more likely to accept you.
- Journeyman Blogs: You’ll need proof that you’ve written before to get featured here. They’re usually personal or well established blogs with someone keeping a close eye on their content.
- 10k Blogs: These are the blogs with 10,000 (or plus) subscribers in your niche. Those well established blogs with a high bar for content. You normally need a relationship with the owner too.
Occasionally the lines blur between these – the bar to write for some blogs is low, but they’ve got over 10k followers, for example – but normally they’ll drop into one of these categories.
The question is, which one do you fit?
If you’re just starting out, focus on starter blogs. If you’ve been around the block, head for a journeyman blog. If you’re a 10k blogger – why are you still reading this post?
This comes down to your ability and where you feel confident writing to. All are good traffic streams and some of your starter blogs have the most reputable names. Which is a great endorsement for you.
But there is one question that I know is still on your lips: Where do you even find these blogs?
Well I’m going to show you…
How To Find A Blog To Write For
Even though there a millions of blogs all over the Internet, actually finding the damn things can be a task in itself. Sort of like finding Girlfriend who will actually put up with your Pokémon obsession. (No? Just me. Okay…).
You can end up spending hours searching, for minimal results. And we don’t want that. So we’re going to make life much easier.
There are three ways you’re going to look for blogs:
#1: Refined Google Search
Google is the obvious option, right? But it’s not as simple as just searching “[Your topic] Blogs” like I’ve done right here:
Instead, you’re going to hack into it a little bit. You’re going to search for more specific topics you’d like to write about. For example, for Internet Marketing:
- Personal Branding
- Write Perfect Headlines
This should give you a more refined search and a list of reputable blogs for you to work from. Which means you can get higher quality results in the first few pages, like this:
#2: Google “Write For Us” + Topic
Want to bypass all the guesswork and finding About or Write For Us pages? This simple search trick just gives you a list of blogs that you accept guest post for your niche.
Simply type: “Write For Us” + [Your Topic] and it will come up with all the relevant pages it can find:
You can also try this with “About” + [Your Topic], too.
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#3: Influencers Posts
Every so often a site in your niche will put up a post about the best sites in your niche.
A lot of the time, this will be based on their Alexa Ranking, and sometimes it’s based on how much the author likes the site. But simple searches like:
- Top 100 [topic] sites
- Top 50 [topic] bloggers
Will bring back some lovely results. And you have a whole database of blogs to look at. Simple find the ones you want to write them for, and save them to your Spreadsheet.
Oh Yeah, The Spreadsheet…
You’re going to want somewhere to keep track of all the places you’ve written too. Why?
- To keep you in check: If you see your Spreadsheet is empty, you know it’s time to pull your finger out.
- So you can follow up: If someone hasn’t got back to you, you know it’s time to get back in touch and give them a little nudge.
- You have a network of contacts: You know who you’ve connected with, who to get in to get back in touch with and who to keep an eye on.
It also serves as your de-facto brain where you can put blogs you’ve come across, instead of trusting yourself to remember them.
A simple example – and the one I used – looks something like this:
Then you can simply colour in the boxes, depending on who replies (and who doesn’t).
How To Tell If They’re Worth Your Time
Now, before you actually put a site on your Spreadsheet, there are a few things to consider. Because, you want to make sure you’ll be pitching to worthwhile sites.
You’re going to look and see if they have an active and engaged audience. If they don’t, they’re not going to be worth your time.
Here’s what you should be looking out for:
Do They Accept Guest Posts?
You’re going to find all the contact information you need on these pages:
- Write For Us
- Posting Guidelines
Or whatever the kids these days are calling them. It should also say whether or not they accept guest posts.
My general rule of thumb here is, unless they explicitly say they’re not accepting posts, you should assume that they are. The worst they can say is ‘No’.
Do They Have Comments?
Although shares may be more valuable to the owner of the blog, comments are more valuable to you as a guest poster. Because the more their audience comments, the more engaged their audience is.
The more engaged they are, the more likely they are to engage with you.
It’s great for bragging right to say, “Hey man, did you see my post got shared 93 billion times last week?!”. But it means nothing is these people don’t interact with you personally.
You want the end post to get shared – it’s great for everyone – but whilst you’re choosing a blog to write for, comments are your biggest gauge.
Look for a minimum average of four or five comments per post.
Do They Have A Social Presence?
The blog doesn’t need a massive social presence. But it benefits you to know that when they do share your post, it’s going to be seen by as many people as possible.
This also gives you a slight indication of how many people are on their mailing list, too. If their Facebook page, for example, has 10,000+ likes, you can rest easy that they at least have 1000 people on their mailing list.
Does Everything Tie Together?
You have to ask yourself the question, “Will people who come to my site, care about my content?”. Because, whilst you think your blog topic is awesome, the site you’re trying to write for might not.
So you need to consider if the site you’re writing for is going to send back warm, targeted traffic that cares. Or cold, bored traffic that don’t really care what you have to say.
How can you tell? Simple. Jon Morrow once said that all successful blogs fall into the big seven:
- Social Media
- Self Improvement
- Personal Finance
If you can make your guest post fit one of these topics, you’ve just found an interested audience. If you can’t, well, it’s not worth approaching those sites.
Sticking with the Internet Marketing theme, let’s see where we could send our guest posts…
- News? Not really, unless you have something really ground breaking. Not worth the time though.
- Gadgets? Again, not really. It’s a loose tie if anything.
- Parenting? This could work if done right- 3 Blogging Lessons From Parenting Bloggers from Social Media Explorer is a good example.
- Social Media? Damn right. There’s about 9,000,003 articles you could write about for this niche.
- Self Improvement? Yes, if you find the right site. Lifehack.org cover lots of topics like this. Tiny Buddha on the other hand, don’t.
- Business? Of course, this is a no-brainer.
- Personal Finance? Again, this can work if you find the right site. With a focus more on how to make extra money from Marketing.
Simple test. But it’s going to show you where you’re going to get the most return from your time. And, if you’re really creative, you can find a way into a few extra niches too.
Either way, be sure that audience you’re writing to care about the content you have.
Okay, this is the most in-depth section. So, if you’re still with me – well done! Let’s make sure you have everything together so you don’t have to read it all again.
How do you find blogs? Simple:
- Refined Google Searches: For topics you’d like to write about.
- “Write For Us” + Topic: To find those blogs that are actively accepting guest posts.
- Influencer Posts: List posts outlining the top blogs, authorities or sites in your niche.
Before you add them to your Spreadsheet, you need to check if:
- They’re accepting guest posts
- Their readers actively comment on posts
- They have a social presence
- If their audience will actually care about your site when they click through
Tick all the right boxes? Sweet. Pop them in your Spreadsheet. Now, it’s time for the pitch…
Step Three: The Art Of Pitching
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. And it’s not something I usually admit to. But, seeing as it’s just you and me, I think I’ll share…
I have been rejected from lots of blogs. More than I care to even think about. At least, I used to. But it never had anything to do with my writing.
It had everything to do with my pitch.
Once I learned how to pitch, I could build a business. I could get people to listen to me. And I could grow my audience.
The same goes for you.
Yes, you do need to be able to write. But, more importantly, you need to get the people you want to write for to listen to you. After all, your writing can be edited.
Which is why, right now, you’re going to learn how to pitch like a pro. So you don’t have to make the mistakes – and go through the rejections – I did. Sound good?
Who Do You Pitch To?
This depends on the blog…
- Personal Blog: Either the site owner, or their personal assistant.
- Online Magazine: Editor, or content manger.
- Corporate Blog: Marketing director, content manager, community manager.
My pro tip? Go out of your way to find an e-mail with a name. So you can pitch to someone based on their first name. You’re looking for:
David [at] awesomeblog [dot] com
Hello [at] awesomeblog [dot] com
If you look everywhere and can’t find a named e-mail, don’t worry. It’s better to have. But it’s not completely essential.
Let’s look at what makes a good pitch. We’ll go through it in all it’s different parts and then bring it together at the end
As a little side note though; don’t simply copy and paste the pitch I show you here. You’re a blogger now, so you need to find your own voice and make the pitch sound like it’s coming from you.
Part #1: Headline
This is where you need to grab the person’s attention. If they don’t actually open your e-mail, they can’t give you a spot on their blog can they?
For the headline, in all my own testing, I’ve found simple questions get the highest open rates. Try leading with a headline like this:
It’s short, sweet and to the point. You don’t need to too clever here. Just be honest in what you’re looking for.
Other variations that work are:
- Blogging Opportunities?
- Editorial Calendar?
Keep it on-topic, you shouldn’t be misleading here. Click-bait headlines – although they probably will get opened – won’t improve your chances of a response. And, will put them off you before you’ve even started.
Part #2: Introduction
Once they’ve opened your e-mail, you need to get them to keep reading onto the next line. You also want to break the ice a little bit and tell them why the hell they’re reading your email.
Again, this should be short, sweet and to the point. Like this:
- Ask for a small piece of their time (directly, or indirectly)
- Say who you are
- Tell them why you’re writing
- Ask, nicely, for a spot on their blog
There’s also a few copywriting hacks there: the use of ellipses (“…”) and finishing on a question. Both of which get the reader to, subconsciously, read the next line.
Part #3: Why They Should Care
If they’ve made it through the first two sections, they’re now asking themselves a simple question: “What’s in it for me?” . They want to know what they stand to gain from reading your email.
You want the answer to be this: Great content for your readers. To do that, you need to show them a few key things:
- You can write
- Who else you’ve written for
- Your writing style
- How well your posts have done (this is optional if you’re just starting out, but the sooner you can get stats, the better).
The more social proof you have the higher the chance of you getting guest posts.
If you don’t have guest post experience yet, use the posts from your own blog in this section and give what stats you can. It’s important that the other person can read your pieces and get a feel for your style.
Part #4: What you’re going to write
Some sites are going to ask you to write your guest post, then submit it – for them to accept it, or send it back for edits.
But, you’re not going to. Because your time is too important to write a 1,000-word guest post that they can choose to accept or reject. So how do you get around it?
Simple. You make them part of the process.
In this section of your pitch, you’re going to tell them about the topics you’d like to write, that would fit their audience. We’ll cover how to find those topics in the next section.
If you can agree on the topic with the blog before you start writing you’ll waste less time, and know you’re writing something they want to publish.
Makes these pitches short, sweet and to the point.
Part #5: The confident sign-off
This might only seem like a small part of the process, but it’s key to getting responses.
You don’t want to sign off by saying, “Well, erm, thanks for your time – I really hope you get back to me – but, you know, it’s okay if you don’t”. You don’t have time for that.
Instead you want your sign off to say, “You loved this pitch. You need to get back to me. What are you waiting for?”
"Guest posting is the single most effective way to increase the reach of your blog." – Jeff Goins
Pitching is what holds all of the Guest Blogging process together. Without it you just have a blog you like, and an idea for something to write. So, what should you be focused on?
- Try to pitch to someone using their name
- Use a question based headline
- Be clear about what you want
- Prove to them you’re worth their time
- Create two-three mini pitches for article you’d like to write
- Sign off strong
Hit all of these points? Well, you might just find yourself on every blog in the interwebz.
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Step Four: Creating Content They Want
When you create a Guest Post, you create it for two reasons:
- To write epic content for their audience
- To get people to come back to your blog
And, you often make the mistake of just focusing on one of those elements. You either write a blog post that serves their audience or gets them back to your blog.
You rarely do both. Because, well, doing one on it’s own is the easy part. Writing content that their audience will love but will also convert is the hard part.
So, how do you do it? It’s not as hard as you might think.
It all comes down to understanding:
- Their audience
- Your audience (within their audience)
- How to go the extra mile with your content
Which you’re going to learn how to do, right now. And you can use all of these steps for creating content ideas for your pitches too.
Part #1: Identifying Their Audience
Before you can create epic content, you need to know who the hell you’re writing for. Because there is no point in writing 2,000 words of pure gold, for it to fall on deaf ears (or, erm, blind eye’s?).
You need to find out who you’re writing for. Because they may not be exactly the same as the audience you’re looking for over at your site.
You’re looking for:
- Sense of humour (essentially, whether they have one or not)
- Do they prefer stories, cold hard data, or both?
Where do you find this out? There’s a few places you can look.
Guest Post Guidelines
Some blogs – like FinerMinds – will tell you exactly who their audience is in their Guest Post Guidelines. And, whilst most guest bloggers are guilty of overlooking the guidelines, it’s worth making sure you read them to find this out:
If you’re lucky enough to get this, you’ve found a little pot of gold to make your life much easier.
Comments are a Guest Blogger’s best friend. Because they tell you a lot about an audience.
By looking through them you can find out who their mostly highly engaged readers are – unless they’re hidden by some obscure username – and what they’re like.
Again, following FinerMinds audience, this backs up what they said in their guidelines:
Read Their Damn Posts…
There seems to be a school of thought in Guest Blogging where you don’t have to read any of the content on the site, to be able to write for their audience.
But you do. In fact, you need to read at least four posts to begin to get a feel for what their audience is about. How they like their structure, and what types of post they’re really into.
Read their articles. Look at it from their audience’s point of view. The more you know, the better content you can create.
Part #2: What Do They Want To Read?
Okay, so now you know who they are, you need to decide on what it is they want to read. Thankfully, audiences can be really transparent about that.
What do readers do when they love a piece of content?
- They share it
- They comment on it
What do they do when they’re interested in a topic?
- They talk about
- They ask for it
Creating content is a whole lot easier when you remember this. All you need to find is something that’s either:
- Highly shared
- Well commented on
- Caused a discussion
- Been directly spoken about
For Highly Shared Topics…
The best way to find the highest shared posts for their audience is to use BuzzSumo.
Simply type in the websites URL, and you can find the highest shared posts for the past year, six months, month, and 24 hours. Now you know the topics their audience loves to read and share about.
Another way to do this, if the site has this option, is to select the ‘Popular Posts’ tab on their home page, like this one:
Whichever one you use is fine. But it’s important to take the time to find a topic that ties into your niche, and you can write about.
For Topics They Want…
There are two places I’d suggest looking for this.
Firstly, take a look at the comments on the most recent posts – anywhere up to the last two months. And see if anybody asks any questions, or talks about a topic that gets your attention.
Secondly, if the site you’re writing for doesn’t have many comments that extend beyond “Nice post!”, go the extra mile and check out any relevant forums or message boards, and see what readers are saying.
You’d be surprised what you can find in these forums and pages. Plus, you go even further and actually ask them what they want to see in a post about that subject.
Part #3: Creating An Epic Blog Post
I could write a 5,000 word blog post about this topic on it’s own. Because, well, it’s such a big topic. But that doesn’t help you now, does it?
So let’s look at what makes up an epic guest post, that’s sure to convert back to your own blog, and mailing list.
#1: Create An Awesome Headline
Your Guest Post doesn’t really mean anything if nobody reads it. So, you need to create a headline that’s going to catch attention.
You can read my full, comprehensive guide on that right here.
#2: Use research to back up all the points you make
Research can make or break a guest post. And, if you want to sound like an authority – which you definitely do – you should provide research from credible sources to back up your points.
Blog posts with:
All go into the ‘epic’ category, and will stand you in the right light as someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about.
The only exception to this is tutorials or personal experience pieces. But, you should use images and examples to back up all your points, so they can see everything in action.
#3: Make your point. Then go even deeper.
A lot of bloggers make their point, then stop. They only scratch the surface. Like this point here:
“Want to impress at a Dinner party? Bring a bottle of Whiskey to the table instead of Wine, your guests will love it”
That’s great. And it’s a helpful hint. But you could say even more:
“Want to impress at a Dinner party? Try bringing one of these bottles of Whiskey instead of that usual bottle of red wine:
- Dalmore Cigar Malt
- Glenlivet 12 Year
- Sazerac Rye
Your guests will love the change and you have the added option of making cocktails too”
By adding that little extra, you’ve made your post even more actionable and given more detail to the reader. And you could even take it a step further to make that lasting impact on the reader.
“Want to impress at a Dinner party? Try bringing one of these bottles of Whiskey instead of that usual bottle of red wine. Better still, they’re under $50:
- Dalmore Cigar Malt - $50 offer at BevMo!
- Glenlivet 12 Year - $35 from any Tesco branch
- Sazerac Rye - $25 from Liam’s Liquor Longboat
This is a great change for your guests. And, you have the option of making classic cocktails for your guests too. Want to know which Whiskey compliments the food you’re making? Check out Big Tony’s palette guide right here”
You’ve turned what is a slight helpful statement, into a full guide by adding that extra information.
Worried your article might be too long by doing this? Don’t be…
#4: Don’t Worry About The Length
Unless you’re specifically given a word count, forget about your article being too long.
As long as what you write is interesting and actionable – whilst going that extra mile you just read about – your content can be as long as it wants. Because, long copy out performs short copy every day of the week.
#5: Use Social Proof and Quotes
See how, throughout this entire post, there are quotes? They’re not just there because I enjoy quoting other people in my niche.
They’re there to add solid connections to my content. If you see your favourite bloggers name, on a piece that I wrote, you’re going to believe what I say even more. And, you’re more likely to share – or tell that person about my post.
All of it makes the post that much more epic.
#6: Make It Actionable
A blog post serves no purpose if it’s not actionable. The reader should leave your post and be able to say, “Wow, I’m going to do that right now!”.
Create a strong call to action and make it easy for your readers to do.
#7: Have Memorable Sentences
Write sentences that stick. Make points that people can remember long after they’ve read your post.
When you’re making a point, ask yourself – “Would someone tweet that?”. If they would, then you’re onto a winner. If not, rewrite it so that they would.
Not every sentence needs to win the Pulitzer Prize. But take this approach with the important points you’re making.
If you can put all of this together, you’ve got the makings of the most epic blog post you could possibly write. One that’s going to go the distance, and get both of you a lot of traffic.
In order to create an epic blog post, whether its to pitch an idea or to put pen to paper, you need to:
- Know who their audience are
- What they want to read
- Make the post deep, actionable and research based
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There You Have It, Folks…
You wanted to know how to guarantee yourself guest post spots? Here you have it.
If you follow every step in this post, you’re going to see your traffic soar in a matter of weeks. And if you do it right – and provide the quality we both know you can – you’re going to establish yourself as an authority in no time at all.
The only question that remains now is, where are you going to guest post first?